matters outside my area of expertise

Two weeks ago, I had the chance to testify before a Congressional subcommittee.  It was quite exciting, even though the room was more than half empty, and only four of the members of Congress were present.  The whole thing was a little surreal, though, because the witness invited by the Republicans used all his time to argue that the biggest challenge facing American families is high energy costs, and so that we should expand domestic production of oil (in ANWR and offshore).  The ranking member therefore asked each of testifying whether we’d support expanding domestic production.

While those of you read this regularly can probably guess what I personally think of that, my organization certainly doesn’t have a position on the matter.  So when it was my turn, I responded that I would decline to offer a position on an subject outside my area of expertise.  Representative Davis then commented that I had disqualified myself from ever running for Congress, as having opinions on topics that you know nothing about is an absolute prerequisite for members of Congress.

This week has certainly proved the truth of that observation.  I haven’t been blogging about the bailout because I don’t know what the right thing to do is, and I wish I had any confidence that anyone else really does.  I’m afraid that they’re all making it up as they go along, and we’re going to be left holding the bag at the end.

While I recognize the symbolic appeal of limiting executive pay, I think I’d actually rather see the banks commit to opening no fee bank accounts — tied to debt cards, but programmed not to allow overdrafts — for everyone in the country.

This made me laugh.  (No video, safe for work).

7 Responses to “matters outside my area of expertise”

  1. bj Says:

    Funny, in a dark comedy sort of way.
    “So when it was my turn, I responded that I would decline to offer a position on an subject outside my area of expertise.”
    Of course, this was the right decision, the congressman’s joke aside, because you weren’t there as a congressman or a voter, who had to make a decision. You were there as an expert, and as an expert, one needs to know what one’s sphere of expertise is, and decline to answer questions outside of it.
    The problem (for congressman, and voters), though, is that there are lots and lots of decisions we need to make in this world where the question are outside our area of expertise. Making those decisions depends on us having experts we can trust. And one of the most distressing things about this administration is that they have systematically undermined my trust of their expertise. It started with the Iraq war, continued through the various regulatory debacles, until we have this. The complex financial markets are outside of my area of expertise, and I *don’t* think my gut instincts are the ones that will get us to the best solution (any more than I would for the best way to dispose of nuclear waste, or how to run a war in the middle east). But, I also don’t trust this administration at all. I don’t trust them to be qualified, or to be looking out for all of America’s best interests, or to be making unbiased decisions.

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  3. Angry Pregnant Lawyer Says:

    *sigh* I am going to miss Davis. I mean, you probably know enough about me to know that he’s not with “my party,” but I think he’s a good guy, with integrity (I hope not to be proved wrong down the line).

  4. amy Says:

    Elizabeth, that was a beautiful presentation. I hope you were immortalized on C-SPAN.
    I’m particularly glad that you mentioned the network of imaginary friends and family who have nothing to do but pitch in when you need amateur nursing, childcare, etc. I took my daughter’s assistant principal to task on this one recently, when he suggested — thoughtlessly, innocently — that I rely on “friends” for my daughter’s after-school care or transportation. I’ve long noticed that doctors and school people are anxious to invent these wealthy, idle, reliable, everloving friends for me. While I was chronically ill, the doctors also liked to invent extra hours in my day for various therapies.
    Imaginary friend syndrome came up in spades last summer, when my daughter’s daycare had a lice epidemic. Obviously, I can’t check my own head for lice. The best I can do is comb thoroughly by feel. I could not find a nurse anywhere willing to do headchecks, and you know, it’s not the sort of thing you ask a friend to do regularly. I finally relied on the daycare guy and my comb. The last treatment I did was with a madly overpriced high-salt-concentration gel that warned repeatedly on the box that you can’t treat yourself. This was so demoralizing, after weeks of lice, that I got in touch with their PR person and said, “Hey, there are lots of people out here who have no choice, how about offering more constructive advice? I mean obviously it’s not ideal, but you can treat yourself, I’ve done it.” She wouldn’t budge; she, too, wanted to invent networks of nit-picking friends and family.
    Finally, I hope at some point you’ll address the obstinacy of public services when caregivers attempt to organize private solutions to cover holes in service. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen that sort of turf-protecting, but I’m going through it again now as I try to organize parents and arrange private after-school bus service to daycare and activities. The school can’t provide adequate after-school-care slots, and the district won’t bus kids who live within two miles of the school. We’ve got parents who tell their 8, 9, 10-year-old kids to walk home unsupervised and mind the little ones till they get off work. But even questions about the legality of having a private bus service pick up is getting defensiveness from the administrators, and reasons why it can’t, won’t, would never work. Nor are they anxious to facilitate communication among parents who can’t get their kids after-school care or transportation to after-school programs. I think the hope is that we’ll suck it up, struggle by quietly, and do nothing to embarrass them.
    Again, congratulations on the testimony.

  5. liz Says:

    You just ROCK. That’s all.

  6. dave.s. Says:

    Amy, we’ve had lice twice. Both times my sons were real gems about it and let us cut their hair very short, which made the nit search much easier. There seems to be help on the way: some bird lice researchers at University of Utah found it very hard to keep their louse colonies going (!!) and that heat and dryness were the problem. They’ve tested, and gotten good results with, warm (not very hot) air, blown over children’s heads for a long period. They’re now in development on a device to do this, to make their fortunes, but their publications said that you could get nearly as good a result with a hair dryer. http://www.unews.utah.edu/p/?r=101906-9 They advise against hair dryer (‘do not try this at home’) but we used one at the lowest setting, in conjunction with store treatment, and the critters went away.

  7. amy Says:

    dave, my daycare guy recommends hairdryers too. I hear they work reasonably well (so long as your kid doesn’t run away from hairdryers). I just went all Giuliani with the comb. Eventually, if you’re persistant, you’ll get those suckers out. The chemicals also helped. But I’ve come away with some respect for the louse. Find it curious too that they’re not bigger disease vectors.
    Elizabeth, I’ve been thinking more about imaginary friend syndrome, and recalling that I saw it all the time in the land of social services, and that really it’s used in the most cynical way there. The idea is that struggling people of whatever variety will help each other in support groups. The problem, of course, is that these people are tapped out by their own circumstances or close to it. So you get variously desperate people wandering into these groups — encouraged to go there by therapists or doctors or public-health or school people, who tell each other in meetings how valuable these support resources are — and they fall into one of three categories:
    1. People who are too needy or too OK to show up regularly — they come once or twice and vanish
    2. Regulars who are there, on balance, to take
    3. Newcomers who will, naively, give more of themselves than they can afford. (What can they afford to give? Nothing.)
    Group 3 people eventually fall into two subcategories:
    a. Those who eventually discover they’re covered in leeches, are horrified, scrape off the leeches and run;
    b. Those who find they’re good at leech and leech-nutrition management and derive some power and satisfaction from the work, and eventually become employed within the social services industry.
    The pernicious part is how seldom you’ll hear group 3b tell 3a to stop. Stop giving, go away, use that energy to help themselves and go make a better life away from all these nudniks. Why? Because the construct is genuinely, fatuously socialist. To each according to his needs, from each according to his abilities. 3b milks 3a for all they’re worth. The reward for 3a is pats on the head and a kind of unpaid lieutenant status within social services. Until, of course, they run.
    When they do run, it’s a shame, but a further assumption is that there’s such a high rate of miserable-people flow that you can always make up for the losses in groups 1 and 3a. Which is true. There’s always another Boxer who’ll come knock himself out for your windmill.
    On the “rich and happy imaginary friend” side, there’s another ugliness routinely overlooked, which is that rich people generally have no idea what poor people go through, and don’t want to know. Frankly, I mind that less than being set up as a feeding grounds for other people, but it’s still not helpful. Your rich friend isn’t going to understand why it’s crucial that you get to work on time, or why you have to keep staying up so late, or why you can’t just hire a maid service. They just don’t feel it and never will. Those rich people who come from poverty will be helpful initially, if you look promising, but will not help you endlessly, because they’re well acquainted with group 3a above. They’ll give you good advice, but aren’t much themselves for sinking time or money into ratholes, which is why they’re no longer poor. The only exception will be for those who are old, physically helpless, enterprising-but-still-sinking-under-burdens, and — on the whole — grateful. Not entitled, not resentful; grateful, and, when it comes down to it, keeping accounts. They already gave or will give back, somehow, so they’re not in the red.

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