Randapanda III

A reader comments : “I have serious trepidations about electing a president who was a POW for 5 yrs and remained in solitary confinement for two of those five. I have total respect for the service and valor of John McCain, but I don’t believe you can endure this type of treatment and come out unscathed psychologically. He is famously short-tempered and impulsive. This is not a quality that I want in someone who has substantial control over the free world. I am underwhelmed by the other candidates, but I’ve seen the psychopathology that developed in many of our veterans who served in Vietnam and were not POWs and shudder to think about what McCain has to do in order to get to sleep at night.

The reader, along with many other people, is completely buying into the popular misconceptions about Viet Nam veterans. I, too, have worked at the VA with Viet Nam veterans and you know what? When you question many of these creepy guys about their military service, most of them are so full of shit…and I mean totally full of it…that there is no way possible they were anywhere close to combat. And I doubt some of them even went to Viet Nam. I don’t expect you to know how to tell a plausible war story from a bogus one but I assure you that I have a pretty good idea who is genuine and who is blowing smoke up my ass.

“Where did you go to boot camp?” for example, is a basic kind of question to ask an alleged former Marine who can vividly recall every detail of his super-secret black-ops missions but cannot come up with the name of the base where he trained (Hint: there are only two places a Marine of the post-Korean War era could have gone to basic training) or anything about his unit or specialty that makes sense.

The trouble is that the VA does a very poor job of checking service records. They are not easily accessible and it takes time, money, and staff to interpret them. I guarantee that if I selected any ten frazzled Viet Nam era PTSD patients whose lives have been a shambles since the ‘Nam and scrutinized their record, five of them would have never seen any combat and two or three would probably have never even been overseas or even in the military. You see, to verify combat experience, you have to compare their story to their service record and the patient’s unit’s “Unit Diary,” something that’s impossible to do on a routine basis. A DD214 has very little information on it and people are taken at their word which would be a mistake.

You need to understand the concept of “tooth and tail.” In Viet Nam as in most wars, eighty to ninety percent of those involved were in support positions and the majority of them saw no action at all. Imagine the vast number of sailors, aircraft mechanics, clerks, cooks, radio repairmen, truck drivers, and other specialists required to support one infantryman on the ground. I’m not putting down anybody, you understand, because logistics and support wins wars but for every infantryman, combat engineer, artilleryman or tanker shooting at the enemy, the “teeth”, there is a long, long logistical “tail.” Being anywhere in a combat zone, however, qualifies you as a combat veteran for purposes of VA benefits and no distinction is made between serving on an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin or sticking a knife into the enemy at Hue City. Therefore it takes almost nothing to convince the VA that your personal problems, problems that you may have had before you enlisted, are the result of stress from your military service. Free VA medical care is no different from any other government benefit. It attracts the usual freeloaders but in this case, since so many of you have no experience whatsoever with the military you let yourself get browbeaten into believing any war story you are told because you hold your manhood cheap whiles anyone speaks who fought on Saint Crispin’s day (so to speak).

The country is full of people exaggerating their POW status, combat experience, or even their military service. I suggest you read “Stolen Valor,” a book that exposes the depth of the scam in which many of you so intently believe. For my part, I know many Viet Nam combat veterans who are the “real deal” and although their experiences have profoundly changed them, they are not the psychotic druggies that Hollywood and the left love to portray. There is most certainly a disorder known as PTSD and many of our combat veterans suffer from it. But guys who are “put together” well enough to to be Navy Fighter pilots, Rangers, SEALS, Special Forces, Marine Infantryman (the blue collar of the military elite), and other hard-chargers that the drugged-out homeless guys pretend to have been do not turn psychotic. Rather, they struggle with their memories but otherwise live fairly normal lives where they are part of the vast yet unseen foundation of sturdy citizens upon whom is supported the whole circus of dependency that grabs all the headlines.

My point is that Mr. McCain is impulsive and short-tempered, not necessarily bad qualities if channeled properly, because he was a Naval aviator, the kind of guy who could fly an A4 Skyhawk in the teeth of Migs and SAM batteries. He is the real deal and if you prefer an anti-American fuck like Mr. Obama, a guy who won’t wear a flag pin because it makes his anti-American leftist cronies uncomfortable and who has never done a decent thing in his entire self-centered life that didn’t benefit Obama…well…what can I say?

45 thoughts on “Randapanda III

  1. Wow, this explains all of American political history! The careers of everyone from George Washington to James Webb can be reduced to their military service. Tenure, here I come!

    (Did I ever say that?  Some of our best presidents (Ronald Reagan, for example) had no military experience and some of the worst had plenty of it (Ulysees Grant, for example, whose administration was known for its corruption).  And whether Obama is an anti-American fuck is of course debatable.  But he does surround himself with them and they form a good portion of his core influences.  Sleep with dogs, get fleas. -PB)

  2. I have great respect for McCain. I dont believe there is any record to show McCain has psychological problems because of what he had to endure as a POW. Afterall he has been in the public domain for quite some time as a Senator and any such issues would have been exposed by his opponents in previous elections.

    In fact i believe, McCain’s expereince will serve him well if he becomes commander in Chief. He will not go to war without thinking it through as he knows first hand the consequences of war.

    If i was an American i will be proud to have McCain as my president. He loves his country and generations of McCains have put their lives on the line for America. What more can you ask?

  3. I wholly agree. If you are surround yourself with those I deem to be “anti-American fucks”, well I’m right and you are anti-American. Case closed.

  4. Panda,
    Actually, Ronald Reagan did serve in the USAAF during WW2. He spent the war making training films. He didn’t see combat, of course, but he did serve, unlike John Wayne.

    Getting a little off-track, but James Stewart and Ted Williams are two of my personal heroes. Both left volunteered to serve at the pinnacle of their careers, and both served in combat (Williams twice). It would be something to see any of our Hollywood “elite” serve their country in a like manner today. Why does everyone think combat turns everyone into raging homicidal maniacs?

    I agree on McCain 100%. He is short-tempered most likely because he doesn’t suffer fools lightly, not because he is a Vietnam vet. He will be a great president.

  5. Panda,

    I regret the imprecision of my comment. I was trying to direct some sarcasm at the reader whose mistaken psychologizing prompted your post. I have known more than a few combat veterans and found them to be more sane than the average civilian.

  6. My respect for Sen McCain reached it’s peak when I found out more details about his time as a POW. He turned down the chance to be released early, because he insisted that if he was released the other POWs taken before him should also be released. That says more about his character than anything else.

  7. “That says more about his character than anything else.”

    Yeah, you know what else speaks about his character? How about his numerous affairs, pandering to “agents of intolerance” (his own words, in 2000) for the past few months, as well as numerous collegues of his having stated that his temprament makes him unsuited to the oval office.

    Oh, and don’t weep to hard about McCain’s time in the hanoi hilton, he got first-class treatment due to this dad’s position as commander of the pacific fleet.

    (Absolutely untrue. Mr. McCain is crippled, both form ejecting and from beatings and lack of medical attention. -PB)

    Panda, so I guess you make sure to tack on a flag pin to your scrubs everyday?

    (I wear a Marine Corps emblem on my white coat. Kind of the same thing. -PB)

  8. Jeez, Panda… Obama isn’t that bad. I’m surprised you’re so upset about some damn flag lapel pin. Smacks of neocon indoctrination through right-wing talk radio, methinks.

    P.S. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… love the blog 🙂

    (There is nothing “neo” about my conservatism.  I am a conservative from way, way back. -PB) 

  9. Interesting story but completely missing any facts at all. The question is , given the torture and isolation that he supposedly experienced, could he possibly have come out of the experience without long-term effects. It seems likely from his behavior that he has serious mental problems from the experience.

    Just because you can make up some stories about people who have served in the military that might possibly have not been in combat and anyway weren’t real soldiers, doesn’t mean that real soldiers don’t have serious mental issues.

    Maybe Obama doesn’t wear a flag pin just to piss off people like you who are more impressed by form over substance.

    (Mr. Obama has no substance.  He is an empty suit supported by the usual intellectually vacuous doctrinaire liberal hot air.   -PB)

  10. Exactly as Dr. Nic said. His father was promoted to commander of all US naval forces and the VC knew it would be a political coup to release him. You know, almost as good as having Jane Fonda on their side. But he stuck with the Code of Conduct and told them to fuck off. So they tortured the shit out of him for another four years.

    Compare that to the hippy left wing babbling bullshit and then tell me you can vote for anyone but McCain. Seriously. I mean come on. I can’t believe either of those other two clowns would have the gall to run against him.

  11. One principle has held relatively steady since the birth of this nation: anyone who’s had any military success as a pretty good chance of becoming president. My high school history teacher called it “Canova’s Law” (her name was Canova). It’s true, lots of flag-waving republicans, and even some democrats, will vote for him because he once knew how to fire a gun and fly a plane – no matter how tenuous his grasp on reality becomes. I think it should be alright. Hopefully he won’t develop full-blown dementia until at lest the second term.

  12. With the caveat that am a huge fan of your writing, I have to take issue with your characterization of Mr. Obama. I don’t think it’s fair to say he acted solely in his own benefit when he turned down those cushy Harvard-Law-grad firm positions to work civil rights cases. Nor would I say that being a community organizer heading voting drives is one of those occupations that draws out the sycophantic scumb-suckers. I think he’s a genuinely good guy, all politics aside.

    Also, it’s my opinion the flag pin is an empty gesture, and often those with the most jingoistic bluster are the first to leap under the nearest rock when the shit actually starts flying. True patriotism isn’t always the guy with a flag cape riding an eagle into a red white and blue sunset with the Star Spangled Banner playing, sometimes it’s the guy in the back of the room asking quietly, “Is this the best way for America?”

    (You missed my point.    Mr. Obama is an anti-American fuck because he surrounds himself with and has been deeply influenced by other anti-American fucks.  His distaste for the American flag is a symptom of his deeper antipathy towards his country and a reluctance to offend the leftists whose opinions he values. -PB)

  13. What are your thoughts on the recent RAND Corporation report about PTSD, depression, and other mental illness in veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan? To me this lends credence to the idea that (real) veterans of Vietnam could really suffer from mental illness at a rate significantly higher than the general population.

    (PTSD is a real diagnosis but I repeat, I could take ten service records from ten Viet Nam veterans alleging to be suffering from PTSD and show you that seven or eight of them either saw no combat or weren’t even in a combat zone.   I know this anecdotally because I have talked to a lot of PTSD patients on a VA rotation and most of them were, at least from their stories, completely bogus.  PTSD does not present with the stereotype of the drugged-out veteran who can’t handle life.  The more psychotic the veteran I’d say the more likely he is blowing smoke up your ass. -PB)

  14. Here’s my thing about your political endorsements (although you haven’t officially endorsed anyone).

    Most of the coverage I read about covers the candidate’s personalities and backgrounds while skimming over or entirely skipping their political platforms. I understand that Sen. McCain is an honorable person, but what so great about his political views and whats so terrible about the other candidates? I’ve definitely read everyone of your posts for the last 6 months and I can’t recall you discussing a specific political policy that one of the candidates endorsed? (I may be forgetting something).

    Sorry for the long rant, I really do enjoy your blog, and this was aimed specifically at you. It just seems that when picking candidates, most people skim over the actual policy, and just vote for the person with the better bio.

  15. ouch. voting for the party that screws us the most. thought you were smarter than that. especially believing the bogus emails going around.

  16. Steel on target, Dr. Panda.

    If you think it appropriate, here is a little primer on military b.s. for your readers:

    *preface: I was NOT a sneaky squirrel type, I was a Marine Grunt.

    -Nobody who has been a part of a super sneaky type unit is going to tell you, someone he barely knows, about his black ops missions in Whereverstan. Seriously – think about it. Did you forge such a tight bond at the bar/while taking vitals/in line at the post office that this guy will risk 25 to life in Federal prison to tell you how bad ass he is?

    -Be wary of someone who says “I trained with Delta/Navy SEALS/Team Rambo Ninja”. There are very few exceptions to this. In my opinion, people who emphasize “who they trained with” instead of what they actually did are trying to steal glory they didn’t earn.

    – Nobody I know in the Special Forces community calls it “Spec Ops”. Lots of kids who play Nintendo do, though.

    -A story that includes the phrases “I was so scared that my testicles snugged right up to my tonsils” or “I was so tired my eyes kept crossing” is probably a true story. A story involving rippling pecs, knives clenched in teeth, and snapping necks one-handed is crap.

    -A real vet won’t try and guilt you into doing something simply because he is a vet. If he does try, you tell him Savage Henry said he should piss up a rope.

    -No combat vet I know brags about killing.

  17. The fact that people actually give a crap about flag pins shows how little actual issues matter anymore. We’ll vote for the tough old insane guy or the little anti-american black guy.

    And that’s it. I’m voting for McCain, but it pisses me off that lapel pins are even remotely an issue. Utterly ridiculous.

    (The fact that Mr. Obama surrounds himself with people who are virulently anti-American is an issue.  Sleep with dogs, get fleas. Character is important and patriotism is part of your character. -PB) 

  18. This is why Panda should keep politics out of his blog. As much as I admire his ability to discourse on a number of subjects, the political jaunts are of the Anne Coulter debate variety (in terms of style rather than political leaning though the latter certainly is in play), which is not to my particular taste (though that matters little) nor that of most of his better commentors (far better than me). The Nationalism vs. Patriotism debate is NOT going get anywhere on Panda’s blog and is best left to other realms of the internet. Keep it medically-focused here (as political candidates can’t be vetted via RCTs) and only bring in politics insofar as it pertains to the medical world. There are already enough areas of the blogosphere and Interweb in general dealing with these issues in a far more productive and interesting manner.

    (Well look, I’m bored.  I can’t think of anything original about medicine so I digress.  Please, somebody throw me an idea or two. -PB) 

  19. The fact that Mr. Obama surrounds himself with people who are virulently anti-American is an issue. Sleep with dogs, get fleas. Character is important and patriotism is part of your character. -PB)

    Is that really true though? How many republican people surround themselves with Robertson and Falwell, who, if you remember, blamed the US for 9/11 due to homosexuality, abortion, etc. But it’s OK if you do it from the right, I guess. McCain, to his credit, stood up to Falwell for a time, calling him and his ilk ‘agents of intolerance’, but now he’s made up and delivered a commencement speech at Liberty University.

    The fact that you are even questioning his patriotism is ridiculous – all on the basis of a flag pin and what his pastor said. It’s creating controversy where none should exist.

    As for the non-political stuff that I always agree with you on – you mentioned you needed some ideas. I will go back and see if you’ve done this already, but maybe you could give us an insider’s view on what the specialties are really like and how one can choose (e.g, do you think its dangerous to pick anesthesiology as a specialty, etc).

    I’d also be interested in your thoughts on how doctors that do research function (e.g, how much do they do in general, what opportunities there are..)

  20. What is your view on the traction splint? Like it, love it, hate it? Straight legged vs. bent? Do yall even use bent? I’d never even heard of it (and I’m a freaking instructor…guess I should do a bit more research) until the other day when a friend of mine that works EMS in Utah mentioned it. No organizations in Texas (that I know of) use it.

  21. It’s Panda’s blog and he can talk about anything he wants. The fact that some of you may disagree with him about politics is no different than others disagreeing with him about futile care.

    Let the man talk, most of us love it.

  22. Panda – Believe it or not, a lowly well trained and experienced PA agrees with you 110%!
    I worked in a mid-atlantic coastal city in EM for 10+ years. We saw trauma from a “secret” nearby government base. The patients, all young males, always named Joseph Smith, and always accompanied by 3-4 escorts, always said they fell. “Fell from what?” “I just fell”. “Can you be more specific?” Escort: “No”.
    “Unfortunately, you have an open fracture of your tibia. I need to call an orthopedic surgeon.” Escort: “That won’t be necessary. We’ll transport him to another hospital. Please do whatever is needed to prepare him for transport. The trip will take abut an hour.”
    “According to the law, I will need to arrange the transfer”. Escort: “That won’t be necessary.” “It is necessary, or the patient will need to sign out AMA.” Escort: “Give us the form.”
    Of course, we all knew the “secret”. The patient was going to Washington,DC. The helicopters were always the same color if you get my drift.
    My points are these: 1) Real hot dog military types do not brag. Hell, they don’t even tell you their real name! And I doubt they get PTSD. 2) Character is not just important, it is the only thing that is important.
    John McCain has character. That is why, in his past and hopefully in his future he has been able and willing to tell someone who is just wrong to go fuck themselves. Some call that trait “temper”. I call it leadership. We need some of that. Best wishes, and keep up the good work.

  23. McCain got captured and tortured, survived, then got released. I can see how that makes him tough, but I never understood how that makes him a hero. As far as your political views…well, you are a witty and talented writer but sometimes your statements lack any real analysis or substance. You repeated something a couple of posts ago like ‘of the three candidates, all were surrounded by communists but only one fought back.’ Did you know that McCain came back from Viet Nam and was one of the strongest voices around in favor of normalizing relations with those commie bastards? You seem like such a well informed and independently thinking man on many other issues, it doesn’t make any sense why you revert to spouting what sounds like unconsidered right-wing doctrine when it comes to politics…

    (Whoa.  Do I need to repeat that my blog is my hobby and, as such, I have no responsibility or desire to make every article, especially one called “Randapanda”, a dissertation complete with footnotes.  I am not commenting on Mr. Obama’s leftist viewpoints but merely that several of his closest advisers and confidants as well as his pastor are complete ant-American fucks and that there is such a thing as guilt by association.  There is also such a thing as patriotism, the real kind and not the newspeak kind where burning a flag is called patriotic.

    How do you make an American leftist angry?  Say something good about America or bad about France. -PB)

  24. Hey Panda, since you us to toss out some ideas for blogging… how about some insight on the best steps to take to avoid a malignant residency program? Obviously you’re better off in, say, Family Practice or Peds then in Surgery. But what about within a specialty? Say you’re going into EM: is there a website somewhere (I guess like SDN?) that allows people to speak their mind freely about what it’s like to work at various EM programs? A real, honest, look at the hours they work, their call schedule, etc? Since no one can report violations without getting fucked themselves (through loss of accreditation for their program or retaliation by prick bosses), it seems like this would be the best source of real intel. If it doesn’t exist, you should think about setting one up. Man, you could go nuts with that one. … Thanks for all you do man.

  25. “(PTSD is a real diagnosis but I repeat, I could take ten service records from ten Viet Nam veterans alleging to be suffering from PTSD and show you that seven or eight of them either saw no combat or weren’t even in a combat zone. I know this anecdotally because I have talked to a lot of PTSD patients on a VA rotation and most of them were, at least from their stories, completely bogus. PTSD does not present with the stereotype of the drugged-out veteran who can’t handle life. The more psychotic the veteran I’d say the more likely he is blowing smoke up your ass. -PB)”

    I understand this. You keep saying this over and over about bogus Vietnam vets. I’m asking you if you disagree with the RAND report that mental illness is significant in returning troops. And further asking if McCain, who no one doubts is a real combat veteran, could have mental problems after years of imprisonment and torture.

    (PTSD is a real diagnosis which afflicts many of our fighting men but it is a complex condition and does not, repeat not, equal psychosis.  Like most mental disorders, it exists on a continuum with a few extreme cases of suicide and aberrant behavior but many more of temporary depression.  It is not a mental disorder in the same way that that something like Bipolar disorder is and is not permanent, especially with proper treatment or support from a soldier’s family and friends.  Struggling with your memories and experiences in no way disqualifies you for any job I can think of except for activities coordinator on a cruise ship.

    But you need to avoid the temptation to fit reality into your stereotypes.  I’m not accusing you of this but it very difficult for the left to accept that combat veterans, for the most part, just go back to normal life once they are discharged.  Older and wiser, of course, but not psychotic.  Senator McCain is not a homeless veteran begging for booze money. -PB)

  26. Thanks, Dr. Panda for taking this thought and running with it. This has prompted an open and stimulating discussion (pertinent to medicine, I might add!). I thought about this subject a lot while on my psych rotation at the VA, its very interesting to take a study break from surgery and see how the rest of the world responds to this thought. For the record, my father is serving our country in the military as a chaplain. He has served so many tours of duty that I’ve lost count. He is a hero and I am extremely proud of him. His stories of counseling soldiers and helping them cope with the horrors of war have always stuck close with me, particularly when I was at the VA or BAMC and working with OIF/OEF veterans who were coping with the stress of being back home by either a suicide attempt or self-medication with drugs/ETOH. We can beat our jingoistic flag-pin laden chests as much as we like and say “real men of character don’t get PTSD” then read about these men later as they shoot bystanders from a tower.
    We may not agree, but I genuinely respect your talents as a writer as well as your skills as a rabble rouser. Thanks for the post! MD2B

  27. This is always the point where I just throw up my hands and decide that Americans must be the stupidest people ever.
    You all just love McCain don’t ya? Love him..bullshit.
    McCain was a fantastic candidate 8 years ago remember? Remember? He was that amazing survivor, great patriot , flag on his lapel whatever the fuck but you didn’t love him then did you?
    No. You loved the guy that ducked out of his service, was the opposite of everything John McCain stood for as a good man. Remember when all of you lapped up the racist stories of black babies and the rest of the Bush bullshit machine?
    And now you all love McCain.

    Hypocritical jackasses.

    McCain was always the better candidate now and eight years ago. All of you are nothing more than those assholes that told all your friends what big Giants fans you have always been the day after the superbowl.

    For every one of you that says right now you support John McCain shame on you. If you had supported him when it mattered how many goddamn lives would have been saved?

    All of you deserve eight years of Obama for putting that ape Bush in office over McCain.

    (I have always admired Senator McCain.  As I am not in some cult, I can like and respect more than one elected leader at a time.  I happen to prefer President Bush to McCain and Vice President Cheney to everyone but my respect is not the school-girl, weak-in-the-knees crush that the leftigentisa have for Mr. Obama who is no JFK but just another white liberal with strictly left wing views on just about everything.  -PB)

  28. It makes no sense to say that because McCain suffered years of POW abuse he should be disqualified from political leadership or even acceptance as a sane, normal human being. That doesn’t gibe with the lives of many in history, including many of the survivors of the Nazi concentration camps, who suffered even worse and for longer. I’m sure it does take a tremendous depth of character to survive relentless, vicious torture and yet go on to live an imminently productive life of service to others. One thing I feel pretty sure of — it would make you a strong fighter/competitor, intolerant of stupidity, sycophancy, or exploitation by anyone. I don’t agree with all of McCain’s political decisions, but above all first comes character which McCain has in abundance.

    I read a number of medical blogs that I greatly appreciate and some of the diarists have very different political views than I own. I would never question their right or the appropriateness for them to segue into a political rant whenever they want to. That’s just American. I’d never attack them for doing it. It’s a liberal thing, I guess, to try to control what other people think or write.

  29. “He is the real deal and if you prefer an anti-American fuck like Mr. Obama, a guy who won’t wear a flag pin because it makes his anti-American leftist cronies uncomfortable and who has never done a decent thing in his entire self-centered life that didn’t benefit Obama…well…what can I say?”

    That rocks! I love your prose! My father served in Vietnam and saw combat. While he carries the scars, he would do a find job of running this country. I wouldn’t assume that McCain is too messed up to do it either. mdoncall.blogspot.com

  30. to refute that argument just ask if they would be comfortable being represented by a holocaust survivor. Anyone who survived that suffered horribly beyond imagination yet those that I know of went on to live their lives ( granted I have only met a few), were productive and heroic in how they did it.

    It is the vilification of any force that makes the far left so unpalatable to me.

    for medical topics you could discus your views of stem cell therapies or fetal grafts of tissue on the substantia nigra to treat Parkinsons etc.

    You could propose an ideal pandaworld health plan

    You could discuss parenting while being in medical school, intern & residency

    you could do a book review of some you have liked

  31. Something to keep in mind about PTSD: recent research has found that, contrary to popular belief, the normal response following trauma is something called “post-traumatic growth”, wherein trauma survivors find a “silver lining” to their trauma and often will go on to function better and more mindfully than they did prior to the trauma. Around 2/3 of people who experience a traumatic event will never develop symptoms of acute stress. Resilience, not PTSD, is the norm. So ,if the torture McCain endured had any lasting psychological effect on him, odds are that it strengthened him.

    I also want to reinforce that PTSD is an anxiety disorder, not a psychosis.

    Great blog, Panda!

  32. Hey Panda, I don’t know how close you are to actually becoming an attending but when you do you could write about the differences between being a resident and an attending.

  33. Having spent the last year at the VA, I can vouch for Panda’s point about PTSD. Very few of the vets with a chart diagnosis of PTSD really have it. Getting a diagnosis of PTSD and a service connection is (sadly) often simply another way to extract money from Uncle Sam while continuing to feel pity for oneself.

    The service connection (for those that don’t know, this is essentially a measure of disability based on which the VA pays) for PTSD is viewed by many in veterans organizations as simply another entitlement. There are groups that coach vets in how to answer their comp panel questions so as to increase their chances of getting labeled as having PTSD.

    There are folks with real and flow-blown PTSD. But they usually are very reluctant to talk about it and often display physical signs of anxiety when you start questioning them about their combat experiences (e.g. shaking uncontrollably — a tough thing to fake). Believe me, these folks do not wear their PTSD diagnosis on their sleeve. (Many of them, in my experience, are in fact NOT service connected.)

    So, what you have is a large group claiming entitlement benefits for PTSD, when they don’t actually have it, while a small minority that does have it doesn’t get the help it needs.

    Unfortunately, given the political climate of the VA, this won’t change anytime soon as politicians compete to outdo each other condemning the VA for any perceived slights to veterans.

    The end result: Most everything at the VA is driven by fear (of a bad newspaper headline) and bureaucratic inertia (“well, as long as I follow procedure, I can’t get in trouble”).

  34. When McCain got back from war, he and his wife were, both, completely different people. She had been in a horrible accident while he was away, and, between recovering from his experiences and all the public adulation, who knows if they could’ve made it work? (Apparently they couldn’t.) It’s a political year, so all’s fair, but it seems like a cheap shot to bring that up now. It’s not as cut-and-dried as it appears.

    McCain’s attempts to patch things up with the people he’s opposed, also, speaks to his character. What are you going to do with evangelicals, kill them? I’m no fan of religion – or belief of any kind – but I’ll take America’s “salt of the earth” types, over the other nonsense, any day.

    About patriotism and nationalism: I was working with an African friend the other day and he was trying to convince me that “America belongs to the world”. I told him that was news to me because, as far as I know, we (the Americans) didn’t get a vote on that one – just as “the world” doesn’t get a vote in our elections. And if you think it’s weird for Americans to have pride in our country, go to France and tell a Frenchman he shouldn’t love their soil too. It’s silly: this is our home, y’all, and you don’t let people come in your home and tell you what to do – nor do you let people run it who think it’s a “little thing” to show that love. Barack Obama is faking his way into the hearts of many. I’m not saying he isn’t trying to get there, but – when it comes to loving this great nation – the man’s got a tin ear regarding the people who aren’t already singing his song. His pastor is a clear sign of that. Give Obama time – just don’t give him now.

  35. “Mr. Obama has no substance. He is an empty suit supported by the usual intellectually vacuous doctrinaire liberal hot air.”

    You can say a lot of things about him, but this is not one of them. He’s more intelligent than anyone I’ve seen in the final match-ups in a long time. (I voted for Ron Paul btw.) He’s much more insightful and intelligent than anyone running against him, in my opinion. I won’t be voting for McCain, that’s for sure. I don’t question his valor, but I certainly question his judgment on what is best for this country.

    (No way. I have heard Mr. Obama attempt to speak extemporaneously and he comes across as a rambling, bumbling idiot who has trouble expressing his ideas when they go beyond the usual political rhetoric. Either that or one suspects that he knows his real opinions are so far to the left and so intolerable to most of the “bitter clingers” that he is afraid to speak lest anything other than the usual class envy and promises to pay for everything for everybody squirts out. He has no special insights into anything but instead just repackages the usual leftist hornswoggle. If he wasn’t black he’d be just another unimpressive journeyman liberal senator. His candidacy depends on swooning white liberals and that’s the truth of it. He will have the stuffing beat out of him by Mr. McCain in the general election because he is already demonstrating a certain inability to stand up to pressure now that the initial adulation has worn a little thin.

    Man. Ronald Reagan was insightful and intelligent as well as being a great orator. Dick Cheney is probably the most intelligent guy in government and can speak off the cough and make sense. President Bush, who I have heard speak without prepared remarks, is witty, charming, and can explain complex ideas even if he is not the world’s greatest orator. Mr. Obama? Third Rate unless reading from a prepared speech or talking to the Oprah crowd (his comfort zone). He’s no Patrick Moynihan, that’s for sure.

    As for intelligence, I’m sure he is reasonably intelligent but Mr. McCain who is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy probably could run circles around him even though he is not as polished a speaker. The service academies have always maintained high academic standards, something that Columbia, Harvard, and other so-called elite institutions have not. -PB)

  36. I think I have a bit of a unique perspective on a few of the issues being discussed here, so like most I’ll just give it a go.

    When McCain ran 8 years ago I thought for one that he was a much more credible candidate. He had his opinions and he wasn’t afraid to share them on his “Straight Talk Express.” I had the privilige *cough* of attending the public high school in Pat Robertson’s voting district (or very close to it) where, at a speech the students all had the honor of attending, Mr. McCain stated that he challenged the grip that the Religious Right had on the Republican Party. His campaign quickly derailed after that because, as his actions over the past several years have indicated, you can’t play ball with the Republicans unless you want to play with the whole team (which will tie into the next point). Even if he had to be the better man and play nice with those that he doesn’t agree with, his credibility is still more intact that either Clinton, who has completely eroded her own, or Obama, who I’m not sure had any to begin with.

    Echoing and expanding on what Emcee says above, a lot of this whole Left versus Right thing boils down to this (in my mind at least)…whose fringe are you most willing to tolerate? When it comes down to it, the Evangelicals have an immense amount more credibility than the Environmentalists if for nothing other than to admit that their faith is exactly that and does not equal everyone’s fact. In anticipation of the retort that Evangelicals view those who don’t agree with them with disdain, the Environmentalists try to force radical changes in public policy and law upon everyone else for their “beliefs.” Those that don’t agree with their beliefs (i.e. Global Warming/Climate Change/Scientific Welfare) are persecuted relentlessly for even questioning. Case in point of people who have survived this with their credibility intact is Patrick Moore (http://www.mad-cow-facts.com/2008/04/22/why-i-left-greenpeace/) or John Coleman (http://icecap.us/index.php/go/joes-blog/comments_about_global_warming/). So the choice for me is easy – follow those who see their faith as a guide for life or those who see their faith as a fact for all and consequences for those who don’t. And for those of you who really love the environment, I’ll save my attack on the “I believe in XXXXX rights” crowd for another time…

    I also have a friend, basically my brother, who is currently serving in the Army as a corporal and was subject to an attack in Iraq resulting in severe third degree burns to the back of his hands, rendering them usable after several years of recovery, but aesthetically destroyed and in constant chronic pain. While we all joke about his sense of humor in getting a flame tatoo as a sleeve on one of his arms starting at the point where the burns end, I didn’t realize the real emotional pain he was in until he confided me that he has suffered some very real symptoms of PTSD (having to be removed from training classes which show fire, nightmares that keep him awake for hours on end, shaking uncontrollably for no reason, etc.). While he is working though these issues a day at a time and with his family and friends to support him, it hasn’t been easy. But I offer that he was strong enough as a person to endure this before he joined and he is sure as hell strong enough to survive it now that he has faced it. In conversations with him regarding his group therapy and other sources of treatment, he has told me that this is the kind of thing that will either make you stronger or destroy you altogether. A lot of it generally depends on who you were before that particular series of events. Extrapolating this to McCain, I would say that he isn’t destroyed.

    And, like Panda, while I don’t agree with everything McCain says, his beliefs at least run parallel to mine whereas Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama have a set of values that I believe will bring out the worst in this country and its citizens.

  37. Panda,

    Great blog. You obviously don’t like Obama. Okay. I find your comments on Obama offensive to say the least. “Anti-American fuck?” Really? If you honestly believe that, and you’re not just saying that to stir things up, then I lost respect for you.

    Obama isn’t intelligent because he doesn’t speak “off the cough” like Bush? Did you know Obama writes his own speeches? How about how McCain is against research http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/09/AR2008030902152.html?hpid=topnews
    or McCain’s superstitions http://www.mydd.com/story/2008/2/20/02150/0194
    Seems to fall in the category of people who would believe in your loathed Alternative Medicine.

    How about bashing “elite” educations? Bush is a Yale grade, and has a Harvard MBA (the only president ever to have an MBA) and look at his the economy. I wonder if they emphasized Reaganomics (see massive public debt) at Harvard B-school?

    Your complaints against Obama lack substance. Just vague statements about being anti-American, being a ‘suit’, and being surrounded by anti-Americans.

    Anyway, I don’t necessarily want to pick a fight, but I just want you to keep the big picture in mind. It’s easy to see what’s wrong with the other guy from your side of the divide. When someone supports Obama, it’s because they think he’s going to do what’s best for the country, just the same as you think McCain will do.

    (Mr. Obama may think he is going to do what’s best for the country but he will do nothing but harm it, sending us even deeper into the economy-killing, entitlement quagmire in which we are currently mired. He has only a shaky grasp of economics and is driven by the usual leftist class-envy more than anything else, hoping to parlay the worst impulses of the mob into political victory. During one of the debates with Mrs. Clinton, Charlie Rose asked Mr. Obama if, seeing that lowering the capital gains tax actually increased revenue to the treasury, he would consider lowering it (to the point on the Laffer curve where revenue is at a maximum). In a telling, off the cuff answer, Mr. Obama insisted that he wouldn’t because to do so wouldn’t be “fair,” even though he acknowledged that lowering the capitol gains tax did increase revenue.

    Now, whenever you hear the word “fair” coming out of a politicians mouth you need to check for your wallet. What Mr. Obama was saying is that far from being a means whereby the government collects money to pay for essential functions, taxes are punitive instruments used to punish the rich and successful for the crime of being rich and successful and that to score political points with the mob he will sacrifice real money and by extension, economic prosperity. Short term political gain for long term economic harm, you see. If I were Mr. Obama I would have said, “I will lower taxes on the rich to the point where we get the maximum amount of money to distribute to all of you lazy bums out there.”

    The difference between me and you is that I know something about economics and history and vote accordingly. Leftist ideas about economics are more emotional than rational and educated people should be ashamed to support such tripe. No candidate, however, is as conservative as I am and you could probably not win an election by promising to do what really needs to be done, that is, taking everybody’s snout out of the trough so I’m going with Mr. McCain who is a political realist and will try to limit the damage.

    Oh, and if the shoe fits, wear it. The accusations of being anti-American bother Mr. Obama’s supporters because there is some evidence they are true, at least by looking at the public pronouncements of some of his closest associates. If you accused me of being anti-American on the other hand I would laugh and everybody who knew me would laugh too. That accusation would be preposterous…in regards to me. It’s like the old saying that used to be printed above the mirror in the Duty NCOs room when I was a young Marine. In those days we had to wear the seasonally appropriate uniform or conservative “civies” with a neat haircut and a shave to be given a liberty pass. The mirror said, “If you were accused of being a Marine, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Likewise, if Obama were accused of being a patriot, the minimum requirement for the job, would there be enough evidence to convict him?-PB)

  38. Your explanation is really presumptuous. “The difference between me and you is that I know something about economics and history and vote accordingly.” I’m all for fiscal conservatism, if it’s practiced true to conservative ideals. How about if there are less taxes, the government spends less? Also, if political choice was as clear cut as you make it sound, would there even be debate about left vs right, or would we just hand McCain the office? If your statements were true, would any economists back Obama?
    Or historians?

    Instead of presuming you know exactly what is right for the country, or even that there is a “correct” answer to politics, I suggest you loosen your grip on your neo-con dogma and try to see the issues from both sides.


    (I may not know much but the kind of left-wing economics of which Mr. Obama is a champion are not going to encourage the kind of economic growth that we absolutely need to outrun the unstoppable growth of entitlement spending.  Once again, a knowledge of history and economics is not “dogma,” neo-con or otherwise.  Every economic proposal put forth by Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton is just shuffling the money around, hoping that nobody will notice the numbers don’t add up.  Deep economic thinkers they are not.

    I am an old-school conservative, by the way.  There is nothing “neo” about it.  “Neo-conservatives” are former liberals who have been mugged by reality. -PB) 

  39. “President Bush, who I have heard speak without prepared remarks, is witty, charming, and can explain complex ideas even if he is not the world’s greatest orator. Mr. Obama? Third Rate unless reading from a prepared speech or talking to the Oprah crowd (his comfort zone).”

    REALLY? You’re arguing that Obama is worse than Bush when it comes to off-the-cuff remarks? I guess I’ll just agree to disagree, because GW is worse than me when you put him in front of a podium and ask him questions.

    And Obama was a professor of law at a well-ranked law school. I don’t think that McCain’s academic pedigree really compares.

  40. If you aren’t a neo-con, then why do you support Bush and Cheney? If you really are a paleoconservative, aren’t you against the war and our interventionist foreign policy?

    (No.  I am a Ronald Reagan, “Big Stick” conservative. -PB)

  41. If you call Obama anti-American, I wonder how you classify some powerful conservatives like Falwell and Robertson? America is far more than just white anglo-saxon protestants.

    You have claimed that the battle against Islamo-fascism is your biggest issue as a voter. Why do the islamo-fascists warrant such a fearful response? Of the last dozen or so successful terrorist attacks on American soil, one was perpetrated by an Islamic group. What about Oklahoma City, Ted Kaczynski, Virginia Tech, Columbine, the Midwest Pipe Bomber, the Beltway Sniper Attacks (though John Walker Williams was Islamic when he began the shootings, he was also ex-Army), and the anti-abortion “Army of God” bombings to name a few? These are real ‘home-grown’ terrorists who are not being made a priority by any candidate. Is it because the islamo-fascists are brown?

    Sorry, I do not mean to insinuate that you are any more racist in your rabid fear of the islamo-fascists (as opposed to the wacky Caucasian fascists that our country seems to produce) than our current presidential candidates are. I mention this to make a point – that the fear of a perceived enemy, disproportional to the threat the impose, is often used to chip away at the liberties of a nation by the government in power at the time. And since the islamo-fascists also happen to be totally culturally alien as well as not ‘look like us’, they are a convenient group to use as an enemy of the state.

    This doesn’t even address the fact that both Democratic candidates have been as supportive of anti-terrorism legislation as McCain has. What’s McCain done to earn the title of being ‘tougher on terrorism’? Also, since most anti-terrorism activities are handled by agencies that are sort of above politics (FBI, CIA, and local law enforcement acting within rules set by the legislative authority of Congress), why do campaigns for the office of President even mention their ‘tough on terrorism’ stance? Again, it’s all about the fear.

    (To compare Islamic terrorism with American spree killers, heck, even with the Oklahoma City bomber, is to engage in the worst form of moral relativism I can possibly imagine. The Muslims can and will use a nuclear device on one of our cities if they can get their hands on one. If you think some whacked out right-wing nut-job bombing an abortion clinic is as big of a threat as the total destruction of Omaha or Chigago then what can I say? There is a deep sickness in the Islamic world which is every bit as bad if not worse than the terrible fascist scourge that set the world on fire during World War II. At least the Germans knew, deep down in their black hearts that what they were doing was wrong and tried to disguise the holocaust behind euphemisms and red tape. The Muslims will saw off a hostage’s head and proudly distribute footage or massacre your children while shouting, “God is Great.”

    Dude, just because our side isn’t perfect doesn’t mean we are the same.  Moral relativism is an expression of fear.  It is a way to convince yourself that the paralysis of will that afflicts you and many in our country is a virtue rather than cowardice.-PB)

  42. I didn’t mean to imply that our country is the same as radical Islam even with our imperfections and I’m sorry if my last comment read that way. I’m not so naive as to think that radical Islamists have our best interests at heart. Islamo-fascism worries me to be honest, but it worries me far less than it occupies you and other voters who mark the war on terror as their top concern. In short I trust law enforcement agencies to keep the terrorist acts in check without committing vast resources, manpower, and lives to a global conflict that may or may not make us any safer. You seem to accept it as a fact that a war in the Middle East somehow does a fantastic job of preventing a smuggled nuclear weapon from doing massive damage in Chicago. While I could use my imagination to draw the same conclusions I also see a much simpler solution in the tightening of border security and expansion of funding for the FBI and CIA (while eliminating that massive sinkhole known as Homeland Security).

    You have used the term paralysis of will many times on your blog, but you are being misleading about those who disagree with you. No one is suggesting we do nothing about Islamo-fascism (even that “Anti-American fuck” Obama). We simply disagree on the tactics necessary to win this conflict for good. Even the military recognizes the need to win the hearts and minds of the enemy in order to truly quash further violence. What you call paralysis of will I call using an appropriate response at the appropriate time, recognizing that we as a nation are dealing from a position of power.

    “The Muslims will saw off a hostage’s head and proudly distribute footage or massacre your children while shouting, “God is Great.””

    While these are indeed facts about the enemy we are engaged with, making you emotionally wrought is what the telecasting of these events is meant to do. They are meant to make us rush into conflict and overextend ourselves, meant to force our elected leaders to make rash decisions, meant to cause our citizens to fear the islamo-fascists no matter how safe our citizens really are. This is the end aim of terrorism. You are no stranger to combat and I’d wager you’ve seen some things I wouldn’t care to, but we can’t allow ourselves to feel this fear.

    And you’ll notice that while I may be accusing the hawks of being rash I’m not accusing them of being cowards. I don’t presume basic character defects in someone simply because they disagree with me. Still, the real reason some would reflexively strike out so ferociously is because deep down they are afraid.

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