PTSD, TBI, VA, and the DOD

I’m a little sick of hearing about soldiers who come back from war zones experiencing horrible symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and not getting adequate help from the Department of Defense and/or the Veterans’ Administration.

Today NPR and ProPublica ran a story about a vet named Brock Savelkoul who had some serious problems once he was back in the US.

Savelkoul struggled the most to return to the person he had been before. On that night last September, his troubles transformed from academic data point to terrifyingly real confrontation.

Whatever we might think of the politics involved, these men and women deserve the best support and care we can offer. It’s a disgrace that so many vets find themselves adrift in a quagmire of nightmares and anxiety once they’re out of the warzones into which we send them.

If any of my friends who have served in the military experience any of these problems, please get some help! I don’t want to hear about you ending up in a farmyard standoff with the cops or getting sentenced to prison like Jose Barco.

(pic from FMJ.)


Actually, this is a really good use of your time. If you’ve never seen the PBS Frontline special report The Wounded Platoon, please take 90 minutes and watch it. I can’t embed the video from PBS, apparently, but here’s part one:

Today I’m listening to: The Philosopher’s Zone!

Quote of the Day: Obama on War

Obama, in 2007:

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

No-Fly Zone = Airstrikes?

I’m very nervous about the airstrikes the US (and our trusty omnipresent but amorphous “coalition”) is launching on Libya. Aren’t airstrikes a different thing from enforcing a no-fly zone? This is not a rhetorical question; I want to know. (TPCQ: “Dad, do you even know what ‘rhetorical’ means?” “Do I know what rhetorical means!?”)

The Arab League supports the UN-resolved no-fly zone, but AL chief Amr Moussa has already spoken out against the airstrikes:

Protecting civilians does not need military operations. Protecting civilians needs suitable action such as a no-fly zone. This is what we asked for from the very beginning to avoid any additional developments.

Why do I feel like the only person who doesn’t like where this is headed? Why don’t I hear lots of other people complaining about an acute sense of deja vu? I just don’t trust US policy planners when they start talking about how much they love democracy and want to protect human rights.

Apparently Andrew Sullivan is also nervous, but for slightly different reasons. Matthew Rothschild also wrote an interesting piece recently. And — what a shock — Noam Chomsky has something to say about it. (And he gives a shout-out to Madison. Woo!)


Sometimes US foreign policy feels like a big ruse. (One of my students recently used that word, and of course it reminded me of this.)

Today I’m listening to: DemocracyNow!

It’s Pronounced “Nucular”

Many thanks to DemocracyNow! for bringing on Ralph Nader to explain — loudly but succinctly — why nuclear power is so dumb.

Why are we playing Russian roulette with the American people for nuclear plants whose principal objective is simply to boil water and produce steam? This is technological insanity. It presents national security problems, for every nuclear plant is a prime target. It affects our civil liberties. It endangers our workers. It is an industry that cannot be financed by Wall Street because it’s too risky. Wall Street demands 100 percent taxpayer guarantees for any nuclear plant.

Business > Labor (Contributions)

Yesterday the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign released a report which shows that in the most recent election cycle, big business spent $12 for every $1 spent by unions.

So much for the ability of labor to buy elected officials who will do their bidding!

Here They Come

Also: Did you hear about the new Red Dawn remake? They filmed it with Chinese invaders, but now they’re digitally changing the flags and insignias to be North Korean. (I guess the actors will all be the same, since of course Chinese people look identical to North Korean people.)

And why? Because this way the movie will do better in China.

Our anti-communist fears are being moderated in anti-communist propaganda so as to sell better in communist markets. I’m not insane!


Mario, as first-person shooter. Freddie Wong is a freaking genius.

Today I’m listening to: Dead Prez! (Apparently their new album is donate-ware.)

Media Rashomon: Pakistan and the CIA

I’m not insane! Sometimes I need to tell myself this, just to hear someone say it, because it’s very easy to believe otherwise, especially when I read news stories. Today CNN gave me a total Rashomon moment. (TPCQ: “C’mon, Homer. You liked Rashomon.” “That’s not how I remember it.”)

Look at how CNN described the reason for Pakistan’s release of US citizen Raymond Davis, who was revealed to be a CIA contractor after we swore up and down he wasn’t:

CIA contractor Raymond Davis has been released from jail in Pakistan after the families of two men he killed in January forgave him, a government official said Wednesday [...] the victims’ families did not want to press charges

Doesn’t that sound remarkable? It reads like a Debbie Morris type of moment, where a survivor shows amazing grace and divine mercy to a person who committed horrible violence.

I wanted to know more, so I went to Al Jazeera English, where I found a very different story:

he was immediately pardoned by the families of the victims in exchange for compensation or “blood money”. The practice of pardoning those accused of murder under such an arrangement is permitted under Pakistani law. [...] Lawyers for the victims however suggested that they were forced to sign the deal.

Wow. That’s a very different version of the story — almost not the same story at all. Not like CNN reported four inches of rain and Al Jazeera reported five. It’s more like CNN reported four inches of rain and Al Jazeera reported flaming chunks of concrete falling from the sky.

Obviously it’s tricky to know who to believe here, but suffice it to say that I’m really suspicious of the CNN version. Given the history of CIA activity around the world during the last 50 years, I expect the Al Jazeera version is a bit closer to the truth.


I protested the nuclear-powered launch of the Cassini probe, since it could have irradiated all of Florida if something had gone wrong (like things sometimes do with space travel). Still, the images it has sent back to Earth are truly remarkable.

Today I’m listening to: Soma FM!