Guess Who?

Consider how this notable presidential candidate was described:

  • Autocratic
  • Symptoms of “preposterous megalomania” (362)
  • Tendency to inflate numbers (363)
  • Talks incessantly about himself, what he has done and could do more than other mortals (340)
  • Authoritarian – “a man with absolute dominion over his people who brooks no advice that does not further his own daydreams and grinds out policies solely in the grist-mill of his own ambition” (354-55)
  • “A president of the United States, not a ‘party’ president, but a president of the whole people” (364)
  • Does not allow criticisms, even by his associates and “contradictions rouse in him the lion”; threatens to trample down enemies (355, 420)
  • Needs to confabulate stories — that is, make up stories out of whole cloth — but present them as real. Seems to be “formally” aware that claims are false but has overall impaired sense of reality (418)
  • Empire builder, real estate magnate, financial and land speculator — builder of temples, cities and kingdoms — but mostly “a constructor of continuing fantasy” (421)
  • Tremendous ability to gain free publicity (viii)
  • Known as an inveterate woman-chaser with multiple marriages
  • Unscientific racial theories (415, 423)

Have you guessed yet?

Here are a few more traits commonly ascribed to this public figure.

  • Habit of loose and wild utterances (420)
  • Destruction of media he regards as unfavorable (377)
  • Exuberant talent for improvisation with lack of care for consistency of detail (403, 409)
  • Personality traits of “jollity, love of sport and good living” (402)
  • “Impostor” personality with “omnipotence fantasy” (418)
  • Prodigious personal charm (402)
  • Nimble in explaining and extricating himself from failure (417)
  • Presidential campaign theme: “American liberty is on the wane and calamity is about to destroy the peace of the people”; “too much government” (341)
  • Good showman, absolutely dependent on having an audience (418)
  • Identification of God with material prosperity (402)

If you’re thinking “Dtrump-nose-cronald J. Trump” you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong, but the actual figure in question is Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Churchjoseph-smith-profile-2-rotate).

Smith started out as a gold-digger (literally) and treasure-hunting entrepreneur in his teens in Vermont and western New York in the 1820s; proclaimed a revelation from the Angel Moroni which resulted in the Book of Mormon; and journeyed westward where he founded businesses, cities, temples and got involved in numerous lawsuits involving his various properties and management practices.

Illustration of the murder of Joseph Smith (1805-1844), founder of the Mormon Church, along with his brother Hyrum. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Mansell/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Illustration of the murder of Joseph Smith (1805-1844), founder of the Mormon Church, along with his brother Hyrum. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Mansell/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

He actually did run for president of the U.S. in 1844 but ultimately died in July of that year trying to flee a murderous mob at the jail where he was imprisoned following his orders to his legion to destroy an anti-Mormon newspaper office that he considered “libelous.”

Smith clearly wanted complete control about what was said about him and his movement and his group’s destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor was described as the act of “an autocrat who could think only in terms of suppression.” (377).

Obviously I have structured the list above craftily to bring out the most obvious and egregious similarities between Smith and Trump.

But let’s just take one item, “confabulation,” to get a better understanding of how autocrats feel they can simply “make stuff up” without consequences.

Joseph Smith, not realizing that the mystery of Egyptian hieroglyphics would soon be revealed in America, came across some genuine Egyptian papyri in 1835 and, perhaps feeling the spirit of God once again descending on the same self-taught linguistic talents that produced the Book of Mormon, proclaimed that he had translated the papyri. The scrolls were, he declared, the writings of Abraham and Joseph (son of Jacob). Of course this was eventually exposed by scholars as pure confabulation.

(click on pic to enlarge)book-of-abraham-facsimile-compare

Likewise, Donald Trump confabulated, that is, simply imagined, at 9/11 that “thousands and thousands of people in New Jersey were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.” He says he saw it on TV despite no external evidence of such coverage or cheering. Anywhere. (See Trump Needs Apprentice for Fact-Checking)

He also claimed that the U.S. unemployment rate could be as high as 42 percent. And of course there’s the whopper that he had handpicked instructors for his dubious Trump “University.”

Earlier this year Trump said that there were 1.5 million people at his inauguration. “I’m like, wait a minute. I made a speech. I looked out, the field was, it looked like a million, million and a half people.” Confabulator extraordinaire!

Most recently, Trump claimed that his electoral college win was the biggest since Reagan. Confabulation elite status.

And of course there’s the on-again-off-again bromance with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Trump most recently boldly claimed that he has never met him, has no relationship: “I don’t know Putin, have no deals in Russia, and the haters are going crazy.”

Yet in a newly resurfaced 2015 interview with conservative talk radio host Michael Savage, Trump claimed that he met Putin and that they “got along great,” contradicting his later campaign trail claims that he never met or spoke with Putin.

The Washington Post has a very helpful chronology of the bromance, including this exchange:

TRUMP: I have no relationship with Putin. I don’t think I’ve ever met him. I never met him. I don’t think I’ve ever met him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You would know it if you did.

TRUMP: I think so.

It would be fascinating to book a trip in the Wayback Machine to bring Mr. Smith to Washington and put the Mormon up against the Trumpon.

Would they be like old fishing buddies spinning tall tales of giant marlins caught and thrown back? Or would they just glare at each other as poseurs to the title of Confabulator-in-Chief? Would Trump immediately nominate Smith to the new Cabinet post of Secretary of Religion? Would Joe offer advice on how to build a real temple?

My guess is that they would immediately set to work on a new self-absorbent prophetic novel: The Book of Trumpon.


Much of this information, including quotes,  is derived from Fawn Brodie’s excellent biography of Joseph Smith, No Man Knows My History: the Life of Joseph Smith.  (2nd edition, 1971). All page numbers refer to this edition.
Other sources include The Book of Mormon (1963 edition); Harry L. Rapp’s The Mormon Papers (1978); Joseph Smith, by C. Clark Julius, The Philalethes (August 1987); “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo,” (, “Testimonies of Abigail Harris and Lucy Harris,” Palmyra, NY (1833); “People of State of New York vs. Joseph Smith,” Bainbridge, New York, March 20, 1826 (sworn statements accusing Smith of being an impostor and “disorderly person” (aka “juggler”) who deceived the public by looking in a stone placed in his hat to find buried treasures.); “Review of Book of Mormon,” unpublished, Veihdeffer, 2016, 14pp.
Trump nose courtesy of photoshop. (See “Trump Needs Apprentice for Fact Checking”)
Book of Trumpon cover by the author, adapted from his copy of the Book of Mormon

Translating Trump’s Mind

Introducing the Trump-to-English Translator, soon to be a major new app available wherever you get your Trump memorabilia.

Addressing a law enforcement conference in Washington on Feb. 8, so-called President Trump kicked off his remarks by reading the Immigration and Nationality Act* aloud. Trump offered his own oral argument in defense of the travel ban.


Thanks to a terrific new piece of software—it’s really a fantastic piece of software, you’re going to be amazed at how great this software is, trust me—we’re now able to hack decode the inner workings of the POTUS mind.

“I watched last night in amazement, and I heard things that I couldn’t believe,” [because I only believe what I hear from Breitbart] Trump told his audience. “I don’t ever want to call a court biased [unless they rule against me], so I won’t call it biased, [but man am I tempted…bigly] and we haven’t had a decision yet [at which point I will be obliged to call the decision biased] But courts seem to be so political [when they rule against me, as those losers like to do], and it would be so great for our justice system [me] if they would be able to read a statement and do what’s right [‘right’ = ‘what I want them to do’].”

“If you were a good student in high school or a bad student in high school [that seems to cover the bases, so many great bases, so many], you can understand this.” . . .  “I was a good student. I understand things. I comprehend very well, O.K.? [in case you forgot] Better than, I think, almost anybody [because, trust me,  I’m really really smart in comprehension]. And I want to tell you, I listened to a bunch of stuff [I dunno, maybe it was news, maybe it was something Steve Bannon whispered in my ear] last night on television [where I get most of my policy briefings] that was disgraceful. It was disgraceful because what I just read to you is what we have. And it just can’t be written any plainer or better [except for what I get written for me, of course], and for us to be going through this.” [Easy D!]

Meanwhile, White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, not to be outdone, blathered forth this mini prose poem:

“So, the point is that at some area [I know I could have said ‘at some point’ but that would be doubly repetitive], you have to wonder, if the president isn’t able to execute on the power [I guess I could have said ‘execute the power’ but that just sounds bad]  that’s been vested into him [yes, yes, it’s actually vested into him, inside him, y’know] and is codified in U.S. Code [because the very best codes are codified], at some point [or at some ‘area’ . . . you decide] you have to wonder, what else is at question?”

* We’re not entirely sure what the SC-POTUS read aloud though we suspect it wasn’t the actual 12-page “Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965” linked to above which contains the usual sort of endless legislative jargon including at least one 400-word sentence. Public Law 29-236 (H.R. 2580) also known as the Hart–Celler Act, changed the way quotas were allocated by ending the National Origins Formula that had been in place in the United States since the Emergency Quota Act of 1921.

A Trip to the Attic

I was poking around in my attic (yes, some Phoenix homes have attics) looking for an old photo neg and as usual found myself distracted by a hitherto unnoticed box of books I had tucked away.

And what a treasure trove of oddities it was indeed!

Apparently I had stored a lot of my quirky humor books in the box and underneath several David Sedaris, Dave Barry, Steve Martin, Woody Allen and Bill Bryson collections, I hit real paydirt in the form of…


I was about to put this odd volume back when I noticed that our new prebitch-book-ivana-trumpsident was featured on the cover with a quote from his first wife in 1990.

I have to admit that I have no idea where, why or how I acquired many of these. I used to haunt Friends of the Library and VNSA sales and was a frequent visitor to Tempe’s original Changing Hands bporno-graphics-dangreenburg-2ookstore.

The Dan Greenburg book is especially clever as he unveils famous works of art with naughty little lift-up transparencies.



The photo of the hand with tongue (thumb) sticking out is from a book called Humands.

humands_0001       The Mecham book is a wonderful collection of quotes from world-according-to-evan-mecham2the disgraced former governor of Arizona, as chronicled in a recent blog post.special-moments





Special Moments is a set of beautifully photographed actual postcards with very odd and unexpected reverse sides.

For example “Thinking of You” contains the nicely scrolled message,thinking-of-you “Wishing you’d change” on the back.






Here are a few more for your delectation.

From The Profit (a delicious parody of the writings of cult Lebanese-American mystic, Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet…also in my library in the Woo section with Nostradamus):the-profit-kehlog-albran

  • “The earth is like a grain of sand, only much much heavier.”
  • “If someone should find a wallet containing a boiled potato, a tooth, and a laundry ticket, should he be considered lucky?”
  • “Some ask when is the best time to marry. My reply is this: A field ripe with clover, pomegranates and figs does not require the Archangel to determine where a canine hath dirtied.”

Here are a few others.


leas-book-of-rules more-dates-from-hell-2 items-from-our-catalog gyroscope-through-the-ages growing-up-catholic fire-in-the-johnsheep-in-a-jeep
















I’d love to give an excerpt from Lea Delaria’s book of rules but couldn’t find anything that wouldn’t get me in trouble. Sheep in a Jeep on the other hand is so deliriously amusing, page-by-rhyming-page, that I cannot resist giving the final punch line: “Jeep for sale — Cheap.”

We leave you for today with former Disney artist, Ward Kimball’s…

after-art-masterpieces-coverwith a modern take on Gainsborough’s 1779 “The Blue Boy”…


…and Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” fresco, among some 40 other irreverent adaptations.


Bright spot on the presidential horizon

After two months of grief and misery considering what the Trump presidency would bring…and being sadly undisappointed that everything we feared was coming true, I am reminded of  a previous travesty in my adopted state of Arizona that may offer some measure of hope to the country.evan_mecham

I’m speaking of course about the foreshortened administration of one Evan Mecham (pronounced MEEKem) who was inaugurated as the 17th governor of Arizona in 1987.

<itreble-clef-quentinnsert dreamy flashback music here>

I remember the situation well. Evan Mecham got a surprise win of the Republican nomination following a bizarre split of the Democratic party during the general election. He was a successful wheeler-dealer businessman who ran on the promise of being a political outsider who could put Arizona back on a business-like basis. (His car dealership slogan was “If you can’t deal with Mecham, you just can’t deal.”)

However, Mecham was plagued by controversy from the get-go with accusations of questionable political appointments and cronyism and perhaps most notably, insensitivity to minorities and women — he cancelled the state’s paid MLK Day and attributed high divorce rates to working women. And let’s not even get into his defense of words like “pickaninny” and “round eyes.”*

Continuing with the wayback machine — and here’s your bright spot — I distinctly remember how much fun it was to rediscover radio news on my carpool ride home in the evenings as we looked in shock at each other wondering, “What’ll he say next?”

Not incidentally, he claimed that many of his problems were caused by media enemies.**

Eventually, his blathering got the best of him and Mecham became the first U.S. governor to simultaneously face removal from office through impeachment, a scheduled recall election, and a felony indictment.***

These recollections came to me as I was watching a Seth Meyers commentary (“A Closer Look” Jan. 23, 2017) on the Trump inaugural address:

“You’d think he might use his inaugural address to unite the country and provide an uplifting vision of the future. Instead, he opted for a nightmarish, dystopian hellscape.”


And Meyers’ characterization of Kellyanne Conway trying to explain the concept of “alternative facts” is priceless:

“Kellyanne Conway is like someone trying to do the Jedi Mind Trick after only a week of Jedi training.”

This sort of satirical fodder may seem weak consolations for the carnage to come in the next four years. And although we cannot hope (to quote The Donald) that “this American carnage stops right here and stops right now!”…at least we can enjoy the news again, knowing that Trump absolutely cannot help himself from putting his foot in it…bigly.

So grab your pussyhat and get ready for a wild ride. pussyhat-project

* Hawkins, Steve L.  “Inside the Wacky World of Evan Mecham.” U.S. News & World Report. (February 22, 1988).104: 29–30.

** “The people I listen to are the good people of Arizona. I don’t listen to the press.” (Oct. 26, 1987, AP News Archive) In later years, his press secretary, Ken Smith, would complain about “contrived political scandals and the subsequent coverage by sensationalist news media” (“Old letters, news clips and other documents regarding the impeachment of Arizona Governor Evan Mecham, 1987-88”)

*** Siegel, Mark. The World According to Evan Mecham: A Collection of Quotes, Observations, and Editorial Cartoons. (1987)


Arkology 101 – A visit to Ark Encounter

On a recent visit to Kentucky over the holidays I couldn’t resist talking family members into sponsoring a visit to Ark Encounter—the sister site to the Creation Museum. While we were all dubious about contributing to the well-being of an avowedly anti-science organization, we agreed that we could partially offset our misdeed by donating an equal amount to a science-based project.

Thus it was that we headed down I-75 to Williamstown, KY (just across the river from Cincinnati) and the 100-acre Ark Encounter theme park (funded in large part with public funds in the form of tax rebates and massive land cost discounting).*

If nothing else, I got a pretty dope shot of the ark.

ark-bow-bluecell-475Once inside, we found ourselves gaping in wonder at the elaborate displays of faux scholarship and Flintstones technology.

The park creators, Answers in Genesis (AiG), bring a lot of sciency-sounding facts and statistics (along with an assortment of Rube Goldberg-inspired depictions of animal feeding and excrement removal) to their otherwise beautifully presented posters and displays.

Alas, it’s really hard for a lay person—even a scholar in a related field who may not be versed in a particular specialty—to evaluate the massive number of claims throughout the exhibit site.

I thought I’d give the Arkists (my term) the benefit of the doubt while I was onsite and do fact-checking later.

Here’s one example of how the Arkists play with facts. The image below is a low-res cellphone snap of a display on animal kinds—a term we would find that the project uses obsessively.


(click on image to enlarge)

What indeed is an “animal kind”?

The poster says: “An animal kind, or baramin (from the Hebrew words for ‘created’ and ‘kind’) is a group of related animals not related to any other animals. The study of created kinds is call baraminology.”

Now, one of the keys to the Creationist “Arkology” is the problem of how to keep two of every kind of animal in the world living comfortably for a year on the vessel. The solution: forget about “species” and the millions of different varieties of critters in the world and just deal with animal kinds — what they call “baraminology.” That way you don’t have to worry about keeping cold-weather polar bears sustained, much less pandas, sun bears and Andean bears …they’re all just part of the “bear kind.” After all, Creationists say the varieties didn’t come until after the Flood.

“Baraminology, a creationist system, classifies animals into groups called “created kinds” or “baramin” according to the account of creation in the book of Genesis and other parts of the Bible. It claims that kinds cannot interbreed and have no evolutionary relationship to one another.[1]

Kurt P. Wise devised the word “baraminology” in 1990 on the basis of Frank Lewis Marsh’s 1941 coinage of the term “baramin” from the Hebrew words bara (create) and min (kind). This combined word does not appear in Hebrew; instead, it is in reference to the use of the word ‘kind’ in the Bible. [“Barminology”]

As paleontologist Dan Phelps (see below) says, “Young-earth creationists have created ‘Biblical taxonomy’ (or baraminology) with ‘created kinds’ (also known as baramins) to replace conventional biological taxa.’”

What is particularly insidious about the Answers in Genesis portrayal of these things is that they mash together pseudoscience, made-up stuff and lots and lots of statistics and “factoids” into very readable, concise and knowledgeable-sounding narratives that, unless you happen to have actual scientifically validated facts at hand, you’d have no way to refute. Frankly, it sounds quite reasonable when there’s no one around to gainsay it. Many of the signs simply assert things like “Studies beginning in 2012 estimate….” for example.

This business of inventing “baraminology” and making it sound like it’s a sort of Hebrew term which zoologists, paleontologists, primatologists or archaeologists might use in their field is particularly clever. It’s a bit like the naturopaths inventing the term “allopath” to describe real medical doctors. But it’s quite clear that the creationists simply invented their term to solve the problem of too many animal species to fit on the ark.

An excellent review of the Ark Encounter exhibit is available from Dan Phelps, president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, He gives careful account of the contents of Ark Encounter theme park on opening day, July 7, 2016.

Kentucky Gets an Ark-Shaped Second Creation “Museum”: A Walkthrough and Review of the Ark Encounter

He adds that “examples of jaw-dropping crank pseudoscience and non-science and the militant fervor in which they are promoted suggest that the Ark Park is tapping into a deeply-held anti-intellectualism that is becoming more influential in our society.”

As Phelps says, “[T]he creationists provide a simplistic version of geology and paleontology to an uncritical and unsuspecting audience that lacks the background to evaluate the claims made by AiG.”

I will give them credit: they do know how to light up an ark.


…and Noah’s tormentors sure knew how to party like like it’s 2348 BCE.


* According to Phelps, the Ark bought 100 acres of land for $1 from the Grant County Fiscal Court so AiG would build the Ark in Williamstown instead of elsewhere. Meanwhile, the city of Williamstown issued $62 million in bonds so the Ark could be financed. The Ark received a steep property tax reduction for the next thirty years from Williamstown. The Ark also received nearly $200,000 from the Grant County Industrial Authority.
Ark photos copyright (c) 2016 James Veihdeffer

Reince displays lack of Xmas savvy

reince-priebusRNC dismisses controversy over Christmas press release

A holiday message sent out by the GOP’s Reince Priebus (whose name remains the most unpronounceable in the land) the outgoing RNC Chairman and incoming chief of staff, demonstrated that not only does he consider America to be a kingdom ruled by Christians but also evinces a 2nd grade understanding of theology.

He wrote:

“Over two millennia ago, a new hope was born into the world, a Savior who would offer the promise of salvation to all mankind. Just as the three wise men did on that night, this Christmas heralds a time to celebrate the good news of a new King. We hope Americans celebrating Christmas today will enjoy a day of festivities and a renewed closeness with family and friends.”

When criticized for the use of the word “king” in his message, which some took to be a sly reference to his boss, Donald Trump, Preebus (we’ll just go phonetic here on), tweeted back:

“Christ is the King. He was born today so we could be saved. Its sad & disappointing you are politicizing such a holy day.”

Of course his original message was sent to an inherently political group, the Republican party, so let’s not pretend that a religious message to a political party is somehow not inherently political.

Now, scholars of all stripes and most well-read Christians understand that Christmas as it has been taught to us over the centuries is filled with wonderful traditions, myths and what might be called “pious fictions” — that is untruths that have inspirational value but which are not to be taken as literal truth.

As every child above Santa-Claus-age knows, the historical figure known as Jesus was not born on Dec. 25 — or at least the day is no more likely than any other day, and actually less likely due to the cold, rainy weather during the Jewish months of Chislev and Tebeth. (And of course the Jewish calendar had no month of December anyway.) The date was selected to specifically co-opt the birthday of Mithra, the pagan god of light. In 325 CE, Roman emperor Constantine re-assigned the meaning to the birthday of Jesus.

As to the wise men or magi (astrologers), the gifts, the Star and the rest of that elaborate claptrap, all we know from Matthew is that “wise men from the east” arrived. No less a figure than the Archbishop of Canterbury tells us, “Matthew’s Gospel doesn’t tell us there were three of them, doesn’t tell us they were kings, doesn’t tell us where they came from.”

Although most scholars regard the entire story of the wise men as completely spurious, if there were such a visit, considering the very muddled time frames of the gospels, it would likely have been a year or two after the birth. (Remember that Jesus could not have been born during the reign of Herod the Great and the census of Quirinius.)

Finally, the Preebs may wish to consider that Christ is only king to those who are Christian.

Other sources:

Holiday Air Travel Rules

Tis the season to be traveling around to visit family for whatever your holiday of choice is.  There’s a good chance you’ll be taking a plane ride, and, as I will be flying to Kentucky, I thought this might be a good time to review the rules of etiquette…especially if you’re going to be on my flight.

1. No seat yank-backs

See…there’s a pretty good chance that I’ve got my laptop open, maybe a drink on the tray seatback-pax-quentintable. So when you yank your seat back, you’re actually impinging on my space, endangering my computer and upsetting my drink. Now, you can tilt the seat back an inch or two…but that’s it, unless you specifically turn around and ask.

2. You don’t own the window shade.

I usually request the window seat because I like looking out the window, especially as I’m departing and arriving somewhere. But these days it’s a real crap shoot as to where you’re going to be placed. I was surprised on recent daytime trips where I was in the middle or aisle seats and the window passenger immediately pulled down the shade, not only cutting off my view but also cutting off light from my reading material. (The overhead lights weren’t working.) When you get the window seat, I reckon you are renting the seat, the area under the seat and the tray table…but how about asking first if you want the shade down? (I recognize that there is some debate about this among frequent fliers, but I’m afraid I’m going to have put my, er…foot down.)

3. No smelly carry-on food

These days, airljv-gas-mask-quentinines are cutting back on all sorts of amenities, particularly food. So I usually pack some innocuous snacks. However, an otherwise very nice couple next to me unpacked a veritable smell-orgy of foods they apparently had been cooking for the past few days in their shoes.


4. No rushing past people in the aisle waiting to deplane

Here’s a true story from several years ago. I was traveling through Pittsburgh on my way to Phoenix and the usual crowd was queued up in the back part of the plane. A stylish, yuppie’ish couple behind me were politely but earnestly asking folks if they could get through because they were in danger of missing their connecting flight. We all cooperated as the couple squeezed their way through. I didn’t mind at all. My companion and I had some extra time before our own connecting flight so we stopped in the airport bookstore to browse. And who should we see but the time-crunched couple casually picking out some magazines. And this is still true: I sidled up next to them, anonymously, and overhead the guy telling his wife/girlfriend, “Hey, that really worked well! What a great way to get off the airplane without waiting in that horrible line.”

I guess I’d still let someone squeeze past, especially if I knew that our flight had a delayed takeoff. But I better not see you in the airport bookstore.

Oh, and by the way, what’s with everyone in the rows behind me feeling the urgent need to rush out of their rows to get into the aisle so they can just stand and wait?


Update from reader S. Vogt in Kentucky. She takes a bit of umbrage at the implied annoyance of the looming mob behind my row. She says “I like to do that because it’s a way to stretch after having been sitting for awhile. Plus, It takes me a little time to get my suitcase down, attach my computer case, etc. so I will be ready to move as soon as my turn comes.” I’m now wondering if umbrage can come in bits.

Author in gas mask photo (c) 2011, Jim Veihdeffer