New Words: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

updated 14 Feb, 2021

Trigger alert: This particular post is mostly for word nerds . . . but feel free to jump in and ride along


Let’s start with a new word that we’re giving a thumbs up:

“De-platform” — verb: to deny someone the ability to post on social media or more generally, remove someone ranting and orating on a stage or in a forum. Although the term is often set solid (no hyphen), I think the hyphen helps recognize that it’s not deplat. While there’s certainly controversy about whether this infringes on 1st Amendment free speech, the rise of misinformation, disinformation and just whacked out Q’formation makes this a useful thing to do

Now…to the bad guys

“De-fund the police” — this phrase is nothing but ammunition for Far Righters and Q-heads who think it means not paying for police departments. The folks who came up with it should be ashamed since it works against everything they really want, which is simply to “fund” or empower social agencies and personnel to work with situations that don’t call for military intervention: domestic squabbles, shoplifting, selling single cigarettes on the street, being attacked by Karens, etc.

“Cancel culture” — There’s nothing wrong with withdrawing support for a person or organization, or more directly, to boycott an organization deemed offensive. The term was maybe OK for one-time-use but has gotten wayyyy out of hand and is now just a way to whimper about not being invited to the party. Calling it a “culture” is simply dog-whistle* whining from people upset about their words being used against them. Now, doxing or trolling people you disagree with, on the other hand, is not taking away support–it’s attacking them.

This next one is officially “iffy” — as in, it’s OK for some situations.

“Drop” as in “to post” or publish or make publicly available. A band “drops” their new song or album on the Internet somewhere. Fine. But there are so many other meanings to the verb —drop acid, drop the book on the floor, drop over to see someone, give someone a drop of lemon, drop a dime on someone, drop your toxic relationship — that it doesn’t make sense to use it for any kind of new thing that has “just come out.” (There’s a nice discussion on this music forum.)

“Woke” – Although the word likely goes back to 2008 and picked up speed in 2014, meaning self-awareness of social injustice, especially racial tension, it really seems to have gained traction in 2016 and 2017 (when it was added to Merriam-Webster). But in the Language Team’s opinion, it just sounds goofy in practically any sentence structure. “He’s so woke!” “We need to get some woke people on this.” “I wish everyone was as woke as X about Y.”

So, it is time to put it to rest…so to speak. <Insert gavel-drop sound>





And the in-betweens:

“Disrupt” — this started becoming annoying several years ago when an insurance company started dropping (ack!) web ads and chumboxes about how some MIT grads were disrupting the industry. The ads themselves were, at best disingenuous and misleading. The concept grew especially (IMHO) with the rise of Donald Trump who was seen as a sort of positive disrupter—someone who doesn’t pussyfoot (sorry!) around with small talk and bland “business as usual” practices that don’t get the job done. Instead, the disrupter actively short circuits programs that aren’t working.  There are still very useful situations for the term — “The angry child disrupted their meeting with a tantrum” but when you see it being used in a marketing campaign, it’s probably just marketing drivel.

“Swipe left/swipe right”to cancel or approve, depending on which way you swipe. Surprisingly, we hear it’s being used on dating websites or apps where there’s no actual swiping to be done.

“What’s the ‘ask’?” — Our team of linguists has mixed verdicts on this. On the one hand, saying “ask” instead of “request” is indeed shorter, and shorter is usually better. But on the other foot, it’s turning a simple, serviceable verb into a somewhat hard-to-distinguish noun (“ast”?) for no really good reason. “What are they asking for?” gets the job done without too much disruption to our ear drums.

“Mainstream media” (aka MSM) — this is a tricky one because the term does help us distinguish between source generally recognized as reputable such as NYT, WaPO, PBS, AP,  BBC, et al, versus…well, versus what? Small, independent sources and local newspapers without a national audience? Or far-left and far-right sources that either clearly present their biases or hide them? In our view, the term was created, or popularized as a way of legitimizing “alternate” media, much like the term “allopathy” was invented by homeopathy to legitimize their field—that is, a term with no purpose other than to set a place at the table for some group.

So the problem with using the phrase is that it’s now almost totally used derogatorily, like “Well, if you listen to what the MSM is saying about…”. We are reminded of how disgraced political hack Rick Gates refers to “the media” as a sort of monolithic entity-person that simply does whatever it pleases.

Bring it back!

“Disinterested” — this term, meaning to be impartial or not having a stake or personal interest in the outcome, has had a long history of reversals. Like a lot of words in Englishflirt, cute, awful, girl, naughty, nice —it has completely flipped over from historic use but has now settled into a perfectly useful meaning. Nevertheless, we are more and more hearing people use it simply to mean “not interested,” for which we have a perfectly good term already: uninterested.

A personal, local peeve

“Old Town” to describe downtown Scottsdale, Ariz. First off, the city called “The West’s Most Western Town” but really should be “The West’s Most Narrow Corridor,”* isn’t even among the state’s oldest cities and towns. And a casual bike ride through the downtown area shows that it’s mostly filled with fancy art galleries, upscale new restaurants and clubs, modern civic buildings and music venues in malls and parks. I think the problem comes from various neighborhoods not being able to figure out where their personal downtown is: Kierland (actually in Phoenix but uses a Scottsdale mailing address)? High Street? Shea & Scottsdale Rd? Fashion Square? Scottsdale Quarter? I actually had a friend once who told me that she and her girlfriend were going to go shopping “downtown”—but it turned out she meant AJ’s Fine Foods at Pinnacle Peak and Pima.

In the meantime, we are pleased to see that our new additions to the language are being enthusiastically adopted: SoSco (south Scottsdale) and NoSco (north Scottsdale). We have also heard that SoMo is now in play for South Mountain (aka Ahwatukee)

*“dog whistle” refers to use of coded or suggestive language–especially in political messaging–to make a point to your own audience with provoking opposition. This kind of language gives the speaker “plausible deniability“…like saying “urban voters” which your audience know means “inner city Blacks.” or “family values” which your audience will interpret as “Christian.”
**31 miles long from north to south and 11 miles wide…but really 3 or 4 miles wide in places.

𝓝𝓲𝓰𝓱𝓽 𝓸𝓯 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓒𝓞𝓥𝓘𝓓 (vaccine)

8 Feb. 2021

It’s Sunday night — Monday morning on Feb. 8 actually — and I’ve allowed about 30 minutes to drive cross town to State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. I had given myself a 40-minute nap ahead of time just to make sure I didn’t doze off somewhere in the process. I had heard that it only took about 15 minutes, but other reports said an hour. (The discrepancy is easily explained, below)

I arrived at exactly 12:30 am — 15 min. early, as advised for my 12:42 appointment — at State Farm Stadium. The road (95th Ave.) was very well marked with wayfinding signs and arrows.

Volunteers with light sabers guided the cars through the stadium parking lot laid out with an elaborate maze of well-coned lanes.

I had my personal ID, teacher badge as well as my QR code ready on my phone, but no one asked for the IDs, just the email with my appointment info. It turns out the smartest thing I had done all night was finding my appointment info email and forwarding it to my more convenient cell phone email address. That’s all the guy wanted. He didn’t even check the QR code.

As I progressed through, it appeared that there were about 50 or 75 vehicles in the mix…but at 12:45 AM it’s hard to tell and I was busy not running into traffic cones.

The 1st checkpoint seemed to be mainly about verifying my appointment and getting me into the lanes. After getting past the checkpoint, I proceeded through the maze to another checkpoint where they verified me as “1st shot” and marked my car window in chalk with my ID and other codes. (Although the lot was well-coned with orange-vested light saber people at each turn, it was handy to be following a white car.) At this checkpoint, the agent asked the expected health status questions and whether I had had any vaccination in the past two weeks. (So that answers the question of how long to wait after a shingles shot, which I had got on Dec. 31, five weeks before—I mean, what else are you going to do on a COVID New Year’s Eve?)

The 2nd checkpoint directed me to a series of lanes with more orange vests helping distribute the cars evenly.

I seem to have got behind a car that took a lot of extra time (like being stuck in a grocery store line behind someone with coupons. But, after all, it was 12:40am or so and I really had nowhere else to be.)  So about 5-7 minutes after I had arrived at the 1st checkpoint I was at the dose station, which took about 45-seconds. I never did figure why the SUV ahead took 3 or 4 minutes. I flashed my “official Super Bowl ring” (official to me) all along, eliciting grins at each station. It was, after all, Super Bowl Sunday and I was at a Super Bowl football stadium (2015)En route to the final station a strolling volunteer/official took my info and gave me my follow-up appt. reservation: Feb 28, along with a confirmation card that I need to bring next time. I agreed to the appt. date and time but later wondered if I’d get an email confirmation since within 2 minutes I couldn’t remember if it was 9:24 or 9:42! One of the strolling volunteers said it wouldn’t really matter as long as I was there approximately on time.

Now I was directed to a final station where they would be doing a sort of after-check and waiting period for the expected 15 minutes before leaving. The nurses had marked my windshield with the time of administration. I really only had to wait 3 or 4  minutes. However, as usual, the car ahead that I’d been following took 8 or 9 minutes. The agent at this station and I chatted pleasantly — it was her duty to keep each car for the requisite remaining time. I asked why the previous car had taken so long — “not complaining, mind you, just wondering” — and she said the driver must have been able to move quickly from the dose station, which meant a longer wait at the final station. But since I was behind the same car the final two stations, I kind of doubted that. Or maybe that’s what the extra wait at the dose station was about. It looked like there was some complication there before they could wave her through—you know, just like the coupons-&-cash person at the grocery store.

I pulled out just about 12:55 AM and was back on the highway by 1 AM, home by 1:25. Total time elapsed: Midnight Sunday to 1:30 AM Monday: an hour and a half–which is probably why some people say it took 15 minutes and others say an hour or so.

Because of my nap earlier, I was pretty awake so made myself a snack, had some wine and watched TV for an hour.

I’m now somewhat nervously awaiting any after-effects. However, the other good news is that I had my 2nd appointment verified by email by 9 AM.

Overall verdict: Way to go, medical people, volunteers and organizers!

Follow up note: no after-effects whatsoever after a day and a half. However, the 2nd dose could be a different result, from what I hear.
In case you’re scheduled for State Farm: Directions from Central & Dunlap: Glendale Ave to 95th Ave, south, past Maryland, to West Parking Lot. Or 101 to Glendale Ave exit, east one block to 95th Ave.

To flap…or not to flap

I guess it depends on whether you’re a hawk doing a quick look-see around the field on the reservation…or an American Airlines CRJ-900 on arrival at PHX Sky Harbor at sunset–in which case your flaps are definitely down. (We just hope the airplane is carrying wine.)

We call these “moments of aerial ariZen.” Just watch…and relax. Nothing bad is going to happen.

Annals of Bad Package Design: Part 2

When last we visited, we left you at that scrumptious breakfast, but now the time has come for dins.

<click on any pic to enlarge>

Dang, I loves me some orange chicken!

What the package doesn’t tell you is that it’s 85% rice and just a few measly pieces of chicken. But the package pic seems to be saying it’s mostly or at least half orange chicken.

OK, time to open the wine, maybe a nice bottle of Bar Dog or Hogwash

Now, we enjoy the ritual of slicing the foil and pulling out the cork (when we’re not just unscrewing the lid on Sheep Thrills). But sometimes the blade isn’t so sharp and we spend precious wine time getting that dang foil cut.

The solution is amazingly simple and hardly seems like it would add anything to the price of the bottle: a simple tear tab!

Interestingly, the only place we have found bottlers using the simple “tear tab” on a regular basis is Egypt. Yes, we’ve seen a few American examples, but verrrry few. But for some reason, a nice bottle of Pharaoh, Obelisk, Omar Khayam, Ayam, Grand Marquis or Zaman in Cairo typically comes with a convenient tear tab for the foil. (Yes, I’ve tried them all.) And we still get the pleasure of uncorking.

Next up: jars. Here’s a common and seemingly easy-to-fix problem. Note that the foil lid has only the slightest, if any tabs to peel it off. This is particularly annoying with smaller items like spice bottles.

C’mon packagers! How hard is it to put a bit of foil that we can get our fingers on?

And now <insert drum roll>,

Our nominee for the worst frozen food packaging of all time!

This looks pretty yummy, right? (I mean, if you like sliders.) The first, and main problem is…it’s a total fake out. The box promises you’ll get 6 mini-burgers, but in fact, you get one! Because it’s a single frozen unit in a plastic bag with only slight indentations between each one. And the cooking instructions tell you to cook it in the bag. So, in effect, you have to cook the whole package at the same time. It’s not a “six count”…it’s a one count!

Next problem. It’s late and you just don’t feel like cooking a healthful meal so you reach into the freezer for the package. Now try to figure out the cooking directions. Grrrr.


Here…we’ll help you out with a close up view



You can microwave. Or, you can, um, use the microwave…oh, but it’s really an oven method. And then there’s the, um, oven method.

Adding to the cooking problem is that the Kroger fiends have sprinkled the entire tray with cheese sprinkles. Lots of them. (shown here, uncooked). We can’t even imagine what it would be like to peel off the cooking bag from a tray of oozing cheese.








It’s enough to make a single fella take up home cooking!*

* For a good example of our culinary chops (so to speak), check out Cof’veve Salade au Spamme Internationale.

You can also request the recipe for our holiday specialty, “Flaming Bologna Surprise,” from Stories I Never Told My Family.







Yes, I’m known for my French cuisine…

  • La Merde dans un Chapeau Verte,
  • Petits Cubes D’eau Glacée (Small Frozen Cubes of Ice)
  • Paté de Spamme Terrine (au jus de mystère)

…but I never forget my Great Lakes heritage:

  • Smoke-infused Cajun Lenten Perch,
  • Deep Fried Lake Erie Loon on a Stick

Annals of Bad Package Design: Part 1

Mmmm…time for breakfast!

(click any pic to enlarge)

Exhibit A: Jimmy Dean. Looks pretty tasty, don’t ya think?…especially if you’re in a hurry and don’t feel like cereal with banana and strawbs or something healthy.

But now let’s look at the back to get the recommended cooking instructions. Wait…what’s with all the advertising for other products? Look, Jimmy, we’ve already bought the item so how about just telling us how to prepare the dang thing?

But nooooooo…you want to take 75% of the backside to pimp other products. Now, where did you put those pesky directions?

Oh, there they are…tucked down in the lower left corner, comprising about 8-10% of the available space…but comprising 100% of what we really want to know.


Exhibit B: Compare this to the Signature Select house brand of Safeway/Albertsons. Same big product pic on the front.

But the back of the package is all-business: prominent cooking instructions and nutrition facts.






Exhibit C: We turn now to a tall, narrow breakfast box sandwich from Kroger. The backside is a model of simplicity. Yeah, they put in some perky promotional text but the directions are easily visible…and better yet, it’s a one-stop process. (No “defrost at 30% for 90 seconds, turn the product and then microwave on high for another 50 seconds.”)

As long as we’re having breakfast, let’s look at one of the strangest examples of just plain dumb packaging that we’ve ever seen.

Apparently the manufacturer is selling something called “Amber color” …like, “Honey, don’t forget to pick up some amber color for our pancakes tomorrow!”

It turns out the product is actually maple syrup from a brand called Private Selection from…oh, darn it…Kroger.

Now compare this to the Maple Grove Farms product. One could quibble with whether the word “organic” is the most important element. It’s not like our partner calls us at the store saying “Honey, could you pick up something organic while you’re there? Doesn’t matter what it is as long as you get something organic.” But at least the product is clearly labelled.

Next time: What’s for dinner!

In the meantime, as they say in the Middle East…

Words To Be Retired in the New Year

The language authorities (me) have just announced the formal retirement of the following words and phrases. We’ll save the tricky one for later. Let’s warm up on an easy one.

“Woke”: This phrase — indicating someone is “alert to injustice” —may have served a purpose for a short time, but the grammatical form of it is so convoluted that now it’s just annoying. As with “on fleek,” “bae” and “duuude!”…it’s time for it to leave the island.

“I mean…”: This spoken intro phrase has now become so ubiquitous as to become inescapable in any TV, radio or podcast interview. It seems to have replaced “Well…” and “Um…” and “You know…” Once you’re woke to it (ack! I couldn’t help myself) you can hear it five, six, seven times a day if you spend any time listening to news interviews. The odd thing is that it’s (almost) never used to clarify or follow up on a point: it’s simply a way to start a sentence as you’re gearing up. Arabic speakers have a similar omnipresent “space filler”: yani1

OK, now on to the controversial one:

“Defund the police”: In our view, the phrase is simply a gift to Alt Righters, Proud Boys, Q folks and self-styled militia who take the phrase at face value.

We totally get the concept: let’s deal with the wide variety of social/cultural issues, esp. those affecting inner cities, not with police action but with social services. The police are specifically trained (hopefully) to deal with life and death and personal harm events—not with minor shoplifting, cigarette grifting, “mental” outbursts or household grievances. So the phrase is not about “getting rid of police” or somehow reducing their pay.

Let’s stop playing into their hands and say “Fund social services” or “Support social services” or whatever. Anything but “cut out funding for police.”

Now, back to our stable of retirees.

“Careful now!”: Yes, it’s meant as a gesture of goodwill and concern, but is there anything more useless than advising someone to be careful after they’ve tripped? Imagine you’re in a car crash and a bystander comes up and says, “Careful now!”

“What’s a good number to call you back?”: “Well, y’know, I was thinking I would give you some random digits or maybe my old discarded cell phone number, just to make it impossible for you to get ahold of me in case we get disconnected.”

“That’s a good question”: There are undoubtedly some very good questions being asked in interviews but this is simply a cliché’d time-staller nowadays. Of course the idea is to give the responder a moment to collect their thoughts, or perhaps truly compliment the questioner. But it’s time to put this one back in the old-horses home.

“How’s everything tasting?”: We have been rolling our eyes on this standard restaurant server nonsense phrase for several years. (And, sorry table mates, I can’t help myself). I can hardly even count the number of grammatical rules it breaks, not to mention being simply annoying, when “How is everything?” or “How’s your food?” would do just fine. But just recently I ran across a similar objection from my favorite humor essayist, David Sedaris,2 so I feel some vindication.

“Have a good rest of the day/rest of the week/rest of your life”: OK, I added the last element but it would be sort of fun to say it sometime. Fact is, “Have a nice day” when texting has come to mean “Go frick yourself” (as does ending a text sentence with a period or “full stop”). But a good “rest of the day” seems unnecessarily verbose and my linguistic guess is that it was devised for shopkeepers and clerks so they could avoid having to say “Have a nice day” at 9pm or Saturday afternoon. They can’t just say, “Good day, ma’am” as though they were stuck in a Jane Austen novel or “See ya” like they were in a Putnam County, Ohio fillin’ station.

“Share out”: We may need a special edition of this post to consider terms used in academic discussions, but for the time being, let’s simply share — which means “to tell,” “distribute,” “post,” etc. We don’t need the “out” part; after all, share already means to put it out there for others. I’ve heard this term a dozen times in a college meetings (along with “report out” and “crosswalking”).

Next up: Gestures that need to be retired:

  • pointing to the crowd at a rally or concert (when there’s clearly no way to recognize a given individual among 5,000 people)






  • clapping for yourself at a rally (yeah, you know who we’re talking about)





  • giving the “cute tight” wave when walking onto a talk show. Mostly used by women–though I have seen men doing it too–it’s a quick, chest-high, “walking cute” wagging hand gesture. (I guess we’ll have to wait for live talk shows to see this again…thankfully)


¹ yani: In Arabic, literally ‘I mean’. Pronounced <yonni>. Used like Like; a filler; eg “I think it would be better if we were, yani, friends.” Also ya’ani (يعني)
² “Go to a restaurant anywhere in the U.S. and three minutes after your food is delivered, your server will return to the table asking, ‘How’s that Southeastern Lard Pocket tasting for you?’ As if the lard pocket had a tongue instead of me.” (David Sedaris, “Your English Is So Good,” from Calypso, p. 100)
The “Careful Now” pic is from the 1990s Father Ted  British/Irish sitcom whereby two Catholic priests are exiled on fictitious Craggy Island for “various past incidents”
And here is a rather spookily entrancing song called “Careful Now” by Arthur Benson
FYI: Putnam County is a lovely farm area in northwest Ohio with very friendly people where I had the pleasure of running out of gas en route to visiting a friend. A farmer came down to the road with a big gas tank that he used for his tractor. “No charge for a city feller,” he grinned.

Gimme that ol’ off-the-grid landscaping: Unintended Consequences II

Remember back — a few months ago — when we talked about “unintended consequences”?

We discussed how someone, in this case, the HOA management company, might try to fix something but which turns out to make it worse.

Exhibit A (March 2017): Look beyond the pool to the narrow grassy area adjoining the house. (click on any pic to enlarge)






Not bad for March in Arizona.


Then the HOA Board decided to replace the grass with large river rocks (apparently to match the other area of the pool). In my view, not a bad idea since the grassy area wasn’t really large enough to do anything on and needed to be both mowed and trimmed every week. And the rocks give a nice “desert landscaping” look.

Exhibit B (Oct. 2020). So the landscapers (Royal Landscaping) cut the grass real low and marked it (for whatever reasons, perhaps to cut the underground watering units. The HOA being what they are, never bothered to inform anyone about their plan). They also managed to cut my internet cabling as they dug around — and then denied it. But I was able to restore service within a couple days and Cox provided alternate internet services.







Exhibit C (Dec. 2, 2020). Now the rock landscaping has taken on a decidedly “pandemic” style, like a talk show host who hasn’t had a proper haircut for months.








Exhibit D (Jan 4, 2021) Ta da! The formerly pleasant grass strip has gone “full pandemic.”


I have to say, I rather fancy the disheveled, off-the-grid, mountain-hippie look that the area has taken on.

I just don’t think this was the intended effect.






Hide the children: “Wonderland” song decoded

The much beloved “Winter Wonderland” song written in 1934 has recently been decoded to reveal how its Depression-era morality has actually been camouflaging less benign sentiments!

Yes, it’s hard to believe that this holiday classic, covered more than 200 times by everyone from Dean Martin, Guy Lombardo, Doris Day, Lady Gaga, Jessie J and Boyz II Men and of course “Der Bingle,” actually contains a secret message of lust and chicanery.

But, y’know, that’s how things played back in the day and we don’t need wannabe mysterios like Q’Anon to break it down.

The main thing to know is that back in the 1930s pre-marital sex was as taboo as any “base” was to Catholic high school boys and girls even 30 years later. Whether people actually did it or not is hard to judge (and far be it from a simple song analyst like me to judge), but clearly anything beyond “third base” would be grounds for someone’s father to come storming in and demand that justice be done.

It’s also hard to know whether, like biblical transcripts, any of the words have been altered or removed during the past nine decades, but there are at least three significant “tells.”

The first one is pretty transparent. The two lovers wish to consummate their love but know the consequences of being found out. So they “invent” a preacher, Parson Brown, to legalize their illicit desires:

In the meadow we can build a snowman
And pretend that he is Parson Brown

The lyricist, Richard Bernhard Smith, could have named his padre “Smith” (but that would be too self-referencing) or “Doe” (but that sounds like a lawsuit) or “Johnson” (but that has other long-standing connotations.) So he very cleverly gives his supposed vicar the fifth-most-common surname, Brown, as a sort of “nudge nudge” to the savvy listener.

Now note that the minister is not being called on for a sacred ecclesiastical ritual. No…it’s just a job.

He’ll say “Are you married?”
We’ll say “No man,
But you can do the job
When you’re in town”

The second tell-tale is a little better disguised. The newly semi-married couple will conspire by the fire, unafraid of being tattled on.

Later on
We’ll conspire
As we dream by the fire
To face unafraid
The plans that we’ve made

After all, the parson is a snowman who will presumably not be available for cross-examination during his brief stay “in town” should anyone’s curmudgeonly father wish to confront the lovers.

The final clue comes in what is thought to be a clever later addition to this lullaby of lusty libidos:

In the meadow we can build a snowman
And pretend that he’s a circus clown

Thus, if somehow the parson is discovered to be still standing the next day, the couple can simply say, “Oh, that snowman? A parson?! Ha ha ha ha. It is to laugh. No no…he’s really just a clown.”

So, there we have it: a well-disguised and coded message worthy of the dark web laying in wait for a new century to take the red pill and discover the true auteur: Z Anon!

Winter Wonderland” was supposedly written in 1934 by lyricist Richard Bernhard Smith with music by Felix Bernard

What’s the end game, Donald?

Updated 12/22/2020With each passing non-concession day, I’m increasingly wondering what President Trump thinks he’s up to with all the devilish post-election roguery.

It’s clear that the real electoral shenanigans were of his own doing, from the U.S. Post Office fiasco to prior statements that if he wins, it will have been fair and if he loses it was rigged.

Now, there was some wiggle room for argument and discussion for a few days after the actual election day on Nov. 3. No one expected the results to be firmed up on that Tuesday night. But, really…a month of more than two dozen ill-begotten lawsuits and millions of dollars in legal fees?

So what’s Trump’s end game? What could he possibly think he’s gaining?

Some possibilities:

  1. He has no end game. His mental disease of not accepting any loss, inherited from Roy Cohn, has simply over-ridden any sensible conclusion for him. In some sense, he never does lose because even when he does (Trump U., Trump Foundation), he simply pays people off (or defaults on payments) and considers it “brand management.”
  2. It’s a “scorched earth” strategy. It’s like Trump is saying “Well, if you won’t play my way, I’ll destroy everything in my path out the door” in a sort of Scythian/Robert the Bruce/Sherman’s March-to-the-Sea attempt to leave a trail of misery, deception, pardoning of cronies and mistrust of all government.¹
  3. It’s just a sleight-of-hand moneymaking scheme. I’ve been wondering who the heck is paying for all those lawyers and lawsuits (even though he’s not exactly getting the whitest shoes in the legal business). It turns out, the RNC and the Trump campaign are funding this stuff…and they’re using donations from his continuing base of MAGA faithful. But what the base doesn’t seem to know (or care) is that the donations can be used for anything Trump wants—from Mar-a-Lago expenses to travel to cheeseburgers. Trump has been fundraising furiously since the election and now 60% of every donation goes to Trump’s new leadership PAC, “Save America” which will bankroll his personal political activities after he leaves the White House.
  4. It’s really a long-term strategy to keep him in the game long enough to develop and fund his inevitable right-wing media empire while he transitions to private life. After all, creating a global media empire was probably his original 2016 goal. He never expected to win (and almost none of his people did either²); he simply needed to build enough brand equity in the political sphere to overtake Breitbart, Fox, Daily Caller, OANN, First, et al.


Conclusion: A combination of #3 and #4. Given the extreme unlikelihood — in nearly everyone’s mind! — that any of the lawsuits could prevail, it seems clear that they were never really designed to succeed in the first place. Rather, they’re just a sort of dismal dog and pony show that allows Trump to finance his next huuuuge business venture.

Without all the folderol of the lawsuits, Trump fades into the background as a non-player. So his recent spate of verbigeratious³ blathering—and it’s only getting worse now that he’s taken to Facebook as his platform—is really just white noise to signal that he’s still in play.

¹ Not unlike my HOA landscaper’s wanton destruction of an innocent shrubbery alongside my walkway 10 weeks ago, after I asked them to trim it–which they left with this less-than-lovely patch of dirt
² This observation is a common theme in numerous accounts of the 2015-2016 campaign. See John Bolton’s The Room; Michael Cohen’s Disloyal; Jonathan Karl’s Front Row; Alexander Nazaryan’s The Best People; Rucker & Leonig’s A Very Stable Genius; Mary Trump’s Too Much; and Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury
³ “verbigerate” — I hardly ever get to use this delightful term: “to obsessively repeat meaningless words and phrases.” From Latin verbigerare (to talk, chat), from verbum (word) + gerere (to carry on). Earliest documented use: 1656.
4  FYI: just recently (Dec. 21), Michael Cohen said in a Vanity Fair interview: “’This is a cash grab. When you finish a job, you’re always thinking about how to reinvent yourself. That’s what Donald Trump is doing right now.'” With less than a month before Biden’s inauguration, Trump still publicly maintains that he actually won the election and was the victim of a widespread conspiracy to rig it against him. Anyone who disputes those baseless allegations ― including Republican election officials, the Supreme Court and even some conservative Fox News personalities ― has become the target of his ire. “He knows that his next saga of his story is really going to be predicated around a Trump news network. It’s why he’s fighting with Fox every day,” Cohen said. “He’s looking to steal their base.”

Cheer Up, America! (a lesson from the 1871 Chicago Fire)

In October 1871, Chicago experienced the legendary fire alleged to have been started by O’Leary’s cow*. The downtown was literally destroyed but, as noted by Derek Thompson in his Oct. 2020 article¹ in The Atlantic, a major crisis—like the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, the cholera epidemic of 1832 and the Chicago fire—has a way of exposing what is broken. As Thompson points out, The Chi Trib actually featured an editorial called “Cheer Up” three days later.




The premise is that it often takes a heartbreaking disaster to not only spur renovation and repair but to actually show us what the underlying problems are, whether infrastructural, hygienic or, as we’ll see…political.

The Trump presidency is just such a “disaster heuristic” (sorry about the wonky language but it seems to fit for now).

Here then is my own personal list of underlying fissures and frailties that we now can start addressing thanks to the manglings and autocratic shenanigans of Donald Trump’s reign:

  1. Presidential pardons! I’m not a historian so I don’t know what the constitutional authority for this is, but clearly it has to stop. The recent pardon of convicted felon Michael Flynn should be the last straw. And looking back casually, I can’t find a pardon that actually served the country. (I’m willing to concede that Ford’s pardon of Nixon at least did no harm.)
  2. Electoral College. This one works both ways, depending on which party is in power. But there’s been so much written about this in the past few months, and I haven’t heard a single person defend it, so if nothing else, we need to take a really hard look at whether this isn’t really just a dangling participle that has long outlived whatever legitimate purpose it may have had 230 years ago.
  3. Supreme Court nominees. Really folks…let’s make up our minds! (Especially you, Lindsay Graham) Should replacement nominees be allowed during a presidential campaign or not? My proposal: no nominations prior to a presidential election for, say, 9 months.
  4. Campaigning on taxpayer funds. It’s true that a president can make campaign announcements from the White House—after all, it’s his home. But when public servants, paid by taxpayers, are yanked or bullied into campaign service on taxpayer-funded venues, it’s a gross miscarriage of law. Oh, wait…we already have that rule. (Hatch Act)
  5. Executive orders. This one is a bit dicier since clearly they can serve a useful purpose, going back to George Washington. And of course Lincoln’s “Emancipation Proclamation” was an important and critical landmark. According to my calculations, the stream of presidents from Teddy to Truman (has a nice alliterative ring to it, eh?) issued 8,972 of them!² But maybe it’s time to rein in the 2nd Amendment and set some boundaries.
  6. The lag between Election Day and Inauguration. Three months…really!? Originally, the constitution set March 4 (or sometimes March 5) as the date the president-elect was inaugurated.³ The idea was to allow enough time after Election Day for officials to gather election returns 𝘢𝘯𝘥 for newly-elected candidates to travel to the capitol. And it’s true that we still need some lag time, but maybe the actual hand-off of authority could be sooner—for example, to prevent lame duck POTAE (plural of POTUS for you Latin fans) from issuing idiotic pardons and executive orders. The Electoral College casts its votes for president and vice president on December 14, 2020 (this year).4 So how about inauguration on, say, Jan. 2?
  7. Debate protocols: Mute the Mic’s.5 This is truly a lesson-learned this year in particular but I have been advocating this for several years (see how much attention the powers-that-be give me?) I would love to see some interrupting cow6 simply moving their lips with no sound being emitted and then watch how they learn to manage their debate thoughts and get them in order.

* The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was not caused by Mrs. O’Leary‘s cow kicking over a lantern. A newspaper reporter later admitted to having invented the story to make colorful copy.[264] (I used an asterisk her because I added this link later and didn’t feel like renumbering the whole shebang.)
1See “How Disaster Shaped the Modern City,” The Atlantic, Oct. 2020
2The numbers range from 1 (John Adams) to FDR’s 3,522 (though Harrison had zero)
3However, George Washington’s first time inauguration was April 30, 1789
4A federal law (3 U.S. Code § 5) known as the “safe harbor provision” requires a state to settle election result disputes and determine its electors six days before the electoral college members meet in person. [BallotPedia]
5See how I did that alliteration again?
6“The Interrupting Cow” is one of the all-time great “Knock knock” jokes. “Moooo!”