Friday, May 27, 2022






        It may not seem this way on the surface, but there’s a growing awareness that the most important bill California legislators will consider this year is not about housing or homelessness or abortion or wildfires or taxes. Rather, it’s one that might force gigantic electronic firms to lay off our teenage kids and stop trying to addict them for profit. 

        If most adults were not yet aware of the potential mind-changing effects of kids looking at screens for hours, a year or more of watching schoolchildren struggle to learn while working on computers programmed to help them, not exploit them, probably provided some understanding. 

        But even as computer programs and sessions devoted to learning had difficulty holding kids’ attention, there was no reduction in youthful addiction to more glitzy screen programs like Tik-Tok and Instagram, designed not to help them learn, but rather to manipulate them in myriad other ways.

         In his landmark 2015 book The Wired Child: Reclaiming Childhood in a Digital Age, the Harvard-trained, Walnut Creek-based Ph.D. psychologist Richard Freed asserted that “We need to stop accepting on faith the gadget-dominated life thrust upon our kids…The push to give our kids so many playtime devices is based on inaccurate notions…”

        Widespread emphasis on “STEM” education (science, technology, engineering and math) rather than subjects like history or English composition contributes to parental acceptance of myriad screens in their children’s lives. That has made social media a vital part of many – maybe most -- childhoods. 

        But big technology companies led by Facebook, owner of Instagram, use algorithms to mine information about users, selling that information to advertisers who then send out personalized content and ads. 

        Enter the current Assembly Bill 2408, sponsored by Assembly members Jordan Cunningham, a San Luis Obispo Republican, and Democrat Buffy Wicks of Oakland. 

        The bill’s preamble cites internal Facebook research showing the company is aware that “severe harm is happening to children,” who are decreasingly connected to family and school the more addicted they become to Instagram and similar media. 

        This is done via targeted videos and notifications that pop up 24 hours a day and never-ending scrolling designed to keep users on a particular site.

         The preamble adds that girls have a higher prevalence of screen addiction than boys and that girls admitting to excessive social media use are two to three times more likely than boys to be depressed, a condition that can lead to suicide. And it says an internal Facebook message board reported that 66 percent of teen girls on Instagram experience “negative social comparison,” often leading to low self-esteem, which can precede depression. 

        The bill’s solution is to prohibit social media platforms with parent companies whose annual revenues exceed $100 million from addicting any child user via use or sale of personal data. It would allow parents and guardians to sue for up to $25,000 per violation, with no ceiling on total liability. 

        Lawmakers are usually loath to create new grounds for lawsuits aimed at California companies, but this bill passed the Assembly on a 51-0 vote, with no explanation why that house’s other 29 members did not vote. 

        Psychologist Freed, who testified in favor of the bill in a committee hearing, said it could reduce what he called “an epidemic of depression and suicidality in girls.” That’s because, as the bill preamble notes, “Numerous studies show that reducing social media use (has great) mental health benefits.” 

        The state Senate will now get its shot at making a contribution to mental health in California by following the Assembly and approving the bill, with Gov. Gavin Newsom – parent of four pre-teen children -- likely to sign it without hesitation. 

        And if California passes this, expect other states to follow, as they often have on unrelated measures like the Proposition 13 property tax cuts and this state’s smog rules.               


    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’s anyone’s guess whether the developer campaign donors who greatly influence California’s huge Democratic legislative majorities will follow suit, but Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget at long last recognizes one reality that has been plain since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic:


        With hundreds of thousands of white collar office workers switching permanently to home offices where they are often more productive than before, billions of square feet in office towers and other buildings now sit vacant, earning their owners nothing.


        Meanwhile, despite a state audit showing its figures are unreliable, the demand of the state Department of Housing and Community Development  (HCD) for more than 1.8 million new housing units by 2030 remains the mantra for so-called “progressive” politicians. And state Attorney General Rob Bonta persists in threatening lawsuits against local governments which don’t knuckle under and approve thousands of new units right away.


        The trouble is that at the current pace of construction (less than 100,000 new units per year since Newsom took office in late 2018), there is no chance for creating anywhere near that many newly constructed apartments, condominiums and individual houses.


        Not even the 2021 passage of densifying measures like SB 9 and SB 10, which all but eliminate single-family zoning, could change that.


        So Newsom has had to recognize the reality of office vacancies and their inevitable conversion to housing. It’s already happening in some places, with more than 5,000 converted units either created or approved so far in all parts of California.


        This trend would be accelerated considerably by the proposed Newsom budget, which is better known for its effort to place billions of dollars in the pockets of car owners to help them cope with inflationary gasoline prices created by oil company price gouging.


        But squirreled away in the more than $300 billion spending plan – which must be approved by June 15 in either its submitted form or a revised version, on pain of financial penalties for legislators – is $600 million to help convert office space to housing, particularly in dense urban areas.


        The need for these conversions has been obvious since March 2020, when Newsom ordered lockouts to help slow the spread of Covid. That edict suddenly emptied not only freeways, but also office towers. There has been only a partial return to offices since anti-pandemic measures were largely relaxed.


        Without conversions, local governments stand to lose many millions of tax dollars annually, as property values and assessments drop in amounts parallel to lost rental revenues. So the real estate investment trusts that own many of those buildings will feel ever more pressure from shareholders as many dividends remain well below pre-pandemic levels.


        But will legislators respond? They say they’re committed to creating new housing for the benefit of would-be homeowners now priced out of the market, where median single-family home prices statewide top $810,000. But the lawmakers are tied closely to developers, who stand to make far less from conversions than from new construction.


        They are also beholden to building trade unions, which would get plenty of work from conversions, but still much less than from new developments.


        Because those interests are among the top financiers of Democratic legislative campaigns, the Democrats who rule in Sacramento have resisted office conversions. They allowed a 2021 measure that would have made local approval of such conversions automatic die without floor votes.


        The questions now is whether they will try to knock the $600 million one-time enabling contribution out of Newsom’s budget proposal.


        If they do, it will prove they are committed far more to their campaign donors than to the prospective homeowners they nominally support.


        Right now, the fate of this boost to housing supplies remains uncertain regardless of all the evidence that it would help property owners, new buyers and local governments, each an interest to which the Democrats pay lip service.


        Now is the time for anyone who wants to see housing at all price levels created quickly to speak up and pressure legislators to leave that appropriation alone. But it’s unclear what will happen.




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

Monday, May 23, 2022






        Since her election to the U.S. Senate in 1992, no politician has done more for California and its people than 88-year-old Dianne Feinstein.


        Without Feinstein, there would be no national parks in the redwood country of Northern California or the parts of the Mojave Desert thick with Joshua trees. There would be far fewer federal gun controls. Much more untreated sewage would flow into the Pacific Ocean daily.


        Several more California military bases would be shuttered, likely including the Lemoore Naval Air Station and the Seabee base at Point Mugu in Ventura County. The protections of the federal Violence Against Women Act would not exist.


        The list goes on and on, from clean air measures to the largest appropriations for California ever gained by any senator. It’s why Feinstein has not had a serious Republican challenger in decades.


        But that’s not enough for the far left in California politics. Feinstein, 88, is too old to serve out her term, ending in late 2024, they say. The former San Francisco mayor is insufficiently alert to do her job.


        These are similar to charges leveled against Feinstein by leftist former state Senate President Kevin de Leon when he ran against her in 2018 and lost badly. De Leon, now a Los Angeles city councilman and seemingly about to lose again in a bid to become that city’s mayor, miscalculated then. He figured his ageist arguments would resonate with the bulk of Democratic voters that year, but it didn’t happen.


        De Leon’s complaints, and those of other “woke” politicos in the state, amount to this: Feinstein does not line up often enough with the ferociously progressive “squad” of House members which now leads her party’s left wing. She is too friendly with Republican senators she has known for more than a generation, and even compliments them once in a while.


        They claim that De Leon’s 2018 charge has come true, that Feinstein suffers from cognitive decline due to her age. The San Francisco Chronicle reported this spring that several unnamed former Senate staffers say Feinstein can no longer fulfill her responsibilities without help from her staff. Never mind that the same can be said of most other senators half her age or less.


        The fact is that Feinstein has never cast a vote differently than she intended. She has never backed a cause without conscious intent. There is no proof – only hearsay – that her mental state is beneath common Senate standards. Whether she’s as professional and creative as she was at 60 is not at issue, merely whether she’s up to senatorial snuff, and only gossip suggests otherwise.


        But that won’t satisfy the “woke” Democratic left in this state, which is impatient to take over Feinstein’s seat, especially since it was thwarted when Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed the somewhat technocratic Alex Padilla to the state’s other Senate seat, vacated when Kamala Harris became vice president.


        Padilla, California’s first Latino senator of the modern era, did not satisfy the far left because he’s not a Black woman and they figured the seat he took essentially “belonged” to a Black female like Congresswoman Barbara Lee or former legislator Shirley Weber, Newsom’s choice to replace Padilla as secretary of state.


        They want Feinstein out now so Newsom can appoint someone of their choice to her seat, giving that person a leg up on prospective Senate candidates like Reps. Adam Schiff of Burbank (leader of one Donald Trump impeachment) or Katie Porter of Irvine, both moderates more in the Feinstein mold.


        The fact is that the campaign to replace Feinstein will start this fall, the moment the November election is over, regardless of whether she is still in office or not.


        Too bad for De Leon that the last four years have pretty much eliminated him as a serious candidate. If he can’t finish in the top two in his own city’s mayoral primary (and he will not), how can he be a strong statewide candidate for a more significant office?


        The bottom line: The wise thing and the fair thing to do is let Feinstein serve out her term, and so what if she needs a boost from her staff once in a while.



    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








        As voters head for the polls or ballot dropoff boxes in today’s (editors: if using this column before June 7, please use “Tuesday’s” or “the June 7” here instead of “today’s”) California primary election, those with even moderate memories may recall the moves by ex-President Donald Trump that are shaping the vote.


        It’s not merely that Californians will be voting in one less Congressional primary than previously, but that fewer will likely vote this year here and in other states than in the last several similar elections.


        That was Trump’s wish, enabled with enthusiasm by his secretary of Commerce, billionaire businessman Wilbur Ross, who did all he could while supervising the 2020 Census to reduce the vote and make it whiter.


        That’s what Trump has actually meant all along by his vaunted slogan “Make America Great Again.”


        For one thing, demographic scholars are just now arriving at the conclusion that the 2020 Census, conducted under the Trump aegis, was the least accurate in many decades.


        The aim all along was to undercount minorities, especially Latinos and Blacks, in order to give more clout to white voters who are more likely to vote for Republicans like Trump and Ross. It was also meant to allocate fewer government dollars than before to states where those minorities tend to concentrate, thus causing their populations to decline for years to come.


        The strategy appears largely to have succeeded, despite the fact that courts threw out its most egregious tactic – a question on citizenship status designed to intimidate immigrants who are legally eligible to vote.


        For, as Robert Shapiro, senior fellow at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., concluded in a recent report, “Large-scale errors in the Census cost New York, Texas, Florida, Arizona, California and New Jersey one (congressional) seat each, and resulted in an extra representative for Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Montana, Wisconsin and Indiana.”


        Population increases in the states which lost seats, all places that attract huge numbers of new immigrants, were downplayed by a variety of methods, increasing emphasis on numerical gains in whiter states.


        This was accomplished, according to Shapiro and other scholars, by hobbling the Census – with help from COVID-19. The pandemic provided cover for the Trump-Ross tactic of underfunding the Census in states where they wanted counts lowered, allowing them to send out fewer Census takers for shorter periods than usual.


        This was a ploy to depress minority participation, and it worked, Shapiro and others concluded. The methods included persistent funding shortfalls in areas where large numbers did not fill out and return Census forms on their own, but would have been counted if Census takers called on them. Underfunding led to understaffing and a truncated schedule at least a month shorter than usual, with the pandemic used as cover.


        As a result, California’s official population increase between 2010 and 2020 was understated by enough to cost the state one seat in Congress and one electoral college vote in each of the next two presidential elections. The Georgetown study found that at the same time Blacks and Hispanics were undercounted, whites and Asian-Americans were often double-counted as Census takers were more comfortable in more affluent areas, visiting a higher than usual percentage of homes where occupants had already sent in their forms.


        Compared with 2010, the Georgetown team wrote, undercounts of Blacks jumped from 2.03 percent to 3.3 percent and for Hispanics from 1.54 percent to 4.99 percent. In short, about one in 20 Latinos was not counted, more than three times the 2020 margin of error.


        This all skews congressional representation now and for the next 10 years to come, before a new Census sets new district lines for the 2030s. At the same time, overcounts of non-Hispanic whites and Asians went up.


        The political effects of all this are not completely one-sided, as some Republican-leaning states like Texas and Florida also saw their counts distorted.


        But uncomfortable as the reality may be for many Californians, living in a state where Trump’s approval ratings have rarely topped 40 percent, they are voting in a system largely shaped by him and his billionaire appointee, Ross.



    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, May 16, 2022







        Just watching him, you might think that after he secures a November ballot slot in the California primary election ending June 7, Gov. Gavin Newsom would hop a quick flight to Iowa or New Hampshire and press the flesh with voters who will decide early on the next Democratic presidential nominee.


        From the moment the news service Politico released a draft U.S. Supreme Court decision likely to remove women’s right to abortion on demand, Newsom has focused laser-like on that issue, criticizing his own party almost as much as rival Republicans who rubber-stamped the three Donald Trump high court choices behind the proposed ruling.


        Although he still has to take care of the little matter of getting reelected governor of the nation’s largest state, Newsom looks very much the presidential candidate.


        Why not? Current President Joseph Biden looks frail and vulnerable in a 2024 reelection run. Onetime prominent contenders Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are now secondhand merchandise. Vice President Kamala Harris, the former California senator who has long been Newsom’s stablemate and friend, has never gotten past the first two presidential primaries and would not be a strong candidate.


        Newsom might be all the Democrats have if they want to avoid a second term of Trump or a Trumpist figure like Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis, whom Newsom loves to lambaste.


Newsom plainly figures he may soon tower over the Democratic field, and he’s apparently decided the way to assure that is to seize on the likely demise of the Roe v. Wade doctrine of privacy that enables abortion.


So he's gone after anyone not vocally opposing that probable decision, early and often.


DeSantis, who promoted and signed a bill severely limiting abortion rights in Florida, is a frequent target. Newsom began attacking DeSantis in response to the Floridian’s blasting California policy on COVID-19. “We see students denied an education, workers denied employment and Americans denied freedoms…” DeSantis said.


Newsom’s quick response: We also see 40,000 live people who would have been dead had California followed Florida’s non-closure policies. He added, “I do not look for inspiration to that particular governor.”


But once the demise of Roe v. Wade became likely, Newsom hit harder, even flailing against Democrats he thinks have been too passive.


 About Republicans, he said in a campaign funding pitch that they are not pro-life, but pro-birth. “Many of those celebrating the draft opinion oppose funding for pre-natal care,” he said. “Many of those celebrating oppose paid family leave. Many of those celebrating tried to take away health care under the Affordable Care Act. These people don’t even believe in climate science, and that is to say nothing of their handling of the pandemic.”


Of DeSantis, he said, “Anyone been paying attention to what that guy…is doing in Florida? The attacks on the LGBTQ community? They’re going after social-emotional learning in schools…I mean, they make their stuff up out of whole cloth.”


        It’s clear Newsom’s pitch this fall and in any presidential run will that be abortion opponents are unwilling to help care for the children they want to see born – or almost anyone else. he said, “They’re pro-birth, and then you’re on your own”  (regardless of your financial status).


        “We have to beat…every far-right radical running for office in California.” And by implication, everywhere else, too.


        But he also attacked Democrats for passivity in the face of determined Republicans pushing abortion bans and other policies, like forbidding the mere mention of gays in Florida elementary schools.


        “I can’t take any more (Joe) Manchins,” he said of the West Virginia Democratic senator who has stymied many Biden proposals. “And where is the Democratic Party? Why aren’t we standing up more firmly, calling this out. We need to stand up, where’s the counteroffensive?”


        That infuriated Newsom’s fellow San Francisco Democrat, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who went on national television to wonder how he could miss her Democratic majority’s efforts to preserve Roe v. Wade.


        “I have no idea why anyone would make that statement,..” the offended Pelosi said.


        Here’s why: Newsom wasn’t merely campaigning for abortion rights, he was aiming to become the de facto national party leader, and its next presidential candidate, no matter how hard he might deny it now.



    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








        There was some room for doubt back in February, when gasoline prices rose precipitously: Until the oil companies who refine most California gas unveiled their first-quarter profits, it would be impossible to be sure the spike stemmed from price gouging.


        That was because the pump price increase from about $4.30 per gallon to nearly $6 (and more in some places) came just as the United States announced a boycott on Russian oil as a punishment for the invasion of Ukraine.


        Price gouging seemed the logical explanation for the hike. Russian oil amounted to less than 3 percent of California’s supply; why should its sudden disappearance cause a price hike of 12 times that much?


        Doubt about this should now disappear from the minds of consumers. They were taken advantage of by oil companies in a systematic, cartel-like manner as every gasoline refiner raised prices at the same moment.


        That is now clear from the very eagerly-awaited quarterly financial reports. They show profits of the five major firms making 96 percent of this state’s gasoline all rose dramatically in the first quarter. Because the price gouging did not begin until mid-February, it had no effect for fully half the first-quarter time period.


        The five companies include Chevron, Marathon, Valero, PBF Energy and Phillips 66. Their results, says Jamie Court, head of the Consumer Watchdog advocacy group, “show that the Golden State Gouge is real. Oil refiners exploited the crisis in Ukraine to make a mint from California drivers.” Yes, they also profiteered in the rest of America, but not like they did here.


        One difficulty in measuring this stems from the fact that most big California refiners do not break out their California profits from what they make worldwide.


        An exception is PBF Energy, owner of refineries in New Jersey, Delaware, Louisiana, plus those in Martinez and Torrance that formerly belonged to Shell and Exxon Mobil. PBF's profits from its Torrance facility grew from $15.75 per barrel in 2021 to $32.84 this year, returning more than twice the previous take. That meant PBF, which markets to name brands, smaller chains and unbranded gas stations, made about 78 cents per gallon in profit this year compared with 42 cents last year.


        While other refiners here don’t break things down by state or individual refinery, Chevron made a $480 million profit in the U.S. in this year’s first three months, compared with a loss of $130 million last year.


        The other big refiners reported similar huge increases in profitability, the obvious result of their price gouging. When he announced the ban on Russian oil, President Biden warned them not to gouge, but they did it anyway, with no penalty.


        Partly, that’s because most refiners effectively hide their per-gallon profit margin. This could end in California if the Legislature this summer passes a bill known as SB 1322, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Ben Allen of Santa Monica. Allen’s measure would force the Big Five refiners in this state to report how much gas they make and sell here and the margins they net from each gallon sold to drivers.


        Many Californians habitually blame the fact that pump prices here are nearly the highest in the nation on California’s higher-than-usual fuel taxes. But those levies only account for about 60 cents per gallon, and the difference between the average price in California and elsewhere is about $1.30. For sure, drivers here deserve to know why they pay an unexplained 70 cents more per gallon than folks just across state lines.


        Says Court, “California has been an ATM for oil refiners for too long.” He suggests that if oil companies had to report their per-gallon profits on a regular basis, they would feel some pressure to hold the line on prices better than they have.


        So a lot of money hangs on the fate of Allen’s bill, which passed its first Senate committee test unanimously. That’s money which could help a lot of families now forced to choose between buying gas or food or shoes.



    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


Suggested pull-out quote: “Refiners effectively hide their profit margin on each gallon.”

Monday, May 9, 2022









        For the last three years, it’s been plain that some California sheriffs are de facto beyond the control of the county supervisors who are their nominal bosses.


        Some sheriffs won’t discipline deputies for out-of-control brutality, many still refuse to require deputies to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in places where that is demanded of all other county employees, most don’t discipline deputies who become involved in paramilitary or ideologically extreme groups like the Proud Boys and virtually all openly resent any efforts to cut their budgets, even a little.


        In some ways, the conflict between civilians and sworn officers mimics the constant push and pull between national military leaders and civilians who are their supposed bosses, but often act like sycophants and wanna-be generals or admirals.


        If there’s a leader among the scofflaw sheriffs in California, who run departments as disparate in size and geography as Riverside and Del Norte counties, it is Alex Villanueva, the first Latino sheriff of Los Angeles County and the prime example for defiant colleagues.


        Villanueva ran for office four years ago as a reformer who would reverse policies of his predecessors that let deputies get away with far more brutality and other irregularities than they could if they were officers in most local police departments, which often are closely watched by city governments.


        He evolved into something nearly the opposite of what he indicated he would be. Most recently, he displayed apparent ignorance of the California reporters’ shield law, which forbids arresting or otherwise legally harassing news reporters for refusing to divulge sources of information they publish.


        In that case, Villanueva threatened a criminal investigation of a Los Angeles Times reporter for possibly accepting stolen property after she publicized a leaked video showing a deputy kneeling for several minutes on the head (a la George Floyd) of a handcuffed prisoner who had just violently resisted that deputy.


        When every major press organization in the state decried his threat as a violation of the shield law and constitutional free press guarantees, Villanueva backed off, declaring there had been an “incredible frenzy of misinformation.”


        The Times and several witnesses alleged Villanueva first saw the months-old tape just days after the incident occurred, then covered it up. The sheriff denied that, saying he didn’t know of the incident until eight months after it occurred and then took swift action.


        Villanueva claimed the reporter illegally got the tape from a former top aide, Eli Vera, who is now one of four credible primary election candidates to replace him. The sheriff called the tape stolen property.


        But the furor over the kneeling deputy tape is only one item bedeviling Villanueva’s reelection attempt. Another: despite his Latino heritage, his department is often accused of treating immigrants unfairly. A state audit this spring claimed Los Angeles County is among several sheriff’s offices displaying bias against immigrants, women and LGBTQ+ persons, saying it is one of the agencies lacking safeguards against discriminatory attitudes. This, the audit said, puts the departments at “higher risk of…being unable to effectively address the ways in which their officers exhibit bias.”


        Latina Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, frequently at odds with Villanueva, in late April asked state Attorney General Rob Bonta to investigate the sheriff’s “pattern of unconscionable and dangerous actions.”


        Bonta already had an ongoing active civil rights investigation of Villanueva’s office, with no visible consequences.


        That pretty much leaves it to voters in the primary to decide whether Villanueva’s behavior in office – and by extension that of many other California sheriffs – is OK.


        He has substantial opposition, with not only Vera, who was a sheriff’s chief deputy before being demoted when he declared his candidacy, but also Sheriff’s Lt. Eric Strong, Los Angeles Airport Police Chief Cecil Rhambo and former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna in the running.


        Chances are Villanueva, as an incumbent, will make it at least to the November runoff election. But if he doesn’t, or if he loses then, it will be a strong statement that voters – the ultimate bosses of all sheriffs – want them subjected to much more civilian control than many have accepted for the last few 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







Looking for leading beneficiaries of the draft U.S. Supreme Court abortion opinion leaked in early May, if it becomes reality? Try California and its current political leadership.


For anyone who missed reports on the decision draft, it essentially would uphold a Mississippi law all but banning abortions and revoke the federal protections of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that made privacy a right, thus legalizing abortion everywhere in America. This leaves California an abortion haven and women barred from the procedure in other states are already coming here to ensure their safety.


For some, it's "abortion tourism," for others permanent moves. And there will be many more if and when the draft ruling becomes official.


A few other states also will become abortion destinations, helping women not ready for motherhood. But no place else offers as many choices and price points as California.


        Among items the draft ruling did not consider: For millenia, whenever and wherever abortions have been banned, illicit ones proliferated, with women from 13 to 40-plus often using coat hangers, botanical potions and untrained, fly-by-night abortionists to get relief they desperately seek – and sometimes dying or being rendered infertile for life.


        By coincidence, the leaked ruling – later confirmed by Chief Justice John Roberts as authentic but not binding or necessarily permanent – came at the same moment new state figures showed a California population loss of 117,552 persons during 2021. That was half as many as in 2020, and did not measure the influx of immigrants, both domestic and foreign, last December and early this year. Still, it was not a happy number for this state.


        But the very likely decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, could be one antidote for California’s population losses, helping return the state to its accustomed position as a fast growing place that attracts many of the persecuted from elsewhere.


        The California tradition of welcoming people in dire straits dates from before the Civil War, when hundreds of escaped slaves made their way here to get as far as possible from bondage. The trend continued after the Civil War, as many defeated former Confederate officers arrived. Still later, California became a haven for Jewish intellectuals persecuted by Nazi Germany, hosting the likes of Thomas Mann and Berthold Brecht.


        Immigrants once persecuted in Czarist Russia and later by the Soviet Union founded movie studios and high tech companies. Undocumented arrivals escaping a variety of injustices in Latin America began coming in the last century. All these groups pushed California’s long era of massive growth.


        The next persecuted group seeking shelter in the Golden State may well be women desperately wanting abortions but unable to obtain them safely in the 26 states considered certain to ban the procedure if the Supreme Court decides as expected. Many will bring husbands and children.


        For sure, California’s current leaders will welcome them with open arms and, very likely, financial aid.


        Immediately after the draft decision leaked, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and state Senate President Toni Atkins proposed amending the state Constitution to protect abortion rights even beyond the current state law, signed in 1967 by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan.


        That measure protects privacy rights, but Atkins told a reporter she wants “to be very clear that the right to abortion is what we’re talking about.”


        Any such amendment must clear the Legislature by June 30 to appear on the November ballot, where it could form a centerpiece for Democratic campaigns.


        National Democrats also seized on the issue. Scores of Democratic-oriented PACs sent fund-raising emails within hours, plainly hoping suburban women who support abortion rights will stave off what has looked like a midterm Republican victory and takeover of the House of Representatives.


        For sure, many women of fertility age in states like Texas and Florida, which adopted strict anti-abortion laws in the last few months, have eyed moving here, even though housing costs are a common problem.


        Some have told hometown reporters their rights and safety trump high rents.


The bottom line: This is are the newest demonstration that real life and the courts can both intrude on politics and create change, sometimes very suddenly.



    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, May 2, 2022







        It takes only three letters to explain why the idea of single payer health insurance keeps getting shot down quickly in the California Legislature: EDD.


        No program in state, city or local government has shown itself less competent over the last few years than the state Employment Development Department’s unemployment insurance system, which lost a reported $20 billion to fraudulent claims during the first 18 months or so of the coronavirus pandemic.


        Yes, the EDD was flooded with claims in that time of massive layoffs. But it was woefully unprepared for the many fraud schemes brought to bear against its funds during that most fraught of times.


        Yes, the EDD has clawed back a few billion of the dollars that went to fake claimants all over the world.


        But its demonstrable incompetence under three different department directors causes millions of Californians to wonder why anyone should entrust massive sums of money to the state for distribution to legitimate claimants.


        And make no mistake about single payer: It would involve sums far larger even than the approximately $180 billion passed out by EDD over the first year and a half of the pandemic.


        This year’s proposal, carried by Democratic Assemblyman Ash Kalra of San Jose, would have entailed an annual expense of close to $400 billion, well in excess of California’s general fund budget.


        Some of that money would have come from redirected health insurance premiums, both for private insurance and for Medicare – if the federal Medicare system would agree to giving up more than 10 percent of its cash flow. Some would have come from money given California by the federal Medicaid system, known here as Medi-Cal. But that still would have left many billions to be raised, presumably by the largest tax increase in state history.


        Just how difficult this financing would have been to acquire was demonstrated when Kalra’s AB 1400 spelled out what single payer would do and what it would be – essentially Medicare for all, with no more insurance company involvement and no more distinction between Medi-Cal patients and everyone else. It did not say where the money for this would come from.


        Kalra's bill went nowhere despite the fact that the extreme liberal Democratic politicians who now run Sacramento, from Gov. Gavin Newsom through Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and state Senate President Toni Atkins of San Diego, all have long backed the single payer idea.


        That was largely because many Assembly Democrats didn’t want to be forced to go on the record for or against single payer, especially in an election year when some will face new constituents during the June and November votes.


        So Kalra’s bill died, at least for this year, without any vote taken, and without many politicians forced to take positions for which they could be held responsible.


        No one said so, but one of the main reasons was the EDD debacle. If the state could not safeguard unemployment insurance dollars paid in by many thousands of employers, why would anyone think it capable of handling far more money paid in by tens of millions of individuals?


        The single payer proposal especially offended current Medicare subscribers, who benefit from a system long opposed by Republicans – but embraced even by them in recent years because it works.


        Typical is the coverage Medicare affords for heart bypass operations. First, it knocks down the price asked for such procedures (and most others) by hospitals and doctors. Then it pays 80 percent of what it allows. Medicare subscribers (mostly people over 65, but also including younger kidney dialysis patients and some others) can get the other 20 percent paid by supplemental insurance policies widely offered in months-long signup periods.


        Astonishingly, there is relatively little fraud in Medicare claims.


        Medicare paid out $718 billion in claims in 2018, the last year for which totals are available. Known fraud against the system last year totaled just $1.4 billion, well under 1 percent, and actions were taken against 142 individuals, including only 42 doctors and nurses.


        No wonder so many want Medicare for all. They certainly don’t want EDD for all and until there is certainly that would not befall California under single payer, it won’t happen.




    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