Monday, March 29, 2021

NEWSOM MUST STOP FAVORING BIG DONOR CORPORATIONS

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, APRIL 16, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

 

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS

     “NEWSOM MUST STOP FAVORING BIG DONOR CORPORATIONS”

 

        It’s not yet a big issue in the upcoming recall election against Gavin Newsom, but unless the governor changes some steady habits soon, it almost certainly will be:

 

        That’s his pattern of favoring corporations that have been big donors to his campaigns and causes, past and present.

 

        So far, corruption has not been raised as a big reason for dumping Newsom and placing someone else within his office in the state Capitol’s horseshoe-shaped gubernatorial wing. But if Newsom doesn’t change his habits by reversing course at least somewhat, it very well could become one.

 

        For corruption would be a major counterpoint to the governor’s campaign to cast the recall as purely the work of bigoted supporters of the California-unpopular ex-President Donald Trump, who often refer to the coronavirus in terms even more incendiary than Trump did: Some recall organizers have called it the CCP Virus, short for Chinese Communist Party Virus.

 

        That this obscure-seeming message contains a possible impetus toward violent prejudice is obvious to many voters. Tying Newsom to giant corporations known to exploit or even kill their customers is an entirely different matter.

 

        The two corporations that have benefitted more than other donors from Newsom’s actions as governor are Pacific Gas & Electric Co and California Blue Shield. PG&E has donated well over $10 million to Newsom’s campaigns since his first run for San Francisco supervisor in 1998. Meanwhile, the Blue Shield health insurance giant has given more than $22 million to a variety of Newsom campaigns and causes since 2005.


        Newsom’s favoritism of PG&E over its customers was never more obvious than after the Camp Fire, which destroyed the Butte County town of Paradise in 2018, producing billions of dollars in valid claims against the company. At least 85 persons died in that fire, caused by faulty PG&E equipment and negligent maintenance, eventually forcing the company to plead guilty to manslaughter charges.

 

        Instead of disappearing in disgrace, like most people or entities that kill 85 innocents, PG&E is now the beneficiary – along with other big California utilities – of a massive state Wildfire Fund to which electric customers statewide involuntarily contribute each month via the bills they pay.

 

        The question: Would a company that had not so actively aided the governor have gotten this benefit, essentially absolving it of most financial responsibility for future fires its negligence may cause? Newsom has never spoken directly about why he so favored the multiply criminal PG&E rather than breaking it up and selling off the pieces to many willing buyers who might conduct business more responsibly. Rather, he has laughed off questions.

 

        Then there’s Blue Shield. Via a secret process, Newsom placed this company and big donor in charge of the state’s vital coronavirus vaccine distribution program and insisted on keeping it in that slot even while most counties were refusing to sign contracts with it.

 

        Blue Shield insists it will get no financial benefit from its vaccine involvement, but there is no doubt that if it can make getting shots easier for Californians, it will reap a public relations and marketing bonanza unavailable to rival companies like Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna, Kaiser Permanente, Health Net or Cigna.

 

        Then there’s the fact that projected costs of the vaccination program rose by about $2 billion soon after Blue Shield began working on it. Who says private industry always does things cheaper and more efficiently than government?

 

        So far, candidates expected to be on the list of potential replacement governors that Californians will see at the polls this fall have not attacked Newsom for any of this, nor for his granting permits to frack for natural gas to other big companies that contribute to his causes.

 

        But it’s a safe bet their campaign managers have not missed any of this, and that it will likely show up in their campaign ads, even though all major candidates so far are Republicans whose usual stances are more pro-corporate than Newsom’s formal positions.

 

        Can Newsom clean up any of his act before the recall campaign heats up in August and September? That depends on whether he is a truly skilled and confident politician, something he has yet to prove about himself.

  

-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


GM BECOMES A CLASSIC BANDWAGON JUMPER

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, APRIL 13, 2021, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS

        “GM BECOMES A CLASSIC BANDWAGON JUMPER”

 

        Three years ago, General Motors was among the first to jump aboard when then-President Donald Trump and his administration tried to remove California’s authority to regulate its own smog standards, a right supposedly guaranteed in the federal Clean Air Act of 1970.

 

        No one questioned whether this state would or should have that right in perpetuity back when Republican President Richard Nixon, a Californian very familiar with polluted air, signed that law. It was a matter of course.

 

        California’s clean air advances quickly became so accepted that 16 other states eventually agreed to adopt whatever standards this state set, but a couple of years later just in case of complications.

 

        Then came Trump claiming that his executive orders could override the authority Congress and a previous president gave California. He sought a single, far more lax, national automotive smog standard. If he’d been reelected, he might well have succeeded.

 

        Only a lawsuit filed by former state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra soon after Trump issued his order held up that edict, one of many designed to penalize California for providing the popular vote margin by which Hillary Clinton defeated Trump in 2016, even though Trump won in the arcane and archaic Electoral College.

 

        But Trump again lost the popular vote last fall, with California providing most of the margin of defeat. This time, he also lost in the Electoral College despite his repeated, false claims of widespread fraud.

 

        GM again acted fast. The giant automaker almost immediately after the vote dropped its role in helping Trump try to deprive California of its key clean air authority. Fellow Trump-supporting automakers like Toyota and Fiat Chrysler followed months later.

 

        GM’s move was clearly taken because new President Joseph Biden made it plain throughout his campaign that he would reverse most if not all Trump measures to loosen environmental regulations.

 

        GM chief executive Mary Barra did not at any point relate her company’s move to any flaws in what Trump sought to do. Her statement left no doubt this was purely bandwagon jumping, GM getting aboard with a new president as soon as possible.

 

        She said she pulled GM from its role as a Trump supporter because she agrees with Biden’s plan to make electric car use far more widespread.

 

        “We believe the ambitious electrification goals of (Biden), California and General Motors are aligned to address climate change by drastically reducing automobile emissions,” she said.

 

        It would have been difficult to be more blatant. For GM was aligned the last three years against California’s longstanding aim to increase EV use, the very plan Barra now endorses.

 

        So this is corporate opportunism at its peak.

 

        GM was long joined by Toyota in standing against California consumers, who strongly back the state’s environmental goals, according to every poll on the subject. Both glossed over their stances for years in consumer advertising.

 

        Meanwhile, other large automakers like Ford, Volkswagen, Honda, BMW and Volvo joined Becerra’s lawsuit to prevent Trump’s anti-environmental move, which he justified with unsubstantiated claims that stricter smog standards lead to job losses.

 

        It is no surprise that GM and Toyota left the Trump train at the first indication it was the losing side, both in this effort and in combating election results.

 

        Both companies have long histories of opposing every advance California has ever made in smog controls. From the earliest smog control devices of the 1960s to catalytic converters to fleet standards that forced companies to build electric cars, GM and Toyota have always been recalcitrant.

 

        They are among the foremost companies in repeatedly claiming standards set by California’s smog-fighting agency, the Air Resources Board, could not physically be met – and then somehow managing to do it after the standards were adopted.

 

        Why expect these companies to change their behavior now? Rather, it was to be expected they would change colors like chameleons at the first indication it was the politically opportune thing to do.

 

        Which means environmentally-minded Californians now know which companies stood for cleaner air when times were tough and which did not, just in case they want to reward such efforts with a car purchase.

       

       

 

    -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

Monday, March 22, 2021

NEWSOM’S FOOT IN MOUTH MAY HURT HIM IN RECALL

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE:
FRIDAY, APRIL 9, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

 

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS

     “NEWSOM’S FOOT IN MOUTH MAY HURT HIM IN RECALL”

 

        Gov. Gavin Newsom’s notorious foot-in-mouth problem may be his worst enemy as he faces the recall vote that will likely be scheduled for this fall.

 

        No, it will probably not cost him his job, as intended by the Donald Trump supporters and anti-vaxxers who started the recall and the more standard conservative Republicans who jumped on their bandwagon.

 

        But it is giving him problems. The governor who told Californians not to gather in groups of more than 10 and not to do even that indoors – and then attended an infamous somewhat larger indoor birthday dinner for a lobbyist pal – keeps making new gaffes.

 

        One came in mid-March when he described himself as a “Zoom parent,” while his four children had been back in their private school classes for months.

 

More serious was his pledge that if the 87-year-old longtime U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein leaves office for any reason before her term is up after 2024, he will appoint a Black woman to the job.

 

        This was in response to entitled-feeling Black women politicians who did not find any of their number named to the Senate seat vacated by Kamala Harris when she became vice president. They felt slighted, and whined that now there are no Black woman in the Senate.

 

        It did not appear to occur to them that this was because the Senate’s only Black woman had just received a big promotion and that no other Black woman had managed to win any other Senate seat. To make up for that, and to satisfy their craving always to have at least one of them number in the upper house of Congress, they pressured Newsom to appoint one of them at his first opportunity.

 

        This was the essence of identity politics, where a person’s ethnic and gender background counts for more than their ability or achievements. Reality is that no one group owns California’s Senate seats. They have at times gone to the son of an Irish-American heavyweight boxing champion, two Jewish women, an Asian-American semantics expert, a onetime movie soft-shoe dancer, a former presidential press secretary, a Latino graduate of MIT and a variety of others.

 

        Most of these folks won the job on their own, but a few were appointed, and appointees often don’t fare well in elections when they finally roll around. Think of appointed Republican John Seymour, a former Orange County state senator who gave way to Feinstein in 1992.

 

        But Newsom’s bow to identity politics didn’t help him, not especially after Feinstein pointedly asserted she has no plans to go anywhere and thus forced the governor to awkwardly try pulling his foot from his mouth.

 

        What Newsom did is sometimes called pandering. It’s difficult to put that tag on his appointment of former California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to the Senate because – beside being an old Newsom friend – Padilla has a long record of achievement, most recently setting up the state’s universal mail voting system which worked with few flaws in the last election.

 

        But his pandering to Black women led Asian-American groups to push him to name one of their number to replace Xavier Becerra as state attorney general now that he’s the national secretary of Health and Human Services.

 

        For Newsom to achieve the unity he seeks among Democrats as he fights the drive to recall him, he must go cold turkey on his impulse to pander.

 

        If he’d simply pledge to name the individual he believes will do the best job to any vacant post, he would be much better off. It’s difficult to be offended by someone trying to find the best public servant possible, but easy to turn against someone more interested in identity than merit.

 

        Newsom has enlisted the likes of Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as part of his effort to present a unified Democratic front and lend credibility to his campaign to label the upcoming vote a “Republican recall.”

 

        But if he keeps turning off Democrats by turning one group after another against him because he didn’t pick someone for a top job who looks just like them, he could have more trouble this fall than he now expects.

     

-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.

UTILITY CUSTOMERS AT LAST GETTING DAY IN COURT

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, APRIL 6, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
     “UTILITY CUSTOMERS AT LAST GETTING DAY IN COURT”

 

        The utility bailout plan known as AB 1054 has looked worse and worse for consumers since California legislators passed it in July 2019 under pressure from Gov. Gavin Newsom and lobbyists for Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric.

 

        The typical residential electric customer has paid for more than a year toward an eventual total of $13.5 billion to be used for reimbursement of costs when utility company equipment sparks fires, something common over the last five years.

 

        Consumer lawyer Mike Aguirre, the former elected city attorney of San Diego, from the start fought this shift of responsibility for illegal conduct by the utilities. But legislators never held hearings on the bill, concocted by an ad hoc committee that included Marybel Batyer, then a Newsom aide and now president of the state Public Utilities Commission.

 

        How surprising was it that the PUC with Batyer presiding followed by quickly rubber-stamping this years-long dunning of the vast majority of California electric customers?

 

        Aguirre protested SB 1054 at every step. He insisted it amounts to “unconstitutional taking” of consumers’ money. A federal district judge refused to hold a trial on Aguirre’s constitutional arguments, claiming alleged lack of jurisdiction over state laws.

 

        But the customers’ day in court arrives at last on April 12, when the appeal from that judge’s ruling is due for a hearing before the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The wheels of justice have ground slowly: it’s taken almost two years since the law’s passage for the case against it to get its first courtroom airing.

 

        That case seems strong. For one thing, there is no doubt the utility companies desperately wanted this bailout to pass. For it to take effect, they had to pony up $10 billion to help bankroll the new state new Wildfire Fund created by the law. They do not casually put up that kind of cash, but this time found it necessary: Without the Wildfire Fund, the criminally convicted PG&E could not have emerged from a long bankruptcy it underwent after causing deadly fires in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

 

        Questions arose at that time over whether PG&E deserved to survive, especially after it pled guilty to manslaughter in the 2018 Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise and killed at least 85 persons.

 

        Says Aguirre in his appeal brief, “Instead of reforming its safety practices, PG&E sought a legislative reprieve. After receiving millions of dollars in campaign…donations, legislators and even California’s governor aligned themselves with the company.”

 

        He goes on to detail secret meetings between PG&E and top Newsom aides, including Batyer “to determine how to ensure PG&E’s customers, not its shareholders, would pay for PG&E-caused fire damages.”

 

        Aguirre calls those Newsom’s aides “compromised.” He adds that AB 1054’s “true purpose” is not to ensure good electric service, but rather “to promote utility company finances.”

 

        In fact, since it passed, there has been no talk of further utility company bankruptcies, a common subject every fire season for several previous years.

 

        Aguirre argues that Newsom and his allies “pledged customer funds…even though utility companies acted unreasonably and imprudently in causing fires over decades.” He charges that the PUC under Batyer “held a sham proceeding in which the process was illusory and the decision (to ratify AB 1054) was predetermined.”

 

        Batyer has refused to answer questions about any of this.

 

 

        Aguirre notes that rather than reforming their practices, utilities have “caused more fires and killed more people – all while (PG&E was) on federal probation for the 2010 San Bruno gas explosion that killed eight persons.”

 

        For sure, AB 1054 amounts to a show of trust for utility companies that by their own admission behaved irresponsibly for many years. The district judge’s refusal to hear the case has so far meant no one could cross examine Newsom or other drafters of the bill about their motives.

 

        One favorable outcome for consumers would be for the appeals court to throw the case back to the district judge for a full trial.

 

        Another would be for the bill to simply be ruled unconstitutional. Once the appeals court hears the arguments, it will have to say something.

 

       

-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, March 15, 2021

CITIES CHIP AWAY AT R-1 ZONING

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, APRIL 2, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
       “CITIES CHIP AWAY AT R-1 ZONING”

 

       It’s become like a rite of spring: Every year, state legislators reject the most radical of many proposals set forward by Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco to make housing far more dense all over California.

 

       But that hasn’t kept some of his ideas from taking hold outside the state Capitol, by a kind of process of osmosis based on the psychological reality that the more often people hear something, the less radical it can sound.

 

       So it’s been with Wiener’s prolonged attack on R-1 zoning, which allows just one home per lot in areas zoned that way. Part of this gradual process was the passage two years ago of a new law letting homeowners everywhere in California convert garages into residential space or build small homes known as “granny units” in their backyards.

 

       The idea didn’t draw much opposition, as it creates new housing while also giving new sources of income to longtime homeowners retired from their jobs who need income beyond pensions or Social Security.

 

       But Wiener kept pushing in pre-pandemic speeches for more aggressive attacks on the single-family zoning he appears to consider an abomination. Some of his message has seeped in.

 

       The best evidence came when the city of Sacramento in January took the first step toward ending R-1 zoning within its boundaries. You could call the almost certain new zoning category R-4 because it would allow rebuilding or restructuring existing homes into up to four units on every lot in previously one-parcel, one-home areas.

 

       The new rule probably won’t be final until late this year, as it undergoes reviews within local government. Chances are, residents will be able to add multiple units to their property starting in 2022.

       This has strong support from Mayor Darrell Steinberg, the termed-out former Democratic president of the state Senate. Referring to one leafy neighborhood of largish homes fairly close to downtown and the eponymous park it surrounds, he said, “Everybody should have the opportunity to not only play in Land Park but to live in Land Park.”

 

       So far, only two other American cities – Portland, Ore. and Minneapolis – have similar zoning, and it’s too soon to see how the new reality will eventually look there.

 

       But the idea is taking hold elsewhere in California. Cities like San Jose, San Francisco and Berkeley are among those planning similar zoning changes. A bill now in the Legislature would allow duplexes in most current single-family areas around the state. Another would allow up to eight units per lot.

 

       As yet, there is no flood of developers flashing wads of cash before homeowners in R-1 neighborhoods. But that could come if the new units prove popular among current apartment dwellers in denser areas.

 

       These shifts ignore two realities: One is that owning a freestanding house in an attractive area has long been a major component of both the American and California dreams. Wiener may decry urban sprawl as wasteful and profligate, but he ignores a basic human yearning to live surrounded by greenery and open space. The second reality ignored here is that more and more office buildings are becoming largely vacant as a side effect of COVID-19.

 

       That change will not go away even as vaccines gradually slow and then end the pandemic. Thousands of white collar businesses from law firms and insurance companies to social media and stock brokerages have sent employees home to work, finding they are at least as efficient on their own. In turn, surveys show, the majority of workers miss neither cubicle life nor long commutes.

 

       This has already spurred an exodus from big cities to more rural and suburban areas and cities with lower rents and home prices. Sacramento itself is a major destination, while rents have dropped in places like San Francisco and the Silicon Valley. At the same time, prices are up in more outlying areas including parts of the Inland Empire.

 

       Economics dictates that eventually, all that newly vacant office space must become housing. Combine this with a spate of new duplexes, granny flats and four-unit structures and excess California housing could soon go begging, a far cry from the shortage that has lately bedeviled this state.

 

      

 

     -30-       
Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated third edition. His email address is tdelias@aol.com

ANTI-ASIAN VIOLENCE SHOWS FOLLY OF DEFUNDING

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, MARCH 30, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
        “ANTI-ASIAN VIOLENCE SHOWS FOLLY OF DEFUNDING”

 

        There an old saying about traditions: Abandon a tradition, it tells us, and you will soon learn why it became one.

 

That’s what California cities are learning today, as city councils around the state have acted on the urging of Black Lives Matter protesters and diverted portions of their former police budgets to social action causes in previously underserved neighborhoods.

 

But the spate of anti-Asian violence now playing out in California communities as disparate as Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Leandro and Orange County dramatically shows this was folly.

 

        The logical police response to on-street attacks ought to be more foot and squad car patrols, but that’s not happening in most places despite the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. So they continue, showing no signs of abating.

 

        Before the coronavirus pandemic, this was not a big problem. Hate crimes against Asians were relatively few and far between. But a huge upswing began just about the time ex-President Donald Trump dubbed the coronavirus plague the “Chinese virus,”.

 

        Around California, these crimes have far more than doubled over the last year, but no one can put a precise number on them. In San Francisco, they have at least tripled. In Los Angeles, there have been more than twice as many this year as a year ago. But official numbers are likely far lower than in real life, partly because police don’t do much about the attacks.

 

        Not even 700-person rallies decrying the attacks, like one the other day in San Jose, can stop them.

 

        The head of a Southern California group called Asian-Americans Advancing Justice told one reporter many such crimes go unreported because of language problems, immigrants unable to communicate with police. Plus, she said, “When victims…come forward, having the police say nothing can be done discourages other victims from relying on police.”

 

        Some immigrant advocates also say Korean-Americans and other Asian groups are perceiving new bias among police officers, perhaps caused by the Trump rhetoric.

 

        But the mere presence of cops on street patrol could have stopped one early March assault on an elderly Asian man who was seated in a Nob Hill laundromat in San Francisco when at attacker ambushed him. Police presence probably would have spared the death of Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai-American beaten to death in broad daylight, also in San Francisco.

 

        Neither of their assailants has been identified, like most others conducting the current spate of attacks.

 

        There are also less violent, but still threatening incidents. One Asian-American woman stopped at a red light the other day in Fresno and a man in the next car signaled she should roll down her window. When she did, he shouted, “Get out of my country – that’s an order.” After pausing, he reportedly added, “I’ll kill you.”

 

        All this is a demonstration that even a “model minority” noted for high achievement and founding large and successful businesses of many types can suddenly be targeted, especially when national leaders become loose-lipped about their own prejudices.

 

        It also shows that not only California, but the entire nation needs effective policing to protect minorities who have no way to know when they might be victimized, even if their particular ethnic group enjoys generally high public esteem.

 

        Because bigots have always picked on those they see as weak, this is especially important for elderly and frail individuals.

 

 

        Yes, the pandemic appears to have originated in or near the Chinese city of Wuhan. But there is no evidence it was deliberately perpetrated on the world. The claim that it was amounts to a blood libel against Chinese individuals who would have been thousands of miles away even if deeds like this had been done.

 

        Because most others have difficulty discerning Asians’ native nationalities simply from their appearance, all Asian-Americans are now at serious risk, especially if they don’t look strong, a la the Los Angeles Angels’ 6-foot, 4-inch, 210 pound Shohei Otani.

 

        Police are their only assured protection from random violence and bigotry when they leave their homes. And the fewer cops on the street, the more danger for them. Which is just one reason it makes little sense to defund police, as Americans are now discovering.

       

       

 
-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, March 8, 2021

REVISING HISTORY: HOW FAR SHOULD NAME CHANGES GO?

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, MARCH 26, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
   “REVISING HISTORY: HOW FAR SHOULD NAME CHANGES GO?”

 

        Historical revisionists are hard at work today, not just in California but all over America. In some places, this practice has merit, but it’s expensive and often seems unjustified.

 

        In Virginia the other day, a local school board lifted the names of past Presidents Woodrow Wilson and John Tyler from elementary schools. Wilson, the first Southerner to become president after the Civil War, was not dishonored for leading America into World War I or for doggedly promoting the former League of Nations, for which the Senate rejected U.S. membership.

 

        Rather, the onetime head of Princeton University, wrote a textbook praising both the slavery-centered Confederacy and the Ku Klux Klan. The school formerly bearing his name will now be called Manor High School. At about the same time, Princeton removed Wilson’s name from two of its institutes.

 

        Tyler, the 10th president, also later sided with the Confederacy and briefly served in its House of Representatives. His namesake school is now called Waterview Elementary.

 

        Those renamings, done so that Black children would not have to attend schools called after men who worked to keep their forebears enslaved, look justifiable in the modern era. Slavery, odious through all time, is not open to much debate.

 

        But the revisionism in California can sometimes become ludicrous. For every justifiable effort to remove the recently sainted Junipero Serra’s name from streets and schools because the chain of missions he founded in the late 1700s survived through Native American forced labor, there are multiple others without much merit.

 

        Even Abraham Lincoln and current U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein have been targeted. Lincoln, often credited with freeing the slaves via his Emancipation Proclamation (which officially freed only slaves in Confederate states), is now targeted by some Native Americans and their allies. These efforts are nowhere stronger than in San Francisco, where 42 schools see their current monikers challenged for the alleged sins of their namesakes.

 

        Was Abe Lincoln a bad guy, despite struggling to hold the Union together and letting most slaves go free? Well, note some, he enabled the U.S. Army to carry on the Indian Wars. That, of course, ignores the fact that Lincoln would have been ridden out of Washington, D.C. on the proverbial rail if he had not provided men and resources to protect white settlers during America’s expansionist era.

 

        If he had not done this, of course, the shape of the modern world would be quite different from today, in ways no one can know.

 

        So, should his name disappear from all those Lincoln High Schools and middle schools? It’s an open question. The same for George Washington, long recognized as “the father of his country,” but also a slave owner. Washington, admired for refusing to become king of America when he could have after his two terms as the first president, instead retired to his Mt. Vernon plantation where he was served by scores of slaves.

 

        Should his name become anathema because he was born into weath in an English colony? Just how much rebellion against his day’s norms can we expect from him? It’s another open question.

 

        Feinstein has been condemned by the San Francisco school system for her alleged role in evicting 150 elderly Chinese and Filipino residents of a hotel that was demolished in 1977 – a year before Feinstein became her city’s mayor. The school board also calls her out because a Confederate flag once flew at City Hall during a design exhibition – years before she was mayor. Trying to hold Feinstein responsible for these episodes looks like unfair historical revision.

 

        Other activists around California want to remove the names of poet James Lowell and pioneering conservationist John Muir from schools and buildings because they were insufficiently supportive of Black equality in their turn-of-the-20th-Century era, when very few whites were active in that cause.

 

        It’s all supposed to give schoolchildren proper heroes to admire and emulate. But because most humans live in their own times and don’t know the future, it’s hard to assess how politically correctly we can expect anyone to have behaved in prior eras.

 

        Or maybe, suggested one wag, we should give our schools numbers, as in New York City. Anyone for P.S. 19 instead of Lincoln High?

       

       

-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

THIS RECALL COULD BECOME NEWSOM VS. TRUMP

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, MARCH 23, 2021, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
   “THIS RECALL COULD BECOME NEWSOM VS. TRUMP”

 

        California’s Republican Party appears bent on making the seemingly inevitable fall recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom into a symbolic vote on the political revival ex-President Donald Trump so avidly desires.

 

        As the days wound down before the March 17 deadline for submitting recall petition signatures, it became clear that three men with links to Trump would likely be the most prominent figures on the recall’s list of prospective Newsom replacements.

 

        As in any statewide recall election, voters would have two votes this time – a yes-or-no choice on dumping Newsom and a second vote choosing from a list of would-be alternatives. The winner in that contest would not need a majority, just more votes than anyone else running.

 

So far, the three most prominent likely candidates include former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, San Diego County businessman John Cox and Trump’s former acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell.

 

If the list of alternates does not soon add a figure or two who’s more palatable to the state’s dominant Democratic voters, it appears the recall won’t have much chance no matter how poorly Newsom may fare in the polls.

 

        Cox lost to Newsom in the November 2018 runoff election by a massive 62-38 percent margin, running as a strong Trump ally determined to end California’s status as the state most resistant to his policies. That’s almost exactly the same margin by which Trump lost California last fall. It may represent the best any conservative Republican can do in this era.

 

The thumping frequent candidate Cox took did not dampen his enthusiasm for calling Newsom incompetent and hypocritical. Yet, he likely won’t get as enthusiastic backing from Trump this time as three years ago.

 

        For Grenell, said to plan on entering this list when the recall formally qualifies for a vote, has been among Trump’s most loyal operatives.

 

        During the Trump presidency, Grenell served first as spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, then ambassador to Germany and finally as acting director of national intelligence during Trump’s final year, after the ex-president fired the previous chief spy for reporting publicly that Russia was interfering in the election on his behalf.

 

        Grenell would not enter this race if he did not have Trump’s blessing, reportedly secured during the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Committee last month in Orlando.

 

        Faulconer is not so obvious a Trumpist. He downplays his Republican identity in this state where the GOP label has lately meant certain defeat in statewide races other than those involving movie muscleman Arnold Schwarzenegger.

 

        But Faulconer at times leans heavily to the right. Example: he endorsed former U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa early on to replace the disgraced and resigned San Diego Republican Duncan Hunter in a Mexican-border congressional seat. The hard-right Issa “retired” in 2018 from his former seat in north San Diego County when that district became too liberal for him to be reelected. The Hunter district leans far more toward Trump loyalty.

 

        There was also Trump telling Fox News last June, after Faulconer visited the Oval Office, that “(Faulconer) was just in my office, great guy. He came up to thank me for having done the (border) wall…

 

        Faulconer quickly denied saying that, his spokesman claiming he and Trump discussed only a trade deal. Still, Newsom can use the Fox News video against him, and never mind Faulconer’s denial.

 

        A big difference between this recall and the 2003 ouster of then-Gov. Gray Davis is the absence of anyone with the innate popularity of Schwarzenegger, who dominated that vote.

 

        All this should make it easy for Newsom’s veteran campaign team to cast this as a Trumpian attempt at a backdoor takeover of California.

 

        If he succeeds at beating back the recall, Newsom would have already defeated all his likely major 2022 reelection opponents, plus California’s most active Trump supporters. So he could – like some previous recall survivors – emerge as a popular hero in his own party, with an easy path to reelection next year as well as a promising potential national future.

 

       

       

-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, March 1, 2021

CASH BAIL DECISION DUE ANY DAY NOW

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, MARCH 19, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
     “CASH BAIL DECISION DUE ANY DAY NOW”

 

        Within days, or a couple of weeks at the most, Californians will know whether their state Supreme Court will respect their views on a key aspect of criminal justice, or whether their ideas on what is right and just will be ignored.

 

        Only a few months ago, voters opted by almost a 57-43 percent margin to reject Proposition 25 and along with it a law passed in 2019 that would have ended cash bail virtually everywhere in this state.

 

        Instead, judges would have been forced to grant pretrial release for criminal defendants regardless of how serious their offense so long as even one judge deemed them unlikely to flee or commit more violent acts.

 

        Bail bondsmen and crime victims alike breathed a sigh of relief when that so-called reform was tossed. But now comes the state’s highest court, seemingly ready to disregard the voters’ will completely.

 

        If the justices opt to get rid of cash bail in almost all cases, they’ll be following the example of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who used pandemic-enabled emergency power to suspend most cash bail last spring ostensibly to cut down crowding in county jails and help prevent more spread of disease.

 

        The case the justices are using as justification for their likely ruling against the established bail system involves a San Francisco man who spent a year in jail on a robbery charge, unable to make $350,000 bail. When they took up the case about two months ago, the justices appeared to believe the accused was being discriminated against because he could not come up with one-tenth of his nominal bail, the amount most bondsmen require before putting up the balance of the bail as a kind of loan.

 

        What had the 66-year-old suspect done? He allegedly broke into the apartment of a 79-year-old man in 2017, threatening to put a pillowcase over the victim’s head while stealing $5 and some scented water.

 

        The theft was trivial, but the alleged break-in, the threat and the alarm it caused should not happen to anyone. His lawyer argued it was unjust to keep the accused intruder in jail awaiting trial just because he was broke.

 

        Most legal officials involved in the case appear to agree. An appeals court ruled in August that it’s unjust to keep a defendant in custody when the bail set is far beyond his or her capacity to pay it.

 

        The Supreme Court followed by telling all California judges to set bail only in amounts a defendant can afford to pay, at least until the San Francisco case is decided – which will be soon.

 

        Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, in a later hearing, cited a Nevada Supreme Court ruling holding no judge can set bail higher than a defendant can afford unless that is the only way to assure the suspect will show up for trial. California now has no such limits, but Cuellar argued that California’s state constitution can be interpreted in the same way as Nevada’s.

 

        Other justices backed “taking each case individually, trying to figure out the dangerousness and how much bail must be set to amount to detention,” with a defendant’s finances part of that calculation.

 

        There is a na├»ve quality to all this. For one thing, it assumes police or other court personnel can investigate the finances of thousands of accused criminals. One deputy attorney general, with backing from the sitting state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, argued that most cash bail is unfair because it “treats equally dangerous defendants differently based on their wealth.”

 

        All this, of course, runs counter to both the voters’ recently expressed will, besides essentially ignoring the 2008 Proposition 6, which denied any bail to undocumented immigrants accused of felonies, while allowing judges to set bail according to the seriousness of the crime, the defendant’s prior record and the risk to the victim.

 

        There is currently no law in California making a suspect’s financial condition part of any bail calculation.

 

        Which may not make any difference to the state’s top court. It seems to be heading straight into defiance of the voters’ will and does not seem to care about that.

 

        -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

BEST MOVE ON ETHNIC STUDIES: A NEW REWRITE

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, MARCH 16, 2021, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS

     “BEST MOVE ON ETHNIC STUDIES: A NEW REWRITE”

 

        The late March deadline for approving a new ethnic studies program for California public schools is almost here, and one thing remains clear: This project is still a work in progress, needing much more work before it becomes something that will not insult large groups of Californians and stir even more divisions than today’s.

 

        Yes, there have been improvements. So much so that many who contributed to the original draft of the program that was soundly rejected two years ago are now asking to have their names erased from the final version, whatever it eventually looks like.

 

        They demand this because the original’s “guiding principles…have been compromised by political and media pressure.” The byline boycott, pushed on several Facebook posts, urges individual school districts to reject the final state version and instead adopt “a liberated ethnic studies model curriculum.”

 

        Of course, what looks like a liberated curriculum to those folks, mostly adherents of the Critical Ethnic Studies Association, looks to others like encouragement of new prejudice and bias.

 

         That’s why the original draft, based on the CESA principle that much of American history is steeped in white supremacy and oppression, was roundly rejected by legislative committees that looked it over.

 

        The curriculum’s redone version, out in January, was somewhat less negative about U.S. history and far kinder to whites in general, Armenians, Jews and Israel, also adding information about Irish immigration and the discrimination encountered by both Irish and Jewish newcomers.

 

        But the left-leaning tilt of the proposed program remained obvious to anyone glancing at the list of individuals suggested for study at various grade levels.

 

        The curriculum’s footnotes proposed examining figures like former President Barack Obama, former California state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, onetime Hawaii Congresswoman Patsy Mink and her colleague from Brooklyn, Shirly Chisholm, the first woman to make a serious run for president.

 

        There are also proposed units on onetime Black Panther leader Bobby Seale, self-proclaimed “lifetime communist” Angela Davis, convicted murderer Mumia Abu-Jamal, the vocally anti-Semitic Arab-American leader Linda Sarsour and others.

 

        Nothing is offered or recommended on any

figure from the right, not the late President and California Gov. Ronald Reagan, not the Black South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, no one.

 

        So kids would not be educated on Reagan’s evolution from liberal union leader to genial conservative icon.

 

        This, said state Schools Supt. Tony Thurmond, a former Democratic state legislator from Richmond, was because the curriculum “needs…fidelity to the four ethnic groups that launched the (CESA) movement” during a student strike at San Francisco State University in 1968. He gave no reason for such fidelity. The four groups include African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian American/Pacific Islanders and Native Americans. Not a mention of the European immigrants who rebelled against English colonial rule and risked their lives to create human benchmarks like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

 

        Not that Caucasian or mostly-white ethnic groups are ignored. Rather, one segment of the program claims they redefined themselves after arrival as “white and American,” thus assuming a mantle of “racial privilege” and abandoning their previous identities. That’s simply untrue, no matter what CESA thinks.

 

        Where would that leave the white, largely Jewish Freedom Riders so vital to the civil rights struggle in the South during the early 1960s? Essentially ignored. What about white abolitionists and other whites who set up whole chains of quality schools for children of former slaves in the period between 1870 and 1910? Also absent. Minority children thus would be led to believe no Caucasians ever cared about or aided them when they were oppressed.

 

        There’s a presumption here that all Caucasians arrived in this country with instant “white privilege,” an approach that leaves out all nuance and ignores the history of the textile industry, the union movement and the outright oppression of huge numbers of poor white immigrants.

 

        In short, what’s before the state Board of Education today improves on the version from two years ago, but it’s still inadequate. That means much more reworking is needed, the current deadline be damned, and if Thurmond and the state board are at all responsible, they will see that the deadline is extended by at least another year.

 

    -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