Friday, May 27th, 2022



There are two types of ESG (environmental, social and governance) investing. In the popular model, investors (usually working with brokers) focus their public investment dollars on corporations that are acting in a world positive manner — or at least keeping their negative actions to a relative minimum. This is the avoidance ESG model where you try not to invest in companies whose values you deplore. The less common form of ESG investing is exemplified by a firm called Engine 1. They flip the model on its head and argue that simply choosing to not invest in corporations with poor environmental records gives the investor no power and has little effect on the companies. Instead, they invest in big climate offenders and then use their investment and activism to push for change. Sometimes this model can work. Signs of change at ExxonMobil a year after hedge fund proxy fight.

When it comes to the increasingly popular avoidance ESG investment model, the average investor doesn't have a lot of say in which companies get added to a portfolio, and the investment giants are a lot better at promoting their conscious capitalism than they are at keeping investors informed about where their dollars are actually being deployed. These investment houses can be a little lean on the green or invest in things you might not like. "The largest shareholder in America's largest gunmakers isn't a reclusive billionaire or a 2A rabble-rouser with a heavy Reddit presence. It's BlackRock, the investment giant that talks Wall Street's loudest game on social duty." Want to pick stocks yourself? It might take a lot of research. I had no idea that the NRA was a Salesforce customer until employees protested this week.

It's also worth noting that not all investors are using their investment dollars to support the environment (or workers, or good governance) because, to them, believing in climate change and doing something about it is just another example corporate wokeness. And sometimes, the same investment firms are getting it from both sides. "In West Virginia, the state treasurer has pulled money from BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, because the Wall Street firm has flagged climate change as an economic risk. In Texas, a new law bars the state's retirement and investment funds from doing business with companies that the state comptroller says are boycotting fossil fuels. Conservative lawmakers in 15 other states are promoting similar legislation. And officials in Utah and Idaho have assailed a major ratings agency for considering environmental risks and other factors, in addition to the balance sheet, when assessing states' creditworthiness." NYT (Gift Article): How an Organized Republican Effort Punishes Companies for Climate Action. So you can invest or not invest to move corporations in one direction or another. But be forewarned: The investment wars are just like the other battles in America's great divide. Money no longer talks. It yells.


Summer of Soul Searching

Today was supposed to be the first day of Summer for 19 kids from Uvalde. Instead it's the beginning of an unthinkable period of mourning for their parents. Elaine Godfrey in The Atlantic: What It Feels Like to Lose Your Child in a Mass Shooting. "I wasn't sure I could go back to that house anyway. I didn't want to see Dylan's bed. I just wasn't prepared for that. So our neighbors from, like, three or four houses down—Jake's best friend is their son, and they had taken Jake from the firehouse, so we went and met them there. I couldn't form words at the time. So my husband had to tell Jake that Dylan had been killed. And Jake just howled like an animal. It was horrible."

+ Maybe nothing explains the pain of losing someone to sick, senseless gun violence more accurately than the way Joe Garcia reacted to losing his wife who was one of the teachers killed. "He 'pretty much just fell over' after returning home and died of a heart attack." The couple had four kids.

+ Amid the mourning and outrage, the NRA will still hold its annual conference starting today in the same state where Joe Martinez died of a broken heart. Don't be surprised. The NRA held its conference in Denver a few days after Columbine. At least four musicians have canceled their appearances at the conferences, which is nice, but one wonders why no one told them about the other school mass murders that have been happening for decades. Of course, the NRA wouldn't have any power unless politicians were willing to trade lives for dollars. Here's a look at The U.S. Lawmakers Who Have Received the Most Funding from the NRA. The bet the NRA and these politicians are making is that this will all just blow over. And history suggests that's not a bad bet. FiveThirtyEight: Support For Gun Control Will Likely Rise After Uvalde. But History Suggests It Will Fade.

+ Today, there are a lot of stories suggesting that the police waited too long before confronting the shooter. That's an issue. But it's not the issue. And, as much as Ted Cruz tries to convince you otherwise, the issue sure as hell isn't that we need fewer doors at schools so the bad guys can't get in as easily. Graeme Wood in The Atlantic: "Resist the temptation to make bad choices about infrastructure. After events like this, schools and worried parents call for more locks and for fewer doors. In Uvalde, the locks seem to have kept the rescuers out and the killer in. Instead: fewer locks, and doors everywhere. Everyone should have a way out, as fast as possible. (Making schools less like prisons might have other benefits too.) And finally, you can't count on anyone to be a hero, or to make the right call in a situation so horrifying that no imagination or training could have realistically simulated it. That is why you must teach your kids to run."


Housing Complex

"What we want is to be a model for the nation, and what can be done to preserve housing for poor people. You're always going to have poor people, and we deserve a right to safe, decent, and sanitary housing." This one hits close to home for me. Like one freeway exit away. Marisa Endicott in MoJo: Can One Bay Area Housing Complex Radically Change Affordable Housing? (And I'd add to that headline: ... In A Place That Considers Itself Liberal.)


Weekend Whats

What to Book: Charles Barkley isn't the only one trashing San Francisco these days. There's no doubt that things could be better around here. But it's still the most beautiful city around, and one of the most interesting. And certainly one of the most misunderstood. To help with that last part, check out David Talbot's Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror, and Deliverance in the City of Love. It's fun, enlightening, and a serious page turner. Even Sir Charles would love it.

+ What to Doc: Tired of movies about superheroes? Then take some time this weekend to watch a doc about an actual hero. Ron Howard directed a movie about Jose Andres and World Central Kitchen: We Feed People. Also, if you haven't seen the documentary of the year, Navalny is now on HBO Max.


Extra, Extra

Incremental Breakdown: "With Russia's offensive in Ukraine's industrial Donbas region showing incremental progress, Ukrainian officials characterized the battle as grave and renewed their appeals for more sophisticated Western-supplied weaponry. Without that, the foreign minister warned, Ukrainian forces won't be able to stop Russia's advance on the east." Russia squeezes Ukrainian strongholds in east. (Sociopaths don't stop, they have to be stopped.)

+ Unhired Hitman: "One of the many strange things about being an American citizen these days is that there's a whole lot of killing done in our name that our government deliberately keeps secret ... What does it mean to be a citizen of a state that kills for you but doesn't tell you about it? Are you still responsible?" Phil Klay in the NYT: America Kills Its Enemies in Our Name. And Then Keeps It Secret.

+ Wrap Star: "Between the inner layers of this modular vision of blocks, cubes, and interchangeable units is the diaphanous material that holds together the subcomponents of the containerized world: stretch wrap." The Prepared: On Stretch Wrap.

+ Cone Head: "You may not know Joy by name, but you've probably tasted its cones. Mister Softee? A Joy customer. Dairy Queen? Also Joy. Your local ice cream shop? Probably." NYT (Gift Article): Many Ice Creams, but One Cone to Rule Them All. (I don't know which Joy inventor came up with the idea for the Mister Softee double-wide cone. But I salute you!)


Feel Good Friday

Yes, the Warriors are back in the NBA Finals. And yes, regardless of the opponent, they will win those finals. We know this because the team is firing on all cylinders and because Kendrick Lamar has a new album.

+ "Rebecca Varney met Vernard Lewis who let her hold a hissing cockroach, and told her she could get something called a PhD and spend her life researching insects." WaPo (Gift Article): Scientist finds professor who supported her love for bugs when she was 4.

+ Like watching fast people on the way to possibly becoming the fastest? Then you'll love The Summer of Erriyon Knighton.

+ "I used to hate my curls. I spent morning and night embarrassed of them trying to straighten this part of who I am, but the daily damage of trying to fix myself became too much to endure. So while having curly hair in Florida is difficult due to the humidity, I decided to be proud of who I was and started coming to school as my authentic self." He said he was told not to say 'gay' in graduation speech. He made his point anyway. (He was told not to say gay? It's friggin 2022. I know, I know. This is the Feel Good section. So let's hear Mo from Curly.)

+ WaPo: A Jewish teen put her baby up for adoption in WWII. They just reunited.

+ How nine schoolgirls stood up for Ecuador's Amazon and won.

+ Obama has heartwarming reunion with boy who touched his hair in iconic photo.