Monday Smackdown: Two Things from the Brookings Institution That Indicate a Grave Lack of Quality Control

Why am I not surprised to find the execrable Michael O'Hanlon calling for false balance on vaccination?

Michael O'Hanlon: Vaccines, autism and nervous patients: "Last week the issue of autism and vaccinations has come back into the public limelight... the context of the GOP presidential debate. This issue is so incredibly controversial that I feel the need, as a parent of a child on the autism spectrum but not a scientist in the field of biology or medicine, to say up front and unambiguously that I support vaccinations. I know there is no reason to believe that vaccines are a cause of autism and a good deal of empirical, statistical research to say they are not.... It would be highly dangerous to public health for the alternative interpretation to gain currency. And my wife and I still do vaccinate our children.

But... the angry dismissiveness with which many in the public health care arena address the concern of some parents--that vaccines may have contributed to their children’s autism--bothers me. I know what motivates most of them--the very real worry that many lives could be lost if many parents choose to avoid vaccinations for their children out of a misguided concern that the vaccines might cause or contribute to autism. That is a real worry--diseases could spread. But it’s also understandable that parents would not want their children to suffer from a vaccine...

And then there is Elaine Kamarck. A little background: the past forty years have seen relatively powerful Speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives: Tip O'Neill, Jim Wright, Tom Foley, Newt Gingrich, Dennis Hastert, and Nancy Pelosi all successfully managed a fractious House of Representatives to significantly advance their own legislative priorities and shape the future of America. Then comes John Boehner. At first it seems John Boehner was a used-car salesman speaker--reaching a deal with Obama, and then saying: "But now we have to sell this to my caucus. What more can we offer them?" Then it seemed as though John Boehner had no power, and was simply an empty suit. Six strong and moderately strong Speakers followed by a hot mess. And what does Elaine Kamarck say? This:

Elaine Kamarck: Primaries, Parties, Privacy, and Pork: "Boehner became Speaker at a point in time when four different reform ideas--all enacted with the best of intentions...

...interacted in ways that made his job impossible. These are structural and will impede the job of the next Speaker as well.... Primaries to nominate the members of the legislative branch.... Political parties [are] bit players in a world where billionaires put enormous amounts of money into elections and especially primaries.... Well-intentioned reforms have been enacted to make the ‘sausage making’ of democracy easily visible.... Federal funds for things that members of Congress wanted in their districts... served an important purpose....

The four Ps--primaries, parties, privacy and pork--combine to make it nearly impossible for a modern Speaker of a fractious party to govern. Their impact will affect Democrats as well as Republicans.... The majority [needs to be protected] from being held hostage by a minority of the majority, as the Tea Party has done to the Republican Party for some time now.

One waits... and waits... and waits... and waits for some analysis of why these deep structural problems afflict both parties equally, are dire today, and yet did not manifest themselves before the 112th Congress. It is the first question someone encountering Kamarck's thesis would ask. Yet it is unanswered.

Shape up, guys!