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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Simonson Says?

I'm starting to get scared now.

Michael Brown, former head of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, was appointed to the job by President George Walker Bush, though he was desperately unqualified. Harriet Miers, Mr. Bush's personal lawyer, has been nominated by Mr. Bush to sit on the Supreme Court, though she has never been a judge. Now I find out that another appointee, Stewart Simonson (Bush's go-to man on "matters related to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies") is woefully untrained for his job as Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness.

Mr. Simonson is a lawyer in charge of our nation's medical response program. Nothing against lawyers, honest, but shouldn't someone a bit more familiar with public health administration be in charge of our public health administration?

It turns out that Mr. Simonson was Tommy Thompson's staff lawyer when Mr. Thompson was Governor of Wisconsin. After his term as governor, Mr. Thompson moved on to serve as the Board Chairman of Amtrak, bringing Mr. Simonson along for the ride. Mr. Bush named Mr. Thompson head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and in turn Mr. Thompson brought Mr. Simonson along. source Mr. Simonson was called in front of a House Committee last July, where he told the committee that his agency had ample money to buy flu vaccines and anti-viral medication. Everyone left the meeting happy. The next day, Mr. Simonson's agency requested $150 million from Congress to cover, you guessed it, flu vaccines and anti-viral medication.

I just read somewhere on the Internet (I lost the link, unfortunately) that Mr. Simonson's predecessor in the job feels that Mr. Simonson is making poor decisions. It seems that the man who had the job before Mr. Simonson was actually a doctor, and was trained and had experience in public health and emergency preparedness until Mr. Thompson ousted him in favor of Mr. Simonson. It seems a pity, what with avian flu on the horizon. Not to be an alarmist, but World Health Organization officials have repeatedly told us over the past few years that avian flu is a very real threat, and that it will kill between five million people and 250 million people.

Try to conceive of 250 million casualties. Now think, does the United States have it's best doctors and scientists on the case? Well, no... but we have a really smart lawyer running things.

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