Monday, April 29, 2024







        For most of the early and teen years of this century, Kamala Harris was one of the weakest of vote-getters in Democratic-dominated California, even while she held three electoral offices in succession.


        Her marginal vote-getting performances have been mostly glossed over since she became President Biden’s backup as vice president.


        But what happens if the Biden-Harris ticket loses this fall and Harris is left without public office for the first time in 22 years? Harris will have just turned 60 a couple of weeks before Election Day, an age when many politicians are just getting started and almost exactly 30 years younger than former U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein was when she died in office.


        Not exactly a retirement scenario. And yet, if she and Biden lose, Harris would have a lot of proving to do about her electoral appeal before she could even think about running for President again, as she briefly did in 2020.


        Enter California’s wide open 2026 race for governor. What better venue for Harris to prove she has become a much more potent politician than she ever was before?


        The race is already somewhat crowded, with the likes of Lt. Gov. Elena Kounalakis, former state Senate President Toni Atkins, former state Controller Betty Yee and current state Schools Supt. Tony Thurmond now running. Other potential entrants include Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta, former Atty. Gen. and current federal Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and very likely, Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco, the lone significant Republican possibility at the moment.


        Harris’ current prominence and greater name recognition would immediately propel her to the forefront of that field, and it might be enough to get her into the runoff election two years from now under the state’s Top Two “jungle primary” system. She would also have the services of the same campaign consultants who have helped current Gov. Gavin Newsom to win after win, gaining national prominence in the process.


        But would Harris then be ripe for an upset? That’s where her previous nondescript polling record could become relevant.


        When she ran for district attorney of San Francisco in 2003, she lost in the primary to unpopular incumbent Terence Hallinan, but later beat him in a runoff. She then was unopposed for reelection in 2007.


        When she ran for California attorney general in 2010, in the last state election before the advent of Top Two, Harris easily won the Democratic primary, but Republican rival Steve Cooley, then the Los Angeles district attorney, almost upset her despite the Democrats’ huge voter registration advantage. She won by just 6,000 votes out of 9.6 million cast, the outcome not determined until more than three weeks after the last vote was cast.


        Easily reelected later, she set her sights on the Senate seat once held by Democrat Barbara Boxer and drew a Democrat for her runoff opponent. Harris easily beat former Orange County Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, but still got only 39 percent of the primary vote before easing through the runoff with 61 percent.


        Altogether, that’s an underwhelming performance in this heavily Democratic state.


        But Harris has emerged lately as the Biden Administration’s top spokesperson on abortion, barnstorming the nation to remind voters – especially women – that ex-President Donald Trump is responsible for today’s patchwork state-by-state picture on the procedure. That’s by virtue of his having named three conservative Supreme Court justices, all of whom voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.


        Her railing against women’s loss of the right to choose in many states may have made her more popular among women voters, but does not appear to have helped her standing among males.


        The net effect is not yet enough to push her into a positive national rating. A recent USA Today/Suffolk poll found that more than half of voters surveyed, 54 percent, considered Harris not qualified to be President, despite four years of major national experience. Or perhaps because of it.


        The upshot is that if Biden and Harris lose this fall, Harris would need to prove herself in a way she never has before she could be considered a serious future presidential candidate. Becoming California governor would do that better than almost anything else.



    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 current spate of campus takeovers by pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli and often anti-Semitic protesters turns out to be neither an accident nor, for the most part, spontaneous .


This first became clear when demonstrators yelling “We Are Hamas” and “Gas the Jews” appeared on university campuses early on Oct. 8, the morning after the terrorist group’s surprise attack killed at least 1,200 Israeli Jews and kidnapped another 240, while also raping and mutilating an unknown number of others and burning hundreds of homes. Those demonstrations were clearly pre-planned, coming a full week before Israel began its war on Gaza, from which the Hamas forces had come.


        A stunned Israel had not yet taken revenge, but protesters behaved as if the Jewish nation had already bombed Gaza to smithereens.


        The pre-planning goes back to widespread campus “clubs” called Students for Justice in Palestine, long financed in part by the oil-rich Arab emirate Qatar and in part by private donors. Qatar’s access to major college campuses was helped by more than $11 billion in contributions to American universities since 1988.


        As of 2017, California campuses including Stanford University, UCLA, UC Berkeley and USC were among the top 10 recipients of Qatari money, according to one federal report. Some universities, including New York state’s Cornell University and Northwestern University outside Chicago, eventually established branch campuses in the desert Qatari city of Doha. One big irony was Northwestern setting up a $600 million branch of its noted journalism school in Qatar, where there is no press freedom.


        Another irony saw Qatar, which has reportedly contributed at least $3 billion to Hamas, set itself up as the main “neutral” arbitrator seeking a cease fire after Israel eventually did launch its response to Oct. 7.


        Meanwhile, federal reports between 2015 and 2020 concluded that universities with major funding from Arab countries including Qatar and Saudi Arabia experienced 300 percent more anti-Semitic incidents than those that did not get such funding. Institutions receiving Qatari cash during the same period had 250 percent more anti-Semitic episodes than those which got none.



        And the New York based Lawfare Project, which examined Qatar’s involvement in American higher education through the Qatar Foundation International, expressed concerns over biased presentation of content in classes related to the Middle East. The group reported that Qatari money spurred positively skewed teaching about Islam while sidelining balanced discussions of other religions like Judaism and Christianity.


        Meanwhile, federal reports indicated that virtually all universities on the take from Qatar violated laws requiring them to disclose foreign donations, concealing unknown amounts of funding from oil rich countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia.


        For those who have wondered why many faculty members at California campuses like UC Berkeley, Stanford, USC, UCLA and UC Santa Barbara participate enthusiastically in the ongoing protests, where an unknown but significant percentage of participants are not actual students, the Qatari and other Arab contributions might provide a clue, as they help fund hundreds of teaching positions.


        Other reports confirm that between the 2001Twin Towers attack and 2021, Qatar contributed $4.7 billion to American universities, with California campuses getting their proportionate share. The National Association of Scholars concluded most of the recipients did not report all they received, including $100 million taken by Texas A&M University.


        Could all this offer some explanation for why university presidents did little about the hate spewed at the SJP-organized protests until those demonstrations morphed into tent cities taking over central areas on the campuses of Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA and USC, to name only four of the California universities now involved? All are among major recipients of Qatari money. The funding also helped create one of the many recent scandals at USC, when a prince from that country landed on its academic dean’s list several years ago despite almost never attending classes. The prince’s spokespeople labeled much of the local reportage on this as “outright bigoted.”


        But many other reports indicate it was Qatari money and not local newspapers that have apparently led to the bigotry and anti-Semitism now plaguing many universities.




    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, April 22, 2024





        All those Millennials and adult Gen Z’ers who have moved back home to live with parents after going off to college or to work in other places turn out to be doing a big favor for other Californians.


        Their willingness to return to their old bedrooms, perhaps with changed posters on the walls and better quality beds, is one big reason homelessness has not climbed above the current 181,000-odd persons who are unhoused here every night.


        It’s also been a large factor in holding down the so-called “California exodus” of the last few years, which saw about 750,000 Californians leave the state in 2021 and 2022, for a net population loss of about 300,000.


        Many, too, also are helping their parents hang onto homes they’ve lived in for a generation or more by contributing part of their pay toward mortgage payments and other household expenses.


        At the same time, by declining to find multiple roommates and not moving into new apartments erected in the current building boomlet, they are keeping vacancy rates high in all but the most affordable buildings, something that might eventually drive market prices down and possibly then lower vacancy rates.


        There has rarely been a larger or more dramatic housing migration than the return-to-the-womb movement, according to statistics compiled by the RentCafe website, which finds huge percentages of Millenials, and especially adult Gen Z’ers staying with family late into adulthood.


        First, some definitions. The usual birth years for those considered Millenials are 1980 through 1996. This means most are aged 28-44. Gen Z is composed of folks born between 1997 and 2012, its adult component now aged 21-27. There is some variance in these definitions.


        But there’s little doubt at least one-fourth of all Millenials in California now live with parents or other family, or that the Los Angeles metro area has the largest move-home contingent, at 35 percent of all Millenials in the region. The Riverside area has the same percentage of move-backs, while Millenials living at home in the San Francisco and San Jose areas are somewhat less prevalent, at 23 and 24 percent. The trend holds in the Central Valley, too, with 35 percent of Sacramento Millenials living with close relatives and 30 percent in Stockton.


        Among Gen Z’ers, moves home are far more pronounced. Many are recent college graduates starting out in various professions, but paid enough to live on their own in apartments that often rent for $3,000 per month and up. Fully 80 percent of those in the Los Angeles region are with parents or parent-like figures; 89 percent in Oxnard live similarly.


        The Gen Z figures are only slightly lower in San Francisco (72 percent), Stockton (77 percent), San Diego (70 percent) and San Jose (74 percent).


        This is really all about affordability for young adults who current earn salaries that would be adequate to provide them comfortable housing in most other states – but not in much of California.


        Actual numbers are almost as staggering as the percentages. Metropolitan Los Angeles is home to about 3 million Millenials, with some 1.3 million in childhood nests. San Diego is about the only area bucking this trend, with only about 18 percent of Millenials living in childhood homes.


        One big question is how long this can last. Will many Millenials eventually marry and move to states with far cheaper housing, like Texas, Idaho and Florida? Or will more of them find roommates and begin to share new housing now going up under California’s recent pro-density, pro-development laws?


        No one can reliably predict how this will play out over the next 10 years. But in multi-child families, there may be a limit on how many return-home children a childhood home and the parents who live there are willing and able to accommodate.


        This implies there may be coming trends toward younger marriage ages, and the concomitant problem of more divorces, as marital splits are most common among those who marry youngest.


        The bottom line: No one knows exactly where this trend will lead, but adult children living with parents has never been a formula for long-term stability.         





    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






        Ask almost any police chief the reasons behind the last year’s rash of well-organized and orchestrated “smash-and-grab” robberies around California and chances are they will say it’s largely because of the 2014 Proposition 47.


        Most would cite a need to change or reverse Prop. 47’s raise in the minimum theft value considered a felony to $950, or at least suggest a lower limit.


        But that “solution” ignores the reality that police don’t like dealing with the trivial. Set the limit too low and large numbers of shoplifters could get off scot-free, with not even a misdemeanor conviction because many police departments won’t fool around with “minor” crimes.


        This could create an even larger cadre of thieves than now plagues California stores of many types.


        But at last sound thinking on how to fix Prop. 47’s flaws has arrived. It comes from legislators, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the sponsors of a new initiative that seems sure to qualify for the fall ballot.


        So how to speed their useful ideas into law? The answer is for the business and consumer leaders behind the initiative to deal with Newsom and the Legislature soon, then have Sacramento make laws of what they all agree on.


This is possible under a little-used decade-old law allowing initiative sponsors to pull their measures from the ballot if they reach agreements with lawmakers.


Here’s where things stand: Newsom notes that many other states have far higher felony-theft thresholds than Prop. 47’s $950. But most of them prosecute repeat offenders as felons. Texas, for one, has a $2,500 threshold.


        So, proposes Newsom, don’t lower the felony theft standard, set partly to spare police from dealing with mere nuisances, and also to avoid piling criminal records onto desperately poor persons driven to steal for survival.


        Newsom wants to let addition solve the problem and cut repeat thievery.


        “We can do it without (changing) Prop. 47,” he said in a budget message. “I want people to know the (current level of theft) is unacceptable. Folks need to be held to account.”


        His idea: When thieves whose take is below $950 are caught, before releasing them record how much they stole. If they steal again, add the amounts. When they reach a new threshold level, it becomes a felony. Newsom suggests $2,500.


        The ballot measure approaches this slightly differently, allowing felony prosecution for low-value theft if the perpetrator has two prior drug or theft convictions. California could use both tactics.


Some state legislators also favor restraining orders on low-value thieves, thus increasing penalties for repeaters.


        All these tactics make sense, and California can have them all. There’s no need for rivalry among interests wanting to solve the same problem.


Almost unbelievably, it’s taken 10 years to come up potential changes like these. Why not aggregate what thieves take, rather than allowing them to shoplift $949 in goods as often as they like without becoming felons? It’s also sensible to target repeat offenders.


        Plus, Newsom called for expanded criminal penalties on those profiting from retail theft and auto burglaries.


The state has already begun cracking down on Internet sites where stolen goods are fenced, and in 2023 spent more than $250 million to increase arrests for organized smash-and-grab raids. Dozens of thieves have been caught.


        Kevin McCarty, a candidate for Sacramento mayor who now chairs the state Assembly’s public safety committee, has said he likes Newsom’s ideas but made no promises about specifics his committee might advance.


        It’s up to voters to let their elected officials know this kind of ho-hum, it-can-wait attitude won’t do when myriad stores including prominent brands from Nordstrom to Walgreens to 99 Cents Only have closed partly because of thievery.


        The sooner legislators and initiative sponsors meet and consolidate their ideas, the sooner they can become law. Sponsors could then take the proposed measure off the ballot, letting new laws put most of the currently proposed changes into effect sooner. That’s the quickest way to clean up what voters passed in 2014.


        One thing for sure: Something serious has to change or the rash of smash-and-grabs will not stop. No merchant or store will feel safe again until it does.


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, April 15, 2024






        For years, one word was all pretty much all Californians heard from political leaders about solving the state’s housing problem: Density.


        Now it’s time to ask how that’s working out. Answer: not so well.


        For one example, as state legislators and Gov. Gavin Newsom promoted density over the last five years, they passed law after law to make pulling a building permit easier than ever in virtually all corners of California. Despite this, building permits are down.


        Overall, California issued just 111,221 new permits last year, a 6 percent drop from 2022. This included an 8 percent reduction in permits to build single-family homes. Even the highest-priced areas found builders applying for fewer permits than previously.


        So Newsom and the Legislature should now know they can legislate to promote density all they like, but unless enough developers respond, those new laws won’t accomplish much.


        The San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley metro area, known for ultra-high housing prices, saw permitting plummet by 32 percent last year, even more than the 6 percent to 12.3 percent drop in permits among the many cities within the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metro market.


        Medium-sized metros suffered permit losses, too, dropping 17.8 percent in Oxnard-Ventura and a sky-high 43 percent in the Stockton area. Smaller areas like Napa-Sonoma and Santa Maria-Santa Barbara were also down.


        These numbers come from Point2, a national real estate research firm that analyzed 2023 information from 384 cities in every state.


        Plainly, density isn’t working. One reason is that owners of commercial buildings, mostly real estate investment trusts, are reluctant to convert buildings with rent-producing potential into condominiums and apartments, despite continuing high vacancy rates as white collar workers still resist returning to offices. Conversions would produce plenty of one-shot income, but not the long-term cash stream brought by high rents.


        A key result has been the worsening of the state’s longtime housing shortage, which ought to be driving prices up, but has not yet on a large scale. If rents – and profits – rise sharply, permitting might rise commensurately, but rents are already so high that new buildings suffer high vacancy rates and few takers. This translates to lower-than-expected profits for builders, who react by moving forward more slowly than before.


Insurance is another factor. Much has been reported

about insurance industry reluctance to write new or renewed policies for homes in known or potential wildfire areas. Even when homeowners invest heavily in “hardening” their properties with fireproof siding, roofs and other measures, insurers remain leery. That’s one reason consumer groups are now pushing for a law forcing insurers to cover such homes.


        Then there’s density itself as an insurance problem.

The San Francisco Chronicle recently profiled homeowners whose policies are being cancelled due to excess neighborhood density.


        One affected area is the trendy Noe Valley area of San Francisco, where classic Victorian-style homes have sat cheek-by-jowl for decades, with no great insurance problems.


        Suddenly, some homeowners there are getting cancellation letters from companies like Liberty Mutual Insurance claiming homes are “located in a region where the dwellings are…too densely concentrated for us to provide coverage.”


        Nothing much has changed in Noe Valley, dense for more than a century, except the addition of a relative few ADU’s, additional dwelling units or “granny flats” allowed by a recent state law to be built with almost no veto power for cities.


        These small units make up one of the most significant recent additions to the state’s housing stock. But now insurers say they are worried fires could spread quickly among dense wooden structures in a few neighborhoods. High rebuilding costs are another reason some insurers are pulling out of such areas.


        So housing density is no panacea after all. It may potentially help relieve the pressure for new units in some places, but not if insurance companies won’t write or renew policies.


        Which means Newsom and allies like Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, long the state’s leading density advocate, might have to come up with a different tactic.


        Perhaps it’s time now to incentivize office building conversions, the surest and quickest way to create new housing with minimal environmental effects and a far faster timetable than constructing new buildings.




    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 late OJ Simpson does not leave many personal legacies: the most meaningful are probably one Heisman Trophy, his children and grandchildren.


        But his 1994-1995 trial for the stabbing murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, mother of two of those children, and her friend Ron Goldman is another story. Its legacies include openness about using race as a prime factor in selecting jurors; making jury selection consultants key legal figures, and establishing Johnny L. Cochran as one of the pre-eminent defense lawyers of the last century.


        Probably more importantly, the trial also ended illusions that had denied some sad realities: For one, it demonstrated clearly that wealthy celebrities can buy more effective legal defense than others, regardless of the facts in any case.


        It also destroyed the belief that America had accomplished a lot toward overcoming racism.


        For sure, racial awareness has been keen since America’s inception, or at least since the first African slaves arrived here unwillingly in 1619. But in the years just before Simpson’s mid-1990s trial, many polls showed Americans believed race had become less divisive, with people regarded more often as individuals than before and viewed less through the racial lens.


        This illusion was likely one factor moving then-District Attorney Gil Garcetti of Los Angeles County to move the case into downtown Los Angeles, with its polyglot jury pool, rather than keeping it in a branch courthouse in Santa Monica, where the pool would have been mostly white and far more wealthy.


        Any pretension of color-blindness disappeared the moment voire dire began in late 1994. Cochran and co-counsel Robert Shapiro quickly began using peremptory challenges to eliminate every potential white juror they could, not needing any reason beyond race.


        They discerned that even though Simpson often said he was neither black nor white, but merely OJ, this was not how most African-Americans saw him. He was a hero to many, even as there were no strong racial components in either his movies or the TV commercials that showed him hurdling through airports en route to a rental car.


        Meanwhile, prosecutors Bill Hodgeman and Marcia Clark did not visibly use challenges to shape the jury’s racial makeup. They would not likely be so na├»ve today.


        The result was that eight of the 12 jurors who would eventually acquit Simpson were Black, with only one white, along with two Hispanics and one juror who was half Native American.


        This would prove disastrous for Garcetti, who tried to compensate by taking the veteran Hodgeman off the case and eventually making one of his Black deputies, Christopher Darden, a co-lead prosecutor.


        So race pervaded this trial, right up through the loud celebrations among many African-Americans after Simpson's aquittal.


        After-effects can be seen throughout American life today; identity politics has become a major theme for Democrats, who see many issues through lenses that don’t differentiate much among individuals, but mainly consider only large groups.


        Then there is the residue of Simpson’s pulling together his high-fee legal “dream team,” including not just Cochran and Shapiro, but also the noted F. Lee Bailey and Alan Dershowitz, along with civil rights advocate Barry Scheck.


        No one cared about their very diverse ethnicities; the racial focus was on Simpson, his white victims and one detective who had employed racist terms.


        Something partly analogous plays out at this moment with a former president accused of many felonies using money to delay most of his trials repeatedly, almost as if he’s living out his own claim that his celebrity assures he could shoot someone in cold blood in broad daylight on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue and nothing much would happen to him.


        Simpson didn’t intend any of this. He did not create the shameful racial heritage of America, nor did he design his legal strategy; Cochran did that.


        But without his celebrity status and the prominence of his trial, televised daily for many months world-wide, it’s possible these things would not matter the way they do now.


        So never mind whether Simpson leaves personal legacies. His trial changed a lot about America, destroying multiple illusions of fairness and equity across racial and economic lines.




    Thomas Elias covered the OJ Simpson criminal trial for the Scripps Howard News Service. He was in court daily. Email him at For more Elias columns, visit

Monday, April 8, 2024






          California voters administered a few lessons to this state’s dominant Democratic Party in 2020 and 2022, but they appear to be forgotten or were never completely heeded.


          The essence of those lessons, as seen in election returns on initiative measures and congressional races: This state’s voters are not as inveterately leftist as believed by the folks now running the state Democratic Party and the Legislature.


          Rebukes to those Democrats actually began in the March 2020 presidential primary election, “won” by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders with about 36 percent of the Democratic vote. This was the same number drawn by the ultra-liberal former state Senate president Kevin de Leon (now a disgraced Los Angeles city councilman) from Democratic voters in his 2018 primary attempt to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.


          These two results ought to tell Democratic leaders they might find their control of California public affairs threatened if they lean too far to the left. A combination of moderate Democrats – clearly, about 65 percent of those registered in the party – with traditional Republicans and other moderates among the no party preference voter cohort has the potential to install very different leaders from those operating today.


          One consequence of the fact that far left Berniecrat voters regularly pack the local Democratic caucuses that pick state party convention delegates and, thus, statewide party leaders, has been the strong emergence of what is euphemistically called “identity politics.”


          That’s a political school which essentially holds that every ethnic group is homogeneous and should be represented in state and national leadership in direct proportion to its percentage of the populace. Another way of saying it goes like this: “We want our government to look like the state (or nation).”


          This allows little space for qualifications, achievement or even consideration of who might do the best job for California and America.


          Identity politics now controls much of what the state’s Democratic Party does. It’s was very visible here in the public pressures exerted upon Gov. Gavin Newsom when he mulled possible replacements for Vice President Kamala Harris after she gave up her U.S. Senate seat following the 2020 election.


          “The next senator should be an Asian/Pacific Islander,” said one leader of an Asian political group early in Newsom’s search. That’s because one of Harris’ multiple ethnicities is Indian-American, and the Asian-American interest group wanted her seat go to someone much like her.


          This gave absolutely no consideration to who might do the best job pursuing California’s interests, who might have the strongest chance to win election on their own, who was best qualified or myriad other factors that go into choosing political leaders.


          Black groups made similar demands, insisting the seat must go to a Black woman, just because that’s also a Harris identity.


          What happened to merit?


          This was one question voters asked four years ago, when by a 57-43 percent vote they nixed Proposition 16, which aimed to restore affirmative action in hiring and college admissions. By a margin of about 2 million votes, Californians rejected the idea of a system with quotas on those areas, one where group identity matters more than merit.


          Because some ethnic groups stress education more than others, they’ve gotten ahead economically and academically in higher proportions than their actual numbers. The voters essentially ruled these groups should not be penalized for their hard work and achievements.


          These are lessons for Democratic leaders to contemplate as they face a third election featuring Donald Trump.


          California Republicans blew their chance to take serious advantage of these things in 2022. For governor, they ran no one credibly distanced from Trump and lost the race to Newsom by about the same margin as in 2018. Potentially credible candidates like businessman and 2018 GOP nominee John Cox and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer both blew their wads in the failed 2021 recall of Newsom, neither even entering the 2022 race.


          In short, Democrats could have had significant opposition in 2022 if the GOP figures involved had been patient. And Democrats actually might see some serious competition in 2026, if they continue ignoring the lessons of 2020 and 2022 by tilting too far to the left.







    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








        Try taking an apology to the bank and see what the teller says, or even the bank president.


        One thing for sure: No apology will directly produce a bank deposit.


        Thousands of Black Californians knew this as they attended hearings across the state last year aiming to develop an aid package for descendants of slaves who still suffer after-effects of bondage. So they responded far more enthusiastically to the possibility of cash reparations than anything else mentioned.


        Not preferential college admissions or affirmative action in hiring, nothing else drew crowd approval crowds like cash.


        But there is no cash in any proposal for reparations now being floated in the state Legislature, even the 14-bill package announced earlier this year by the legislative Black caucus.



        That’s partly because there’s no cash to be had in this year of huge budget deficits amounting to somewhere between $38 billion and $73 billion. It’s also due to a seemingly definitive poll which found last fall that California voters by more than a 2-to-1 margin oppose paying descendants of the enslaved cash reparations for atrocities against their forebears.


        That survey by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies found 59 percent of voters against and just 28 percent in favor, with a relatively paltry 13 percent undecided or neutral.


        Cash reparations, said poll director Mark DiCamillo, have “a steep uphill climb, at least from the public’s point of view.”


        It’s no surpise, then, that the key piece of reparations legislation this year involves no money, or even affirmative action, which many Californians have long opposed. Rather, it would require the governor to apologize quickly to descendants of human chattel. That costs nothing, but from the viewpoint of Black lawmakers may seem as if it would leave them a big foot in the door for future actions on other types of reparations when times grow fiscally looser.


        Even last year, with much smaller deficits than now, Gov. Gavin Newsom made it clear he would veto cash reparations. Not wanting to embarrass him by forcing an actual decision, majority Democratic legislators won’t yet try to pass out money.


        One reason most Californians look askance at cash reparations is that this state was never a center of slavery. Under pre-Emancipation federal law, slaveowners could bring their human property into free states and see them remain enslaved. Similarly, escaped slaves could be tracked down in so-called free states and forced back to their previous owners.


        California was part of this, but not a ringleader, essentially no more culpable than New York, Massachusetts and Illinois, all hotbeds of abolition.


        California voters looking at those historical realities were not last year inclined to pay the great-great grandchildren of slaves victimized by a Supreme Court that upheld slavery even in free states. That court included five justices from slave states.


        If only because of California’s peripheral involvement with slavery, it would make no political sense to back monetary reparations. Plus, the concept may be illegal on its face.


        That’s because government favoritism of one group over others is not permitted under the equal protection clause of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which guarantees all who live in America “equal protection of the laws.”


        So if one person whose forebears suffered legally sanctioned injustice could get six-figure cash reparations from the government, so could any other persons whose ancestors also suffered government-imposed injustice.


        That would include Native Americans enslaved by Californians including John Sutter, whose Sacramento fort is often recognized as a key starting point for the Gold Rush, and possibly also Chinese and Jewish Americans precluded from owning some properties by legally approved property covenants.


        Start giving big chunks of cash to members of all these groups and soon money itself might become meaningless.


        The bottom line: The legislative Black caucus is wise to limit its demands in this early phase of recognition that some kind of compensation is in order for those who continue to be victimized by the aftermath of slavery.


        It’s possible that looser financial times will make more measures possible, but certainly not yet.



    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