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You Must! No, That’s Absurd!

Terry H. Schwadron

Dec. 17, 2017

You could call it “censorship,” but I’m sure that the White House would issue a secret order to rename it “appropriate word substitution.” Or maybe we could just agree on “absurd.”

The Trump administration is barring folks at the Centers for Disease Control from using seven designated words or phrases from any official documents about next year’s budget, when, presumably, there will be congressional and White House action to either promote or destroy the areas represented by those words. The words never to grace the lips of CDC officials include

“fetus,” “transgender,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

The report topped the list of Absurdities from the weekend’s news reports — which actually had several things that made me want to consider moving to New Zealand.

As I would suggest to my ESL students at the Harlem Public Library, for those who want to play the game, please spend the next 20 minutes coming up with sentences that use those words. Even at a glance, you can understand that language has some power, and that by eliminating the use of these terms, the Trump administration wants to aid anti-abortion efforts, stop on efforts to widen our civil rights views and continue its disdain for anything from the world of science.

Apparently this all came from an internal briefing at CDC with senior guys who oversee the budget, who never disclosed who in the White House sent down the order — actually, the suggested alternative list of utterances.

Per the Washington Post, in some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases like this doozy: Instead of “science-based” or ­“evidence-based,” the suggested phrase is “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered. Several departmnets, including Health and Human Services, Justice, Education and Urban Development, have not only changed Obama-era policies, but also the language or information-gathering means used to describe issues like sexual orientation, gender identity and abortion rights.

The CDC actually has several internal projects that normally use these words, including projects to halt HIV among transgender people or birth defects from the Zika virus in developing fetuses. But maybe if you never use the words, you don’t have to provide the money for the programs.

CDC employees who heard all this were, um, mildly surprised and vaguely disappointed rather than, say, outraged that their bosses at the White House were complete idiots.


INEPT NOMINEES: The Absurdity Watch continued as two conservative judicial nominees withdrew from would-be lifetime appointments and a third was embarrassed by a video on himself trying to answer basic questions about the law. President Donald Trump has been aggressive about nominating judges who are not only conservative, but who come from outside the ranks of lawyers with judicial experience.

The White House said Friday that it is standing by the nomination of Matthew Petersen, a nominee for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, despite a clip from his confirmation hearing posted on Twitter in which Petersen was unable to respond to questions about legal and courtroom terms posed by a Sen. John Kennedy, (R-LA). Petersen, a member of the Federal Election Commission since 2008, has no trial experience, and was unable to answer basic questions about trial procedures.

At the push of Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) last week, the White House pulled the nominations of Jeff Mateer and Brett Talley, both of whom were reported to have endorsed positions or groups that embrace discrimination.

The video of Petersen fumbling his way around normal judicial terminology actually was posted by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, who added as a legend, “Hoo-boy.”

Um, Absurd.


MERRY CHRISTMAS: Mayor Ali Salam of the Israeli city of Nazareth said Trump has taken the “joy” out of Christmas by deciding to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and said he was cancelling events planned for the holiday, such as a Christmas market, before reversing himself and saying celebrations will proceed, except for three singers who refuse to participate. “Our identity and faith cannot be bargained. The decision has taken away the joy of the holiday, and we will cancel the festivities this year,” Salam had said before reversing himself.

Nazareth in northern Israel is made up of mostly Muslims and Christians. Christmas events in the city, a center of Christian pilgrimage, normally provide a boost to its economy.


MOORE’S JEWISH ATTORNEY: A Alabama-based columnist for The Forward, the Yiddish newspaper, decided to look for the attorney described by Roy Moore’s wife, Kayla, as a Jew as evidence that the failed Republican Alabama Senate candidate didn’t hate Jews. It was a funny piece, but absurd, since the writer could not locate anyone among the all-gentile law firm representing Moore who is Jewish or in several other attempts. The Moore campaign apparently was of no help either. “I couldn’t find signs of Jewish life in Gallant, where the Moores live, or in all of Etowah County,” said the writer. The story is here.

Make Absurdity Great Again!


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