It was only a matter of time before the Right Wing smear machine set its sites on Obama's nominee for Director of OSHA, Dr. David Michaels. And now that time has come. David is a friend and colleague and his name is not a stranger here (and here, here, here and probably other posts as well). His name comes up not because he's my friend but because of his contributions to public health. His PhD is in occupational epidemiology and he's made important contributions in the area of popcorn workers lung (despite the humorous name, it is a deadly disease) and beryllium poisoning. He knows government well, having served as Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Health at the Department of Energy in the Clinton years, and he has written a highly praised book, Doubt is their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health (one of Library Journal's top 10 sci-tech books of 2008 and an Honorable Mention in the Society for Environmental Journalism's 2009 Awards for Reporting on the Environment for the category Rachel Carson Environment Book Award). Not good enough for you? In 2006 David got the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award and shortly Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society will give him the John P. McGovern Science and Society Award. Still not good enough for you?
The right wing hates him. That should be all you need to know. But if you are a glutton for punishment, here is some of the garbage they are peddling:
1.Michaels will take away workers’s guns. There have been multiple blog posts claiming he is going to OSHA to take away the right of Americans to bring guns to work. Here are a few:
NB: OSHA has no jurisdiction over guns in the workplace and he has never worked on it as an issue (I believe he once wrote a blog post on it). In any event, the claim is pure delusion.
2.Michaels is behind the “anti-Bisphenol A scare”.
Like me, David has written about BPA and the close relation between funders of research and its outcomes. It's an issue he hasn't taken scientific sides on.
3.He’s funded by George Soros
The Open Society Institute, along with others, has supported a project he worked on examining the role of scientists in civil society. You can read about it here.
4.He peddles “Junk Science”
He is a target of lawyer "Junkman" Steve Milloy, a notorious right wing defender of the chemical and tobacco industry and climate change denier.
David nailed him in his book, exposing Milloy's usual tactic of accusing a scientist whose results are inconvenient for one of his clients as a "junk scientist."
None of that crap is about OSHA or the workers who will be killed in trench cave-ins or scaffold falls or health care workers unprotected from pathogens (including flu) in the hospital. It's just more cynical smear attacks, but this time it has potentially deadly consequences. It is a Very Big Deal, not just for public health but for the health of working men and women in this country. David has been my friend and colleague for many years. Much more importantly, he is a friend and colleague of workers and their progressive advocates everywhere.
I have high hopes that OSHA will be able to stop the use of antibiotics in animal feed as a danger to farm workers due to development of resistant pathogens and continued exposure of farm workers to those resistant pathogens.
I don't think it matters who heads OSHA, its just a front that pretends to regulate. I've had repeated viewings of the carnival that OSHA really is, a toothless lion that wants to be tamed.
It just goes to show how out of control the ideologues on both (yes both) sides have gotten. I agree it makes no matter who runs the shop--as long as they have the credentials to do so. If I had any say in the manner, I would require that certain agencies like CDC, NIH, OSHA, FDA, FAA CIA be run by career and not political appointments--that way things would get done without all the political hog wash.
Rob: OSHA has been toothless for many years. But it wasn't always toothless. Many lives have been saved by OSHA regs (consider the asbestos regs). It really does matter who runs OSHA. OSHA under Eula Bingham was a different matter. Where you around then?
I have high regards for David Michaels. I came across his book recently; I'd rate it as probably one of the most important books I've read - informative and insightful discourse on some of the most intractible issues of our time. Especially on how big industry has monopolized the 'right' to pollute our environment and our bodies, and how big money buys big lawyers who can nickel and dime scientists to death in the court room.
Alas, such attacks are to be expected, just a reflection of the importance of his work. I wish him every success.
I think this is an effective way to deal with bullies:(And fun, too!")
It just goes to show how out of control the ideologues on both (yes both) sides have gotten.
There are crazed ideologues on the left, obviously. The difference is their level of influence. If Bob Avakian were on the Rolodex of every cable news programmer, and any Dem politician who dared to criticize PETA were forced to issue a public self-criticism, and Dem congressional leaders routinely attended pancake breakfasts held by Earth First!, and Ward Churchill had a radio show so popular that Nancy Pelosi couldn't refer to it slightingly without being forced to apologize, the situation might be roughly equivalent...provided the left-wing base were also heavily armed, and believed that it took its marching orders directly from God.
The specific accusations these people making against Michaels are ones that tend to justify violence, in their circles. Which is no surprise, because the claims they're making against pretty much everyone, these days, are ones that justify violence; they need enemies to match their anger.
The conservative leadership seems to think it can control these people, and go on using them as a pro-corporate goon squad indefinitely. I think they're making a serious miscalculation, and that it's going to (continue to) get people killed. It's ridiculous and sad that we should have to fear for the safety of the head of OSHA. But once you've been characterized, rightly or wrongly, as a "gun grabber," there's a frightening number of people in this country who'll consider you fair game for harassment or worse. The "potentially deadly consequences" of this rhetoric are not limited to coal miners.
David Michaels is a great guy and I am sorry (but not surprised) to hear about these attacks on him.
Milloy is scum.
Sorry this is off topic, but promedmail reported today that swine flu-infected individuals can be contagious for up to 8 days. Would this increase not have some ramifications for rates of infection, and transmissibility and such?
melbren: I read about the work but haven't seen the data or methods. It sounds like they demonstrated viral shedding (exactly how is important). The question of actual ability to transmit is probably still open. Prolonged viral shedding has been known for seasonal viruses, especially children, so this isn't a huge surprise. But in later stages the viral load is usually much less. Then the question is not whether a person is theoretically contagious, but whether any except the very rare ones are truly able to transmit. These are all observations that will need to be looked in to and it will take some time -- maybe even years -- before we get a good handle on a lot of the important stuff. That's about all I can say from what I know.