Monday, February 27, 2023







        From the moment Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in January that his next budget plan would include a $2 billion cut in funding for building mass transit, there was bleating from many of California’s leading liberal legislators.


        The budget reduction, warned Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, “could lead to significant service cuts, which is a downward death spiral for some (transit) agencies.”


        Oakland Democratic state Sen. Nancy Skinner added that “I think everyone in the Legislature would not want to have any funding shift, for example, for a public service like transit.”


        But a look at the numbers gives a pretty good idea why Newsom chose transit for about 10 percent of the cuts needed to make up a predicted $22 billion deficit.


        They show Californians are not as enthusiastic about either light or heavy rail commuting as their elected lawmakers.


        Figures from the American Public Transit Assn. demonstrate that neither the extensive Bay Area Rapid Transit system nor Southern California’s Metro Rail have come close to recovering the ridership they lost during the coronavirus pandemic, when two things happened:


        One saw many white collar workers begin staying home to work. The other was that thousands of commuters daily chose to use private cars rather than public transit in order to avoid possible exposure to the many, ever mutating variants of Covid.


        By the fall of last year, BART was carrying just 55 percent of its pre-pandemic passenger load, while Metro Rail was at 71 percent of prior ridership. Partly, that’s because San Francisco saw a greater shift than Southern California toward remote work. The change also saw that city lose about 6 percent of its population, many workers moving to less expensive areas once they no longer needed to live close to their jobsites.


        The specific numbers, available most recently from last July, August and September, saw both systems carrying tens of thousands more persons in those months of 2022 than a year earlier. But still not nearly enough to make either system break even financially.


        That’s one reason the Newsom budget proposal seeks to cut much more money for new lines and equipment than for operations.


        But any reduction in new rail construction offends folks like Wiener and Skinner for other reasons, even though they rarely mention it. Wiener, in particular, has been the legislative point person for the recent spate of state laws that encourage far denser housing than California has previously seen.


        Proximity to mass transit lines and stations is written into some of those measures, with high-rise construction permitted almost automatically in areas close to “major transit corridors” and light rail stations.


        So the more new rail lines are built, the more dense housing will be permitted over the next few years.


        The fact that not very much of the development authorized so far has actually taken place has less to do with transit access than with high interest rates and skepticism on the part of lenders. They see high vacancy rates where new construction has risen. Current vacancy rates in commercial and multi-family housing run about 27 percent in San Francisco and 20 percent in Los Angeles.


        In short, just because legislators authorize something does not mean it will automatically occur, especially when the average cost of creating a new one-bedroom apartment or condominium reportedly is about $830,000.


        None of this will dampen the enthusiasm of Wiener, Skinner and other legislators for ever-denser housing.


        As a result, and if transit ridership gradually creeps back toward pre-pandemic levels, expect pushback from the lawmakers over the cut in transit construction funding, putatively slashed by Newsom from $7.7 billion in 2022-23 to $5.7 billion in 2023-24.


        For the fiscally conservative governor had to find places to cut his budget that would impact the fewest possible Californians.


        Since ground has not even been broken yet on rail lines that were to be financed by the funds at issue, let alone have them in operation, this is a cut that affects no one right now.


        Which makes it a logical category to reduce, unless there’s a sudden and unexpected upturn in the state’s finances.



    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







        Here’s a stunning figure from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration: Six of every 10 counterfeit pills sold in this country now contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl, a 50 percent increase from four out of 10 in 2021.


        That means when the 2022 death rates from this very strong and very often faked and polluted opioid come in, they are likely to be far higher than the 5,722 who died in California in 2021, the last full year for which figures are available. In that same year, the national toll topped 107,000.


        These were mostly patients suffering pain who took the drug after filling legitimate prescriptions.


So common is illicit fentanyl that drug agents in Los Angeles alone last year seized 38 million doses of it, almost one for every person in this state.


        With drug enforcers finding just a fraction of all fabricated fentanyl, these figures make counterfeit fentanyl a very serious death threat, but one that cannot be mitigated by masks or vaccines.


        All this from a drug once used mainly as an anesthetic or to treat patients with severe pain, especially after surgery. It also can be used by people suffering chronic pain who don’t respond to other opioids.


        Properly used via injections, skin patches or lozenges shaped like cough drops, the phony versions of fentanyl are often taken unknowingly by persons following up on doctors’ scrips for other drugs.


        That’s one reason for a California law known as AB 2760, signed in 2018 by former Gov. Jerry Brown. This requires prescribers to offer patients taking fentanyl a companion prescription for the opioid-reversing agent Naloxone (often called Narcan) if they are taking more than 90 milligrams of fentanyl or a morphine equivalent daily. People with histories of drug misuse who take fentanyl must also be offered prescriptions for the Naloxone antidote even if they take much smaller amounts than that.


        Addiction is also a danger for patients taking fentanyl for pain. It can induce extreme happiness, drowsiness, sedation, respiratory depression and arrest, comas and death.


        Those addictive qualities all push the massive trade  in fake fentanyl, which the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says is also known as Apace, China Girl, China Town, China White, Dance Fever, Goodfellas, Great Bear, He-Man, Poison and Tango & Cash.


        Much of the fake fentanyl sold in America is taken mixed with other drugs like heroin and methamphetamines. When the other drugs are mixed with fentanyl, NIDA reports, they induce a high with far smaller doses, making  drugs laced with fentanyl a considerably cheaper fix for addicts.


        That, in turn, can lead to overdoses, which cause breathing to slow or stop. Comas, permanent brain damage or death can follow. No wonder this state tries to place the Naloxone anti-dote in the hands of as many users as possible.


        Mostly concocted in secret labs in China and Mexico, fake fentanyl is also laced with impurities that sometimes lead to other forms of toxicity. A big danger comes when it is secretly added to frequently-prescribed pressed pills of anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, Librium and Serax, where it can lurk entirely unsuspected by pharmacists and patients.


        This makes for an unprecedented danger, as non-addicts suddenly become at risk for addiction if inadvertent doses of impure fentanyl diminish sensitivity to other stimuli, making it hard to feel pleasure from anything else.


        The only good news here – and it’s actually small consolation – is that despite its high death toll from fentanyl, California is among the least-affected states, with just under seven deaths per 100,000 population in 2021, compared with states like West Virginia (81) and Wisconsin (28).


        Reality is thateven when government enforces purity standards, counterfeiters have managed to insert doctored pills into enough pharmacy stocks to cause serious trouble.


     That’s why a new state law requires community colleges and Cal State campuses to distribute fast-acting Naloxone for free, often as a nasal spray. 


        Merely eyeballing a pill does not reveal whether it’s impure, so patients who use morphine-related drugs and strong doses of anti-anxiety medications should make sure they get the Naloxone anti-dote that’s supposed to be available to them and keep some on hand.



    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


Addendum to March 14 column on Fentanyl threat: A previous column covering fentanyl overdose deaths stated many involve legitimately prescribed drugs. Newly supplied information from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows deaths nationwide from overdoses of legally dispensed opioids (fentanyl, oxycodone and morphine, among others) in 2021 were 5.3 per 100,000 population. Deaths from overdoses of illicit fentanyl were 25.0 per 100,000, making illicit, fake fentanyl a far greater threat. 

Monday, February 20, 2023







        More than a year after it took effect, the landmark housing density law known as SB 9 has drawn many derogatory labels: a usurper of local powers, a neighborhood wrecker, a destroyer of dreams, and more. But the most accurate epithet for it today is something much simpler. So far, it’s a flop.


        SB 9, sponsored by San Diego’s Democratic state Sen. Toni Atkins, was intended to help solve the California housing shortage by encouraging owners of current single-family homes to divide their lots in two, with each half eligible for a duplex and an additional dwelling unit, often known as an ADU.


        So six housing units are now authorized almost automatically on most single-family properties in this state. The SB 9 sponsors believed when it passed in the fall of 2020 that this would create enormous financial incentives for current homeowners to sell to developers.



After all, a new cottage industry had arisen since permitting of ADUs, also known as “granny units,” became virtually automatic in January 2020, with almost all new homes featuring them and many existing homeowners buying and renting out prefabricated units.


But enthusiasm for the kind of density SB 9 intended to create has not come close to matching the homeowner and developer interest in building ADUs. A report early this year from UC Berkeley’s consistently pro-density Terner Center for Housing Innovation described the law’s impact so far as “limited or nonexistent.”


        The failure so far of this law may comfort some homeowners interested in maintaining their roomy lifestyles and the character of their neighborhoods, but the conditions causing it may not be permanent.


        For one thing, nothing in SB 9 compels anyone to build as much as a single affordable unit, or any units designated for low-income residents.


        With both median home prices and the cost of building a single one-bedroom unit in California both hovering above $800,000, it’s difficult to see how creating bunches of duplexes will be much help to families who currently don’t own homes and thus have not built up many tens of thousands of dollars in equity.


        The contrast with building large apartment or condominium complexes is sharp: They must include at least some affordable units. They also can get a “density bonus” allowing them to create more units if they provide more than the required percentage of affordable or low-income ones.


        So the market for new duplexes is not hot today, especially in a time of dropping population. Then there’s the matter of financing: Interest on home and construction loans is higher today than almost any time in the last 20 years, as the Federal Reserve Board keeps upping interest rates to stem inflation.


        That depresses both home prices and sales everywhere in the nation, including California, and makes it difficult for developers to fund new projects.


        There’s also a shortage of construction workers, similar to the dearth of workers that has seen “help wanted” signs appear in thousands of restaurant and store windows.   


        All these conditions might be temporary, possibly changing considerably as inflation slows.


        But there’s also the matter of reluctance by current homeowners to carve up their properties or sell out and move elsewhere.


        The steady rise of California property values over the 14 years since the Great Recession – until it halted or slowed in mid-2021 – has left huge numbers of longtime homeowners flush with equity, sometimes mounting into the millions of dollars.


        If they access some of that resource via refinancing or reverse mortgages, a lot of the financial incentive for creating six homes out of one can disappear.


        All of which means SB 9 does not figure to become a major housing factor anytime soon.


        This has caused its onetime enthusiastic backers to deny they ever saw it as a major part of the solution. One example is Atkins, the state Senate’s president then and now. She told a reporter SB 9 “was never intended to be an overnight fix to our housing shortage…it was intended to increase the housing supply over time.”


        It still may do that someday, but reality right now is that SB 9 has not amounted to much.



    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








        Anytime one of California’s big privately owned utility companies doubles, triples and even quadruples the bills of its customers (compared with year-ago levels), it’s sensible to ask why. And to wonder whether that company is making windfall profits.


        So it is today, when the nation’s biggest natural gas utility, Southern California Gas Co., over the last two months more than tripled charges to most of its 21.8 million customers. Similar increases were inflicted upon gas customers of SoCalGas’ sister company, San Diego Gas & Electric, which serves 3.7 million gas meters. Both are subsidiaries of San Diego-based Sempra Energy.


        For gas, these companies even serve customers in many cities with municipally-owned electric utilities, like Los Angeles.


      To all appearances, the gas price hikes have been far more severe in Southern California than north state areas served by Pacific Gas & Electric. Here’s a key question: what part does the corporate positioning of SoCalGas and SDG&E play in this?


        For PG&E, SoCalGas and SDG&E all get their gas from essentially the same sources: Drilling and fracking operations in the Mountain West, Texas, Oklahoma and western Canada. But where the price per therm topped out at about $2.30 in Northern California this winter, it has reached well over $3.40 in areas served by the Sempra-owned utilities.


        A therm is a unit of energy equal to 100,000 BTUs. One BTU, or British thermal unit, is the quantity of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree.


        SoCalGas has firmly maintained through the winter that its price hikes are purely the result of higher than usual wholesale gas prices, that the company has simply passed those charges along to customers. That may be literally correct.


But the claim raised eyebrows at California’s most effective consumer advocacy group, the Los Angeles-based Consumer Watchdog. The group put out a brief video contending Sempra’s utilities bought much of their recent supplies from the company’s own trading arm, which reaped large profits. The video is here:


At the same time, Consumer Watchdog claims SoCalGas and SDG&E were derelict in other areas and that the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) must investigate its actions. Similar calls for a thorough probe of the price hikes came from California’s Democratic U.S. senators, Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, who called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to step in.


Said Feinstein, “These sky-high and unpredictable rates have had grave effects on my constituents…Many faced the difficult circumstance of having to pay higher heat and electricity prices at the expense of other necessities such as food or housing costs, or choosing to forego heating and the use of home appliances.”


Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court maintains that whoever investigates must ask at least a few questions: Why did Sempra’s utilities fail to hedge contracts or have long term contracts necessary to deliver gas at cheaper off-season rates rather than having to buy at the height of the spot market in mid-winter?


He also asks why SoCalGas, for one, depleted its usually heavy inventories of gas in November and early December, when its per-therm prices were significantly lower and wholesale prices also far lower, rather than setting itself up to have need at the height of the market?


And he wondered how much parent company Sempra made from spot market transactions with its own companies in Southern California.


All are reasonable questions for which consumers need well-documented answers.


One other question also should be raised, given the way that California utilities like PG&E and Southern California Edison long have made up for penalties assessed against them for wrongdoing by raising rates after a bit of time has passed.


This is it: Are the winter’s huge price increases actually a way for SoCalGas to recoup all or most of the $1.8 billion it had to pay in damages for the 2015-16 leaks from its Aliso Canyon storage facility in the hills above the Porter Ranch section of Los Angeles?


And here’s a mandate for the PUC: Get solid answers to all these questions before ever granting another rate increase to either SoCalGas or SDG&E.


    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, February 13, 2023






        There’s one word for what six of the seven southwestern states that draw water from the Colorado River are trying to do to California: bullying.


        The good news for Californians is that Gov. Gavin Newsom isn’t standing for it.


        No, Newsom hasn’t directly called out the other six states involved (Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada) for their tactics. He’s let his appointee Wade Crowfoot, California secretary of natural resources, do the talking.


        But Newsom has a record of standing up to bullies, as in his attack ads during the last campaign season against both Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Both insult California at every opportunity. Newsom fired back in mostly symbolic TV commercials, once calling DeSantis “Gov. DeathSantis” because his laissez faire Covid polities probably resulted in tens of thousands more deaths from the pandemic than if he’d followed shutdown policies like Newsom’s.


        The bullying this time comes from the other six Colorado River basin states, which want California to cut its use of the river’s water more than they would their own usage.


        It’s a case of bullying, for sure, a matter of 6-1. With 12 U.S. senators to California’s two, the other six states have been louder. It’s also a case of several smallish tails trying to wag the big dog, California. More than 20 million Californians depend directly on the Colorado, while the other six states total about that much population among them, not all using Colorado River water. California usage impacts many more people than direct users of the river water, too, because it takes pressure off the state Water Project and cuts the threat of drawing water from wild Northern California rivers like the Trinity, Smith and Eel.


        For sure, cuts are coming in water usage along the Colorado. That river’s two big reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, stand at levels not seen since they opened in the early and mid-20th Century.


        The other six states want usage cut in part in proportion to how much water disappears en route to a particular state via seepage and evaporation. That puts most of the onus on California, because it’s nearly the end point of the river.


        But California is insisting on its rights under the 1920s-era compact that governs the Colorado. And California is being consistent. For example, this state did not resist when the Central Arizona Project aqueduct opened in 1993, taking billions of gallons daily from the river across hundreds of miles south to the Valley of the Sun, where it allowed huge growth in Phoenix, Tucson and their suburbs. Without that water, authorized under the compact, Arizona would be far shy of its current 7.2 million population.


        California figuratively sucked up its gut and relied more on internal supplies, including Sierra Nevada Mountains snowpack and underground aquifers.


        Now the other states essentially want to scrap the old compact, their main argument seeming to be that they agree  mistreating Californians would be terrific.


        But Newsom is not standing for it, insisting the law is on California’s side.


        The dispute could eventually harm Newsom politically, as swing states like Nevada, Arizona and Colorado could be important for him in a future presidential bid.


That’s not intimidating him.


The first referee of all this will likely be President Biden’s Interior Department, which demanded an agreement among the states by late January. That did not happen.


Now Biden is caught in the middle as he looks to a possible reelection run next year. Does he alienate some “purple” states by causing new water rationing there, or does he go after big cuts in California, source of his largest bloc of electoral votes? Any reduced use would especially hit the largely agricultural Imperial Valley, which grows most of America’s winter lettuce, broccoli, melons, onions, carrots and spinach.


Reality is there will be slashes in Colorado River usage, despite heavy snowpack at the system’s Rocky Mountain headwaters. Snowmelt will not nearly refill the big reservoirs.


Newsom’s administration has proposed substantial cuts. Said Democratic California Sen. Alex Padilla, “Six other Western states dictating (what) California must give up isn’t a genuine consensus decision, especially (when) they haven’t offered any new cuts” of their own.


A preliminary decision will likely come by mid-summer.




    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 







        Many Californians grow concerned when they hear of the so-called “exodus” of middle-class residents, even though the actual number departing this state over the last five years amounts to less than one-half of one percent of the populace.


        Most who leave hope to cash out while trading high-priced California homes for cheaper and larger ones in places like Texas, Idaho, Arizona and Florida. Some others are white collar workers freed from any need to report to offices, and preferring to work remotely from locales near family or friends.


        But the decamping of Jon Minadeo Jr. from his former Sonoma County home is something very different. The low-profile Minadeo may be the most prolific anti-Semitic Jew hater in America. He’s taken his “Goyim Defense League” (GDL) and its associated “Goyim TV” to Florida, where he hopes to be more welcome than he lately was here.


        The rapper Kanye West, who has dined with ex-President Donald Trump, called for “Deathcon 3” against Jewish Americans and allowed that he “likes Nazi people,” gets far more publicity. But Minadeo’s group likely spurred many more hate incidents against Jews in 2022, a record year for such episodes.


        (The word Goyim employed by Minadeo is a Hebrew and Yiddish term for non-Jews, not by itself carrying pejorative implications.)


        Goyim TV and the GDL emphasize anti-Jewish propaganda, police saying their adherents are most likely responsible for dozens of episodes of anti-Semitic flyers distributed door to door in plastic baggies in cities as disparate as Beverly Hills and Altadena, Napa and Los Angeles, plus many similar distributions in other states. Some of the negative messages included false claims that Jews were responsible for COVID-19 and its pandemic, plus the spread of other ills.


        It’s difficult to prove these actions induced real violence, but Los Angeles Police Chief Michel (cq) Moore opined in December that the rise of hate speech on social media was definitely one cause of violence.


        He named rapper West, as one using the Web to induce hate. “We see (West, who now calls himself Ye) and others that have gone to Twitter and other social media platforms such as Parler (cq) that have been created solely for people with extreme views,” he said.


        Moore reported hate crimes in his city were up 23 percent last year, with no reduction in sight.


        It’s not provable that the new spate of anti-Semitism is the cause, but a study from the website shows “an alarming amount of anti-Semitism within companies, a great deal of which is considered acceptable.”


        This bears importance for other groups, too, because Jews historically have been like canaries in coal mines. When they’ve been tormented without major consequences for their attackers, other ethnic or religious groups from Blacks and Asians to Roman Catholics often faced similar trouble soon after.


        The ResumeBuilder report says 26 percent of hiring managers now say they are less likely to move forward with a Jewish job applicant, with many admitting to making appearance their main method for identifying persons as Jewish. Fully 23 percent of hiring managers say they want fewer Jews in their industries and 17 percent say corporate leaders have told them not to hire Jews. Plus, 33 percent said anti-Semitism is common in their workplaces and 29 percent say it is acceptable in their companies.


        Those numbers are music to the ears of Minadeo and his Goyim TV organization, which has claimed responsibility for anti-Semitic flyer drops in 40 states.


        The group’s goal is to push negative stereotypes of Jews and spread anti-Semitic myths and conspiracy theories, says a report from the national Anti-Defamation League. Minadeo makes near-daily recordings in a studio in his home, viewed by hundreds who often donate money so he can produce more. He also attacks Blacks, Latinos and LBGTQ persons, while pushing Holocaust denial.


        Although his family owns a Sonoma County restaurant, he has said he left because his reputation was diminished there by coverage from local news organizations that spurred threats to burn down his house.


        “Jews are getting to intimidate me, vandalize my house, slander me, assault me, and the police do absolutely nothing,” he told a reporter.


        So he decamped for Florida, and perhaps that will mean fewer hate crimes in California.



    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, February 6, 2023






        The “special” legislative session on gasoline price gouging called for last Dec. 1 by Gov. Gavin Newsom has dragged on for months, still with no sign that a decision is near on whether to levy a windfall profits tax on California’s oil refiners.


        There is no question about the windfall profits part of all this: When they raised gas prices nearly to the $7 per gallon level starting last February, the refiners made great gobs of money. California’s Big 5 gasoline makers – Chevron, Marathon, PBF, Phillips 66 and Valero – posted overall profits of $67.6 billion over the first nine months of 2022, nearly four times as much as they made in the same nine months in 2021.  Their yearly gains were even higher.


        Then came Newsom’s call for a special session, and what do you know? Prices dropped, all the way down to about $4 per gallon within a month or so.


        Anyone who tells you this drop had nothing to do with the threat of a windfall profits tax is blowing smoke. Gasoline prices had never before seen such a roller coaster. It’s a safe bet that would not have happened without the threat of a windfall profits limit.


        Of course, oil companies have price-gouged before. Over the last 50 years, there were at least nine times when gas prices leaped 20 percent or more within a month, then fell back somewhat after awhile. But this was the first time in modern history prices actually returned to prior levels before inching back up.


        Some refiners hope they won’t be faced with windfall profits punishment because it takes a two-thirds majority vote of both state legislative houses to pass a new tax. The oil companies know they’ll get all Republican votes against any such tax, and hope to pick up the few Democrats needed to prevent a two-thirds vote against them.


        So some consumerist lawmakers are ready to call this a “fee” or a “penalty” and then let courts decide if it’s really a tax.


        But the bottom line is that oil companies now live in fear, regardless of their public stance. They know they had no real excuse for the massive price increases they imposed and kept charging most of last year.


        Meanwhile, more than 80 consumer or environmental groups signed a letter of support to Democratic state Sen. Nancy Skinner of Berkeley, author of the anti-price gouging bill now active in Sacramento. The bill would impose penalties when per-gallon profits become abnormally high.


        And we will soon have regular knowledge about this: A new law signed last fall requires refiners to report their average profits per gallon monthly starting this spring.


        As yet, no numbers have been set for what’s a “normal” profit and what makes a “windfall.” That is part of the legislative battle playing out quietly for now.


        None of this, of course, promises to do much about the cartel-like behavior of the state’s five large refiners, who account for more than 90 percent of California gasoline. When one refiner raises prices, they all do. When one makes cuts, so do the others. It really doesn’t matter what brand you buy; in any single general area, you’ll pay about the same price.


        No one yet has come up with a workable way to stop this, as refiners insist prices are dictated by things like regular maintenance shutdowns and international events. (Even though it affected less than 3 percent of their regular supply, the refiners blamed their huge price increase last year on the American boycott of Russian oil, spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.)


        Usually, those excuses don’t hold water, but the refiners don’t care; they still repeat the litany with straight faces.


        The difference this time is they face a governor who’s not buying it. Knowing California taxes account for less than a dollar of the $2.60 difference between California prices and national ones last summer, Newsom said, “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 California.”

        But so far, lawmakers have not backed him up. It’s now high time for them to act.      


    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 hint of greed may be seeping into the public perception of California’s first-and-only in the nation slavery Reparations Task Force.


        Plenty of ideas the commission has floated might win easy acceptance among this state’s mostly-liberal voters. The group was created in 2020 via a law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.


        For there is general understanding that centuries of slavery, with literacy punishable by death, families frequently sold apart and slave quarters often more like doghouses than even primitive shanties, still handicaps Black Americans 160 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.


Little or none of that occurred in California, which entered the Union as a free state in 1850.


But legacies of slavery do remain in this state, where 6.5 percent of the populace, or more than 2.5 million persons, identify as Black. The Reparations Task Force lists five types of harm inflicted on former slaves and their descendants, including unjust taking of properties, devaluation of Black businesses, housing discrimination, mass incarceration and health harm.


One concrete example of harm: 20 percent of foster children in California are Black, triple the Black share of the population.


Four economic consultants to the task force suggested payments of $223,000 to each Black Californian descended from slaves. That would aim to compensate for what they called “generational wealth” long denied to most Black Americans.


        A current qualifying family of four might net almost $900,000 if the state okays that sum, for a total cost in the billions of dollars.


        But any such reparation would need approval from a Legislature elected by voters who never owned slaves. So a word of caution to the task force: Ask too much and you might get nothing.


        At commission meetings, there has been no shortage of demands. Example: “How should reparations be paid?” shouted the activist Rev. Tony Pierce during a December session in San Diego. “Immediately!” Another speaker  pronounced the consultant-recommended $223,000 per person insufficient, while another demanded $350,000.


        Yet another wanted “direct cash payments, tax-exempt status, free college education, grants for homeownership, business grants, (and) access to low to no interest business funding.”


Demands like those for people who never themselves experienced slavery stand a good chance of alienating other Californians by projecting an aura of materialism and entitlement.


Other types of reparations, however, would likely get a sympathetic reception both from lawmakers and voters. Because Blacks on average disproportionately live near facilities known to create health risks, including freeways and oil fields, one form of reparation might be free health insurance for a substantial time span.


        Because slaves were denied literacy and education, perhaps their descendants should get preference in public university and college admissions, or at least reduced tuition and fees. And there could be a free tutoring program for eligible Black students, in order to close the state’s longstanding racial academic achievement gap.


        Some task force members acknowledge that forms of reparations other than money might find much more legislative support than cash payments, but yield as much long-term benefit.


        Aware that monetary recommendations from the task force could provoke opposition, Democratic Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles, a task force member, observed that policy change and not cash “is the meat of what we’re really trying to do…ultimately, 99 percent of (our) recommendations will be the ones that we’ll be able to enact or to budget for a lot easier than (financial) compensation. (The aim) is to stop the ongoing harms of chattel slavery.”


        Guessing how the mass of voters might react to any proposed reparations is pure speculation, too, since California was never a slave state.


Then there’s the question of whether descendants of Holocaust survivors and indigenous Mexicans and Central Americans dispossessed and often enslaved by Spanish colonists, among others, ought to get similar state reparations, even though most wrongs done to their forebears occurred outside California, just like slavery.


Voters with non-Black ethnic backgrounds might also wonder why California should provide reparations while no former slave state is even considering them.


All of which means that if there’s the slightest hint of greed or punishment of modern Californians for misdeeds by other people in other places, rather than merely seeking to right a huge historic wrong, very little this task force recommends will go anywhere.



    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