June 03, 2007
San Diego Bound

I'll be heading out to San Diego soon on business; one of the few major metropolitan areas of the country I've yet to visit. Do any of my faithful (or, for that matter, unfaithful) readers have any suggestions on restaurants or sights I should check out while I'm there?


Posted by at 12:58 AM in the following Department(s): | Comments (0)
 June 20, 2007
The Blank Slate

Hi, all.

Been sick. So's the family. Haven't posted. Or replied to e-mail. Even more so than usual. Bleh.

Today featured some of the most beautiful weather in our neighborhood in many, many months. I didn't go out. Stayed at home and suffered from what Alexander called "The Throw-ups". He's so cute.

More posts coming soon, though, I promise. Had a chance to read a newspaper recently, and it got me to thinking....

Posted by at 09:26 PM in the following Department(s): | Comments (0)
 June 29, 2007
Victim Does Not Equal Expert

As I mentioned in my previous post, I suffered a bit of downtime last week with a gastrointestinal bug that, well... let's just say it forced much more stuff out of my system than it was allowing in. I lost four pounds in the course of one day, and I'm still not fully recovered.

(That said, I've tightened my belt a notch and haven't had to let it back out again in the week since this all happened. Even this nasty cloud had a silver lining.)

Does the fact that I was a victim of a GI virus qualify me as an expert on GI infections? Seriously. Does my experience now make me an expert on maladies of the gastrointestinal tract? The mere fact that I know it's a GI issue instead of the flu (did you know that nausea is not a symptom of the flu?) certainly must count for something, right? The fact that I listen to a science/medicine podcast only adds to my knowledge of such matters. Combine that with my first hand experience, and I'm an expert... right?


You wouldn't consult with me regarding matters of GI infections? You wouldn't trust me to advise public policy on the treatment of GI viruses?

Of course you wouldn't. Being a victim doesn't qualify me as an expert. Having seen the virus attack both of my sons before it hit me also doesn't make me an expert. I don't even qualify as an expert on how my body reacts to that kind of a virus; I'm only an expert on how *I think* my body *reacted*.

A close relative of mine got into a nasty car accident a few years ago and was killed. Does that make me an expert on automobile safety? The fact that I'm now well read on statistics regarding auto fatalities... am I now competent to advise public policy on highway design or automobile design or DUI laws? Well, perhaps more so than your average bear, but certainly less so than a qualified expert -- for example, someone with a degree and a career in mechanical engineering or physics or civil engineering or, for that matter, law or public policy.

While I was out of town recently, I was annoyed to see this headline in my complimentary nation-wide newspaper: Families skeptical of Va. Tech panel. The lead paragraph read:

Relatives of Virginia Tech University shooting victims challenged the credibility of a state panel investigating the massacre on Monday, demanding that a family representative be appointed to join the eight-member committee.
According to the article, the mother of one of the shooting victims has said that if the victims' families are not represented on the committee, the panel could reach conclusions "that may not be accurate."

The author of the USA Today article, Kevin Johnson, notes that a spokesman for Virginia Governor Tim Kaine said that each of the members of the panel were appointed for their special expertise... and he put the words "special expertise" in quotes. As if there's something dubious about their qualifications, or something suspect about being an expert.

The purpose of the panel, as the governor's spokesman is quoted, is to (and I'm quoting the article again here) "help determine what went wrong and how to prevent a future tragedy."

So, then: how does being the family member of a shooting victim qualify one to be an expert in the prevention of similar tragedies? How are they competent to help determine what went wrong? What qualifications do the family members have that will help them to make sure the committee doesn't reach conclusions "that may not be accurate?"

Please don't get me wrong. My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones in this tragedy. To whatever extent our society can reasonably move to prevent future incidents like this, however, I'm going to have to put more faith in the counsel of individuals with "special expertise" than in individuals whose primary qualification is that they've been harmed.

By all means, let the families of victims consult on the best way to memorialize their loved ones. But do not allow sympathy for the victim's families to cloud better judgment when it comes to improving public safety.

Posted by at 08:26 AM in the following Department(s): Essays | Comments (3)

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