Trump (Again)

Donald Trump’s announcement that he will run for president in 2024 prompted me to review once again the record of his failings. Congressman Adam Schiff recently put it succinctly: “Donald Trump is a con man, a charlatan, and a twice-impeached disgraced former president. He grifted the government out of millions, turned the levers of government power against his enemies, and abused the power of his office over and over again.”

And I am regularly treated to an internet list of Trump’s sins: encouraging Russian interference in our elections, threatening Ukraine to force it to dig up dirt on Trump’s political opponents, cozying up to Kim Jung Un and other foreign adversaries, abandoning our closest allies, defunding the Post Office in hopes of crippling Democratic vote-by-mail, proposing $30 billion in cuts to Social Security, caging migrant children at the border, attacking freedom of the press, building a racist border wall, inciting the January 6th Capitol insurrection, threatening state officials to force them to rig the 2020 election, imposing a transgender military ban, denying the severity of COVID-19, and claiming that Biden’s electoral victory was fraud.

In earlier blogs, I have predicted the demise of the Republican party as we know it due to Trump’s wrongdoing. Honest and bright Republicans I know say nothing about Trump. They even avoid discussing politics with me. I’m at a loss to understand who could possibly support Trump, given his record of transgressions. He is barely leading in the polls—only 57 percent of Republicans want him to run and win. On the other hand, he has a $122 million war chest, all, presumably, donated by his supporters. And yet according to The Hill, in August, only 41 percent of Republicans said that they support former President Trump more than they support the GOP.

More next time.

Words (Yet Again) (2)

Back to it—continuing my most recent delve into words.

I’ll start with awry. According to Oxford Languages, the word means away from the appropriate, planned, or expected course, amiss, wrong, not right, out of the normal or correct position, askew. In other words, when something is awry, it’s not the way it’s supposed to be. The word derives from the obsolete verb “wry”—to contort, to twist or turn.

Next, blither. Oxford Languages says the word means to talk in a long-winded way without making very much sense. The Online Etymology Dictionary says that the word is a variant of “blether,” a sixteenth century northern British and Scottish word meaning to talk nonsense. Another version of the same word is “blather” meaning to talk nonsense.

 Boycott: to join with others in refusing to have dealings with, and preventing or discouraging others from doing so, as punishment for political or other differences. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the term came into the language as a result of the Irish Land League ostracism of Captain Charles C. Boycott (1832-1897), land agent of Lough-Mask in County Mayo, who refused to lower rents for his tenant farmers. “Boycott” was quickly adopted by newspapers in languages as far afield as Japanese (boikotto). The family name comes from a placename in England.

Tomcat: a male cat. Here I quote the Online Etymology Dictionary verbatim: “Also tom-cat, 1809, from Tom + cat (n.); probably influenced by Tom the Cat in the popular children’s book ‘The Life and Adventures of a Cat’ (1760). It replaced earlier Gib-cat (see Gib), from the familiar shortening of Gilbert, though Tom was applied to male kittens c. 1300. The name also has been used of [sic] the males of other beasts and birds since at least 1791 (such as tom-turkey, by 1846). Also see Tibert. The verb meaning ‘to pursue women promiscuously for sexual gratification’ is recorded from 1927. Related: Tom-catting.”

Not very flattering for men like me named Tom.

Loony: crazy or foolish. Short for “lunatic,” but also influenced by “loon,” meaning a crazy person, and perhaps “loon,” the bird being noted for its wild cry and method of escaping from danger. “Lunatic” means a person affected with periodic insanity dependent on the changes of the moon. It derives from the Latin word luna, meaning moon. “Loon,” meaning a worthless person or boor, is of uncertain origin. It might be from Middle Dutch or Middle Low German. It is similar to the sixteenth century Dutch word loen, meaning stupid person.

More when the spirit moves me.

My Inspiration

A reader recently asked me what inspires me to write. The answer is that I knew by the time I was six years old that I was born to write. To refuse my calling would have been tantamount to facing damnation. I tried various other vocations, but invariably I was called back to writing. Because foreign languages come easily to me and because writing doesn’t pay, I became a spy to support my family—spying pays very well. As a result, I had a life rich in experiences.

Hence the inspiration on what subjects to write about. Between 1962 and 1975, I spent more time in Vietnam than I did in the U.S. I was a civilian under cover as military supporting troops in combat with signals intelligence. When Saigon fell in 1975, I escaped under fire after the North Vietnamese were already in the streets. Because I speak seven languages, I went on doing that kind of work all over the world. Meanwhile, to help me cope with a severe case of Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) resulting from my time in combat, I volunteered to care for AIDS patients for five years—seven men, all gay, all died. Then I worked with the homeless for a couple of years and finally spent nine years volunteering to care for the dying in a hospice. So I have plenty to write about.

Consequently, my six books now in print (you can learn more about them at are about combat, AIDS, and PTSI, among other things. They are the result of a very full life.


I have more to be thankful for than anyone I know. First and foremost, I’m alive. I lived past the life expectancy for American males almost ten years ago. I survived years on the battlefield as a civilian undercover as military supporting U.S. and friendly forces with signals intelligence. And I work hard to stay healthy, with an ideal diet and weightlifting for a couple of hours every other day. The result is that I’m the healthiest man I know of my age.

Then there’s my family. Though long since a widower, I have four children and four grandchildren whom I adore. It looks like I’ll live long enough to be a great grandfather.

Thanks to my career as a spy on the battlefield, I was able to retire more than thirty years ago at the top of the government pay scale. So I have more than enough money. That allows me to be a fulltime author.

I now have six books and 17 short stories in print with two more books in train. I am regularly asked to do presentations on my time in combat and readings from my books and stories.

I own and live in a house that’s ideal for me—no lawn to mow and no yard work except for a twice annual trimming of bushes along my walkways. Across the back of the house is a deck that looks out over a small lake surrounded by mature trees. There are so many trees around my house that I can honestly say I live in a forest. And my home is in the most beautiful city I’ve ever come across, Columbia, Maryland.

Finally, I am blessed with good friends who enjoy my company as much as I enjoy theirs. We meet regularly.

It’s hard to imagine a better life. And I am proud of risks I faced during my career as a spy to achieve it. I am deeply grateful for my good fortune.

Words (Yet Again)

Time to burden you again with my fascination with words. Today I start with:

Persnickety. According to Oxford Languages, it means placing too much emphasis on trivial or minor details; fussy. The word is a late nineteenth century alteration of “pernickety.” It is of uncertain origin; the Dictionary of the Scots Language says that it resembles per- (“intensifying prefix”) + nick, but might be derived from particular + finicky with the form influenced by past participles ending in -et, -it, -ed.

Next, wacko. My Merriam-Webster says that the word is an alteration of “wacky,” meaning eccentric or irrational in an amusing way. It might be drawn from “whack head,” meaning one who has been hit on the head and is, therefore, not rational. According to Oxford Languages, “wacko” simply means mad or insane. “Whack,” according to Oxford Languages, means to strike forcefully with a sharp blow. The word “whack” was first used in Old English in 1721. The best guess is that it originated as an imitation of the sound of a slap.

Paparazzi (a plural word) are independent photographers who take pictures of high-profile people. The word derives from the singular form, Paparazzo, an Italian name used by a character in Federico Fellini’s 1960 film La Dolce Vita.

Petard: According to Merriam-Webster, “petard” is wood or metal case containing an explosive for use in breaking down a door or beaching a wall. These days, the word is almost always used in the phrase “hoist with one’s own petard,” meaning victimized or hurt by one’s own scheme.” According to the online version of Merriam-Webster, the phrase comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “For ’tis the sport to have the enginer / Hoist with his own petar.” “Hoist” in this case is the past participle of the verb “hoise,” meaning “to lift or raise,” and “petar(d)” refers to an explosive device used in siege warfare. Hamlet uses the example of the engineer (the person who sets the explosive) being blown into the air by his own device as a metaphor for those who schemed against him being undone by their own schemes. The phrase has endured, even if its literal meaning has largely been forgotten. The etymology: “petard” comes from the Middle French péter, to fart, from the root pet, expulsion of intestinal gas, derived from the Latin peditus, past participle of pedere, to break wind.

Now aren’t you glad you asked? That’s more than enough for one day.

Cold (2)

I wasn’t planning to write about the cold again, however much I suffer from it, but temperatures dropped down to the upper teens. That’s both inhuman and inhumane.

One result is that the small lake at the back of (north of) my house is frozen over. Only days ago, ten mallards—half drakes, half hens—were cavorting in the lake. I assume I won’t see hide nor hair of them again until it warms up next spring.

And I’m doing all I can to fortify myself against the cold. I’ve started wearing tee-shirts under my turtlenecks and heavy sweatshirts. I put extra blankets on the bed. I let the car warm up before I drive so that the heater will immediately fill the car with warmth. Whenever I go out, I wear my heavy winter gloves. And when I get up in the morning, I put on a sweatshirt under my snuggler (heavy bathrobe with legs).

I’d like to comfort myself with assurances that the cold won’t last. Soon warm weather will be returning. The trouble with that argument is that it isn’t true. It’s not even winter yet; winter doesn’t even start until December 21, a whole month from now. And it won’t end until March 20 next year.

It’s enough to make a man want to move back to the tropics.

Republican Failure

The Republican National Committee says that “Republicans believe in liberty, economic prosperity, preserving American values and traditions, and restoring the American dream for every citizen of this great nation.” But in terms of actual performance over the years, Republicans have sought to protect the privilege and wealth of the upper classes while the Democrats have worked to improve the lives of members of the lower classes.

But now, Republicans have changed. According to NBC News, two-thirds of Republicans don’t believe that Joe Biden won the 2020 election. In our recent 2022 election, over 60 percent of Americans had an election-denier on the ballot. And Republicans still accept Donald Trump as their leader.

To the degree that Republicans continue those trends—especially the leadership of Trump—the party is doomed. The expected “red wave” failed to appear in our most recent election. It has always been true that in the mid-term election, the party in power loses. In every election since World War II, the President’s party has lost an average of 26 seats in the House, and an average of four seats in the Senate.

Not this year. For the first time in my memory, the out-of-power party, the Republicans, failed to win control of Congress. Democrats still control the Senate, granted by a very low margin, and although Republicans appear to have a majority in the House of Representatives (all vote counts are not yet in), it is tiny.

In short, the Grand Old Party isn’t grand anymore. Trump and his supporters have undermined it to the point of threatening its continued existence. My guess is that party members will ultimately dump Trump and seek to restore the party’s standing.

But tough times lie ahead.


It’s below freezing this morning. The weather is more like February than November. It’s clear, and the sun is shining. But when I went out to get the delivered Washington Post, I felt no warmth from the sun.

In past blog posts, I’ve talked about my dread of cold weather. Between 1962 and 1975, I spent more time in South Vietnam than I did in the U.S. So I became acclimatized to the tropical weather. Mean annual temperatures there are around 75 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. During the coldest month with a mean temperature of 63 to 68 degrees, the locals all bundled up, while us westerners wore what was for us normal clothing—a short-sleeve shirt and long pants. And during the hottest months with a mean temperature of 84 to 86 degrees, we wore as little as possible.

In other words, it’s good and hot there. Days with temperatures in the nineties are common. People wear as few clothes as possible—for men, especially westerners, going shirtless is commonplace. After the end of the Vietnam war in 1975, when I returned permanently to the U.S., I chronically dressed as warmly as possible, even during the summer, and became all but immobilized by winter cold.

I never reacclimatized back to the cooler climes in the northeastern U.S. where I live. The onset of winter is a grim time for me. And this year, it is coming earlier than usual.

Dour times ahead.

Office Walls

The office where I write and spend most of my waking hours is the main room in the lowest floor of my split-level house. The long narrow room is at the foot of the stairs at the southern side of the house. At the northern end of the room are glass doors that lead to a patio looking out over a pond or small lake, perhaps a hundred feet in diameter half filled with water reeds. The western wall of the office is taken up with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves overloaded with books (including many I have reviewed), LP records, tapes, musical scores (among them the hand-written scores of music I composed), and CDs. The small bit of space left is filled with nine plaques and framed certificates honoring me and my books.

The eastern wall of the room is filled with family pictures—twenty photos of my children and grandchildren—and fourteen certificates revering my books. In the midst of those certifications is a photo I am especially proud of. It shows Marine General Al Gray holding a copy of my novel Last of the Annamese, which is set during the fall of Saigon. It was General Gray, then a colonel, who rescued me as Vietnam fell to the North Vietnamese conquerors. It was thanks to him that I escaped, even though, granted, it was under fire. He went on to be the Commandant of the Marine Corps, a man considered a hero by Marines. General Gray, now in his nineties, still stays in touch with me, especially on April 29, the day Saigon fell in 1975.

My office, in short, speaks volumes about me and my history. It will be there for my family when my life is over.

Why Is Trump Unassailable?

Donald Trump is known to have stolen 11,000 documents when he left the White House after his election defeat. That included some 100 that were classified, some as top secret. Press reports don’t specify, but I’m assuming some of those were codeword and SCI (sensitive compartmented information). During my long career dealing with classified material, I held clearances for access to all those categories. They included some of the most sensitive information whose revelation could have threatened the security of the U.S.

Trump also defied the U.S. Congress refusing to appear when subpoenaed. The time specified for his appearance before the January 6 Committee came and went.

I know very well that during my years of working classified material, had I absconded with even a single secret document, I would have been arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned forthwith. I don’t know what the penalty for failure to appear when subpoenaed is, but I assume it is similar.

And yet, Trump continues to go free. He is no longer president. He is a private citizen who stole classified documents and refuses a legal summons to appear. Why is he immune to arrest?

As a retired federal official, I demand that Trump be treated as any other citizen—arrested and tried for stealing documents and failing to appear when ordered.

Why is this man allowed to get away with what none of the rest of us could?