Friday, May 26, 2023







        There was no doubt more cuts would be needed from the moment Gov. Gavin Newsom submitted his preliminary budget plan for fiscal 2023 last January, basing it on a minimalist $22 billion estimated deficit.


        As expected, the deficit turned out to be much more by the time Newsom’s May spending plan revision appeared – it’s now pegged at $31.5 billion.


        So more cuts   are proposed as budget negotiations between the governor and legislators continue. After school programs will likely endure a small slicing. Public schools themselves will probably suffer a cut between 1 percent and 2 percent, somewhere north of $1 billion out of the previous $108 billion. Prisons will see a reduction, but not commensurate with lowered inmate population. Even Newsom’s pet plans to fight climate change will take about a $6 billion hit.


        But the single cut that appears most merited, from a place where many billions of previous dollars have been sunk, is the $2 billion reduction for mass transit, down to a “mere” $5.7 billion for building new lines.


        From the moment this emerged in January, the transit systems’ most fervent advocate in Sacramento, Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, pronounced it an unmitigated disaster. The cut, he said, “could lead to significant service cuts, which is a downward death spiral for some (transit) agencies.”


        Wiener upped his rhetorical ante after the May revise. “If we don‘t address the transit fiscal cliff, we will see massive and devastating service cuts, harming the millions of Californians who rely on transit to get to work, school or the grocery store.”


        The “fiscal cliff” is another term for the fact that federal pandemic relief funds expire soon, meaning transit agencies will need to stand on their own much more unless the state bails them out. Newsom appears to want the light rail and bus systems to vastly increase their self funding.


        That won’t happen until and unless the systems become cleaner and safer. “Riding the MTA in Los Angeles or Bay Area Rapid Transit…is putting your life at risk,” wrote Jon Coupal, head of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., in a recent essay.


        To many potential riders, that looks correct. Riders see frequent gang presence on light rail trains, sniff strong urine odors in some cars and occasionally, unpredictably, encounter violence on the big systems.


        Neither BART nor the MTA has come close to regaining the ridership they had before the pandemic. Shifts of white collar workers to home offices account for only part of the deficit, which at last reading saw BART carrying barely 60 percent of its pre-pandemic passenger load.


        Without those tens of thousands of paying passengers, the big urban systems – which seem continually to build extensions – can’t possibly survive on their own without massive service cuts like Wiener predicts.


        Wiener, of course, doesn’t mention one of the key reasons he does not want cuts in transit service levels no matter how many riders switch back to their individual vehicles:


        Over several years of steadfast advocacy, he has made himself the face of ever-denser housing in California, even while an abundance of vacancy signs decorating most new apartment buildings seems to proclaim them unneeded or unwanted.


        Bills written or endorsed by Wiener and legislative allies like fellow Democratic state Sen. Nancy Skinner of Berkeley favor lowering or eliminating parking requirements in new buildings, thus allowing more dwelling units. Their theory is that residents of buildings near rail stops and major bus lines will always use public transit and not drive themselves.


        But this is not New York. The folks legislators expect to ride transit exclusively will not unless the big systems earn their patronage. All this is beginning to create severe parking shortages in some places.


        It is further proof that just because a few legislators convince themselves something will happen does not make it so.


        Which means Newsom would be well advised to stick to his guns and stay with his planned cut in transit funding, at least until the systems get more policing, more sanitation and more safety in general, and thus attract more riders.



    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 looks at times as if Gov. Gavin Newsom is trying to imitate Jerry Brown as he tries to gut California’s main environmental protection law, at least for large infrastructure and housing projects.


          Brown certainly did reduce the clout of the 1970 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA, usually pronounced “see-qua”) during his fourth and final term as governor, mainly clearing the way for large sports facilities like the Golden State Warriors’ Chase Center in San Francisco, the Inglewood SoFi Stadium that’s now home to both the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers and the rapidly rising Inglewood basketball arena under construction for the Los Angeles Clippers.


          “We have proven we can get it done for stadiums,” said Newsom, “so why…can’t we translate that to all these other projects?” He means large apartment and condominium buildings, roads, reservoirs and bridges. It’s clear he doesn’t want the very people who figure to be most affected by these changes to have any voice in these matters.


          This is one facet of a years-long domination of Sacramento by developers and their allies in the building trade unions. Over the last three years, they have moved politicians whose campaigns they largely finance to eliminate virtually all single-family residential zoning around the state, make permitting of small “granny flats” or additional dwelling units almost automatic, allowed creation of six dwelling units on lots formerly occupied by just one and eased building of high-rises near light rail stops or major city bus routes.


          Newsom’s several-pronged attempt to ease CEQA takes this farther, seeking a nine-month limit on legal actions under the law. He also wants more funding for planning departments and other agencies that review large-scale plans and other exceptions to the current law.


          Essentially, it would have few teeth if Newsom has his way. One pet plan is a long-stymied version of the old Peripheral Canal project, now morphed into a tunnel to bring Sacramento River water south to customers of the state Water Project via a tunnel under the Delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.


          Lawmakers seem prepared to go along. Said Democratic state Senate President Toni Atkins of San Diego, “The climate crisis requires that we move faster to build and strengthen critical infrastructure.”


          Both she and Newsom give lip service to the environment while working steadily to denigrate it.


          It was much the same under Brown. The onetime seminarian called his efforts to ease CEQA “The Lord’s Work.” In his time, this meant altering CEQA to let developers qualify initiatives for local ballots to OK their projects and then let city councils adopt those initiatives without public votes.


          That’s what enabled building both the Chase Center and SoFi Stadium, plus approval for a former SoFi rival stadium once planned in the nearby Los Angeles suburb of Carson.


          This will likely be repeated as Los Angeles gets set to host the 2028 Olympics, with some competitions to be staged in various other parts of the state.


          All this essentially leaves out the folks most affected by big projects, just like it did in Inglewood, where citizens had nothing to say about razing of the Hollywood Park racetrack and replacing it with SoFi Stadium’s much larger presence.


          Wrote attorney Aruna Prabhala of the Center for Biological Diversity, “CEQA offers necessary protections for communities and the environment. We should be wary of exaggerated claims by development interests that suggest otherwise.”


          A housing shortage, she said, “does not give us free rein to build recklessly. It’s not clear that the governor has fully considered the unintended consequences of fast-tracking infrastructure projects.”


          Added Barbara Barrigan-Parilla, head of the Restore the Delta group that opposes the Delta tunnel plan, “Newsom does not respect the people in communities that need environmental protection,” she said, citing alleged examples from the coronavirus pandemic era.


          What’s clear in all this is that if the people most affected by the potential changes in CEQA don’t speak up to their legislators now, Newsom’s plan will pass, developers will have an even freer rein and those most affected by new projects will have even fewer ways to protect themselves, their homes and their lifestyles.  



    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 pullout quote: “This essentially leaves out the folks most affected by big projects.”


Monday, May 22, 2023







        Settled in for his second and last term in Sacramento, not needing to worry about reelection and possibly looking to establish himself as America’s leading progressive long before a potential future run for president.


 That’s  Gov. Gavin Newsom, who lately does not hesitate to push on many fronts for the priorities he vocally espoused back in 2018 during his first run for governor.


        There was his call for reviving much of the state mental health program and infrastructure dismantled for financial reasons in the 1960s and ‘70s by Govs. Ronald Reagan and Jerry Brown.


        There’s his sometimes heavy-handed push to force every city in California to add great numbers of housing units in an effort to solve the state’s affordable housing shortage, which may not be as extensive as he says, but nevertheless remains very real for millions.


        There’s his push to electrify new cars and trucks and railroad engines. And more.


        But the most revolutionary of Newsom’s causes may be his push to have Medi-Cal (California’s version of Medicaid) not merely ensure health care for every person in this state, regardless of their immigration status, but now to use Medicaid money toward solving the seemingly intractable problem of homelessness.


        Newsom says he’s discussed this with President Biden, who would have to approve it for this to happen. He wants to class lack of housing as a cause of illness and treat homelessness with preventive care, much as most preventive care is covered for pregnant women. Poor women getting this coverage may not be ill when they receive services, but Medi-Cal nevertheless gives them

 prenatal care, labor and delivery coverage, post-partum care for a year after pregnancy, plus all other medically necessary dental and mental health treatments during that time.


        The principle is that such wide care prevents all manner of illnesses for both mothers and newborns, thus saving many millions of dollars in the long term.


        Newsom can’t do this on his own, needing both legislative and federal government approval, but he seeks a new program called “transitional rent” to provide six months rent or temporary housing for low-income persons already enrolled in Medi-Cal who are either unhoused or in danger of losing their housing.


        There are doubts even among liberal Democrats about whether this goes too far. After all, Medi-Cal already covers almost all California’s poor, including every person over 50 in the state who qualifies financially, and some who are younger if they are pregnant or have some other medical conditions.


        Immigration or citizenship status doesn’t matter here.


        If Medi-Cal began covering all or part of the rent for unhoused individuals, it presumably also would cover many of the undocumented to the same degree.


        That’s a novel concept, but this has rarely bothered liberal California politicians who have already granted to the undocumented things like drivers licenses and the right to vote in some local elections.


        For sure, living in homeless encampments, whether in tents, cardboard boxes or with no shelter at all, can lead to illness and death. The Kaiser Permanente health plan’s news service the other day cited a 60-year-old man who needed open heart surgery and repeated emergency room visits for ailments like diabetes and asthma while homeless. He was able to give up some diabetes medications and became significantly healthier after receiving a federal housing voucher that gave him permanent indoor quarters.


        Medi-Cal also reports that 5 percent of its patients account for 44 percent of the program’s spending, a high portion of them with unstable housing, or none at all.


        Does the idea of calling homelessness a threat to health and then acting to mitigate it stand a chance of approval? Pilot programs like this already exist in Oregon and Arizona, so why not approve something similar in California?


        “Why do we have to wait (until) people become sick?” asks Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s health secretary. “What we have today doesn’t work.”


        He’s right about that, but no one yet knows whether such reasoning will convince Medicaid’s top officials, who would need to approve and will take their cues from Biden.    



    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 was clear from the moment that California’s Reparations Task Force began pushing the idea of large cash payments to descendants of African-American slaves that there is insufficient political will to use money for making right what some call “America’s original sin.”


        Without doubt, much of what has built this nation was accomplished on the backs of those slaves. They established crops on plantations and farms from Rhode Island to Texas. They built the White House and the national Capitol. They paved roads and built bridges.


        Once legally freed, they were still kept in bondage by sharecropping and ultra-low industrial wages. They were denied home loans in a practice called “redlining,” they had segregationist Jim Crow rules imposed on them in many places.


        But California was never the center of Black slavery and discrimination. De facto slaves here were usually Native American Indians or Chinese laborers compelled to build railroads and rice farms, drain swamps and dig sewers.


        Plus populating brothels without hope for escape and becoming domestic servants.


        But the state’s Reparations Task Force has made no mention of these other actual and quasi-slaves. Composed entirely of African-Americans, the group discussed no one else.


        It eventually became obvious that even the politicians on that commission had no stomach for trying to push through the Legislature the kind of cash reparations some colleagues on the task force and others are demanding.


        Those demands most likely will form a significant part of the group’s final report to Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature, expected in late June.


        But Newsom, coping with a $31.5 billion budget deficit, quickly made plain there will be no cash anytime soon for reparations to Blacks – and only Blacks – for the poor health care, housing discrimination and other hardships imposed upon most of them for much of California’s 173 years of statehood.


        Besides the lack of political will for this, it’s fast becoming clear that reparations favoring just one – and only one – group solely on the basis of its ancestry won’t get far in the courts. That’s because government favoritism of one group over others is not permitted under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees all who live in America “equal protection of the laws.”


        So if one person whose forebears suffered legally-sanctioned injustice is entitled to reparations, so are any other persons whose ancestors also faced government-imposed injustice.


        How is it justified under the 14th Amendment – ironically written and passed to protect Blacks released from slavery – to deny Indians reparations after their ancestral villages were systematically burned by the U.S. Army in the latter part of the 19th Century? How could descendants of Chinese forced laborers also be denied reparations?


        And yet, the Reparations Task Force in its preliminary findings released in May mentioned only Blacks. Even those who have lived in California as briefly as two years could be eligible for six-figure checks if the Legislature adopts the tentative task force plan.


        Yes, some ideas in that report might be practical and legal, even in this newly-arrived era of big budget deficits, but only if they are applied to all groups that faced government-sanctioned or -approved discrimination.


        This could apply to Jews prevented from buying many properties before the late 1950s through then-legal clauses in land deeds prohibiting sales to that ethno-religious group. It would need also to apply to Japanese who lost property while interned in special camps during World War II.


        This means reparations, which might have run up to almost $1 trillion for the 9+ percent of Californians who are African-American, might cost even more than that if other groups are treated equally, as the 14th Amendment appears to demand.


        Japanese and Chinese and Jews may not be able to prove they were systematically and deliberately denied equal health care, as the task force says Blacks were, but all faced – some say they still face – discrimination in housing, employment and college admissions, areas where the task force seeks compensation for Blacks.


        Which means something different must be worked out, or else no wrongs at all will be righted. 

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

Monday, May 15, 2023







        In California’s 172 years as an American state, relations between its government and the more than 400 cities within state boundaries have never been as contested and hostile and litigated as now.


        Dozens of cities in most parts of the state are out of compliance today with a 1960s-era law signed by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan requiring them to file housing plans every eight years with the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), which can reject any blueprint it does not like.


        Meanwhile, the state is trying to use the longstanding law to force construction of dense new housing everywhere, no matter how it might change the nature of any community.


        In places that have either filed no plans or had them disapproved and missed deadlines for revisions, developers can use a previously obscure and unused provision of the old law known as the “builders’ remedy” to build even where cities have previously stopped them, so long as they include enough low-income or affordable units.


        What’s affordable or low-income varies by location.


        All this appears to some to conflict with the concept of a charter city – and more than one-fourth of California’s cities have charters. State law gives charter cities “the power to make and enforce all laws and regulations in respect to municipal affairs, subject only to such restrictions and limitations as may be provided in…the (state) Constitution…”


        But both Gov. Gavin Newsom and his hand-picked state attorney general Rob Bonta say statewide law overrides city charters, letting legislators mandate whatever they wish wherever they wish.


        Today’s focal points in this classic conflict are two very dissimilar cities, one in coastal Orange County and the other on the San Francisco Peninsula – Huntington Beach (sometimes known as “Surf City”) and Atherton, usually listed as the wealthiest city in America.


        It would be hard to fine places more different in many ways than these two. Huntington Beach, besides its surfing orientation, hosted some of the first and largest anti-masking and anti-vaccine rallies of the coronavirus pandemic period.


Atherton features stately residences, most on lots of one acre or more, and has been home to the likes of athletes from Y.A. Tittle to Stephen Curry, financiers like venture capitalist Tim Draper (an early investor in outfits from Skype to Hotmail and Tesla) and politicians like former gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman, a Republican, and Steve Westly, a Democrat.


        With just over 7,000 residents, Atherton has been told by the state to allow almost 350 new housing units by the end of this decade. Curry objected to one proposed new development, and city officials at one point suggested the city could meet its quotas if every property owner added an additional dwelling unit (sometimes known as ADUs or granny flats).


        Local residents at one town council meeting told elected officials they want their officials to be more aggressive in fighting off the state. “If you’re not comfortable fighting for us, then you should step down,” said one.


        Huntington Beach residents and officials take a similar attitude, despite being Bonta’s first and best-publicized target, with millions of dollars in state grants at risk in their defiance.


        “We have no problem doing our fair share, but with fair numbers,” Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark said during a public meeting. “I do not believe the benefits of building outweigh the consequences of destroying our city.”


        It’s not actual destruction of any city that’s in prospect, merely destruction of the ambiance in some places.


        Numbers are key here. The state uses quotas generated by HCD, whose estimates of the state’s housing need have never accounted for homes vacated by the hundreds of thousands of Californians who moved elsewhere in the last six years, costing this state one seat in Congress. Housing need estimates have varied widely since 2017, from 3.5 million in 2018 to 1.8 million more recently.


        Nor, according to a 2022 state auditor’s report, has HCD properly vetted documents on which it bases its estimates.


        Both Bonta and Newsom ignore the varying estimates and the city charter issue.


        Which leaves the entire matter far from decided, no matter what state officials may claim at any given moment.




    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 California’s three biggest privately-owned electric companies tell you they want to change their pricing structure just for your good, hold onto your wallet.


        These companies – Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric – did exponentially more physical damage to this state and its people over the last decade than any other industry and never paid much for their misdeeds.


        One – PG&E – has been convicted of manslaughter and negligence for its role in both wildfires and a huge natural gas pipeline explosion, without a single employee ever serving so much as a day in prison for causing the loss of well over 200 lives and many hundreds of homes and other businesses.


        Instead of penalizing these companies heavily, the utilities’ friends in the state Legislature and other offices from the governor on down keep bailing them out.


        When bankruptcy threatened PG&E after its admitted roles in the massive 2018 Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise in Butte County, Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislators created the ongoing state Wildfire Fund guaranteeing aid to the companies after future fires they might cause. Customers of all three big utilities still pay monthly to fund this $13 billion insurance policy.


        When PG&E worried about possible losses in shutting down the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant as scheduled in 2025, Newsom and the Legislature set up a state-funded extension of at least five years. The rationale for this took the form of “blackout blackmail,” threats of power outages if Diablo went off line. But plenty of “peaker” power plants exist around the state, firing up in times of very high electric demand and making blackout threats questionable.


        Now the utilities are at it again, using a law passed quietly last year that supposedly requires them to restructure power rates so the rich pay more than the poor for electricity, regardless of how much juice they use.


        Under this plan, households with income under $28,000 would pay a fixed $15 per month to fund power infrastructure like transmission lines, with usage charges added to it. The fixed charge for households earning $28,000 to $69,000 would be $20 to $34, those making $69,000 to $180,000 would pay $51 and households with more than $180,000 income would pay $92 per month, plus usage fees.


        One problem with this: average net bills for everyone would most likely rise, starting in mid-2025. The first phase of public comments on this system are due for submission to the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) by June 2.


        This masquerades as help for low income families, but it is really just another long-term insurance policy for the utilities. For Community Choice Aggregations (CCAs) are taking hold all over California today, from Sonoma to San Diego, Placer County to Pico Rivera.


        These agencies buy power wherever they can get it, offering options including all-renewable energy to those who want to pay a bit more than if they bought the same mix offered by the utilities.


        They use the utilities’ power lines to bring that energy to customers.


        But what if large-scale CCAs like Northern California’s MCE Community Choice Energy and Southern California’s Clean Power Alliance decide to build transmission facilities of their own?


        The utilities could be looking at multi-billion dollar transmission line white elephants they built with consumer money acquired through monthly bills. To eliminate that risk, the big companies need guaranteed funds to maintain and expand their lines, thus discouraging the CCAs from undermining them by getting their own facilities.


        That’s what the new pricing system seems to be all about, although no utility company would ever admit it, and the PUC can be counted on to cooperate, as it almost always accommodates the utilities it regulates. If the new system also discourages rooftop solar installations by forcing solar owners to pay monthly electric bills, that’s fine with the utilities.


        That’s why their lobbyists worked to get the Legislature and Newsom to “require” them to make the currently planned change.


        So as usual with the utilities, it is caveat emptor, let the buyer beware. The utilities’ planned new pricing is designed first of all to help them. Any good it might accomplish for anyone else would be incidental.       




    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 8, 2023








        It’s no secret that California governors begin to lose popularity as they get deeper into their second – and last – terms. Gavin Newsom seems no exception.


        Environmentalists are unhappy he wants to allocate more water to farms and cities and less to salmon runs through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Many homeowners resent his signing bill after bill to densify housing across the state. Mass transit advocates don’t like his proposed budget cuts. And on and on.


        But malcontents can rest easy knowing Newsom won’t be governor forever. In fact, he’ll be out just 3 ½ years from now, regardless of who might be President at the time.


        His successor is much less clear today than was his own eventual accession to the governor’s office at this same point in predecessor Jerry Brown’s final term in the state Capitol.



        Back then, Newsom – a former mayor of San Francisco best known for bringing same-sex marriage to his city – faced significant competition in moving up only from Antonio Villaraigosa, an ex-Los Angeles mayor and former state Assembly speaker who roused plenty of his own negative feelings during a long career in public life.


        There are no candidates today as certain to run strongly as those two were just eight years ago.


        So who is likely to take over Newsom’s chair? Chances are it won’t be any of the state’s big-city mayors. Neither London Breed of San Francisco nor Karen Bass of Los Angeles is as well known in other parts of California as both Newsom and Villaraigosa were at the same early stage in the battle for succession.


        Of course, by 2026, either might build a far more considerable reputation than she enjoys today, especially if they can seriously dent the homelessness crisis that dogs both their cities.


        That leaves the likes of Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta, former state Controller Betty Yee, Xavier Becerra and current Speaker Anthony Rendon. Like the mayors, all are Democrats; no Republican now occupies a prominent office that could propel them to even higher stature and no conservative celebrities appear interested.


        Because of her current post, Kounalakis is a logical candidate, and she’s declared early. Two of the last four governors – Newsom and Gray Davis – moved up from the job she holds. One thing for sure, Kounalakis, daughter of Angelo Tsakopoulos, a Sacramento developer and longtime Democratic campaign donor, will have no cash shortage.


        Kounalakis, a onetime ambassador to Hungary under ex-President Barack Obama, would figure to be even more liberally-oriented than Newsom has been.


        Bonta’s office has also been a stepping stone to the governorship for many, including Brown, Republicans George Deukmejian and Earl Warren, plus Pat Brown, Jerry’s father and a two-term governor.


        An obscure assemblyman before Newsom appointed him, Bonta has made himself a force in housing policy by suing more than a dozen cities for their reluctance to OK dense housing within their borders.


        Becerra, a former state attorney general and congressman, now is President Biden’s secretary of Health and Human Services. Undefeated in California electoral runs, he’s already the highest-ranking Latino official ever elected here and made few enemies during his four years as attorney general. He could be a formidable primary election force, but would have to get moving soon.


        The same for Rendon, due to give up his gavel next month. A resident of Lakewood in Los Angeles County, Rendon cannot move to a big city mayoral job, like Willie Brown and Villaraigosa did after being speaker.


        So he might have to seek statewide office, and why not the top one, since he has proven a formidable fundraiser?


There also could be Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat who is the first female president of the state Senate. Now an unofficial candidate for lieutenant governor, she could shift one notch up if she sees an opportunity. Whatever she runs for, her fund-raising record means she would have to be taken seriously, unlike Yee, whose appeal would be mostly to Asian-Americans.


        The bottom line: Democrats have a strong bench from which to choose Newsom’s successor. But it’s far too early to make odds on how this still unshaped race will go.



    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







        Forget about both sexism and ageism as prime forces behind the highly vocal movement pressuring longtime Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein to retire early from the seat she has held since 1990. 


Sure, these factors are present in varying degrees. So is the fact that Feinstein has been absent from the Senate more than two months this spring, recovering from a painfully severe case of shingles.


But the actual root purpose of this months-long campaign is an effort by the relentlessly uncompromising hard left of the California Democratic Party to take over a key post it could not win at the ballot box.


        This real prime mover became obvious in an appeal the ultra-leftist California Courage Campaign emailed to all its members early this month, seeking to galvanize them against Feinstein.


        That was because so-called “progressives” have long felt the moderate Feinstein deprived them of her seat when last reelected in 2018.


        The hard left is dominant among this state’s Democrats because no other interest has lately turned out significant numbers for the 80 Assembly district caucuses where delegates to the party’s state conventions are chosen.


        Back in 2018, ultra-leftist delegates led the party not to endorse Feinstein for a fifth full term, which she is about 18 months from finishing. Instead, they backed former Assembly Speaker Kevin de Leon. He’s best known these days for his role in a secretly recorded racist conversation last fall with then-Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez, then-Councilman Gil Cedillo and then-local labor federation chief Ron Herrera.


        De Leon, unlike all others on the notorious tape, refuses to resign his prominent post, a high-paying city council seat he won after Feinstein beat him soundly. He insists he will serve out his term before leaving.


        De Leon, shown by the audio to at least condone overt racism, was bitterly ageist in his run against Feinstein. He claimed her age (now 89) made her unfit for the job years before anyone noticed any problems with her health, physical or cognitive.


        Despite the party endorsing against her in both the primary and the general elections that year, voters twice gave Feinstein huge margins.


        That thwarted leftist ambitions to take over her seat as they strive for full political control of California.


        Now the left wants shingles to award it via an appointment what it could not win at the polls. Leftists for two years have ripped Feinstein for supposed mental lapses and for having friendly exchanges with – gasp! –  Republican senators.


        More recently, they accused her of letting her shingles-induced absence hold up confirmation of dozens of President Biden’s judicial appointees.


        Days before a tentatively scheduled mid-May return to the Capitol, Feinstein shot back in a press release that “The Senate continues to swiftly confirm highly qualified individuals to the…judiciary, including seven…this week.”


        She noted eight judges were confirmed during her absence, while Republicans are holding up only “a few.”


        With just a one-vote Judiciary Committee majority, Democrats need Feinstein’s vote to send those nominees to the Senate floor for final confirmation.


        Who are the folks most active in trying to oust Feinstein, presumably in favor of the ultra-liberal Oakland Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who might be appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom if Feinstein leaves? That could happen because Newsom promised two years ago he would name a Black woman to the next Senate vacancy, and the African-American Lee wants the job so badly she's already running against the far-better-funded Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank and Rep. Katie Porter of Irvine.


        A quick Feinstein departure could give her seat to Lee for more than a year, allowing her to campaign as an incumbent.


        The Courage Campaign lists just one Californian among the most prominent leftists attacking Feinstein: Silicon Valley Rep. Ro Khanna, by odd coincidence Lee’s campaign co-chair. Others include most of the congressional “squad:” Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. These, with Lee, are among the least compromising leftists in the current House.


        Which means this is at root not about age or inability or absenteeism; it’s about ideology, just like it was in 2018, when the leftists lost badly.   



    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 1, 2023






        California lost a net of more than 114,000 residents during the last year and about 500,000 over the last three years.


        So why are Californians who stayed and those who arrived during that same time among the happiest folks in America?


        It might be that they are among the select who can afford to live in this state, where the median housing price of more than $700,000 puts California among the top three priciest places in the nation. Its most populous county, Los Angeles, even tops the statewide median price figure by about $100,000.


        Strikingly, research indicates it’s not the most expensive places in California that are happiest. Atherton, whose people average out as America’s wealthiest, does not make the top 10 list of the happiest spots in the nation, while six other California cities are on that list, as reported by the website


        Those six include the happiest city, Sunnyvale, hard by the headquarters of Apple and Google in the heart of the Silicon Valley; Fremont, where most Teslas are built, ranked fourth; with the Sacramento suburb Roseville seventh, San Jose eighth, the Los Angeles bedroom suburb of Santa Clarita ninth and Irvine in Orange County rounding out the top 10.


        Among the happiness measures the study used were the percentage of individuals earning more than $100,000 per year, living costs as a percentage of income, violent crime rates, life expectancy and the number of poor mental health days reported.


        Sunnyvale ranked first because 62.5 percent of its residents earned more than $100,000 (highest in the nation) and only 5 percent lived below the poverty level, third lowest nationally.


        No. 10 Irvine ranked high in every category, with more than 45 percent of residents earning more than $100,000 and living costs consuming just 38 percent of income. Violent crime is also very low there, at 51 incidents per 100,000 population for the last year, and citizens reporting poor mental health on just 11.3 percent of their days, with average life expectancy almost 83 years.


        By contrast, the happiest place in Texas, the Dallas suburb of Plano, with 288,000 population (about double the size of the Los Angeles suburb of Torrance), saw about one-third of its populace earn more than $100,000 and cost of living expenses eat up 40.3 percent of income, even though housing prices are far lower than in Irvine.


        Some might say that there’s too much emphasis on money in this study. But a 2021 University of Pennsylvania study found a direct link between happiness and income growth.


        Another major factor in happiness, as shown by many studies, is marriage: The higher the percentage of married people in a locale, the happier the average person will be.


        And among the top 10 happiest cities in the report, the majority of adults were married  in all but one – Arlington, VA, which came in second on the overall happiness index.


        Still, despite its strong showing on happiness, California has seen slightly more than 1 percent of its people depart for other states over the last three years. Again, the primary factor is money, if the state’s Finance Department is to be believed.


        That department hangs responsibility for most of the population loss on housing prices. Prices are too high for most Americans to buy in, even if they sell off fully paid-off homes in other places.


        High prices also cause many Californians to sell and move to larger, cheaper homes elsewhere, in many cases pocketing hundreds of thousands in the process. It’s hard to argue with buying larger quarters surrounded by more open space, all at lower cost.


        These moves have been eased by the great workplace shift that’s occurred almost simultaneously with California’s largest-ever population losses. With vast numbers of white collar workers now able to work remotely from almost anywhere, and still keep their high-paying jobs, it’s completely expectable that some will move out of state, and some have.


        But if legislative strategies designed to make housing here denser come to reality, it’s also expectable that some prices will drop and allow more people to move here and enjoy the lifestyle that makes this state dominate the list of happy places.





    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