Monday, October 31, 2022







        More than 200 bills died in the state Legislature two months ago, when the Senate and Assembly appropriations committees stashed them in a “suspense file” – but there’s actually no suspense involved. For now, those bills are dead, no matter how positive or how needed they may have been.


        Among the at least momentarily dead: A bill forcing all state agencies to retain public records including emails for at least two years, a cap on insulin copays for patients with diabetes, a phaseout of plastic packaging by online retailers and a proposed requirement for gun owners to buy liability insurance.


        All of those were good bills, with positive public policy goals. But the most egregious sudden death befell a measure known as AB 2408, which could have imposed fines of as much as $250,000 per offense on high-tech companies that deliberately addict children to their content.


        That’s different and even more important than a new law that did pass and now forbids online services from selling children’s personal information or location.


        There's no doubt that social media like Facebook, Tik-Tok and Instagram have continually done all those things for years. But the new law doesn’t do enough; it still lets companies get kids hooked on their content.


It’s an unquestioned fact that big tech outfits like Facebook, which owns Instagram, use algorithms to mine information about users, and have sold that information to advertisers for years.


        The preamble to AB 2408 even cited internal Facebook research showing the company knows “severe harm is happening to children” who become “decreasingly connected to family and school” the more addicted they are to Instagram and similar social media.


        This is accomplished with targeted videos and notices that turn up at all hours of the day and night using endless scrolling designed to keep users on a particular site.


        The bill preamble also notes that girls are more likely to become screen-addicted than boys, and that girls who say they consistently use social media are more than twice as likely as boys to be depressed, which can lead to suicide.


The bipartisan bill to stop to this deliberate depredation of American children would not have applied to startups, but only to companies with revenues topping $100 million per year.


The need for restricting this commercial exploitation of naïve youngsters passed the Assembly and one Senate committee with no dissenting votes. Co-sponsored by Republican Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham of San Luis Obispo and Democratic Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks of Oakland, it appeared a sure thing for passage because of its obvious necessity.


But then someone pulled the plug without so much as a vote of the Senate Appropriations Committee, after intensive lobbying by an outfit called TechNet, made up of CEOs and senior executives of technology companies. Said their spokesman, “We’re glad this bill won’t move forward in its current form. If it had, companies could have been punished for simply having a platform kids can access.”


That, of course, was not quite correct. The use of algorithms directed at commercial exploitation of children would have had to be proven in court for any fine to be assessed, so simply being accessible to kids would be no offense at all.


It’s difficult to see why this bill was suddenly derailed, just as it made little sense to allow state agencies to continue destroying records in as short a period as 30 days, a time frame that allows them to escape most public scrutiny.


In an administration that brags about its transparency, it’s difficult to see why such a short timetable would be allowed to continue.


But no explanation is needed when proposed laws are stuck in the suspense file, and there was none from Democratic Sen. Anthony Portantino of San Dimas, the Appropriations committee chairman.


The obvious need for limits on the electronic exploitation of children over the Internet makes it almost mandatory for this bill to be revived immediately when the Legislature reconvenes in a few weeks.


Failure to pass something very like this year’s bill, or for Gov. Gavin Newsom not to sign it into law when it eventually reaches him, would amount to child abuse.




    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






       A major share of the solution to California’s long-running housing shortage has been obvious and inevitable for two years and should never have been even slightly controversial:


       From the earliest days of COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, when millions of white-collar employees were sent to work at home rather than in the offices of law firms, insurance companies, stock brokerages and many other enterprises, most of those workers have loved the change. Companies that want them back in the office even part-time have seen resignations by the score as workers move to employers that allow unfettered telecommuting.


       Among other things, this creates billions of unused square feet in office towers and sprawling commercial complexes, even though developers continue building more and more new office space, much of which remains vacant long after completion.


       At the same time, estimates of housing need have varied from 1 million to 3.5 million units over the last five years, but fewer than 400,000 new ones arose in that time.


       As long ago as April 2020, this column began urging lawmakers to add two and two and get four: Convert empty office space to housing of all types and prices, from ground-floor studio apartments to 30th-floor penthouses with sweeping ocean views and much of the housing crisis can be solved. These could be rental units or condominiums. Either way, people would be housed without new building footprints or depredation of existing neighborhoods where homeowners have invested their life savings.


       Sure, there will be complications. Building conversions will require plumbing and electric revisions, changes to existing floor plans and construction of new elevator shafts so hoity-toity residents of the top floors won’t have to mix with the lower-income folks below.


       But that is a whole lot easier and cheaper and less controversial than tearing down existing homes or building new subdivisions, which involve purchasing land at California’s high price levels.


       There could also be complications involving local zoning.


       But any bureaucratic problems could be quickly solved by state lawmakers – and now they have done it. As long ago as early 2021, bills began arising in the Legislature to enable all this and make building permit approvals for conversions automatic or nearly so. Before this fall, they all died in committee, generally opposed by building trade unions that wanted all conversions to pay union wages. The unions also believed new housing would generate far more jobs than makeovers.


       Meanwhile, stock prices of many real estate investment trusts that own office towers and other now vacant commercial property dropped as leases expired and were not renewed, or had to be revised to include less space. At the same time, local property tax bases are threatened by the lowered values of those same properties, including stores of all sizes vacated because of pandemic shutdowns and growing online commerce.


       All these real and nascent crises finally forced legislative leaders to act. Two proposed bills enabling housing conversions of both big box stores and office space had been held up by the fact that unions finance many Democratic campaigns and the Democrats who run Sacramento didn’t want to cross them. That changed. One new law, passed as AB 2011 by Oakland Democratic Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, allows virtually unlimited conversions along major streets but does not require union labor, just “prevailing wages.” The carpenters’ union backed this one, figuring its members would get plenty of work from conversions.


       The other, passed as SB 6 by Salinas Democratic state Sen. Ana Caballero, requires both union hiring and prevailing wages. AB 2011 requires conversions to include a large component of affordable housing in conversions, while SB 6 furthers market-rate housing. Both will take advantage of the high vacancy rates, allow real estate trusts to sell off unused property at respectable prices and create tens of thousands of units far more quickly than building in new areas or rebuilding older neighborhoods.


       The bottom line: It took years for legislators and their union backers to see the obvious and take advantage of the housing solution created by pandemic-induced workplace changes. But these two measures should get the state moving toward a real housing solution and away from unsuccessful patchwork approaches.       

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. Email him at .

Monday, October 24, 2022






        Toyota Motors makes a sport utility vehicle called the “4Runner.” But the company, like rival General Motors, might better be called a classic front-runner.


        Another term for that might be “bandwagon jumper.”


        Back in 2017, when then-President Donald Trump began trying to remove California’s ability to set its own smog standards – granted in the federal Clean Air Act signed by Republican President Richard Nixon in 1970 – General Motors and Toyota backed his effort with a lawsuit later imitated by attorneys general of 17 Republican-controlled states.


        The two companies were tired of California forcing them to develop innovations, from the first smog control devices to catalytic converters to hybrid cars and electric vehicles.


        But some of their competitors demurred. Ford, Volkswagen, Honda, BMW and Volvo all joined a lawsuit by former state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra that held up Trump’s effort long enough for him to lose the 2020 election, regardless of his obdurate, false claims to have won.


        Now the federal threat to California’s smog-control authority has disappeared, at least for a few years, with President Biden reversing the Trump-era Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to thwart the switch to electric cars and trucks and stymie this state’s efforts to clean up its air, while also getting away from fossil fuels.


        One result of that election outcome was a complete reversal by GM. That company’s chief executive, Mary Barra, changed her tune almost the instant Biden was inaugurated.


        Rather than resist California’s authority, Barra pulled GM from its Trump-backing role in early 2021, saying she agrees with Biden’s plan to make electric vehicles more widespread and popular.


        “We believe the ambitious electrification goals of (Biden), California and General Motors are aligned,” she said. It would have been difficult to be more blatantly opportunistic.


        Toyota waited longer before becoming another example of corporate bandwagon jumping.


        Just two days before California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) used its restored Clean Air Act authority to order sales of new gasoline powered cars and trucks to end in 2035, Toyota this year announced it would no longer be opposed. Like GM’s statements, this was a 180 degree reversal of position.


        Neither company admitted its prior stance was wrong or mistaken. Neither asserted Trump’s administration forced it into anything. But both say they’re now firmly in the EV camp, vowing to produce many new totally zero emission vehicles.


        CARB Chair Lianne Randolph tweeted a welcome aboard to Toyota. “We’re pleased to see that Toyota has now recognized California’s authority to set vehicle standards,” she said. “Although we’ve had differences in the past, we look forward to advancing (EVs) together on positive footing.”


        The carmakers’ response to California’s new EV mandate is plainly political bandwagon jumping at its most blatant. It also stands in stark contrast to past forecasts of disaster from automakers every time CARB set new standards for them to meet.


        GM is a classic example. When CARB early in this century gave automakers 10 years to start selling zero-emission cars in significant quantities, GM said that was impossible. At the very same time, its publicists were lending demonstrator models of the company’s first, primitive EV to automotive reporters around the country – a clear demonstration of two things: 1) The company’s right hand did not know or care what its left hand was doing, and 2) EVs could be built to be both roadworthy and high-performing.


        It was much the same for Toyota: The company opposed as impossible or too expensive every incremental step toward clean-air cars. Nevertheless, it developed the Prius hybrid, which became the best-selling passenger car in California.


        Meanwhile, Toyota’s newest statement reversed its longtime claims that making cars ever cleaner would not be possible. The Japan-based company said it “continues to share the vision” of CARB in reducing greenhouse gases and making vehicles carbon-neutral. “We are excited about our efforts to extend zero-emissions activities beyond our core vehicle business.”


        Make no mistake: If the 2020 election results had been different, California’s clean-air authority surely would have disappeared and neither GM nor Toyota would have changed its stance.


        That’s something idealistic car-buyers might want to consider when deciding which brand of new car to buy.



    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







Most Californians have long been restless and mobile; many of us or our parents came from someplace else. So it’s no surprise when surveys show almost half the folks living here have at least thought about moving somewhere else.


The most popular destination for those who do leave is Texas, where about 35,000 former Californians have gone in each of the last five years.


        This has not seriously dented California’s 39.5 million population, as most emigrants were quickly replaced by new arrivals from around the world and nation.


        But there is now ample reason to believe the transplanted Californians did not land in the nirvana many expected to find, a place of much lower taxes, cheap real estate and little government regulation.


        For many, one of their first Texas experiences came in mid-February 2021, when a blizzard and deep-freeze struck the Lone Star state, dropping outdoor temperatures near zero and indoor levels into the 30s or lower as electricity failed.


        Icy temperatures froze water pipes, many laid near the land’s surface because Texas building codes are lax. Several hospitals saw their water polluted, forcing mass patient transfers in extreme weather. All this barely three years after Hurricane Harvey reduced much of Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, to a bunch of rivulets and ponds.


        For sure, there is little zoning and building regulation in much of Texas, where the state’s ideal of light government control often lets junk yards, strip joints and body shops exist beside single-family homes. But it’s something else to see Houston reduced to non-functionality twice in 40 months.


        It also turns out “light government control” is a mere legend. It may apply to zoning and guns, which anyone can carry concealed, but no longer to some vital personal choices. All abortions, even for pregnancies involving rape and incest, are now criminal. If a fetus has fatal disorders, it cannot be aborted. And never mind the mother’s health or survival.


        Now comes a new report from the Washington, D.C.-based Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, which concluded that only the wealthiest Texans actually pay lower taxes than Californians.


        That is at least in part because of this state’s Proposition 13, which bases property taxes on 1 percent of the latest sales price for the vast majority of properties. The comparison is based on federal income taxes, plus state and local sales taxes, property tax and information from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census.


        These figures debunk the notion of Texas as a low-tax state. It turns out Texans in the lowest 20 percent of income earners (less than $20,900 per year) pay about 13 percent of their income in state and local taxes. Californians in the bottom 20 percent (under $23,200 yearly) pay 10.5 percent of their income in such taxes. Similar proportions apply to middle and upper-middle class taxpayers in both states, with Texans paying more than Californians unless they are in the top 1 percent of earners ($714,000 or more in California).


        In Texas, the one-percenters pay 3.1 percent of their income in state and local taxes, compared with 12.4 percent in California.


        All of which destroys yet another popular concept about Texas, as California imports to that state discover soon after arriving.


        Sure, some companies and billionaires get big tax breaks from Texas state and local governments as incentives to move there. But that still leaves newly arrived women subject to the cruelties and potential criminal charges imposed on some of the pregnant by the blanket abortion ban.


It's much the same in other states that have been popular with California emigres. For example, Idaho, Arizona and Tennessee all have abortion bans similar to the Texas law.


Tweeted Robert Garcia, Long Beach mayor and current Democratic candidate for a California congressional seat, upon learning the Texas tax numbers: “Hey, Texans, come over to California to pay lower taxes. And we have great weather.”


As those numbers appeared, so did billboards in San Francisco and Los Angeles bearing the message “Don’t Move to Texas” and “The Texas Miracle Died in Uvalde,” referring to the mass shooting there.


No one knows who put up those billboards, but they just may be offering sound advice.


    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, October 17, 2022






        One key principle behind the spate of laws passed in the last two years aimed at increasing California’s housing density is that every city in the state is essentially the same.


        That’s why new laws have eliminated single-family residential zoning throughout the state, and not merely in the most sprawling cities and counties. That’s why virtually every street in the state with any commercial elements is now subject to high-rise development, if developers can be found to do the work.


        It’s a one-size-fits-all philosophy that was bound to create major conflict when it began affecting the often quirky cities that make up much of this crazy-quilt state.


        One of the more eccentric such places is Atherton, long a haven for the super-rich, sitting in the midst of Silicon Valley, a short distance north of Palo Alto and Stanford University.


        This five square mile city of 7,060 is host to a major contingent of the wealthiest dot-com investors and executives. Its residents include the founder of Netflix; the head of video game maker Electronic Arts; the chief of the financial technology firm SoFi, for which the modern stadium housing both the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers is named; top executives of Google and Apple, and a host of venture capitalists who got fabulously wealthy by investing early in some of those firms and others. The median home sale price there has exceeded $7 million for the last few years.


        Now Atherton is being told by the state it must create 348 new housing units or suffer major losses of state funding for police, fire department, water facilities and other public needs.


        But how to build that many new units, enough to house 1,000 or more persons, almost one-seventh the current population, in a town where very few homes occupy less than an acre? And how to do that and still let many of them be priced affordably in a city where homesites’ land alone sometimes brings upwards of $8 million, which would raise the price per unit well above the $1 million level already seen in some other areas with high land values?


        Advocates of denser housing often call local residents who oppose dense new housing developments in single-family areas NIMBYs, for Not in My Backyard.


        They could find some classics in Atherton, where billionaire investor Marc Andreesen opposes new multi-family housing near his home, but in a 2020 essay griped about the lack of new housing across the country. “We should have gleaming skyscrapers and spectacular living environments in all our best cities,” he wrote then, according to The Atlantic magazine. But duplexes and three-floor apartment buildings near his own home, uh-uh.


        As conflict neared with the density enforcement unit created this year by state Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta, several Silicon Valley giants with major executives living in Atherton began trying to buy off trouble.


        Meta, the new name for Facebook’s parent, pledged $1 billion to help stave off housing woes on the San Francisco Peninsula. Google put in another $1 billion. Apple pledged $2.5 billion and Netflix supported a housing non-profit.


        A letter-writing campaign with a spate of famous signees spurred city officials to cut out the townhouse part of its housing plan, which would need state approval to become official. Instead, the city government proposed a program encouraging residents to build and rent out additional dwelling units (ADUs) on their properties. These “grandma units” could be fenced off from the main part of large properties, providing privacy for all.


        But it’s doubtful that hundreds of mansion owners could simultaneously create rental ADUs. For one thing, they would have a hard time finding enough contractors, plumbers, electricians and other tradesmen to build so many units in short order.


        This sets up a seemingly inevitable battle between America’s richest city, with an average household income topping $400,000, and state officials determined to create dense new housing everywhere for even the poorest people.


        Which could lead to a far wider crisis if the denizens of this posh small city should decide to take their marbles with names like Google and Facebook and Netflix and Apple and Nvidia and move them to other places.


        Talk about unforeseen consequences of a well-intentioned policy!

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






        When cancer appears in almost any person, virtually no one puts up with it for long even if it affects “only” 9 percent of their body. Almost everyone acts quickly to cut it out or stop it in its tracks. Why? Because cancers often metastasize and spread.


        So why, when almost all college and university officials would agree that open discrimination in their schools and colleges amounts to academic cancer, does the UC Berkeley School of Law put up with an obvious case? And why don’t campus officials even mention the UC Regents’  ban on anti-Semitism at all their campuses?


        While they deny being anti-Semitic, some Berkeley Law student groups have essentially set themselves up as “Jew-free” zones, as one newspaper termed it. If they singled out anyone but Jews, their actions would be denounced roundly by liberals and progressives as threats to free speech, discipline to follow.


        Not that anti-Semitism is new to UC campuses, especially Berkeley, where 10 years ago, Palestinian students set up roadblocks near the landmark Sather Gate, stopping and harassing anyone they thought might be a Jew. Those students went unpunished.


        So far, nine law student groups now have bylaws banning speakers who support Israel or Zionism, the concept that Jews are entitled to sovereignty in their historic homeland. Under the last four presidents, the United States government has defined this as anti-Semitism.


        Among others, the groups include Women of Berkeley Law, Asian Pacific American Law Students, Law Students of African Descent and the Queer Caucus.


        Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, a self-described “progressive Zionist,” wrote after the group actions were exposed that he would be excluded under the rule, along with 90 percent of the school’s Jewish students.


        This rule was suggested by the Law Students for Justice in Palestine. Ironically, while Palestinians enjoy self-government in Gaza and the West Bank areas adjacent to Israel, they bring little justice, with killing and torture commonplace for persons who oppose dictatorial regimes there.


        Chemerinsky says “only a handful of student groups (nine) out of over 100 at Berkeley Law did this.”


        Chemerinsky, previously the founding dean of the UC Irvine Law School, noted that the groups “have free speech rights, including to express messages that I and others might find offensive.”


        In the context of polls showing the vast majority of American Jews (81 percent in one recent survey), believe it's important to care about Israel, Chemerinsky wrote that “excluding speakers on the basis of their viewpoint is inconsistent with our commitment to free speech.”


        But he’s done nothing about it. That’s also what other California public universities do about on-campus anti-Semitism: very little or nothing. When Palestinian students disrupted speeches by Israelis at the Irvine campus, they were not expelled. When student governments like UCLA’s tried to keep Jewish elected student officials from voting in their meetings strictly because they are Jews, no one was thrown out, even though those actions caused some Jewish students to transfer or hide their identities for fear of physical attacks.


        So far, Chemerinsky has not even chastised the groups which adopted the no-Zionists policy, instead writing that no group has yet acted on it. Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ, called the groups’ new rule “regrettable,” but wrote that “there is no legal basis for sanctioning, defunding or deregistering” those clubs. Does this mean the Regents who employ her adopted an illegal rule against anti-Semitism?


        Would Chemerinsky or Christ be so passive if these were far-right anti-Semites like the Oath Keepers or Proud Boys? Do leftist anti-Semites get a pass?


        There is little doubt the student groups are now part of the new anti-Semitic movement that substitutes the term “anti-Zionist” for “anti-Semitic” when they push hatred of Jews.


        That same movement this month papered parts of San Marino and Pasadena on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur with flagrantly false and anti-Jewish flyers.


        It’s no wonder some Jewish students on UC campuses feel compelled to hide a major part of their identity. Which ought to lead the regents who nominally run UC to put some teeth in their anti-Semitism ban. For history repeatedly shows that when authorities leave anti-Semites unchecked, they often turn violent or murderous.



    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, October 10, 2022





        There’s something nearly missing from this fall’s general election ballot, a seeming staple of every November vote of the last dozen years: This ballot contains just one referendum, an attempt by tobacco companies to cancel a 2020 state law banning flavored tobacco.


        But not to worry. More referenda are coming up in 2024, and with plenty of money behind at least one of them.


        Referenda are attempts to cancel laws passed by the state Legislature; two originally planned for this fall fizzled when sponsors realized they could not gather enough petition signatures to win a shot at a popular vote.


        Backers of the effort to repeal the 2021 laws best known as SB 9 and SB 10, which effectively ended single family (R-1) zoning in California, say they’ll be back next year with a new drive to kill the two laws. The measures also allow replacement of single homes with as many as six new dwelling units each.


        The success of that drive is uncertain at best, given the sponsors’ failure last year.


        No such uncertainty afflicts the effort by Burger King, Chick-fil-A, In-N-Out Burgers, Jack in the Box and others to kill a newly-signed law raising the minimum wage for fast-food franchise workers to as much as $22 per hour next year. The same law also sets up a new state-operated council to regulate working conditions in the fast food industry.


        Known in the Legislature as AB 257, this law barely passed the state Senate, but Gov. Gavin Newsom signed it with a big grin on Labor Day. It takes effect Jan. 1 unless restaurant groups opposing it gather 623,000 valid voter signatures against it. If that happens, the law won’t take effect until or unless voters ratify it two years from now.


        This is one initiative campaign that’s not the least bit deceptive, unlike several drives for initiatives like Propositions 27 and 30 this fall.


        Far more money will be raised for the fast-food petition campaign than homeowner groups managed to gather for their putative effort to dump SB 9 and SB 10. Since petition carriers generally are paid by the signature, the more money a referendum or initiative campaign raises, the better its chances.


        There’s never a guarantee that any referendum will pass, even if it makes the ballot. Yet, their success rate is remarkable.


        Most recently, the 2020 Proposition 25 passed easily, killing a controversial law ending cash bail statewide. That one succeeded because of a big-money campaign funded by bail bondsmen, whose very survival was threatened by the no-cash-bail law.


        Another referendum in 2016 killed several compacts signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown that would have allowed construction of several off-reservation Indian casinos. That cancellation passed by a 60-40 percent margin.


        And in 2018, a referendum known as Proposition 58 threw out a state law fully restoring bilingual education in public schools. It aimed to end a 20-year-old requirement that most English-learner children be taught exclusively in English.


        This history demonstrates that the most critical part of any campaign to wipe out laws legislators have passed is the petition drive to put it on the ballot.


        That also is why it appears the fast food workers law has little chance of ultimate survival. For one thing, the campaign will emphasize that California’s minimum wage, which becomes $15.50 per hour on Jan. 1, is already the highest in the nation. Raise it another $6.50 in fast food emporiums and you’ll probably kill the dollar menus offered by some operators, the ads will say.


        One estimate from UC Riverside forecasters has pegged likely price increases for burgers and burritos at about 7 percent if the law remains, a figure questioned by other experts, who predict likely price increases of less than 3 percent.


        The same prognosticators also disagree on whether many jobs will be lost from outfits like McDonald’s. These franchises, some say, already run with bare-bones staffing. But the new council governing working conditions might mandate higher staffing – and that could cause even more price increases.


        Those will be the stakes in this likely upcoming referendum, voters essentially deciding if worker welfare is worth paying an extra dollar or two for lunch.


    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 has taken more than 50 years of on-and-off gasoline price gouging, but at long last California government is onto the oil refiners who essentially steal billions of dollars from motorists every year.


        If price gouging is illegal in disaster areas – and it is – it probably also should be heavily punishable when refinery mishaps push down supplies temporarily.


        Instead, prices go up whenever any of the state’s five major refineries reports even a small and short outage, even if it’s caused by planned maintenance. Later, they may drop a little, but never back to where they were before.


        Whenever this happens, oil company profits soar. If the oil companies reap billions of dollars in profits via either planned or accidental outages, why should they make any big effort to avoid them?


       This pattern has repeated itself at least nine times since the gasoline supply crisis of the mid-1970s, the oil companies and refiners upping their profits each time.


        Yet, they consistently deny making bigger profits in California than elsewhere.


        But starting Jan. 1, oil companies will have to report monthly to the state how much profit they make from each gallon of gasoline sold here. That public information might produce a shame factor that could cause prices actually to drop below where they were before this fall’s latest major price hike.


        That’s because – in the first big action state government has taken against oil companies since they began to dominate transportation in the late 1940s – Gov. Gavin Newsom in September signed a bill called SB 1322 by Democratic state Sen. Ben Allen of Santa Monica forcing the reports.


        Shortly after, with prices again skying here while they were dropping elsewhere in America, Newsom went on a rhetorical offensive against gasoline price gouging, ending by calling a special legislative session for December to deal with this crisis.


        This time, he proposes a windfall profits tax on excess gasoline profits, the money to be returned directly to the motorists who paid it. The newly required reports will be vital to enforcing any such levy.


        Not bad for a governor who is also using housing rules that no longer require parking spaces in new buildings near mass transit to try to wean Californians from their cars.


        Noted Newsom on Sept. 30, “While crude oil prices are down, oil companies have increased gas prices in California by a record 84 cents in the last 10 days. At the end of August, crude prices were roughly $100 per barrel and the average gas price here was $5.06. Now, even though the price of oil is down to $85 per barrel, the average price at the pump has surged to $6.29.” That was a $1.23 increase in a matter of one month.


        Some oil company apologists claim this price hike was due not just to refinery outages (which happen routinely everywhere), but to California gas taxes. But gas taxes did not rise during that time, so the new money went entirely to the oil refiners. (The five largest refiners in California account for 96 percent of the state supply. These include Chevron, Valero, Marathon, Phillips 66 and PBF Eneergy.)


        Added Newsom, the first governor to try helping over-charged drivers, “Oil companies have (not) explained the divergence between prices in California compared to the national average. We’re not going to stand by while greedy oil companies fleece Californians.”


        So he announced that he will work with legislators “to ensure excess oil profits go back to help millions of Californians.” He did not define what constitutes an excess profit, but the new monthly reports should help establish that while lawmakers work on a fair windfall profits tax.


        Democratic legislators seem amenable to Newsom’s initiative. Said state Senate President Toni Atkins of San Diego, “We’ll look at every option to end the oil industry profiteering.” Republicans, meanwhile, were apologizing for the oil companies. Said Assembly Republican leader James Gallagher of Yuba City, “The governor doesn’t get it. The problem …is policy…start with suspending the gas tax and additional fees that make our gas so much more expensive.”


        The bottom line: For the cheating and price gouging oil companies, the jig may finally be up, except among their GOP sycophants. This year, they may finally have gone too far.



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Monday, October 3, 2022






        Anyone who has volunteered at homeless shelters, handing out bananas, sleeping bags and more to unhoused individuals bused in from surrounding areas, knows the CARE courts due to begin operating early next year in seven California counties are long overdue.


        Volunteers and anyone else engaging the homeless know a combination of drug or alcohol addicts, mentally ill persons and veterans or ex-convicts with post-traumatic stress disorder make up a majority of the unhoused in every part of California.


        Put them in so-called “permanent supportive housing” and many get into physical fights with fellow residents and are then kicked out. That’s one reason why, despite thousands of new tiny homes, former hotel rooms and other units opening up for the unhoused over the last five years, homeless numbers remain almost stable.


        The simple reality is that mentally and emotionally healthy folks unhoused because they are short of rent money are a minority in this populace. So are newcomers from other states with much colder weather.


        Before the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals of all these kinds turned up for years at overnight facilities offering shelter from winter weather, some jabbering incoherently and others completely articulate as they explained their plight. Many obviously needed psychiatric care and appropriate medication, while others could profit from job training or counseling. Shelters usually offered none of that.


        There have long been some unhoused who reject any help, preferring life on the streets regardless of surrounding conditions, suspicious of anyone trying to assist them and seeking to evade all rules and restrictions. Plus, a criminal element preys on fellow homeless and on surrounding neighborhoods, most commonly stealing anything they find that can be sold off, from expensive bicycles to catalytic converters containing precious metals.


        All these categories are filled with folks who could benefit from help, but have not accepted that idea. Since a series of legal decisions in the 1960s all but outlawed forcible commitments to mental facilities, there have been few ways to compel assistance for any adult.


        That may change a bit now, unless lawsuits by the American Civil Liberties Union and others derail Newsom’s new CARE courts. His Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment Act (CARE), aims not to commit anyone or set up conservatorships, but rather to see courts compel those who need it to get help. The homeless can refer themselves to CARE courts under this new law, which starts in Glenn, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Stanislaus, Tuolumne and San Francisco counties next year and goes statewide in 2024.


        Or they can be referred by families, doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers and others with whom they interact. They also can still refuse to participate.


        But once evaluated by a CARE court, they will undergo mental health and addiction treatment and receive supervised housing. There is no prison involved, no confinement. Just two years of shelter, a clinical team, a lawyer and a volunteer supporter with whom they can converse regularly.


        Newsom calls this “a new path forward for thousands of struggling Californians and empowering their loved ones to help. We must make it work.”


        But many civil rights and disability rights organizations disagree vehemently. The new system, said a letter okayed by many such groups, “will only lead to institutionalization and criminalization of those already isolated on the streets.”


        If all this sounds a bit confused, it is. Any homeless person who insists on the status quo can keep it, staying in tent villages periodically razed by local authorities, the residents usually moving to other sites nearby.


        But families of many homeless want this program to go forward. “I worry every day about my son,” said one 77-year-old retiree in Los Angeles with a bipolar 48-year-old son living on the streets. “I may know where he is one day, but the next I can’t find him. It makes me crazy.”


        The real question here is why some organizations claiming to help the homeless don’t want to give this new program a chance to prove itself.


        For sure, something must be done for the homeless, or this current cancer on American society will live on indefinitely. CARE courts may start out seeming clumsy, but also might evolve into something that liberates unhoused people, rather than essentially condemning them to their present poverty and insecurity.


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. Email him at .