Tuesday Reads: Climate Change Action and Impeachment Inquiry News

Good Morning!!

Action on Climate Change

Before I get started on the latest news, I want to share some information about a climate action that is taking place today in several U.S. cities, including Boston. My sister-in-law is a leader in her local chapter of Mothers Out Front, an organization that fights climate change. The group has been working to call attention to Blackrock, a huge asset management corporation whose CEO Larry Fink has tried to position himself as pro-environment, while leading the company that contributes more than any other to the problem of global warming.

My brother made this video to publicize today’s actions.

Some background:

The Guardian, May 21, 2019: World’s biggest investor accused of dragging feet on climate crisis.

[Blackrock CEO Larry] Fink, who was paid $24m (£18.8m) in 2018, began BlackRock as part of Blackstone, the world’s largest private equity group, and spun it out in 1995. Since then, New York-based BlackRock has risen to become an investing behemoth, controlling $6.5tn in assets – a value more than twice the annual output of the UK economy.

That staggering size has placed BlackRock at the heart of the global fossil fuel industry: it is the largest investor in coal worldwide, according to InfluenceMap, an environmental campaign group, and has by far the highest density of coal holdings of the world’s 10 largest investors. BlackRock effectively owns 2.1bn tonnes of thermal coal reserves, based on the size of its stakes in major miners.

In August, two of the country’s fastest growing grassroots groups – Extinction Rebellion and Mothers Out Front – sent a bold message to BlackRock staff at their Boston office.

BlackRock is counted among the top three shareholders in every oil “supermajor” bar France’s Total, and is among the top 10 shareholders in seven of the 10 biggest coal producers, according to Guardian analysis of data from financial information firm S&P.

Yet Fink, 66, who moves in US Democrat political circles, argues it is not his company’s duty to fight the climate emergency. In the real version of his annual letter to shareholders, published in January, Fink said that his overriding duty is to make customers money.

“Our firm is built to protect and grow the value of our clients’ assets,” Fink wrote. “We often get approached by special interest groups who advocate for BlackRock to vote with them on a cause. In many cases, I or other senior managers might agree with that same cause – or we might strongly disagree – but our personal views on environmental or social issues don’t matter here. Our decisions are driven solely by our fiduciary duty to our clients.”

Also from The Guardian, September 17, 2019: Wall Street investment giants voting against key climate resolutions.

Some of Wall Street’s largest asset management companies are failing to live up to commitments to use their voting power to fight the climate crisis, according to a new report.

The report, published on Tuesday by the Washington DC-based Majority Action and the Climate Majority Project, claims that BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest asset manager with more than $6tn under management, and Vanguard, with assets of $5.2tn, have voted overwhelmingly against the key climate resolutions at energy companies, including a resolution at ExxonMobil’s annual shareholder meeting, and at Duke Energy.

Had BlackRock and Vanguard not torpedoed these investor efforts, at least 16 climate-critical shareholder resolutions at S&P 500 companies would have received majority support in 2019, representing a significant corporate shift on climate, the report claims….

“The climate crisis is well upon us, and leading investors are stepping up to press fossil-fuel-dependent companies to align their strategies to the goals of the Paris agreement but some of the largest US investment companies are severely lagging,” said Majority Action’s Eli Kasargod-Staub.

“Blackrock and Vanguard have been using their shareholder voting power to undermine, rather than support, investor action on climate, including opposing every one of the resolutions proposed by the $34tn Climate Action 100+ coalition, calling for significant board room reform in response to its failure to act on climate change,” Kasargod-Staub added.

Unfortunately, it’s raining in Boston today. I expect the mothers will still show up for the demonstration though. I’ll report back if I hear anything about how it went.

UPDATES from the Boston BlackRock protest

Impeachment Inquiry News

Today a White House insider who heard Trump’s call to Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky will testify in the impeachment inquiry.

The New York Times: Army Officer Who Heard Trump’s Ukraine Call Reported Concerns.

A White House national security official who is a decorated Iraq war veteran plans to tell House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he heard President Trump appeal to Ukraine’s president to investigate one of his leading political rivals, a request the aide considered so damaging to American interests that he reported it to a superior.

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, arriving Tuesday on Capitol Hill.Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman of the Army, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, twice registered internal objections about how Mr. Trump and his inner circle were treating Ukraine, out of what he called a “sense of duty,” he plans to tell the inquiry, according to a draft of his opening statement obtained by The New York Times.

He will be the first White House official to testify who listened in on the July 25 telephone call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry, in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

“I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine,” Colonel Vindman said in his statement. “I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained.”

SDB Evening News Reads for 080511: Double Dip, Mobs and the Unemployed & Lucy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do!

Today’s reads are a little late, I know…but I have spent the last hour staring at the computer screen, trying to decide if I should post “happy shinny” news stories…or stick with the frustrating articles that seem to keep harping on problems which we have no control over.

I decided to do a bit of both, and yes…it took me that long to make up my mind.  So here we go…

Over at the NYT, there is this tidbit.  Nothing new here, cause we have Dakinikat The Great… who is able to leap over mounds of political economic bullshit in a single bound, brave trickle down theorist as they rationalize the crazy,  and make sense of all the mind numbing number talk.

Time to Say It – Double Dip May Be Happening – NYTimes.com

Double Dip Recession May Be Happening

It has been three decades since the United States suffered a recession that followed on the heels of the previous one. But it could be happening again. The unrelenting negative economic news of the past two weeks has painted a picture of a United States economy that fell further and recovered less than we had thought.

When what may eventually be known as Great Recession I hit the country, there was general political agreement that it was incumbent on the government to fight back by stimulating the economy. It did, and the recession ended.

But Great Recession II, if that is what we are entering, has provoked a completely different response. Now the politicians are squabbling over how much to cut spending. After months of wrangling, they passed a bill aimed at forcing more reductions in spending over the next decade.

With a bit of difference from the double dips of 1980 and 1981–82.

In each case the first recession was caused in large part by a sudden withdrawal of credit from the economy. The recovery came when credit conditions recovered.

And in each case the second recession began at a time when the usual government policies to fight economic weakness were deemed unavailable. Then, the need to fight inflation ruled out an easier monetary policy. Now, the perceived need to reduce government spending rules out a more accommodating fiscal policy.

And of course, those who want  to cut the spending are the same people who say crap like this:  Cantor Opposes Extending Unemployment Benefits: We Need To Stop ‘Pumping Up’ Jobless Americans | ThinkProgress

In response to today’s jobs report, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) declared that “unemployment is far too high” and that Congress “must push pro-growth policies to get back on track.” Noting Cantor’s apparent concern as “spot on,”, CNBC host Jim Kramer told Cantor that obviously, “you’re for extending unemployment benefits given the chaotic situation.” Cantor’s response? Nope, because “for too long in Washington now we’ve been worried about pumping up the stimulus moneys and pumping up unemployment benefits”:

Cantor declared that “the most important thing we can do for somebody who’s unemployed is to see if we can get them a job” and declared that the only way unemployment benefits could be extended is if “we find commensurate cuts somewhere else”:

CANTOR: Jim, the most important thing we can do for somebody who’s unemployed is to see if we can get them a job. I mean, that’s what needs to be the focus. For too long in Washington now we’ve been worried about pumping up the stimulus moneys and pumping up unemployment benefits and to a certain extent you have states for which you can get unemployment for almost two years and I think those people on unemployment benefits would rather have a job. So that’s where our focus needs to be.

KRAMER: I just want to be very, very clear, on a day when we have a good unemployment number, that’s terrific, but not a great one and you confirmed not a great one, you are not in favor and will go against the president’s wishes to extend those unemployment benefits?

CANTOR: What I have said all along, Jim, is if we’re going to spend money in Washington, we better start to make choices and we’ve got to set priorities. If we’re going to spend money, we better cut it somewhere else.

Well, just how are all those jobs going to be created when you don’t want to spend any money on programs that would create jobs…i.e. government work programs.

I don’t know, perhaps when mobs of unemployed people start running amok in the streets…something will spark a change of mind in these GOP politicians.

Milwaukee is having one violent tough summer:  Witnesses describe mobs, some people claim racially-charged attacks – TODAY’S TMJ4

…a mob of young people attacking innocent fair-goers at the end of the opening night of State Fair, with some callers claiming a racially-charged scene.

Milwaukee Police confirmed there were assaults outside the fair.

Witnesses’ accounts claim everything from dozens to hundreds of young black people beating white people as they left State Fair Thursday night.

Authorities have not given official estimates of the number of people involved in the attacks.

The witnesses of the State Fair attacks described the scene like one of the Riverwest mob attacks.

The latest news out of Milwaukee:  State Fair Police Say Fights Inside Park Not Racially Motivated – Milwaukee News Story – WISN Milwaukee

Rumors of racial attacks spread just as quickly. But the State Fair police chief said the incidents inside his jurisdiction did not appear to be based on race.

“Most of the fights we had were African-Americans fighting with other African-Americans,” said Chief Tom Streubing.

“It was a melee,” said state fair vendor Steve Talarczyk. “It was wild. I couldn’t believe it.”

Streubing said his officers arrested 24 people on the fair grounds Thursday night for disorderly conduct. He also said seven of his officers were injured in the incidents.

A press conference was held, you can see raw video here.

This weekend check out a new release that really looks like it is going to be a good film, even though the subject matter is far from “pleasant.” Here is a review of the film from the NYT:

‘The Whistleblower’ With Rachel Weisz – Review – NYTimes.com

“The Whistleblower” tells a story so repellent that it is almost beyond belief. Its conclusion — that in the moral quagmire of war and its aftermath, human trafficking and corruption are collateral damage — is unutterably depressing.

Another review here, this one from HuffPo:  Stephenie Foster: The Whistleblower: A Compelling Film About Standing Up for What’s Right

Human trafficking is horrifying and complex: it includes forced labor, sex trafficking, bonded labor, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labor, child soldiers, and child sex trafficking. It is a crime and a violation of human rights.

In most of the movies and television shows about human trafficking, the villains are disturbed, shady people out to make a quick buck buying and selling women and girls and/or belong to organized criminal enterprises. They don’t seem like people we’d know. Of course, movies and television are often informed by a true story but simplify reality and often sensationalize it.

But the movie, The Whistleblower, which will be opening on Friday, August 5 does neither. It is based on a true story about sex trafficking but doesn’t over-simplify or sensationalize what happened. In this story, while the traffickers are sinister people out to make money, they could be someone we know. Frighteningly, in this story, many of them work for international and national governmental entities and private contractors working for governments.

If you don’t remember the actual events that this film is based on, then here is a link to the article that broke the story back in 2001:  British firm accused in UN ‘sex scandal’ | World news | The Observer

A former United Nations police officer is suing a British security firm over claims that it covered up the involvement of her fellow officers in sex crimes and prostitution rackets in the Balkans.

Kathryn Bolkovac, an American policewoman, was hired by DynCorp Aerospace in Aldershot for a UN post aimed at cracking down on sexual abuse and forced prostitution in Bosnia.

She claims she was ‘appalled’ to find that many of her fellow officers were involved. She was fired by the British company after amassing evidence that UN police were taking part in the trafficking of young women from eastern Europe as sex slaves.

She said: ‘When I started collecting evidence from the victims of sex trafficking it was clear that a number of UN officers were involved from several countries, including quite a few from Britain. I was shocked, appalled and disgusted. They were supposed to be over there to help, but they were committing crimes themselves. When I told the supervisors they didn’t want to know.’

Of course Kathryn Bolkovac was fired from her job at DynCorp…give the Guardian article a read…

DynCorp is still in business, and you gotta love the companies slogan:

We Serve Today For a Better Tomorrow

The Daily Beast has some recent information on DynCorp and it’s press release on the film and an interview with Kathryn Bolkovac: The Real ‘Whistleblower’ on Human Trafficking in Bosnia – The Daily Beast

If anyone does see it, please let us know what you think about it.

Lucille Ball

Tomorrow marks the 100 birthday of one hell of a funny red head.  Lucille Ball was born on August 6th, 1911 and here is a summary of some of her best bits on the I Love Lucy show…Why Lucy Still Makes Us Laugh


In the nine years she reigned as America’s most beloved housewife-mother-troublemaker-nutcase, actress-comedian Lucille Ball easily proved that even the most discerning TV viewers would never tire of a clearly unhinged sitcom character–no matter how outrageous her antics. But has anyone ever tried to categorize the soup-to-nuts (or, in her case, chocolate-to-grapes) lunacy that was Lucy Ricardo? Author Steve Kluger–who has spent a lifetime studying, analyzing, loving (and even meeting!) Lucy–gave it a try with this cheat sheet of I Love Lucy’s most memorable moments.

Read the list of memories at the link above, good stuff!

That is it for me this Friday, y’all have a wonderful weekend and if I don’t see you in the comments… I’ll see ya Sunday Morning!