Update of various xfce-base packages did not help. I finally did the following:-
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adduser -m buffy
usermod -G adm,wheel -a buffy
mv /home/bobmc /home/bobmc_sav
adduser -m bobmc
Now the window manager worked, I copied over mozilla,emacs,thunderbird, and other application control files to the new account. Then removed the temporary accounts.
Obviously, some XFCE control file must have been broken or obsoleted by yesterday's update.