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It’s not often that a rock song nails a deep philosophical truth in a single pithy lyric… but that’s just what the band Semisonic did back in 1998, with their anthemic hit “Closing Time,” which includes this great line:

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

In this case, 2009 was that “other beginning.” Barack Obama’s Inauguration was the crest of a wave, a flowering of post-Bush “si, se puede” optimism that unfortunately was quickly squelched (let us not say “betrayed”) by his own centrist pragmatism and the Republicans’ petty, partisan obstreperousness.

So now here we are, at that beginning’s end – and a new beginning. On January 20, we will see what I am calling the “Dysauguration” of Donald J. Trump – as massive a perversion of the democratic process as the planet has seen since the emperor Caligula supposedly named his horse Incitatus to the Roman Senate.

I plan to see this event from a different perspective. By the time Mr. Trump intones the words “So help me God,” I’ll be across the border, in Canada. (You might want to join me, even if just in spirit, or just for the day. See the article “Vote With Your Feet?” on my website,

I’m taking advantage of this “new beginning” to stage a new beginning of my own. I am headed to Europe for an indefinite period, with two goals in mind.

One is to get involved with refugee assistance over there. I am aiming for the Greek Isles, but I might find that I can be useful elsewhere along the route. Ideally, I’ll be able to use my performing experience by hooking up with one of the groups like Clowns Without Borders that has been doing shows to entertain the kids in the camps, but I’m willing to do whatever. (Look up “refugee clown circus” for a raft of articles about what some folks have been doing already, and why.)

The other is to get some opinions and suggestions from activists and academics over there regarding what can be done to fix our broken system, and our fractured society. I am particularly interested in how they make multiparty democracy work, and how we might bring the American system more in line with European democracies in this regard. (See my September column, “Two Parties Are Too Damn Few.”) I also plan to attend the 2017 Global Greens Congress in Liverpool at the end of March.

At present, I’m thinking I should be away for six months to a year, maybe more, depending on what happens (and how long the money holds out). In the meantime, I intend to continue this column, but I’ll be focusing primarily on my experiences along the way.

I remain an “apocaloptimist”: I believe that things are about to get quite rough, but I also believe they will work themselves out in the long run. This particular “new beginning,” this onslaught called Trumpism, will run its course and eventually end, hopefully sooner rather than later, but end it will.

And then there will be more – and better – new beginnings on the way.


Crawl from the Wreckage


Through the months and the years
The pressure just grows
& then in a moment
It seems everything blows

She drops the bombshell
The storm systems merge
Tectonic plates shift
As two lives diverge

And then when it’s over
You open your eyes
Surprised to discover
That you’re still alive

Crawl from the wreckage
Pull out of the debris
Take a good look around
At what you used to be

Destruction seems total
Nothing remains
But you still have your hands
And you still have your brain

(chorus 2)
Crawl through the wreckage
Sort through the debris
Try to find what’s still useful
In what you used to be

You feel so abandoned
You think you’re on your own
But just lift up your eyes
You’ll see you’re not alone

Hundreds and thousands
Millions and more
Who have known devastation
This has happened before

(chorus 3)
Pull them from the wreckage
Clear off the debris
Try to make yourself useful
What else is there to be


Some things of which I disapprove

… fundamentalism (of all stripes) … pessimism … cynicism … hoplophilia (worship of weapons) … belligerism … rhetorical deception … commercialization/exploitation/trivialization of sex … Puritanism … apostrophe abuse … militarism … “American exceptionalism” … bullies … authoritarianism/totalitarianism/fascism … torture … alpha-holes trickle-down economics … isolationism …


Three Americas


Did God Select Donald Trump?

Could Donald Trump’s victory have been “God’s Will”?

Possibly: but not in the way that evangelicals interpret it.

Consider the extent to which Trump embodies & personifies so many of the non-Christian qualities that have run amuck in our society – greed, ostentation, lust for power, unkindness, bullying – perhaps the Lord has seen fit to hold a mirror up to our collective national face. “Here you are,” He says. “Take a look, if you can.”


Some people pronounce it “fowlerEEE” and some say “fowlerEYE,” so the following is of course inevitable. Together with “Mad Cow Meatball” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider (Summer Blockbuster Version)” this song is part of the suite “Three Microbiotic Songs.”

Tune: “The Happy Wanderer”

I love to go a-snorkeling
In water warm and blue
But the waves conceal a deadly threat
That I must tell to you

N. fowlerEEE – N. fowlerEYYYYE
N. fowlerEEE – N. fowlerEYYYYE
That I must tell to you

That microbe called N. fowleri
It packs a mighty punch
‘Cause if it goes up in your nose
It will have your brains for lunch

N. fowlerEEE – N. fowlerEYYYYE
N. fowlerEEE – N. fowlerEYYYYE
It will have your brains for lunch

So if you must a-swimming go
In water that is warm
Be sure to wear a scuba mask
To keep your brains from harm

N. fowlerEEE – N. fowlerEYYYYE
N. fowlerEEE – N. fowlerEYYYYE
To keep your brains from harm…!


(Outdated now, perhaps, but still…)

Mr. Glenn Beck – He likes to scare the heck
Out of his audience on a regular basis
His shield and his sword – Chalk and a blackboard
On which he can connect the dots and show you all the traces

But the plots are all the same – The guy needs some new names
Against which he can raise some outrage and suspicion
So tell Mr. Beck I’m here – I’d like to volunteer
And here for his consideration is my audition

I wanna be on Glenn Beck’s Blackboard
I wanna be a threat to his preferred order
I oughta be on Glenn Beck’s Blackboard
‘Cause I really do believe we should have more open borders
I wanna be on Glenn Beck’s Blackboard
Not because I wanna be a star
I wanna be on Glenn Beck’s Blackboard
‘Cause that’s where all the cool people are!

Mr. George Soros –  He makes Glenn Beck so morose
And he knows that Saul Alinsky was by the devil driven
Mr. Van Jones terrifies him to the bones –
And don’t even get him started on Frances Fox Piven
But this stuff is so last year – we need some brand new fears
If he is to keep hawking gold and food insurance
So Glenn, please look around – there are lots of us to be found
In fact we are so many it might test your endurance

I wanna be on Glenn Beck’s Blackboard
‘Cause I think gays should marry if they wanna
I really should be on Glenn Beck’s Blackboard
‘Cause I don’t understand why we outlaw marijuana
I wanna be on Glenn Beck’s Blackboard
Please understand, it’s not about me
I wanna be on Glenn Beck’s Blackboard
’Cause that is the cool place to be!

I wanna be on Glenn Beck’s Blackboard
‘Cause Ralph Nader* and Bill Moyers* are among my heroes
I wanna be on Glenn Beck’s Blackboard
‘Cause I think Milton Friedman* was a great big zero
I wanna be on Glenn Beck’s Blackboard
‘Cause Atlas Shrugged* is not my cup of tea
I wanna be on Glenn Beck’s Blackboard
‘Cause simply put, sir, we do not agree!

*[or insert other names as desired]

[soft shoe verse]
I wanna be on Glenn Beck’s Blackboard
Cause I don’t think that all Muslims are our enemies
I oughta be on Glenn Beck’s Blackboard
‘Cause I don’t believe in American Hegemony
[big finish]
I wanna be on Glenn Beck’s Blackboard
Sure seems like the right thing to do
I wanna be on Glenn Beck’s Blackboard –
I mean, really now, don’t you?
Yes, I really wanna be on Glenn Beck’s Blackboard … How about you?