Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Just What Good Are Experts? Why Are We Allowing Them To Ruin Us?

The chitter-chatter that's been swirling around Solicitor General Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court is beginning to settle on this line of argument: she hasn't served on any other court.

My first reaction was, "So what?" It's not as if she is a retired squeegie man seeking entry to the nation's highest court. She's got plenty of creds.

This faux argument posed by the right wing, and in other contexts embraced by the center and left, is that only the most advanced experts can lead us. But, clearly the experts are leading us down dark and dangerous roads all over the place, whether the road to financial ruin, environmental blow-outs, safety, religion, hapless military strategies, or simple budget balancing on local, state and national levels.

What good are the experts? Really?

Did they govern the banking and finance industry properly? Greenspan, Bernanke, Paulson and Geitner appear to be either corrupt or incompetent. Listen to them closely for 10 minutes at a Congressional hearing and they sound like very well-spoken carnival barkers.

Are the experts guarding the environment? EPA Secretary Lisa Jackson is at best a mixed bag, tackling greenhouse gases on one hand but issuing an unprecedented number of mountain top removal permits for mining on the other. Her predecessor was indeed corrupt and incompetent. “The Bush Administration is moving forward with a clear national solution, not a confusing patchwork of state rules. I believe this is a better approach than if individual states were to act alone,” said Stephen Johnson, one of a handful of Bushy EPA directors. Anyone see any national standards?

How's the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) working out for the miners out there?

Joe Main, director of MSHA, said yesterday that his agency has had the power to seek federal injunctions for years, but has never tried to use it. "I can't speak for past administrations," Main said during the Senate's first hearing on the accident that killed 29 men. "We're going to use it." Well, Mr. Main, the Obama Administration is 15 months old now. It took 29 men dying before you thought it was a keen idea to use your injunction powers? After reading over Massey Energy's past safety record, a person with a GED would have been able to see an injunction was in order.

And Brownie? Hey... job well done. If you were intent on helping sustain the slough that New Orleans and the Gulf states descended into after Katrina. As a friend of this blog and a great aficionado of the great cultural gumbo of the Big Easy wrote to me last week as the oil slick came closer: "Just got back from New Orleans. God awful... those poor people have had just about all they can take. I ate three dozen oysters because there ain't gonna be anymore down there for a long long time."

As to our wars - some of the longest in our history - even leaving aside the failure or distortion of intelligence that drove us into them, how is it that a country that was preeminent in the defeat of Nazi Germany and hyper-militaristic Japan in less than four years can't seem to figure out how to corral and pacify two small, backward countries?

It's easy enough currently to bash the Pope over the child abuse scandal. It's much more important to condemn the morally bankrupt system that allowed countless priests to be saved from their just desserts, whether that was to be institutional expulsion or criminal prosecution. In the Middle Ages, during the scourge of the Black Death, thousands of priests shirked their duty in ministering to the sick and dying. One of the direct results of those failures was the Reformation. The Catholic Church - many other churches large and small, as well - are in sore need of reform. It seems that a sick obsession with sexual matters and reproduction has taken hold everywhere. Where are the true spiritual "experts," the ones who feed the hungry, succor the suffering, aid the sick, comfort the mourners? Where is a meek or humble priest, and where is his superior?

Finally, how difficult is it to take a budget and put it into a semblance of balance? Sure, it's OK to borrow modest amounts to shore up short term gaps, but when 90% of all governing entities find themselves in calamitous deficits, one can only look to the keepers of the keys and denounce them.

Experts? Failures up and down. Liars many the time. Men and women engaged in the most self-indulgently corrupt behavior - abandoning intellectual and spiritual rigor for the path of least resistance.

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