The seven forbidden words?

by on December 16, 2017 at 1:53 pm in Current Affairs, Education, Political Science, Science, Uncategorized | Permalink

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.”

That’s the WaPo piece everyone is abuzz about.  A few observations:

1. This story may well be true, but I’d like more than “…according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing.”  Here is another account of what exactly is known.  Wasn’t “not publishing the article until it is better sourced” the evidence-based thing to do?

2. I don’t have a great fondness for the terms “evidence-based” or “science-based.”  When they are used on MR, it is often as a form of third-person reference or with a slight mock or ironic touch.  When I see the words used by others, my immediate reaction is to think someone is deploying it selectively, without complete self-awareness, or as a bullying tactic, in lieu of an actual argument, or as a way of denying how much their own argument depends on values rather than science.  I wouldn’t ban the words for anyone working for me, but seeing them often prompts my editor’s red pen, so to speak.  The most er…evidence-based people I know don’t use the term so much, least of all with reference to themselves.

3. In any case, the suggested replacement phrase — “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes” — I do not find offensive or anti-science, and I can imagine a plausible case that it is an actual improvement.  Science is (ought to be) value-free, yet CDC and more broadly federal policy should embody values too.  It should not think of itself as “the handmaiden of science.”

4. There is a fine line between “censorship” and “a bureaucratic organization which can be badly damaged by individual freelancing deciding to adopt uniform terminologies.”  I don’t doubt both might be going on here, but I’d like to see the extant Twitter takes show a little more subtlety on the broader point.  Don’t forget that the executive branch of government reports to the…executive, it is not a freestanding committee for debate, however much it might sometimes like to imagine otherwise.

5. The word “diversity” usually isn’t specific enough, or is channeling unstated preconceptions about how diversity should be interpreted.  We should improve our use of this word.  I have similar feelings about “vulnerable.”

6. People react to changes rather than levels.

7. “Fetus” — look, it is fine to disagree with the “pro-life view” (I’m not even sure what is the most neutral way of labeling it).  But is banning the use of the word “fetus” in institutional documents censorship?  What if an employee, during the Obama years, in an official CDC release had referred to a “fetus” as a “child”?  Would that have been changed back to fetus?  I am inclined to say yes.  Is it censorship in only one direction, or are both decisions censorship?  Or is this better seen as a disagreement over matters of fact?  A disagreement over values?  I am genuinely unsure, and I am unsure what a majority of the American public would think.  But I would say this is sooner worth a ponder than a rant.

8. If nothing else, Sam Altman can show up in China, post “here is my vulnerable entitlement diversity transgender fetus, who is evidence-based and science-based” on his Weibo account, and then go order some Chairman Mao’s braised pork belly.

9. What are the forbidden words in other parts of the federal government, whether de jure or de facto?  Will anyone be showing us a list?  Or is that list censored too?

1 reed e hundt December 16, 2017 at 2:01 pm

the defense of this Administration is getting a little tiring, isn’t it? You won’t be extending this trope to, say, nuclear war’s justification, will you?

2 TMC December 16, 2017 at 2:18 pm

What’s wrong with forcing a department to write more clearly? The words listed are babble, having no firm meaning. Good communication should be the standard.

3 clockwork_prior December 16, 2017 at 2:24 pm

Not exactly true when talking about evidence based medicine –

4 TMC December 16, 2017 at 2:55 pm

I have reservations about restricting “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

Taken literally, I have no issue. Given the left’s Orwellian nature, these are usually used to support some distinctly “non evidence-based” and “non science-based” ideas.

5 Mulp December 16, 2017 at 4:46 pm

“CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes”

I take this to mean that “in Appalachia, rock dust in workplace air does not cause emphysema (black or white lung)”.

In the halls of Congress and the White House, and Maralago, the same rock dust would be extremely hazardous.

6 byomtov December 16, 2017 at 6:53 pm

“CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes”

Actually, that sentence is very unclear, not to mention poorly written. What does it mean to base one’s recommendations on science “in consideration with…?” How does it substitute for “evidence-based?” One is a phrase, the other a muddy sentence. How is the mud an “improvement?”

And Tyler’s business about “fetus” is nonsense. Fetus is a simple reasonably well-defined term. Forbidding its use is ridiculous.

7 GoneWithTheWind December 17, 2017 at 10:24 am

Yeah “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes” is good in much the same way the Salem witch trials were good. After all the community standards demanded that innocent people must die because so many people ignored science and logic.

8 Jay December 16, 2017 at 3:37 pm

So if I take a sample of African-American men in the US that have spent time in jail and then generate a report that shows over 95% of African American men in the US are criminals, is that evidence-based research?

9 clockwork_prior December 17, 2017 at 2:37 am

Interesting question – did the people researching the issue through brain examination of dead players say that their sample is an indication that further research is necessary? Or that finding the presence of CTE in such a high number is an indication that an actual problem may exist, as compared to being able to dismiss such concerns as ungrounded since CTE was not found in any of the examined player brains?

10 ttt December 16, 2017 at 3:24 pm

fetus has no meaning ?

11 Moo cow December 16, 2017 at 9:46 pm

“Fetus” is babble?? Hahahahaaaaaahaha. Omg.

12 TMC December 17, 2017 at 4:34 pm

fetus = latin for offspring, a child.

13 byomtov December 17, 2017 at 10:42 am

The proposed substitute is both longer and less clear than what it is supposed to replace.

And by what standard are these words “babble?” They are not. Conservatives don’t like them. So what?

14 elchivoloco December 17, 2017 at 10:48 am

“Fetus” isn’t babble. It’s the technical and correct term for a prenatal mammal between the embryonic state and birth. Child, baby, bun, or product of conception are actual examples of ill-defined babble. Good communication should be the standard.

15 TMC December 17, 2017 at 4:38 pm

“The words “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” and “diversity” were among seven terms and phrases reportedly banned from use in some official documents at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

other banned words and phrases — “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based” — were communicated verbally.

I was commenting on the words that were banned, not the other supposedly, verbally (bullshit) banned.

Reading comprehension folks.

16 Willitts December 18, 2017 at 7:45 am

What’s getting tiresome is liberals who fail to accept they lost the election. These words are all left wing code, and Trump doesn’t have to continue their propaganda.

In legal parlance, these words would be called vague, conclusory, subjective, and inflammatory.

17 william December 16, 2017 at 2:04 pm

You don’t like the term “evidence-based”? Perhaps that’s due to the decadence of economics. In medicine (and remember – it is the CDC we’re talking about here, not your FDA boogeyman) the phrase “evidence-based” has a clear and direct meaning. It’s usually used in the phrase “evidence-based medicine” which is basically what we call epidemiology these days. You could maybe look it up. It’s not a bullshit phrase.

Your life may depend on it one day. To forbid it over a partisan gesture seems foolish in the extreme.

18 Jeff R December 16, 2017 at 2:37 pm

Isn’t epidemiology rife with dubious statistical inferences?

19 CDC Scientist December 16, 2017 at 3:13 pm

My CDC colleagues and I are organizing a “March for Cross Sectional and Confounded Retrospective Cohort Studies”. The public is aware of double blinded clinical trials but we don’t think there is enough appreciation for grade C level evidence. The march will feature speeches by world renowned epidemiologists who didn’t quite have the grades to make it into medical school. We will be joined by Climate Change scientist-activists, busy medical residents trying to publish poorly designed medical chart review papers to increase fellowship competitiveness, and economists. Spread the word and join the fight!

20 A Truth Seeker December 16, 2017 at 4:53 pm

Is it like the March of Dimes?

21 ttt December 16, 2017 at 3:25 pm

you misspelled economics

22 Jeff R December 16, 2017 at 3:50 pm

You could probably play some mad libs with that sentence, sure.

23 dearieme December 16, 2017 at 4:28 pm

It’s certainly rife with bogus data. My friend The Retired Epidemiologist can make your skin crawl with tales of accordingly dubious conclusions. It is particularly wise, in his view, to be sceptical of any proposition based on international comparisons. Getting suitable data on a comparable basis can be near impossible.

24 Anon December 16, 2017 at 2:42 pm

There are plenty of crap papers in medicine. If a treatment recommendation is based on a crap paper, is it an “evidence based recommendation”? Shouldn’t we use language that distinguishes between high quality and poor quality evidence, instead of using a catch all term?

25 William December 16, 2017 at 7:17 pm

There are plenty of crap papers everywhere, I may have even written a few myself.

But evidence based medicine has invented the systematic review, and even has methods for evaluating publication bias. They may not always work, but at least they are thinking about them.

Maybe Tyler Cowen could try thinking too? Might improve his blog

26 Potato December 16, 2017 at 3:46 pm

We’ve reached a pretty stupid point in the culture wars, that’s for sure.

Science/academia is now heavily politicized. Now we have to live with the resulting idiocy.

At least it’s hilarious. We have half the country who sees “science” as a tribal affiliation. Ironically these people are heavily weighted towards non STEM fields.

The other half reflexively hates what the first half aligns itself with. And they’re paranoid enough/smart enough to realize the first half will use the CDC/NSF/insert bogeyman against them.

At least the Cold War is over.

27 dearieme December 16, 2017 at 4:32 pm

“At least the Cold War is over”: very droll.

28 Potato December 16, 2017 at 4:43 pm

Thank you sir. I was worried that would go unappreciated.

29 Willitts December 18, 2017 at 7:46 am

Read Eisenhower’s Farewell Address in its entirety. The military industrial complex was not the only thing he warned us about. He also warned of the scientific elite.

30 sandler1 December 16, 2017 at 4:08 pm

“Perhaps that’s due to the decadence of economics.”

yeah, that was generally my first reaction — an economist emotionally recoiling from the rather mild term ‘evidence based’. Tyler is “without complete self-awareness” of his odd bias on this.

Newspapers like WashPost &NYTimes most certainly enforce their own internal “standards” on impermissible words/phrases based on the editors/publishers political & cultural views.

The CDC has always been a cesspool of leftish politics and policy — way too late now to fret about CDC becoming tainted by politics. CDC should not exist at all.

31 Potato December 16, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Yes, it makes absolutely no sense to have a “Center for Disease Control.”

As we all know, mass pandemics have never been a threat to large or urbanized populations. There is no reason that one of the few prerogatives of a federal government would be preparation for mass disease and creating standard operating procedures to mitigate the disaster. It is not like it would be useful for coordination or policy purposes.

You’re an idiot.

32 William December 16, 2017 at 7:13 pm


Ever heard of the black plague? Spanish flu? Aids? Just err… Regular flu?

It’s you that is the idiot

33 XVO December 16, 2017 at 7:20 pm

Lol, sarcasm much?

34 William December 16, 2017 at 7:27 pm

Sorry, I’m the idiot, didn’t spot the sarcasm in your post.

35 Larry Siegel December 16, 2017 at 10:19 pm

It makes great sense to have a center for disease control, but if it has become too politicized, it’s not obvious that the Centers for Disease Control is the best center for disease control.

36 carlospln December 16, 2017 at 11:45 pm

So what’s the problem?

Got anything?

Your paucity of examples implies the exact opposite.

37 LaSalle December 17, 2017 at 6:19 am

The CDC original mission was to prevent malaria and other dangerous, prevalent, communicable diseases — now it spends huge resources as America’s nanny… worrying about how much salt you put on your steaks, sugar , soft drinks, coffee, alcohol, second-hand smoke and how often you do calisthenics. CDC Mission-Creep is outrageous … and CDC has become a national leader in politicized, unscientific panic mongering.

Remember when top CDC scientists declared the “epidemic” of obesity would soon be the leading contributor to preventable death in the United States?
The CDC claimed obesity deaths had risen 33 percent between 1990 and 2000. It claimed that 400,000 people would die from being overweight. It turned out these numbers were made up, and the CDC was forced to revise the estimate down by a mere 1,400%. That hasn’t stopped it for continuing to scare us about salt, sugar and anything else the leftist “Center for Science in the Public Interest” (sic) is wringing its hand about these days.

38 Mr. Econotarian December 16, 2017 at 5:07 pm

“Evidence based medicine” means medical practice that has actually been evaluated scientifically, instead of just reading Galen, what your medical school instructor said, or physician faith healing/placebo activity.

Compare with “evidence-based anti-poverty schemes” as opposed to Marxism.

39 So Much For Subtlety December 16, 2017 at 8:35 pm

That is the theory. What is the actual practice? The good indicator is passive smoking. Which does not exist. It simply is not a health threat. How many people have told you that recently? It does not align with the CDC’s community values so they push it as a problem. Which it is not.

The American health bureaucracy has been given ample evidence that alcohol is good for you in quite sizable amounts – anything less than six units a day is an improvement. But they cannot bring themselves to say so. They have been lying about fat for a generation.

Trump is administering a long-over-due but still too mild correction.

40 dearieme December 16, 2017 at 8:52 pm

So it’s still the case that the evidence that passive smoking kills people is non-existent? Even given (I presume) endless time and money with which to investigate it? You might almost wonder whether They had been lying. On fat they have undeniably been lying. As for mild boozing, I have always assumed that it’s been a case of joy taken in the power to deny other people their pleasures. Any population that has evolved over ten thousand years of exposure to beer or to watered wine shouldn’t be at much risk from mild boozing. Maybe people should be leery of strong spirits. In which case dissolve ’em in tonic water, say I.

Still, there are side benefits. Not having stinging eyes or stinking clothes because of the gross bad manners of smokers is fine by me.

41 carlospln December 16, 2017 at 11:48 pm

Smoking on commercial aircraft was banned because of the significantly higher mortality rates of non smoking flight attendants.

Another howling SMSF embarassment.

42 So Much For Subtlety December 17, 2017 at 4:40 am

Smoking on airplanes was banned because it used fuel to cycle so much air through the cabin. Much better to leave the passengers in the stink of their own fetid gases. And avoid stressing the air frame by maintaining reasonable pressure.

However if you have managed to find a report that claims non-smoking airline hostesses were at higher risk of cancer than their smoking colleagues, I would love to see it. It would be remarkable if smoking yourself as well as passively smoking the passengers’ cigarettes was less dangerous than just passively smoking. Really it would. Most people would think that risk rises with exposure.

43 Michael December 17, 2017 at 10:54 am


I checked the statements made by CDC about passive smoking.

Please check the references cited there (e.g. #5 )
and let me know what it wrong/false/misleading in there or provide other studies which show that passive smoking does not exist.

I am a big fan of fact/evidence based discussions.

44 carlospln December 17, 2017 at 5:51 pm

“The good indicator is passive smoking. Which does not exist. It simply is not a health threat”.

There are no ‘safe’ levels for ingesting CO, formaldehyde, NH3, HCN, benzene, toluene, nitrosamines, acetaldehyde, acrolein, acrylonitriles, methylethylketone and poly aromatic hydrocarbons [PAH], e.g. Benz[a]pyrene.

Oh, and Pb, As, Cd, Cr, Ni.

If that’s what you suck on, knock yourself out.

Go lick an ashtray, twink.

45 Frederic Bush December 16, 2017 at 2:07 pm

I would like pandemic preparedness to be based on science rather than public opinion.

46 Tyler Cowen December 16, 2017 at 2:16 pm

Science and values, yes? Including those of the American public, though not only.

47 Mulp December 16, 2017 at 5:46 pm

As in the public opinion in some communities that a pandemic is a good thing because it’s God’s punishment of sinners?

As in Ryan White was obviously a homosexual IV drug user and thus deserved to die as God’s punishment for his sins?

Quoting passages in the KJ Bible as God’s original words, as evidence, of course.

48 Frederic Bush December 17, 2017 at 12:51 am

No, I don’t trust community standards and opinions when they come into conflict with scientific standards and opinions.

49 TMC December 16, 2017 at 2:22 pm

Values are important. We can, scientifically, contain ebola by cremating, alive or not, everyone what is diagnosed with it. Values are useful.

50 clockwork_prior December 16, 2017 at 2:26 pm

How interesting that evidence based medicine places importance on values – ‘Evidence based medicine (EBM) is the conscientious, explicit, judicious and reasonable use of modern, best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients. EBM integrates clinical experience and patient values with the best available research information.’ From the first lines of the abstract –

51 TMC December 16, 2017 at 2:57 pm

So we agree on values then, do we?

52 byomtov December 16, 2017 at 6:58 pm

Note that the passage cp quotes refers to “patient values,” not “community values.” Which is more important in deciding treatments?

53 TMC December 17, 2017 at 4:44 pm

And mine referred to community values, so what?

54 derek December 16, 2017 at 4:52 pm

The science will give you some probabilities, and maybe some potential solutions with their own probabilities.

The values are about priorities, human rights, available resources. In worst case sometimes one life vs another.

It is profoundly unscientific to present these things as black and white. As well as counter productive. Tell people that vaccines are perfectly safe and you are lying. Explaining that it is a decision based on carefully measured tradeoffs of massive benefit vs a small number of negatives is the reality.

I heard an ad from the province for the flu vaccine, how wonderful it was, a few days after reading how it had low effectiveness in Australia this year.

Life is complicated.

55 Potato December 16, 2017 at 9:22 pm

A) Normal vaccines are safe. It’s “profoundly unscientific to present” any alternative nonsense to the fact that normal vaccines are safe.
– Caveat. I’ve had some ridiculous vaccines due to the nature of my work when I was younger. Some of those were much less safe. Equating those to vaccines that we normally use on 99.99% of the regular population is horrendously misleading. Yes, normal people should not be lining up for the anthrax vaccine. And yes, we are using a sweeping generalization when we say vaccines are safe.

B) I agree with you that everything comes down to value judgements in the end, at least in a world where resources are scarce.

C) The science behind the flu vaccine would tell you it is a game of probabilities. The vaccines are created to give you some antibodies against the most likely strains of flu to become widespread. But with a virus that mutates that rapidly it is always a game of probabilities. For the love of God do not apply that logic to the MMR vaccine. It’s not the same.

56 Anonymous December 16, 2017 at 11:58 pm

They are not PERFECTLY safe. They are pretty safe, but people do have bad reactions sometimes.

57 Right Wing House Music December 17, 2017 at 2:14 am

Vaccines kill hundreds per year:

58 Potato December 17, 2017 at 8:37 am

In response to the comment below:

The article literally concludes the opposite of what you said.

59 Bill December 16, 2017 at 2:14 pm

A vulnerable transgender fetus

Was denied a a diversity entitlement to

Evidence and science-based



60 Shazam December 16, 2017 at 4:12 pm

This could pass for a WaPo op-ed.

61 gab December 16, 2017 at 6:41 pm

Instead it passes as humor to the lower intellects.

62 Bill December 16, 2017 at 8:23 pm

How would you know?

63 Willitts December 18, 2017 at 7:49 am

Or a Wymyns Studies dissertation.

This is exactly why those words should be banned.

64 clockwork_prior December 16, 2017 at 2:21 pm

‘I don’t have a great fondness for the terms “evidence-based” or “science-based.”’

Well, you are an economist, so that is only natural.

65 uair01 December 16, 2017 at 3:47 pm


66 Benny Lava December 16, 2017 at 10:28 pm

Thread winner!

67 Stormy Dragon December 16, 2017 at 2:37 pm

The “community standards” bit may not be anti-science, but the “wishes” bit certainly is. The nature of reality does not change just because some people want it to badly enough.

68 Anonymous December 16, 2017 at 11:58 pm

But policy does

69 Matt F. December 16, 2017 at 2:45 pm

How is the CDC supposed to warn people that “Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus”?

70 Jayson Virissimo December 16, 2017 at 3:49 pm

“The Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby”.

71 Viking December 16, 2017 at 4:14 pm

How are those microcephaly predictions from 2 years ago holding up.

Has there ever been a single documented case of a tourist (who didn’t use to live where zika is endemic) aquiring a zika infection, and giving birth to a small headed baby?

72 HankP December 16, 2017 at 5:20 pm
73 Careless December 16, 2017 at 5:21 pm

Which baby? The one who is 14 months old, or the one that isn’t a baby?

74 Anonymous December 16, 2017 at 11:59 pm

“unborn child”?

75 M December 17, 2017 at 6:05 am

“Fertilized embryo” FTW.

76 byomtov December 17, 2017 at 10:45 am

Why is that better than “fetus?”

77 M December 17, 2017 at 4:19 pm

It’s not (I’m not actually sincerely saying it’s “For the win”); just offering it up as an alternative bit of phrasing.

78 A Truth Seeker December 16, 2017 at 2:46 pm

Such is life in Trump’s America…

79 AppleDave December 16, 2017 at 2:48 pm

At the IRS, you can’t use the phrase “tax protester”

80 Mark Thorson December 16, 2017 at 4:09 pm

The preferred term is “sovereign citizen”.

81 chrisare December 16, 2017 at 2:54 pm

There’s plenty of progress to be made tightening buearocratic language throughout federal institutions if the initiative was sincere. The choice of these seven words however just make it look like trolling by the administration.

82 Potato December 16, 2017 at 3:49 pm

You can start the tightening up yourself by learning how to spell words.

And yes they are definitely trolling.

83 hoonose December 16, 2017 at 3:00 pm
84 Dan Lavatan December 16, 2017 at 3:04 pm

The bigger problem appears to be the CDC has policy analysts, which it would not if it were actually dong science.

There is no evidence that the ban applies to say, its IT staff describing a security vulnerability. Or to anyone doing actual work.

On of my employers banned the use of the word attacker to describe attackers in user guides and white papers, but it did not apply to internal documents. I don’t think it was that big of a deal.

85 Cyrus December 16, 2017 at 3:36 pm

When our style guide banned “attacker” we segued to “malicious actor” without too much concern that Hollywood would take it the wrong way.

86 uair01 December 16, 2017 at 3:48 pm

Still better than “advanced persistent threat” 🙂

87 Mark Thorson December 16, 2017 at 4:14 pm

My pet peeve is when the news refers to an unapprehended and unidentified person captured on video robbing a liquor store or stealing packages left by UPS on a porch as a “suspect”. That person is not a suspect. That person is a perpetrator. Anyone you subsequently catch and arrest is a suspect.

88 Viking December 16, 2017 at 4:16 pm

Innocent until proven guilty doesn’t mean too much when suspect and perpetrator is used interchangeably! My favorite is perpetrator caught in the act and shot dead being described as suspect.

89 peri December 16, 2017 at 4:43 pm

The newsgirls here faithfully use “alleged” in some mysterious and torturous ways.

90 byomtov December 16, 2017 at 7:01 pm

The CDC has policy-related responsibilities. It is not just a research organization.

91 Edm December 16, 2017 at 3:12 pm

I can understand why a libertarian economist might be allergic to evidence-based and science-based information.

92 byomtov December 16, 2017 at 7:02 pm

Yes. It doesn’t matter what actually happens if it conflicts with theory.

93 Edm December 16, 2017 at 3:14 pm

Not that there is anything wrong with diverse economics.

94 Viking December 16, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Tyler’s “argue against Trump opposition on everything while still maintaining that I am anti-Trump” schtick is getting old. This post is the best example.

What is his motivation to do this…

95 ttt December 16, 2017 at 3:26 pm


96 Tanturn December 16, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

97 msgkings December 16, 2017 at 4:34 pm

Zing! Oh man total burn!

98 Viking December 16, 2017 at 4:35 pm

That was not my post.

99 Anonymous December 17, 2017 at 12:07 am

Any reasonable mainstream person will often be forced to defend Trump despite opposing him because people are so ridiculous. Look at Scott Alexander

100 rayward December 16, 2017 at 4:08 pm

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.” Indeed!

101 anonymous as usual December 16, 2017 at 9:02 pm

Humpty Dumpty (fictional character) in a book by Lewis Carroll (midwit) in a real world that is usually understandable (ethics) but sometimes not (Godel) but is ruled by God.
Humpty Dumpty (fictional character) Lewis Carroll (midwit Anglican) ethics (each of the Stooges felt an obligation to be kind, as far as possible to the other Stooges) logic (Godel – imagine a Godel off the spectrum, a Godel who had lived a life free from the curse of semi-autism, however) and God (our world is rather pedestrian in a way that is interesting for people who go through life without all too much physical pain or emotional turmoil: think about that next time you are at the DMV, and if you do not ever go to the DMV, think about next time you spend time with others in the afternoon tea-time of the soul – if you do not work for a living – or in the blessed hour or two before the end of the workday, if you do – of the soul). Fascinatingly, there are people who could tell you, if woken up in the middle of the night, how many millions of people in their own and other civilizations had a lifetime with (a) lots of rewards (the midwit show Parenthood, or its avatar Partridge Family, presents the details) or with (b) some rewards (the life of most people who comment here) or (c) few rewards, except for the reward of knowing that God loves the poor, and that (as the beatitudes correctly point out) the poor will be blessed. My favorite beatitude is a little different , and it is not technically even a beatitude – from these stones I could raise up sons and daughters of Israel. But that’s just me.

One day even Humpty Dumpty will wake up and realize that he, too, is a child of God, and he will receive a new name, and will never again be an object of sinful mockery. True that,

He may choose to become an architect, for example. There are many beautiful buildings in this world. Some day, Rayward, you will be strolling the streets of Paris with a friend,you will turn a corner, you will be surprised to see something that looks like the Cathedral of Notre Dame, you will say to your friend, that is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen – and you will be right, gray cathedral spires against mid-French blue summer skies – but what you will not know is that, long before that day, Humpty Dumpty himself realized that he too is a child of God, and, in the world I am describing, Humpty Dumpty imagined and led the team of cathedral-builders that made the Cathedral of Notre-Dame and made it to be what we know it is.

That will be a good day. The sky will be blue. You will hear good music on the afternoon streets.

102 anonymous as usual December 16, 2017 at 10:22 pm

Chord changes by Mozart. Better syncopation from the drum (percussion!) section than you have ever heard. Blue skies, with some cumulus clouds – along the tops of the clouds, tracing in a distant echo the tops of the trees – mostly pines, but some oaks and maples and sassafras – noticeably compassionate designs against the ethereal background. You remember. Instrumentation by angels. The melody – is not every good melody from God?

That will be a good day. The sky will be blue. You will hear good music on the afternoon streets. I remember!

103 Shazam December 16, 2017 at 4:11 pm

I think it’s great that the Democrats are laser-focused on the most important issues facing the world today, such as what one guy claims was said during a meeting.

Even if this proves 98% false, like all the other “issues,” there will still be another equally important “issue” in 72 hours.

104 msgkings December 16, 2017 at 4:37 pm

Yeah, like the War on Christmas. Or pedophile pizza.

105 anonymous December 16, 2017 at 10:24 pm

I am boycotting Heinlein until they figure out the tragedy you just mocked.

106 Abelard Lindsey December 16, 2017 at 4:15 pm

We all remember what incompetent boops the CDC proved to be in handling the Ebola outbreak in late 2014. Did anyone expect any different from this agency?

107 Viking December 16, 2017 at 4:48 pm

The funny thing about the Ebola epidemics is that the raw data were published, and it was obvious based on the log curve leveling off that the epidemic was burning out months before the CNNs and other morons reported it.

Also, the way to really stop the epidemic quickly in its tracks would be to quickly establish food (MRE) and water delivery to every house by UN soldiers, and kill all other travelers.

108 dearieme December 16, 2017 at 4:25 pm

‘“CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes” — I do not find offensive'”: I do. I find all such illiteracy offensive. If I were an American taxpayer I would be dismayed that my dollar was paying for such rubbish.

109 byomtov December 17, 2017 at 10:47 am


110 Jay December 16, 2017 at 4:26 pm

Not a forbidden word but def a forbidden expression. If you in anyway question man made climate change or don’t subscribe to it being apocalyptic at the National Weather Service you will find yourself censured and any chance at career advancement destroyed.

111 Tony December 18, 2017 at 3:09 pm

It’s just as bad when you express belief in a flat Earth at NASA. Believe me, they’re tyrants.

112 Al December 16, 2017 at 4:32 pm

Is there some mastermind behind all of this?

The media has entirely outed itself with its reactions to Altman’s piece and now this “article” from WaPo.

And they did it on the exact same day without noticing one ounce of hypocrisy. It is simply that they are so sure in their power? Are they simply that stupid? I don’t know but it is amazing.

113 Michael Rubenstein December 16, 2017 at 4:33 pm
114 Michael Rubenstein December 16, 2017 at 4:36 pm
115 David Mears December 16, 2017 at 5:07 pm

Re 1, doubting the veracity, the very WaPo article says “Other CDC officials confirmed the existence of a list of forbidden words.”

116 BJ dubbS December 16, 2017 at 5:45 pm

Somebody tell Tyler that Tyrone has hacked his account.

117 Millian December 16, 2017 at 5:51 pm

Does net Trump approval -20 signify that the community values to be added to the science are not those of the administration? Or simply a sign that people are paying attention to the “yappers” rather than the religious writers, who are prolix about the profoundly unknowable yet quiet about everything that matters to people.

118 Mulp December 16, 2017 at 5:55 pm

I just found it ironic that a new list of seven forbidden words came out just after the original author of seven forbidden words, the FCC, issued an obscene ruling promoting rent seeking by Internet common carriers.

Too bad George Carlin is dead, as I’m sure he would come up with a great revision of his earlier commentary on 7 forbidden words.

119 HA2 December 16, 2017 at 5:56 pm

Fetus and Child have different meanings. CDC officials should use each of them where appropriate. Banning use of “Fetus” because there are some cases where it’s not the right word is, well, nonsense.

120 mpledger December 16, 2017 at 7:26 pm

Given that fetus can be used across many species, how is the CDC meant to refer to a dog fetus? E.G.The fetus of the dog was poorly developed. The baby of the dog was poorly developed.

121 Willitts December 18, 2017 at 7:55 am

Granted this word is the most head scratching on the list, but context matters. We all know that people who favor abortion rhetorically dehumanize the unborn human. I’ve heard them literally refer to an implanted embryo as a ‘zit.’ The ban list, assuming it’s true, obviously refers to ‘fetus’ used in the context of minimizing regard for life.

122 rjn December 16, 2017 at 7:55 pm

I would have called this writing guidance by a writing coach if it weren’t for the obvious tribal and political factors.

This is for budget documents. The text in a budget should clearly indicate what work is to be done, why it is being done, what the costs will be and what the schedule will be. I’ve worked with the CDC. Most of their budgeted activities can be described more clearly as “Collect data about X so that treatment and resource planning can be more effective or lower cost”. I can’t think of a project or project category that is not more accurately described by using more specific terms. “Evidence based”, etc. are mostly meaningless fluff words. If I’m studying the occurrence of Hepatitis or tracking the spread of Influenza I can describe that much more accurately using specific words.

Sadly, I doubt that clarity was the primary motivation.

123 byomtov December 17, 2017 at 10:48 am

If that’s the advice of a writing coach then said coach should look into other lines of work.

124 Willitts December 18, 2017 at 7:57 am

Define “vulnerable” please, in a medical context as it is meant in these documents. Then move on to diversity, inclusion, etc.

125 Ryan T December 16, 2017 at 7:58 pm

#1 is worth keeping in mind. And I agree that a list of forbidden words would be interesting.

Whether or not someone likes a word or phrase, even if that person is TC and the phrase is “evidence based,” is not sufficient, imho, to forbid its use.

This post does not acknowledge that there’s a larger policy context that is affecting how people are reacting to this story.

126 Randall Plant MD December 16, 2017 at 8:24 pm

“Evidence-based” is a commonly used term in medicine, especially when discussing surgical outcomes. Many past journal articles describing the success of various procedures were simply catalogs of one or more surgeons’ results with a potentially biased group of patients. The concept of an evidence-based study is to try to remove any biases so that you can determine whether a particular treatment is beneficial.

127 Gimlet0153 December 16, 2017 at 8:30 pm

From the opening sentence of the WaPo piece, it seems as if everyone is getting all worked up over a very narrow-scope requirement. This only applies to internal budget documents, yes?

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

128 Willitts December 18, 2017 at 8:00 am

I hope it applies to all documents.

These are clearly left wing code words that have infected the bureaucracy. Trump is now taking control over communications which is his right and duty.

Recall the leftist backlash began on Day 1 when Trumps new team took control over agency communications. There is a running theme that Trump undoing the Obama machine is somehow illegal or imprudent. I’ve never seen a presidential transition with so much acrimony by the bureaucracy. It’s insubordination worthy of mass terminations.

129 Clyde Schechter December 16, 2017 at 8:38 pm

From my (leftist) perspective, liberal political correctness has been, and remains, obnoxious, ugly, and ridiculous. But the right is now succumbing to the temptation to develop its own. Good luck with that; it won’t be any better.
This is just more culture war idiocy.

130 Willitts December 18, 2017 at 8:02 am

Thank you for your honesty.

Can you share with us some examples of right wing political correctness? I think the obvious ones are patriotism and flag waving, although there was a time not too long ago when we all shared that.


131 AnthonyB December 16, 2017 at 10:36 pm

Evidence-based is just the opposite of faith-based. (I suppose it’s also the opposite of hope-based, not that I’ve heard of such a thing.)

132 Willitts December 18, 2017 at 8:05 am

No, “evidence based” is a false and arrogant claim that one holds the only set of keys to understanding problems. It’s an appeal to accepting uncritically every radical term paper from every left wing university and think tank.

133 Sfoil December 16, 2017 at 11:02 pm

The word “retreat” is completely banned (de facto/by custom) in the military except in historical discussions.

134 Willitts December 18, 2017 at 8:06 am

True, but it has been replaced with euphemisms. The concept still exists.

135 Evan Harper December 16, 2017 at 11:44 pm

That’s it, I’m a #Resistance guy now. I want the Marshall of the Supreme Court to invoke the Twenty-Eighth Amendment and replace Trump-Pence with Hillary-Chelsea. If only so Tyler will stop clowning himself with posts like these.

136 Jean DesRosiers December 16, 2017 at 11:54 pm

Wow. This place has turned into Apologist Central.

137 Willitts December 18, 2017 at 8:08 am

You don’t even have the faintest idea whether this word ban story is true much less the totality of the circumstances. It’s also quite obvious that, assuming this is true, Trumps team is throwing the Leftist Lexicon in the trash where it belongs.

138 istanbul gezilecek yerler December 17, 2017 at 3:44 am

I use generally this all 🙂 Thanks.

139 Evans_KY December 17, 2017 at 7:57 am

Government censors content. Firearm statistics, sugar versus saturated fat, climate change, dangers of coal ash and other toxins, etc. The uproar over a few words seems extreme. See Kevin Drum for alternatives. My concern lies in how this may cause staff to self censor. Are dissenting opinions relevant to informed policy? What other agencies have been given similar instructions? What is our government hiding from its citizens, the taxpayers? This should concern everyone.

Let’s turn this around. What if GMU and Mercatus restrained the topics on MR? You cannot discuss China positively, mention the excellent Kevin Lewis, and use the words crypto-assets or Straussian. How would this change your enthusiasm for blogging? As a professional would you be irritated at the imposition of a “nanny state”?

140 jk December 17, 2017 at 8:40 am

I used to love this blog but got bored of it and checking in only occasionally.

Did Tyler also support increasing “clarity” (aka partial censorship) of crime data a few weeks ago?

Does he really think this is about good writing?

Are people in this country out of their mind?

141 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ December 17, 2017 at 9:25 am

FWIW, I am a fan of evidence based policy. Even if your evidence proves a corner case, an unlikely result, at least it happened.

It’s not like it was made up.

Further evidence improves the picture, and the policy, through iteration.

142 Willitts December 18, 2017 at 8:12 am

No intelligent person opposes policy based on evidence. The objection is to using a left wing code word they give to their own work.

You didn’t really think that the Affordable Care Act made care affordable, did you? Or that the German Democratic Republic was democratic…or a republic?

When people use “diversity” to describe Baltimore or Howard University, do you not realize “diversity” does not mean what they think it means?

143 Peter M December 17, 2017 at 11:15 am

I recall that during the Obama years there was much consternation about what to call the mandate — was it a tax? As I recall it was “not a tax” when being sold to the public, but was a tax when argued to the court. Also, administrations have long used weasel words to describe events. The US “intervenes” in countries means pretty much it’s going to bomb a lot of people and buildings. Newspapers do it too. “Man dies in officer involved shooting” instead of “Police kill man.”

144 Ganesh Subramanian December 17, 2017 at 1:18 pm

TC enjoys analyzing the fallen leaves and chooses to ignore the burning forest. ’08 – I read and learned from this blog, complementing my grad program. ’17 – partisan dribble not worth time on my feed.

145 Brett December 17, 2017 at 2:20 pm

Presupposing that any particular word isn’t good enough to use (imprecise, meaningless, etc) without the context of a sentence is the problem. As Tyler said, they may be used in a lazy way and surely any official documents will be reviewed and edited if necessary. So why make them off limits?

Personally, I can infer by the particular 7 words that the motivation here wasn’t to increase precision or quality of CDC documents.

146 Jonathan December 17, 2017 at 9:54 pm

This feels like a shark jump, tbh.

147 Jim Swindle December 17, 2017 at 10:32 pm

My theory is that they didn’t want these words used in BUDGETING requests, because they figured that those requests would go to a congress with a Republican majority, and the more conservative Republicans know that most of those 7 words are favorites of many people who have a distinctly left-of-center agenda. Those of us of a conservative bent know that the word “fetus” is frequently used in connection with aborting a baby; that “evidence-based” is often used by people who worship scientists instead of evaluating them; that “entitlement” is often used by people who want to take money forcibly from those who have worked for it to give more of it to those who have not worked for it; that “diversity” often means respecting everyone except for those who fall into the deplorable categories (such as men, Caucasians and Christians); that “transgender” usually means requiring people to call a man a woman. If the congress and the public sees any of those words in a budget request, the request will be more likely to be examined carefully. If it’s examined carefully, it’s more likely to be rejected than if it’s not examined. Thus, it is shrewd for the CDC to avoid those words in its budgets.

Of course, my analysis may be wrong. I’m just giving my best guess as to the explanation.

148 Gimlet0153 December 19, 2017 at 2:14 pm
149 JonFraz December 18, 2017 at 1:01 pm

“Fetus” is the biologically correct tern for any in-utero mammalian offspring. Banning it is no different from banning “valance” from chemistry and physics, or “mutation” from biology.

150 Jon December 18, 2017 at 10:59 pm

Isn’t it possible the “forbidden words” are just originating from some bureaucrats guidance on how not to attract potentially negative attention when trying to get funding approved?

151 PERFECT LOAN December 20, 2017 at 1:13 am

TAKE A LOAN @ 2% INTEREST RATE with perfectloanlenderltd@ gmail .com

152 Terry Harnden January 5, 2018 at 12:35 pm

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.”
As far as I can see the only that can be justified “evidence-based” and “science-based.” And believe these are the only two in Trumps directive . The rest are added by CDC to sabotage his directive and protect the Alopathic always treat but never allow prevention or cure (by concealing root causes) business model.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: