Where I Disagree with Orac About OHRP

First, before I make too much of the differences between, I agree with Orac that the decision by the OHRP to curtail an excellent healthcare intervention that could prevent thousands of deadly hospital-acquired infections annually is murderously stupid. Like Orac, I have had a couple of ridiculous experiences with human subjects research review boards.

The most ridiculous case involved a study of human Escherichia coli. To get E. coli, erm, fresh from the source, the procedure involves poking your own feces with a sterile swab as they exit your posterior. There are legitimate human subjects concerns with this kind of study, but colleagues and I ran into trouble because one IRB member was concerned about “awakening latent anal fetishes.”
I’m not clever enough to make that up; it really happened. So I’m no big fan of a lot of silliness surrounding human subjects research. But what Orac objected to was this part of my post:

I swear, during the Bush Administration, we are either governed by crazed ideologues or complete fucking morons.

Do I think that Bush or Cheney (or their minions) sit around thinking about how to kill effective public health interventions? Of course not (really). But a bit of context is in order. Since the Reagan era, one of the Republican core issues has been opposition to government regulation and bureaucracy, often referred to as “the Nanny State.” In recent years, that has been supplemented with Fear of Teh Gay and “Subject, Verb, 9/11” (Giuliani is just more clumsy about it than most Republicans), but anti-regulation and anti-bureaucracy policy have to be viewed as a core issue of the Republican Party, in much the same way that “protecting Social Security” is a core issue for Democrats (hell, that’s the only thing Democrats don’t suck at these days).
Speaking of Social Security, imagine if, during a Democratic administration, some bureaucrat implemented some rule that caused thousands and thousands of people to lose their Social Security. Can you imagine the pandimensional shitstorm that would ensue? Not only would that administration be accused of incompetence (and rightfully so), but many on the right would argue that this is why Social Security is a socialist failure (along with calls to privatize our strategic nuclear forces. Kidding. Maybe). Right or wrong, protecting Social Security is why you elect Democrats, and if this were to happen, charges of gross incompetence would be completely appropriate.
But when, during a Republican administration, a government bureaucrat squashes life saving programs… not a goddamn peep. What’s the point of having radical anti-regulation ideologues running things if they don’t intervene here? Granted there’s that long-standing Bush administration policy of non-interference in science administrations…. [sputter]
Look, if the Bush Administration steps up and fixes this, full credit to them, but given their track record so far, I think counting on incompetence is the way to go.

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