"I've seen the future, brother – it is murder." – Leonard Cohen


This election hit me like a kick in the stomach. It's hard to know what to say without sounding too pessimistic. The Tiny Goddess always says that I have to be positive for the sake of our kids and now, our grandson, but it's difficult for me to see Trump's election as anything less than a major disaster.

It shouldn't have been close, but Trump tapped into the national anger over the status quo, some of the same anger that Bernie Sanders tapped into. (Of course, Bernie has some real solutions to our problems, not just slogans, blame, and bile.) Life in America has become intolerable for a great many people. More than 100 million live in poverty. 75% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Most people can't pay for things like their health care, their kids' education, childcare, etc. Many Americans will never be able to retire; they will work until they die. Whole areas of the country between the coasts have been devastated by neglect. The level of stress in the air is toxic.

Fueled by hate radio, Internet sites, and Fox News, the right wing has been able to leverage everyday anger into something that resembles a movement, but it is really a howl of pain and ignorance. (Check out Thomas Frank's WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS?) The typical GOP remedies – tax cuts, deregulation, privatizing civic functions – will do nothing for the average Trump voter. He will cut a lot of taxes. Middle class people will save a couple of hundred dollars; the rich will save many thousands, the corporations will save millions, which they will then funnel to their CEOs and top executives. The problem with that is that rich people bank their tax savings; they don't spend them. The money doesn't circulate. There is less of a boom to the economy than promised, and meanwhile under-funded government functions suffer. Republicans hate government and like to cripple it, so they can say, "See? Government doesn't work."

This is the first time since 1928 that the Republicans have had complete control of the federal government: White House, the House, and the Senate ... and you know what happened soon after that. Complete GOP control in Kansas, with the implementation of pet Republican ideas like tax cuts for the rich and the corporations, has led to a total statewide disaster.


How the GOP destroyed Kansas


More on the GOP disaster in Kansas


Face it: the GOP has been going this way for a while. There's not much distance from Sarah Palin to Donald Trump. Actually, she had a better resume for high office than he does. At least she was a governor. Trump has never even served on his local school board.

The TG always says that Trump reminds her of all the egotistical CEO and billionaires she met in her long, storied career in Hollywood. These men, surrounded by toadies and/or dependent staff and family members, never hear "no." Trump is going to have to learn some lessons, or .... it's too horrible to contemplate. I thought we were just in a "cold" civil war, a cultural war. I don't think it will come to major violence, but you never know.

I wasn't surprised that Trump got the nomination. If I said it once to the TG, I said it a hundred times: "They're the party of clowns, and Trump is the biggest clown." Proof of that is that the second place candidate – Ted Cruz's – claim to fame was that he shut down the federal government for sixteen days at a cost of $24 billion. Just the kind of guy you want as president!

At first, on the surface, you can see the appeal of Trump. He's a brash, tough-talking New Yorker, almost a Damon Runyon figure. That's what made him a TV reality show star. And when he started in the primaries calling "bullshit" on the whole system, he struck a chord.

Of course, when you listened to much of the actual content of his words during the campaign, he is anything but a cartoon. The crowd wanted "outrageous" and he gave them "outrageous." I don't think that he even believes that he can govern that way.


Donald Trump in "A Face In the Crowd"


The whole thing is fairly ludicrous: the "successful" businessman with six bankruptcies who can't reveal his tax returns – any of them? Was he audited every single year? He couldn't show even one year's return?? And the media let him get away with it. They gave him millions of dollars in free airtime and never closely examined his fitness to be president. There is some doubt that he ever was audited at all. He never produced the audit letter, stating that he was being audited. If he was such a good businessman, where were the other billionaires and moguls to support him? The answer is they were nowhere. And what kind of a person is involved with more than 3,500 lawsuits -- mainly for screwing subcontractors and "little guys," just the kind of people who voted for him? I still want to see his tax returns. Is he a liar/exaggerator or a crook? Is he a tightwad who gives nothing to charity? Does he have debts in Russia or China? Who knows these things? ... Did the Russian hacks and Wikileaks actually swing the election? What illicit role did the FBI have in the Trump win ... and not just Comey's intrusion in the process days before the election but the leak of old Clinton pardon material from a dormant FBI Twitter account? All these things should be investigated.

The problem is that many people are in such pain and are so fed up with the status quo that they probably don't care. They didn't care about "Access Hollywood" or his racism/nativism, which probably won him as many votes as it lost. The Trump vote was a big NO, a big Middle Finger to the Washington/New York/Hollywood elites. A big, dumb NO.

Trump's win was especially bitter since Hillary got more popular votes. By more than 800,000 votes. That's not really close. But the right wing has beat up on Hillary for more than twenty-five years – Whitewater ... Filegate ... Travelgate ... killing Vince Foster ... Pardongate ... Benghazi ... Saul Alinksy ... the Clinton Foundation ... being fired from the Watergate Committee ... laughing at child rape ... her Goldman Sachs speeches ... Libya ... her e-mails and private server ... and Monica Lewinsky and Bill -- and even though nothing has stuck or been really that horrible (except for the e-mail mess, which was more about arrogance and self-protection than incompetence), the scent of scandal and "lying" hung on her. And since she has been in Washington for more than twenty-five years: she could never sell herself as an agent of "change" – and change is what people want. The federal government is broken, but not because of Hillary. Republican obstructionism and the paralyzing power of campaign finance money are the chief causes.

That's the second time that it's happened to the Democrats in recent years. Gore got more votes than Bush in 2000. The Electoral College system, based as it is on congressional representation, favors the small states, which are now mostly the old, rural "white" states where the Republicans are traditionally strong.

An old friend of mine reminded me on Facebook that he and I won the Long Island Junior High School Debate Championship in 1965 as the Best Affirmative team when the proposition was – "Resolved: that the Electoral College be abolished." We were right then, and are right now. The Electoral College was always a concession to the small states who were concerned about being overwhelmed by the larger states. (And they had some reason to be: four out of the first five presidents were from Virginia, the largest state.) But it also helped slave states protect their "peculiar institution." It was anti-democratic, but that was the whole idea. Why can't we have a simple, popular vote ... weekend voting, or make it a national holiday ... the way that other countries do?


How the Electoral College protected the slave states


With all the current demonstrations, it's funny to see the calls to line up docilely behind Trump, even though he and the rest of the GOP with their "birther" nonsense spent years trying to undermine and de-legitimatize Obama, well into his presidency. For a man who built his campaign on anger, for Trump to ask people not to be angry takes quite a bit of gall.

I only did a little phone banking this time, less than I usually do, and I feel a little guilty about it (not that I would have made any difference.) I did some local phone banking for a friend of ours, Anthony Portantino, who actually won his race for State Senate in California over longtime LA Supervisor Mike Antonovich. It was a great win, but Democrats did well all over the state. I also phone banked for Moveon.org into swing states Florida and North Carolina. We didn't do so well there.

But I could tell on my calls that there really wasn't huge, visceral enthusiasm for Hillary, the way there was for Trump. (Not to mention Obama.) She's a well-intentioned, career civil servant, but she's not a particularly inspiring candidate and had too many negatives. But even with all the vile mysogny and twenty-five years of witchhunt, she did win the popular vote.

Would Bernie have won the whole thing outright? I don't think so. Speaking as a Jewish socialist from Brooklyn, I don't think America would have elected a Jewish socialist from Brooklyn. I think all the corporate interests would have risen up to crush him. And the same racism/nativism that elected Trump would have been at work too. It could have been even uglier.

How bad will it get? I don't want to say what I really feel. These next four years are going to be tough. I do agree with Michael Moore that Trump will not serve out the full four years. He doesn't want to work that hard. He doesn't have the concentration and attention span to be president. Which leaves us Mike Pence, who is ultimately more dangerous. Trump is just egotist and opportunist; Pence is a true believer.

Trump's first few appointments will tell a lot. Reince Preibus and Steve Bannon? Laura Ingraham for press secretary? A climate change denier to head the EPA? Rudy Giuliani as attorney general? Sarah Palin for the Department of Interior? It could get very ugly. Bannon is an especially repulsive, dangerous character. The GOP is a collection of pathologies: Bannon represents the nasty, juvenile, twelve-year-old boy side of the party, the Rush Limbaugh side. And there is way too much evidence that he's an anti-Semite and a white Supremacist. The Breitbart site is a cesspool. Now the cesspool is in Karl Rove's old office.

I think there eventually be some kind of insurrection from career civil servants -- leakers and whistleblowers -- who want to defend sane government. They will team with what's left of the responsible media to work against Trump's worst actions. How successful they will be remains to be seen.

Grasping for a shred of hope, I keep thinking that maybe a few good things can come out of this. Maybe Trump, who used to be a Democrat, will tack a little back to the center with an infrastructure bill and a jobs bill and some of the common-sense initiatives that Obama wanted. He's a builder: maybe he'll build a lot of things. Maybe he will be a pragmatist.

What other damage he will cause – who can guess? Maybe he will replace Obamacare with "something terrific." Like single payer. Or Medicare for all. If we change the name to "Trumpcare," I bet he would go along with it.

The mega-tragedy of the whole thing is that we're going to go in the wrong direction on climate change. We have to act now as a planet. Secretly, I think it's probably already too late; I believe that the environmental damage has been done. The boulder is loose and is rolling down the hill. Human life on earth is going to be a very different thing in two hundred years. I think I'm happy that I won't be here to see the chaos. This might be the long-term worst result of this election.

I often listen to Thom Hartmann's radio program, and for many years, he had Bernie Sanders on every Friday for "Brunch With Bernie," where callers could ask Bernie anything. Lots of things were discussed over the years, lots of thwarted dreams and ideas. But the refrain Thom and Bernie came back to, time and time again, after countless setbacks and disappointments, was "DESPAIR IS NOT AN OPTION."

I hate to quote William F. Buckley, noted bigot, but he had the perfect line: "The people have spoken, and they must be punished." (Even though Hillary got more votes.)

Still, it's hard not to be heartsick for the country that I love. This was a self-inflicted 9/11.

At one time, I thought that it couldn't get any worse than Reagan, and we got Bush Two. I was sure that it couldn't get any worse than him, and now we have Trump. "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy four years."

(I don't really want to write political blogs. I'm fairly consumed by politics and "current affairs" and could write on them every time, but that would use up too much of my writing fuel. I have to save my real passion, my strongest juice, my deepest despair, for my novel. I'll admit that it's been a little difficult for me to work on my book, even though it's partially about the conditions in America that led to Trumpism. It's hard to write my big/little story about one man when the whole world is collapsing. And then sometimes, it makes me work harder than ever. To bear witness and to have my say.)


As if all this bad news wasn't bad enough, Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell died this week. I was a big fan of both and still listen to their music; more of Leonard's, of course, but I'll still search out the odd "Mad Dogs and Englishman" cut or something from Leon's amazing first solo album.

I've seen a lot of concerts, but two I particularly treasure are a Leon Russell and the Shelter People concert from 1970 at the Capitol Theatre in Portchester, New York, with Freddie King opening, and Leonard's marathon show at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles in 2013. Two great shows, two great bands, two different approaches: one by a musical master, one by a lyrical master.

Leonard is especially one of my favorites. I believe he is, along with Bob Dylan and Stephen Sondheim, one of the three great lyricists of our time. He is smart and funny and surprising and wise: everything I want in a writer, with or without music. I'm still discovering songs by him that I don't know.

Since his death, I've been listening to a lot of Leonard. Here are some words of wisdom that are especially relevant:

"Everybody Knows"

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long stem rose
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that you love me baby
Everybody knows that you really do
Everybody knows that you've been faithful
Ah give or take a night or two
Everybody knows you've been discreet
But there were so many people you just had to meet
Without your clothes
And everybody knows
Everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

And everybody knows that it's now or never
Everybody knows that it's me or you
And everybody knows that you live forever
Ah when you've done a line or two
Everybody knows the deal is rotten
Old Black Joe's still pickin' cotton
For your ribbons and bows
And everybody knows

And everybody knows that the Plague is coming
Everybody knows that it's moving fast
Everybody knows that the naked man and woman
Are just a shining artifact of the past
Everybody knows the scene is dead
But there's gonna be a meter on your bed
That will disclose
What everybody knows

And everybody knows that you're in trouble
Everybody knows what you've been through
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
To the beach of Malibu
Everybody knows it's coming apart
Take one last look at this Sacred Heart
Before it blows
And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Oh everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows


"Hallelujah" live


"The Future" live


"Everybody Knows" live


"Who By Fire" live


"So Long, Marianne" live


"Tower of Song" live – "I said to Hank Williams, 'How lonely does it get?' / Hank Williams hasn't answered me yet / But I hear him coughing all night long / A hundred floors above me / In the tower of song"



"Delta Lady" – in rehearsal – from 1970


"Stranger in a Strange Land" – prime Leon and the Shelter People – from the early 70s


"Shoot Out on the Plantation" medley – from Swedish TV -- 1971


"A Song For You" live – Leon's standard



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Christian Correa