Monday, January 25, 2021

CAPITOL INVASION THREATENS GOP CALIFORNIA SEATS

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS 
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2021, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS

          “CAPITOL INVASION THREATENS GOP CALIFORNIA SEATS”

 

          Republicans made much ado last fall when they regained four of the seven congressional seats Democrats flipped away from them two years earlier, in 2018.

 

          They gloated in ways they could not over the last 25 years, since Democrats turned this state into a sea of blue.

 

          “We were the ones who wanted to get something done,” crowed Hanford’s David Valadao, who took back the 21st District seat he had lost by 900 votes to Democrat T.J. Cox two years earlier.

 

          But are they gloating too soon? Valadao’s margin of 1,522 votes out of about 170,000 that were cast only slightly topped Cox’s earlier edge. Fewer than 2,000 voters switching from one candidate to another, one party to another, made the difference.

 

          This could portend a Democratic comeback in the district next year – but no one can be certain, because California is likely to lose a seat or two in the House when Census results are finalized, assuring that district lines will change. It’s even possible Valadao could find himself in a primary fight with neighboring GOP Rep. Devin Nunes if new districts feature overlap between their two current ones.

 

          Even more threatening to some Republicans was their performance in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 mob invasion of the U.S. Capitol, incited in part by Trump.

 

          His purpose: To disrupt the usually pro forma congressional certification of the Electoral College vote held on Dec. 14, which made Joe Biden president in accordance with the popular vote nationally and in individual states. Congress voted on possibly rejecting electors from Arizona based on unfounded fairy tales of fraud propounded by the defeated past president. A week later, it voted to impeach Trump a second time.

          Only one of the four Republicans who recovered seats for the GOP actually voted for the objections from their party’s senators and House members. That was Mike Garcia of Santa Clarita, a former Navy fighter pilot who won last fall by just 333 votes out of more than 340,000 cast in the district running from Lancaster and Rosamond in the high desert of northern Los Angeles County over to Simi Valley in Ventura County.

 

          As with other districts, no one knows quite what his will look like in 2022, the shape of districts to be determined by California’s bi-partisan Citizens Redistricting Commission, whose members are yet unnamed.

 

          Garcia’s is the only House seat even partly in 12-million-person Los Angeles County that’s now held by the GOP, and Garcia won it by the barest of margins. It contains several of the few remaining Republican-dominated enclaves in the state, but Garcia won this time because about 800 swing voters changed their choices between 2018 and 2020.

 

          With no evidence to back his assertion, Garcia explained his vote to cancel Arizona’s electors by asserting without offering any evidence that he “firmly believ(ed)” there were constitutional errors in some states’ votes. This despite numerous court decisions finding there were no such errors, all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the incumbent’s own appointees joined the majority ruling against him.

 

          Immediately, there were calls in the district for Garcia to resign and make way for a special election to replace him, charging he gave aid and comfort to the Jan. 6 mob that invaded the Capitol.

 

          Meanwhile, newly elected seat flippers Valadao, Young Kim and Michelle Steel of Orange County all found excuses not to vote on the Arizona objection. They may have avoided calls to resign, but they made no move to back constitutional democracy and so will be subject in 2022 to charges they implicitly backed the mob and the former incumbent. Like Garcia, three of them voted against impeachment. Valadao was one of just 10 Republicans to back it.

 

Chances are expansion of district sizes due to loss of a seat or two will increase the geographical reach of all their districts next year, throwing more Democrats into their constituencies.

 

          This leaves the California GOP in significantly worse shape now than

before the Capitol invasion, a boon for Democratic efforts to hold their slim House majority in an off-year election where the incumbent president’s party usually loses some seats.

         

 

    -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, go to
www.californiafocus.net

FEINSTEIN: TO RETIRE OR NOT? THAT IS THE QUESTION

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS 
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
  “FEINSTEIN: TO RETIRE OR NOT? THAT IS THE QUESTION”

 

          Dianne Feinstein has risen from the ashes before. She did it almost literally when she ascended from the ranks of San Francisco city supervisors after Mayor George Moscone was assassinated in 1978, taking over as mayor and joining Jerry Brown as one of California’s two most durable politicians of the last 50 years.

 

          Now she may have figuratively assassinated herself, her nature as peacemaker and friend to all types of people putting her in a Shakespearean dilemma: Should she retire from her post as California’s senior U.S. senator or try again for reelection to a sixth full term in 2024 at age 91?

 

          Feinstein’s always conciliatory approach led her to hug South Carolina’s Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham at the end of Senate committee hearings on ex-President Donald Trump’s nomination of conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

          Feinstein not only embraced her longtime friend but told him “This was one of the best sets of hearings I’ve participated in.” This infuriated other Democrats, who demanded she give up her spot as the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee and forfeit the chance to be its chair after Democrats took control of the Senate in late January.

 

          Feinstein, 87, went along with that, despite the fact many left-wing Democrats demanded she also resign and let Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom replace her. But she bristled when some Democrats questioned her mental capacity.

 

 

          Feinstein compounded her problems a few weeks later, describing as “important” the futile, falsehood-laden crusade led by Republican Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas to have Congress overturn last fall’s election results from four closely-contested states.

 

          You bet that was important, other Democrats soon chimed in: It helped spur the Jan. 6 mob invasion that killed five persons in America’s Capitol building.

 

          Feinstein never backed off the words she used about the alleged right of Hawley, Cruz and others to try to cancel the votes of millions of citizens. “I think the Senate is a place of freedom,” Feinstein said. “People come here to speak all manner of views. That’s important.”

 

          Perhaps Feinstein thought Hawley was merely hailing a cab outside the east fa├žade of the Capitol when he raised his fist on the edge of the mob while it shattered the Capitol’s doors and windows.

 

             This all produced more charges from the left echoing Feinstein’s defeated 2018 reelection opponent, former state Senate President Kevin de Leon, now a Los Angeles councilman. De Leon called Feinstein too old to serve, never mind that she’s far from the oldest senator ever, but is history’s oldest female senator.

 

          Feinstein’s reply? She set up a new committee to raise funds for a 2024 reelection campaign that may or may not occur.

 

          Plainly, the sentiments she voiced about Hawley and Cruz are not shared by most Californians, especially not by the vast majority of her fellow California Democrats.

 

          Doesn’t Feinstein, who will turn 91in June 2024, realize she will draw far fiercer opposition than the politically limited de Leon if and when she runs again?

 

          Feinstein consistently won her prior elections by large margins because she assiduously courted Californians of all sorts, Republicans and Democrats, farmers and movie moguls, women’s rights advocates and law-and-order supporters. She carefully positioned herself as almost untouchable. That’s why her November opponents included relative cupcakes like Republicans Michael Huffington, Dick Mountjoy and Elizabeth Emken.

 

          She would surely draw much tougher foes in 2024, when the main competition would likely come from fellow Democrats under California’s top two “jungle primary” system. One might be Burbank Rep. Adam Schiff, now about to run his second impeachment trial of Trump. Others could include Oakland Rep. Barbara Lee or the Silicon Valley’s Rep. Ro Khanna, both darlings of the left, or even Newsom, if he survives a possible recall this year and then gets reelected in 2022.

 

          Feinstein would likely face the toughest Senate campaign of her career, with the strong prospect of departing in defeat. Why not just opt out of it all, and enjoy some time free of strenuous red-eye flights to Washington? In short, the very tough, very basic question now before Feinstein is “to resign or not.”

         

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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, January 18, 2021

IRONY: NEWSOM BREAKS UP THE BAY AREA CLIQUE

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
   “IRONY: NEWSOM BREAKS UP THE BAY AREA CLIQUE”

 

Alex Padilla’s taking the oath of office as California’s junior U.S. senator marks a political landmark: it ends the longest regional domination modern California political life has seen.

 

          Since Arnold Schwarzenegger left the governor’s office in early 2011, every major statewide elective office had been held by San Francisco Bay Area Democrats, several first anointed by former state Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.

 

          The ascent of Kamala Harris to the vice presidency triggered this sea change. Prior to that Newsom, a former San Francisco mayor, was joined in high office by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, another former San Francisco mayor; former Sen. Harris, a onetime district attorney of San Francisco, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco congresswoman.

 

Before Newsom became governor, ex-Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown had just spent two terms in the state’s top office, while ex-Marin County Supervisor Barbara Boxer spent 24 years as a California senator, retiring in 2016 and giving way to Harris.

 

          Newsom broke up this ensemble when he chose Padilla, California’s secretary of state for six years and before that a state assemblyman from the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. Padilla, an MIT graduate, once was the “boy wonder” of the Los Angeles City Council.

 

          Then, to accent what he was doing, Newsom named Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego to Padilla’s slot as California’s chief elections official.         

 

          Maybe it took a former San Francisco mayor to ease the oversized influence of the Bay Area on this state and nation, where two San Franciscans now stand Nos. 1 and 2 in the line of succession behind new President Joe Biden.

 

          Newsom didn’t approach it in terms of regional identity. Pressured to make Oakland’s longtime Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee a senator, he went with Padilla, despite the numerous Black women who lamented that Harris’ departure from the Senate leaves it with no Black females. Instead, Newsom went with personal loyalty in choosing Padilla, one of his earliest and most consistent backers while he spent more than eight years seeking to become governor. There was also the fact that Padilla, a Latino and more moderate than Lee, might be a stronger candidate for election on his own next year.

 

          For sure, Padilla will face Democratic competition in that upcoming primary, possibly from the likes of Burbank Congressman Adam Schiff, who spearheaded the impeachments of Donald Trump; Silicon Valley Rep. Ro Khanna, a darling of the Democratic left; Lee, current San Francisco Mayor London Breed or Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a perpetual short-lister for other big jobs who never seems to land them. Orange County Congresswoman Katie Porter, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf also are possible entrants.

 

          Schiff, a hero to many Democrats, and Padilla are by far the best known in that group, making Khanna, Breed, Lee and Schaaf longshots in any contest. This Senate seat appears likely to stay with a non-Bay Area resident.

 

          Many of these folks could also be entrants in any race for Feinstein’s Senate spot, who will be 91 when her term is up. If she serves out the term, several of them would no doubt run to succeed her in 2024, even though Feinstein improbably set up a reelection committee the other day.

 

          What’s evident now is that any of the prominent Southern California possibilities would likely make a stronger statewide candidate next year or in 2024 than any Bay Area figure.

 

          That’s a major change for the geographic tilt in California politics, one that could become even more significant if the current recall drive aiming to oust Newsom a year before his term is up should proceed to an election and succeed.

 

          The last major recall, against ex-Gov. Gray Davis, gave California its only non-Democrat, non-Bay Area occupant of a top office since 2002, as movie muscleman Arnold Schwarzenegger catapulted into office by that route.

 

Two San Diego area figures, former Mayor Kevin Faulconer and businessman John Cox, a Donald Trump loyalist beaten by Newsom in 2018, figure to be on that ballot if it arrives and either could change the state’s politics even more than Newsom and Padilla already have.

 

         

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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

WAS THIS CALIFORNIA’S BIGGEST-EVER BAIT AND SWITCH?

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS 
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2021, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
    “WAS THIS CALIFORNIA’S BIGGEST-EVER BAIT AND SWITCH?”

 

          It may have been the biggest bait and switch event ever perpetrated in  California, affecting the vast majority of the state’s 6 million-plus senior citizens, people aged 65 and up. So far, there has not even been an apology from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration, which was responsible.

 

          If this had been an inside job aimed at stoking the current recall petition drive against Newsom, it could not have been carried out more effectively.

 

          Here’s what happened: On a Wednesday afternoon in mid-January, the state Department of Public Health issued a press release announcing in bold black letters that “Seniors 65+ Now Eligible to Receive COVID-19 Vaccine…” Except most were not.

 

          It’s the latest of many embarrassments for Newsom’s two-year-old administration, accused by recall organizers of being grossly incompetent and hypocritical. There have been the $8 billion heist from the state unemployment department, Newsom’s attendance at a too large and too unmasked Napa County dinner with lobbyists, and more.

 

          But this incident affected by far the most Californians. Less than an hour after the health department notice went out, long before television stations and all the state’s newspapers headlined the alleged large expansion of vaccinations, cyber links to a pharmacy vaccination scheduling website began circulating among many tens of thousands of seniors.

 

          The site offered appointments to get vaccinated at pharmacies in dozens of Ralph’s grocery stores, owned by the national Kroger chain. Except no seniors ended up vaccinated in most counties. It was, for the most part, baloney.

 

          Here’s the state health department’s explanation, from spokesman Darrel Ng: “The announcement is that when counties are done with the first phase of vaccinations (for health care workers and nursing home residents), they should vaccinate people over 65 next.”

 

          Except the press release did not mention counties. And while three counties – Orange, Riverside and Stanislaus – actually did begin serving some over-65 residents, that did not happen in most of the state. The bait and switch was most egregious in Los Angeles County, home to more than 1.6 million seniors.

 

          The pharmacy website was soon swamped, handing out thousands of appointments. Large numbers of seniors went to bed that night thinking they now knew where their isolation from the coronavirus plague would begin to end and life could begin returning to normal. It was a big relief for most.

 

          Except that when the “lucky” folks who scored appointments for the next day showed up, almost all were turned away, pharmacy persons explaining they were still vaccinating only health care workers. Other seniors received emails canceling appointments and telling them to stay away.

 

It turned out Kroger executives reversed earlier corporate decisions to follow the state directive and vaccinate individuals over 65, deciding instead to follow local health officials’ guidelines to the contrary.

 

It was a classic bait and switch, leading thousands to believe they would soon have the item most coveted these days by many Californians, but giving them nothing. This was caused almost purely by the Newsom administration’s decision to issue that press release.

 

          Many seniors took this as a new sign of the governor’s supposed incompetence. Spokesman Ng said he could not say who wrote the press release and who authorized sending it. Lines of responsibility remain unclear.

 

          But many people’s anger was directed at Newsom, the front man for state government, who refused several requests to discuss the widespread confusion and frustration. “The guy looks like he’s in over his head,” said one 72-year-old Los Angeles man.

 

          Newsom press secretary Jesse Melgar did not respond to queries about how his boss plans to assuage the frustration his administration created. Would Newsom, for example, use emergency powers to order that pharmacies and mass vaccination sites start serving senior citizens, as his administration promised? Would he apologize for the bait and switch, as he did for his attendance at that Napa dinner with his lobbyist pals?

 

          Instead, other than referring questioners to the health department, the governor’s office said nothing.

 

          Which leaves senior citizens as frustrated as they have been at any time in the 10-month California lockdown and Newsom more vulnerable than ever to recall this year or reelection defeat in 2022.

         

          -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, January 11, 2021

POSSIBLE RECALL, BIG APPOINTMENTS TRANSFORM POLITICAL OFF-YEAR

 CALIFORNIA FOCUS

FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, JANUARY 29, 2021, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS

“POSSIBLE RECALL, BIG APPOINTMENTS TRANSFORM POLITICAL OFF-YEAR”

 

          This was supposed to be a year of political positioning in California. Gov. Gavin Newsom figured to use much of his time fundraising, devising platform planks and doing opposition research on possible opponents for his 2022 reelection campaign. He plainly hoped this would boost him into a presidential campaign two years later.

 

          A few months ago, it also seemed Democratic U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris would begin spending most of her time in California, not Washington, D.C., while raising reelection money, sizing up possible challengers and devising new issues positions. Like most California senators, she would need to reintroduce herself to California voters because she had spent the bulk of her time in the national capital for six years.

 

          A few things changed all that: The coronavirus plague forced Newsom into actions unlike those of any other modern governor. That alienated a sizeable number of Californians and set him up for a highly possible recall election later this year.

 

          Then Harris was elected vice president, prompting Newsom to make several more unusual moves. He’s the first governor in 30 years to appoint a U.S. senator. And he might get to appoint another. He’s named a new California secretary of state and will shortly choose an attorney general to replace Xavier Becerra, due to join President-elect Joe Biden’s cabinet.

 

          It’s the most politically unique non-election year California has ever seen. The changes are forcing potential candidates to make their moves earlier than ever. As one result – if vaccinations allow it – the state soon may be overrun with barnstorming politicians staging rallies and pressing flesh with millions of voters far earlier than anyone anticipated.

 

          Knowing the fate of ex-Gov. Gray Davis in his 2003 recall election, Newsom must take the current drive against him seriously. What’s more, he would have ample opportunity to turn the recall to his advantage in a fall special election, since this is essentially the work of anti-masking followers of outgoing President Donald Trump, folks who still refuse to take COVID-19 seriously. Newsom could get a chance to rally the strong corps of anti-Trump voters in California and crush both the recall and resistance to his anti-virus moves.

 

For no one who wants eventually to be governor can stay out of this election if it happens, like it or not. Any who sit out would be essentially eliminated from future consideration if Newsom is recalled. That’s why Republican ex-Mayor Kevin Faulconer of San Diego wasted little time getting in.

 

          Like other recall elections, this one would have a vote on whether to dump Newsom; if the yes side wins on that, the counting then moves on to a list of potential replacements. So Newsom may get an early opportunity for knockout blows to both Faulconer and his once-defeated 2018 GOP rival, San Diego County businessman John Cox, a very likely recall entrant.

 

          Meanwhile, both new Newsom appointees, soon-to-be U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla and his replacement as secretary of state, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego, will face significant challengers. Appointed senators don’t usually enjoy the advantages of incumbents who have gone before the voters previously. Just ask Georgia’s Kelly Loeffler.

 

          So Padilla, celebrated for his rags-to-riches story, might face the moderate Burbank-area Congressman Adam Schiff or Silicon Valley’s leftist Rep. Ro Khanna, in the June 2022 primary and again later in a fall runoff election. Schiff has built a massive war chest since he won acclaim among Democrats for his handling of the early-2020 impeachment of Trump. Khanna, meanwhile, has been a darling of the Democratic left since ousting eight-term incumbent Mike Honda in 2016.

 

          Weber will also face competition, likely from at least one and possibly two of her former legislative colleagues. In both cases, the emerging challengers have a full year to work out how best to target Newsom’s appointees. The attorney general appointee also will face major opposition.

 

          The bottom line: California has never seen a political year quite like what this one promises to be. The odds are Newsom will survive the year and be better positioned for next year than he otherwise might have been. But things could prove more difficult for his high-level appointees. Stay tuned.

 

    -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, go to www.californiafocus.net

IS THIS NEWSOM’S WORST APPOINTMENT?

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS 
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, JANUARY 26, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
          “IS THIS NEWSOM’S WORST APPOINTMENT?”

 

          Amid the flood of news from the assault on the United States Capitol and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been easy to lose track of what may be Gov. Gavin Newsom’s worst-ever appointment.

 

This one looks like a new example of the poor judgment the governor displayed while hypocritically attending an opulent Napa County dinner with more persons present than his own anti-coronavirus rules allow. At least he apologized for that misstep.

 

          Newsom also ought to apologize for naming lawyer Liane Randolph to head the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the state’s prime mover in smog control, automotive gas mileage and containment of climate change.

 

          Before confirming her as the closest thing this state has to an environment czar, state senators should learn a bit about her beyond the encomiums spewed by Newsom.

 

          Randolph comes to CARB from the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC), where she participated in all of that benighted agency’s failures and scandals of the last half-decade.

 

          Without question, CARB and the PUC are the two most powerful unelected bodies in California government. CARB continually sets national and international standards while battling automakers’ resistance to anti-smog improvements. The PUC regulates electricity and natural gas, plus some water and telephone rates, often deciding the sources and types of energy Californians use. Without CARB, there would be no hybrid or electric cars, for just one example.

 

          Randolph, appointed to the PUC in early 2015 by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, was the chief lawyer for the state’s Natural Resources Agency before going on the commission, where she never publicly opposed any of the actions that got the PUC in trouble.

 

          She attended questionably legal secret commission meetings. She did not fight the PUC decision dunning customers for the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in north San Diego County, caused by a Southern California Edison Co. blunder. She went along with the PUC using public funds to hire private criminal defense lawyers for commissioners after their personal associations with Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. executives were exposed.

 

          She acceded in numerous “blackout blackmail” extortions by companies like Southern California Gas and San Diego Gas & Electric which kept open facilities like the SoCal Gas storage facility at Aliso Canyon above the Porter Ranch section of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley even after its record-level methane leaks sickened hundreds.

 

          She was part of the commission’s many failures to make sure PG&E, Edison and other electric companies maintained the safety of their power lines, a prime cause of the dozens of major, deadly wildfires of the last few years.

 

          In the latest possible scandal, the PUC’s former executive director has accused the commission of firing her for exposing its failure to collect about $200 million in fines imposed on various utilities for their derelictions.

 

Even if she privately questioned some of these things, Randolph never went public about it. Like other PUC commissioners, she declined numerous requests for interviews on these subjects.

 

          Now Newsom has her replacing the redoubtable Mary Nichols, the sometime UCLA professor who has led California’s smog fight for most of the last 45 years.

 

          Said Newsom’s press release, “Liane Randolph is the kind of bold, innovative leader that will lead our fight against climate change with equity and all California’s communities at heart.”

 

          Bold? If she’d opposed any of the PUC’s major failings during her tenure there, Newsom’s praise might be justified. She did not. Randolph also took fire from the Center for Biological Diversity for her time at the state’s Natural Resources Agency. There, said that national group, she “allowed oil companies to break the law (in drilling operations) and devastate our water, health and climate…(She) should pledge she will protect Californians…with 2,500-foot health and safety setbacks between communities and oil and gas wells.”

 

          It’s rare for any governor to name someone with such a dicey background to a major job, especially so for a governor facing a recall movement and the consequences of incompetent management of several state agencies, plus a series of wrong-headed personal decisions.

 

          All of which makes it high time for state senators to drum up some unusual gumption and independence before rubber-stamping a key gubernatorial appointment, as they generally do.

         

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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, January 4, 2021

DEMOCRATS’ IDENTITY CRISIS PLAYS OUT IN LA COURTS

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS 
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, JANUARY 22, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
       “DEMOCRATS’ IDENTITY CRISIS PLAYS OUT IN LA COURTS”

 

          The identity crisis that has divided the California Democratic Party for the last few years is now playing out in full force in the court system of the state’s largest county.

 

          This is one meaning of the controversy that followed December’s order by George Gascon, the newly-elected Los Angeles County District Attorney, that all 1,000 or so of his courtroom deputies immediately stop enforcing the state’s “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” and cease adding potential sentence enhancements to any charges they file against criminal suspects.

 

          “In essence,” said one judge, “Gascon is saying there are no ‘career criminals’ that society has an interest in keeping off the streets as long as possible. To state that proposition is to affirm its absurdity.”

 

          Gascon argues that penalties for actual crimes being charged are significant on their own and that sentencing enhancements like those for hate crimes and third strikes lead to excessive prison terms disproportionately affecting Blacks and Latinos. He contends they do not deter many crimes, but do wreck lives and cause societal damage.

 

          “People that commit a crime…they are going to face accountability,” he told a reporter. “That accountability will be proportionate to the crime.” In effect, he was endorsing the Biblical principle of “an eye for an eye,” rather than make penalties for any single crime greater than their actual effect on victims.

 

          The conflict is a dramatic reflection of the divide within the state’s Democratic Party between moderates and ultra-liberals calling themselves progressives. During last year’s presidential primary, this divide saw the ultra-liberal Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders take 35 percent of California’s Democratic vote while other, more moderate candidates like President-elect Joe Biden and his transportation secretary-designate Pete Buttegieg got 65 percent.

 

          That was akin to the margin by which U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a moderate, won her 2018 primary against the self-described progressive Kevin de Leon, now a Los Angeles city councilman.

 

          Gascon, a former deputy Los Angeles police chief who later was San Francisco’s district attorney – and left the city in a crime crisis when he was finished, according to critics – may be the ultimate California carpetbagger, moving from south to north and back south whenever it could boost his career.

 

        His edicts immediately after taking office went far beyond “reforms” he promised while campaigning. No one knows if he could have been elected had voters known what was coming. Supporters justify his moves by saying they are extensions of voter-approved initiatives that shifted some felonies to less-penalized misdemeanors and lowered prison populations.

 

          But among Gascon’s actions is an attempt at virtual elimination of cash bail in Los Angeles County. That’s counter to the resounding vote last fall on Proposition 25, which threw out a recently-passed state law banning cash bail. So Gascon is not simply carrying out voter wishes.

 

          Gascon also threatens to have prosecutors freeze out judges who don’t go along with his edicts by not filing felony cases in their courtrooms, even though state law and state Supreme Court decisions give judges the power to add sentence enhancements to criminal charges where they believe it’s justified. Enhancements can add years to a prison sentence.

         

          This, Gascon’s office argued in one directive, can “(waste) critical financial state and local resources.”

 

          Ultimately, it will be local voters who decide via a proposed recall election whether Gascon is carrying out the public will.

 

          And the deputy district attorneys’ union has sued Gascon, saying he is trying to force his deputies to choose between “following the law, their oath…or following…orders.”

 

          This all makes sense in the context of the struggle for the soul of California Democrats. Activists on the left often pack local caucuses and elect mainly “progressive” delegates to state party conventions where endorsements are decided.

 

          This was why, for one example, Feinstein ran three years ago without her party’s backing, but won handily anyhow when the mass of the state’s Democrats decided things.

 

          It’s a quarrel that won’t end soon, but ultra-liberals like Gascon should beware that if they swing their party too far left, they will endanger the Democrats’ current domination of state politics and all its major offices.

         

            

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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

WILL WE SEE A ROARING 20’S REDUX?

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS 
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, JANUARY 19, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
          “WILL WE SEE A ROARING 20’S REDUX?”

 

          The last time America experienced a pandemic on the scale of what the coronavirus has inflicted upon us, the wildest lifestyle decade in United States history followed immediately.

 

          It was as if the petering out of the Spanish flu after it killed millions of Americans unleashed people’s pent-up desires to enjoy life while they could.

 

          So the early years of the 20th Century were followed by the Roaring ‘20s, almost a decade of flappers and the emergence of baseball as big-time entertainment thanks to Babe Ruth’s home run stroke. There were moonshine whiskey and the Teapot Dome scandal, seemingly unending stock market rallies and the arrival of automobiles in millions of garages.

 

          Now that California has seen about a month of vaccinations, it may be appropriate to begin reading tea leaves to predict what life might be like, post-pandemic.

 

          Yes, polls indicate most Californians are pessimistic about their future prospects. A December survey by the Public Policy Institute of California found six in 10 Californians expect their children to be worse off financially than they are – and almost one-third of Californians have been hard hit by the economic consequences of quarantines and shutdowns needed to keep coronavirus infections down to levels hospitals can (barely) handle.

 

          More than two-thirds in the same survey said the gap between rich and poor is widening despite all the liberal-leaning bills California’s Legislature has passed in the last three years.

 

          More than half expect to experience “periods of widespread unemployment or depression” in the next five years.

 

          That’s about as pessimistic as usually optimistic California has ever been, an outlook perhaps partly fueled by the recent shifts of corporate headquarters away from this state by the likes of Oracle Corp. and a wing of Hewlett-Packard, both Silicon Valley stalwarts.

 

          But this ignores the continued strength – pandemic or not – in more basic California industries like agriculture and entertainment, both fields where this state’s products dominate world markets.

 

          The trend toward pessimism also contradicts a new prognostication from the often-accurate quarterly forecast by UCLA’s Anderson (Business) School.

 

          The forecast, which was at least partly correct in assuming that COVID-19 vaccinations would begin in mid-December and then accelerate into a mass movement, predicts the nation’s gross national product will increase 50 percent from the fall 2020 quarter’s dismal numbers by the end of March. Then, the forecast says, it will quadruple to 6 percent growth in the second quarter of this year.

 

          “With a vaccine and the release of pent-up demand, the next few years will be roaring as the economy accelerates and returns to previous growth trends,” said a senior UCLA economist. “We expect a surge in services consumption and continued strength in housing markets.”

 

          So what might look different in the “new normal” from the pre-pandemic California? For one thing, more and more white collar workers will do their jobs remotely, only occasionally showing up in offices. Many companies began escaping from long-term office leases while the coronavirus raged at peak levels and much of that vacant space will become housing units at all price levels.

 

          At the same time, electric cars will become far more common than now. Choices will become wide as battery capacities grow and their prices shrink with more mass production. Within two years, predicts former Vice President Al Gore, electric cars will be priced on a par with gas-powered ones, making California’s goal of a switch to all clean cars by 2035 at least somewhat realistic.

 

          Trends in social habits and sports are harder to predict. For sure, demand for personal contact is at least as pent-up as demand for consumer goods. So another wild era like the original Roaring ‘20s may be on tap.

 

          Will mixed martial arts or another sport now teetering on the edge of mass popularity become a hit like baseball did 100 years ago? That may depend on whether a happy-go-lucky superstar akin to the Babe turns up.

 

          One thing for certain: The new Roaring ‘20s will have much of the same spirit of massive relief and optimism that fueled the original decade of decadence.

 

          Whether it is also followed by a massive pendulum swing to economic depression is anybody’s guess.

         


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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

 

Suggested pull-out quote: “A lot depends on whether a happy-go-lucky superstar akin to Babe Ruth turns up.”