All posts by Roger Straw

Editor, owner, publisher of The Benicia Independent

Senators: Leave the GOP for the sake of the nation

Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle

GOP senators, now is a time for integrity: leave your party

Photo of Robert Reich
Robert Reich

To: Sens. Jeff Flake, John McCain,
Bob Corker and Susan Collins
From: Robert Reich

Senators, I write you not as a Democrat reaching out to Republicans, or as a former Cabinet member making a request of sitting senators.

I write you as a patriotic American concerned about the peril now facing our democracy, asking you to exercise your power to defend it.

A foreign power has attacked our democratic institutions and, according to American intelligence, continues to do so.

Yet the president of the United States is unwilling to fully acknowledge this, or aggressively stop it.

Most of your Republican colleagues in the Senate will not force his hand. As a result, because your party has control of the Senate, there is no effective check on the president — or on Vladimir Putin.

What is America to do? We will exercise our right to vote on Nov. 6. But by that time our system may be compromised. The president must be constrained, now. Putin’s aggression must be stopped, now.

If just two of you changed parties — becoming independent and caucusing with the Democrats — the Republican Party would no longer have a majority in the Senate.

The Senate would become a check on the president, as the framers of the Constitution envisioned it would be. And the president could be forced to defend the United States, as the framers intended.

I implore you to do so.

There is precedent. I’m sure you remember Jim Jeffords of Vermont, who served as a Republican senator from 1989 until 2001. He then left the GOP to become an independent and began caucusing with the Democrats.

Jeffords’ switch changed control of the Senate from Republican to Democratic. Jeffords left the Republican Party because of issues on which he parted with his Republican colleagues and the George W. Bush administration. As he said at the time, “Increasingly, I find myself in disagreement with my party. … Given the changing nature of the national party, it has become a struggle for our leaders to deal with me and for me to deal with them.”

I knew and admired Jeffords years before he switched parties. We worked together on a number of initiatives when I was secretary of labor. He was a humble man of principle and integrity. He retired from the Senate in 2007 and died in 2014.

I appeal to the four of you to follow his noble example.

The stakes for the nation are far higher than they were in 2001. The issue today is not one on which honorable people like Jeffords may reasonably disagree. The issue now is the fate of our system of government.

All of you recognize the danger. All of you have expressed deep concern about what is occurring.

Sen. Flake recently introduced a non-binding resolution acknowledging Russian involvement in the 2016 elections, expressing support for the Justice Department investigation and calling for oversight hearings about what happened in Helsinki. But Flake’s fellow Republicans blocked that resolution.

Sen. McCain said the president has “proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin”; that Trump “made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world”; and that the president has “failed to defend all that makes us who we are — a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad.”

Sen. Corker has likened the Republican Party to a “cult” and conceded that “it’s not a good place for any party to end up with a cult-like situation as it relates to a president that happens to be of purportedly of the same party.”

Moreover, the three of you have decided against seeking re-election. You have no reason not to follow your consciences.

Sen. Collins represents a state that has had a long and distinguished history of independent-minded politicians. (The other senator from Maine, Angus King, is an independent.) Her constituents will surely forgive her if she leaves the Republican Party.

There is a scene in the Robert Bolt play “A Man for All Seasons” in which Thomas More, having angered Henry VIII, is on trial for his life. After Richard Rich commits perjury against More in exchange for the office of attorney general for Wales, More says: “Why, Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. … But for Wales?”

You have not pledged your souls to the Republican Party. You have pledged yourselves to America. Now is the time to deliver on that pledge.

© 2018 Robert Reich

Robert Reich, a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, is co-creator of the new Netflix documentary “Saving Capitalism” and author of “The Common Good.” To comment, submit your letter to the editor at SFChronicle.com/letters.

    Loss of local news coverage by Benicia Herald & Vallejo Times-Herald

    Newspapers cut back on Benicia reporting

    Image result for print journalism
    Hard times for print journalism

    These are hard times for print journalists, reporters and home delivery newspapers.  Especially so in Benicia.

    On July 6, the Benicia Herald announced a cutback in print publication to 3 days per week.  And this week I asked the editor of our larger neighbor newspaper, the Vallejo Times-Herald who on their staff is currently covering Benicia and the editor replied, “Nobody is covering Benicia.”  The East Bay Times, formerly the Contra Costa Times, quit covering Benicia long ago.

    These days, knowing what goes on in Benicia is pretty much a do-it-yourself operation, with amateurs doing the reporting.  For the most part, we need to log in to a social network on a computer or subscribe to alerts on a smart phone.  It’s hit or miss at best.

    The editor of the Vallejo Times-Herald is open to publishing stories about Benicia.  In editor Jack Bungart’s words, “We’ll try and pick up what we can.”  I take this to mean that we will see official press releases from the Benicia Police or City Hall.  Hopefully, they will print stories and press releases authored by citizens, too?

    Nick Sestanovich, editor at the Benicia Herald, has been responsive in publishing news generated by citizens, but he has no staff reporters other than himself.  He has done a good job covering City Council meetings lately, but he can’t possibly attend the large number of other commissions, organizations and events, not to mention reporting on human interest stories, sorting out the facts regarding local controversies, doing interviews, and following up on investigative leads.

    Now that the Herald will only go out on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, the number of Benicia stories will clearly decrease.  We haven’t been told whether Nick’s hours will be cut – hopefully not.  Will he continue to cover some – if fewer – important events, or, like the Vallejo paper, will he need to rely increasingly on official press releases?

    This is important: city press releases don’t begin to approximate the important role of a free press.  Nothing against our City staff, but news should be ABOUT the city, not BY the city.  Same could be said of citizen initiatives and watchdog activities.  Independent reporting is a foundation of American democracy.

    The Benicia Independent can’t do it.  I’m a one-person operation, and my work here has been and continues to be advocacy on select issues that are important to me, mostly local and mostly on the environment.  I report on gun violence and a few other important issues of our times, but I don’t pretend to cover Benicia in the way that a local news periodical can and should.

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    Benicia, California

    It’s a sad day when there is next to no one actually reporting on the affairs of our beautiful and interesting, newsworthy town.

    Roger Straw
    Benicia

      Investment execs: Oil and gas must face its future as a ‘declining industry’

      Repost from The Energy Mix, originally from Financial Times

      Fossils Must Face Their Future As A ‘Declining Industry’, Investment Execs Assert

      June 18, 2018, primary Author Anton Eser and Nick Stansbury
      lalabell68/Pixabay

      Oil and gas must prepare to “face its future as a declining industry” and leave it to finance and investment professionals to allocate the US$29 trillion that will be needed by 2050 to decarbonize the global energy system, two senior investment executives argue in a recent post for the Financial Times.

      Capital investment markets, in turn, will need the policy certainty to get on with the job, write Chief Investment Officer Anton Eser and fund manager Nick Stansbury of Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM), an arm of the UK’s Legal & General insurance company.

      “Whilst the 2015 climate agreement in Paris offers some help, we still lack clear policy signals on what the long-term price for carbon is going to be, and when there will be an effective mechanism to implement it,” they write. “Without this certainty, pricing carbon risks and opportunities is going to remain highly complex.”

      While the biggest challenges facing oil and gas are “a reasonable distance in the future”, Eser and Stansbury say the industry will no longer be able to rely on growing demand and production declines in mature oilfields to keep global markets in balance. Peak demand, in particular, is on the way, and “will have a big, and under-appreciated, destabilizing effect” when it arrives.

      That leaves two choices for oil and gas companies—trying to reinvent themselves as renewable energy businesses, or beginning to ramp down their investments and return more cash to shareholders. But the two analysts declare themselves skeptical that fossils can make the transition to the renewable energy sector.

      “The business models are very different, and the oil industry is likely to have a different cost of capital to the renewable sector,” the write. “We see few oil companies with a record of creating real shareholder value in this area.”

      In that light, they see the second option as more promising. “The time to stop investing is not today,” they write, “but that point is coming. The industry needs to be clear that its future is one of long-term decline—whilst returning increasing sums of cash to investors. There is a possibility that the industry over-invests as we reach that point of peak demand, leaving an oversupply that persists for a long time. Fighting for market share in a declining market would be even worse.”

      To maintain a place with the growing number of investment funds that emphasize environmental, social, and particularly climate strategies, Eser and Stansbury say oil and gas companies will have to “articulate a much clearer long-term strategy and the role they have to play in the energy transition.” More realistically, they say fossils can play a “positive part” as a “cash-generating engine that can be used to power the transition when the time comes, and we urge the industry to make a clear commitment to this future.”