Snarky Snippets For A Rainy Day

Rainy days seem to make me more snarky than usual … I wonder why that is?  Well, it isn’t raining yet, but the clouds are moving in rapidly, so I might as well go ahead and get my suit of snark on.


A new trial?  HELL NO!

Predictably, Derek Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, has filed a motion asking for a new trial.  Who could have seen that coming, eh?  He cited a number of “reasons” for the request, including the judge’s decisions to not sequester the jury during the trial, to not change the location of the proceedings and to not grant a new trial because of publicity that he claims included the intimidation of the defense’s expert witnesses.  He also claimed “that the jury committed misconduct, felt threatened or intimidated, felt race-based pressure during the proceedings, and/or failed to adhere to instructions during deliberations.”  Interestingly, however, he provided little or no detail to support his complaints.

His single “example” that the jury had been tainted revolves around a single juror and Nelson’s supposed complaint stems from the fact that said juror had attended the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington, when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.  Say WHAT???  So, now we are disqualified from serving on a jury if we have attended an event, one that was attended by tens of thousands of people including notable celebrities, civil rights leaders, and even members of Congress???

It is highly unlikely that Chauvin will be granted a new trial, and if he is, it is even less likely that the outcome would be any different than the first trial.  The entire world has seen the indisputable evidence.  It is merely a delaying tactic … Chauvin and Nelson are hoping that the memory of that video of him killing George Floyd will fade in peoples’ minds, but that is NOT going to happen.  What will happen, if Chauvin is granted a new trial, is that tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars will be wasted.  Precious time and court resources frittered away on an attempt to set a racist murderer free.  Frankly, I have spent all I plan to spend to try this horrible excuse for a man.  He has been proven guilty and will be sentenced on June 16th.  Anything else is unacceptable, is a waste of time, money, and resources that could better be spent elsewhere.


Hand over da memo!

Earlier this week, a bit of positive news came when Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the United States District Court in Washington ordered the Department of Justice to release a March 2019 legal memo clearing former President Trump of potential obstruction of justice charges following the Mueller investigation, with the judge accusing former Attorney General William Barr and agency lawyers of deceiving the public.

Judge Jackson gave the DOJ two weeks to release the legal memo in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the liberal watchdog group Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW).  The Justice Department under Barr had argued that the memo should be withheld because it falls under exceptions to the public records law for attorney-client privilege and deliberative government decision-making.

The reality I think we are all aware of is that there was nothing honest or open about William Barr’s assessment of the Mueller Report, and that there is something in that report that has been kept from both the public and from Congress that proves Donald Trump and/or those working on his behalf did, in fact, condone Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.  Soon, perhaps, we will have the proof we need, as well as some hope that the former guy may finally pay a price for his traitorous dishonesty, for subverting the voice of We the People.

May 17th, one week from next Monday, is the deadline Judge Jackson gave the Justice Department … stay tuned!


And from the annals of ridiculous lawsuits …

Stephen Miller

Former presidential aide, Stephen Miller – the white supremacist with ties to Nazis – has filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration.  Why, you ask?  He claims the Biden administration’s funds reserved for “socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers” discriminate against white people.  I don’t know whether to laugh or throw something!

The complaint comes from America First Legal (AFL), a group founded and subsidized by Miller, whose mission statement on their website is to …

“Fight Back Against Lawless Executive Actions and the Radical Left.”

In a statement announcing the lawsuit, Miller cited words from the late Martin Luther King, Jr., writing, “Americans ‘should not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.’”  How DARE an avowed white supremacist quote the late, great, Dr. Martin Luther King!  And frankly, if Mr. Miller and his band of merry racists were to be judged by the ‘content of their character’, they would likely be found to have not a single redeeming quality in their ‘character’.

I hope this lawsuit is laughed out of the courts and that this organization soon disbands, for their only purpose is to destroy diversity and create an all-white fascist nation.  Sigh.  Oh, and the AFL group is also complaining about school children learning the true history — the good, the bad, and the ugly — of this nation.  What a group, eh?

Chocolate Covered Reasons.

Hugs. Such a simple thing, and yet such a powerful one. Imagine a world where people set aside their superficial differences and treated everyone with respect. Imagine a world (post-pandemic, obviously) where people hug each other … just because. Our friend David started his blog, The Buthidars, back in 2014 for all the right reasons, but I’ll let him explain that to you. Every now and then, Filosofa needs to set aside the politics, the social injustice, and just post something positive. I can’t think of anything more worthy of that than David’s Buthidars, so please, give yourself a bit of a break and head over to talk to David about hugs!

The BUTHIDARS

Way back in 2014 I started this blog after deciding it was time to leave Facebook where I ran a similar site but with many more members. Sometimes what we start in one place doesn’t always translate well in another. I had to be prepared for that. When I started here I did so with the following explanation.

About The Buthidars

The Buthidars is a religion free Order where people of all ages, colours and creeds can come together as one all-inclusive group united towards seeing peace in the world.
You will hear ( from me ) about Hugs as I maintain you can’t hug with a weapon in your hands.
You will see the reason I think Hugs are important to us as people, ourselves and others.
You will I hope learn to understand why I ask people to leave religion at the door as they visit and if…

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We Are Not Okay

I guess a lot of us were naïve back in November when we celebrated Joe Biden’s win for the office of President.  I know I definitely was.  Oh sure, I knew we’d have to listen to the former guy pout and whine for a couple of months, but then he’d be gone, I thought, riding that train of irrelevance into obscurity for the rest of his life, and the nation could begin to heal.  And yes, I realized that Republicans weren’t going to just suddenly find their consciences again on January 20th and that everything would be a bed of roses … after all, Mitch McConnell was re-elected along with a fresh batch of nasties.  But still, I thought we were finally back on track to a government for the people, of the people, and by the people.  I was wrong … dead wrong.

Three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman writes about where we stand today, the good that is happening under the Biden administration, but also the dangers that we still face in the months and years ahead, and a prophetic warning, if we don’t get our act together.


Trump’s Big Lie Devoured the G.O.P. and Now Eyes Our Democracy

By Thomas L. Friedman

Opinion Columnist

President Biden’s early success in getting Americans vaccinated, pushing out stimulus checks and generally calming the surface of American life has been a blessing for the country. But it’s also lulled many into thinking that Donald Trump’s Big Lie that the election was stolen, which propelled the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, would surely fade away and everything would return to normal. It hasn’t.

We are not OK. America’s democracy is still in real danger. In fact, we are closer to a political civil war — more than at any other time in our modern history. Today’s seeming political calm is actually resting on a false bottom that we’re at risk of crashing through at any moment.

Because, instead of Trump’s Big Lie fading away, just the opposite is happening — first slowly and now quickly.

Under Trump’s command and control from Mar-a-Largo, and with the complicity of most of his party’s leaders, that Big Lie — that the greatest election in our history, when more Republicans and Democrats voted than ever before, in the midst of a pandemic, must have been rigged because Trump lost — has metastasized. It’s being embraced by a solid majority of elected Republicans and ordinary party members — local, state and national.

“Denying the legitimacy of our last election is becoming a prerequisite for being elected as a Republican in 2022,” observed Gautam Mukunda, host of Nasdaq’s “World Reimagined” podcast and author of the book “Indispensable: When Leaders Really Mattered.”

“This is creating a filter that over time will block out anyone willing to tell the truth about the election.” It will leave us with “a Republican Party where you cannot rise without declaring that the sun sets in the East, a Republican Party where being willing to help steal an election is literally a job requirement.”

This is not an exaggeration. Here is what Representative Anthony Gonzalez, one of the few Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, told The Hill about the campaign within the party to oust Representative Liz Cheney from her House G.O.P. leadership position, because of her refusal to go along with the Big Lie:

“If a prerequisite for leading our conference is continuing to lie to our voters, then Liz is not the best fit. Liz isn’t going to lie to people. … She’s going to stand on principle.”

Think about that for a second. To be a leader in today’s G.O.P. you either have to play dumb or be dumb on the central issue facing our Republic: the integrity of our election. You have to accept everything that Trump has said about the election — without a shred of evidence — and ignore everything his own attorney general, F.B.I. director and election security director said — based on the evidence — that there was no substantive fraud.

What kind of deformed party will such a dynamic produce? A party so willing to be marinated in such a baldfaced lie will lie about anything, including who wins the next election and every one after that.

There is simply nothing more dangerous for a two-party democracy than to have one party declare that no election where it loses is legitimate, and, therefore, if it loses it will just lie about the results and change the rules.

That’s exactly what’s playing out now. And the more one G.O.P. lawmaker after another signs on to Trump’s Big Lie, the more it gives the party license at the state level to promote voter suppression laws that ensure that it cannot lose ever again.

Kimberly Wehle, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law and author of the book “How to Read the Constitution — and Why,” writing in The Hill on Monday, noted that “as of late March, state legislators have introduced 361 bills in 47 states this year that contain limitations around voting, a 43 percent increase from just a month earlier.

“The measures include things like enhanced power for poll ‘monitors,’ fewer voting drop-boxes, restrictions on voting by mail, penalties for election officials who fail to purge voters from the rolls, and enhanced power in politicians over election procedures.”

Although G.O.P. supporters of these bills insist that they are about election integrity and security, Wehle added, “the lack of actual evidence of fraud and mismanagement in the American electoral system totally belies those cynical claims.”

This is the equivalent of lighting a fuse to a bomb planted beneath the foundations of our democracy.

Imagine if all or many of these measures are passed — and in 2022 and 2024 Republicans manage to retake the House, Senate and White House with, say, only 42 percent of the popular vote, effectively establishing minority rule. Do you know what will happen? Let me tell you what will happen. Disenfranchised Democratic voters will not sit idly by. They may refuse to pay their taxes. Many will take to the streets. Some might become violent, and our whole political system could become paralyzed and start to unravel.

Yet, this is precisely the path that Trump’s G.O.P. is setting us on.

Personally, I have reservations about where the left of the Democratic Party is pulling Biden on some economic, immigration, foreign policy and education issues. But Biden and his party are putting forth real ideas to try to address the real challenges that an increasingly diverse 21st-century America needs to address to become a more perfect union. The best tool for keeping the Democratic Party close to the center-left on more issues is a healthy Republican Party that hews to the center-right.

We don’t have that. We have, instead, a G.O.P. trying to cling to power by leveraging a Big Lie into voter suppression laws that leverage the party back to power by appealing solely to a largely white 20th-century America. Trump’s G.O.P. is making no effort to offer conservative alternatives to the issues of the day. Its whole focus is on how to win without doing that.

Which is why it is incumbent on every American to support in every way possible the few principled Republican legislators fighting this trend from the inside — like Liz Cheney, Representative Adam Kinzinger and Senator Mitt Romney.

What I learned covering the struggle for the future of the Arab-Muslim world post-9/11 is that the war of ideas inside is everything. Sure, it is important for outsiders to condemn bad behavior, but their voices have limited impact. Real change happens only when the war of ideas is won by insiders, working from the roots upward.

On Monday, CNN quoted Cheney as telling Republican donors and scholars at a retreat for the American Enterprise Institute in Sea Island, Ga.: “We can’t embrace the notion the election is stolen. It’s a poison in the bloodstream of our democracy. … We can’t whitewash what happened on Jan. 6 or perpetuate Trump’s Big Lie. It is a threat to democracy. What he did on Jan. 6 is a line that cannot be crossed.” A “peaceful transfer of power must be defended.”

She could not be more right. And without a war of ideas inside the party, one that is won by principled Republicans, we run the real risk of a political civil war in America over the next election.

Things are not OK.

Unless more principled Republicans stand up for the truth about our last election, we’re going to see exactly how a democracy dies.

Can’t Win Honestly? Then Cheat!

It’s a sad statement when one of the two political parties is so certain they cannot win in a fair and honest election that rather than change their ways, they do everything in their power (and some things that really are not in their legitimate power) to ensure half the people in the nation will not be able to cast a ballot in upcoming elections.  It is the equivalent of a child sneaking a cookie before supper, for he knows if he asks, he will be told “No, not until after supper.”  Only with much more serious and far-reaching consequences.

Today, Florida Governor and 2024 presidential hopeful, Ron DeSantis signed into law an extremely restrictive voter suppression law that he claims will place guardrails against fraud, even as he acknowledged there were no serious signs of voting irregularities last November.  But, DeSantis and the entirety of the Republican Party feel threatened by the fact that times are changing, people are becoming less tolerant of the bigotry that is the cornerstone of the Republican Party and … well, if you can’t win honestly, then you cheat, right?

The media, for the most part, was not allowed in to view the signing ceremony.  One exception:  Fox ‘News’.  Go figure.  DeSantis staged the signing on a live broadcast of Fox & Friends this morning, flanked by a small group of GOP legislators in Palm Beach County.  Other media organizations were shut out.  Freedom of press???  Or is that, like voting rights, being killed?

Look closely at the picture … see any Black faces there?  But it isn’t only Blacks and Hispanics the Republican governor and legislators are trying to disenfranchise.  According to Patricia Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida …

“The legislation has a deliberate and disproportionate impact on elderly voters, voters with disabilities, students and communities of color. It’s a despicable attempt by a one party ruled legislature to choose who can vote in our state and who cannot. It’s undemocratic, unconstitutional, and un-American.”

Do you remember when you were in school and each morning you had to stand and recite that ‘pledge of allegiance’ to the flag?  Being the rebel I am and have always been, I stopped doing that by about 2nd grade, and no matter what they threatened me with, I refused to stand or say the words that even back then rang false. I followed the example of Colin Kaepernick, before he was even born!  One line in that pledge calls the United States “one nation, indivisible …”.  Apparently, they were wrong.  I think they better be re-thinking that one and calling it “one nation, deeply divided”.

Within minutes of DeSantis signing the bill into law, lawsuits were filed.  The League of Women Voters of Florida joined the Black Voters Matter Fund, the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, and others in assailing the new law in a federal lawsuit filed minutes after the signing.  A separate lawsuit by the NAACP and Common Cause alleges that the new law makes it more difficult for people who are Black, Latino or disabled to vote.

My hope is that the courts will strike down all these restrictive measures too many states are taking to try to disenfranchise us, to shove their will down our throats, but sadly I’m not as confident of that as I once was.

A Woman Of Principles

There aren’t too many congressional Republicans for whom I have even a modicum of respect these days.  Liz Cheney is at the top of the list of those I respect.  I don’t agree with her political positions, and quite often detested her father, but … Ms. Cheney has proven herself to be a woman of conscience, a woman who is not afraid to stand by the courage of her convictions.  She has what so many … almost all … Republicans lack these days:  integrity.

And it is because of her conscience, her integrity, her refusal to support the lies being told by the former guy and his minions, that she is almost certain to lose her leadership position as the third highest ranking Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Think about that one … because she is honest, she is to be punished by dishonest people like Kevin McCarthy, who knows damn well that the election results were fair and aboveboard, but for his own political purposes has tied himself to the former guy’s train.

Ms. Cheney has written an OpEd for The Washington Post that I think deserves to be widely read.  I don’t agree with everything she says toward the end of her column, but that doesn’t diminish my respect for her for being one of only a handful of people in her party who put country before self.  I expect to have ideological differences with those on the right … I just don’t expect to be lied to, deceived, and threatened as we all have been by today’s Republican Party. This is what sets Liz Cheney apart from the rest of the party … her honesty.


Liz Cheney: The GOP is at a turning point. History is watching us.

Opinion by Liz Cheney

May 5, 2021 at 5:05 p.m. EDT

In public statements again this week, former president Donald Trump has repeated his claims that the 2020 election was a fraud and was stolen. His message: I am still the rightful president, and President Biden is illegitimate. Trump repeats these words now with full knowledge that exactly this type of language provoked violence on Jan. 6. And, as the Justice Department and multiple federal judges have suggested, there is good reason to believe that Trump’s language can provoke violence again. Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work — confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this.

The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution. In the immediate wake of the violence of Jan. 6, almost all of us knew the gravity and the cause of what had just happened — we had witnessed it firsthand.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) left no doubt in his public remarks. On the floor of the House on Jan. 13, McCarthy said: “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” Now, McCarthy has changed his story.

I am a conservative Republican, and the most conservative of conservative values is reverence for the rule of law. Each of us swears an oath before God to uphold our Constitution. The electoral college has spoken. More than 60 state and federal courts, including multiple Trump-appointed judges, have rejected the former president’s arguments, and refused to overturn election results. That is the rule of law; that is our constitutional system for resolving claims of election fraud.

The question before us now is whether we will join Trump’s crusade to delegitimize and undo the legal outcome of the 2020 election, with all the consequences that might have. I have worked overseas in nations where changes in leadership come only with violence, where democracy takes hold only until the next violent upheaval. America is exceptional because our constitutional system guards against that. At the heart of our republic is a commitment to the peaceful transfer of power among political rivals in accordance with law. President Ronald Reagan described this as our American “miracle.”

While embracing or ignoring Trump’s statements might seem attractive to some for fundraising and political purposes, that approach will do profound long-term damage to our party and our country. Trump has never expressed remorse or regret for the attack of Jan. 6 and now suggests that our elections, and our legal and constitutional system, cannot be trusted to do the will of the people. This is immensely harmful, especially as we now compete on the world stage against Communist China and its claims that democracy is a failed system.

For Republicans, the path forward is clear.

First, support the ongoing Justice Department criminal investigations of the Jan. 6 attack. Those investigations must be comprehensive and objective; neither the White House nor any member of Congress should interfere.

Second, we must support a parallel bipartisan review by a commission with subpoena power to seek and find facts; it will describe for all Americans what happened. This is critical to defeat the misinformation and nonsense circulating in the press and on social media. No currently serving member of Congress — with an eye to the upcoming election cycle — should participate. We should appoint former officials, members of the judiciary and other prominent Americans who can be objective, just as we did after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The commission should be focused on the Jan. 6 attacks. The Black Lives Matter and antifa violence of last summer was illegal and reprehensible, but it is a different problem with a different solution.

Finally, we Republicans need to stand for genuinely conservative principles, and steer away from the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality. In our hearts, we are devoted to the American miracle. We believe in the rule of law, in limited government, in a strong national defense, and in prosperity and opportunity brought by low taxes and fiscally conservative policies.

There is much at stake now, including the ridiculous wokeness of our political rivals, the irrational policies at the border and runaway spending that threatens a return to the catastrophic inflation of the 1970s. Reagan formed a broad coalition from across the political spectrum to return America to sanity, and we need to do the same now. We know how. But this will not happen if Republicans choose to abandon the rule of law and join Trump’s crusade to undermine the foundation of our democracy and reverse the legal outcome of the last election.

History is watching. Our children are watching. We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process. I am committed to doing that, no matter what the short-term political consequences might be.

Let’s talk American History

The U.S. has a uniquely diverse history, parts of which are often glossed over, ignored, or revised in its teaching. That needs to stop … we need to learn the history of the nation — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it. Yet, there are those who would simply erase parts of the history of this nation. Blogging buddy Brosephus has once again knocked the ball out of the park with his take on this topic … thank you, Brosephus!

The Mind of Brosephus

American history has been a hot topic as of lately, primarily because of Republicans striking out against what they’re calling “wokeism”, revisionism, or whatever the code word is for the day. There’s been a lot of crap being spewed from the Tennessee Republican claiming the Three-fifths Compromise was passed to end slavery to Tim Scott claiming America isn’t a racist country.

Individually, the statements that have been made are outrageously stupid and wrong. Collectively, these statements all feed into the cult-like behavior Republicans now exhibit where up is down, the sky is green, and grass is blue. This is dangerous because this creates a society ignorant of its own history of accomplishments and mistakes. You can’t know who you are if you don’t what you have and haven’t done.

So, first up is Rick Santorum and his statement on Native Americans. The easiest and quickest way to disprove his statement…

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♫ Last Train To Clarksville ♫

I have been grumpy, depressed, and out of sorts for days now, so for tonight’s music selection I went looking for something fun … no other criteria … no need for a song of social conscience, a song about love or lost love … just something to make the toes tap and lift the spirits, if only for 2 minutes and 45 seconds.  This one, an oldie from my youth, came to mind and I settled on it, thinking of it as a fun song.  Little did I know the meaning behind the song 🙄

Released in 1966, this was written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, a songwriting team who came up with many songs for the Monkees. They also wrote songs for Chubby Checker and Jay & the Americans.

Boyce and Hart wrote this as a protest to the Vietnam War. They had to keep this quiet in order to get it recorded, but it is about a guy who gets drafted and goes to fight in the war. The train is taking him to an army base, and he knows he may die in Vietnam. At the end of the song he states, “I don’t know if I’m ever coming home.”  Says Hart …

“We were just looking for a name that sounded good. There’s a little town in Northern Arizona I used to go through in the summer on the way to Oak Creek Canyon called Clarksdale. We were throwing out names, and when we got to Clarksdale, we thought Clarksville sounded even better. We didn’t know it at the time, [but] there is an Air Force base near the town of Clarksville, Tennessee – which would have fit the bill fine for the story line. We couldn’t be too direct with The Monkees. We couldn’t really make a protest song out of it – we kind of snuck it in.”

Hart got the idea for the lyrics when he turned on the radio and heard the end of The Beatles “Paperback Writer.” He thought Paul McCartney was singing “Take the last train,” and decided to use the line when he found out McCartney was actually singing “Paperback Writer.” Hart knew that The Monkees TV series was pitched as a music/comedy series in the spirit of The Beatles movie A Hard Day’s Night, so he knew emulating The Beatles would be a winner. To do that, he made sure to put a distinctive guitar riff in this song, and wrote in the “Oh No-No-No, Oh No-No-No” lyrics as a response to the Beatles famous “Yeah Yeah Yeah.”

Session musicians played on the Monkees albums, usually some combination of Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, James Burton, David Gates, Carol Kaye, Jim Gordon and Hal Blaine. According to the liner notes on the 1994 reissue of the album, however, members of a group called the Candy Store Prophets did the instrumental backing on this track at a session that took place July 25, 1966 at RCA Victor Studios in Hollywood. The Candy Store Prophets were Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart’s band, and included Boyce on acoustic guitar, Gerry McGee on electric guitar, Larry Taylor on bass and Billy Lewis on drums. Additional musicians on this track were Wayne Erwin and Louie Shelton on guitar, and Gene Estes on percussion.

Released in 1966, this song charted at #1 in the U.S. and Canada, and #23 in the UK.

Last Train to Clarksville
The Monkees

Take the last train to Clarksville
And I’ll meet you at the station
You can be be here by four thirty
‘Cause I’ve made your reservation

Don’t be slow
Oh, no, no, no
Oh, no, no, no

‘Cause I’m leavin’ in the morning
And I must see you again
We’ll have one more night together
‘Til the morning brings my train

And I must go
Oh, no, no, no
Oh, no, no, no
And I don’t know
If I’m ever coming home

Take the last train to Clarksville
I’ll be waiting at the station
We’ll have time for coffee flavored kisses
And a bit of conversation

Oh, no, no, no
Oh, no, no, no

Take the last train to Clarksville
Now I must hang up the phone
I can’t hear you in this
Noisy railroad station, all alone

I’m feelin’ low
Oh, no, no, no
Oh, no, no, no
And I don’t know
If I’m ever coming home

Take the last train to Clarksville
And I’ll meet you at the station
You can be be here by four thirty
‘Cause I made your reservation

Don’t be slow
Oh, no, no, no
Oh, no, no, no
And I don’t know
If I’m ever coming home

Take the last train to Clarksville
Take the last train to Clarksville
Take the last train to Clarksville
Take the last train to Clarksville

Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: Hart Bobby / Boyce Tommy
Last Train to Clarksville lyrics © Screen Gems-emi Music Inc.

Good People Doing Good Things — Donnel Baird

Today’s good people is a bit different than the ones I usually write about on Wednesday mornings.  He didn’t pull a child from in front of an oncoming train, nor renovate an elderly person’s home for free, but what he has done will have a lasting positive impact on the lives of potentially thousands of people and … at the same time, he is helping the environment.  I am posting today’s ‘Good People’ directly from The Washington Post, for I could not possibly have done any better job in writing about this good person, Donnel Baird.


Donnel Baird kept his coat on while he toured the aging sanctuary. His breath froze on his face mask as he took in the peeling plaster, the dusty basement, the failing boiler that never seemed able to make Bright Light Baptist Church warm.

But when he peered into the kitchen, the shiver he felt was one of recognition. Every burner on the stove was lit. The oven door was open, its temperature set on high.

It was exactly how Baird’s family tried to heat his childhood home more than three decades earlier, in another Brooklyn building with a dysfunctional HVAC system. The landlord wouldn’t address the problem, and the family couldn’t afford to move. So they stayed, the need to keep their children warm outweighing the danger of toxic fumes and open flames.

Baird, 40, has made it his life’s work to ensure other people don’t have to make that choice.

That’s why he launched BlocPower. Since its inception in 2012, his Brooklyn-based start-up has brought clean energy to more than 1,100 low-income buildings across the New York area. Baird’s business plan is simple: the company replaces heating and cooling systems that run on fossil fuels with greener, more efficient alternatives such as electric heat pumps and solar panels. That reduces the pollution driving climate change while also making indoor air healthier. The gains in efficiency generate enough savings to lower costs for property owners and deliver a profit to BlocPower investors. And the renovations create jobs and increase property values, building wealth in neighborhoods that have long been marginalized.

After collecting more than $60 million in his latest round of fundraising, Baird is eyeing an expansion to dozens more cities, including Philadelphia; Milwaukee; Oakland, Calif. He is not shy about his ambitions. Working building by building, block by block, he aims to address injustice and help save the planet.

An activist grows in Brooklyn

The foundations for BlocPower were laid during Baird’s childhood in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a Brooklyn neighborhood just a few miles from Bright Light. It was a community with a spirit of civil rights activism — the center of school integration protests; the home district of Rep. Shirley Chisholm, the first woman and African American to seek a major party’s presidential nomination in 1972. But the area had also been depleted by predatory real estate practices and ravaged by the crack epidemic.

By the 1980s, when Baird’s parents emigrated from Guyana, the neighborhood was at a nadir. Buildings were in disrepair, jobs were hard to come by, tensions with police were high. As an elementary-schooler, Baird witnessed a fistfight escalate into a deadly shooting. That taught him about desperation, he says; when someone pulls the trigger, it’s because their back is already against the wall.

Baird’s family eventually moved to Atlanta, where Baird got scholarships to attend a private high school and then Duke University. Surrounded by Whiteness, wealth and privilege, “I really started to see the structural elements of racism in America,” Baird said.

Then police in the Bronx killed an unarmed Black man named Amadou Diallo, firing 41 shots at him. The immigrant from Guinea was only a few years older than Baird and had been standing in front of his apartment building when he was killed.

Baird sank into a deep depression. He might have stayed there if he hadn’t wound up in a course at Duke about social movements taught by historian Larry Goodwyn. He became close with the professor, who called the struggling sophomore into his office one day and told him, Baird recalled, to “get my s— together.”

“He said, ‘You’re so smart, there’s no excuse for you not to figure out how to plug in and get active on the issue of race,” Baird said.

In a classmate, Mariana Arcaya, Baird found the connection he needed. A fellow New Yorker and also a child of immigrants, she bonded with Baird over their shared outrage about the world’s injustices. She talked him into driving nine hours to protest at a 2002 meeting of the World Economic Forum in New York. And when former vice president Al Gore’s climate-change documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” came out in 2006, Arcaya forced Baird to watch it with her — twice.

“She sat me down and was like, ‘This is incredibly important,’ ” Baird said. “None of the other stuff you care about will matter unless you figure out how to solve it.”

After graduation, Baird moved back to New York to work as a community organizer, then got a job partnering with the Department of Energy to retrofit low-income houses so that they used less energy and cost less to heat.

Roughly a third of U.S. households have trouble paying energy bills, according to the Energy Information Administration. Wealth disparities and decades of racist housing policies mean that Black and Latino Americans are disproportionately likely to live in homes with broken or inefficient HVAC equipment that is more expensive to operate.

This energy inequality is a public health crisis: aging gas and oil furnaces — as well as the stoves and ovens used to supplement them — can fill homes with dangerous pollutants. A recent MIT study found that ozone and lung-irritating particles from buildings are the nation’s biggest cause of premature death from air pollution. In the neighborhood around Bright Light, where 67 percent of rented homes suffer from maintenance defects, children are hospitalized for severe asthma at twice the citywide rate.

It’s also an environmental crisis. The energy needed to heat, cool and operate buildings produces almost a third of the United States’ planet-warming emissions.

Working on buildings “brought all the themes of my life together,” Baird said. “The racial justice stuff, the economic justice, the climate stuff.”

Yet he kept running into logistical problems. The federal retrofitting process felt too small and too slow. Renovations would uncover additional complications the policy wasn’t designed to fix.

If working for the government wasn’t the solution, he would just have to find another way.

Building a business

When in 2011 Baird announced he was enrolling at the business school at Columbia University, Arcaya was stunned. Where was the man who’d driven through the night to protest billionaires meeting at the World Economic Forum? What had happened to fighting inequality and changing systems and saving the world?

Don’t worry, Baird told his best friend. He was still going to do all that. He had a plan.

He knew the tools existed to make buildings green, healthy and efficient. Replacing oil and gas furnaces with electric appliances such as heat pumps — which pull air from the outdoors and warm it over an evaporator coil — dramatically lowered heating bills and reduced carbon emissions. Rooftop solar panels provided cheap, clean energy to buildings, and whatever wasn’t used could be sold back into the grid. Smart thermostats, light sensors and other forms of artificial intelligence made the new equipment even more cost-effective.

But high upfront costs meant those tools were out of reach for people in neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy, even though they saved money in the long run.

This was an investment opportunity waiting to be seized.

Baird began to envision a company that could raise huge amounts of capital and use it to finance green retrofits in low-income buildings. Investors would be paid back out of a portion of the utility bill savings. Baird would make the venture profitable by embracing technology and seeking out partnerships every step of the way.

He would audit families’ energy use to determine the most efficient way to meet their needs and build software that could calculate the best way to engineer and finance the project. He would partner with the high-tech architecture firms that small homeowners usually couldn’t afford, using tools such as 3-D scans and digital models to bring down construction costs. He would forge agreements with utilities and cities that would enable him to earn even more money by helping those institutions meet their emissions reduction goals. And he would provide job training to residents in the communities he served, to ensure that the benefits of each project lasted long after the work was complete.

BlocPower launched while Baird was still a student at Columbia. He skipped one of his final business school exams to give a presentation at the White House. It turned out to be the right decision; he walked away with a $2 million contract from the Energy Department.

Yet when Baird went to fundraise, he felt “like a fish out of water” in the mostly White, wealthy worlds of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Prospective funders told him that low-income buildings were seen as bad investments. The unspoken message seemed to be that he was seen as a bad investment.

But Baird is nothing if not tenacious; a Black man in America has to be, he said. So he studied the systems that had excluded people like him and figured out how to work within them. He went to the banks that had denied loans to Black people and the corporations that profited from fossil fuels and used their wealth to create change.

It was hard. But in 2015, when his son Nash was born, he got a powerful new motivation to keep trying.

“I have to find a way in the real world to come up with a plan that is going to preserve the life chances for myself and my children and my grandchildren,” Baird said.

So Baird learned to call community centers “small and medium enterprise buildings” and not to wear a suit to meetings in California. He found many of the skills he learned as a community organizer translated into the business world. He also had a “secret weapon” — an understanding of what it takes to create change.

Ultimately, Baird garnered millions from investment funds and venture capitalists. A crowdfunding campaign launched this month has already raised $200,000.

“It’s not often you find someone with the skills, the ambition and just the fortitude to take all these things on,” said Margaret Anadu, chair of the Urban Investment Group at Goldman Sachs and one of Baird’s early backers. “The fact that he can wrap all of that up into an investment opportunity that is also commercial and profitable and scalable — it’s just a level of innovation that is pretty unique.”

“People talk about a win-win,” she added. “And with Donnel, it’s a win-win-win-win-win.”

The foundations for change

Not long after his initial visit to Bright Light, Baird got a frantic call from Eddie Karim, the church’s pastor. The boiler had finally broken — right in the middle of the snowiest month New York had seen in years.

Baird authorized an emergency heat pump installation for the church, and a few days later, Karim watched as a work crew fanned out across the building.

Luke Ericson and Devin Conroy, who use high-tech construction tools, descended into the boiler room.

“Whoa,” Ericson said.

An ancient 1,300-gallon oil tank filled the first room. Beyond it, a rusty boiler that looked to be 50 years old — far exceeding the state-recommended lifetime of about 15 years.

“Yeah,” said Conroy. “It’s not very ideal.”

But he’d seen it before. More than 70 percent of buildings in the city still run on oil- and gas-powered boilers, many of them in equally bad condition.

And compared with the rest of the work that needed to be done on the century-old structure, this was an easy fix. The oil tank could be scrapped and the boiler retrofitted with electric heat pumps, which would slash the amount of energy needed to heat the three-story building. If New York switched its grid to renewable energy sources, Bright Light’s heat would be completely green — no carbon emissions at all.

Upstairs, Karim watched Ericson take a 3-D scan of the sanctuary, resplendent even in disrepair. Intricate mosaics decorate the floors; LED lightbulbs — Karim’s first step toward sustainability — gleam in the chandeliers.

“It’s special, isn’t it?” Karim asked. Once a synagogue serving the neighborhood’s Jewish immigrant community, it became a Baptist church when the area’s demographics shifted. Residents have worshiped in the space for exactly 100 years.

Bright Light is a beloved institution in Brownsville, one of Brooklyn’s poorest neighborhoods: It operates a day care and a senior citizens program and runs food drives and vaccine information sessions during the covid-19 pandemic.

But the congregation has dwindled, and the church suffers from the same lack of resources that has constrained the rest of the community. “The main problem now is decay,” Karim said. “It sounds bad, but it’s what happens when people feel defeated.”

That’s why he rebuffs suggestions that he sell the building and relocate somewhere easier to maintain. He wants to show that the problems are fixable, that an old and struggling structure can have a sustainable future. The boiler replacement alone is expected to save Bright Light about 20 percent on its utility bills and reduce emissions 70 percent.

“My heart’s desire is to get rid of fossil fuels,” he said. “To be able to be an example to the community.”

He’s come to embrace Baird’s vision of what Bright Light could be, after the heat pumps are humming and the thermostats are set and the solar panels are soaking up sunshine. An antenna atop the building will measure weather conditions and send signals to the heating system to optimize its energy use. Batteries in the basement will store energy and sell excess back to the grid. Schoolkids and community groups will gather in the church for its cool air and WiFi. The church that has long served as an anchor for Brownsville will also become a springboard for change.

“It’s such a concrete example of what it would look like to bring about climate justice,” said Arcaya, who is now a professor of urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A Bronx family is now saving 15 percent on their energy bill. A White Plains church has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent and is earning new income hosting summer weddings now that it has an effective air-conditioning system.

If he closes his eyes, Baird can envision Brooklyn in 2030. Every building is electric, and asthma rates are low. Rooftop solar panels connect homes to a neighborhood microgrid, which is run by a local energy cooperative, which is owned by residents. People earn extra income by selling their carbon savings as credits to big industries struggling to reduce their own emissions.

“We can create and build a new industry in these neighborhoods,” Baird said. “And they can own it and control it and build wealth by saving the planet.”

Facebook’s ban on the Former Guy Must Remain

Tomorrow, Facebook will announce whether the former guy will be allowed back on. If he is, I will be closing my Facebook account on that same day, for it would show me the lack of values, lack of integrity of that outlet. Our friend Jeff over at On the Fence Voters weighs in on the topic, and I am 100% in agreement with him. Thanks, Jeff!

On The Fence Voters

Here’s hoping the Facebook Oversight Board (FOB) does the right thing tomorrow and keeps the indefinite ban on the disgraced former president. American democracy eagerly awaits the decision.

For those of you who might not know it, Facebook created the Board to weigh in on certain moderation decisions made by the company and make sure that those decisions were “made according to its stated values.” Whatever decision they reach tomorrow cannot be overruled – even by Zuckerburg himself.

The Former Guy is seeking reinstatement of his Facebook and Instagram accounts. Currently, his accounts on YouTube, Snapchat, and Twitter remain suspended. All social media giants responded when the mob of thugs tried to overthrow our government on January 6. The Former Guy’s reprehensible promulgation of the Big Lie that the election was stolen from him directly resulted in the events of that day.

The media companies did the right thing then…

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What The GOP Looks Like In The 21st Century

Is there a single member of the former guy’s inner circle who isn’t in deep legal doo-doo?  First, there’s Giuliani whose home and office were raided by the FBI last week and who is in more than one pot of boiling water.  Then there’s Jared Kusher whose apartment company has been charged with repeatedly violating state consumer protection laws by collecting debts without required licenses, charging tenants improper fees and misrepresenting the condition of rental units.  Former Attorney General William Barr is being investigated for a possible conflict of interest in the case against heavy-equipment manufacturer Caterpillar Inc., and the list goes on.  Hopefully, at the end of the day, charges and indictments come down against the former guy himself, for he is undoubtedly at the helm of most of these issues.  It is my fondest hope to see the former guy in an orange jumpsuit and behind bars for the rest of his life.

And yet, the GOP goes on, producing more, nastier criminal types like Kevin McCarthy, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Margie Greene, Matt Gaetz and more.  In my mind, I can almost hear Richard Nixon loudly asserting that, “I am not a crook!”  In truth, Nixon was no more a crook than some 90% of today’s GOP … but he paid the price, while today’s lot are applauded.  The difference?  Probably the likes of Fox ‘News’, the New York Post, and other Murdoch-owned outlets that wouldn’t recognize truth if it hit them in the patootie, and the influence of social media.  Compared to Nixon in 1973, today’s liars and crooks have nearly unlimited coverage ‘round the clock … Twitter, Fox, Newsmax, Facebook … they are all complicit in giving voice to the lies, to giving the crooks a megaphone with which to make their meritless case.  To be a star on Twitter or Facebook, you needn’t be honest or intelligent … you only need to have a huge number of followers, which you can get by being off-the-wall outrageous.  Integrity?  Not necessary.  Honesty?  Not a requisite.

You’ll hear, from many on all sides of the fence, that “both sides do it”.  No, my friends.  While the Democrats are not beyond party loyalty, and while no doubt they tell a lie or two here and there, they are in no way the accomplished Pinocchios that today’s GOP is home to.  One single example:  The GOP and its right-wing media arm have put out the completely baseless lie that Joe Biden is “coming to take your beef burger”!  Biden has never, to the best of my knowledge, even mentioned cutting beef consumption, and he’s a smart enough man to know he’d find his head on the chopping block if he did.  Now personally … my family and I eat beef maybe once a month, so I really don’t care if the powers that be stop slaughtering cows, but that’s just me.

But you’ll hear it on Fox, you’ll hear it out of the mouths of the Republican fools … and there is not a single element of basis in fact for that outright lie.  It bears as much merit as if the Democrats put out the lie that Republicans are going to force every person over the age of 18 to own a gun.  But see, we don’t need to make up lies about the Republicans, for they make themselves look bad every day without our help!  They think we sit around trying to find ways to make them look like idiots, but they’ve done that job for us!

But let us talk about substance … if the Republicans don’t like President Biden’s ideas, why don’t they come up with alternate policy proposals, meet at the table, and give a little, take a little, ending with a compromise that benefits the nation?  Why don’t they propose ways to ensure that everyone, regardless of employment, gender, ethnicity, or religion has affordable health care?  Why don’t they give us their ideas for how to repair the damage done to the Earth’s environment by humans?  Why don’t they propose ways to meet the challenges that face us in the 21st century?  Why?  Because they have none, because they are too busy being the party of racism, of negativity, of conspiracy theories, to actually propose meaningful, useful, legislation.  Does anybody doubt that they have spent more time promoting the Big Lie than thinking about how to help the people of this nation?

Republican Representative Anthony Gonzalez, when asked about the beating of Representative Liz Cheney by other Republicans because she stood by her beliefs in voting to impeach the former guy, replied …

“If a prerequisite for leading our conference is continuing to lie to our voters, then Liz is not the best fit. Liz isn’t going to lie to people. Liz is going to say what she believes. She’s going to stand on principle. And if that’s going to be distracting for folks, she’s not the best fit. I wish that weren’t the case.”

And that, folks, sums it up in a nutshell … if you have a conscience, if you are honest and a person of integrity, then you are “not the best fit” for today’s Republican Party.  Need I say more?