16 July 2020

Forbidden Words And Phrases

These words and phrases have outlived any usefulness they might have had and nowadays are either just dog whistle terms (coded or suggestive language in political messaging) or terms that have been co-opted or “appropriated” for nefarious purposes. Thus, by the powers invested in us by the Words In Action Linguistic and Language Protocol (WALLOP) we hereby declare them FWAP’d

interdite, verboten, tabu, zakázáno, toirmisgte, mamnue (or ‘haram’ حَرَام)*

“Woke” — this was cute for about…say…6 months, but like middle school teen slang it fast became annoying and shortly thereafter simply became another sledgehammer in the right wing dog whistle tool box.

“Defund (the police)” — the term ‘defund’ itself can still be used, for example “defund the drug cartels,” or “defund the Kardashians” or “defund kale,” but practically from the moment it was used as a mantra in the wake of activist outrage, it became simply a tool for right wingers to bash leftists over the head with. (Which maybe explains why most of the street corner signs by GOP primaries candidates have some version of “Supported by police,” “Endorsed by law enforcement,” or “Kick the homeless out of my neighborhood.”)

“MSM” — if you use just the initials, you’re doubly guilty of thinking there is some kind of conspiracy or cabal of mainstream media — as opposed to say, QAnon, Breitbart or OANN posts — intent on distorting your otherwise innocent diatribes

“Coastal Elites” — formerly known as the “Eastern establishment,” this is just dog whistle code for liberals from New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and California

“Brandon” (as in “Let’s go…” a coded insult about Joe Biden) — we’ve really only heard this spoken once, in a college classroom where it probably was meant jokingly, like  “OK Boomer!” — but it outlived whatever usefulness it ever had (if any) shortly after its Talladega Superspeedway origin

“Cancel culture” — this was just stupid from the get go, meaning, in effect, “My fans…and sponsors don’t like me anymore cuz of terrible stuff I said.”

“Critical Race Theory” — no one but college professors teaching sociology or Black history courses are allowed to use this. So, GOP candidates running for dog catcher: leave it off your streetcorner signs, please.

Now, some non-political items.

“Breakthrough” (when used about a virus) — C’mon epidemiologists…a “breakthrough” is a good thing: an innovation that finally solves a longstanding problem, a new drug that cures kale. If you want to say that someone got COVID after being vaxxed, call it a “breakaway” or “break-into” or even a “breach infection.”

“Give the gift of…” — just a sadly bankrupt phrase that merchandisers use to make their service or kale remedy sound like it could be a present, instead of simply, “Hey, here’s nice service!” (We borrowed this from our Xmas list)

“…nth century” — you know very well, admit it, that as soon as you hear “18th century” you’re thinking of 1800s and your brain has to quickly remind you that it’s the 1700s being referred to. It’s just impossible to hear an “nth century” without hearing the numbers first and then having to convert to the real period under consideration. So when you hear this you know it’s really referring to events that came before the named century. (Updated from my Nov 2021 post)

Grab bag of previous items: 1) “like” – If you, like, use this term more than, like, 5 times per minute, you’re like busted. 2) “I mean” – I mean, not a bad phrase in itself when used to clarify or emphasize a previous point. But starting out with it is just a tired “response bridge,” aka filler. 3) “Good question” – not everything has to be a good, or great question, which means this is more verbal filler.

*French, German, Tongan, Czech, Scottish Gaelic, Arabic

Lunchtime at the GOP table

8 July 2022

We previously covered a bit of Arizona political sign backbiting from the GOP, focusing on two primary/primary adversaries: Kari Lake and Karrin Taylor Robson.

Apparently, the corner sidewalk backbiting has intensified, presumably the work of freelancing supporters since the penalties for campaign workers tampering with signs could be very problematic.

As one political commentator told us: “It’s like the Republican primary candidates are eating each other’s lunch.”

Before we get into the others, let’s take a look at some of the new “de-facings” of Lake’s ads:









It’s not entirely clear what the dialogue box for the sign on the right is supposed to represent…we’re guessing the prankish caption (whatever it was) has been removed by a Lake-sider.

Note that no one has actually attempted to deface Lake herself, so this appears to be an anti-Trump effort.

Now we’re certainly not going to soft-pedal admitted ethics violator David Schweikert (he paid $125,000 in fines for his misdeeds), but it seems an adversary is really steamed! If nothing else, they get credit for a snazzy phrase: “Shady Schweikert.”

However, if the revenge sign blockage below isn’t “shady” it’s pretty darn nasty. Notice that the two horizontally oriented Schweikert signs are doubled up directly in front of a Norton sign. Directly in front.

Some group really hates Norton! Taking a cue from the anti-Trump defacers, Norton is ghosted against a shrubbery backdrop, both in face and name. (Click the pic to get a fulsome view). And the pranksters didn’t even bother to hide their handiwork…it’s laid out on the sidewalk about 10 feet away!







Remember that rapscallion who planted a RINO sign pointing directly at Brnovich’s signs around town? Now the RINO signs have been pranked! (Either that, or they’re now targeting Horne)

…and, by the way, those are three separate “RINOs”.







So…what’s next for the primaries? Here are some suggestions to raise the level of political discourse:

  • “What you say is what you are!”
  • “I know you are but what am I?”
  • “Takes one to know one!”

and my favorite

  • “I’m rubber, you’re glue. Whatever bounces off me sticks to you!”

Who will be the next Al Capone?

3 July 2022

A cautionary tale for modern times

Imagine a time when America has just come through a very rough period. It’s a time when a lot of people want to get rid of something that a lot of other people want…or need. Why? These opposers just don’t like it, this thing, let’s call it, even though they don’t even use it anyway. They just don’t want others to have it. They want to prohibit it for everyone. Kind of a moral principle deal.

Wait . . . are we talking about alcohol prohibition or abortion prohibition? There are some interesting parallels between these two movements.

The good fortune for those wanting to prohibit alcohol in 1919 — the “drys” — is that after generations of uphill fighting the rule was finally turned into law. And, oddly, the country accepted it. In fact, the law was a pretty much a done deal by this time with a one-sided vote in the legislature. Apparently, people were just worn out from WWI and were used to alcohol rationing.

Here’s a key point. “Until the U.S. entered the war, the prospect of national prohibition had seemed remote” (Allen). Notably, as historian Charles Merz has shown, for the first 10 years of the prohibition experiment, the forces behind the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) were closely organized; the opposing forces, the “wets,” were hardly organized at all. (cited in Allen, Only Yesterday, my emphasis)

However, as historian Frederick Lewis Allen pointed out in 1931, “It was one thing to be dry and quite another to insist on enforcement at whatever cost and whatever inconvenience” (251). Almost nobody, Allen reports from a vantage point 10 years later, seemed to consider that the Amendment might be a bit tricky to enforce.

Obviously the surest method of enforcement was to shut off the supply of liquor at its source, Allen says, but he then goes on to catalogue the multitude of potential threats against the Volstead Act: the size and complexity of the tasks needed to enforce, from doctors’ prescriptions to rum ships, bootleggers, illicit distilling and 18,700 miles of coast and land borders to guard against smuggling (248-9). Then came hip flasks and speakeasies, couples’ bedroom closets simmering with grape juice*; then, racketeers and machine guns. And a second-hand furniture dealer named Alphonse Capone.

By the 1930s, it was clear that Prohibition had become a public policy failure. The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution “had done little to curb the sale, production and consumption of intoxicating liquors. And while organized crime flourished, tax revenues withered.” (The Night Prohibition Ended)

So after nine years of Prohibition, Americans were discouraged and tired of the rule. “They had long seen people openly drinking illegal alcoholic beverages that were available almost everywhere.” (The Repeal of Prohibition)

And, after the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre . . .  they were probably tired of Capone too. But he and the mobsters had served their purpose.

“To say that prohibition—or, if you prefer, the refusal of the public to abide by prohibition—caused the rise of the gangs to lawless power would be altogether too easy an explanation…yet it is ironically true that the outburst of corruption and crime in Chicago in the 1920s was immediately occasioned by the attempt to banish liquor from the American home” (Allen, 263-64 my emphasis)

Now consider that we have a reasonably safe, effective and not-too-costly abortion pill (ranging in price from $0.05 to $2 per pill) that, if history is any guide, will find its way into the hands of those who need it, illegally if need be.

And not so by-the-way, Steven Levitt’s research has shown that states with legalized abortion have lower crime rates (Freakonomics: “Abortion and Crime, Revisited” May 11, 2022), due to the fact that “children born to parents who didn’t truly want that child or weren’t ready for that child — those children were more likely to have worse outcomes as they grew up — health and education outcomes. But also, these so-called ‘unwanted’ kids would ultimately be more likely to engage in criminal behaviors.”

Will it take a new Capone to joust the country out of its abortion prohibition?

We fervently hope not. But whenever you have something that most people want, that does no harm to the people who don’t want it, it seems the country will gin up ways to get it.

The “abortion underground” including pill smuggling, drone drops, home pharmacies, street distribution — pill speakeasies…who knows? — and of course the inevitable racketeering, are the predestined result of banning abortion.

Abortions are going to happen, legally or illegally, (as they have since 1550 BCE), and whoever the new Capone enabling all this will be…well, it’s not going to be pretty.

* Nearly a hundred years later, I actually stored fermenting grape juice in my apartment closet to make wine in a country where it was prohibited. Shhhh.




Allen, Frederick Lewis. Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the Nineteen-Twenties. Harper & Row, 1931
Levitt, Steven D. “Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors that Explain the Decline and Six that Do Not.Journal of Economic Perspectives—Vol. 18, No. 1, Winter 2004, pp 163–190
Merz, Charles. The Dry Decade. 1931
Potts, Malcolm and Martha Campbell. History of Contraception Vol. 6, Ch. 8, Gynecology and Obstetrics, 2002
Wallis, Claudia “Abortion Pills Are Very Safe and Effective, yet Government Rules Still Hinder Access,” Scientific American,

Some fun new (and old) words

21 June 2022

algospeak  — code words or turns-of-phrase that people have adopted to avoid getting their posts removed or down-ranked by social media “content moderation” algorithms. For instance, in many online videos, it’s common to say unalive rather than “dead,” “SA” instead of “sexual assault,” or “spicy eggplant” (see pic) instead of “vibrator.” E.g. Last year, anti-vaccine groups on Facebook began changing their names to “dance party” or “dinner party” and anti-vaccine influencers on Instagram used similar code words, referring to vaccinated people as “swimmers.” ¹

Many users say nip nops rather than “nipples.” TikTok users now use the phrase “le dollar bean” instead of “lesbian” because it’s the way TikTok’s text-to-speech feature pronounces “Le$bian.”

Here’s a couple Civil War oldies that could still be useful in Ukraine discussions

encounter battle – Rather than an attacking force moving toward a defending force in a known location, one small group of soldiers encounters another. “Both sides summon more and more troops. Forces are sucked in until a full-fledged battle develops.” In the American Civil War, Gettysburg became a grand-scale version of the “encounter battle.” A related Civil War-era term is: total war –a war that goes beyond the battlefield and what people normally consider decent human behavior. [from Mr. Lincoln’s High Tech War, Allen & Allen, p 82]

Back to modern times…

failspawn: the adult child (or children) of a wealthy or famous parent or in-law who coasts off their largess and accomplishments. See tweet by The Atlantic’s MollyJongFast.

false friend (linguistics) — a word that looks or sounds similar to a word in another language, but means something completely different. E.g. piscine: In English it means “fishy” but in French, the word means a swimming pool; also jubilation, which in Spanish (jubilación) means retirement or pension. English gift “present,” German Gift “poison” and Norwegian gift “married” are false friends. (Maybe we could gift our married friends with some poison)

honeypot website – a type of deception technology: a security mechanism that creates a virtual trap to lure attackers. An intentionally compromised computer system allows attackers to exploit vulnerabilities so you can study them to improve your security policies. You can apply a honeypot to any computing resource from software and networks to file servers and routers.

legacy hand – when you forget to remove your “hand” icon during a Zoom session after speaking your piece. Ooops. (Discovered during a college Zoom call)OG  – Hardly a new word but the meaning has evolved over the decades. Nowadays, OG has become a hip way of referring or showing respect to someone who’s an expert in any facet of life. However, its origins lie in gang culture going back to the early 1970s by the LA-based Original Gangster Crips and meant “we’re the first.” However, as the Crips expanded in the 1970s, the definition  began to change. An OG became someone who was deeply devoted to their subset gang, and younger members of the gangs began to use it in reference to the elders. The term became so popular that even the Crips’s rival gang, the Bloods, started using it.

During the 1980s, OG began to enter the mainstream with use in commercialized rap music, meaning someone who was hip and impressive (an exceptional badass), and soon the term was used to describe people in the real world who exemplified those characteristics even when they had no gang affiliations. But the term continued to carry on its initial meaning of something first of its kind or unique—that is, original.²

performance prose – OK, this is a term I made up to indicate overwrought writing that is “dressed to impress” — that is,  full of adjectives and self-indulgent descriptions.

A newly hired grocery clerk describes leaving work for the day:

I walk out the door, jump onto my bike, and ride out into a bleak spring day with a rust-colored sky and an odd stillness to the city as the sun sets behind apartment buildings and trees. The amber of a new phase of my life glows on my face as i churn my legs faster and faster and the cold spring wind rips past me (55)


Self-aggrandizement of my importance matched with self-immolation of the soul are all I can get during these thieving political times. (135)

Had enough? No? OK, here’s two more before we get to the Russians.

truth sandwich—the tactic by which a reporter properly quotes a lie by surrounding it with truth. [per Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan]. The idea is to avoid propagating the lie when you simply quote it or else feature it in a splashy headline…which would thus allow disinformationists to cherry pick the lie part. So a truth sandwich is a good thing, though you may not find it at Subway

whataboutism – a shady rhetorical device in which criticism is met by counter-challenging on a completely different issue. Russian bureaucrats “respond” to criticism of massacres, forced deportations, poisonings and gulags with “What about how you Americans treated Native Americans?” Wiki: an attempt to discredit an opponent’s position by charging hypocrisy without directly refuting or disproving the argument.

And now, some Russian slang I just discovered

Blat – in Russia, a form of corruption involving informal network of favors, connections and black market deals among elites, esp. Putin who got his first big Moscow job thanks to contacts he’d schmoozed in St. Petersburg.  In the USSR, blat was widespread because of the permanent shortage of consumer goods and services. Blatnoy originally meant “one possessing the correct paperwork,” which, in the corrupt officialdom of Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union indicated that the blatnoy was well connected…in short, a career criminal³

Ponty – Russian slang for the elaborate system of status symbols, eg. Moscow’s “special highway” — an 8-lane route linking the Kremlin with Putin’s residence in the woods.³ Also, from Russiapedia:  “showing off,” “cheap glitter.”

¹ from an Apr 2020 WaPo article: Internet ‘algospeak’ is changing our language in real time
³ Steven Lee Meyers, 2015, The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin
4 Rob Sears, 2018, Vladimir Putin: Life Coach, p103 (satire).

Urgent = Not Urgent

19 June 2022*

A couple months ago, I signed up to be a poll worker for the August primary elections in Maricopa County, AZ. Recently, I got an official email saying that I needed to complete an online training course. It would take about 90 minutes so I got my coffee, hunkered down and finished in about 50 minutes. Woo hoo!

Just about that time I got a letter in the mail.

Figuring this had something to do with my election duties–maybe a confirmation of where I would need to report–I dutifully opened it, only to find a request to register to vote, along with a “survey” and…the inevitable request for a monetary contribution.¹

In effect: Urgent = Not urgent.

Now, I go to the mailbox nearly every day and, much as I complain about e-mail spam, I hardly ever complain about so-called junk mail I get through the U.S. Postal Service.

For one thing, it’s all paid for by the sender. For another, it sort of helps to subsidize the postal system that brings me the occasional paycheck as well as magazines, postcards and maybe even a valentine.

Actual letters I’ve received

Being an advertising maven myself, I shouldn’t be surprised to see that sometimes the direct mail pieces I see are stretching the truth a bit with their envelope copy. Famously, by now everyone knows that the legendary “You may already be a winner” really means: “You have a one in ten gazillion chance of being a winner.”

But I’m continually amazed at the ability of people (and not just advertisers) to print something that is not only a stretch of truth but usually the exact opposite. It’s like an Orwellian world where “yes” means “no” and “war is peace.”

For example, if you see an envelope that says  “Important” you can be pretty sure it’s only important to the sender.

“Open immediately” means there’s no need to open it, ever.

“Dated material”…well, is there anything that comes through the mail that isn’t dated? In this case it really means, “not dated.”

One of my favorites: “Check enclosed.” In my experience, anyone sending me a real check doesn’t advertise it on the envelope with a “Pay to _______” line in the plastic window.

“Free offer” equals “not free.” “Personal and confidential” means “not personal and very much not confidential.”

What got me thinking on this was that a few years ago I attended a new aerospace trade show overseas. Most aviation shows attract a mixture of people “in the trade” as well as people who just like looking at airplanes. In this case, the show organizers were promoting the concept that, unlike Paris, Farnborough (U.K.) or Singapore airshows that have “public days” for sightseers, the general public was not invited to this event—therefore, all the visitors would be potential aviation trade customers.

However it turned out that spouses, kids, neighbors and buddies could get in simply by getting their exhibitor dad, mom or neighbor to sponsor them—and were duly given badges that said “trade.” Thus, at this show “trade” literally meant “not trade.” (Everyone else had an actual company name on their badge.)

Here’s a recent example from the Internet: “Erase your debt, you pay nothing.” Of course anyone who buys anything from an unsolicited e-mail is a moron. Worse…a blight on us all, because all it takes is one responder from the 10,000 e-mails they send out to make their day worthwhile.

Thus there is a sort of Gresham’s law of postal delivery: Bad mail drives out good mail and junk language drives out sensible language.


* adapted and updated from my original 2019 article: “Reflections on opening the mail: Why things mean the opposite of what they say,” 1/22/19
¹ My new rule of thumb for political emails is: No matter what the stated purpose is–a poll, a petition, endorsement appeal–if there’s a request for money…it’s really a fundraising tactic in disguise
Side note: yeah, that’s me a few years ago at a public air show at Luke AFB outside Phoenix. And who doesn’t love seeing small planes swirling around?

Why can’t we all just get along?

17 June 2022, updated 28 June

Anyone driving along any Phoenix, Arizona street has seen the sign wars going on between two Republican Aug. 2 primary candidates for governor (going up against AZ secretary of state, Democrat Katie Hobbs).

In this corner: Kari Lake, former Fox TV news anchor, endorsed by such notables as former double-impeached former president Donald Trump along with disgraced Arizona congressman and conspiracist Paul Gosar, convicted former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, and certified loony, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.

In the opposing corner: Karrin Taylor Robson. The main things we know about her come from a certain vicious hater who, in true Trump form, calls Robson an “open-borders, Ducey-clone¹ RINO trying to buy the election with her 95-yr-old husband’s millions.” In fact, Robson is a lawyer specializing in land use and real estate and is indeed married to a wealthy real estate magnate (actually 91²) and philanthropist. As it happens, election-denier KTR has contributed a million bucks to Trump’s campaign.

Interestingly, the Robson signs don’t seem to be promoting anything about her own agenda…just that Lake donated to Obama. Moreover, the obligatory sponsor line is so small it’s practically speaking invisible (Except to those intrepid people who like to stop and take pictures. Go ahead and click on the photo above and see if you can make out the white type)

It’s not unusual to see these two combatants fighting it out on any given street corner.

But here’s where it really gets strange.

Someone or some group has been systematically going around to literally “de-face” the Lake posters!







Indeed, this defacer has gone so far as to remove the face.

So the question is: is the defacing (we almost said de-pantsing) an attempt by anti-Trumpers to spare us having to see Trump’s smiling visage? Or is it a way of actually promoting Lake by distancing her from Trump? Perhaps this has nothing to do with candidate Lake and everything to do with orange’ing up Trump.

There’s one other sneaky gambit we can think of. Perhaps Robson isn’t really planning to continue running and is simply paving the way for one of the other five Republican candidates. Hmmm.

Of course, this sign feud is simply a static streetcorner brawl. To see a real WWE-level battle royal in action, check out the Jim Lamon v Blake Masters Republican senate TV ads! Just kidding: don’t do that. Let’s just say that puppets are being manhandled most ungenerously.

Update 28 June

These “arrow signs” are now starting to appear, apparently pointing at the streetcorner posters of Mark Brnovich, who is running for U.S. Senate. (RINO = Republican In Name Only, i.e., a “fake” Republican)






¹Doug Ducey, former ice cream salesman, is Arizona’s current Republic governor. Having served two terms, he cannot run for a third term
²Born September 21, 1930
Photo of sign with Trump face cut out kindly supplied by renowned Scottsdale flower photographer, Audrey Szoke

2nd Amendment…revisited

3 June 2022, upd 4 June
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.

What do Samuel Pepys in London and Horatio Gates¹ in Newburgh, New York have in common?

Imagine you’re a young up-and-coming resident of London in, say, 1660. You keep an elaborate detailed daily journal in which you discuss the daily life of your city…including possible dangers of soldiers protesting in the streets and not being paid.

This fear becomes distinctly more threatening exactly 123 years later, in Newburgh, NY. The American revolution has effectively ended but many enlisted soldiers are very unhappy that they have not been paid for some time and their promised pensions remain unfunded.

The thesis I’m proposing is that American Founders were concerned with two major issues on the military front: (1) the continuing threat of foreign incursions from Britain, Spain, Holland and the native indigenous populations; (2) the continual danger of angry, frustrated sometimes marauding on-the-loose soldiers in the standing army.As a result, they needed to have the protective capability of well-armed local militias—regulated militias, that is—ready to fight in case towns or villages needed to stand off against colonizing foreign powers as well as hungry, unpaid soldiers.

Note that in those days surrounding the American Revolution, a local militia drummed up from the citizenry, armed with muskets, flintlock pistols and swords, could well manage to hold off a lot of evildoers. There were no rapid-fire rifles or semi-automatic handguns–in fact, no bullets–and of course no aerial threats to worry about. All you needed was enough locals, authorized by the town council, who could do some training in the town square and be ready if Paul Revere came riding through. Most of them already had some kind of firearm to ward off foxes and other unwelcome intruders.

Now let’s look at the timeline

1660: Samuel Pepys begins writing his legendary diary detailing his observations of all manner of daily life, including the disgruntled soldiers in the streets (e.g. 5 Nov. 1660). They’re not necessarily causing damage or threatening the populace. But no one likes to see soldiers and seamen who haven’t been paid for a while “mouldering away,” wandering at large on the streets and byways.

1781-1783: The American revolutionary war effectively ends in October 1781 with the British surrender at Yorktown, VA. A preliminary peace treaty is signed in 1782 and the final treaty is formalized in September 1783 at the treaty of Paris—two years later.

However, fighting continues here and there after Yorktown and before the Paris accord. British forces remained stationed around Charleston, and their powerful main army still resided in New York. And despite a clear victory, the war did not unite the 13 colonies under one government. We had a Declaration of Independence but no constitution and no good way of paying our massive war debts, much less soldiers who were still expected to stay ready. There was, in effect, no federal government, just a “Congress of the Confederation” or Continental Congress.

1783: In March, a half-year before Paris, several thousand veterans of the Revolution are unhappy, bored and restless. The American Continental Army, based at Newburgh, NY is “monitoring” British-occupied New York City. With the end of the war and dissolution of the Continental Army approaching, soldiers who had long been unpaid feared that the Confederation Congress would not meet previous promises calling for back pay and pensions. An unsigned letter began circulating in the army camp basically threatening the civil government; this has become known as the Newburgh Conspiracy, which, fortunately was quickly quelled by George Washington.

However, according to historian Carol Berkin,

“Now that the army was no longer needed to protect the farms and homes of American citizens, a deeply rooted hostility to the military reemerged. Fears of a standing army overshadowed any gratitude to the men who had won American independence. The army was caught in a classic catch-22: the longer they remained in uniform, the more popular opinion turned against them” (36)

As much as the men would have liked to return to their farms and shops, once they laid down their arms they knew they’d have no leverage with the government…whatever it was at the time.

So, just as back in 1660 London, we now have a lot of disgruntled, unpaid soldiers in the Colonies who are not free to simply return to their farms and blacksmithing. One can easily picture the citizenry worried about rogue soldiers with their muskets, pistols and swords potentially ravishing the countryside and villages simply to feed themselves.

1786-87: Shays’ Rebellion takes place highlighting various economic grievances among the populace. This was an armed uprising in Massachusetts in response to a debt crisis among the citizenry and opposition to the state government’s increased efforts to collect taxes both on individuals and their trades

1788, June: the U.S. Constitution is ratified

1791, December: Bill of Rights is ratified.

It seems clear that when the Founders were envisioning the need for citizens to defend their property, homes and families, they were thinking of townsfolk establishing militias and arming themselves with Brown Bess flintlock bayonet muskets, muzzle-loading American Long Rifles, flintlock pistols and “French muskets.” That is, firearms that are really only effective for groups of trained citizens banding together to defend the town…as well as the lone hunter shooting deer and wildfowl. They could never even have imagined assault rifles capable of mowing down an entire enemy line with 150 bullets, fired while the enemy was busy reloading their muskets. So the appeal to “the right to bear arms” today bears practically no resemblance to what the founding fathers could possibly have had in mind.

The solution?

First: there is no easy solution. One way, based on “originalism” theory, would be to repeal the 2nd and start over, recognizing that the Founders had no clue about guns capable of firing 150 “bullets.” But, y’know, that’s just not going to happen.

The other way would be to start legislating a broad spectrum of safety and security measures—exactly as we do for automobiles: seat belts, hazard lights, locks, mandatory driver training, yearly license renewals, license plates…

And so for guns: First, outlaw automatic and semi-automatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns that are able to accept detachable magazines and “bump stocks.” Red flag laws are just not going to do it on their own. And don’t even think about arming teachers. Same with “only one door” school buildings. Also, we’ll need to raise the buying age to 21 (just like alcohol) and totally close gun sale loopholes. Background checks for all buyers, no matter the age. No “gifting” of family firearms, especially to kids, without registration. “Safe storage” laws (firearm and ammo stored separately). Yearly licensing. Weapon buyback. Strict enforcement. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

In short, it’s going to take a concerted, non-partisan effort (if that’s even possible) to get us to the level of safety and security that every other country on the planet enjoys, mostly because they’re not super-glued to an outdated “right.”

¹ Gates was a British-born American army officer, a rival of George Washington, who served as a general in the Continental Army during the early years of the Revolutionary War. He took credit for the American victory in the Battles of Saratoga (1777) – a matter of contemporary and historical controversy. He has been described as “one of the Revolution’s most controversial military figures” because of his role in the Conway Cabal, which attempted to discredit and replace George Washington. Rumors implicated some of his aides in the Newburgh Conspiracy of 1783. Gates may have agreed to involve himself, though this remains unclear. (Knight)


Berkin, Carol. “George Washington and the Newburgh Conspiracy,” in I Wish I’d Been There, Anchor 2007.
Durham, J. Lloyd. “Outfitting an American Revolutionary Soldier.” NCPedia.Tar Heel Junior Historian. Fall 1992.
Knight, Peter. Conspiracy Theories in American History: An Encyclopedia, Volume 1  2003
Pepys, Samuel. The Diary of Samuel Pepys- Vol. 1. Edited by Robert Latham and William Matthews. Univ. of Calif Press, 1970.
FYI: Here’s a Civil War-era musket, nearly fourscore years later — takes anywhere from 20–60 seconds to reload (Allen & Allen. Mr. Lincoln’s High-Tech War)

and a cartoon

May be an image of text that says 'Safety Regulati ions Driver's license required: both written and a driving test, revocable at any age. Car must be registered Regular and fees paid Safety annoally. inspections jons required by law. Available to anyone oVer the age of 18, without any restrictions. Must pass emission tests. Driver and car must, be insured, Carmaker legally liable for its product. Yes, it really does Come down to mental health MWUERKER POLTICO Acörewt MeMek'

Star Trek 13.9 (2023 sneak peek)

11 May 2022

The next Star Trek movie is being talked about throughout the multiverse as Paramount goes about getting the Enterprise crew rounded up, even though it’s still in the pre-production phase.

However, the Words In Action blog (movieologists that we are) has obtained super-secret leaked info about the amazing and surprising plot.

Spoiler Alert!

First off, we have been advised that the provisional title will be…drum roll

Please, do not read further if you wish to remain in mummified non-awareness.

OK…still here?

It seems, according to our informant (who doubles over at SCOTUS), that Capt. James T. Kirk awakens one morning to find that…thieves have stolen the Enterprise’s catalytic converter! Now, Kirk typically gets his pants in a bunch when bad guys break peace treaties, invade neutral space territories, start killing sharks and the like, but this goes beyond the pale. It’s one thing to attack cars in parking lots for the precious palladium, but to be hijacking the lustrous silvery-white metal from a starship…

Kirk: It’s too much, I tell ya

Spock (thoughtfully): Fascinating. Atomic number 46.

Kirk: Bones! What’ve you got to say?

Dr. McCoy: I’m a doctor, Jim, not a coal miner!

Scotty: Aye, the haggis is in the fire now for sure!

That’s almost all the dialogue my informant had, considering that the script is still in rough draft form. However, “they” did reveal some of the bare plot outlines.

The first thing Kirk does is call an all-hands meeting, declaring that the ship, noisy as it is, will not be stopped by such hooliganism and he vows to find the culprits on whatever hidden planet they’re cowardly cowering at.

The ship is about to set out when out of the starry sky a strange object appears, closing in fast, too fast! And quite noisy.

As the object draws near they put it on the screen and gasp…

Double Spoiler Alert!

…it’s a Romulan ship!

Kirk orders everyone to battle stations; however, something heretofore never imagined occurs: the Romulan chief is seen holding up a peace symbol and wishes to have a non-militaristic chit chat.

Kirk nervously but with determination beams the Romulan, without bodyguard or armor, aboard.

It seems that the Romulans are as shocked and outraged as the humans + Vulcan and wish to join the Enterprise in hunting down the rascals.

A plan is quickly hatched to scour the metaverse for the dastardly thieves, working in never-before-seen full cooperation.

Who could be behind this terrible blow to humanity’s vehicles? What entity is strong enough, clever enough, despicable enough to pull off such a monumental crime against humanity, half-humanity, et al.?

All eyes are locked together as they collectively gasp:

The Klingons!

The leaked draft script then goes on for about 90 minutes as the new brothers-in-arms scour the galaxies high and low, often nearly bumping into each other, in sometimes comical ways as the former adversaries call out “After you my dear Alphonse” until it becomes a running gag to ease the tension of beings who were formerly sworn enemies trying to be courteous (a la Marvel movies comic relief).

Eventually, the comrades detect the planet of their desire: a small, orangeish orb. But there’s one small problem…there’s some kind of impenetrable security force field guarding the globe. Most frustratingly, they can actually see through the field and observe hundreds of thousands of catalytic converters stacked miles deep and being worked on by the planet’s plundering pirates.

The script indicates another 30 minutes of aimless extra-orbital galivanting as the ships attempt to penetrate the force field. But nothing’s working!

And then, and then, a new object appears in the far distance…

…the object is rattling and stinking—as all vehicles have come to be even in outer space—and downright beastly in fact (as the draft script describes it). As it comes closer, we learn its identity…

Triple Spoiler Alert!

It’s the Klingons!

Kirk: Lt. Uhuru…open a comm channel to the planet. We’ve got to talk to them!

Uhuru: And how do you expect us to negotiate when we’re surrounded by Klingons, Captain?

Now we see the Klingon chief simultaneously on the screens of the Enterprise and Romulan vessel.

Klingon chief: Looks like you folks are in a bit of a pickle. Mind if we join in?

As it turns out the Klingons have a special force field negation system that they’ve just been experimenting with and wish to join forces with our allies to test it out.

As we learn, once the catalytic converters have been rescued and (hopefully) the bad guys sent to Siberian prison, all cooperation bets will be off.

But for now, the three interstellar amigos (and one Vulcan) are ready and able to avenge.

Closing credits crawl

It’s All About That Frame

27 April 2022

Many years ago I came across an enticing social science research method called “Frame Analysis” when I was a student of the noted sociologist, Erving Goffman, at U. Penn.* And thus it was I was intrigued to find an art exhibit, some 40 years later, that somehow embodies the very concepts that Goffman introduced…but in a totally artful, almost sardonic way, much like one imagines how Andy Warhol meant for his Campbell Soup Cans to be viewed

Exhibit 1 (untitled)

What we have here is an empty frame, or perhaps a series of frames-within-frames, where a standing lamp has been artfully placed in front, as though it were part of the artwork. But indeed it actually is! Without the lamp, all we have are some green tape rectangles, purposely left a bit untidy as though the artist couldn’t be bothered to paste them down perfectly.

The giveaway is that the lamp is adroitly placed just off-center relative to the inner frame. We understand that the artist could easily have set the lamp dead-center, but where’s the art in that? Notice also that the artist, with the aid of the exhibit curator, has coolly arranged just a hint of shadow that is actually on the wall itself. So we now have a sort of 3-in-one piece: the green tape frame, the shadow on the wall and the lamp in front.

What the artist seems to be saying is that a lamp on its own is not “art” — it’s the framing that can make it so.

Exhibit 2 (“Switch”)

In this piece, once we’ve been introduced to the concept of the “frame as star” in the previous piece, we find a simple light switch, but this time the object is firmly attached to the exhibit wall.

Now, a lowly light switch is purely a practical object (unless you’re in a Florida billionaire’s golden castle). But put a frame around it, off-center, with careful lighting and shadowing, and voila, you’ve got “art.” Placing the otherwise nondescript switch plate in the lower right area of the frame is the signal that something is going on. And this raises the epistemologically intriguing question that the artist is asking: Does this light switch control the lamp above, outside the frame? Or is the light above (note the spiritual connotations!) simply there to light up the artwork below?

As with the previous work, the green tape is purposely left “untidy” as though to say that the world itself is not perfectly tidy: things are not perfectly centered in the world, surroundings are often a bit rough and scruffy.

Thus, if I understand what our curator is saying, the takeaway is that it may just be the frame that signals “Make way for the art!” An unframed photo of beautiful flowers laying on a couch in someone’s spare bedroom, no matter how beautifully shot, is a work-in-waiting. It doesn’t truly become an exhibit until the frame makes its appearance.

Go ahead, frame me!


* My somewhat dog-eared copy of Goffman’s book. Note the seemingly simplistic “frame” cover art. If you’re not inclined to plow through 576 pp of fascinating social science, you might like Goffman’s groundbreaking earlier work, an easy 255 pp, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Lifea study of face-to-face interaction.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t also send a belated call out to my other famous Penn prof, the delightfully named Ray Birdwhistell who basically founded the social science of “body motion communication” (and who hated hated hated drugstore “body language books)
Unlike the art gallery parody above, these guys are (were) the real deal.

Proliferation of TV medical ads: why so many?

12 April 2022

Why are the drug makers aiming TV ads at medically untrained consumers instead of physicians who understand the lingo?

We’ve been wondering why there are so many medical/prescription ads on TV when it’s clear you can’t obtain the drugs (most of them anyway) without a doctor’s say-so. And if the drugs are so useful (with all the cautionary disclaimers observed) why wouldn’t your doctor already know about them?It’s not like you wake up with type 2 diabetes or arthritis one day and decide to do some in-depth personal academic research so you can advise your primary care physician (PCP) before making an appointment.

No. Clearly your PCP already knows about your arthritis, diabetes, impending cancer (sorry) and, presumably, or at least hopefully, is keeping up with the likely medications. Now maybe the average non-specialist practitioner doesn’t have time to keep up to date with the latest meds for each and every specialized ailment/disease. So it would seem the PCP is the person or clinic who ought to be getting the ads.

(Of course they are getting marketing visits from the drug purveyors…but in that case, why involve the otherwise naïve* consumer? See below)

Interestingly, the ads are amazingly stereotypical in that they show an individual or happy family  enjoying things like outdoor sports, family BBQs, walking and biking, dancing (Voltaren), happy kids and enthusiastic dogs. In fact, you can pretty much detect that an Rx ad is coming up when you see  the husband lifting up his happy toddler or the wife having a cheerful home party with her besties.

But going to the doc armed with specialized info from a TV advert would be like going to a computer repair shop and saying “Hey, have you heard about this new gizmo to fix my hard drive storage? I’m wondering if you think DrivePalooza® would be right for me!”

Probably the biggest offender (one med ad every 6 minutes), or purveyor if you wish, of medical advice is CBS Sunday Morning…which I admit that I watch religiously, but you can find this stuff everywhere.

Now to my checklist. In a single show I found 14 medical-type ads including two repeats and two non-prescription nostrums along with one that seems to have an ulterior sales motivation, in this order:

  1. Voltaren (2x) — arthritis (good for getting your club dancing groove on)
  2. Peptiva —a sleep support probiotic
  3. Cologuard (2x) — cancer screening
  4. A1C (with Rybelsus) Down — yeah, that’s the full name and nowhere in the ad does the narrator tell you what it’s for (which turns out to be type 2 diabetes if you can read the fine print disclaimer at the bottom of the screen.) Now, presumably someone with type 2 diabetes is already familiar with the concept of getting their A1C down…but wouldn’t your physician know this too, and therefore doesn’t need you asking if it’s “right for you”?
  5. Neutrogena — skin care; not strictly a “medicine” but it is promoted for its healthcare properties
  6. Enbrel® etanercept — joint pain, arthritis…and skin care (I can’t even pronounce it so it’s clearly not meant for actual lay audience consideration)
  7. Colgate toothpaste — obviously not a prescription drug but it is touted as a medical “tooth stain remover” so it’s not like it’s just for your nightly wonder where the yellow went duty.
  8. Opdiva + Yervoy —lung cancer treatment…and the ad is very careful to give all the disclaimers and technical data on why it has both mystery substances.
  9. Jardiance — type 2 diabetes…and possible weight loss benefits
  10. Nutrafel — hair growth supplement
  11. Instaflex — joint soreness pain cream
  12. Xyzal — allergies

And now, the ad with a shady side. Let’s just say it comes across as a public service announcement, accompanied by gruesome hard-to-look-at graphics, that you should be aware of your shingles susceptibility. The only way to know that it’s promoting anything is the logo and fine print at the bottom.

  1. “Watch out for shingles” — sponsored by GSK which, in case you don’t recognize the initials is actually GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical giant. To be fair, the ad is not promoting a particular product. Further, shingles does seem to be an awful ailment that can be prevented by early treatment. So, maybe this is just a benevolent notification by a company with credible expertise. But our guess is that GSK profits from selling their shingles Rx.

So, why is this happening?

My hunch, without actually consulting the pharmas or TV networks, is that this is simply a way to prod physicians from both sides by getting patients to nudge them about items they already know about. I gather the drugs being promoted are all legitimate…mainly because the lists of possible side effects are detailed and extensive and there’s no way (other than toothpaste and skin lotion) for the individual to get the items on their own.

* We’re using “naïve” in a gracious way to indicate someone who hasn’t been to medical school and only knows about ailments and diseases from friends, family and YTU (YouTube University).