Tag Archives: CDC

Molecules Of Freedom? Freedom Gas?

Shades of George Orwell!

A few days ago, media outlets reported on the Trump Administration’s most recent effort to  fulfill Tallyrand’s famous dictum that “Language is given to man to conceal his thoughts.” Or, in this case, to deceive and mislead.

The Department of Energy appears to have a surprising new nickname for natural gas: “freedom gas.”

The unexpected new moniker made its debut in a press releaseissued Tuesday to announce the approval of additional liquified natural gas (LNG) exports from a terminal on Quintana Island, Texas. It also included the term “molecules of U.S. freedom.”

Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes unveiled the term “freedom gas” in the release, which notes that he highlighted the approval at the Clean Energy Ministerial in Vancouver, Canada…

Later in the release, Steven Winberg, the assistant secretary for fossil energy, said the department is promoting an efficient regulatory system to enable “molecules of U.S. freedom to be exported to the world.”

Gee, almost makes me nostalgic for “Freedom Fries”…

Inept–okay, hilariously stupid–as this may be, this most recent aggression against the proper use of language is hardly a new effort by the Trump administration. In December of 2017, employees of the Centers for Disease Control leaked a list of words that they had been newly forbidden to use: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

Evidently, the administration was operating on the theory that, if there isn’t a word, the reality the word is intended to describe no longer exists. (And if you can’t see a ship named the USS John McCain, the annoying military hero for whom it is named can no longer diminish Cadet Bone Spurs by his mere presence.)

Doublespeak is a term coined by (or at least closely associated with) George Orwell. It describes language that is intended to obscure, disguise or distort the meaning of words, and the Trump Administration isn’t the first to employ it.  (Remember when George W. Bush dubbed his roll back of air quality protections the “Clear Skies” bill?)

According to Wikipedia,

Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g. “downsizing” for layoffs and “servicing the target” for bombing), in which case it is primarily meant to make the truth sound more palatable. It may also refer to intentional ambiguity in language or to actual inversions of meaning. In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth. Doublespeak is most closely associated with political language.

“Downsizing” and “Clear Skies” are pretty effective uses of doublespeak. “Molecules of Freedom,” on the other hand, is just risible, and “Freedom Gas” sounds like a euphemism for farts. These silly labels are evidently meant to counter environmental concerns about fossil fuels, but they are more likely to trigger ridicule.

“Molecules of freedom” and ‘Freedom Gas” are gifts to late-night comedians.

Actually, this whole ham-handed effort at managing the language of public policy should remind sane Americans that we were lucky to “elect” Trump. We could just as easily have elected a white nationalist criminal autocrat who was smart, or at least competent–a Mitch McConnell type–who would have been able to effectively dismantle American democracy and destroy the rule of law.

We lucked out: we are reminded daily that our accidental President is an intellectually limited buffoon and that he has assembled a staff and cabinet that can’t even operate as a cabal.

Think Keystone Kops trying to be ruthless–while farting Freedom Gas.

 

 

 

Words, Words, Words…..

In My Fair Lady, Eliza sings “Words, words, words–I’m so sick of words…” Instead, she demands, “show me.”

These days, the way politicians use and misuse words is quite enough to “show” us.

Multiple media outlets have reported on the administration’s recent instructions to the CDC, forbidding the use of certain words in official communications. As an article from the Chicago Tribune reports,

Trump administration officials are forbidding officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases – including “fetus” and “transgender” – in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

Shades of Rick Scott’s edict banning the phrase “climate change” from Florida’s official vocabulary! (Unfortunately for the state, forgoing use of the phrase hasn’t stopped the water from rising…Damn pesky reality!)

This new mandate would be funny if it weren’t one more piece of (whoops!) evidence that government under Trump is unconcerned with (that word again!) evidence–or fact, or science, or–let’s be honest–anything we would recognize as actual governing.

As ridiculous and worrisome as this effort at Newspeak is, the apparent reason for the language ban is even more troubling. The emphasis on “alternative” language appears to be focused on the budget.

The ban is related to the budget and supporting materials that are to be given to CDC’s partners and to Congress, the analyst said. The president’s budget for 2019 is expected to be released in early February. The budget blueprint is generally shaped to reflect an administration’s priorities.

The New York Times report on this directive suggests that the reason for banning these phrases from the budget document is to increase the likelihood that Congress will respond positively to that budget–in other words, it’s an effort to avoid riling the anti-science, anti-evidence GOP Neanderthals who currently dominate Congressional lawmaking.

Given the amount of attention this ham-handed effort has attracted, it isn’t likely to be very effective. Far more terrifying–and sinister–is a quiet venture meant to distort and confuse the definition of “science” and the rules of “economics,” aimed squarely at current and prospective members of the judicial branch. (Evidently, packing the courts with know-nothings isn’t the only Trumpian assault on the courts.)

In early October, 22 state and federal judges hailing from Honolulu to Albany got a crash course in scientific literacy and economics. The three-day symposium was billed as a way to help the judges better scrutinize evidence used to defend government regulations.

But the all-expenses-paid event hosted by George Mason University’s Law & Economics Center in Arlington, Virginia, served another purpose: it was the first of several seminars designed to promote “skepticism” of scientific evidence among likely candidates for the 140-plus federal judgeships Donald Trump will fill over the next four years.

The lone science instructor was Louis Anthony Cox Jr, a risk analyst with deep industry ties whose recent appointment as chair of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s clean air scientific advisory committee drew condemnation in public-health circles. Since 1988, Cox has consulted for the American Petroleum Institute, a lobby group that spent millions to dispute the cancer-causing properties of benzene, an ingredient in gasoline, and is now working to question the science on smog-causing ozone. He’s also testified on behalf of the chemical industry and done research for the tobacco giant Philip Morris.

What was that line Humpty Dumpty uttered in Alice in Wonderland? “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean.”

I know it’s still morning, but I need a drink.

 

 

 

 

 

 

La La La…I Can’t Hear You!

Remember when you were a kid on the playground having an argument, and felt you were losing? Remember sticking your fingers in your ears and going “la la la” as loudly as you could, in order not to hear what the other kid was saying?

Some of you who are reading this were probably  never that childish, and most of the rest of us have since grown up.

All except Congress.

A congressional ban on gun violence research backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) has been extended in the aftermath of the Charleston church shooting that left 9 people dead.

As Public Radio International (PRI) reported recently, the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee voted to reject an amendment last month that would have allowed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to study the relationship between gun ownership and gun violence.

The purported reason for the ban is that gun deaths are not “diseases.” Neither are cigarettes, but the CDC researches the health effects of tobacco. Guns certainly affect health; guns kill more Americans under 25 than cars. (More than 25% of teenagers ages 15 and older who die of injuries in the US are killed by gun-related injuries.)

The costs of gun violence are staggering: American taxpayers pay roughly $12.8 million every day to cover the costs of gun-related deaths and injuries. Total social costs have been estimated at 100 billion each year. That, of course, excludes the human losses.

The CDC used to conduct firearms safety research, but in 1996, the gun lobby persuaded Congress to restrict CDC funding of gun research; similar restrictions on other federal agencies followed.

 

Far from hiding its role, the NRA has publicly taken credit for preventing the research. In 2011, it issued a statement :”These junk science studies and others like them are designed to provide ammunition for the gun control lobby by advancing the false notion that legal gun ownership is a danger to the public health instead of an inalienable right.”

The CDC doesn’t do “junk science,” of course. And denying that guns pose a danger to public health is tantamount to an admission of insanity. But facts and evidence pose a special threat to the NRA extremists who no longer even reflect the position of most NRA members.

They can’t put their fingers in their ears, so–like the bullies on those long-ago playgrounds–they’re trying to deprive advocates of sensible gun control measures of data that they know would strengthen those advocates’ arguments.

It’s their version of “la la la–I can’t hear you.”