Monday, July 31, 2023






        The weaknesses in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal for a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution do not lie with the gun controls he seeks to win via this long, convoluted route.


        Rather, it’s the rest of the process that’s a potential killer – not of people, but of the basic rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights contained in that Constitution.


        Newsom, realizing it is unlikely almost to the point of impossibility, has pretty much abandoned the route by which every constitutional amendment of the last 200 years worked its way into America’s primary governing document.


        That has been via Congress proposing amendments that were then approved by legislatures in three-fourths of the states, a number now standing at 38.


        Because Congress and many legislatures labor under the strong influence of the National Rifle Assn. and other dedicated gun control foes, Newsom knows no firearms amendment proposed in the normal manner stands much chance of passage.


        If he tries to follow the usual path, Newsom will be thwarted in raising the federal minimum age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21, he will win no universal background checks to prevent dangerous individuals getting guns and there will be no ban on sale of military-style assault weapons.


        That leaves one other venue for Newsom to try – a constitutional convention. There have been none of those since 1787.


        Here’s the rub: Newsom was not the first to think of using this tactic to further goals he believes essential to America’s well-being. Another movement has been in the field for fully 10 years trying to get approval for a second constitutional convention from the required two-thirds of states (now 34).


        That group calls itself Convention of States Action (COS). It has won approvals from 19 legislatures, just 15 shy of its goal. COS says its convention would be “restricted to proposing amendments that will impose fiscal restraint on government, limit its powers and jurisdiction and impose term limits on federal officials and members of Congress…” and more.


        But the existing Constitution does not prohibit such a convention from delving into any other subjects it likes, no matter what  the COS resolution passed by many states may say. Because COS is the handiwork of ultra-conservative activists, fears abound that such a convention could bring amendments calling for a national ban on abortions, an end to free speech and/or freedom of religion and an end to birthright citizenship, among other items.


        Into this morass steps Newsom. So far, liberal-led state legislatures have resisted approving COS resolutions. But what if some now were to back Newsom’s proposal and approve a convention supposedly limited to gun control issues?


        No one knows if the legislative votes for a constitutional convention would be combined, even if they carry very different putative restrictions on what a convention could do. No one knows because nothing like this has happened before.


        Isn’t a vote for a convention a vote for a convention, no matter what restrictions are listed, since the current Constitution does not limit what any convention could take up?


        What is known is that at any such convention, voting would be done by state, not by counts of delegate preferences. In short, tiny Wyoming, with about the same population as the combination of Long Beach and Torrance, just two of the 88 cities in Los Angeles County, would have as loud a voice as California or Texas. Talk about the tail wagging the dog!


        And the Constitution sets no time limits on how long any proposed amendment stays in consideration. The last amendment added, the 27th, passed in 1992, about 200 years after it was first proposed. That one forbids members of Congress who approve raises for themselves to collect the money until after the next election.


        In short, the big flaws in Newsom’s plan for a 28th Amendment are the fact it would not get through Congress and that it could facilitate a hyper-destructive and divisive constitutional convention.


        Far better for the governor – if he’s really interested in limiting firearm access and not merely strengthening his national profile – to campaign for gun controls in individual states, rather than seeking a national solution. Otherwise, he could be opening a completely unprecedented Pandora’s Box.


    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







        If there’s one tax break California lawmakers have granted that really works, it’s probably the film tax credit that was extended another five years the other day with a signature from Gov. Gavin Newsom.


        While a lot of the talk about a massive population exodus from this state is exaggerated hyperbole (California having lost less than 2 percent of its populace to out-migration over the last decade), there was nothing fictional about what happened in entertainment, the state’s third largest industry – even before today’s work stoppage.


        Television production was migrating en masse to newly built studios in Canadian cities like Vancouver and Toronto. Movies were increasingly filmed in Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina and New York. This happened not because of greater resources, but because of tax subsidies granted by those states and some Canadian provinces.



        Local governments went so far as to foot the bill for construction of studios, outfitting trailers as dressing rooms and even covering hotel bills.


        Early in the last decade, California realized it could no longer take for granted its status as the entertainment capital of the world. If the Golden State weren’t careful, Los Angeles might have become little more than a home to studio executives, post-production houses and editing rooms. It could have been sayonara Hollywood, except for a whitewashed sign in the hills visible from the Santa Monica Freeway, a wax museum and some memorabilia shops along a few faded boulevards.


        Some other industry easily could have displaced entertainment as the third biggest in this state, behind only high technology and agriculture.


        But that didn’t occur; entertainment survives as big business here largely because of tax credits granted to the industry in return for keeping production home.


        “You follow the money,” actor-director Ben Affleck told one reporter after the tax credit funds began flowing. He noted that tax credits and incentives sometimes cover as much as one-third of production costs in a business where profit margins can be thin. States go after California’s production schedules because they can lead to new jobs (mostly temporary ones) and more government revenue without the kind of environmental problems brought by new factories and warehouses.


        Movie makers almost always guarantee host states they will leave conditions exactly as they were before, or better. Many a home in Southern California, similarly, has gotten a facelift after being used as a movie location.


        One study showed that over the last decade, California’s tax credits produced at least $1.11 in state and local tax revenues for every dollar of tax benefits deployed.


        Relatively small as California film location credits still are (less than one-fifteenth of national credits from a state with about one-ninth of the national population), the tax break led to more than $10 billion in movie spending in California over the last decade.


        Plus, it helps keep the high-paid, highly-taxed film industry executives and stars and their resources at home.


        So it was only sensible for the Legislature and Newsom to renew those benefits this summer, along with a couple of new benefits to the industry. One fresh bone tossed to the studios: When their tax credits are larger than their tax bills, they will now get cash payments, rather than just carrying the benefit over to future years of tax returns.


        The new rules also include safety factors inspired in part by the “Rust” debacle, where actor Alec Baldwin accidentally killed a cinematographer on a movie set in New Mexico because he believed a prop gun wasn’t loaded -- and it was.


        Movies involving firearms will now need to have a safety advisor on set during filming. Armorers and prop masters will also get new training and for the first time must be licensed.


        Plus, a small part of tax credits will depend on meeting new diversity targets, with a subsidy for training film workers going to community colleges that serve mostly students of color.


        It’s a deal that promises to maintain entertainment as big business in California by continuing a tax break whose benefits to the state have long been proven.



    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, July 24, 2023








        Legwork, the term for reporters going to great lengths to find and question news sources and folks who have made news either deliberately or unintentionally, has long epitomized journalistic integrity and enterprise.


        But the practice is under threat today as public officials seek ever more to avoid the scrutiny that comes with confronting tough questions.


        So it was no real surprise the other day, when the Los Angeles police union accused reporters of “stalking” because they went to the front door of an officer at least partially responsible for a deadly 2021 error that blew up a bomb disposal vehicle, displacing dozens of persons from their homes and seriously injuring 17. Police Chief Michel Moore chimed in, claiming “Such unannounced visits unnecessarily create fear and intimidation on the part of our people and their family…”


In the incident, police disposed of illegal commercial fireworks but ended up destroying their own “total containment vehicle” and mutilating parts of a surrounding residential area. The city has paid more than $5 million so far for damage caused, with more than 100 claims not settled.


        Yet, Moore, the Police Protective League and the police department’s inspector general long refused to name the officers responsible.


        After the Los Angeles Times eventually learned who was involved, reporters attempted to get their side of the story this summer.


        Two reporters went to the front door of Sgt. Stephanie Alcocer, departing when asked to leave her property. Their behavior was straight out of Journalism 101, as portrayed in films from “All the President’s Men” to “She Said.”


        But the union called it “stalking.”  A union email said “Random people knocking on our doors, following us or stalking us until we get home is wrong.”


        This is the same union whose members sometimes arrest reporters covering large demonstrations even when they’re wearing credentials issued by police.


        At stake here is whether citizens are entitled to know which officers in their pay have made serious mistakes and whether they’ve been disciplined. Alcocer, it turns out, was barely chastised.


A bomb squad veteran, she reportedly constructed the “countercharge” used to blow up the fireworks inside the bomb containment vehicle, a specially built armored truck which failed to smother the explosion.


Identified in the inspector general’s report only as Bomb Tech E, she was suspended for 10 days, but later promoted to sergeant.


        The police response to the Times’ long pursuit of this story was typical of today’s government officials; they’re paid by taxpayers, but often resist answering to them.


        In government by press release, officials tell their sanitized, frequently minimized, version of events and expect media and the public to lap it up.


        Many government agencies forbid employees from talking to reporters without prior approval by press relations officials, sometimes themselves former reporters who joined government because of media layoffs or just for higher pay.


        This reaches into the top levels of government, where President Biden has given fewer press conferences to date than any president since Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, about one-fourth as many as ex-President Donald Trump. When modern presidents do talk to reporters, it is often while walking to helicopters.


        California governors are much the same. Before the coronavirus pandemic, they often held press conferences to promote various projects. Now, only rarely.


Even then, when reporters asked the likes of Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom about anything other than their chosen theme for a given day, they risked becoming objects of gubernatorial ire.


        “Why are you asking me about prisons today?” bellowed Schwarzenegger at a reporter during one freeway ribbon-cutting. “You can’t do that now!”


        Previous attempts to question Schwarzenegger had been rebuffed, so the reporter resorted to a venue where all questions were supposedly fair game.


        If presidents and governors, the ultimate bosses of officials like police chiefs, refuse to answer questions, it’s no surprise when lower officials do the same.


        That's one reason reporters know they will more likely get unrehearsed, honest information by showing up unannounced than if they work through press agents.


        Government by press release is pervasive today mainly because the public rarely objects. If citizens want accountable government, it’s high time they back up the reporters who are their main watchdogs.



    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








    If any California news media had actually covered these two strongly-related stories, it would have been difficult to avoid seeing the irony in them:


        On the same early July day that California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta issued a stern warning to cities and counties around the state about alleged misuse of local “urgency” zoning rules designed to frustrate the increased housing density laws Bonta loves to push, the rebellion against those very laws formally began.


        This happened when Bonta’s own office received a new initiative designed to make local governments – not the state – supreme in setting housing policies and patterns.


        Bonta’s warning cited laws passed in the last two years like SB 9 and AB 2011, both of which demand that local governments approve multiple apartments or condominiums in areas that now feature single homes only on discrete properties.


        But the new initiative – which Bonta must formally name and summarize before supporters can seek signatures to place it on the November 2024 ballot – would give local officials or local voters power to override those new laws and others the Legislature passes or has passed that regulate housing and land use.


        In short, if passed, this initiative would take lawmakers and Gov. Newsom to a figurative woodshed and stop them from trying to reshape California into a far denser place than it ever has been.


        A two-year delay in putting forward and passing something like this initiative now means the myriad buildings under construction or recently completed will survive and remain standing even if the new measure passes.


        This initiative reflects a change in tactics for local governments and their backers who originally sought to pass a referendum canceling two landmark laws known as SB 9 and 10, passed in 2021 and allowing, among other things, as many as six new housing units on almost every lot now occupied by just one home.


        The referendum that never qualified for the 2022 ballot failed because the coronavirus pandemic drove the cost of gathering signatures to unprecedented heights – as much as $16 per signature in some parts of the San Francisco Bay area.


        There was also the fact it targeted only SB 9 and 10, which have for the moment all but ended R-1 zoning in California. Even if those laws were cancelled, backers came to realize, determined lawmakers like San Francisco’s Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener could respond by writing new ones that would be only slightly different and still get the density they want.


        Those lawmakers, aided by threats from Newsom and Bonta to cut off virtually all state funding from local governments, pay no heed to local preferences or the character and ambiance of individual cities. They treat Altadena the same as Atherton, San Dimas like Santa Cruz. Their guiding principle: everyone, everywhere must welcome high rise living. Never mind that they do little to promote housing affordability and never mind the fact that almost half of what’s been built thus far remains vacant.


        Rather than going after just two specific laws, the new initiative states its purpose is to “protect the ability of local communities to make land use planning and zoning decisions,” that “one size does not fit all” and that “local land use planning or zoning initiatives approved by voters shall not be nullified or superseded by state law.”


        In short, the locals would make land use and housing decisions in perpetuity if this passes. Bonta would in effect become a paper tiger making empty threats.


        It’s possible the sponsors, including current and former leaders of cities around the state, could compromise with die-hard densifiers in the Legislature before this measure reaches the ballot, but that seems unlikely because some sponsors believe the new state housing laws are an attack against democracy itself.


        Said Dennis Richards, a former longtime member of the San Francisco planning commission, “Taking this field away from local government is a way of wiping out democracy. People like Wiener are saying it does not matter what local residents think about their cities or how they’ve voted.”


        Which means the rebellion is on, and ironically it’s Bonta who now gets to make the first move.




    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, July 17, 2023






        There’s been copious news coverage of attempts by state government to force dense new housing construction on cities around California. Much less is said about attempts to compel Californians to switch almost every type of domestic appliance or machine from natural gas fuel to electricity.


        At the same time, little note was taken of power blackouts – sometimes lasting a week or more – that accompanied the myriad storms of last winter, which set records for snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and other California mountain ranges.


        Despite those events, much more in-home electrification likely be forced on homeowners in the near future.


        It’s just possible that after the huge natural gas bills handed to most Californians early this year, some home and condominium owners feel full electrification can’t come soon enough.


        Seemingly getting set for this, a movement among cities and counties over the last three years now sees builders installing electric appliances in most new housing throughout the state. At the same time, pressure will soon start building on owners of existing homes to electrify almost everything whenever they create significant additions or remodels.


        Some cities are even adopting ordinances to force such conversions as part of  all home sales after 2028 or 2030, although there may be delays in that requirement because a federal appeals court ruled this spring that Berkeley cannot enforce its new law requiring conversions in short order.


        These coming policies stem from conventional wisdom among officials that says fossil fuel natural gas furthers climate change. People holding this view often also insist California must lead in mitigating that as much as possible. Many local government staffers are also convinced gas appliances emit toxic fumes like oxides of nitrogen, a major component of smog. They urge anyone using gas stoves to run every available ventilator while cooking.


So water heaters (even tankless ones), stoves and stovetops, ovens, clothes dryers, central heaters – virtually any appliance a homeowner might use – might become electric, rather than gas-fired, within a decade or so.


        This would be much like the 1970s-era conversions to low-flow for most water-using devices, from bathroom and kitchen faucets to washing machines and shower heads.


        As with those changes and the thousands of switches from green lawns to drought-resistant plants, many cities and counties will likely subsidize folks who get on board.


        This movement is strongest now in Northern California, where cities like San Mateo and Piedmont require homeowners to install new outlets for electric appliances during all kitchen and laundry room renovations. They also require installing high-capacity electric circuit panels whenever existing panels are altered or upgraded.


        Some cities encourage these changes when construction is happening anyway, making the changeovers cheaper than if they were separate projects.


        Other cities have also begun mandating heat pumps when heaters are replaced, but are not yet forcing homeowners to dump natural gas space heaters.


        That will likely come within the next 10 to 20 years, but probably not until the state’s electric grid grows considerably, as must happen anyhow for the state to reach its stated goal of ending sales of strictly gasoline-powered cars by 2035.


        But the real shock will come when and if cities adopt and enforce almost complete electrification at time of sale. That could cut home sellers’ profits by thousands of dollars on almost every transaction.


        This putative requirement will surely meet heavy resistance among homeowners, who have lived with gas appliances for many decades without apparent harm, at the same time enjoying more reliability than electricity offers in an era of frequent blackouts.


        Their likely resistance is bound to produce a series of local ballot measures seeking to maintain the status quo, where homeowners and apartment landlords can freely choose whatever appliances they like.


        Of course, just as with housing policy, state government lurks in the background. If the Legislature passes new laws mandating mass electrification no matter the cost, some local governments will surely mount legal challenges, egged on by change-resistant homeowners.


        Then, as with today’s housing issues, it will be up to the courts to decide whether charter cities, normally free to make local laws that diverge from state rules, can also decide this issue on their own.

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






        There’s a reason why California has seen fewer mass shootings in recent years than other places like Texas and Kentucky: This state still bans private ownership of military-style AR-15 semi-automatic rifles.


        Those were the weapons used in school massacres from Sandy Hook in Connecticut to Uvalde, Texas. An AR-15-like gun was used to kill eight in early May in Allen, Texas. The mass killing list goes on, growing steadily, and now stands at record levels for any single year.


The good news for Californians interested in keeping this state safer than many others is that early this spring, a state appeals court in Sacramento found a way around the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that struck down some state laws that restricted  concealed weapons carry to people who could demonstrate a specific need to bear arms for self-defense.


But in its mid-May ruling, the Third District Court of Appeal said high capacity rifles like AR-15s, which can be fired repeatedly without reloading, are “not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.”


That contradicts the reasoning of the National Rifle Assn. (NRA), which has often claimed AR-15s are primarily used for hunting. No one contends these are not used for hunting, but the appeals court said that does not mean they’re not “dangerous and unusual” weapons, which a 2008 Supreme Court ruling still allows states to regulate.


Last year’s decision by the new, more conservative Supreme Court majority and written by the ethically compromised Justice Clarence Thomas, did not deal with this issue.


The Sacramento-based appeals court ruled in the case of Alex Bocanegra, a San Jose man who drove to the Central Valley city of Manteca to fire an AR-15 style gun at the home of a former friend then in a relationship with Bocanegra’s wife. That is one of the specific situations California legislators discussed before passing the state’s 30-year-old ban on many such weapons.


This discussion came about the time when California U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein authored a similar federal ban that significantly reduced mass shootings for the 10 years it was in force after being signed by then-President Bill Clinton.


But the California law is currently threatened by gun interests around the nation who claim last year’s Supreme Court ruling invalidates assault weapons bans even though it did not mention them or negate the language of the 2008 decision. A federal appeals court in New Orleans early this year endorsed this interpretation, saying specific gun bans like California’s are “not part of U.S. historical tradition.”


Of course, neither are mass shootings in schools, homes, banks and stores, all of which have been occurring very frequently since the 1994 federal law expired without much hope for renewal by a Congress under heavy NRA influence. One published count of multiple-shooting episodes claimed 242 occurred around the nation in just the first five months of this year.


It's possible the California appeals court decision may not stand even a year, especially if the Supreme Court takes up one or more cases involving AR-15s and other semi-automatic weapons.


And yet… even the majority Republican legislators in Texas, long opposed to gun controls, this spring backed an increase from 18 to 21 in the minimum age for buyers of AR-15s and their clones. This was the direct result of the Uvalde and Allen killings, plus another incident in Cleveland, Texas where five died in an immigrant-on-immigrants shooting.


So there is the possibility the steady horror of this year’s early months will move both courts and politicians to moderate anti gun-control stances at least somewhat.


Meanwhile, the Sacramento appeals court ruling is binding on most other California courts unless or until the state Supreme Court or a federal appeals court overturns it.


This may afford some greater degree of safety for awhile for Californians compared with residents of other states that often resist gun controls. But only so long as it’s not countermanded by higher courts.

     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