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Weathergirl Reduced (536x800)

Available in print and e-book formats on and in print format from many other online retailers, including See what’s become of Effie Mae, the notorious “spin the bottle” girl from Zendoscopy, and some of your other favorite characters from that novel. And now meet the hapless Horace Tibbles, ex-CPA and aspiring but terrible nightclub magician, and bumbling detective Dudley Boomchika, arguably one of the most unlikely heroes since Inspector Clousseau. It all makes for quite a romp in the Southern California of the 1980s.



Weathergirl: Chapter One Still Online!

For those of you who perhaps missed the last post, you can still see it and read the first chapter of my latest novel, Weathergirl. Please check it out and, if you like it, surf over to and pick up either a print or an e-book copy of the book. The story picks up years after the events depicted in my previous novel, Zendoscopy, and follows several of the characters in that book. Most notably among them is the notorious “spin the bottle girl”, Effie Mae McStutz, now divorced from and in pursuit of her alimony-shirking ex-husband Horace, who abandoned his practice as a CPA to become a rather terrible and pathetic nightclub magician. Things begin to go wildly out of control as as the increasingly deranged Horace is moved to pursue desperate measures to resolve his financial problems.

Weathergirl Is Here!

Weathergirl the not-quite-a-sequel to Zendoscopy is now available on in print and Kindle e-book formats, and the early reviews are terrific. To whet your appetite, here is Chapter 1. Read, enjoy, and then pick up your copy of the book to find out what happens as Effie Mae, the “spin the bottle” girl from Zendoscopy, pursues her deadbeat ex-husband, Horace, who’s ducked out on his alimony payments and is becoming more and more unhinged with each passing day.

Chapter 1

The Great Tibbles Vanishes

The Great Tibbles stood in front of the bathroom mirror, assessing himself with unpitying honesty. “I am a great magician,” he said aloud. “A great magician with a lousy act. No, a lousy fifty-year-old magician with a lousy act. But there’s greatness in me, somewhere, isn’t there? I mean, it can’t really be this bad.” He clucked in disgust and finished readying himself for the evening’s performance. Then, leaving his room in the scummy hotel reserved for the troupe during its latest engagement, he only wished he could be anywhere else. Bora Bora, maybe.

The Vroom Vroom Room was no palace. Truth be told, it was a dump, but Horace Tibbles, ex-CPA, aka “The Great Tibbles,” liked to eat and so was at least grateful for the work. Still, about the only thing that had gone right with the whole gig was that his performance didn’t have to follow Missy Lamb and Her Frolicking Cockapoos. No, he was indeed fortunate in that. She followed him, and that meant that he at least had the best of an admittedly depressing situation. He wouldn’t be overshadowed by the lovely Missy and he could hang out in the wings after his act to ogle her as she performed in her delicious milkmaid’s costume.

Even more in his feeble favor, the program had him onstage after Henrietta Egret did her Dance of the Seven Veils. Actually, Horace thought, it was more like seven bedsheets, given the woman’s gargantuan proportions.

The regular audience wasn’t much for breeding. Drunk and raucous on watered-down, overpriced firewater, dissipated men and abysmally degraded women hooted and jeered as a motley succession of pre-intermission acts laid ostrich-worthy eggs, slicking the way for Henrietta and then The Great Tibbles to face what—by the time intermission was over and additional liquor consumed—was little more than an ugly, vindictive mob out for blood, whether it be from the performers or anyone else unfortunate enough to get in the way.

Tibbles and Henrietta stood in the wings, Henrietta awaiting her cue. Suddenly, she turned to face the magician. “Tibbie, quick! Help me. My left pasty won’t stay on.”

The Great Tibbles tried in vain to avert his gaze from the enormous nipple thrust barely two inches from his left eye. “Er, just a second, Henrietta.” He ran to the dressing room, grabbed a small bottle of spirit gum, and ran back, panting. “Here,” he wheezed. “This should work.”

“No, you do it, Tibbie. I’ve got to hold onto my veils.”

Nervously, Tibbles painted on the spirit gum, fanned it with the tails of his coat while Henrietta giggled girlishly, and then slapped the pasty into place. “All fixed,” he said with evident relief.

“Thanks, Tibbie.” Henrietta, a good six inches taller than the magician, bent over and planted a little kiss on his forehead. “You’re a sweetie.” Just then, the drummer began banging a very loud burleycue hump-a-dump rhythm on the bass drum and Henrietta was on.

It was not pretty. Stunning, maybe. But not pretty.

Her bulk was unconvincingly camouflaged by the veils, a bit like trying to cover an aircraft carrier with a few washcloths, and the catcalls began almost immediately. But Henrietta would be a trouper. In a manner highly suggestive of the dancing hippos in Fantasia, she began to pirouette and prance about the stage, the multicolored veils soaring in her turbulent wake.

Too soon, she began shedding the components of her patchwork tent. As each veil was discarded, the catcalls grew louder, the crowd more aggressively offended.

And then, there was the drumbeat: Hump-a-DUMP! Hump-a-DUMP!

Finally, the veil covering her breasts was shed, and this final assault upon her inflamed audience being met with outraged shrieks and, most objectionably, by loud mooing and snorting from the drunker revelers who, without warning, suddenly charged the stage, followed by the rest of the inflamed villagers. The only things lacking were the flaming torches.

The curtain dropped; the tidal wave of outraged humanity ebbed back to the cheap seats. Moos and catcalls and piggy snuffling noises persisted far longer than necessary while, backstage, Henrietta fled sobbing into the wings, throwing herself into The Great Tibbles’ awkward embrace and causing both to fall against a large, painted flat. Only marginally supported, the flat began to tip, its upper end catching the edge of a metal catwalk along the stage left wall. But the arrested flat was no match for Henrietta and, preceded by Tibbles, they both crashed through it, Tibbles ending up with his neck between the hippo’s two gigantic mammaries, each the size of Montana.

“Tibbles!” came the distressed, urgent stage whisper from Sleazy Freddie—that would be Freddie Vroomski—the Master of Ceremonies and owner of the World Renowned Vroom Vroom Room. “Tibbles! Get up. You can bang her later. You’re on!”

Dazed and partially strangled, The Great Tibbles could only gurgle, “Wha???”

“Get up! Come on, Tibbles. Get out there. You’re on, dammit!”

Henrietta, well cushioned by her own fat rolls and by Tibbles underneath her, had managed to remain somewhat oriented. “Tibbie, get up!”

“I can’t. Roll over, Henrietta. Roll over.”

“Oh, sorry, Tibbie.” Henrietta rolled to the side and Tibbles struggled to his feet.

Still disoriented, he had to ask, “Which way’s the stage?”

Freddie aimed him in the right direction and then ran center stage to introduce, “…an act that will amaze, will mystify, will leave you enthralled and uplifted! I give you The Great Tibbie-er-Tibbles!” There were a few scattered cries of “Boo!” and “Foo on Foodini!” from regulars, who knew only too well what to expect.

With all the composure he could muster, Tibbles marched out to face the drooling mob, by now so far gone that it didn’t give a rat’s ass whether it was about to witness a magic act or the Second Coming. (There is something to be said for truculence held in check by advancing alcoholic stupor.) And in any case, as long as Henrietta wasn’t going to take the stage again, another assault was distinctly unlikely.

Tibbles’ act, as he had long ago acknowledged to himself, was pretty cheesy. He’d never managed to achieve any large degree of mastery over sleight of hand, so most of his tricks were based on “gimmicks”—small pieces of machinery or bits of apparatus to facilitate what more skilled practitioners of the art routinely did by means of wonderfully smooth manipulation. Tibbles’ disappearing coin trick was accomplished using clips attached to elastic bands sewn into his coat. His card manipulations always involved stripper, alternating blank card or other doctored decks. Even his few larger illusions used mechanics so crude and old that any attempt at finesse just made him look silly. Take his sawing a party doll in two illusion. Pathetic by the most generous standards, it employed a clunky blade setup whose unresisted fall accompanied by fingernails-on-a-blackboard scraping noise when inserted into the cabinet immediately ruined any possibility of deception. The hackneyed illusion never, ever brought the least gasp of surprise from anyone embarrassed enough on his behalf to suffer through it. In fact, the only reason anyone was willing to sit through it at all was that he always drew lots to give “Susie” to a lucky audience member when the trick was done. Henrietta, perhaps to her credit, felt that a real, breathing female instead of a party doll would spiff things up substantially, and she had repeatedly offered herself as his willing accomplice. Appalled at the prospect of trying to stuff her corpulence into the flimsy cabinet and afraid that if he did the whole apparatus might collapse under the load, Tibbles had consistently, if politely, declined.

The act opened with his pulling coins from the air and dropping them into a jar. This was, in fact, the only actual sleight of hand trick in his repertoire. It consisted of repeatedly producing the same coin and only appearing to drop it in the jar. The actual coins clanking into the jar came from the hand holding the jar, giving him time to palm the original coin for the next pull. By this means, he could produce as many coins as he could conceal in the jar hand. It was an old trick, endlessly performed by magicians over the years, artlessly and mechanically performed by Tibbles. The audience was seriously unimpressed.

For his next trick sequence, he did a variation of the color-changing handkerchiefs, making individual colored silks disappear, only to reappear in different colors and, as his climax, producing a long string of differently colored handkerchiefs all tied together in a prison-escape sort of string. Ho hum.

From there, Tibbles moved on to some cabinet and container magic, making a vase of flowers disappear and reappear from a box painted like a circus wagon. He made milk disappear when poured into a seemingly hollow tube and, for the grand finale, that “famous” sawing in two of the inflated party doll. Just that afternoon, Henrietta had yet again begged him to let her be sawn but Tibbles had, for the umpteenth time, rejected her entreaty. The last thing he needed was jeers—or worse—sadistic encouragement from the audience to bisect the corpulent woman in public view. Not wanting to hurt her feelings, he told her he didn’t have time to make a set of false feet that would match hers, necessary of course to complete the illusion. In any case, he knew, the really big draw for the whole thing in the first place was the party doll giveaway.

All went pretty well, notwithstanding the general audience hostility, until he was ready to pull “Susie’s” winner. Usually, this was no problem. He simply did it as a raffle, each lusting drunkard having earlier in the evening placed his name in a large goldfish bowl at the bar. This particular evening, however, after the name was drawn and the lucky winner staggered with his compliant, plastic wench from the stage, the fellow was rushed by several sore losers. There ensued a spirited melee during which the lovely Susie was popped, deflated, drawn, quartered and beheaded, leaving only limp vinyl and none of the highly engineered functionality that was so inherent in her formerly pneumatic pulchritude. As the desecration of the corpse proceeded, The Great Tibbles retreated to the wings, relieved to have lived through yet another evening of supreme self-degradation and, now, to reap his reward, the opportunity to experience the delectable Missy Lamb brush by to take the stage.

Tibbles harbored a wicked, lusting crush on Missy, even to the extent that he forced himself to tolerate her two fricasseeable mongrels, which he thoroughly despised ever since one of them had peed all over a new pair of Oxford wingtips he’d planned on wearing to his mother’s funeral the next day.

He knew just where to stand along the curtain legs and, in a few seconds, Missy appeared alongside him. She paused for only the briefest moment as Sleazy Freddie finished delivering her introduction and, in that moment, Tibbles drank in the sight of her with desperate thirst. Then, without seeming to notice him at all, Missy broke out in a broad smile and pranced into the limelight, trailed by the two yowping cockapoos, leaving her musky scent for him to taste as much as smell. It made him dizzy, and the ache he felt nearly brought him to tears. This, however, was quickly followed by protective anger as her cherry-ready appearance elicited catcalls and obscene invitations from newly aroused males in the audience. And, as if such prurient disrespect weren’t depressing enough, Tibbles was moved to desperation when he saw Sleazy Freddie plant a kiss on her neck and pat her behind before leaving the stage.

Thoroughly demoralized, Tibbles could bear to watch no longer. He turned, making his way rapidly between two rows of curtain legs. To reach the men’s dressing room—there were no private dressing rooms in the dump—he had to pass the women’s. In front of the latter door, he knocked lightly, wanting to check up on Henrietta. There was no answer, and so he assumed that she must have fled the building following the debacle of the veils, no doubt still quite upset. Oddly, he was disappointed. Sure, Henrietta was a lipoid mess, but Tibbles had to admit she was nice. In fact, she was just about the only nice person he knew. He shuffled back to the men’s dressing room, put his things together, and headed back to the hotel.

The establishment wasn’t much but the booking agency had at least found the troupe rooms in a place he could afford. After his divorce and landing a job performing in a Pittsburgh dive bar, he’d taken an apartment. But that was before everyone with an act there got cancelled in one fell swoop. They all decided to stick together and eventually found an agent who got them a gig in Newark at another low-class establishment similar to the Vroom Vroom Room. That lasted only three months before they again found themselves unemployed. Then, miraculously, on the day they all were let go, the Vroom Vroom Room in El Segundo, California, near Los Angeles International Airport hired him, Henrietta, and Missy in a package deal and simply got them all rooms in a residential hotel while paying them to perform the same shtick, night after night, that they had been doing in Pittsburgh and Newark. He had no idea how the club had decided to hire them, as they never auditioned. Missy had apparently gotten the call but had been sort of cryptic about it, just saying she knew someone “out there.” At least, he thought to himself, no matter how it happened, best of all, I can still be near Missy. Delicious Missy. But then he also thought, and Henrietta, too. He was surprised to be thinking about Henrietta again, especially when he had just been jonesing about Missy, but he was reassured by the fact that it wasn’t thinking about Henrietta that always made him break out in a sweat.

Now back safely in his room, Horace was suddenly tired but still wound up and not ready for sleep. Instead, he decided to work on what he had taken to calling his Grandest Illusion. This, he had determined, would be his masterpiece, the illusion that would raise him from the ranks of mere magical hackdom and turn him into a legend as famous as Houdini, as respected as Robert-Houdin, as great a genius of the magical arts as P.T. Selbit.

The vehicle of his transport to greatness was taking shape in the dingiest corner of the dingy room. To all appearances, it was a simple box measuring about three feet on a side and four feet in height. The bottom edge of each side and the rear edge of the top panel were attached with hinges to respective support members of the cube’s skeleton framework. The opposite edge of each panel latched to a corresponding piece of the frame. The bottom panel was fixed in place without any hinging.

Horace had studied the secrets of the most venerated masters of magic and knew well how most, if not all, cabinet-type illusions were performed. He knew just where the mirrors should go, how the boxes should be supported onstage, which way the panels should open, and how lines of sight were critical to successful execution of the effects, whether it be appearance, disappearance, transformation, or the presentation of ghostly images. Horace truly understood how to do them all.

This one was going to be different.

He began painting the complex, essential, final design on the last of the panels, the front one, knowing that the appearance of the cabinet was critical for achievement of the ultimate emotional effect. A bit over an hour later, he stepped back to inspect his work. The panel was, at last, perfectly finished. He looked at his watch. It was 2 a.m. and his fatigue had vanished. Still not ready to go to bed, he decided to make himself a cup of decaf, but when he went over to the stained hot plate and looked in the coffee canister, he realized he had used the last of the instant.

Maybe someone was up. He went out into the hallway. Henrietta’s room was right next door, to the left. Missy Lamb’s was the more distant, three doors to the right, but there was something important that he desperately wanted to say to her. Why not, finally, tonight? He forced down his anxiety, took a deep breath and turned right.

Not wanting to wake her if she had already gone to sleep, he stopped and placed his ear to the door as a prelude to knocking. At first, he heard nothing. Then, just as he was deciding not to disturb her, he heard what sounded like soft sobbing and a man’s voice. Horace strained to make out what the voice was saying. It sounded angry, and then he heard the word “bitch” and some other words he never used himself. The man was saying something about already having “paid the creep” for her. That if she and her other friends wanted to keep working at the Vroom Vroom, she knew what was required. Upset, yet feeling powerless, Horace headed back to his room. Just as he was stepping inside, he heard the door to Missy’s room open. He backed up slightly and looked just in time to see a man in a long coat and fedora slam the door and stride down the hall, away from him. Horace only caught the merest glimpse of the man’s face, but it was enough to see that it was Sleazy Freddie. He felt nothing so much as revulsion.

When he was certain that the Vroom Vroom’s owner and M.C. was really gone, Horace summoned his courage and went back to Missy’s room. He knocked, and there was no answer. He knocked again. A whimpering voice on the other side said very softly, fearfully, “Who is it?”

“It’s Horace. Horace Tibbles.”

“Go away, Horace.”

But something in her voice, and something in The Great Tibbles, wouldn’t allow him to leave.

“Missy, open the door. Please.”

A long moment passed, and then Horace heard Missy slide back the chain. The door opened to reveal the object of his secret lust. She was wearing a skimpy and diaphanous robe in pale pink, revealing more of her than he ever thought he’d see this closely, but that was not what caught his attention. Instead, it was the swelling over her left eye and the still wet blood just beginning to congeal on her split lower lip.

“Missy! What happened? Did he hit you?” Horace suddenly sensed that maybe he’d overstepped.

Missy looked at him with suspicion. “Were you spying on me, Horace?”

“Me? No. Of course not, Missy.” And he proceeded to explain very earnestly that he had only just been passing in front of her door and unintentionally overheard an angry man’s voice. He had become worried and wanted to see if she was all right.

Missy wasn’t sure she believed that he hadn’t been spying. Finally, however, the strain overcame her and she burst into tears, falling into his arms and sobbing, “Oh, Horace, I don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t care about anything anymore.”

Horace didn’t know what to say—he had no idea what she was talking about. Beyond that, he was never very good with the opposite sex—his failed marriage was a testament to that—and certainly not now, with one of them crying in his arms. Selfishly, he told himself he was probably getting too old to attract anyone young enough to appeal to him. Which, he knew, described Missy to a T. Pretty and in her early thirties at most, she was the kind of fully developed, overwhelmingly threatening specimen of explosively flowered womanhood he’d never be able to have. He realized that saying that thing he ached to say would never be more than a fantasy.

Gently, he guided her to the edge of the bed, had her sit down, and then sat down next to her. The two cockapoos nestled at their feet. Horace was grateful that they appeared to have enough sense not to be frolicking—or pissing. Since he couldn’t fathom anything to do, he just sat there and let her cry on his shoulder. Presently, he realized with queasy self-loathing that he was becoming excited, but he didn’t move.

At last, she recovered her composure. “Thank you, Horace. For just being here. I don’t know why I don’t fall for guys like you.”

“I do,” said Horace and then, thinking that didn’t sound very complimentary, he added, “But it’s okay.”

“No, Horace. I’m sorry.” She kissed him gently on the cheek, and he felt her increasingly bulbous lip brush against him. He twitched involuntarily.

“Will he come back?” he asked.

She sighed. “I don’t know. I hope not. I have terrible luck with men, especially ones I don’t really like in the first place.”

“Well, I hope he doesn’t come back.”


They sat in uncomfortable silence until Horace, feeling as if he was now intruding, rose to leave. “I guess I’d better be going.”

“You can stay if you’d like.” She was looking at him very strangely.

But Horace was decent enough to know that this was not a situation he could ever justify trying to exploit, so he only said, “No, I don’t think I should do that,” and then he felt a twinge of disappointment when she didn’t argue the point.

She only nodded and, looking down at the floor, said, “Well, good night then, Horace.”

“Good night, Missy.” He started for the door and then stopped and turned. “Missy?”


“Missy, I, uh…Freddie? That little shit?”

Missy didn’t say anything.

But Horace had to know. “Missy,” he said, his voice cracking just slightly, “you did what you did…for us? I mean, for all of us? You did that?”

This only caused Missy to begin sobbing again, and Horace silently berated himself for the stupid thing he had just done. He turned and retreated, overwhelmed and saddened by the knowledge of what she must have sacrificed to get them the gig at the Vroom Vroom.

Back in his room without the decaf, emotions churning, he drank a glass of water and paced in circles. He’d never be able to sleep, now, but it didn’t matter because, not five minutes later, he heard the scream.

Horace bolted into the hallway. Again, he heard the scream, and he knew from where it came. He tried the door but it was locked. He pounded, hollering, “Open it, bastard! Open the damned door!” But all he heard was more screaming, then a sick, gurgling moan—and then silence. “Open the goddamned door! Open it!”

Out of nowhere, Henrietta was suddenly there, pushing him out of the way. “Let me!” she yelled, throwing her entire prodigious weight against the door. That did it. The bolt tore through the jamb and the door flew open, the two would-be rescuers tumbling into the room behind it. Missy lay crumpled on the floor, blood flowing freely from both slashed jugulars, bubbles spewing from a lacerated trachea. In the corner, rocking in a fetal position, was Sleazy Freddie in his coat and fedora. The bloody knife was on the floor next to him. The cockapoos were trembling and whimpering pathetically while sniffing around Missy’s blood-drained face. One of them, out of anxiety, had crapped on the floor.

With a throat-sung cry of fury and anguish, Horace lurched forward, reaching the knife before the regressed murderer could react. Then, the crazed magician was on top of him, waving the knife in his startled face, shrieking. “What did you do? What did you do? You putrid sack of shit! You killed her!”

Henrietta took it all in and reacted, throwing herself across the room and into Horace, knocking him sprawling to the floor. “No, Horace! No!” But there was no longer anything to worry about. Horace was crying and pretty much useless, as useless as was Sleazy Freddie, who only cowered, whimpered, and had begun banging the side of his head against the wall.

Others had heard the screams and ensuing commotion, and someone had called the police, several of whom now rushed into the cramped hotel room and attempted to sort out what had happened. Henrietta was able to give the essence of what she assumed had transpired, and after considerable further questioning, the police took the nearly catatonic Freddie into custody. Then, the coroner arrived and carried away Missy’s body on a stretcher, as Horace, shocked and grieving, watched, glassy-eyed. Henrietta stood at his side, ready to catch him if he folded under the strain of it all. Finally, it was just the two of them, alone save for the cockapoos, staring at the blood, still pooled but clotting, slowly sinking into the carpet.

“I’ll call the pound for the dogs,” said Henrietta. “But right now, let’s get out of here,” Supporting Horace by the elbow, she began steering him in the direction of the doorway.

“Yes, let’s,” mumbled Horace.

Slowly, they made their way along the now-deserted hallway. When they reached Horace’s door, Henrietta’s own emotions abruptly overtook her. Having been a rock through the acute crisis, she was, at last, unable to contain herself any longer. Breaking out in blubbery sobs, she unburdened her hitherto heavily laden heart before the already overwhelmed magician. “Oh, Horace, I know you loved her, I really do. It’s just that…oh…I love you, Horace. I’ve always loved you, Horace Tibbles. Ever since the first time I watched you saw Susie in half.”

Horace was nonplussed. Fumbling for his key, he tried to find something to say to her, but still in shock from the events of the evening and unable to think of any coherent response, he finally unlocked his door and started to enter.

“Horace?’ Her voice was pleading. “Horace, no, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have.”

Horace turned, giving her a long but surprisingly kindly look. “It’s all right, Henrietta.” And then, in one brilliant moment, he thought he understood everything. “Henrietta?”

“Yes, Horace?”

“Henrietta, would you like to assist me with my new illusion tomorrow?”

“Assist you? You mean, like be your onstage girl? And turn into a tiger, or a butterfly or something?”

“Yes, something like that.”

“Oh, Horace! I’d love to. But then, you’re not mad at me? For what I said?”

“No, Henrietta, I’m not angry with you.”

“Thank you, Horace!”

“Well, I’ll see you tomorrow, then.” He started to close the door.


“Yes, Henrietta?”

“Won’t we need to rehearse?”

“That won’t be necessary. It’ll all be totally clear soon enough. You’ll see.”

“Well, all right, then. Tomorrow at the club.”

“Yes, tomorrow. Good night, Henrietta.”

“Good night, Horace.”

In the morning, Horace borrowed a hand truck from the hotel maintenance man to wheel his new creation to the club, where he spent the remainder of the day working feverishly to get the device ready for its big moment. The final step was to get the box onto a matching, decorated dolly so it could be maneuvered about the stage with ease. He hefted it into place and then stood back to admire his creation.

Yes, he thought, This is really going to be something.

By eight o’clock, the club was infested with the usual complement of lowlife scum well on the way to blitzed sothood. The bartender, himself an ethanolic lout known only as Zits-the-B, was drafted by default to fill in as M.C. Somewhat nervously and with all the enthusiasm of a three-toed sloth, he stumbled his way to center stage and managed to mumble that the honorable proprietor Frederick was indisposed and also that, due to certain, most unfortunate circumstances, Missy Lamb and Her Frolicking Cockapoos would no longer be performing at the Vroom Vroom Room. This latter revelation elicited groans of disappointment from a certain subset of the male regulars, but was otherwise met with the singular absence of anyone giving a shit.

Backstage, Henrietta was positively frothing over with excitement. In contrast, Tibbles was the very picture of composure, appearing more sure of himself than anyone could remember, simply smiling knowingly every time Henrietta met him with a coy look, a jiggle and a giggle.

The Dance of the Seven Veils this particular night was an event to remember. Perhaps in anticipation of her impending role as The Great Tibbles’ glamorous assistant, she had spent the afternoon reducing the square yardage of her veils by a considerable amount, thus assuring maximum display of her charms from the get-go of her number, a specially selected hump-a-dump rendition of Scheherazade. amid gasps of wonder and disbelief from the otherwise jaded crowd, Henrietta artfully shed veil after veil, revealing, on this night of nights, for the very first time, the entirety of her beauty.

Someone whistled for the cops.

As a contingent of the local vice squad, conveniently headquartered across the street from the establishment, came crashing through the front door, Tibbles ran onto the stage with a large drape he’d grabbed in the wings, threw it over the naked dancer, and hustled her off, stage left, scooping up the seven veils as they went.

“Quick,” he urged. “In here.” He wedged her into a broom closet and, slamming the door, commanded her to stay put until he came for her.

“Oooh,” came her muffled coo. “This is really exciting!” Tibbles groaned and ran back to the stage.

There was pandemonium in the audience as the inebriated masses were engaged in pelting the vice cops with peanuts, shot glasses, and the occasional beer stein. It took about ten minutes to restore order, after which the police were informed by Tibbles that the naked ecdysiast who was the cause of it all had fled the club and was likely streaking through downtown at this very moment, and what the hell were they doing hanging around the club when they should be out chasing her down? The facts appearing irrefutable, the cops rapidly retreated to the safety of the street.

“On with the show,” announced a suddenly brighter Zits-the-B, who appeared finally to be getting into the spirit of things. It was time at last for The Great Tibbles to etch his name into the annals of legendary stage magic.

He began with the usual crappy dime store routines, eliciting the usual crappy responses from the audience.

“Get the hook!”

“Someone make him disappear!”

At all this, Tibbles merely smiled indulgently, as if to say, “Just wait.”

For the penultimate, he performed his usual climactic piece, Sawing a Party Doll in Two. The trick went by both uneventfully and unimpressively, as regulars in the audience only waited for their chance at winning the prize: a brand new fille de joie named, of course, Susie. Since most had seen his act more times than they cared to admit, and since Missy would not be taking the stage, it was now assumed by the unruly mob that the show—despite whatever pathetic acts might still technically be waiting for their moments in the limelight—was for all practical purposes over.

“Wait, wait!” the Great Tibbles called in an unusually commanding voice. People turned to look at the diminutive conjuror onstage, and he continued: “Tonight I have something special to offer—”

Someone interrupted with a catcall.

“Another plastic prosty?” someone yelled. “Batteries included?” hollered another.

Undaunted, Tibbles began his spiel. “Tonight, I will present a magnificent marvel of magical manipulation, a confusing conundrum to create conniptions in all who may confront it, a—”

“An alliterative idiot, is what he is,” mumbled a drunken English teacher.

But Tibbles was not to be stopped. “And so, my friends—”

“You wish!”

“Tonight, my assistant and I will incredibly astound you, leaving you filled with wonder and amazement, and asking, how did he do it?

At this, he wheeled the painted cabinet on its stand to center stage.

Gesturing in its direction, he announced, “An ordinary—if gaudy—box. Regard.”

He opened the five panels and rotated the whole apparatus, demonstrating its lack of gimmicks. He then closed all but the front panel.

“And now, allow me to introduce my assistant, the lovely, gracious, and graceful Henrietta Egret.”

Henrietta, beaming, entered from stage right, causing Tibbles to gulp hard. He hadn’t discussed costume with her—there had been no rehearsal or discussion of any kind—and she now appeared wearing far less than advisable to cover her massive essentials, or much of anything else. The besotted members of the audience attempted bravely to withstand escalating nausea in the face of growing curiosity. This was certainly an unexpected event. To a person, he had them all.

“My assistant will now enter the cabinet of mystery.”

Henrietta looked at the three-by-three-by-four cabinet, and from there to Tibbles. Silently, she mouthed, “What?”

Tibbles ignored her. “Ahem. Please enter the cabinet, Miss Egret.”

Looking highly dubious, Henrietta approached the open front of the apparatus. Unsure of how to climb into the thing, she first stuck her head in, and then tried to insert her left knee. This had the unfortunate effect of forcing her giant buttocks straight at the audience.

“Whoa!” came the protest in unison from the unwashed masses.

Henrietta backed up and turned around. Tibbles whispered to her, “Backwards, Henrietta. Backwards.” He motioned with his hands for her to back into the cabinet, sitting on the floor. With considerable effort, she planted her bottom in the box and slid rearward. Achieving success, she next drew up her knees and ducked her head. Finally, she folded her arms across her face, leaving only frightened eyes staring in barely concealed panic above her elbows. Incredibly, her entire mass was now well within the confines of the box. A cheer arose from the onlookers.

“Now push her over a cliff!”

Tibbles ignored them.

“All right, ladies and gentlemen. Watch closely.”

Henrietta, peering out over her crossed arms and drawn-up knees, was trembling with such fear that the whole assemblage had begun to skitter to and fro on the stage. Tibbles again smiled at her, as if to say, “Don’t worry.” But he didn’t say that. What he did say, and it was only for her ears, was, “You are the only person who has ever been kind to me, Henrietta, who has ever really cared for me. And I, Henrietta, care for you.”

As he reached down to close the panel, she whispered, “What are you doing? What’s going to happen to me?”

But Tibbles just continued to radiate that frozen smile and slammed closed the panel, latching it firmly. Silently, he counted to five while a hush overtook the crowd. Then, he unlatched the panel, flung it open, and…Henrietta was gone! There was a collective gasp as the literal enormity of the achievement sunk in. This wasn’t merely the simple disappearance of some blonde sylph. This had been the apparent dematerialization of Moby Dick.

“Mirrors,” someone in the audience cried, but Tibbles next opened the four panels and rotated the box all the way around, allowing clear views from all sides. No, Henrietta was gone. Really gone.

Tibbles faced his remarkably silent audience and announced, “Next, everyone, the coup de grâce.”

“Oh jeez, he’s gonna bring her back.”

He ignored the jibe. Instead, he again closed all but the front panel. “Drummer, a dramatic roll, please, for a dramatic event.”

The drummer, heavy-lidded from his recent horse dose but still thinking clearly enough to conclude that, unfortunately, Tibbles really was going to re-materialize the Hippo of the Seven Veils, gave it his best tribute: HUMP-A-DUMP! HUMP-A-DUMP! HUMP-A-DUMP!

Tibbles scowled at the drummer, who made an obscene gesture but ultimately decided to cooperate with a weak, if respectful, conventional roll.

“And now,” Tibbles announced expansively, “The glorious finale. The moment you’ve all so eagerly anticipated. The pièce de résistance: The Great Tibbles’ Grandest Illusion!”

So saying, Horace Tibbles, himself, climbed into the cabinet and, with a long last look at the admiring crowd, reached down and slammed closed the front panel. The latch wiggled fast, fastened through a slit from the inside. And then…silence.

A murmur stirred the crowd as seconds, then a minute, then a minute and a half went by and nothing happened. Someone in the crowd yelled, “Open the box!”

Zits-the-B, puzzled by this unexpected turn of events, cautiously approached the sealed box. “Tibbles?” he called softly. “Tibbles, are you in there?”


Finally, he slid open the latch and swung open the panel door. The cabinet was completely empty. Empty, that is, except for seven silk veils, recently reduced in size. Zits-the-B was at a total loss for words. He looked back and forth between the empty cabinet and the audience. “He’s gone. I mean, she’s gone. I mean, they’re gone.” His befuddlement was almost charming.

A search was begun. No room, no closet, no alcove or possible hiding place was missed in the increasingly frantic effort to find the two performers, but it was all to no avail. And so, in the end, there was nothing left but wishful thinking, the fantasy that the magician and his assistant had to be somewhere and, perhaps, even somewhere better than the Vroom Vroom Room.

Maybe so. Or not. But then, perhaps, where wasn’t really the point so much as, well, just the escape.

Now read the book, available on in print and Kindle editions.

“Weathergirl” Is Coming!

Weathergirl, the “not-quite-a-sequel” to Zendoscopy is now in pre-publication and will likely be available in March. If you’ve wondered what became years later of some of the characters in Zendloscopy, like Effie Mae (the 10-cent airmail girl), you’ll be able to find out soon.

On another note, you’ve no doubt noticed that I haven’t been posting for some time, now. There’s a reason. It seems that pretty much everything I’ve said and continue to think about our current politics and the nut case in the White House is being well reflected in the media. The New York Times, the Washington Post, MSNBC and other outlets are doing a great job, and there’s not much I can add that would be worth your time to read. Stick with me, though, for more posts to come upon the release of Weathergirl. I hope you’ll enjoy it.


By the time I was 12 years old, I was highly proficient with both rifles and handguns as a result of time spent learning to shoot at a camp I attended over several summers. My father belonged to the NRA and had a subscription to at least one gun magazine. We had guns in the house: two rifles and at least one handgun. Safety was paramount, and both my brother and I learned to respect firearms and the risk they presented if handled carelessly.

I didn’t give much thought to the societal impact of widespread gun possession until that awful day, November 22, 1963. I was a senior in high school and in my second period gym class when the teacher called us together and said – I remember his words precisely: “The President has been shot. Go take your shower and get dressed with dignity.”

Shortly after, the announcement came that President Kennedy had been fatally wounded. School was dismissed and my mother came to pick me up. When we arrived home, I went immediately to my bedroom, where I lay down and cried. If you are part of a generation that has followed mine, this may be difficult for you to imagine. But for us it was the sudden and devastating end to an era of idealism connected to the Kennedy Presidency that we had come to call “Camelot”. For my generation and even that of our parents, the world changed on that day and has not been the same since.

Over the four days that followed the assassination, the country sat, riveted to television, as the shocking aftermath played out with the killing of  the murderer, Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby. We watched in grief the funeral of the slain President. Lyndon Johnson, who bore no love for the Kennedys, was respectful and did his best to reassure a shocked nation that our country would all get through the ordeal. Many of us weren’t so sure.

It was then that I decided I would never shoot a firearm again — ever. I was 17, idealistic and impressionable when Kennedy was assassinated. Now I am 71 and in many ways much the same person I was in 1963.  I have remained true to the vow I made back then. Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, innumerable killings and mass shootings later – all of these have served to reinforce my resolve over the use of firearms as well as my disappointment over our collective, ongoing failure to deal with guns and the price we pay for misinterpretation of the Second Amendment.

The Second Amendment of the Constitution states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The NRA and its members and supporters conveniently ignore the “well regulated militia” specification of the amendment, stressing only “the right to keep and bear Arms”. In other words, few or, preferably, no, restrictions on gun ownership is the policy pushed  by a powerful lobbying organization and supported by a large segment of its members and sympathizers  The influence of the NRA and its gang of aspiring vigilantes has quite effectively stymied reasonable efforts at firearms regulation and, in so doing, has done much to enable both individual and mass murder in the U.S.

What can be done? It is abundantly clear that all the tears and hand wringing, prayers and speechifying after each new violent episode are useless in bringing action by  a Congress that has been bought by the NRA. In fact, there really is only one solution, one that will, in fact, work. In the words of our deranged President, “Believe me.” But it’s not likely to happen anytime soon, unfortunately. That’s because what it will take is for an overwhelming public expression at the ballot box, electing candidates who stand for placing reasonable limits on gun ownership and, very specifically, the processes associated with acquiring guns and ammunition. Put simply, national policy won’t change until elected representatives in Congress – both the House and the Senate — are voted out of office and replaced by individuals who can’t be either intimidated or bought by the NRA. Those of us who vote simply aren’t a big enough group to produce the change without help from the largely apathetic segment of the population that doesn’t seem to care. Can they be mobilized? Today, it seems like a longshot.

I’m old enough, with my youthful idealism now tempered by a slightly cynical dose of realism, to understand that it probably won’t happen in my lifetime. Still, I can hope. After all and if it’s any indication, a lot of folks in Las Vegas may have changed their mind about speaking up after this past weekend’s mass killings.

President Donald Trump, E.D.

OK, here it is up front: President Trump is an Evil Doofus.

Every day it’s something new as he stumbles ever onward in his malignantly ignorant, incompetent, unethical, and immoral crusade to destroy the country and everything it has, admittedly imperfectly but at least aspirationally, stood for since its founding.

You know the particulars, so this won’t be a litany of his greatest (?) hits. No, let’s just look at this from a thirty thousand foot level to see where we are and where we might be going.

Trump has become like a marooned shipwreck victim, the only soul on an otherwise deserted island. He’s alienated much of Congress including ranking members whose support he would need for his agenda if he had one. He’s also losing support from independents who voted for him and even beginning to see erosion of his base, although not a hard core of low information voters so ignorant of what’s going on (Fox News rots the brain) that they don’t even know who Robert Mueller is or what he’s doing. He fired soulmate and Chief Yeti Bannon (who’s now cozying up to the Neanderthal Congressional Freedom Caucus) and it may not be long before the Executive Wing’s resident ghoul, Stephen Miller goes, too. Not much heard from Jared and Ivanka lately. Maybe they’re not too comfortable with Trump’s embrace of white supremacist, anti-Semitic neo-Nazis. But, then Jared’s an Orthodox Jew and Ivanka converted. It’ll likely make for some interesting family gatherings over the High Holidays. And finally, his just-made deal with Pelosi and Schumer, an act reeking of revenge against Congressional Republicans, won’t really endear him in any long term way to Democrats. In fact, he was snookered by Nancy and Chuck, who’ll be right back at him in 90 days.

So here we have poor, lonely, angry, stupid, malevolent Trump, the Evil Doofus, all alone except for his greatest object of worship: himself. One wonders, what is it that rattles around in his largely empty head as what might generously be said to pass for thought? Does he have any insight into his total lack of fitness, ability, and temperament for the Presidency? Does he have any sense of how empty a shell he really is? That he has no higher purposes in life than sating his own personal ego and pursuing more and more filthy lucre? Is it actually all just unmitigated narcissism? We don’t know but we certainly know how it looks. On the other hand, does it matter?

At base, I’m a behaviorist, so what might be flitting around inside the man’s cranium is of little to no importance to me. What is important to me is what spews out of that idiotically hair-pieced excrescence atop his neck. And on nearly a daily basis, each new government-by-tweeted pronouncement adds itself to a collection of what most likely will go down in history as the most idiotic body of work ever authored by a U.S. President.

So, where to from here? September is upon us, and it’s going to be a doozy of a month as Congress continues to fume impotently over his debt limit deal linked with hurricane Harvey relief. And then there’s the new hurricane on its way, and Trump’s cynical dumping of responsibility for a final DACA disposition on Congress with implied if not overt pressure to attach it to funding for his ridiculous border wall, which Congress probably won’t support. This could lead in December to an epic standoff with Trump threatening again to shut down the government if Congress doesn’t allocate wall funding and Congress telling him to go fuck himself. Bear in mind that a government shutdown would preclude provision of further Federal aid for hurricane recovery. The extreme right wing would gloat while victims continue to suffer.

It has become apparent that Trump doesn’t really care about much of anything. Willing to turn on staff, to abandon prior positions and even deny that he ever held them, and supportive of white supremacists and neo-Nazis, he is attempting to take us headlong into an Orwellian world of newspeak, where language and truth are malleable and mean only what is intended by him and a sycophantic entourage too dumb to realize that loyalty with the man is a one way street. Trump’s vision, if one dares to call it such, is of fascistic autocracy and Nazi-like national expulsion of those he sees as non-white, non-Christian, and not loyal either to him or to the police state he would oversee as Exalted Poobah, a man with unlimited power and authority, a mad barbarian and a philistine to boot.

Of course, it’s possible that he’ll be impeached before the end of his term, but the wheels of justice turn slowly so breath holding is not recommended. Our best hope at this time is for Democratic party dominance in the 2018 midterm elections, with enough power gained in Congress to restrain both him and the far right wing in their efforts to dismantle every humane program and every agency dedicated to the protection of our environment, health and welfare, and national security. Of course, the Democrats have a stellar history of being unable to get it together but, who knows? Maybe after 2018 Congress will even be able to force the Evil Doofus finally to name an ambassador to South Korea. Go Dems, and keep up the good work, Nancy and Chuck!

Political Keystone Cops

I’ve said it before and, unfortunately, I’m saying it once more: it’s hard to know where to begin. In fact, I had to force myself to sit down and write about the current political situation yet again but, as in the case of train wrecks, it’s horrble but impossible to look away.

The sheer incompetence of Trump and his coterie of Keystone Cops, aided and abetted by a cowardly and self-interested Congress, seems bent on destroying what’s left of our country’s grand democratic experiment. How, in just over 100 days, Trump has inflicted such severe damage to our political system is simply breathtaking. Worse, there is a substantial segment of the American population that is still cheering him on. Last evening, for example, I attended a meeting of a non-political organization I have belonged to for over twenty years, and one guy actually showed up wearing the infamous red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap. There is no arguing with this guy. Trump could be an ax murderer and the fellow would still be a totally devoted member of the cult.

And so, to the subject at hand: the crisis in the wake of James Comey’s abrupt firing. And if ever there was an example of confusion and incompetence, this has to be its epitome. Let’s begin with the ludicrous assertion by Trump and minions that the firing was because of Comey’s fumbled treatment of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server. Trump’s inconsistent behavior about this was – is — jaw-dropping.

Last July, he railed against Comey for not pursuing prosecution against Clinton. Then, eleven days before the November election, when Comey announced re-opening of the e-mail investigation, Trump lauded the FBI Director for his action. Finally, as his rationale for firing Comey, Trump cited Comey’s arguably incompetent management of the matter. In support of this, he cited a memo which he had requested from nominally recused Attorney General Lawn Gnome Sessions and his un-recused Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. Transparently ridiculous, this “justification” wasn’t (isn’t) accepted by anyone with an IQ above idiot level. Timing and circumstance were clear. The firing was because of Comey’s failure to swear allegiance to self-appointed deity Trump and his pursuit of the investigation into possible Russian interference on Trump’s behalf in the November election. Furthermore, shortly before the firing, Comey had requested additional resources to pursue the Russian investigation, perhaps the final straw that precipitated Trump’s abrupt action.

Now, while Trump’s loyal robots were out on their tightly held extension cords promoting the laughable idea that the firing was because of Comey’s mistreatment of Clinton, Trump decided to give an interview to Lester Holt on NBC. And guess what? Trump threw his entire staff under the figurative speeding campaign bus (you’d think it would have gone into storage after November, but you’d be wrong) by saying that he was going to fire Comey regardless of what the memo from Rosenstein said. In other words, he discounted his own initially stated reason for the firing. This is a guy who not only knows nothing. He also can’t remember anything he says or thinks from one day to the next.

So, cutting to the chase, what we now have is a clear case of obstruction of justice, and this is a sufficient reason to consider impeachment. Still don’t see it? Well, here it is in simple terms: Trump and lackey Devin Nunes initially prevented Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates from testifying before the House Committee chaired by Nunes regarding what she told the Trump administration (on three occasions) about concerns regarding General Michael Flynn’s contact with the Russian ambassador and participation in a discussion regarding sanctions reduction. Then, Trump, obviously afraid of where the investigation would lead, fired Comey in a clear attempt to derail it. None of Trump’s bleating about fake news and the “hoax” of Russian intervention rings true in the slightest, and every contradictory  pronouncement simply increases the impression of an incompetently executed cover-up. And this attempted cover up, despite it’s clumsiness and failure to convince anyone, constitutes obstruction of justice.

We have now arrived at a point at which ongoing damage caused by this imbecilic demagogue with no moral or ethical center can no longer be tolerated. It’s clear that Congress isn’t ready to act yet, but I believe that he must be removed from the Presidency with all due haste. I say this with the full knowledge that in doing so we will then be stuck with a President Pence. This will constitute an awful outcome, but “awful” somehow still seems better than “intolerable”.

Will the Republicans in Congress grow cojones and do what’s right? Maybe, if we demand it, but as of today I’m not taking any bets. Write to your Congressional representatives. If we stay silent, we’ll deserve the dictatorship we’ll get.

The Tragedy of Sean Spicer

As anyone who’s been watching the news this past week knows, Sean Spicer had a terrible week, as did those of us who unfortunately were exposed to the utterings of this empty-headed, moronic, Trump sycophant spout his ignorant comments about Hitler and the Holocaust, all garnished with the mangling of Bashar al-Assad’s name not once, but multiple times. It is commonly known that when in a hole, the best way to get out is first to stop digging, a lesson Mr. Spicer should not have had to learn at such a late stage in his career.

Of course, Spicer has had zero credibility ever since his infamous inauguration attendance lie in support of President (urp!) Trump, but the difference between that outright lie and the ignorant misstatement he spouted regarding Hitler’s use of poison gas in what he amazingly called “holocaust centers” took him to a new level of incompetent buffoonery.

One may(?) be tempted to ask, how the President’s Press Secretary could be possessed of such ineptness. Was it ignorance? Stupidity? Born of Holocaust denial?

Well, here’s my theory, at least.

Spicer was born in 1971. He’s neither a member of Tom Brokaw’s “greatest generation” nor a baby boomer. In other words, he’s two generations removed from World War II. He’s a product of the combination of a failing American education system, contemporary Republican ignorance and misunderstanding of history, and the ongoing, virtually endemic racial and religious bigotry that’s come to reside at the core of the Republican Party. These multiple forces have come together in Spicer to create a person who, unfortunately, is not a one-off in contemporary American society but has become one of its outstanding exponents. I strongly doubt that Spicer is willfully malevolent. More, he’s simply naïve, ignorant, and oblivious, and it’s a problem we will likely face increasingly in the future. “Sad.”

Many of us who pride ourselves on being liberal and progressive are justly horrified by what we see happening in and to our country. Those ideals we have grown up respecting seem to be getting trampled (Trumpled?) with ever-increasing frequency and an almost vengeful intensity. As the three branches of government, all now controlled by a party that would take us back to days of Jim Crow, isolationism, and a world that they erroneously believe was somehow idyllic, we face the real possibility that the minority in our country, soon to be a minority-majority, will revolt. And this is how revolutions, often violent, happen.

It is imperative that the majority of Americans, whom we know to disagree with the direction in which we are now being taken – remember that Clinton won the popular vote – become vocal and politically active. And we must express ourselves at the polls. Millennials, who stood on idealistic principle for Bernie Sanders and refused to vote for Clinton, sacrificed a view of the possible for the unattainable perfect. If they do not come out with other minorities and liberal progressives and vote in 2018 to help take back the Senate and chip away at the Republican margin in the House, the reactionary headlong rush to the Dark Ages will continue, and women’s rights, science and medicine, the environment, voting rights, LGBTQ rights, separation of church and state, and the living conditions of the poor will all suffer as the Constitution continues to be trampled in the name of creating a more “Christian America” run by robber barons and right wing religious fanatics.

Finally, it never ceases to amaze me how so many people who are the victims of Republican policies continue to support the party. Trump, both directly and aided by his spokespeople, continue to lie and then act in ways damaging to those who elected him. Which brings me back to Sean Spicer, a man whose time should never have come but has, and should be given the boot immediately. The man has no credibility and is nothing more than a simple, ignorant, Trump toady, afraid and probably unable to stand up to the boss and speak intelligently to the press and American public. He needs to go, and he needs to go now.

Subversion of Purpose: Subversion of Country

When I began this blog a little over two years ago (yes, this is entry #104), I stated its main purpose as a literary one. Partly it was to flack my own writing, and partly it was to discuss writing, publishing, and culture in general. The turn taken since then in national politics, however, has led me to write much more about social and political trends and, in particular in recent times, my concerns over the willfully ignorant, bullying, narcissistic, misogynistic, science denying, and generally incompetent Neanderthal who now occupies the White House. Oh, and his coterie of fellow moral degenerates, ignoramuses, and incompetents.

It seems as if we are being assaulted on a daily basis with mean-spirited and potentially dangerous actions and pronouncements of this group of evil clowns, and there is little evidence that anyone has either the courage or the wherewithal to bring them to heel. Of equal and even greater concern is the fact that the extremism of the administration has served to unmask the true nature of the more extended Republican mindset and the heretofore somewhat repressed racism and religious bigotry of much of the American public, some 35% of which (as of today) remains solidly behind Trump and the Republicans.

What is the ugliness that has been set free upon us? The spectrum, unfortunately, is a broad one. Here are a few elements of the current American deconstruction.  The list is far from complete, as new ones appear every day and some that we aren’t even learning about until well beyond the tweets and Executive Orders:

  • The Trump-Ryan American Health Care bill: This, of course, was a doozy. Trump probably never read the bill, of course, since he doesn’t like to read. And so, while promising “terrific” health care for everyone, he backed a bill written by Speaker Ryan that would kick 14 million souls off the insurance roll within a year, and 24 million within ten years. When it appeared that it would fail because of the no votes of the wildly misnamed “Freedom Caucus” (29 angry white males) and some moderate Republicans, the proponents offered to make it better. How? By attacking such things as pre-existing condition coverage and the creation of an excluded diagnosis list. Yes, terrific for everyone. In the end, of course, it didn’t please anyone. It wasn’t mean enough for the Freedom guys and it wasn’t generous enough for the moderates or, of course, the Democrats. Trump tried to blame Democrats, in part, for the failure of passage. But, then, maybe he forgot that the Democrats already have a health care bill, the ACA (Obamacare). Now, Trump has hinted that he might actually try to sabotage the ACA in order to get what he really wants.
  • The Trump immigration ban: The first attempt was blocked by a judge, as was the “improved” bill. Several aspects of this are quite noteworthy. First, the original seven countries, all predominantly Muslim, have no Trump business interests. Other predominantly Muslim countries in the region do and, of course, were left off the list. Second, the ban was overtly religious in nature and therefore in violation of the first amendment. Put simply, you can’t ban a whole religion for no reason other than pure bigotry. Third, the original ban was written so poorly, was so sloppy, that it banned people with legitimate visas and green cards from entering the country. Duh. Fourth, there was no evidence that the ban would do anything to prevent acts of domestic terrorism. The U.S. already conducts extensive vetting activities, and immigration is limited to those who can and do pass careful review. Furthermore, it is simply unreasonable to impose a blanket ban upon a group of people because some lone terrorist might be among them. And, in case Trump hasn’t noticed, there have been no terrorist acts committed in the U.S. by immigrants from any of the initial seven banned countries.
  • Trump’s appointments: What the hell is it with Trump’s appointments? Flynn is out as the first casualty of the Russian affair. Bannon was just pulled from his seat on the National Security Council because, the administration says, he’s no longer needed there to oversee Flynn. Wait a minute. Trump put someone on the NSC that he didn’t trust? Yikes!!! And now Bannon is apparently pissed over being pulled, so maybe Flynn’s departure wasn’t the real reason Bannon was yanked. Will we ever know? Not from Trump, and certainly not from Spicer, who’s got about as much credibility as Trump, himself, being as he is Trump’s ass-kissing lackey. And then there’s Rick Perry. I don’t even know what to say about this guy, who wanted to get rid of the agency he now heads and, as it turns out, had no idea of what the agency actually does. Ben Carson for HUD Secretary? The man who thinks the pyramids were built as grain storage facilities? And this man was a practicing brain surgeon. Maybe he was just on a career search for his own.
  • And speaking of appointments, there’s perhaps the biggest doozy of all: Betsy DeVos, a person so ignorant about education that she’s both horrifying and a laughingstock among everyone except religious nuts, those who oppose the fundamental American value placed upon public education, and those who don’t actually think guns in classrooms are necessary for the prevention of bear attacks. DeVos is the Church Lady from Saturday Night Live, except that she’s frightening instead of funny. Now, isn’t that special? (My apologies to Dana Carvey.)
  • And, although the list could go on and on, say, to deal with efforts to kill the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, build the “beautiful” wall, the wiretapping allegation against former President Obama, and more, we shouldn’t leave out foreign relations: Russian hacking, North Korean nuclear saber rattling, relations with China, issues surrounding the administration’s attitude toward NATO… It’s never-ending, and too much to get into in this piece.

So, I’ll bring it to a close with a few questions. When is enough going cross into too much? When will the conflicts of interest, the lying and the gross incompetence lead either to impeachment or removal through the 25th amendment. When will the Republicans grow a set and realize that they’ve become the party of angry, mean-spirited, and bigoted tolerance? When will they have the courage to take action against a demagogue? And when will American citizens finally stand up and say we’re angry and depressed, and revolted by what we see, and we’re not going to take it anymore?

NOTE: As I was finishing writing the entry above, the airfield attack with Tomahawk missiles ordered by President Trump was being carried out. As some toadying politicians of both parties congratulated him for his bold action, others, including myself, were not so thrilled. What the President did was unconstitutional. The constitution does not permit the President to initiate an act of war against a foreign government and, especially, one posing no immediate threat to the safety and security of the United States. What President Dumpkof should have done was seek authorization from Congress for the action. The precedent set by his failure to do so, one that reeks of power-mad dictatorship, is horrifying. If the President can do this, what other country might he, on his own and without advice and consent, attack? What weapons might he unleash without restraint? And yet even more questions present themselves. Why did the Generals proceed with implementation of a clearly illegal order? Are we facing the unholy alliance of a dictator with the military? And what is to be said of a Congress that is not only complicit in its own developing impotence, but is even cheering its support as it is being thrust into irrelevancy?

Donald Trump, Deconstructed

Here are a few questions about Donald Trump:

  • Why does he avoid teleprompters?
  • Why does he love the poorly educated? (He said so, remember?)
  • Why did he not realize that he had signed an executive order placing Steve Bannon on the National Security Council?
  • Why does he not type most (or at least many) of his own tweets but, rather, dictate them to staff to type?
  • Why has he refused to take daily briefings from intelligence and national security staffs?
  • Why does he not read lease agreements?
  • Why does he not read books?
  • Why does he speak at no greater than a fourth grade level?
  • Why does he surround himself so closely with Don, Eric, and Ivanka?

The answer may be as simple as it is shocking: President Trump can barely read. Whether it’s dyslexia, ADHD, or just simply that he never learned to read above lower grade school level, all indications are that it’s not just that he doesn’t read. It’s that he literally can’t read.

Inability to read explains much of what we saw during the campaign and, certainly, what we’ve been seeing in the weeks since his inauguration. And I am totally serious, here – this is not a joke. I think the man is functionally illiterate. How else can we explain what we’ve seen? His grown children stay close because they are clearly aware of their father’s inability to read. They protect him by filtering all that goes in and out. They know, and they cover for him.

It accounts for why he doesn’t read his briefing documents, newspapers, or other materials. He simply can’t assimilate them, and so he is totally dependent upon his staff and television to give him what is ultimately highly filtered and potentially biased input. Thus, he is easily manipulated by those around him, accounting for how Steve Bannon ended up on the NSC. Bannon simply had him sign the order, knowing that it would not be read before the signature was affixed. The proof of this is that Trump now says he “wasn’t briefed” about what he was signing. The ugly and frightening truth is that Steve Bannon is more the President than is Trump, a fact terrifyingly satirized by Saturday Night Live, when the actor playing Bannon (dressed as the grim reaper) took over the President’s role, relegating an infantile Trump played by Alec Baldwin to the side, where he sat at a child’s desk and played like an idiot with a toy.

Trump, the real estate mogul, has stated that he does not read lease agreements and, on one occasion documented on video, when challenged to do so he was unable to interpret one. Trump, the politician, disparages teleprompters because he can’t read them. And Trump, the ersatz everyman, says he loves the poorly educated. Of course he does: he’s one of them.

The man elected to the Presidency of the United States is an ignorant, arrogant, bullying, misogynistic, impulsive, functionally illiterate dolt who is at risk of, and is likely already a victim of, manipulation by those around him, Steve Bannon being arguably the most dangerous. He has appointed a Cabinet of the most unqualified, individuals imaginable, and the team as a whole is committed to a vision of America that will only do grave damage to those who gave him his greatest support but are too blind to see what they’ve done and what is about to befall them.

There is an old saying: the fish stinks from the head. Look no further here. It’s that guy who can’t read the handwriting on the wall. I almost, but not quite, feel sorry for him. I do feel sorry for those of us who know what’s coming.