There’s a lot of hyperbole out there at the moment, but it’s not hyperbole to say that we’re living in an Orwellian moment. Words are powerful things. We use them continuously to understand and reshape our world. The writers of the First Amendment knew this (even if they had a limited view of who would be doing the speaking they were protecting).
The first year of the current administration has been a war of words and a war on words. We’ve been introduced to “fake news” and “alternative facts.” Without a word for “it,” it doesn’t exist.
Remember all those years when Reagan didn’t say AIDS?
We hear about “collateral damage” on news reports about our military conflicts. Collateral damage is a lot easier to brush aside than civilian deaths, isn’t it?
What’s the difference between a privilege and a human right? Between religious freedom and discrimination? Between enhanced interrogation and torture? Between extraordinary rendition and abduction?
The power that controls our words can control our world.
With all this in mind, some suggested action items for today:
Forbidden Words of the CDC Diversity, entitlement, evidence-based, fetus, science-based, transgendered, and vulnerable.
The above words aren’t illegal (yet), but the current administration has ordered the Centers for Disease Control not to use them in any of the official documents being prepared for next year’s budget. Instead of evidence-based or science-based, the new suggested usage is “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.” Because community standards and wishes are what science is all about; evidence, not so much. Kevin Drum has his own suggested replacement words over at Mother Jones. The Scibabe has used instagram and facebook to share Kevin Folta’s suggestions.
So, who to contact?
You’ll want to share your outrage with your local representatives. If you’re in California’s 20th Congressional District, like I am, those would be
- Senator Dianne Feinstein, 331 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510, (202) 224-3841
- Senator Kamala Harris, 112 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510, (202) 224-3553
- Representative Jimmy Panetta, 228 Cannon House Office Building, Washinton DC 20515, (202) 225-2861
The Senate Committee that oversees the CDC is Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP!), so you might want to ask the chair and ranking members to stand up to this bit of rhetorical twaddle. And drop a note to the Health and Human Services Secretary while you’re at it.
- Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TX), Chair, HELP, 455 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510, (202) 224-4944
- Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member, HELP, 154 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510, (202) 224-2621
- Acting Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, Eric D. Hargan, U.S. Dept. of HHS, 200 Independence Ave., SW Washington DC 20201, (877) 696-6775
My guess is that the scientists at the CDC aren’t particularly thrilled about this development, so you might want to send some of them messages of solidarity or thanks for the crucial work they do. You can contact all of these staffers (who have been at the CDC since before the current administration) at the address below the list of their names and titles
- Principal Deputy Director Anne Shuchat, MD (RADM, USPHS),
- Associate Director for Communication, Katherine Lyon Daniel, PhD,
- Acting Associate Director for Policy Von Nguyn, MD, MPH,
- Acting Associate Director for Science William R. Mac Kenzie, MD (CAPT USPHS)
- Leandris Liburd, PhD, MPH, MD, Office of Minority Health and Health Equity
ALL are at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Rd., Atlanta, GA 30333
The Dickey Amendment Since 1996, appropriations funding for the CDC and other organizations has included rules—commonly known as the “Dickey Amendment”—that prevent CDC scientists from conducting research about gun violence. (Because when you can’t talk about a problem, clearly, it ceases to exist.) On December 13, a group of one hundred and twenty-one House Democrats sent a letter to House leadership calling on them to oppose restrictions on gun violence research in the final Federal Year 2018 appropriations bill. The letter urges that the budget “allow the research community to investigate evidence-based solutions that could help prevent gun violence while still protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.”
You can scroll to the bottom of this page to link to a pdf of the letter. Did your Representative sign it? If so, thanks are in order. If not, perhaps you’d like to ask some questions. Remember, you can easily find contact information for your Representative here.