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As expected, Lev Parnas was a talking jaybird last night, appearing ‘exclusively’ with Rachel Maddow but then pictured talking with Anderson Cooper..guess it wasn’t so exclusive, eh?

The Trump antics are beginning to bear a distinct resemblance to Watergate; the Chief Executive surrounding himself with crooked Attorneys General (Mitchell and Barr), scary guys (G. Gordon Liddy and the alleged drunken Robert Hyde) and fixers ( Howard Hunt and Rudy Giuliani). The irony is it no longer matters whether or not the Republicans do the right thing and impeach Trump. His actions have given a free pass to his prime opponent, Joe Biden. Huh? Let me say this about that.

If baby Hunter’s Burisma role had come up ‘organically’ – i.e., from a media exposé or a leak from a government source – it would have made news and tarnished Biden’s campaign. But since Trump tried to pull off this fast one with idiots like Lev and Rudy, Biden is now immune from scandal. Jimmy Breslin coined the term ‘the gang that couldn’t shoot straight’, referring to the latter years of the New York mafia. Well, that same gang is alive and well and working for the President of the United States. It lends credibility to all the elements of the Mueller report about how Trump got the job in the first place. How tawdry. How Putinesque.

This mess will drag on, taking a bigger and bigger toll on the Republicans until November, at which time they may well get their comeuppance. The thing is, in the meantime, Trump’s new effort at wag the dog may have serious implications for all our safety. I’ve always predicted he would go mad before the end of his first term. How mad can he go? I fear we will find out. Political assassinations – of Americans? If I were Lev, I’d worry. If I were Joe Biden, I’d worry. I wouldn’t put anything past this man who desperately needs to be a winner – and that includes a second term as president. Let’s hope the voters get this in November, and send him packing…assuming he’ll leave. Which may or may not happen. Sheesh.

293

Yesterday we went to see the movie 1917 at the 11:00 in the morning showing. There were about 9 people in the theatre, including the three of us: Erik, Jopie and me. The film just opened last Friday, so going at 11 am is always a good idea.

The movie was marvelous. Sam Mendes, along with his cinematographer Roger Deakins, absolutely captured the feel of the trenches and the French countryside from that era. Having seen a significant number of documentaries, along with Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old, I kinda think I know what it looks like. But the story itself was the real gem of the movie.

The dialogue was spare, without the usual histrionics that accompany the average ‘war’ movie. This really wasn’t a war movie, per se. It was a story about two young men who are assigned a task that had familial implications, and they set about the business of completing that task to the best of their ability. The one emotion that let them down was empathy for a burning man. One of them won’t be making that mistake again.

But what emerged most prominently from the film was the same one that emerged from Peter Jackson’s work: love and respect for an elder who participated in this colossal folly. Nobody wanted to be there, but once there, they didn’t want to go home again. Isn’t that always the way with young men and war? In this case, the physical demands of life in the trenches was the biggest challenge.

But these two young men left those trenches shortly after the film began and wandered across ‘no-man’s land’ to deliver a message to a forward unit that needed to be briefed on the latest aerial recon. It was set in April 1917, which was a good year before the German’s big push, when they could move their eastern troops to the west after Russia capitulated amidst revolution. So the war was still going on hot and heavy, with enormous casualties on both sides. One of the characters said that this thing was going to end with the last man standing. We know that wasn’t so; it ended in the November, 1918 Armistice when Germany recognized they could not win after America joined on the side of the Allies.

The scene they show in the trailer is quite well done, and likely the stuff of bad dreams, when a plane crashes right next to where the two guys are standing. It wasn’t as exciting as the plane crash in The English Patient, but all they had to pay for – other than the crashed plane – was a lot of sand. This film had a much more extensive set, so it’s understandable that they had to manage the budget and not have that great a crash.

Go see the film – it’s quite good.

296 & 295 & 294

Forty two more weeks until election day, and the likelihood is he’ll be re-elected by a slim margin. Oy ve.

Bob Dauber, my trumpet mentor

The trumpet project is coming along..slowly. Bob Dauber introduced me to a trumpeter named Clifford Brown. Listening to his playing, I’ve become convinced that, had he lived, he would have been the natural successor to Louis Armstrong. But he died in a car crash on a snowy night, on his way back to Chicago. He’d stopped in Elkhart, Indiana, home of the Conn trumpet factory, to see about a new horn. I asked Bob if it was fate or karma? He said it was HP. Hewlett Packard? Nah – higher power, calling Clifford home to play with the angels. Guess they were jealous of his technique, and wanted to see how he did it.

Clemmie and his horn
Bix Beiderbecke

So the next step is to decide which of Clifford’s songs was the best, and one that Clemmie might have liked. Looking at pictures of Clemmie, and then of Bix Biederbecke and Bunny Berigan (double b’s who both died of the other b – booze), Clemmie’s appearance is very similar to theirs – hair parted down the middle and square jaw. Had he lived, he might have become a great trumpet player. But maybe he’s up in the ether, playing alongside Louis, Clifford, Miles, Bunny and Bix. Wow, wouldn’t that be something?

After I’ve picked out a few songs, I’ll start to put the video together, with appropriate pictures, text and some original stuff if I can convince Kirsten to let that happen. She has an amazing, mellow voice and I want to feature her on the video. We’ll see how that plays out. At least I can introduce her to what I’ve figured out so far. Maybe I’ll spark her interest in music other than punk and guitar sounds.

I’m staying cheerful, as discussed with Elaine. It’s damned hard, but I’m working at it!

297

So Iran admits they shot down the Ukrainian airliner by accident. Everybody already knew that was so, based on the pieces of wreckage on the ground. Just another step in the dissolution of that country that should have dissolved long ago.

Speaking with my therapist yesterday, she recommended I spend less time worrying about the end of the world and more time focusing on my creative endeavours. I think that’s excellent advice. If there were something I could do to change things, then it would make sense to obsess about these events. But other than voting, I can’t change them. So, as that beer commercial used to say, ‘Let it go, Louie”. I’m going to work on letting all that go. That doesn’t mean I’ll ignore it; it just means I’ll stop assuming the world is going to stop turning in my lifetime. It won’t.

So I will continue to work on my trumpet project, which is beginning to coalesce, with help from Martha K Backer and her cousin Bob Dauber, who is a wonderful resource on the topic. He gave me his trumpet-playing daughter Jami’s phone number, so I’ll try to get in contact with her and talk about more specifics. The quest is to find a dozen or so of the best trumpet pieces since 1944, and use those as background music for a video that explores the science, aesthetics and history of the instrument. I was watching Ken Burns documentary called Jazz, which talked about Louis Armstrong, one of the early pioneers of jazz trumpeting. I quickly realized the text for that documentary came straight out of the book I’m reading, Hotter Than That, about Louis. So I must be on the right track, if Ken and I are reading and using the same material. Woo hoo, as Michael often writes in his texts!

Finally, a word about The New York Times crossword puzzles. Each day they get harder; I know that, and I’m used to that. But in the last few days, the puzzles have gotten exponentially harder. Somebody must have told Will Shortz to step up his game, ’cause Thursday and Friday’s were both killers, with weird answers. I’m hesitant to do today’s, because Saturday puzzles are always the worst. Why start my day off with a killer puzzle? I’ll wait – or..gasp..I might skip it altogether! What is happening here? Ch.ch.ch.changes, as David Bowie used to sing. May he RIP.

298

I started watching The Messiah on Netflix, expecting one of those movies that leave you with the equivalent of the coating on your tongue after eating cheese doodles. But I saw it had a pretty good cast, and given the locales, it had to have a decent budget, so I was hoping the writing was decent. I was disappointed..again.

Then when I saw the producers were Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, a husband and wife set of ‘evangelicals’ worth half a billion dollars, that kind of explained everything. Mark is currently head of MGM Productions, which has only produced one decent thing in the last three years (any idea what that is? Here’s a hint – Get Shorty) Apparently, Mark wrested control from the previous head in a nasty bait and switch thing, so he is a dirt bag, and Roma likes to play the Virgin Mary in other biblical movies. Should have done my homework before wasting 6 hours watching this production.

Here it is in a nutshell; this guy who looks like your Sunday school book’s rendition of Jesus purportedly saves Damascus in 2019 from ISIS (how’s that for a stretch from reality?) by summoning a month-long sandstorm. Then he drags his followers over to the border with Israel and dumps them to go to Jordan and then to Texas where he purportedly saves a girl from a tornado who will become his Mary Magdalene. Then he drags a flotilla of ‘believers’ to D.C. and talks to the president. Then an Israeli guy grabs him before he can talk on a rich televangelist’s tv show, but the plane they’re on gets hit by a missile, crashes, and he resurrects the Israelis from the dead. The end. Oh, and Michelle Monaghan plays a CIA gal with a dad with Alzheimer’s who gets flooded out in Miami, and keeps chasing Jesus to reveal that he’s a fake. But that plot line just gets left hanging. I must be kidding, right? Sorry, no..that is how Season 1 ends. Clearly there is an expectation of a Season 2.

Goodness knows what it cost to make – a bundle, I expect. How Netflix recoups their investment in these movies is beyond me, but somehow they do. I shall try to be more discerning in the future, but here’s my defense. There is so little out there now that is worth watching, that it is necessary to take risks to be entertained. That’s it in a nutshell. And that is sad. Even PBS has greatly reduced their programming, even with Joan Kroc’s bequest, so it must be going to salaries instead of production. Shame on them!

So I can only conclude that, as previously discussed, for the rest of my lifetime, America will be dominated by the religious right until it is no more. Adams, Jefferson and Jackson are rolling in their tombs at the idea that we’ve been taken over by religious zealotry. But I doubt they’d be surprised – none of them probably thought we’d last this long anyway. Sigh.

303 – 299

Wow – five days since I’ve written anything, and so much has changed – and so much hasn’t. For a couple of days after ‘the event’, I was barely functional – but not for the reason you suspect. Huh? Let me ‘splain.

Trump assassinated Soleimani on January 3rd – Friday night for us, Saturday morning for Baghdad. By Monday, I had consumed nearly all media written or spoken about the event. Why? Not because I was worried about Iranian retribution – I knew that was coming, at least for Iraq – but because I was struggling to see how any of it made sense. And the more media I consumed, the worse it got. Why? Because nothing anybody was saying made any sense – it was like the braying of a donkey after the cart is upset. Nobody knew anything, but that didn’t stop them from blathering on. After all, they get paid to blather.

There was one exception to this – Dexter Filkins, currently working for The New Yorker magazine, formerly of The New York Times as a war correspondent. He’d been there; he knew the politics and he understood what was happening. And what did he have to say? Almost nothing. Why? Because I think he was reacting to the same braying that was driving me crazy, and he wasn’t about to join in.

Finally, this morning, our dear old friend Tom Friedman wrote the definitive piece on it that finally said what I’d been trying to sort out and piece together since Monday. You can check it out if you like, but let me summarize it for you. First: Soleimani thought he was untouchable. Surprise – he wasn’t. Why? Because Trump is crazy. Did the Iranians believe he was that crazy? No. Do they think so now? Yes – at least for a while. So, I must amend my first inclination. The Iranians did not betray Soleimani – he was just too bold and brazen, and too easy to spot by the US intelligence community. From any perspective, that was a mistake – his last.

The missiles fired last night from Iran to a couple of bases in Iraq were just designed for the Ayatollah to save face. Nobody was killed – neither Iraqis nor Americans. Why? Because they had plenty of warning, and went into hardened bunkers. The missiles just took out a few hangars. And maybe a Ukrainian airplane..oops. Big oops, if it is so. It certainly is beginning to look like it. Russian surface to air missile..kind of reminds you of the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014 by Russians and separatist Ukrainians; or Iran Air Flight 655 over the Persian Gulf in 1988 by the USS Vincennes. Bad things happen when boys have big toys they aren’t quite sure how to handle.

Then Friedman goes into la la land, with a suggestion that now is the time for Trump to make a deal with Iran, trading sanction relief for agreement for a permanent nuclear ban. This is naive. Neither Trump nor the Ayatollah could suggest such a thing without offending each of their constituencies. So forget that.

American soldiers must leave the Middle East – all of it – including Afghanistan. Will that happen? No..the politics, not to mention the logistics of that are difficult, would take time, and Trump would think it would appear he’s running away from a fight. But if any Americans stay, what will happen? Any time they venture out, they will be picked off, one or two at a time. And after a few of these incidents, the Army will just stop reporting these deaths. No more Icasualties.org. That information will be deemed classified – at least for a while. But the families of these soldiers – expected to return on date certain – will become concerned when they don’t hear from them. But there won’t be sufficient numbers to merit coverage, other than the occasional piece in alternative media before the election. Trump will get re-elected. Shortly after, it will be leaked, along with a slew of other misdeeds. But by then, the Republicans will have taken over the House and retained the Senate. Any suggestion of impeachment will be met with deaf ears. We’ll be stuck with all this until the Middle East – desperate for relief – sends assassins to kill Trump. And the interesting point will be: a large chunk of Americans will be rooting for them to succeed.

Now just writing this is likely to be dangerous, given the spying carried out in this country in the name of national security. So go for it, boys. Check me out and come haul away this 70 something year old woman to be detained for threatening the president. I would welcome such an opportunity to defend my predictions.

Democracy will be dead. It will have committed suicide on Isaac’s altar. And for what? Back to Tom’s piece. What are we defending in Iraq? Oil? Please..America now produces more oil than anyone else in the world. Stopping ISIS? We were actually collaborating with Iran – and Suleimani in that effort. So our leverage is actually in threatening to leave, but nobody except Tom appears to get that. The war between ISIS and everyone else was another example of Sunni vs Shia..just like what’s going on in Yemen. So let it be that – we don’t have a dog in the fight. Let Iran defend Iraq from a reconfigured ISIS. But the biggest threat? A nuclear Iran, leading to a nuclear Saudi Arabia. Isn’t that just what the Middle East needs? Sure.

So that explains my confusion. It also predicts what will happen over the next three years or so Because Trump is nuts and everyone in Washington is powerless to stop Adolph. When karma finally gets us, it’ll be bad. Really bad. Think Berlin..1945.

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Is it possible that what Trump and his whims have done is effectively destroy Iran? I think that is entirely possible. But looking at history, that will increase his power, which will lead to no good for the US.

The Ayatollahs in a happier time. Rafsanjani, third from left, died under mysterious circumstances in 2016

As previously mentioned, I think Iran’s internal politics got rid of Qassem. Now they will duke it out in preparation for their elections next year. The hard liners will hold sway and ultimately destroy the country. Isn’t that the way it always is? Here too.

And Trump will be the beneficiary of all that. Three days ago he had a losing set of dice. Now he’s back on top, and will coast to a landslide victory – because of his asymmetric thinking. Four more years of Trump will lead to ultimate folly. How can we prepare for this?

What has rocketed up will coast down

First and foremost: stay out of the stock market. Iran’s descent to the bottom will pick at us the whole way – it’s inevitable. That will roil markets, and – as previously predicted – they’ll be on a downward slide through most of 2020, but not drastically enough to kill Trump’s re-election.

Second: hoard cash. Have a nest egg set aside, even if it means just maintaining reasonable credit payments. It will do no good to have lots of available credit on cards when banks pull back and cancel them. Then you’ll wish you put that money into cash and saved it.

Save all the Cash You Can in a Safe Place – not a Coffee Can

Third: cut down on unnecessary expenses. I’ve resolved not to buy anything whatsoever from Amazon in the month of January. That should get me out of the habit of just picking up the Ipad and, with a few clicks, purchasing things that are still on the shelf in the pantry. Did I really need those preserved lemons? Must not – haven’t used them yet.

Fourth: keep your family close, and expand your circle of friends. You’re going to need to stay in touch with smart people, who give you good ideas as things progress over this coming year. You’ll also need the support of those who know you best: your family.

Fifth: stay creative. This will help you focus on things that have nothing to do with current events, which are going to get ever scarier. And finally,

I Miss Alan Rickman

Sixth: don’t panic. Erik says we’ve seen worse before; I’m not so sure about that. But I know that panic makes us do things we later regret. So don’t panic.

If you do all six of the things I’ve mentioned above, you will survive 2020. Then, take this year’s learnings and apply them 150% in 2021.

As Emperor Franz Joseph was wont to say in Amadeus, “There you have it”. Wasn’t Jeffrey Jones a hoot in that role? Indeed.

305

So two obvious topics of conversation are the death of Qassem Soleimani and the today’s visit with the therapist. Let’s start with Qassem.

I first wrote about him in 2013, after reading Dexter Filkins’ piece about the commander. Up until then, he was virtually unknown. My interpretation was that exposing him to the limelight was a way to discredit the hard liners in Iran, in favor of Rouhani who became Prime Minister. I think I was right about that, based on the subsequent efforts in 2015 to put together the Iran Nuclear Deal. But things change, and Obama and then Trump actually made Qassem more powerful than he’d been before. And that power went to his head, so he traveled around Iraq without thinking about those drones flying overhead. I don’t think he was unaware of them; he just thought he was safe because none of his associates would ever betray him. He was wrong about that, and it cost him his life.

Qassem and Mojtaba Together – now there’s just one of them

So questions must be asked and answered on both sides. First: who betrayed him? Fingers are immediately pointed at the Iraqis, but I don’t think so. I think somebody in Iran informed the NSA of his travel plans. Why? He’d gotten too big for his britches. All real power rests in the hands of the Ayatollahs, and Soleimani wasn’t one of them. He couldn’t take Ali Khamanei’s place, and he wasn’t a politician, so he couldn’t rise to replace Rouhani. No, one of the successor Ayatollahs got him. I’d point the finger at Ali Khamanei’s son, Sayyad Mojtaba Khamanei. He worked closely with the Quds Force, so likely knew about Qassem’s travel. Mojtaba as he’s called is the natural successor to Ali, and wanted Qassem out of the way. What better way to handle the situation than to get the gullible Americans to do the deed for him? Clever..and likely he’ll never get caught. Who’d think they were responsible for killing one of their own?

But this will likely strengthen, at least temporarily, the hawks in Iran. His deputy has become his successor, but he has no cult of personality following like Qassem did. And Rouhani will be out after the elections in Iran, paving the way for whoever Mojtaba wants in that slot. Wait and watch.

What Will War with Iran Look Like? Can you Spell Drones and Cyber Attacks?

The other questions that must be asked and answered: why kill him now? Because they could. Israel wanted him dead, and this should indefinitely postpone impeachment proceedings. OK, what happens next – what’s the game plan from our perspective? They’ve not a clue: wait for more people to be killed by the Iranians. Then what? Who knows. I’m terrified for Meredith, Patricia Mary’s daughter, who’s at the Embassy for another year. She needs to get out of there. And I’m glad Erik the younger isn’t in the military anymore. This is going to get worse before it gets better…and it won’t get better by much.

Re: my visit with the therapist. Sadly, Elaine’s husband passed away last month. She says she’s doing okay, and has been surprised by the outpouring of love and support she’s received from others – even neighbors she didn’t know all that well.

But it was as though no time had elapsed since our last visit. We talked for an hour, and it felt like 10 minutes. She recommended a book, Women Who Run with Wolves, which I will endeavour to get from the library. We are working on integrating the two sides of my personality. After 70 years, isn’t it about time?

More on that later…adios.

306

So let’s take stock of what we’ve learned thus far about: the trumpet. Not much. I have to confess, I’ve been rather focused on holiday everything, to the detriment of making progress towards the latest goal. Guess I have to re-establish a routine that includes study time for the trumpet – and collecting opinions about the greatest pieces. I think what I’ll do is come up with a list of, say 40 pieces – and then ask my resources to put them in order of best to .. to not best. That might be easier than asking them to come up with an original list.

OK, that said and out of the way, let’s talk about dreams. I’ve been writing mine down for weeks, and I think they say a lot about the current state of my mind. There’s a battle going on between the two sides of my brain, as reflected in the subject matter of these dreams. On the one hand, I’m trying to go back to work – the left side of my brain. Other dreams indicate I’m trying to develop a greater empathy for others, the right/creative side of my brain. The left side is winning the battle right now, which leaves me saddened and a little guilty each morning when I wake up.

My conscious mind has no desire to go back to work. We have sufficient funds to get by without a paycheck, and going back to work just means dealing with .. with difficult people. It’s never been the work itself that was the problem. It was dealing with sex and others’ perceptions that have always been my nemeses.

In the workplace, from both nature and nurture, I am a dude in a zaftig woman’s body. That disconnect between appearance and behavior was always a problem, resulting in expectations I couldn’t – or wouldn’t – fulfill. Men would hit on me, as they assumed my shape indicated sexual availability. Women superiors initially assumed I was incompetent because of my shape. Then when they found out I wasn’t, that just made the disconnect worse. There were only a few exceptions to that, and they were either very secure or gay. I think that says a lot.

So not working – well, working at home by being a writer – gets rid of all that. I think I’m content, but my dreams say otherwise. Maybe – in my subconscious – I’m trying to fix the problem that could never be fixed.

So maybe that’s the topic for discussion tomorrow with the therapist. We’ll be back at it after a six week or so hiatus. I am interested in her perspective on this, so maybe I’ll send her a link to this blog, and my “dream sheet” to see what she thinks. So here’s to you, Elaine – looking forward to our resuming the work tomorrow.

That’s it for today – adieu.

307

Happy New Year! 2020 promises to be interesting and eventful. More important: I’ll find new and creative colors for the intro to each of my blog posts! Now that’s a really good goal, eh? How ’bout this pink? Yep..cool.

Everyone has been looking back the past week or so, it being the end of the second decade. I’m going to look forward and make some pretty wild predictions, both personal, national and global. Here goes..then we’ll see how I did at the end of the year!

Impotus Crazius

Global: The problems with Iraq caused by Iran aren’t going away. They will continue to dog Trump, as his reactions are generally the opposite of what a sane president would do. The Iranians have his number now, and they’ll play him like a fiddle. Same with North Korea, but different. He and the Young’Un are too much alike, so it will be a battle of who can be the bigger brat. That will have seriously negative implications for both of them. A massive coup attempt against Kim will be revealed with mass executions, but he’ll still be weakened. Lack of rice in the cities and woman-led demonstrations will begin the uprising that will ultimately destroy the dynasty, with accompanying chaos. This will likely affect China, further emboldening Hong Kong. Japan will also be affected by the proximity to all this unrest. The far east will become very unstable, making the Middle East less newsworthy.

My Hero Nancy P

National: Trump will be weakened by revelations from Rudy G’s Russia/Ukraine connections, who will blow the whistle on Rudy, who will blow the whistle on Trump, all of which will make his Ukraine shenanigans look like child’s play. After the deadline for entering the primaries, many Republicans will begin to speak out about Trump. He will try to rein them in and fail. The clamor will grow, leading to dissent and chaos within the Republican party. This will embolden the Democrats to hang together and form powerful slates for election. They will increase their lead in the House and take over the Senate. The hero at the end of the year will be Nancy Pelosi, who will be stronger than the new Democratic president, Bernie Sanders. The Democrats will edge out the much weakened Senate Republicans and there will be expectations of finally getting something done. That will remain to be seen – in 2021 predictions.

My Android

Personal: I will continue with my exercise program, growing stronger and much more fit. This will be a healthy year for me, both physically and emotionally since I will continue seeing a therapist. Kirsten will get that job in Wakulla and she will love it. Her pay and benefits will allow her to regain health and confidence. She and I will continue to collaborate on upgrading the Tallahassee house, which will become even more inviting and have excellent ‘chi. Robin, Colter and the girls will move out in the summer and live right down the way from Aunt Jopie. They will love their new home and enjoy the benefits of the intracoastal for kayaking. I will continue with my creative arts, making videos, finishing The Algorithmic Brain, and working on the sequel to the Suffer the Children Series. My sister Sharyn and I will have adventures together and with Aunt Jopie. This will be my mother’s last year on this earth. She will have an easy and painless death.

Room Idea for Abby: love the built-in bookshelves!

Miscellany: The stock market will begin its slow slide back down to reasonable levels. Nephew Michael will begin his investment program, after having read the Ben Graham book, The Intelligent Investor. Michael will continue to thrive in his career, finding time to travel for both work and play. Colter’s career will also thrive, when Pratt & Whitney picks him up to work on a new program. He will get a healthy pay raise and enjoy his new assignment. Robin will get a job close by in a new field and be happy. Emily will finish tenth grade and get her learner’s permit. Kiernan will repeat the first grade and become a stellar reader, as well as being a math genius. Abby will continue to thrive and will be the designer of her new bedroom that will have new flooring, new furniture and beautiful artwork on the walls.

2020 will be a good year for all – except Trump and the Young’Un. Karma, baby.