“Government is the word we use for the things we choose to do together”*

*for certain values of the words “we”, “choose”, and “together”.

The words in the quote that comprises the title of this post were said by Barney Frank and, with the caveats in my footnote and apparently unlike Heather Wilhelm, I agree with it.

But those are substantial caveats. For example, when a law is enacted by the votes of one half plus one of the members of the House, many of whom were elected by narrow majorities of the 30% of the eligible voters who actually voted, I don’t think there’s a meaningful “we” to speak of, particularly if those who voted “aye” by and large hailed from large cities within eyeshot of the ocean. Silence may signify assent legally but it doesn’t imply agreement, support, or commitment. When the president veers away from the requirements of the law in a desperate attempt at getting something done despite the objections of a recalcitrant Congress that further dilutes any idea of “we”.

When most of my neighbors and I turn out to shovel our front steps, sidewalks, and street and those of our elderly neighbors following a big now, that’s something we choose to do together. It makes us feel good about ourselves and about each other. We have cleared walks and street. It’s something we choose to do together. If we were to break into the homes of those who didn’t turn out with us, drag them from their beds, and put shovels in their hands, shovelling would no longer be something we chose to do together. It would be something that some of us chose and which was imposed on others.

Or if we hired a snowplow (something the neighborhood association does, indeed, do) to plow our streets it might be practical but it wouldn’t be something we chose to do together. It would be something we chose to have done together.

There’s more consensus among the people on my block than in my neighborhood, more consensus in my neighborhood than in my ward, more consensus in my ward than in the city, in the city than in the state, and in the state than in the country. IMO that increasingly attenuated consensus confers decreasing legitimacy. Once upon a time we generally felt that the federal government should leave most things other than the common currency, the military, and foreign policy to the states. That was a recognition of the decreasing legitimacy, support, and commitment that decreasing consensus and distance bring. That practice is no more.

46 comments… add one

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    *for certain values of the words “we”, “choose”, and “together”.

    Reminds me of one of my fellow students in grad school, who was found of telling her students, “One plus one equals TWO, even for arbitrarily large values of one!” It left her students suitably confused and the other grad students laughed, so mission accomplished.

  • Yes, I spent too many hours in math classes.

  • ...

    Yes, I spent too many hours in math classes.

    Is that possible?

  • ...

    Somewhere I once heard mathematics defined as the study of words with precise meanings. As distinguished from, for example, philosophy. It’s a fine definition, actually, as anyone that has even glanced through Whitehead and Russell’s Principia Mathematica would come to appreciate.

  • PD Shaw

    I’ve been reading “The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788–1800,” which is a voluminous account of the Federalist project. It provides a pretty good background on how our government was supposed to function, and clues as to why things don’t.

    For example, the Senate is supposed to jointly appoint executive officers, since this is “an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to preventing the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from
    family connection, from personal attachment, or from a
    view to popularity.” (Federalist No. 76)

    IOW, the executive is to consist of “First Characters,” men of uncompromised virtue and record of public service, whose service would be a credit to the government. While there is some sense that Senators may be a resource to locate such men in parts of the country the President may lack familiarity, state-balancing is not a goal. And by no means would a high official be selected for something as low as party-affiliation; there were no parties, and the notion of opposition to the government was scandalous.

    The reputation of federal government is an ever-present concern; without the confidence of the people, the federal government will fail. The Federalist work together and don’t concern themselves too much with separation of powers: a Chief Justice goes on an important diplomatic mission because he is the best character for the job, and the House Speaker helps write the President’s State of the Union addresses for the same reason. Frequent consultation btw/ executive and legislative, and with members of the cabinet, avoiding embarrassment of disunity. Do not take on a task that might put the government in a bad light if it doesn’t succeed.

    The rise of parties changed the dynamic. There are no “first characters” in the executive branch, and Presidents insist on the privilege of appointing people they trust personally, not people in the public’s confidence. The branches do not work in consultation and conformity, but guard their powers as a bargaining chip. Still, the rules of government today still assume the Federalist vision of how government should function, and extensive departure from that vision dictates the outcome: gridlock and loss of federal power.

  • jan

    “There’s more consensus among the people on my block than in my neighborhood, ….”

    When you have smaller groups of people problem-solving together, there are higher odds that some kind of compromise will be reached representing pieces of most people’s input. As that circle broadens, though, and you add legal entities and their legalese, discussion points become torqued and the people’s interests oftentimes are left behind in lieu of merely winning the consensus POV. That’s where “force” enters the picture, giving those who have legally won the contest of ideas the feeling they then have the right to tell everyone else to fall into line and shut up.

    “It makes us feel good about ourselves and about each other. “

    Force, IMO, doesn’t produce a warm ‘feel good’ environment between people. Rather, it gives some a sense of superiority, of having powerful authority over others, which is the antithesis of congenially, cooperatively working together to achieve a similar purpose. The “I won” attitude has been the predominate atmosphere prevailing in DC, from the very beginning of the present administration, which, IMO is at the root of today’s polarization producing little but harsh feelings.

  • ...

    Consensus is more likely closer to home, but is no guarantee. My last two interactions with my next door neighbor both ended up with calls to the police!

  • ...

    PD, that sounds like the “Top Men!” Theory of government.

    And did they really envision the federal government working that way, or is that just how they sold it to the rubes? If so, the is the second time today I’ve heard that basic idea expressed.

  • Andy

    PD,

    That’s interesting, I might have to give that a read. I’m not so sure about your last sentence though – I don’t see any “loss of federal power” but there is certainly a huge loss is respect and moral authority.

    Also, I wonder who Rep. Frank would include in his use of “we.”

  • michael reynolds

    I do not suffer from this geographical preference you describe. I don’t know my neighbors, nor do I want to. I have no interest in Tiburon government. I’m not even sure there is such a thing as a Marin County government. I have slightly more interest in the State of California, but generally care a great deal more about the federal government.

    As for leaving things to the states. Really? Seriously? They would still be blowing up black churches in Mississippi and Lake Erie would still be flammable if we left things to the states. The State of Georgia just decided it’d be a swell idea if the yokels carried guns into bars. How do you live through the sixties and conclude that state and local is the way to go?

    The states are anachronisms. If this was a company instead of a country we’d have long since consolidated a dozen states and broken up some others. I’m not suggesting tearing up the Constitution, we’re stuck with this stupid system, but stupid it is. We have massive over-representation of rustics and a corresponding lack of representation of people who live in states where there are more people than cows.

  • Andy

    Michael,

    Strange you have no interest in your local or state government, but care a great deal about “rustics” living far from your enclave in places you’ll probably never visit.

    It’s lucky for you that your local government is invisible to you – what that says is that your local government is very effective – not surprsing really, you get what you pay for. Secondly, Tiburon and Marin county didn’t spring from the womb in their present state. The community you enjoy was built and is maintained by your local and state government and not the feds. I seriously doubt it would be the wealthy white enclave it is today had some federal Viceroy been in charge of development for the past 100 years.

    Finally, implicit in your argument is the notion that the “rustics” and their backwards ideas could be overcome politically if only the anachronisms of state and local government were removed. You might want to consider that things flow both ways, the “rustics” are more numerous than you believe, and the state and local government that you dismiss provide a pretty solid buffer between you and the rustic’s backwards policies and ignorance.

  • ...

    I’m sure Reynolds doesn’t take exception to Jewish over-representation in government. It isn’t about over-representation, it is about wanting no opposition.

    For the record, there are 12 Jewish Senators (comprising 12% of the Senate) and 22 Jewish Congressmen (comprising ~5.0% of the House of Representatives). Given that the Jewish population is estimated to be between 1.7 – 2.6% of the US population, they are well over-represented in Congress. The influence is more outsized than it seems, though, as all but one of them caucuses Democratic. They comprise ~22.6% of the Democratic Majority in the Senate, and ~11.0% of the Democratic Minority in the House. (Eric Cantor, soon of K Street, is the sole Republican of the bunch.)

    A full 33.3% of the Supreme Court is Jewish. (The rest are Catholic. What’s a WASP to do?)

    And for the last 27 years, we’ve had a Jewish Chairperson of the federal Reserve System. (The last non-Jew to hold the position was also the last one that was any damned good, but God help you if you suggest that a German-American of Episcopal upbringing did something better with money than a Jew.)

    Not going to bother looking up other members of the Federal Reserve, as that isn’t the point.

    The point is that you aren’t going to hear people that complain about the white rubes being over-represented don’t have a problem with over-representation, but rather with white rubes, and opposition in general. Thus the rush by Reynolds and crew to ship as many non-white Third World peasants into the country – to push the white rubes out of all influence completely. (The Republican officials that do the same are simply selling out to their pay masters/donors.)

  • ...

    A few more side notes:

    Jews comprise ~3.6% of the population of Florida, but hold 4 of the 27 Florida Congressional seats (~14.8%). They hold zero percent of Florida’s Senate seats, however, those being held by an old white guy (Democrat Bill Nelson) and a young Hispanic guy (Republican Marco Rubio).

    Blacks really get screwed, though. They comprise ~12.6% of the US population, but only hold one Senate seat and only 43 Congressional seats (~9.9% of the total). I don’t really need to state that the one Senator is a Republican, and all the House members are Dems, do I? Blacks make up ~15.7% of the state of Florida’s population, but only have three Congresspeople (~11.1% of the total) to the Jews’ four seats, despite having over four times the population. Don’t tell me slick advertizing, gerrymandering and money don’t decide these things!

    But you won’t see the Jews calling to give up their seats to blacks. Only white Republicans will be called upon to make that kind of sacrifice. It’s only fair, Republicans being the party of slavery, secession and segregation. Oh, wait a second….

  • PD Shaw

    @Andy, “I don’t see any “loss of federal power” but there is certainly a huge loss is respect and moral authority.”

    That was the concept I was trying to describe. The Federalist wanted an “active” federal government, though primarily in the areas of finance, trace and commerce (including building a navy), foreign affairs, and the courts. To remain active requires constant drumming up of legitimacy.

    @Elispes: “And did they really envision the federal government working that way, or is that just how they sold it to the rubes?”

    I think they thought it would work that way. In particular, I think everybody thought Washington would act the way that he did (the disinterested Patriotic King that listens carefully to the counsel of First Characters in forming a course of action). Adams did not have this temperament.

    The big shock to the system is Madison’s realization that not all of the First Characters agree on his vision of what the new country should resemble. Madison is vehemently anti-British and the Hamiltonian program appears to be a source of corruption and British influence. Since an opposition party is itself a form of corruption, Madison has to conceal his actions initially, which are to obstruct government activity until Jefferson can be elected. Ultimately, the existence of an opposition party is revealed, but I believe Madison sees that as a temporary means until Jefferson can reset the system that got off on the wrong foot through British influence.

  • ...

    My own Congresswoman is black, Corrine Brown, whose district is a nightmare of gerrymandering to ensure that blacks got at least that seat. (And to keep them from tipping the balance in other districts, of course.)

    Basically, as a resident of of west Orange County, I am being represented by someone that lives 140 miles away. That might make sense in sparsely populated states, but makes no sense in the fourth largest state (by population) in the Union. I live (depending on which definition you care to use) in the 20th largest metro area in the US, but am represented by someone from the 39th largest metro area, about half the population and 140 miles away! Absurd. But these are the sacrifices made to a certain amount of racial justice. But only a certain amount, of course.

  • ...

    And to make Reynolds feel better, my last two Congresspeople have been black and Jewish Democrats. In fact, Alan Grayson is a NYC Jew who spent a large part of his adult life in DC before being selected by the national party to move to Central Florida and run for Congress. He’s got no ties down here deeper than about 2005, from all I can find out, he made is money in a shady fashion, and he is DC’s appointed representative to east central Florida.

    And even though he’s a Florida boy, Charlie Crist is now the DC Democratic Establishment’s pick to be governor, despite being a failed former Republican governor, and he just might win. So, appointed government by the central power for the hated white rubes: Reynolds is getting the top-down government he wants, largely.

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    Adams did not have this [Washington-esque] temperament.

    LOL, understatement of the day!

    But another case of someone not minding over-representation, just minding that there’s an opposition.

  • jan

    My comfort zone is the exact opposite of Michael’s. I’m disenchanted by a large centralized government having a zip and area code clear across the country, who I can call, leave a message with which will likely never be answered. At best I may receive a computer-generated letter belched out, sent to everyone having the same issue or question in mind.

    However, here in my own neighborhood, local municipality, even the large state of CA, I find far more satisfying effectiveness in voicing an opinion, followed by a hands-on involvement. Schools in particular have been areas where volunteerism and parent contributions of time and money actually produce improvement that can personally be witnessed and felt by real people.

    It seems to me, though, that some people settle on a more theoretical approach to altruism, where you either muse, rail or analyze social inequities, injustice from a safe distance, while not having to personally dig in and do something about it. It’s similar to what’s happening at the border, where the president is going down to Texas for a fund-raiser run, after laying soaring criticism on the opposing party for not ‘cooperating’ in passing CIR. However, after blasting republicans for their lack of interest and partnership, he goes on to refuse Gov. Perry’s invitation to even visit the border, while he’s in the area, in order to assess the over crowed conditions there personally, Similarly, to Michael’s preference in only having a discourse with the federal goverment, the president also seems dismissive of involving himself with on-the-ground appraisals of a local crisis — unless in a hovering helicopter with reporters aboard. Instead, he would rather excessively bloviate from afar, making recommendations and attaching blame while in the detached haven of DC-think.

  • ...

    I’m disenchanted by a large centralized government having a zip and area code clear across the country, who I can call, leave a message with which will likely never be answered

    What, the VA’s extremely efficient and competent execution of its duties doesn’t inspire you?

    Saw a headline that VA employees were diverted from processing processing VA applications to PPACA applications. If that allegation holds up, it won’t look good. Not that it matters. We’re stuck with Obama for another two and a half years.

  • michael reynolds

    It is absolutely true that I have the luxury of being indifferent to my local governments because they are well-run. And true that I did nothing to contribute to that – beyond paying taxes. I’m not arguing that ignoring Tiburon’s, um, let’s say town council (Imperial Court? ) is a particularly fine thing to do. I just don’t get worked up over whether or not the CVS can have bigger or smaller signage.

    As for the rustics and their over-representation, I think it’s bad for the country to have disproportionate power regularly handed to people so divorced from the economic and cultural life of the country.

    As for …’s Jewish analogy, is there some structural aspect of the system that causes Jews to be elected to office? No? Because there is a structural element that shunts power from cities and suburbs to one-horse towns surrounded entirely by corn. My vote will never be the equal of the vote cast by the one remaining person in the howling wasteland of Wyoming. I will always be under-represented, regardless of my race, religion, etc., simply by virtue of being part of the branch of my family that had the sense to get the hell out of Oklahoma.

    Here, courtesy of those wild-eyed liberals at Fortune, a list of the 10 most corrupt states:

    1. Mississippi
    2. Louisiana
    3. Tennessee
    4. Illinois
    5. Pennsylvania
    6. Alabama
    7. Alaska
    8. South Dakota
    9. Kentucky
    10. Florida

    Do you see a positive correlation between size and corruption? No, me neither. Big corrupt states, medium corrupt states, little corrupt states. You could argue that corruption and incompetence aren’t the same thing, but close enough.

    It’s not a size thing. It’s not about a circle of geographic proximity. If it were then California would dominate that list followed by Texas, and yet, nope.

  • Do you see a positive correlation between size and corruption?

    Since three of the six most populous states are represented in that list, I certainly do. What may be confusing you, Michael, is that two of the least populous states are also in the list while most of the rest are the old Confederacy.

    However, that’s all beside the point since what I wasn’t talking about corruption but appointment and seniority and when you look at actual districts you find that most of New York’s Democratic representatives represent the New York metropolitan area and most of California’s Democratic representatives represent the Los Angeles-San Diego megalopolis. The point of all this numerology is that when Congress enacts laws by very small majorities (as was the case during the Pelosi-Reid Congress), laws are being enacted to suit the preferences of a relatively small proportion of the people in those two cities and a few others (Philadelphia, Chicago).

    It’s a peculiar idea of democratic process. It may suit Michael fine but it’s hardly a way to gain legitimacy or support.

  • jan

    “It is absolutely true that I have the luxury of being indifferent to my local governments because they are well-run. And true that I did nothing to contribute to that – beyond paying taxes.”

    The refreshing thing about that comment is that even though it’s incredibly self- indulgent, it’s at least a very honest self-assessment. The sad aspect of that comment, though, is that it represents what so many social progressives feel is quintessential for people — who at least consider themselves good, empathetic citizens — to do in ‘fairly’ contributing to society — throwing more tax money at it, and expecting, no, demanding others to follow suite!

  • jan

    “What, the VA’s extremely efficient and competent execution of its duties doesn’t inspire you?”

    Ice,

    There is so much about how this administration is handling itself, as well as the misinformation it grinds out almost on a daily basis, that there is no room for inspiration any more. It becomes a necessity, to now and again, just detach from what’s going on and concentrate on one’s own sphere of life. If you don’t then it all becomes too depressing and oppressive. People like Drew play golf. You have a young child to play with, and I go on walks and enjoy nature rather than the quirks of people.

  • ....

    Jan, to be fair to the Obama Administration, the VA has been a disaster for some time. However, he came in vowing to fix it, and has done exactly nothing, so that is all on him.

    Actually, if true that they were diverting VA resources to run the PPACA, that would be on him.

  • steve

    “Once upon a time we generally felt that the federal government should leave most things other than the common currency, the military, and foreign policy to the states. That was a recognition of the decreasing legitimacy, support, and commitment that decreasing consensus and distance bring. That practice is no more.”

    Absolutely. What else would government really provide? Medicine was mostly quackery. Few people lived to be really old, and we had large families anyway so they could take care of them. We were largely an agricultural economy. Then, things changed.

    We became industrialized. People moved into cities and we needed ways to have clean water and sewers. Government. Families got smaller and we became more mobile. People actually started living past the age where they could productively work in large numbers. Did the private sector find a way to provide for those people? No. Then, medicine began to actually work. Those older people and the poor could not afford that care. Did the private sector provide an answer? No, so we turned to government, like every other first world nation, except we didnt go as far as everyone else.

    Of note, the states didnt really respond much to these problems either.

    “However, he came in vowing to fix it, and has done exactly nothing, so that is all on him.”

    Nope. One of the biggest problems was getting access to the system for victims of Agent Orange and other problems. That was changed. The quality of care at VA hospitals has greatly improved, though Obama doesnt get most of that credit.

    Steve

  • steve:

    We also weren’t as urbanized as our European cousins and still aren’t. I think that the divergent experiences between here and, say, Germany are the reason we’ve never had much of a communist movement here, either. Metropolis addresses a European sensibility rather than an American one. Our industrial workers are just as bourgeois as our shopkeepers and magnates.

    I note, too, that although Canada’s healthcare system gets lots of praise from fans of a single-payer plan here, most of them don’t recognize that their system is operated by the provinces rather than the government in Ottawa.

    I think that it’s pretty likely that the best hope for a better healthcare system here is for creation, operation, and success of state plans. So, for example, we’ll need to see how Massachusetts’s, Vermont’s, and Hawaii’s plans function.

  • ....

    Yes, we’re only 3,671,00 full-time jobs short of where we were at the pre-recession peak.

    And I’ll note that median income is down, too.

    But keep telling me how fucking wonderful everything is, steve, and how wonderful you and the Dems and Obama are for creating this booming economy. I mean, we need to open the borders to fill all the available jobs, right? Right?

  • jan

    “One of the biggest problems was getting access to the system for victims of Agent Orange and other problems. That was changed.”

    That’s too simplistic of an answer, as the government dragged it’s feet for years, as it often does when accountability enters the picture. Nonetheless, it is the current administration who deserves credit for addressing more time to process agent orange exposure claims. However,there are still many veterans in the mix trying to tie in their Vietnam service with some of the more unusual cancers they have manifested decades later.

    “The quality of care at VA hospitals has greatly improved, though Obama doesnt get most of that credit.”

    Obama did throw more money at the VA, a ‘fix’ most often applied for any problem in a liberal democratic administration’s tool bag. However, in this case it didn’t work well as backlogged claims went from 150,000 in 2009 to almost 600,000 in 2012. Sure, there were also more applications submitted because of these long, medically costly ME wars. But, it still doesn’t assuage the grand promises made by Obama to have such backlogs completely eliminated by 2015.

    While Obama certainly doesn’t shoulder all the blame — that goes back to administrations as far back as Kennedy — his leadership and management skills, or lack there of, is part of the problem. And, like any problem ‘inherited’ by any president, if the problem continues to exist, or increases during a president’s term in office, then he’s not doing a good repair job — period.

  • steve

    Dave- Not as urbanized, but much more mobile. Germans tend ot stay in Germany, which is a large country in Europe but would be just a large state here. Still, we both faced the problems of smaller families as we industrialized. We both faced the problems of growing populations of older people unable to work productively and no family to care for them.

    I have always hoped the states would do more on health care, but they really havent done much. It always strikes me when I meet with a state rep or go to Harrisburg that state politics is just as bad as federal.

    Steve

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    … However,there are still many veterans in the mix trying to tie in their Vietnam service with some of the more unusual cancers they have manifested decades later.

    Every combat vet should have lifetime medical coverage. Period. The total number of living combat vets is miniscule compared to the overall population and other groups.

    Here is a plan to save a few bucks: Put a bullet through each vets head – problem solved. There will be no more vets trying to get freebies from you. You can send them to war, and those that do not die you can finish off.

    You conservatives are a piece of work.

  • Guarneri

    “Every combat vet should have lifetime medical coverage. Period. The total number of living combat vets is miniscule compared to the overall population and other groups.”

    I agree with this. Simply consider it part of the total compensation package. It doesn’t seem an unwarranted perk. But that is not inconsistent with what I took as a purely intellectual observation that there are vets inventing correlations. They are only human acting in self interest. But you can take that off the table with what you propose.

  • I got the news today, oh boy.

    I feel like I’m juggling bricks, here.

  • So could I, for that matter.

  • TastyBits

    @Drew

    Thank you. NOTE: I would not include disability pay.

    Clean up the VA. It is a government job. If you want a bonus, work in the private sector. Somethings can be flattened out and streamlined, but it is a government bureaucracy.

    It will be a lot cheaper than private insurance, but this will only work for vets. Vets will show up an hour early to stand in line to check-in. Vets will go to another line to get vital signs taken. Vets will go to a waiting area to see their assigned PCP. Vets will see the specialist if the PCP refers them. Vets will take their generic drugs. Vets will grumble, but they do what they are told.

  • My stress level, measured by the SRRS, just shot up to about 400.

  • TastyBits

    @Janis Gore

    What really pisses me off is that most of the people bad mouthing the VA have no idea of what they are talking about. It is hard to explain to people, but it is different than private care. They are respectful, and they seem to actually care about the vets.

    All the staff I have encountered have been pleasant and helpful. Once, I must have looked lost, and one of the clean-up guys asked me if I needed help. Now, the a$$holes in Washington are another matter. I have a special pair of boots for them.

  • My boot boxes are in one of my closets. It’s just too dern hot to wear them now. I could sell an 18th C desk, but not m’boots.

  • I like the “stickers” at the VA. They don’t screw around finding veins. If you’re going to be a vampire, let’s be efficient, y’all.

    I damn near pass out at the sight of blood. I’m told that’s genetic.

  • Andy

    Steve,

    Like so much of the federal government, the issue with the VA isn’t funding or even top-level policy decisions, such as the expansion of Agent Orange coverage (which, incidentally, helped my uncle a great deal), the problem is a bureaucracy that, in the best case, can’t effectively implement these policies. Despite the additional funds and expansion of Agent Orange-related benefits, the VA is still a dysfunctional mess. The shadow-waiting lists are only the tip of the iceberg. What’s need is real reform in the VA (and most of the rest of the federal government).

    You note the quality of care is improved at VA hospitals. That may be true (I don’t know), but the main problem at the VA is the getting to the care, not the care itself.

    Tasty/Drew,
    I agree with your combat vet medical benefits in principle, but it’s actually tricky to determine who qualifies as a “combat veteran.” If significant benefits are tied to that status determination then great care must be taken to ensure the system can’t be gamed – which isn’t easy from my experience.

  • TastyBits

    @Andy

    If you rate a Combat Action Ribbon, you were in combat, and I would limit the benefit only to VA facilities. It is not a medical insurance coverage benefit. If you want to get disability pay, non-VA, or dental coverage, fill out the disability paperwork.

  • jan

    I really can’t decipher how Tasty interpreted my comments about the VA. However, as a point of clarity, I believe those participating in military service merit good HC benefits, followed by attentive, quality service, through such government-operated medical facilities.

    My husband has used the one in S. CA for the last couple of years, in addressing mainly smaller issues and physicals. In most of these cases his dealings with medical and clerical personnel has been great. It was only after a prostate problem, following sequential lost lab work along with differing doctor assessments, that he felt it necessary to seek alternative opinions and treatment elsewhere.

    IMO, previous claims of improvements, being directed at VA facilities, seem to have resulted in more superficial remedies rather than touching on ones that are systemic. To do this, though, requires an honest, thorough overhaul of the bureaucratic complex that’s running the VA.

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    You stated:

    … However,there are still many veterans in the mix trying to tie in their Vietnam service with some of the more unusual cancers they have manifested decades later.

    I interpret that to mean that they are trying to scam the system, and if so, they are trying to steal from you.

    If I have gotten it wrong, I apologize.

  • jan

    You misinterpreted my words, Tasty.

    I was illuminating that illnesses, related to toxic materials used in previous wars, don’t always reveal themselves until many years later.

    Agent Orange is a prime example of how more information/studies are unfolding, as to the width and breathe of this defoliant’ lethal side effects. Finally, the government is coming on board, linking Agent Orange used on land to some of the latent cancers of those stationed on ships off shore in Vietnam. They are now acknowledging that streams leading to the ocean were cross-contaminated with agent orange, getting into a naval ship’s water systems, creating a causal relationship between this herbicide and rare forms of brain cancers being diagnosis today.

    From what I’ve heard, though, it took many years for the government to admit this connection, which is why I’m sympathetic to those tied up in noxious, futile correspondence with the VA, for so many years . IMO, vets are not scamming the government. It’s the other way around, in circumstances such as these.

  • TastyBits

    @jan

    I sincerely apologize.

  • mike shupp

    My last entry for the day. I’m being disagreeable, I know. Sorry about that!

    But not too sorry, because I’m going to disagree again. I think you’re conflating Government and what de Toqueville called “Association.” It isn’t government when you and your neighbor shovel the sidewalks for a bed-ridden neighbor; that’s manners, or mutual civility for the sake of a community member.

    What government is, is when Dwight Eisenhower mobilizes the entire 10,ooo member Arkansas National Guard and sends the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock, Arkansas to ensure that nine black schoolchildren can attend a public high school. That’s government good and hard, and I think Barney Frank has the right of it when he says it’s what “we choose to do together.”

    I.e., there are decisions which we make, not as individuals being friendly to our neighbors, but on a larger scale, in a much broader society, agreed upon and carried out in ways which confound the ordinary conventions of small towns and informal associations. And I would argue that these decisions and these actions are fully as “legitimate” and “reasonable” as those made in smaller communities.

    I’d argue, too, that there are probably good reasons — pragmatic and ethical — why decisions made in state societies are made through different mechanisms and with less unanimity than in small communities. But that would take up much of the night and I doubt it’s worth the effort.

    So I’m done.

  • But not too sorry, because I’m going to disagree again. I think you’re conflating Government and what de Toqueville called “Association.” It isn’t government when you and your neighbor shovel the sidewalks for a bed-ridden neighbor; that’s manners, or mutual civility for the sake of a community member.

    I advanced the snow-shovelling example as an instance of “things we do together”. I think that characterizing many things the government does that way is a stretch. They’re more “things that one group of people do to another”.

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