Science, in the old sense, has almost ceased to exist. In Newspeak there is no word for ‘Science’. The empirical method of thought, on which all the scientific achievements of the past were founded, is opposed to the most fundamental principles of Ingsoc.
-George Orwell, 1984
Late in the day Friday, the Washington Post reported on the Trump Administration’s latest attempt to “make Oceania great again:” a list of seven words and phrases that the CDC is not allowed to use in any official documents being created for the next year’s budget. These words are:
Oh. Is that all? I mean, we wouldn’t want the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention having anything their budget about evidence-based or science-based medicine, right? Heaven forbid, who knows where that could lead? Do you study vulnerable medical populations? Apparently not according to the CDC. Are you transgender? Nothing for your health in the budget – you can’t be mentioned, you see.
Oh sure, some people will say that this merely means that the CDC must be “creative” when writing their budget request, but as Emily Nagoski noted on Twitter this morning, similar biases and bans were faced by the gay community – researchers had to say “same sex” instead of “homosexual” in order to have a chance of securing funding. No one thought that was right; it colored funding requests and constrained research.
This is much worse.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, speaking to STAT News on Saturday, tried to downplay the already vocal pushback on the ban. Of course, if you actually read what he said,… “The assertion that HHS has ‘banned words’ is a complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process,” [Matt] Lloyd, from HHS, said in a statement to STAT. “HHS will continue to use the best scientific evidence available to improve the health of all Americans. HHS also strongly encourages the use of outcome and evidence data in program evaluations and budget decisions.”
Not only Lloyd he not deny that there was a banned word list, but he himself did not actually say two of the banned phrases, instead talking around them. Lloyd could have easily said “HHS will continue to use the best science-based evidence available…” or to say that “HHS strongly encourages the use of evidence-based data…” And yet.
The words we use drive funding, manage expectations, even constrain who we think about and include. This ban is nothing more than an assault on reproductive rights, equality, and quite literally, diversity.
Self-care, with yes, a dose of privilege, demanded stepping away from the Internet on Sunday, and the continued infuriating and illegal actions of our temper-tantrum-tossing tangerine toddler. It was an exhausting 48 hours, and we just needed to spend time together – privilege, yes, because we can do that, but don’t mistake it, either, for the root fear driving it: the anger ifrit has shown that with a stroke of a pen, everything my husband and I know about our life could be overturned, and neither of us take that lightly. Neither of us take the hatred and threats to immigrants lightly, even while most people forget Nick is an immigrant – or try to excuse it with “oh but he’s Australian” when they mean “oh he’s white.”
That meant catching up some on the news this morning – while fighting off whatever the latest cold going around is, because apparently a university professor picks up about as many bugs as a preschool teacher. The news tells me that Boston continues to be awesome, the toddler’s team wouldn’t understand consistency if it bit them on the ass, and that the nation is still in chaos, but still standing (tho maybe listing heavily to one side).
The ruling, which goes further than similar ones in New York and Virginia, prevents both the detention or removal of approved refugees and visa or green card holders from the seven affected nations.
Additionally, this order required Customs and Border Protection officials to notify international airlines that valid VISA holders (green cards, approved refugees, or valid VISA holders of any stripe) will not be detained or returned solely based on Trump’s orders, which in effect means that airlines need to let folks on the planes to get to Boston, which was still a major impedement with the New York and Virginia rulings.
Of course, the temper tantrum in the White House is growing – and they can’t manage to stay on message. I can’t imagine why folks are confused about what the fuck is going on at any given time, since not even the White House appears to know if the ruling applies to green card holders, with them saying yes on Saturday and no and yes on Sunday. Oh, okay then. THAT clears things up.
Based on the chaos, all I can say is this: if you are outside the country right now, and have a valid VISA or green card, make sure you are carrying copies of all current federal rulings before you head to your airport to fly back to the USA; try to fly in to an airport that is following the current stay on the executive action, and consider making that airport Logan International; be sure you’ve tagged someone in the USA as your travel buddy, who will keep an eye on litigation and court stays while you are in the air and out of touch, and who can contact lawyers on your behalf if there are problems when you land. Be sure your phone has charge, and that you let your travel buddy know when you are on the ground, before you head into customs and immigration. Make sure they have a plan – they know what immigration lawyer to contact if you don’t appear after a decided-upon period of time. (I’d go for three hours, but that’s just me and based on the reports people have given of “enhanced security screening.”) If there is a problem, demand to see an immigration judge. Do not sign any paperwork. Do not give up your passport, your green card, or any other paperwork if they ask you to relinquish it. Know who your lawyer is, be polite, and repetitive in asking to see them and the judge, should it come down to it. Hopefully it doesn’t, and you’re quickly through the airport and back where you belong.
And if you have a few minutes and you’re not involved directly in any of this, and have the luxury of being on the sidelines, contact your representatives to tell them how reprehensible this executive action is – how inhumane, how it’s a repetition of the horrors of what America did to Jewish folks in World War II, and how America should be better than the executive order implies. And maybe send a note of thanks to federal judge Allison Dale Burroughs, who wasn’t afraid to go where other judges didn’t, and made sure people had an avenue to get home.
So hey, how about these last 7 days, eh? Have we figured out how to stop this ride? No? Not yet? Cuz we really, really need to – our tangerine toddler can’t write worth a damn, and it’s starting to cause some problems.
Sec. 8. Visa Interview Security. (a) The Secretary of State shall immediately suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program and ensure compliance with section 222 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1222, which requires that all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview, subject to specific statutory exceptions.
Waitwhat – suspend, immediately, the Visa Waiver Program? The VWP is an agreement between the US and 35-odd other countries that lets their citizens travel to the USA for 90 days or less without first securing a VISA, provided they meet a list of requirements. This facilitates travel and tourism, minimizes US costs in other countries, and is generally a nice thing – especially for those of us who have ex-pat spouses and family we adore in other countries.
Suspending this would be catastrophic, and Section 8 seems pretty clear – all nonimmigrants must undergo an in-person interview, pursuant to section 222 of the INA, 8 USC 1222, unless that’s waived by something like the VISA Waiver Program. The language seems pretty clear that “all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview” – those statutory exceptions are listed in section 222 of the INA, but are your basic consular/diplomatic type things. Certainly, they’re not “travel tourists!”
Except, there’s also an Interview Waiver Program, which has been completely scrubbed from the main State Department website, but you can still see (as of 3am Saturday the 28th of January – oh hey, gong xi fa cai) on the State Department’s Indonesian website. They talk about an interview waiver program, which is essentially the VISA Waiver Program, but for countries who are not officially designated VWP countries:
Many Indonesians who wish to renew their visas may qualify for the interview waiver program which allows for visa renewal without an interview. If qualified, applicants only need to pay the visa application fee, fill out the visa application form, print out a Drop-Box Confirmation Letter, and drop off documents at the RPX Document Drop-off Location any weekday between 10am and 3pm. Qualified applicants do not need to appear at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta or the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya for an interview.
Okay, that maybe clears – hang on. The “additional resources” page (see picture) is just redirecting folks to the VWP page. So basically, the IWP is just the VWP (and note that if you can find any US government web page that talks about an interview waiver program separate from the VISA Waiver Program, they refer to it as a IWP; the “VISA” bit isn’t included, perhaps in an effort to eliminate the confusion going on right now.)
Australian and New Zealand newspapers are running with two stories: that this does and does not affect their citizens (as both countries are designated VWP participants). So what does this mean? Does the VWP still exist? Is this VISA Interview Waiver Program different?
I think the answer to all is “…who knows.”
Given that search results still pull up an Interview Waiver Program, and there are still results live on country-specific State Department websites, it seems safe to say that, cloudy and awful language aside, the intent of Section 8 of the horrid human rights fail of an executive order is attempting to stop interview-free travel for trustworthy citizens of non-VWP designated countries. But as we all know, the problem with “intent” is that you can have Intent A and still end up with Effect B; in this instance, I see nothing in Section 8 that says by “ensuring compliance with INA,” they mean “ensuring compliance by nonimmigrants from all countries except VWP participants.” Do you?
Now, add to that and keep in mind that admission into the USA – even if you’re from a VWP-participating country – is completely up to the customs and immigration agent you’re talking to, and their understanding of the law, and you can see why people are freaking out. The executive order is unclear, appears to be smooshing together two separate VISA-waiving programs, and reiterates that all nonimmigrants must have valid VISAs to enter the USA.
So what’s going to happen when someone tries to enter the US with a VWP, now?
I’d like to say business as usual, they’ll be admitted, no problems – but I can’t. All I can say is, if you’re from a VWP-participating country and have plans to visit America, call your consular office first thing Monday morning and see what they say. Follow their advice, ask if they have an updates email service, and check back with them frequently. Make sure your documents are all on the up-and-up for travel, be polite to agents you’re dealing with when entering the USA, and hope that clarification comes sooner rather than later (or that the entire thing is just dropped – the order itself is illegal seven ways to Sunday, not that that’s stopped our tiny-handed kleptocrat).
With thanks to Jeremy Youde for pointing out the second SBS tourism article and helping me think through the issue.
Ah, women. You know how it is: if we’d just tone it down a little, be more respectful, less emotional, less colorful, less pink, then men would take us seriously. If we just didn’t wear that short skirt, if we wore that longer skirt – but not that long a skirt – we wouldn’t be raped. If we just wore enough makeup to not be wearing makeup, if we just were clear about our interests in guys but not so clear to be sluts…
If we just lived under a constant set of rules that are ever-shifting the target, but boil down to the same thing: if we just twisted ourselves into the way men see other men, they’d treat us with respect.
Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak is the latest accuser in this salvo of women-not-doing-it-right: c’mon, ladies, why are you wearing pink cat ear hats to a march? That’s so frivolous! How can you expect anyone to take you seriously like that! You want to be taken seriously, don’t you?
Dvorak’s afraid that pink pussy ears are too fun, too distracting – after all, media took a photo, once, of a mohawk’d family at a climate change protest, and now that’s what we all thing of when we think of climate change. What hockey sticks? Michael who?1I’m being sarcastic, but also serious. Dvorak really did say this about a sociology professor’s experience: “she was in deep on climate change protests, she saw a hard-to-miss family: They all had mohawks, even the kid.And despite the scientists, environmentalists and students trying to make serious points at the protests, all the cameras focused on the mohawk family. Everyone remembered the mohawk family.”
But this is the norm, right? Dvorak’s just reiterating a constant social message about what women need to do and take care of. We have to be careful that women’s bodies and what they do with those bodies don’t distract men from The Important Things. Women should be careful that their actions can’t be misinterpreted, at any time; we wouldn’t want a photographer taking a picture of a few women wearing pink pussy ear hats and think this was just some kind of fun get-together for knitting enthusiasts!
It’s not too many steps over from making sure you dress the right way so men don’t misunderstand your intent in a bar, is it?
Because ultimately, the messaging is being placed on women. It’s not up to men or journalists or historians to make sure they understand the message; nope, women must properly convey their intent and any error in inference is their fault, and no one else.
Possibly the funniest thing about the whole piece, in that sort of “historical revisionism is funny when people try to use the past to guilt us in the present” kind of way, is Dvorak’s insistence that the suffragettes protested properly:
Protests are successful and effective when they have a clear message, a clear mission. That’s part of what made the 1913 march by the suffragettes seeking the right to vote so memorable
Yes. Those suffragettes. They never had any fun in their rallies.
According to an official within the Department of Energy, this past Friday, the President-elect’s team instructed the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration and his deputy to clean out their desks when Trump takes office on January 20th.
Oh. Well. I mean, it’s just the National Nuclear Security Administration. Nothing to see here, they don’t do anything important like maintain national security through the military application of nuclear science. They’re not responsible for the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear explosive testing. They don’t work to reduce the global danger from weapons of mass destruction. They definitely don’t provide the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion or respond to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Thankfully, Defense One has stepped up and gotten someone from the NNSA to deny that Trump’s team has asked both NNSA director Frank Klotz and his deputy, Madelyn Creedon, to step down on Jan 20! Why, not at all. In fact, the official assures us that
There have been no discussions between the president-elect’s transition team and any of NNSA’s political appointees on extending their public service past Jan. 20.
See, here’s the thing. It might sound, on the surface, like Gizmodo and Defense One are saying two separate things, but they’re not. Oh sure, it’s possible that there were no literal marching orders given to Klotz, Creedon, and other appointed staff… but it’s just as likely someone did clarify that they needed to have their desks cleared and goodbyes said by noon, January 20th. See, Klotz, Creedon, and about 3,000 other government employees are appointed. They don’t have to be dismissed; by tradition (and in some cases law), all non-termed political appointees would have submitted their resignations some time after the election, effective immediately on swearing in of a new president.2Actually, it happens every four years, regardless of whether the new president is the incumbent or new, it’s just that it’s often a formality when the president to be sworn in is the incumbent. Now traditionally, what happens is that the sitting president tells all agencies that there is a hiring freeze and gives all appointees their resignation deadline; Obama’s was December 7th. The incoming presidential team then offers extensions to the majority of appointees, because it takes time to appoint and confirm some 850 high level/cabinet members of the government (not to mention the other 2,000+ lower level appointees), and it’s nice to have people around to, you know, run things.
That didn’t happen this time.
Gizmodo is taking it as active malice: Trump’s seeking out and firing people. The NNSA is downplaying this: no, no, they weren’t fired or removed…. it’s just that their service ends January 20th and unlike every other time ever, it’s not being extended, nor is the service of all the appointed folks under them!
It’s the same story, different spin, same result. Functionally speaking, right now, as of noon January 20th, the NNSA won’t have appointed leadership – which means that, as of noon January 20th, NNSA will be hamstrung. As Gizmodo explains, the career civil servants and scientists (that is, people hired rather than appointed) will continue doing their job, but they won’t have an advocate to secure a budget from Congress and they won’t be able to tackle any new directives because:
the legislation authorizing the NNSA specifically prohibits non-NNSA officials from managing NNSA employees—agency staffers are only allowed to take orders from Klotz and Creedon or their (nonexistent) replacements.
Given Trump’s bombastic and erratic statements regarding the US nuclear arsenal, this situation should concern everyone. It is not, as is so commonly said right now, normal.
Thanks to modern society, we’re all Frankenstein’s monster. None of us fit.