Thursday, March 14, 2024







        For more than half a century, as California’s electric and natural gas rates rose to some of the highest levels in America, conflicts of interest have abounded among the state’s top utility regulators.


        Former members and presidents of the California Public Utilities Commission moved over to become top executives of the state’s largest privately-owned electric companies. One former president of the Southern California Edison Co., the state’s second biggest power provider, served more than a decade as president of the PUC – under two governors.


        Time and again, the big electric companies got their way on issues from rooftop solar and price increases to being allowed to stay in business after being convicted of criminal negligence and manslaughter when wildfires and an explosion they caused killed many dozens of citizens.


        Until now, there’s been little hope of positive change. That’s because unlike the federal government, this state has no laws preventing the kinds of conflicts that have been so common. Commission members cannot be fired, even by the governors who name them to six-year terms.


There is no ”cooling off” period between when commissioners leave their posts and when they can be hired by the utilities they’ve been supervising. Nothing to stop corporate bosses from becoming top regulators, as onetime SCE President Michael Peevey did under both Gov. Gray Davis and his successor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. No way to tell whether their decisions are dictated by secret deals with regulated monopoly companies.


        This has all been true under both Republican and Democratic governors, most of whom have gotten huge campaign contributions from big utilities. Example: current Gov. Gavin Newsom has received more than $10 million in donations from just one utility, San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric.


        But now there is hope at last. It comes in the form of Assembly Bill 2054, sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer Kahan of San Ramon.


        Given the lobbying power of companies like Edison, PG&E and San Diego Gas & Electric, the fate of this bill is far from certain, both in the Legislature and at the hands of Newsom, who would have to sign off before it can become law.


        But the bill offers a lot of positives, most prominently a 10-year waiting period before any PUC member can accept a job at any regulated company.


        Said Bauer Kahan in a statement, “With California’s electricity rates consistently the highest in the nation, it is crucial to safeguard against potential conflicts of interest and undue industry influence on (regulation). AB 2054 is a crucial step toward restoring faith in our regulatory process and ensuring that regulators act solely in the public interest.”


        The bill would clearly be a big step, but it’s still far from perfect, as it does not prevent former PUC members from becoming lobbyists and consultants for the companies. Those jobs can be at least as lucrative as high corporate posts, and create similar potential conflicts of interest.


        Currently, the two most recent former PUC presidents are in just such slots. Michael Picker, PUC chief for most of ex-Gov. Jerry Brown’s last two terms, became a partner in a consulting firm called Caliber Strategies, which lists clients like the huge Blackstone investment and holding company and Portland General Electric, which serves 44 percent of Oregon residents.


        Picker, who led the PUC and consistently refused media interview requests during the first years of California’s long siege of massive utility-sparked wildfires, describes himself as an expert on how utilities should handle fire situations.


        Meanwhile, Marybel Batjer, PUC president for two years after Picker left and previously a Newsom adviser on how to keep PG&E going through its wildfire disasters, went to the lobbying firm California Strategies. That outfit bills itself as “the state’s preeminent government relations, public affairs and campaign consultancy.”


        But just because AB 2054 is not perfect does not mean it should be rejected. Its waiting period would still be a vast improvement over the current scene, which essentially sees no limits on secret deals between regulators and big utilities.


        So this is a must-pass measure, and voters should carefully note whether their legislators resist the blandishments of the big utilities trying to kill it.



    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





        Rents are higher in Silicon Valley and the rest of the San Francisco Bay area than anywhere else in California, but the generally higher salaries in that region nevertheless give tenants there more disposable income than anywhere else in this state, even the far lower-priced Central Valley.


        That’s the surprising conclusion of a study by the RentCafe website, which tracks income vs. expenses for renters everywhere in America.


        The survey’s surprising conclusion: If you’re a renter, chances are you can live better in Sunnyvale, just north of San Jose, than anywhere else in California.


        Even with prices for necessities like utilities, food, health care and transportation consistently higher than just about all other California locations, the typical Sunnyvale renter, ensconced in the heart of Silicon Valley, spends a smaller fraction of income on the basics than counterparts everywhere else in California.


        Yes, rents are sky high in Sunnyvale, once considered a very ordinary San Francisco Peninsula suburb. The typical monthly cost of an apartment or house there is $3,013, RentCafe reports. But the average renter’s household income tops $145,000 a year, about $35,000 more than in San Francisco, where rents are higher, at $3,297 – or $39,200 per year. Utilities in Sunnyvale, taken as a fairly typical Silicon Valley ‘burb, are also lower, by about $1.000 per year than in San Francisco. But health care costs a bit more, at an average of $516 per month in Sunnyvale, compared with $489 in San Francisco.


Los Angeles renters could be excused for eating their hearts out at hearing those salary and expense figures and the disposal incomes that go with them. In fact, if the Bay Area numbers were completely typical, it’s safe to guess there would have been no California exodus over the last few years, as it would have been just as comfortable to stay put.


     But the typical Los Angeles renter draws annual pay about $87,000 less than their Sunnyvale counterpart, in part because of the disparity between high tech pay levels and those in other jobs.


        So where rent eats only about 25 percent of the average Sunnyvale renter’s income, the typical Los Angeles rent of $2,745, or almost $33,000 per year, takes 56 percent of the average income. Even with utilities averaging a couple thousand dollars a year less and healthcare and transportation costs far lower than in the Silicon Valley, the Los Angeles renter winds up with much less disposable income than counterparts on the Peninsula.


        Meanwhile, tenants in the Central Valley, Fresno, Modesto and Bakersfield stand out for having far lower average rent, food, transportation and healthcare costs than their coastal counterparts, but their average salaries, all in the mid-to-high 40 thousands, are so much lower that the reduced costs don’t help much.


        Overall, Stockton has the lowest utility costs among major California cities, but among the lower salary levels. Fresno has the lowest food and transportation costs, while Los Angeles and San Diego are at or near the top in food and transportation expenses and near the middle in salaries.


        The Orange County city of Anaheim stands near average in all these costs among California urban centers. With a typical monthly rent of $2,331, or nearly $28,000 per year, and income of about $66,000, the typical Anaheim renter should be able to handle expenses like utilities, food, healthcare and transportation and still have some disposable income left.


        But nothing like levels enjoyed in the Silicon Valley. Which makes it somewhat surprising that much of the population leaving California over the last five years, with a total of about 3 million emigrants, were from the Bay Area.


        That trend is now slowing, and much of the population loss was made up for with births and legal immigration. But it’s still a lesson that in long-distance moves, money has not been only factor pushing people out of California, even if it is the biggest part of the picture.


        With much of the exodus coming during the peak pandemic years of 2000-2002, the bottom line is that most emigrants were folks who began to seek more space once it became clear they could work outside offices and not worry about having to make long commutes.



    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






        When it comes to the causes of the inflation that continues to plague California households, perhaps Walt Kelly’s old comic strip swamp possum Pogo said it best: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”


        Kelly, of course, bowdlerized the line from War of 1812 U.S. Naval Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s report to a superior after defeating the British Navy in the Battle of Lake Erie: “We have met the enemy and they are ours.”


       Pogo’s variation on that has proven as telling over the decades since Kelly gave him the line describing people’s persistent tendency to cause problems for themselves.


       So it is today with inflation, among other issues. Yes, the Federal Reserve tells us inflation is not as severe as a year or so ago, when gasoline prices rose by $2 per gallon over two days in February 2023.


        But the price in California still hovers well above $4, in part because the state has yet to enforce its eight-month-old law allowing it to charge penalties against price-gouging oil companies. That’s true everywhere in California, where prices are more than $1 dollar per gallon higher than the national average, even though state taxes amount to far less than that.


        As long as the state Energy Commission doesn’t act to reel in those companies, one significant element of inflation will remain untouched. And virtually no one today is pressuring the commission to act.


        We are also at least partly at fault for fast-rising insurance prices, both for vehicles and real estate. We re-elected Ricardo Lara insurance commissioner in 2022 despite his well-publicized footsie games with insurance company campaign donations.


        That’s another inflation element. We also elected the legislators who raised the minimum wage to $16 an hour effective Jan. 1, with minimum hourly pay for health care workers set to rise to $23 on June 1. We elected the governor who signed off on those and we rejected by a large margin an effort to recall him.


        It’s hard to see how inflation can be avoided when minimum wages constantly rise. Some restaurants responded to their need to pay dishwashers more than before by listing a separate “minimum wage” surcharge with each of their menu items, letting customers know exactly why they’re now paying more than before.


        That same governor appointed all five Public Utility Commission members, the folks who continually raise electricity and natural gas rates, a tax that’s not formally called by that name. But utility rates have all the earmarks of taxes: We must pay up, or there will be severe consequences.


        We also voted twice against propositions for statewide rent controls. One result is that rents are staying high despite the myriad vacancies among newly-built market-rate apartments. Meanwhile, there are waiting lists for formally designated affordable units in many places.


        Even though he had nothing to do with any of these key inflationary factors, all of which contribute to the costs of food, fuel, entertainment tickets and just about everything else, it’s common to blame President Biden for all of it.


If there’s one bright spot in this, it is the likelihood that gasoline prices won’t go much higher in the immediate future. That’s partly because of the state law allowing penalties for gouging and also because Biden turned on the spigots of the National Petroleum Reserve, knocking down some worldwide wholesale oil prices. At the same time, he’s brought domestic oil production to record levels, even while once-and-future rival Donald Trump shouts “drill, drill, drill,” from the sidelines as he admits to wanting to be a dictator, but “only for Day 1.”



The bottom line on all this is clear. If we are suckered into blaming inflation on Biden, we will be ignoring our own responsibility for much of it. Which would mean we are ignoring the obvious reality that when it comes to inflation, Pogo was once again correct that “We have met the enemy and he is us.”      


    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








        Republicans behind the new recall drive against Gov. Gavin Newsom made a bit of a slip the other day, revealing the real reason behind their effort:


        Get Newsom off the road, where he’s been about the most effective surrogate President Biden has had during his reelection effort. Everywhere Newsom goes, he picks up IOUs from local Democrats, too, non-fungible currency he will be able to use in four years or so, if and when he makes his own run for the White House.


        Yes, California Republicans realize Donald Trump is the current frontrunner in his campaign to oust Biden and regain the White House for four more years (or more, if he can somehow engineer an end run around the Constitution’s 22nd Amendment and its two-term limit for presidents). But they also see that Newsom has become enough of a thorn in Trump’s side to rate a skit on “Saturday Night Live” and a disparaging nickname from Trump (“New-scum”).


        Newsom has also advertised on his own in Republican-run states, getting sufficiently under the skin of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to engineer the first nationally televised debate between two governors with no known future in some other office at stake.


        So Republicans are doing what they can to keep Newsom off the national road by trying to make him the first California governor ever to face two ballot recall drives. (Others have faced more attempts, but only two ever made a ballot).


        They haven’t been able to find anything criminal about Newsom or any moral failings Newsom hasn’t already confessed to and apologized for (like his long-ago marital infidelity and the infamous French  Laundry restaurant incident, where he dined out with friends in a swank eatery while ordering other state residents to lock down in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic).


        Instead, they’re going after him for policy differences: They don’t like his okay of Medi-Cal health benefits for undocumented immigrants, they don’t like California’s taxes and its high spending on efforts to reduce homelessness, they didn’t like school closures during the pandemic.


        Some of those were among the grounds they gave for the other recall the GOP engineered against Newsom, that one soundly beaten back in 2021, barely a year before Newsom was due to face the voters anyhow. Many voters saw it as a colossal waste of money, and voted “no” on those grounds alone.


        This time, recall sponsors will need to gather 1.38 million valid voter signatures before the end of May in order to get a recall question and a list of alternative candidates for governor onto the November general election ballot. That’s hundreds of thousands more signatures than are needed to qualify an ordinary initiative or referendum for a statewide vote, making the new recall unlikely to get a November vote.


        So this recall – if it qualifies – will likely need a special election, costing tens of millions of dollars and coming less than two years before Newsom will be term limited out of office anyhow. This from a party that often grouses about excessive and pointless government spending.


        If it all sounds like an unnecessary exercise in futility, that’s because it may be. And not merely because the GOP has virtually no one ready to step up as a credible alternate candidate, the way muscleman actor Arnold Schwarzenegger did in the state’s only successful gubernatorial recall, against ex-Gov. Gray Davis in 2003, when he had three years left in his second term.


        Nevertheless, Newsom’s team insists he won’t ignore the new recall effort. “We are taking it seriously,” said longtime Newsom spokesman Nathan Click. “These Trump Republicans are targeting Gov. Newsom because he’s out there defending democracy and fighting for the reelection of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. He’s not going to be distracted from that fight. Democracy is on the ballot, and he’s going to keep fighting.”


        If that eventually helps Newsom raise money for a presidential bid of his own and makes him the Democrats’ de facto leading spokesman should Biden lose this fall, so much the better for him. Just like the last time, the recall advocates might again be doing him a big favor. 




    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







        The poll results this spring were startling: fully half of America’s Republicans now believe California is in decline and 48 percent of them think this state “is not really American.”


        That translates to roughly one-fourth of all Americans holding distinctly negative views about California. Those were the conclusions of a survey taken for the Los Angeles Times.


        But most Californians simply shrug their shoulders at this, suggests another study that quickly followed. That one, by the political polling firm YouGov, shows the vast majority of Californians thumb their noses at anti-California sentiment, despite years of overblown talk about “the great California exodus.”


        Yes, the state has lost some population over the last 10 years, leading to the loss of one of its former 53 seats in the House of Representatives. But the 52 remaining Californians in Congress still form by far the largest state delegation, as about 12 percent of the nation’s people continue to live here.


        Most of those folks, despite the reality they could drastically cut living expenses by moving elsewhere, have no intention of leaving. What’s more, a significant number of Californians would be perfectly happy for their state to leave the USA, if it were possible to do that peacefully.


        The second poll, financed by the Marin County-based Independent California Institute, also indicated that 68 percent of Californians believe they would be better off than they are now if the state negotiated for itself a “special autonomous status within the U.S.” and arranged for transfer of almost all federal land and water infrastructure here to state and local governments. More than a supermajority, then, want at least special standing.


        No one should expect anything like quick action toward either that or California seceding outright from the USA, however. For one thing, Gov. Gavin Newsom will not hear of it. As early as 2018, during his first successful run for governor, he said in an interview that secession is ridiculous, a “non-starter.” That was before he became involved in presidential campaigning, while he still denied any interest in the top national office.


        In the new YouGov poll, 29 percent of Californians supported secession, almost identical to the portion of Alaskans and Texans who would like independence for their states.


        But 60 percent of Californians believe the Civil War made it impossible for either this state or any other to simply leave, even if some presidential candidates (Donald Trump, for one) have indicated they actually like the idea of a United States without California.


        As long ago as 2017, Reuters/Ipsos and Stanford University conducted polls that found about 30 percent of Californians supported Calexit, one name for secession. So sentiment on that has not changed much over time.


        But Independent California Institute director Coyote Marin focused on the 68 percent who said they think they’d be better off separated in some way from the rest of America. “Those are much higher numbers than found in polls which simply asked if California should secede,” Marin said.


        No one knows where such numbers might go if Trump were elected this fall and quickly declared martial law, something he considered attempting after his 2000 election defeat.


        The YouGov survey also found that Californians are not nearly as depressed about their state as outsiders. Fully 63 percent of the 500-plus Californians polled in carefully structured sampling said they cannot imagine wanting to live anywhere outside California.


        That’s in stark contrast to the 40 percent of non-California Republicans in the LA Times poll who said they don’t think California is even a good place to visit.


        There’s also the LA Times finding that half of all Republicans nationally would be glad to vote California out of the Union, an act that YouGov indicated would probably be welcomed by most Californians.


        For now, this is all sheer speculation and talk, with no real action on the horizon. But much depends on the November election outcome, which could sharply shift both national attitudes about California and Californians’ feelings about remaining American.




    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 what a big corporation sounds like when it whines after posting record profits: Chevron, in a federal financial filing during the winter, griped about “higher U.S. upstream impairment charges mainly in California. Continued regulatory challenges in (California have) resulted in lower than anticipated future investment levels in…business plans.”


Translation: Oil drilling is winding down in California and has been for the last ten years, partly because many wells are almost tapped out and Big Oil – having milked enormous profits from California’s resources for decades – is not happy about having to pay close-out costs.


     Make no mistake, it’s not state regulators who are responsible for the reduction in oil production here.


     California is also not unique in forcing oil well owners to plug or cap their wells and clean up the environment around them when production stops. For one example, Republican-run North Dakota – known for awhile as a fracking boom state – forces companies to cap wells when they have not produced for a year.


       So what is Chevron really whining about in its recent report to the Securities and Exchange Commission? It will have to pay about $112,000 in capping costs for each exhausted oil well it ceases to operate, plus a wide range of expenses for cleaning up surface contamination that in some cases has built up over almost a century.


       The company is on the hook for at least $1 billion in close-out costs for wells it has long exploited. But let’s not feel too sorry for this corporation: It made near-record profits on gasoline products in 2023, and set a record in the third quarter, between July and September, when it averaged margins of about $1.03 per gallon on gas from its two huge refineries at Richmond and El Segundo.


       Chevron’s problems with well closures are not unique. Fully 3,708 California oil wells were plugged in 2022, the last year for which numbers are yet available, of which a bit more than one-fourth belonged to Chevron. That means other drillers are also in line for billions in closure costs.


       One recent report from the London-based think tank Carbon Tracker says Big Oil has been looking to sell off older wells to smaller drilling operations over the last few years, partly to fob closing costs off on them. There have been few takers.


       The Carbon Tracker report concludes that California’s onshore oil wells might produce as much as $2.6 billion in revenues in their remaining lifetimes, but will cost at least $6.3 billion to plug and clean up.


Because oil companies probably can’t be forced to pay all that, chances are taxpayers will end up paying much of the shutdown costs, Carbon Tracker claims.


       But the companies will be forced to pay a significant amount, no matter how much they protest (all this is separate from what the companies will spend this fall on a ballot referendum trying to kill a new law that aims to ban much drilling near schools and other sensitive sites.)


       The figures on declining oil production make it clear the closure costs are not very far off in the future, or, as Chevron put it, not very far “upstream.”


       Since 2014, onshore oil production here has decreased by 42 percent, with production from gas wells falling even farther. Right now, state statistics show a major decline in new drilling, too. Where 113 new oil drilling permits were issued in the last quarter of 2022, there were none in 2023’s final three months.  Permits to rework or redrill old wells were also down in the last months of last year, from 466 in 2022 to 28 in 2023.


       Meanwhile, state data shows California now has more than 101,000 unplugged wells. Some wells Chevron lists as operating produce as little as three to five barrels of crude oil daily, about enough to fill five Ford pickups once.


So yes, there are plenty of closure costs in the future for Chevron and its brethren. But these costs were known well in advance, and it’s simply not fair for any oil company to blame California for them, trying to foist its own poor planning onto state regulators or an allegedly unfriendly business environment.



    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, March 11, 2024






        It may have been because Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Adam Schiff spent big in this month’s primary election to make sure former Major League Baseball star Steve Garvey would be his opponent this fall.


        It may have been because of a general lack of interest and enthusiasm among Democratic voters in California for that election, which featured no serious contests for President and only one statewide ballot proposition.


        But one thing for sure: Democrats must do much better this fall than they did in the California primary if they expect to take any congressional seats from Republicans in their bid to win back control of the House of Representatives.


        National Democrats have said for months those districts are their key to winning back the Speaker’s gavel.


        But in so-called swing district after swing district, primary election results left Democratic candidates with large amounts of ground to make up if they want to overtake current Republican incumbents.


        Almost all these districts reside in Southern California and the Central Valley, with most of Northern California not looking up for grabs at all, not even where longtime incumbent Democrats are about to retire.


        For several years, Democrats have believed they can topple Republican David Valadao from his 22nd district seat, mostly in Tulare and Kern counties. In the primary there, the serious contest was on the Democratic side, where former state Assemblyman Rudy Salas fought off a bid by state Sen. Melissa Hurtado for the right to a rematch with Valadao, who beat him two years ago.


        But Salas starts the runoff campaign at a disadvantage. He and Hurtado combined for just 44 percent of the primary vote, while Valadao and another Republican netted 55 percent. So the Democrat will need to attract 7 percent more votes in the fall than Democrats totaled this spring.


        It was worse for Democrats in the 27th District, centered on Santa Clarita, where Republican Mike Garcia seeks a third term from a district with a Democratic registration advantage. Garcia got 56 percent of the primary vote, while November rival Democrat George Whitesides pulled in just 32 percent.


        Meanwhile, in Republican Michelle Steel’s 45th district in Orange County, she took 56 percent of the vote to autumn Democratic rival Derek Tran’s paltry 16 percent.


Then there’s the 47th District seat in another part of Orange County, held for six years by Democrat Katie Porter, a loser to Schiff and Garvey in the Senate run. Democratic Party officials backed state Sen. Dave Min against activist Joanna Weiss in the primary and he won a runoff slot, the two Democrats netting 45 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Republican Scott Baugh and the No. 2 Republican drew a combined 47 percent.


Put it together and in virtually all the swing districts Democrats believe can give them control, they start the fall season at a disadvantage.


This does not outwardly faze Democratic officials, who mounted only a very light get-out-the-vote drive in the primary, saving their resources for the fall.


“Historically, the primary dynamic is not really predictive of general election outcomes in California,” said Dan Gottlieb, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Ultimately, there will be much more enthusiasm in the fall, when President Biden faces off again with Donald Trump. It’s that enthusiasm factor that brings out voters.”


He also said that because his party expects Schiff to have an easy time against Garvey in November, money that might otherwise have been spent on that race will wind up helping congressional candidates.


Democrats believe that while Schiff’s promoting Garvey in the primary to avoid facing off with Porter helped pump up the vote for down-ticket Republicans this spring, down-ticket Democrats expect to have far more resources later this year.


They will need that, plus a lot more enthusiasm than their voters showed this fall, to make up the margins Republicans enjoyed in those districts this spring. If they can’t summon these up and don’t add unexpected seats elsewhere, Democrats can expect Republicans to control the House for at least two more years.


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






        The consequences of college administrators refusing for years to act against flagrant anti-Semitism on campuses around California and America are now becoming clear: More violent hate and more threatening hate speech. No one can be certain where this might lead, but it won’t be anywhere nice.


        This became obvious the other day with the unplanned convergence of two events involving anti-Jewish activism in Berkeley, the de facto left-wing capital of this country.


        In the morning came a federal complaint about months-long anti-Jewish activity, speech and displays in Berkeley public schools, much of it led by faculty.


        Mere hours later, a screaming, violent crowd yelling “Kill the Jews,” among other things, broke into a UC Berkeley building and shut down a pro-Israel speaker whose sponsors had gotten their event fully authorized. No one was punished, despite videos and eyewitness accounts of the event, which involved at least one broken window and several damaged doors. Instead, campus leaders including the chancellor merely deplored the incident, saying “We cannot allow the use or threat of force to violate the First Amendment rights of a speaker, no matter how much we might disagree with their views.”


        So another campus hate incident went unpunished, most of the 200-odd participants continuing studies on the campus whose principles they violated.


        Among witnesses to both the actual event and televised accounts were untold numbers of elementary and high school teachers and teachers-to-be. This was scarcely the first such event where they had watched hatred go unpunished.


        That began almost 20 years on college campuses, with many anti-Semitic outbursts sponsored or led by professors. It’s been seen at schools from Stanford to San Francisco State, UC Irvine to UCLA, UC Davis and Cal State Northridge. Discipline of faculty for these things has been rare and light, nor has any student  been expelled.


        The most anyone has done to stop the hate has been statements like the one from UC Berkeley. Yet, everyone involved knows that if any other minority were similarly attacked, punishments would be harsh.


        One probable consequence of millions of students witnessing all this became clear in the federal complaint against the Berkeley schools, filed by two anti-bigotry organizations.


        The complaint details teacher-led demonstrations and rallies against Israel’s invasion of Gaza starting soon after the Gaza-based Hamas terrorist organization massacred, raped and kidnapped more than 1,400 persons on Oct. 7. Protests against Israel’s invasion began the day after the massacre, more than a week before the Israeli military actually moved on Gaza.


        Berkeley teachers in this classic “blame-the-victims” campaign acted without permission of their bosses, who have not punished them. Some teachers instigated demonstrations by children as young as second-graders, the complaint charges, often leaving children who did not participate alone in unsupervised classrooms.


        While a few incidents were limited to small children pasting sticky notes on prominent walls saying “Stop Bombing Babies,” many others devolved into bullying where other children shouted “Kill the Jews” at Jewish classmates. No similar in-school anti-Moslem or anti-Arab incidents have been reported.


        Other public school rallies featured students yelling “F..k the Jews” and “Gas the Jews,” which is as outright anti-Semitic as language can get, even if teacher/leaders say they are merely anti-Israel.


        District officials said they encourage reporting such incidents and “vigorously investigate” them. But the complaint charges no teacher has been disciplined in any way for all this, despite cited cases where parents informed administrators and got no action while the episodes continued.


        How could this happen? One likely reason is that the teachers involved had seen similar behavior go unpunished on college campuses and correctly figured they also would not be disciplined.


        Comparable complaints have been filed by others against school districts in San Francisco and Oakland, where more than 30 families have asked to transfer their children to other districts. Students at some Los Angeles Unified high schools have walked out to protest similar bullying.


        The behavior reported in all these places was reminiscent of what many Holocaust survivors reported enduring in German public schools during the early 20th Century. We know where that led.


        Which is why action now, not mere words, is a must. For all it would take is one demagogue to turn uncontrolled hate into something much more concrete and widespread.



    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

Tuesday, March 5, 2024








        The possible passage of Proposition 1 raises one very basic question: Could it help solve homelessness or merely be another financial boondoggle helping a few but leaving the crisis in the streets essentially unsolved?


        First, there is no doubt this measure can help some of California’s approximately 180,000 unhoused. Its $6.4 billion cost will provide more than 11,000 new treatment beds for people with serious mental and emotional problems, reinforce the treatment they can already get in some counties through the relatively new and unproven Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) court system and possibly reduce some of the homelessness now so visible on streets and parks all around California.


        But some informed estimates held during this winter’s campaign that it could not solve more than 2 percent of the problem.


        Which raises an obvious question: if this estimate is correct, is that enough of an improvement to justify the $310 million the state’s general fund will likely pay in each of the next 30 years to repay the bonds?


        The money would be added onto the $10 billion to $13 billion now distributed each year to counties for mental health care and drug and alcohol treatment. Roughly one-third of that money comes from a tax on those with $1 million-plus incomes that’s been levied for this purpose since 2005.


        That tax would continue under Prop. 1, so there will be no substitution of bond money for tax funds, and the new money should strictly be an add-on.


        With about 70 percent of Californians listing homelessness as California’s biggest unsolved problem, there was plenty of reason to vote for this proposition, but it's fate was still uncertain after Election Day. But the new bond’s proceeds might seem like a drop in the bucket considering that about 47 percent of today’s homeless are afflicted with mental or emotional illness, with another 150,000 others in similar difficulty now housed in prisons at a cost of about $130,000 per year.


        Some experts said during the Prop. 1 campaign that the urgency of the problem makes every dollar coming in constructive. But maybe not, if that gives voters the sense they’ve just done something important, causing them to become frustrated with government when they see the bonds solving only a bit of the crisis.


        For sure, the mental illness problem is severe. For one measure, there’s $217 million just spent by the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District on adding steel netting to prevent suicides by jumping from that landmark span.


        Californians who voted for this measure were probably correct to do it, even if it couldn’t by itself solve homelessness or mental health crises. Every dent in the problem represents improvement in the quality of life for many who have been unhoused.


Part of the background of Prop. 1 was the realization that one in every 20 California adults now lives with serious mental illness and the more treatment beds available, the more likely some progress can be made treating those who need help. At the same time, one in 13 California children of school age suffers serious emotional disturbance and one in 10 Californians has some sort of substance abuse disorder.


        One little publicized part of Prop. 1 speaks to this last issue, allowing a small percentage of current mental health spending to be used against substance abuse. Since substance abuse from alcoholism to opioid dependence can lead straight into to mental illness, this might help with both mental illness and drug dependency.


        It all amounts to a measure of how Californians are still paying for the single biggest error made by Ronald Reagan, who as governor in the 1960s and '70s engineered the closing of most of this state’s mental hospitals, which were never replaced.


        Reagan planned to set up smaller halfway houses to replace those institutions, letting recovering mental illness patients ease back into society while still getting treatment. Those homes never materialized and homelessness has proliferated steadily ever since.


        If Prop. 1, combined with CARE courts, can solve even a small percentage of today’s problems, it would be a positive. But if it’s too little and doesn’t accomplish much, then – if it narrowly passes –. it will go down as a waste of public money. The proof, as usual, would be in the performance.



    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








          Now it will be Adam Schiff vs. Steve Garvey in what could turn into a bitter runoff battle for the U.S, Senate seat long held by the late Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a contest sure to evoke many more baseball metaphors than any previous California campaign.


          Garvey, the former Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres first baseman and National League most valuable player in 1974, has played the baseball card to the hilt, even passing out autographed horsehides at many campaign stops. On Election Night, he likened his showing to a walk-off home run.


          With his solid second-place finish in the spring primary election, he becomes the second Republican to make a Senate runoff election since the ultra-obscure Elizabeth Emken ran against Feinstein in 2012.


          Emken didn’t fare so well that November, Feinstein blasting her by a 67-33 margin in the first California Senate race run under the top two primary system, where the two leading vote-getters in the primary go into the runoff, no matter what the gap between them might have been in the first round.


          The chasm between Feinstein and Emken was even wider in that year’s primary than in the runoff.


          Garvey won his spot on this year’s general election ballot with a phlegmatic style that saw him tuck his chin into his shoulder and duck questions the way he once spit on low and outside sliders on which he didn’t want to waste a swing. It didn’t hurt that Schiff-linked committees promoted him in hopes it would give their man an easy fall matchup.


          In the campaign’s three debates, featuring Garvey and three Democratic members of Congress, he ducked away from enough questions to thoroughly earn a dig tossed at him by Irvine Rep. Katie Porter: “Once a Dodger, always a dodger.”


          But no Democrat in the primary could come close to matching Garvey’s name identification, so he wasn’t hurt while evading questions on how he might vote on various issues by saying things like “We the people will let me know on that.”


          The fact that millions of Californians knew Garvey’s name and what he did in baseball long before he decided to run for office at age 75 allowed him to solidify the approximately one-fourth of California voters who are registered Republican.


          With three major candidates splintering the Democratic vote, Garvey eased into the runoff.


          His celebrity made him what the state GOP wanted after its long string of feeble candidates or none at all in Senate runoffs. That drought was partly due to the fact that no Republican since Arnold Schwarzenegger has won statewide office here, and it is difficult for minority members of the Legislature to gain the wide recognition needed to be a serious contender for higher office in this huge state.


          Celebrities already have that, as Schwarzenegger and now Garvey proved. They need no policy experience, and like Garvey, can get away with saying they will learn on the job.


          But by the end of October, as Californians mark the mail-in ballots most now use, Schiff’s name may be at about as recognizable as Garvey’s.


          He’s led the fundraising in this campaign from the start, beginning with a fat purse moved over from his congressional campaign account, which he previously used to help other Democrats like Porter because his own Burbank-based seat was so safely Democratic.


          Schiff also became nationally known for leading two impeachment efforts against ex-President Donald Trump, who also won in his own California primary, coming near to clinching the GOP nomination for a rematch with President Biden.


          All of which means that while Garvey could parley his sports achievements and fame into a slot on the November ballot, that’s likely as far he can go.


          He stepped into deep gopher holes at times during the debates, one example coming when he accused Schiff of lying about Russian aid to Trump’s 2016 presidential run. Schiff quickly responded with a laundry list of Russian cooperation with Trump, while Garvey stood mute in response.


          The upshot is that while it might be fun to contemplate the first professional ballplayer in the Senate since Kentucky’s (and the Detroit Tigers’) Jim Bunning, it’s not apt to happen here. Schiff is likely a November shoo-in.



    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: “Schiff led the fundraising in this campaign from the start.”