Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Phenomenon of "Mommy Myths"

“Mommy myths” is my shorthand for pseudo-scientific notions that seem to be largely passed along and promoted by networks of middle- and upper-class women.  These women tend to be college-educated, mostly progressive in their politics, and moms, as many of these notions relate to child-rearing.  Good examples of the mommy myth phenomenon include fear-mongering about the “danger” of immunizations [long disproven per CDC and other leading authorities] and hysteria about the danger of fluoride, especially fluoridated water [good Aussie government fact-check sheet here.]  

We had our own water fluoridation controversy here in very progressive Portland, Oregon, a few years back.  Opposition to fluoridating Portland water was led by extremely progressive folks who bizarrely asserted that fluoride was “a dangerous chemical,” and who apparently couldn’t understand the difference between therapeutic levels of fluoride and toxic levels of the stuff. [*Note 1]  The fluoride opponents won.  That may have been when my fascination with mommy myths as a phenomenon was born.

What’s particularly interesting is that these notions are accepted at face value, largely uncritically, by women who’ve had ample opportunity to learn how to be discerning consumers of information.  These notions are often supposedly supported by “scientific evidence,” but if you bother to look at the studies being cited, the “evidence” usually boils down to studies that either don’t exist, aren’t reliable, or have been disproven, or simply bizarre claims based on an appallingly idiotic misreading of legitimate scientific studies (see, e.g., fluoride.)  Proponents also often agitate to change public policy based on complete pseudo-science because of “concern for our children,” so their confused and unnecessary policy solutions to non-existent problems end up being foisted off onto the rest of us.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Fed-up Houston mom has a good point, but it’s not the one right-wingers are trumpeting

Bernadette Lancelin’s “epic rant” against the federal government spending billions of dollars to address the so-called “border crisis" is spreading like wildfire across right-wing talk radio and blogosphere.  See Top Right News, Mediaite, The Blaze, Real Clear Politics, Rush Limbaugh, Rush again, Herman Cain on facebook, the CainTV site, Larry Elder … etc.

A local TV reporter solicited Lancelin’s comments as part of a piece on Homeland Security touring a closed neighborhood middle school.  DHS was considering the site for temporary housing for some of the incoming aliens while their refugee petitions are processed.

Here's the video with a transcript of Lancelin's comments.  The reporter’s lead-in provided important context: “[O]ne resident who said her kids have gone without nothing, they have had nothing for years, she says she is furious.”

Top Right News notes that Terrell Middle School “had been closed due to ‘funding issues,’” but doesn't mention that the "issues" and closure happened in 2001, in the first year of the Bush presidency, after several years of his governorship. 

Herman Cain’s spin on his radio show this morning belongs in the “Are you frigging kiddin’ me?!?” Hall of Fame.  Here's how he phrased it on Facebook: 

“Bernadette Lancelin is sick of watching money go to illegals while American families struggle in poverty.  Like I always say, black voters who support Dems need to wake up and realize they're being played by this President and his party...”  

Really? I’d say it’s you, Mr. Cain, who’s attempting to play black voters (and anyone else who will listen.)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Another day, another Rush Limbaugh conspiracy theory to debunk

Rush Limbaugh spent the day terribly out of sorts that Costco had pulled Dinesh D’Souza’s latest book from its shelves.  Costco indicated that it had been pulled for business reasons - they’d only sold 3,600 copies of the book since its release on June 2, so it simply wasn’t selling briskly enough to keep in stock.  Rush Limbaugh smelled a liberal conspiracy afoot, noting that Jim Sinegal is a huge Obama supporter.  [A clarification: Costco cofounders Jim Sinegal and Jeff Brotman have both been huge Democratic donors for years.]

Um, if Jim Sinegal and Jeff Brotman had a political vendetta against Dinesh D'Souza, they could've just sent down a decree that the stores wouldn't stock ANY of his books to start with.  Even better, they would have banished ALL books published by Regnery – that gets rid of D’Souza and the vast majority of other conservative authors.  Sort of seems like that would be the easiest way to accomplish their supposed nefarious goal of suppressing conservative speech.

Let’s review the numbers: Costco reported 3,600 unit sales since the book's release in their 469 stores nationwide - that's about 7 units sold PER STORE over 5 ½ weeks, and about 1.5 units sold per store in the course of last week.  That's pathetic.  It's not in line with Costco's high volume, low price & low profit margin business model.  Of course they pulled it for business reasons.  By contrast, I wonder how many thousand tomes Costco’s sold that were authored by Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Sarah Palin, and on and on.  I bet it’s very big number 

Hobby Lobby affects far more than “just four out of 16 contraceptive methods”

A protester in New York City / Womens eNews, CC BY 2.0

Some pundits make too much of the fact that Hobby Lobby owners “only” objected to “a mere four contraceptive methods out of 20” or “just IUDs and morning after pills.”  They cite this fact to support the notion that "the Liberals" are hysterical, fear-mongering, or at the very least, overstating things when it come's to the Supreme Court's decision.  See Matthew Dowd on “This Week” on Sunday, The National Review (“Hobby Lobby Actually Lavishes Contraception Coverage,”) The Weekly Standard (“Hobby Lobby Hysteria,”) and others herehere, and here.

Those folks missed something important: Hobby Lobby wasn't the Court’s only material action related to the Affordable Care Act contraceptive mandate last week. 

The day after issuing the Hobby Lobby decision, the Supreme Court issued a series of summary dispositions in six other cases, ALL of which involved employer and/or corporate objections to ANY form of contraception.  The Court first vacated three decisions where lower courts held these owners/corporations did not have a valid RFRA claim, and directed those courts to reconsider Autocam, Eden Foods, and Gilardi in light of Hobby Lobby.  It then denied cert (refused to review appeals courts’ decisions) in three other cases where lower courts held the owners and/or corporations had valid RFRA claims [Government’s appeals of Gilardi, Newland, and Korte.]