Thursday, February 21, 2013

Old Yellow Stain: A Tragedy In One Act

The Caine Mutiny is a book that everybody should read.

It’s one of my very favorite novels – and not just because I spent most of my life in the Navy.

On the surface, the book is a war story that chronicles the misery of life aboard a US Navy mine sweeper on patrol in the Pacific during World War II.

At its core, of course, The Caine Mutiny is a coming of age story.

The book follows Willie Keith from callow youth to admirable adulthood against the backdrop of war. The story is told in three pieces, beginning with Keith’s misadventures in training where as midshipman he’s a lousy student who earns the greatest number of demerits in academy history, the middle part where as an immature boot ensign he is assigned to USS Caine’s wardroom and is witness to the events that won the book’s author, Herman Wouk, the 1952 Pulitzer Prize, finally the story ends with Keith as the ship’s last commander and the respected seasoned officer who takes the old destroyer home to New York to be scrapped at the end of the war.

The story is about Willie Keith, but it’s Captain Philip Francis Queeg that everyone remembers.

They remember it because in 1954, Hollywood made the novel’s second act, an adaption of the play The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, into an instant silver screen classic starring Humphrey Bogart as Queeg.

Sixty years later, Bogie’s masterful portrayal of Lt Commander Queeg’s descent into madness is every bit as disturbing as it was the day the movie premiered. We watch as Queeg oscillates between lucid authoritarian commander to crazed outbursts of paranoid accusations against his crew. The bizarre “crime” of the missing strawberries, the steel balls, Queeg’s mental breakdown during the hurricane and the mutiny itself are all uncomfortable enough, as is the resulting court martial – but the truly chilling part is that not only are you watching a man, a fellow human being, disintegrate under the enormous stresses of war, but you’re watching it happen to a once respected figure of trust and authority, the very person the crew looked to for courage and guidance and calm sanity in the most dire of circumstance.

This is the Captain speaking, some misguided sailors on this ship still think they can pull a fast one on me. Well, they are very much mistaken! Since you've taken this course, the innocent will be punished with the guilty! There will be no liberty for any member of this crew for three months. I will not be made a fool of! Do you hear me!

Madness, if you’ve never seen it, the slow dissolution of sanity into all consuming obsession, furtive paranoia, and unpredictable irrationality, is terrible to witness.

Especially when it happens to someone that we should respect and admire and look to for calm and reasoned guidance.

“I have seen a number of occasions around here where people have stayed too long…”
                                      - Senator John McCain (R-AZ).

Speaking of mad people who have stayed too long.

Since the recent elections, I’ve watched John McCain with an increasing sense of unease and disbelief.

And I don’t think I’m the only one.

And now, with McCain’s most recent outburst of paranoia, I can’t help but be reminded of the unfortunate Captain Queeg.

Frankly, at this point, I’ve lost track of John McCain’s position on the Chuck Hagel nomination for Secretary of Defense – is McCain for Hagel? Or against Hagel? Or does McCain think somebody asked him if he wanted breakfast? Eh? What’s that, sonny? A bagel? Damn it, speak up!

First McCain was against a filibuster but then he was for a filibuster or maybe he’s actually against a filibuster as long as there’s sufficient delay but meanwhile McCain is resigned to Hagel being confirmed while at the same time McCain claims he and Chuck are “friends” but Hagel is incompetent and unqualified and a lousy excuse for an American however nobody should question Hagel’s character.

You could get whiplash trying to keep up with it.

Last week, before the Senate put on their party clothes and left Washington for two weeks to celebrate President’s Day and the impending economic implosion of the federal government (because really woohoo, right?), McCain went on Fox News (of course) and had this to say about the republican obstructionism of Hagel’s nomination:

To be honest with you, Neil [Fox’s Neil Cavuto], it goes back to there's a lot of ill will towards Sen. Hagel because when he was a Republican, he attacked President Bush mercilessly and said he was the worst president since Herbert Hoover and said the surge was the worst blunder since the Vietnam War, which was nonsense. He was anti-his own party and people. People don't forget that. You can disagree but if you're disagreeable, people don't forget that.

Back when Hagel was a republican?

Isn’t Chuck Hagel still a republican? Or has he been excommunicated from the Church of Conservatism?

Didn’t the liberal President of the United States nominate a conservative, a highly decorated war veteran who still carries shrapnel in his chest, a Republican, for Secretary of Defense?  Maybe Obama should have nominated John Kerry instead, Republicans suddenly seem to love him – almost as much as they’re sweet on Hillary Clinton.

It’s a topsy turvy world nowadays, isn’t it, Folks?

Then there’s that bit about “anti his own people.” Anti his own people? In John McCain’s tortured mind, who exactly are Chuck Hagel’s own people? Veterans? Republicans? Israelis? Americans? Who? Who did Hagel betray exactly? George Bush? I.e. the guy who questioned McCain’s own sanity and patriotism and character during the 2000 republican presidential primaries, that George Bush? Seriously?

And finally, you can disagree but if you’re disagreeable, people don’t forget that?

So, it’s personal then, right? McCain’s nursing a grudge?

A few days later McCain went on Meet The Press and host David Gregory asked him point blank about his accusation that the Obama Administration was engaged in a “massive cover-up.”

Gregory asked simply, "A cover-up of what?"

McCain responded by accusing Gregory of not caring about the deaths of four Americans.

Nonplused, Gregory gamely tried to keep McCain on target, "You said there is a cover-up. A cover-up of what?"

McCain, in his best Old Man Yelling At Clouds impression thundered, "Of the information concerning the deaths of four brave Americans!"

Six month McCain has been digging into this thing and that’s the best he can do?  I believe there’s a cover up because four Americans died and they died because there’s a cover up, damn it!

I was really starting to wonder if Johnny Walnuts was going to go Captain Queeg on us right there:

…Ahh, but the strawberries that's, that's where I had them! They laughed at me and made jokes, but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt and with geometric logic that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox did exist!

I was just waiting for McCain to fish a couple of ball bearings out of his pocket. The strawberries! The strawberries! Clink! Clink!

McCain finished up the interview by telling Gregory,

He [Hagel] is my friend. He will be confirmed. I don’t believe he is qualified, but I don’t believe that we should hold up his nomination any further because I think it is a reasonable amount of time to have questions answered.”

McCain considers Hagel a friend?

And McCain believes that Hagel will be confirmed.

And he’s not the only one.

See, McCain’s other friends, fifteen of them led by Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) and fourteen other Republican senators sent a letter to President Obama today, demanding that he withdraw Hagel’s nomination. The logic apparently being that Chuck will most certainly be confirmed as McCain predicted, but without broad support by Hagel’s erstwhile pals in the Republican party.  With friends like these … but I digress.

"In the history of this position, none has ever been confirmed with more than eleven opposing votes"

That’s what those fifteen senators told President Obama.

It’s not that a Secretary of Defense can’t be confirmed with more than eleven opposing votes, it’s just that it’s never been done before. So you probably don’t want to do it, eh, Mr. President? Probably be best if you just withdraw the nomination, for the good of the country and all. We’re about to crash the economy, again, and decapitate the Defense Department, but you, sir, you should do what’s right for America.


Republicans can’t beat Obama, and they can’t win in their own forum, so they asked the president to forfeit the game – just so they can have their strawberry ice cream and eat it too.

In a city chock full of god damned things, that’s the god damnest thing I’ve seen yet.

Funny, apparently John McCain won’t be one of the dissenting republican votes.

Because for McCain it’s really not about Israel, or Benghazi, or even Chuck Hagel.

See, because for McCain it is personal, isn’t it?

McCain is still smarting from his thrashing at the hands of Barack Obama. 

McCain’s poorly captained campaign and his choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate is the political equivalent of Queeg running over his ship’s own towline. 

And just like Queeg, McCain still refuses to admit his mistake. He knows he was wrong, he knows it cost him his election and his credibility. He, war hero, son of admirals, fighter pilot, patriot, warrior, experienced politician, soundly beaten by a jug-eared inexperienced liberal from Chicago. America picked Obama over him. Now, that’s got to leave a few bruises.

And McCain’s shame is Queeg’s yellow dye marker, a stain in the water visible for all to see.

And it grows, day by day. Obama was reelected and every day it’s like a knife twisting in John McCain’s guts, like bamboo under his fingernails, and water poured up his nose. Every success Obama enjoys is torture for John McCain. 

Like Queeg it gnaws at him, that impotent rage and hot eyed embarrassment, and, by God, the innocent will be punished along with the guilty and John McCain will not be made a fool of!


Wouk’s story is now sixty years old, but it endures mostly because it was based, in part, on his own experience as a naval officer onboard destroyer-minesweepers during World War Two. The Caine Mutiny was one of hundreds of similar books written after the war by those that were there, but while many of those works are now forgotten, what makes The Caine Mutiny timeless is this: Queeg, for all his flaws and his cowardice and his insanity, was a tragic figure. He was a man who had served his country when it wasn’t popular. He was a navy man who stood the watch in the dark and dangerous parts of the world, who had sweated and labored and earned his way to a commission and a command – and who had finally broken under the strain.

The real tragedy here is that John McCain, senator, war hero, is somebody we should be able to look up to, somebody we should be able to respect and admire.  Someone whose sage and steady counsel we should be able to seek.

Instead John McCain has almost literally become a caricature of himself, a raging Queeg, dangerous and unpredictable, driven by voices only he can hear. Clink Clink.

He has become a man who has stayed far too long.

And like Queeg, if he’s not relieved, soon, he may very well capsize the ship in the coming hurricane.


The first thing you've got to learn about this ship is that she was designed by geniuses to be run by idiots.
             - Lt Tom Keefer USN, USS Caine, The Caine Mutiny


  1. And they keep bringing him back to the Sunday morning shows. And he doesn't seem to make any more sense in what he says than he did the last time he was on. It's really long past time for him to retire.

    1. The winning tweet

      pourmecoffee ‏@pourmecoffee
      David Gregory has signed a new contract to host Meet The Press, NBC's weekly show about the policy views of John McCain.

    2. I cringe every time I think about your average person tuning into the Sunday shows, and I am forever dreading the fact of what they might take away from that kind of broadcast play-acting.

      To have made McCain a regular and established actor on those Sunday dramas is truly one horrendously bad decision on the part of the networks.

    3. They keep bringing him on those shows because sooner or later, McCain is going to say or do something SO outrageously crazy that it'll make picking Sarah Palin as his running mate look like the most reasonable thing he's ever done, politically.

      My guess is that HE's the Manchurian Candidate, and that computer chip that the VC implanted in his brain 50 years ago is malfunctioning.

  2. I remember watching the Caine Mutiny movie in high school (terrible insomnia + late-night television), and feeling a weird mix of horror, fascination, and pity for Queeg. Pretty much the same way I feel about McCain these days.

  3. Great post Jim!

    McCain's life IS a Greek tragedy. His triumphs and inadequacies rise to those levels and plumbs those depths. The problem with him was he had been handed everything in life---but ultimately that privilege became a curse. Which is why he spent those terrible years in the Hanoi Hilton when he should have been on American soil, grounded, because of the previous mishaps-- but wasn't because of his father and grandfather.

    When he's not stalking Sunday morning political shows, he's going to war zones. He's trying to get something back. All of those visits are for him. If they were for the troops he wouldn't be so crazed about keeping them in endless wars. He is an angry conflicted old man now and the bitterness has made him a cartoon character. Only he's not obsessively hunting pesky wabbits . . . He's locked and loaded for the bears that wounded him--Obama, Hagel (oooo the surge) and the American people who tossed him to the side because they realized that with McCain, it ultimately was always all about him.

    1. I remember in the debates how McCain went on and on about then Sen. Obama being wrong about the surge. He demanded President Obama admit he was wrong. It was an obsession --- like 20M Americans were going to vote solely on that single little issue.

      From the way McCain carries on about the surge, you would think he was its creator. His obsession with the surge that was how many years ago, makes everything else suspect.

  4. I think the turning point for me, was when McCain told John Kerry he would not be his running mate. This resulted in another four years for "dubya" . I felt then, if he really cared about the country he would have been part of bringing the country back from the brink. No matter what reasoning he used, it came down to...he wouldn't play second fiddle. He just seemed to get worse from that point on.

    1. YESSSS... overblown ego, fed by overblown ancestral egos, fed that sense of entitlement, which, though on the tail-end of scholastic achievements, got him to fly; he still thinks of himself as that hot-shot JetJock, and it will not end until he draws his last breath.
      Just don't get me going...

  5. And speaking of "Bang Bang Crazy" - the latest from Sen McCain

    "“I can tell you right now you need some straight talk. That assault weapons ban will not pass the Congress of the United States,” said Sen. McCain.
    McCain said his plan to deal with mass shootings would protect Second Amendment rights."

    John McCain gave this "straight talk" to a woman whose child was murdered in the massacre at Aurora.


    1. there's more:


  6. I think it goes back quite a bit farther, though the pattern is easier to see in this last year or so.

    My strongest memory of McCain isn't the Palin nomination, or any of the campaign that came after that, but when he and Joe Liebermann were touring the Middle East, and it became obvious that part of what Liebermann was doing was helping McCain keep on track when he was speaking. When he realized that Liebermann was an unacceptable VP nomination, I think his people went looking for someone who was obscure enough that gratitude for the nomination, and total lack of national political experience, would be enough to keep that person under control. They may have also expected a certain amount of feminine deference in the mix. Well, that didn't quite work.

    Oddly enough, though, I think it was easier to keep McCain's increasing problems from being a major issue because he had such a dingbat as a running mate. Compared to Palin, he sounded reasonable.

    Whether the original McCain was any of the things publicity has claimed for him, I don't know. There are certainly enough negative aspects to his career that I'm leery of seeing him as any kind of shining hero. But it's no fun watching anyone slide toward senility, no matter what kind of man he was, and I'm afraid that's what's happening now.

    Ann C.

  7. One of my favorite books. My father recommended it to me back when I was a teenager (I'm retired now). Also along with "The African Queen", tied for Humphrey Bogart's best performance.

    I've met Sen. Hagel twice briefly and he strikes me as an intelligent, call-it-like-he-sees-it kind of guy. While that may not endear him to his party, I think it's a good trait. And Sen. McCain might do well to remember that that characteristic is what made HIM popular. In the past he has not been shy about criticizing his own party. But he's no longer the maverick. These days he's just a cranky old Senator.

    He's right about Iran. Since 2003, there have been three occasions so far where the Iranians have agreed to an arrangement that gave the rest of the world everything they demanded and yet, we could not say yes. These happened through difficult negotiations but they did result in progress - until they were scuttled. Blame for everyone here too. Pres. Bush refused to even consider an offer brought via the Swiss, Congress destroyed one deal by imposing new sanctions when Pres. Obama requested them to hold off, and Pres. Obama imposed new sanctions when he had a deal in hand brokered by Brazil and Turkey because he finally got the Russians on board and didn't want to waste their vote. Of course Iran is also to blame for not fully complying with IAEA requests for info, and they like nothing better than to torment the US and do so at every opportunity. But Sen. Hagel is right - more negotiations are the way forward. I fear that if Gov. Romney had won the election we'd already be shooting...... with Sen. McCain's blessing (remember Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran?)

  8. It seems over the years that the angel on one shoulder has lost more and more battles to the devil on the other. More troubling to me now is that this once great legislator seems to be relying on strange and scary voices bouncing around inside his own head. Whether it's those years at the Hanoi Hilton or just plain old vanilla senile dementia, it is truly sad to watch.

    We see it with athletes all the time - an inability to recognize that one's time has passed. The difference here, of course, is that incompetence in McCain's position has significantly more consequence for us all than simply being run down from behind, but just like that aging athlete, he is tarnishing a once formidable legacy by trying to stay around too long. With every new lunatic quote, he more firmly establishes a new legacy ... one more akin to Grandpa Simpson than elder statesman.

    Abe is funny in a sad sort of way. Unfortunately, McCain is just sad in a scary kind of way.

    1. When was McCain ever a 'great legislator'?

      I remember him being one of the most corrupt, one of the most deluded, ....never heard of him being 'great'. What's ever been great about McCain being a legislator? He was little more than a Reagan sycophant, he voted against commemorating Martin Luther KIng, he supported Pinochet, he had a role in Iran Contra. He had his hand in Indian gaming, literally, and he was an avid supporter of the lies that led to the Iraq invasion, and he was a cheerleader for constantly escalating the Iraq invasion.

      We can't forget his boosting Joe the Plumber onto the national scene, and who can forget his choice for VP, was that his shiniest moment yet?

      He is and always was an ardent homophobe, he fought against basis healthcare reform, siding with the Tea Party's craziest in their misrepresentations of what reform would mean. If he's not 'for' something one week, he's 'against' it the next. I'm not seeing a lot of reason to heap honors on McCain, he's always been an oppressive hotheaded simplistic thug.

      Once great? No, one should reserve that kind of thing for someone who is actually deserving of the praise.

    2. Oh ABE Simpson. I thought for a minute you were referring to Al.

    3. John McCain was also involved in the Savings & Loan scandal many years back. I'm with 11:19. I don't think he was ever a great legislator. I also think he falls short in so many other areas too - I lost respect for him a long time ago. All I really give him credit for is surviving a POW camp-a nightmare no one should have to endure - but nothing more than that.

  9. I don't follow politics as closely as most commenters here seem to, but McCain earned some respect for me when he used to go on The Daily Show early in the election cycle and laugh at himself - and actually seem to mean it (yeah, that's my yardstick). But then his campaign devolved into "His middle name is Hussein! AAGGHHH!" and "Here's Joe-who-never-really-was-a-plumber!" At that point, I thought I couldn't lose any more reapect for him.. but now...

    And really "I don’t believe he is qualified, but I don’t believe that we should hold up his nomination any further... "?? If you don't think he is qualified for such a critical post - really and truly - then you SGHOULD be fighting his confirmation tooth & nail. (Not saying I agree, you understand)


  10. I actually wrote his daughter, a few months ago, back when some reporters cornered him and asked him about a news report that completely negated his claims...and he responded so fumblingly and with a wild-eyed disorientation....I merely (and sincerely) expressed concern over his health and if he had been examined for possible onset of dementia. Seriously - at that moment watching him, I felt like I was watching him disintegrate mentally before my eyes, and it made me very sad and concerned - as concerned as I was watching each of my own parents as their health failed them in their last months. (She never responded. No surprise there.)

    He has gotten substantially worse, to my mind.
    For all of our sakes, he needs to step down.

    1. I may be hyper-sensitive to it because both of my parents have had Alzheimer's, but that's what I've been wondering as well. As I watch him dispassionately, sometimes with the sound down, he seems to be failing and trying to cover those deficiencies, something I saw in each of my parents before we had an actual diagnosis. It's sad and scary, on a very human level.

    2. I lost both parents to alzheimer's also, and also see their decline -- especially my combative banty-rooster dad's -- reflected in john mccain. What a pity that we have no impartial mechanism for retiring those

    3. I have a loved one in the early stages - well, at least one; two others have no diagnoses but have become weirdly and hysterically convinced that whatever they see on Fox News is true. This sounds like a plausible hypothesis, and if true, it's very sad.

  11. Completely as a side note, my father was a Naval Aviator and flew Skyraiders (just as did McCain at one time) in Korea. On his second cruise, on the USS Kearsarge, they filmed the Caine Mutiny. In Daddy's cruise book there are photos of Bogey and "Baby." Oddly enough, on his first cruise, on the USS Philippine Sea, they had filmed part of the Bridges of Toki Ri. My dad and the AD community were furious: the filmmakers had them fly the ADs (redesignated A-1s later) off the deck and made the film with jets. The ADs were the planes having done all the work and the ones the book was written about, but the public was bored with prop planes and wanted those new fangled jets.

    I can't help but wonder if a lot of what we're seeing with McCain isn't the result of his injuries and torture in Vietnam. Nonetheless, he is quite past his sell-by date.

    1. In regard to your last comment...IMHO I wish that could be a valid reason but classmates as far back as Naval Academy nicknamed him "McNasty" and were it not for family legacy he would never have anything, nor would he have been imprisoned. His legacy got him appointed to Naval Academy, he was at the bottom of his class but not dropped. He wasn't assigned some junior position to learn and improve but given a plane. His legacy got him a pass time and time again when he crashed/wrecked planes. How many good naval careers (or any military) have gone away for mistakes both large and small, their fault or not? I think for years he was able to put a good "face" forward but after the Rovian beating he took, the lies told and then beaten by someone he considers less deserving was enough to strip him of the ability to hide his hate. I think hate has always driven him, he just isn't hiding it anymore.

  12. "...[I]t is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
    Appropriately enough, from Macbeth.
    Would that McCain's rants signified nothing.

  13. I have been watching McCain’s long slow disintegration with some concern, and, in the back of my mind, I had the feeling that I had seen it all before. I never made the connection with “The Caine Mutiny”, though, until you pointed it out. You are absolutely, right, of course.

    Thank you very much, Jim. Your eyesight is better than mine.

  14. "...Now, that’s got to leave a few bruises."

    Fantastic paragraph. I'm a Brit. [Hold the knee-jerk prejudice :) During the Clinton years I lived in California so I'm well-balanced].

    What strikes me most about this particular farce, and the GOP in general (Romney LOL), is how Americans' miraculous courtesy has been distorted into an unhealthy deference. Leading politicians in the UK would be ridiculed into obscurity if they pulled any of these stunts. What happened to the media that relentlessly pursued Watergate?

    Thanks Jim, by the way. I've enjoyed reading your blog immensely since Google served me your answer to "pillows of death". I'm a big fan of your comments policy and look forward to testing the lines in future.

  15. Greg - ETC(SW) USN - RetiredFebruary 22, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    "GET OFF MY LAWN!!" -- John McCain (R-AZ)

    Following the metaphor, do you see right wing media as a collective Lt Keefer - ie "the real author of the Caine Mutiny" in the words of the Navy lawyer defending the XO?

    In one of the other memorable scenes, the officers get together and seek to take their concerns about Queeg's performance to the Admiral on the task group's carrier. The board the carrier and are treated to immediate examples how the Navy "really" runs and are discouraged from actually seeing the Admiral. It just seems to me that there's no real equivalent to the sanity of the real Navy in government and politics today. There are precious few good examples of the way things should be working. Maybe I'm too cynical.

    I always thought they should have incorporated The Caine Mutiny into Navy Leadership training in the same way they used Twelve O'Clock High. Maybe the former had too many bad examples where they focused on the good examples in the latter.

    If anyone hasn't seen The Caine Mutiny (the original with Humphrey Bogart, Fred MacMurry as LT Keefer, Jose Ferrar as the Navy JAG Lawyer, and a young Lee Marvin as colorful junior sailor Meatball), they should stop right now, go to where ever they can get it (streaming, on demand, video store, etc) and watch it. I think the movie should be required viewing for anyone seeking to understand leadership, the pressures, etc.

    Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg: Get that red-headed fellow over there, that one there!
    Lt. Keith: Sir, it's impossible to tell which one is red-headed. They're all wearing their helmets.
    Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg: Keith - you're an idiot!

  16. As soon as you mentioned Queeg, I knew where you were going with this. One of your best, Jim.

  17. Jim, I have to admit I've become ambivalent re: whether McCain really is "somebody we should be able to look up to, somebody we should respect and admire." Yes, he served his country admirably in Vietnam and suffered for it, and if that was his entire biography up to the 2008 Presidential election, maybe it'd be a hundred percent fair to call him a tragic figure, a respected war hero turned into... whatever you'd like to call him after the mess of the 2008 campaign. Or if his Congressional career began in the 1990s....

    The problem, though, is that bit of ancient history he was embroiled in in the meantime, his participation in the Keating Five scandal. And it is ancient history, and McCain has done things that play to the redemption narrative the press spun around him when he reinvented himself as a maverick anti-corruption candidate devoted to campaign finance reform and ethics issues.

    The problem is that McCain's recent tantrums kind of beg the question of whether the redemption narrative was merely that: a story. Is McCain a war hero who accidentally stepped into a peripheral role in one of the worst post-Watergate political scandals, sincerely redeemed himself but then (as you put it) stayed too long on the political scene and burned out? Or is he a war hero who participated in one of the worst post-Watergate political scandals, slipped out of it with a slap on the wrist and worked hard to rehabilitate his image by playing the reformer to the hilt until it stopped paying off, at which the veneer peeled and the real McCain started showing up again? Or something in between there? And I don't know. I'm not saying McCain isn't the brave maverick who slipped up and reformed himself and tried unsuccessfully to reform the process, too, but then tragically overstayed; I'm just saying that I can't say he is, anymore, though that was certainly the story I would have credited him with a decade ago. Perhaps disappointment has made me cynical... or perhaps disappointment has made him cynical, gods only know.

    1. ETC(SW) - USN - RetiredFebruary 22, 2013 at 10:45 AM

      I'm not sure if it's already too late for McCain, but part fo the Caine Mutiny had to do with the support the cracking Commander received from the crew. McCain would have needed years of clear-heaaded support around him, but instead the whole GOP has devolved into insanity. The dialogue, below, comes from the near closing scene after the JAG LT Greenwald has "torpedoed" Queeg to clear Lt Maryk.

      Pasted in two posts due to length.

    2. Greg - ETC(SW) USN - RetiredFebruary 22, 2013 at 10:47 AM

      [Greenwald staggers into the Caine crew's party, inebriated]
      Lt. Barney Greenwald: Well, well, well! The officers of the Caine in happy celebration!
      Lt. Steve Maryk: What are you, Barney, kind of tight?
      Lt. Barney Greenwald: Sure. I got a guilty conscience. I defended you, Steve, because I found the wrong man was on trial.
      [pours himself a glass of wine]
      Lt. Barney Greenwald: So, I torpedoed Queeg for you. I *had* to torpedo him. And I feel sick about it.
      [drinks wine]
      Lt. Steve Maryk: Okay, Barney, take it easy.
      Lt. Barney Greenwald: You know something... When I was studying law, and Mr. Keefer here was writing his stories, and you, Willie, were tearing up the playing fields of dear old Princeton, who was standing guard over this fat, dumb, happy country of ours, eh? Not us. Oh, no, we knew you couldn't make any money in the service. So who did the dirty work for us? Queeg did! And a lot of other guys. Tough, sharp guys who didn't crack up like Queeg.
      Ensign Willie Keith: But no matter what, Captain Queeg endangered the ship and the lives of the men.
      Lt. Barney Greenwald: He didn't endanger anybody's life, you did, *all* of you! You're a fine bunch of officers.
      Lt. JG H. Paynter Jr.: You said yourself he cracked.
      Lt. Barney Greenwald: I'm glad you brought that up, Mr. Paynter, because that's a very pretty point. You know, I left out one detail in the court martial. It wouldn't have helped our case any.
      [to Maryk]
      Lt. Barney Greenwald: Tell me, Steve, after the Yellowstain business, Queeg came to you guys for help and you turned him down, didn't you?
      Lt. Steve Maryk: [hesitant] Yes, we did.
      Lt. Barney Greenwald: [to Paynter] You didn't approve of his conduct as an officer. He wasn't worthy of your loyalty. So you turned on him. You ragged him. You made up songs about him. If you'd given Queeg the loyalty he needed, do you suppose the whole issue would have come up in the typhoon?
      [to Maryk]
      Lt. Barney Greenwald: You're an honest man, Steve, I'm asking you. You think it would've been necessary for you to take over?

    3. Greg - ETC(SW) - USN - RetiredFebruary 22, 2013 at 10:48 AM

      Lt. Steve Maryk: [hesitant] It probably wouldn't have been necessary.
      Lt. Barney Greenwald: [muttering slightly] Yeah.
      Ensign Willie Keith: If that's true, then we *were* guilty.
      Lt. Barney Greenwald: Ah, you're learning, Willie! You're learning that you don't work with a captain because you like the way he parts his hair. You work with him because he's got the job or you're no good! Well, the case is over. You're all safe. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.
      [long pause; strides toward Keefer]
      Lt. Barney Greenwald: And now we come to the man who *should've* stood trial. The Caine's favorite author. The Shakespeare whose testimony nearly sunk us all. Tell 'em, Keefer!
      Lieutenant Tom Keefer: [stiff and overcome with guilt] No, you go ahead. You're telling it better.
      Lt. Barney Greenwald: You ought to read his testimony. He never even heard of Captain Queeg!
      Lt. Steve Maryk: Let's forget it, Barney!
      Lt. Barney Greenwald: Queeg was sick, he couldn't help himself. But you, you're *real* healthy. Only you didn't have one tenth the guts that he had.
      Lieutenant Tom Keefer: Except I never fooled myself, Mr. Greenwald.
      Lt. Barney Greenwald: I'm gonna drink a toast to you, Mr. Keefer.
      [pours wine in a glass]
      Lt. Barney Greenwald: From the beginning you hated the Navy. And then you thought up this whole idea. And you managed to keep your skirts nice, and starched, and clean, even in the court martial. Steve Maryk will always be remembered as a mutineer. But you, you'll publish your novel, you'll make a million bucks, you'll marry a big movie star, and for the rest of your life you'll live with your conscience, if you have any. Now here's to the *real* author of "The Caine Mutiny." Here's to you, Mr. Keefer.
      [splashes wine in Keefer's face]
      Lt. Barney Greenwald: If you wanna do anything about it, I'll be outside. I'm a lot drunker than you are, so it'll be a fair fight.

    4. Jim, I have to admit I've become ambivalent re: whether McCain really is "somebody we should be able to look up to, somebody we should respect and admire."

      I totally agree with you, Eric. McCain is not that guy. But he should be, I guess that's my complaint. He should be.

      USNA graduate. Retired Navy Officer. War Hero. Elder Statesman. Etc. He should be somebody we could respect and admire, almost by definition. Just as the Captain of a Navy Destroyer should be somebody you could likewise respect and admire. But like Queeg, John McCain is most certainly not that guy.

      And, for me at least, therein lies the tragedy.

    5. Jeff Lamm AO3, USS Forrestal 80-84February 23, 2013 at 11:50 AM

      I dunno Jim. I mean, I'm only a 4 year enlistmen petty officer, but I fail to see what made McCain a "War Hero" aside from getting his ass shot down (Because he couldn't follow orders? It's been a while since I read up on him.). He wrecked damn near every plane he took off in, has a long history of acting like the spoiled, petulant child he is, and by all accounts the only reason he stayed IN uniform is his legacy. Any of the rest of us would have been cashiered out so fast our Dixie Cups would have caught fire.

      In short, he is who he is because of the genetic lottery he won (Like so many of the Republicans and 1% ers), and NOT based on his performance and behavior.

    6. Jeff, my lengthy response to your comment is down below, under Notacynic's comment.

  18. You know that link at the top of the page that says "- Stonekettle Station's Greatest Hits: The good stuff, it's in here!" ?

    This post belongs in there!

    A bit off topic, but last year I read a book called "The Wolf" by Richard Guilliatt & Peter Hohnen. It's about a German ship that laid the mines during WW2. It's so bizarre and amazing, I had to keep reminding myself that it was a true story. Highly recommend.

  19. Having watched two people I've cared about descend into dementia, I've been increasingly puzzled and concerned about John McCain's behavior in recent years. His current obsession with Bengazi is more evidence. It is time he exited downstage right.

  20. McCain's downward slide began with the Keating affair - - though he's managed to blame that on his "inexperience" and not his poor judgement.
    I lost all respect for him when he never "called out" Bush and Rove for their smears during the 2000 primary season. He was more concerned with "going along to get along" within the party.
    Republicans don't seem to value independent thought or action. Obedience and "lock-step" approval is their norm; unlike the "circular firing-squads" regularly held by the Democrats.
    I believe he said in 2006 that Mr Hagel would be a good choice for SecState.
    Perhaps the hot lights of the teevee studios have added to cooking the squash there in his head. Perhaps he's qualified for an Actor's Equity Card. Seems he's spending more time as a (wildly) talking head than as a member of the Senate.
    Great comparison with LCmdr Queeg.

  21. McCain, I think, has not had it together since he broke under torture in Vietnam. What I find amazing is how powerful the stories about him are; even in the face of huge evidence that he is not a strong, competent person, still people believed for many years.

  22. I cannot stomach John McCain. The Caine Mutiny is one of my all-time favorite books. That I never put the two together speaks both volumes against me and for you, Mr. Wright. Well and nobly done!

  23. Minor quibble: "...son of admirals..." could you have meant '...son, and grandson, of admirals...?
    Excellent post, despite that. I like McCain, but he was out of there back in 2008. Iran controlling Al-Quaida indeed!

  24. I always figure to pair up The Caine Mutiny with a sort of Cold War equivalent -- The Bedford Incident -- of how things can go wrong.

    "If he fires one, I'll fire one." "Fire one!"

    Or something to that effect in the movie version...

    Dr. Phil

    1. Oldie but goodie. The first time I saw that movie I think I must have yelled out loud - "Oh, S^%t!!! What a surprise ending. Haven't seen that movie in many years. The only thing that stands out in my mind is that line and wasn't it Danno from Hawaii Five-O who was the guy who pushed the button?

    2. Wow - Deja Vu all over again, or something...I just watched the Bedford Incident tonight. The two stories are too far apart in premise to compare. Queeg was inherently weak and pressure broke him, and his crew lost confidence in him. Finlander maintained a high state of pressure on the Bedford as his standard for professionalism, and his crew remained loyal but highly keyed.

      Up until the ship was destroyed by nuclear torpedoes. (In the book, the submarine was sunk without getting a shot off. The former German U-boat captain Schrepke destroys the Bedford by exploding one of the ASROC warheads.)

      The film is very good at building the tension of the submarine hunt from the Bedford's perspective. Schrepke speaks for the sub crew from his own experience. What is plain is that the adversaries assume the actions of the other with almost no real knowledge or understanding of their intentions. And nothing much has changed in war (or politics for that matter).

      I suggest reading "The Twilight War" by Col David Crist. It is about the interaction between the US and Iran over the last 40 years or so. Most of the history is already known, but he expands on a bit on a lot of stuff I was involved in around the Gulf and the Med. My point is that like the Bedford Incident, the recent history of US actions with Iran and Iraq is often the result of complete misunderstanding and underestimation of how the other side will react.

      Pulling it together - all the chest thumping and war baiting that McCain and Co reveled in about bombing Iran or invading Iraq have no basis in real understanding of potential consequences. So in 2008 we could have had a POTUS with the mental capacity of Queeg with the belligerence of Finlander. Shake that up with a preemptive strike on Iran and that fiscal cliff is starting to look like a better deal. Tommy D

    3. Anon, I disagree that Queeg was inherantly weak. He did survive the bulk of the war, after all. But like steel, constant wear and tear can fatigue the strongest of steels, no matter how well forged.

      I find Queeg tragic because he survived the worst the world could throw at him, only to break afterwards.

  25. "Designed by geniuses to be run by idiots"

    If only that was true of our ship of state, ie the Constitution.

    Alas, it was only designed by geniuses to be run by reasonable men of good will.


  26. Hi Jim, good read as always. For a better (?) example of what McCain could have become instead of what's happened -


    Aaand they have the federalist papers for free download also.


    1. What McCain 'could have become'?

      He could not have become Washington. Not by any stretch. That's just nonsense.

  27. Wow. Just wow. Spot on, Jim. The Caine Mutiny made a huge impression on me as a young guy. Thanks for the reminder of just how good it is.

  28. I am from Arizona, and have been familiar with McCain, lo these many years. My late father was a WWII POW, and later in his life had major health problems due to his time in the camps. However, the VA did not acknowledge this since, after they were liberated the young soldiers were all given a clean bill of health by the army.
    My dad went to McCain, as a fellow former POW, for help. McCain totally ignored him, and our other Senator, DiConcini, was the one who helped him.
    McCain came to AZ, married the daughter of a major liquor distributor, ran for office as a war hero. I never really liked him that much, but did support him in the primary vs Bush, since he hadn't really jumped the shark at that point.
    Excellent analysis, Jim


  29. Wonderful essay, Jim. The more I learn about McCain, and the more I hear him, the more grateful I am that he did not become President.
    BTW, "City Boy" was my first taste of Wouk's writing, and it was inevitable that I went on to The Caine Mutiny--completely different kind of story, but same deft touch with plot and characters.

  30. I recently finished reading "Without Hesitation" by General Hugh Shelton and almost every interaction with Senator McCain that he describes starting in 1997 shows an increasingly irrational man.

  31. McCain left Annapolis ranked 894/899. He was not just the coddled son of Navy royalty, he was truly sub-standard and frankly stupid. A shitty pilot who never should have been selected for flight training, McCain rode his dad and grandad's coattails so long he adopted a life long assumption of his superiority and entitlement. Very much like another son of the 60's, George W Bush.

    I don't know if we are better off with Obama since 2009. Nothing can be accomplished cause he is a Kenyan, Commie, Nazi, Muslim Negro man who CANNOT be permitted to appear successful in governing (except of course to win elections). If McCain/Palin had reached office they would have continued driving the country on the Bush trajectory into the ditch of history and both would have been soundly booted last November. Or impeached.

    Obama's 2008 victory proved a point of some kind. But, the cost is that McCain and his fuck wad brethren still have more influence than they should. The GOP is a jet engine. (Sucks and blows) Tommy D

  32. Arizonans need to put McCain out of our collective misery and elect someone else the next go around. McCranky needs to retire ASAP.

    1. You're assuming that whoever replaces McCain would be any less a raging Queeg. Given the selection of frothy gun nuts currently running The Paranoia State, I'm not so sure.

    2. Greg - ETC(SW) USN - RetiredFebruary 22, 2013 at 8:51 PM

      Excellent point - look no further than the guy who just gave McCain a run for his money in the last Republican AZ Senate Primary. Hard to imagine McCain looking so much saner than the competition, but consider J D Hayworth.

    3. Exactly right Jim. Kyle is gone and his replacement makes him look moderate. I live in AZ (for now) If McCain goes in the current political climate in this state, we're likely to get a younger crazier senator who is Teabigot batshit crazy. AZ is a scary place to be right now if you are capable of rational thought.

    4. I've hated JD Hayworth ever since he was a sweaty, stupid sports reporter on Channel 5 (or 10 or 3, whatever). What the heck is happening down in AZ?? Sigh.

      Karla (AZ native who now lives in IL)

  33. corydalus1 (corydalus1@yahoo.com)February 22, 2013 at 8:33 PM

    Interesting post about McCranky, and a great movie. Bogart was masterful at portraying mental overload; after you watch Caine Mutiny, go rent The Treasure of Sierra Madre and watch Bogart's Fred C. Dobbs slowly descend into total batshit crazy....

  34. If you don't mind my asking, by what definition is McCain a 'war hero'?

    1. By the only definition that matters, public opinion.

      And I figured this would come up sooner or later, so here's the thing: I have absolutely no desire to get wrapped up in a pushing matching over whether or not wars and killing make one a "hero" or not, or whether one person's military service is more heroic than somebody else's - whether they fly fighter jets or swab the deck. Frankly, if it was up to me, I'd strike the word "hero" from the language under penalty of law - unless it's in the Heinlein Glory Road sense.

      I would caution all of you that I will not tolerate swiftboating of McCain's military service. He's a vet, he went when called and did what he had to do. I've allowed commenters here to repeat what is widely accepted regarding McCain's service, e.g. he was a bad pilot, a lousy student, an asshole of a junior officer - because McCain himself admits to that in his biography and in various interviews. But as to his service itself, as to whether or not he's a "war hero," I wasn't there, I'm not going to say that I would have endured what he endured any better or any more honorably or any more heroically. He endured five years in the Hanoi Hilton and came home alive. That's good enough for me - but as a vet, as a fellow Navy Officer, perhaps my thresholds are lower than others and I can live with that.

      Those who served with John McCain are qualified to judge his service, I'm not.

      My thoughts in this essay are on his current actions in government, not his military service.

    2. Urk. What opinion? Which public? By polling? By media coverage? Jim, if the only definition that matters is public opinion, then McCain is simultaneously a war hero, a coward, a bulwark of our democracy, a crazy old man - and a long continuing list of other things, both positive and negative. He might be all of them, or none of them, or somewhere in between. Public opinion is notoriously fickle, and usually underinformed.

      I'm not disagreeing with anything other than your first sentence, but boy am I disagreeing with that. And so do you, in the majority of your posts I've read. If it's about anything, this blog is about your opinions, not the various and changing chaos that constitutes 'public' opinion.

      Ann C.

    3. What opinion? Which public? By polling? By media coverage? Jim, if the only definition that matters is public opinion, then McCain is simultaneously a war hero, a coward, a bulwark of our democracy, a crazy old man


      And I see we're going have the conversation anyway. OK.

      Look, there are those who would put all of us veterans on a pedestal and elevate us all to hero status - and you see this everywhere in those "Support Our Heroes" organizations, the rallies (fewer now), and the bumper stickers I see every single day. Of course, there are those who would make us all into baby eating murderers too, so it evens out in the end, I suppose. (Frankly, I think this waters down both sides' positions, but that's probably just me).

      The general perception of John McCain is as "hero," specifically not because he was a pilot or vet (and lousy at both, by his own account) but because of what he endured at the hands of his captors and that he still bears those scars today. We Americans (in general) tend to revere the warrior, rightly or wrongly.

      A lot of people, including me in certain cases, are willing to cut McCain some slack for it - at least up to a point. But the general public perception is that McCain and those like him are heroes in this one area, at least to a certain extent. Remember during his first run at the Senate? The accusations of being a carpetbagger? And his response to the reporter regarding questions of his Arizona residency? The reporter was right, but the crowd cheered McCain anyway, there you go. Hero.

    4. Does McCain deserve it, personally himself, this hero status? Or is he just riding along on the larger respect we Americans have for warriors? Probably the later, certainly some of those who were with him in the Hanoi Hilton think so and have said so publicly. But in this context, the one I used here in this essay it really doesn't matter. His war hero status is part of his image, it's part of what got him elected and keeps him in office.

      Contrast that against John Kerry, three purple hearts, bronze star, silver star (and they don't just hand those out, you know. Even if you're connected. You get the Silver Star, you earned it). Yet, the general perception of Kerry is that he's a veteran, maybe even one that, ok, sure he did his duty "over there" but he was only there a couple of months and then he came home and talked shit about the war, etc, etc. And people did question his service, on both sides of the political aisle (though most recently, in this decade, it's only on the right, but three decades ago it was the other side too).

      Or Chuck Hagel, two purple hearts, a year in the jungle. He's a vet, but nobody calls him a hero - especially his erstwhile pals in the GOP, who supposedly idolize military service (even though most of them have never served themselves). Yeah, he served. So what? Now he's on the other side.

      You may not think of McCain as a war hero, but a lot of people do, even if they really don't know why.

      Hero status is always at the whim of public opinion, take Army PVT Jessica Lynch as an example, first she was a hero (manufactured, sure, but nonetheless a hero to the public eager for heroes in the post 9-11 world), then she was an object of pity, then she was a dupe and somehow deserving of public scorn (and in many cases still is, do a web search, the level of vilification is staggering), and then forgotten. Me, I'd call her a hero, she went when called and did her duty and suffered terribly for it - but afterward right from day one she stood crippled in front of the nation and told the truth, she could have taken the easy way out, accepted the mantle of hero, instead she did the honorable thing. Lynch herself never, ever, accepted the title of hero. She's ok in my book and I don't know what else we could have asked from her. But again, a lot of people hate her, for nothing she ever did, but they hate her nonetheless, and most of them don't even know why - they just blame her for something her government did.

      Then there's Bradley Manning, a cowardly conniving scumbag and turncoat if ever there was one. This assclown betrayed his entire county, his oath, his service, and his comrades in arms, and he deserves to rot in military prison for a good long time right next to Robert Hanssen, John Walker, and Aldritch Ames. But one hell of a lot of liberals have turned this little turd into a hero. He's not, and never has been. But there's probably nothing I can say that'll convince most of my readership otherwise. Not that I didn't try.

      When it comes to heroes, public opinion is always the deciding factor.

    5. Greg - ETC(SW) USN - RetiredFebruary 23, 2013 at 1:19 PM

      First let me qualify that I don't like John McCain and I don't like him by a long shot, but my dislike for him stems from what he's said and done while in office. I accept his service and his hero characterization mostly for the time he spent at the hands of his captors at the Hanoi Hilton, but also for the rest of his service, checkered as it may be. Not mentioned here, is that he's a survivor of the fire aboard the USS Forrestal. There's a video, still used for training purposes today - Trial By Fire, that chronicles the events of that day. I urge anyone here to view it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6NnfRT_OZA). McCain is in one of the aircraft that the "Chief with the Purple K" is trying to save. He crawled out of the wreckage and down to sick bay, badly burned. It was after his convalescence (cut short by his own ambition) that led him to join another outfit where he was eventually shot down.

      Those who have served will understand. I don't know what I would have done in his position. I served on a carrier (among other assignments), never in any "hot" wars, and obviously never taken POW. His story is more exciting than most, less than others, but he's earned the "hero" designation in my book.

      I'd close with a piece of the movie quote I posted above. There are many who have never served and are quick to condemn (from either side, though I don't buy the false equivalency). I'm not saying that they should just shut up, but I do think they should take a step back and try to appreciate what that person (McCain in this case) has experienced.

      Lt. Barney Greenwald: You know something... When I was studying law, and Mr. Keefer here was writing his stories, and you, Willie, were tearing up the playing fields of dear old Princeton, who was standing guard over this fat, dumb, happy country of ours, eh? Not us. Oh, no, we knew you couldn't make any money in the service. So who did the dirty work for us? Queeg did! And a lot of other guys. Tough, sharp guys who didn't crack up like Queeg.

    6. Good responses Jim and Greg both. I respect McCain for what he endured. And this "hero" thing is grossly overblown. I've had people call me a hero one seeing my veteran ballcap, and I'm always at a loss at what to say. I fall back on, "I just did my job". It's uncomfortable.

      But it's an interesting point that McCain, whose service is rife with shame, bad behavior, failure, and basically, disgraces to the uniform, is considered a hero, and Kerry and Hagel are not. And thats because of that little letter behind there names. If Kerry and Hagel were Republicans, they'd captital "H" heroes, feted and adored. But because they're Democrats, they're just this side of Pol Pot, Mao, and Stalin to Republicans. Are their stories any more or less "heroic" than McCains? I don't know. But their behaviors are more heroic than McCains, overall. At least to me. At some point, mcCain's bad behavior has to count against McCain's hero status.

    7. FWIW, I did reverse my opinion on Bradley Manning (assuming he's guilty of the charges against him) in direct response to your column on him. Your logic was inarguable. Yet still, I do think American voters deserve to know some 'classified' information, such as how many foreign civilians the government we allegedly control is killing for the sake of oil/Israel/propping up our empire a little longer. When the state hides much of what it does from us voters, we can neither vote our consciences nor be fully responsible for the consequences of our votes - and I suspect that many of us like that plausible deniability. "Keep the oil and tribute coming - but oh, I didn't ask for any kids to get killed in the process!" For those who know the truth through their work to leak it is immoral, agreed, but if they don't, the rest of us can't do better than assuming that the truth is at the midpoint between what our government claims and what our "enemies" claim, which is at best crude even if you have access to both claims.

    8. You guys keep forgetting the other "hero" recently served in the Senate - Jim Webb. Interestingly, a classmate of McCain's if I recall. And another for whom the crazy GOP (or is that the yellow elephant party?) had no love and worked assiduously to defeat.

      More interesting to me is that Webb ran on making things better for veterans, did so, and then left. Why did he leave? I think it has much to do with the behaviors exhibited by the un-served cowards of the Senate (aka Mitch McConnell) and McCain - all of whom traded away governing to embrace the absolute crazy.


    9. Back to that conversation, Jim? You said "Remember during his first run at the Senate? The accusations of being a carpetbagger? And his response to the reporter regarding questions of his Arizona residency? The reporter was right, but the crowd cheered McCain anyway, there you go. Hero. "

      Yes, that was the public perception. In 1986. I had bet to myself that recent polling wouldn't show the same thing. So it surprised me when I went looking that in 2008, 66% of Americans also/still saw McCain as a war hero.

      Couldn't find any polling later than that which used the same question, so the percentage may have dropped, but likely it's still substantially over 50%, and I suspect the drop would be from younger voters who simply have never considered his military record at all.

      My apologies. I still don't think that using public opinion as a measure of validity is the way to go, but you were certainly right in this instance. One helping of crow, lightly singed, coming up.

      Ann C.

  35. "The first thing you've got to learn about this ship is that she was designed by geniuses to be run by idiots."
    - Lt Tom Keefer USN, USS Caine, The Caine Mutiny

    Hell, making something "idiot proof" is child's play. The real trick is to make it "sailor proof." Then you've done something.

    1. There's no such thing as "sailor proof," that's a myth. A myth!

    2. Another valid test and evaluation standard is "What would a Marine do?".

      And never trust engineers to make anything operationally "user friendly" or "intuitive". I have seen dozens of high tech applications foisted on the DoD and Intel community that are supposed to answer some critical JUON (Joint Urgent Operational Need - there a a million of em). But they are often delayed and eventually compromised due to inability to work with other systems or in the hands of the operators.

      What many developers don't understand (until reality strikes) is that their devices and processors are to be run and maintained by 18-22 year old service kids who are 2 generations ahead in user interfaces, usually ADD and pulled in six directions by other requirements.

      It used to be easier to train soldiers to drill with muzzle loaders and run to the sound of the guns. But then they did not have Iphones, PS3s and Facebook to divide their attention. Although even 200 years ago contractors foisted crap onto the military: spoiled provisions, bad gunpowder, crappy boots. Nothing has changed except for the never ending pursuit of profit at the expense of the troops at the pointy end. Tommy D

    3. We had one in the Army. "Always remember your weapons were made by the lowest bidder".

    4. As my father and grandfather (Both Navy vets) told me on my enlistment, "Stay away from subs. Theres something wrong about a boat thats designed to sink, and built by the lowest bidder."

    5. Ha! We used to employ the service-specific variant nomenclature, "marine-proof," so I reckon it's a geographical joke (you just had to be there...).

      Anyway, as a former warrior and present editor, I feel the terms "hero" and "expert" should be excised from our vocabulary; they are meaningless, but potentially incendiary. I have had the distinct privilege of meeting CMH winners from several wars, and without exception found them to be sincere, humble gentlemen. And again without exception, they refused to tell their story (without serious prodding), saying simply, "I was just doing my job." Truth.

      I'm a pretty broadminded fellow, but I do have a hard time tolerating critical commentary about the military in general or combat veterans specifically by folks who haven't been there--I can only respond: "Save it, bro (or sis). You're talkin' out your ass. You haven't earned the right to criticize." I didn't serve with McCain and can't/won't presume to pass judgment on his service record, but I honor the fact that he *showed up*. He voluntarily went in harm's way when called upon and suffered in ways that you and I can't even imagine in the service of his country--unlike certain politicians who spent their time playing cards at the local NG armory, but love to profile anyway.

      But I digress...

      I am not, however, impressed by McCain's record as a legislator and don't feel that his military service--good, bad, or indifferent--buys him a pass. U.S. Grant was a pretty good soldier, but a complete failure as POTUS. Based on McCain's embarrassing antics of late, I think any reasonable person would counsel him to retire while he still has some vestige of his dignity intact.

      the Digital Warrior-Poet
      (former member SFOD A-335, and therefore a "baby-eater" for sure...)

    6. Speaking of who's 'talking out of whose ass'.

      I always have to look for the narrow-minded following anyone's claim that they are 'broad-minded'.

      It's like someone saying, 'no disrespect' just before they proceed to disrespect someone, you know it's coming, you can be sure of it, ...because they telegraphed it.

      No one needs to earn the right to participate in discussions of military affairs, in America we have civilian oversight of our military. You might not like it, but there it is. Nothing you say is going to change the reality. No one has to be a combat vet or any other kind of vet before they can participate in discussions of our military. It's distinctly anti-American to suggest otherwise.

  36. Excellent posting Jim. McCain is at best a crabby and self centered egotistical person. Worst case, as many here have noted is that he's y suffering from debilitating conditions, including possible dementia.

    His combative and illogical grilling of Chuck Hagel truly showed what an axe he has to grind with anyone critical of his political allegiances.

    Most telling of all for me was the monumental mistake of choosing Sarah Palin for running mate in 2008.

    I only had to listen to her word salad, religious fanaticism, and self serving xenophobic partisan rhetoric in a few interviews to peg her as a narcissistic diva.

    That McCain could not see how ignorant, unfit, and unqualified she was, and still is, or chose to ignore it to get elected by pandering to the fanatic religious right is unforgivable.

    We are so fortunate that McCain Palin were defeated soundly in 08, especially as McCain wanted to continue the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan for another 100 years, as he infamously said.

  37. I was convinced that McCain had totally lost in when after what the Bush team did to him he still publicly hugged old G.W. to get the support for his Presidential run.
    Every time I see him now I think he is suffering from multiple personality disorder allowing a different player to take the stage every day. One of the few things they all seem to agree on is that we should be in an all out war with Iran and build the dang fence.
    Someone really ought to tell him how great a place Arizona is for someone to retire.
    Great post Jim. The comparison with The Cain Mutiny really does resonate.

  38. Jim ,

    I have seen the movie a number of times and please allow me to point out that John McCain cannot be " Captain " Queeg when Barak Obama is " President " and is running the Country.

  39. The more I read of it, the more I hear of it, I'm beggining to believe there is a cover-up on bengazi. Here is why. The October Suprize. Remember they, meaning Rove promised one. Back about this time last year, he mentioned one. Preplanning? That would be treasonious, and a death involved. Just like the first one with prez carter. There were deaths involved there also. And none were charged.

    1. Jebus, ...like as not you also beg to believe in sparkly unicorns too, eh?

    2. I'm going to be honest here: you're making me laugh.

      Frankly, I keep expecting John McCain's head to tip back and little McNasty's head to pop out of his neck like Zaphod Beeblebrox and start shouting "Benghazi! Benghazi!" in a Sam Rockwell voice.

      I'll need to see some actual proof before I'll go down the cover up road. Bottom line, this is America, the burden of proof is on the accuser, Johnny Walnuts needs to pony up or shut up. At the moment his bullshit ranks right up there with Ted Cruz's asshole insinuation that Hagel is taking bribes from the commies. It's character assassination pure and simple by conservatives who don't have the guts to admit what they're really up to.

  40. War Hero - Coward - Bulwark of Democracy - Crazy Old Man

    I wouldn't mind having that on 'my' headstone. All I have right now is 'Crazy Old Man'.

  41. All I have is dirty old man. A nickname from childhood.
    The Cain Mutiny is on Turner Classic Movies at 12:00 AM EST. What a good way to start Sunday.
    Funny, James talks about the deaths in Bengazi and Iran during President Carter's administration. But just off the top of my head what about the Marine barracks in Lebanon under President Reagan, the Embassy and USS Cole bombings during President Clinton's The first World Trade center Bombing and, Oh yeah the 9/11 attack under that President Bush fella?
    Sure seems like there are a lot of conspiracies and cover-ups of intelligence and security failures out there.
    Seems like when you start painting with that brush it gets just about everywhere.

    1. June 14, 2002, U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan
      Suicide bomber kills 12 and injures 51.
      February 20, 2003, international diplomatic compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
      Truck bomb kills 17.

      February 28, 2003, U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan
      Gunmen on motorcycles killed two consulate guards.

      July 30, 2004, U.S. embassy in Taskkent, Uzbekistan
      Suicide bomber kills two.

      December 6, 2004, U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
      Militants stormed and occupied perimeter wall. Five killed, 10 wounded.

      March 2, 2006, U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan
      Suicide car bomber killed four, including a U.S. diplomate directly targeted by the assailants.

      September 12, 2006, U.S. embassy in Damascus, Syria
      Gunmen attacked embassy with grenades, automatic weapons, and a car bomb (though second truck bomb failed to detonate). One killed and 13 wounded.

      January 12, 2007, U.S. embassy in Athens, Greece
      A rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the embassy building. No one was injured.

      July 9, 2008, U.S. consulate in Istanbul, Turkey
      Armed men attacked consulate with pistols and shotguns. Three policemen killed.

      March 18, 2008, U.S. embassy in Sana'a, Yemen
      Mortar attack misses embassy, hits nearby girls' school instead.

      September 17, 2008, U.S. embassy in Sana'a, Yemen
      Militants dressed as policemen attacked the embassy with RPGs, rifles, grenades and car bombs. Six Yemeni soldiers and seven civilians were killed. Sixteen more were injured.

      Where was James Buchanan? .....crickets.

    2. Thank you. Point made.

  42. Okay, I'm not really into the military thing. But there is one thing that McCain could do that would gerner some respect from me.

    He could refuse his full disability pension from the Navy.

    Yes, I know. He Earned It. He suffered horribly as a POW, and never recovered full use of his arm. But he's served in Congress for decades, with a salary and benefits that most Vets and civilians alike can only dream of. On top of that, he's married to that Richer Than God. Brassy Blonde Who Persists In Wearing Bright Yellow ( My eyes - my eyes!).

    Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Americans suffer from disabilities that prevent them from earning any kind of living. When they apply for benefits, they have to grapple with either the VA or SSA. Benefits take months, or even years, to be approved,

    Maybe McCain donates his benefits, and more, to charity or service support organizations. I wouldn't know, since it hasn't been publicized. But I know that publicly turning down this money, which he earned but absolutely doesn't need, would be an act of grace and generosity. And it would show some appreciation for all his wounded comrades in arms.

  43. Probably one of your best posts I have ever read. Thanks.

    It's sad that you're spot on, but me thinks that McCain has now shown his own PTSD from being a POW.

    Waterboarding sucks when you're on the receiving end.

    1. HEY...that's another movie!

      Maybe McCain was the Manchurian candidate, but his programing got mis-wired along the way. Most likely because he doesn't look like Denzel Washington

  44. Great post and greater analogy Jim. And boy, the book was so much more than the movie (a great film in its own right). That's a book that should be on the required reading list in every high school in the USA.


  45. Yes, this ship of state was designed by geniuses to be run by idiots, as the Bush tenure well-illustrated. Despite the gross incompetence at the top, the machinery continued to run more or less smoothly. But that was because there was a prevailing will in Washington for the governmental machinery to function. That is gone, now, at least among the regrettably influential ultraconservative element in Congress. They are so upset at having been defeated in consecutive presidential elections by a man they, in their hearts, regard as an uppity nigger, that they would rather cripple the entire operation than work constructively for the well-being of the nation they profess to love (a point you made several blogs ago). The view seems to be that any system that can allow Barack Hussein Obama to be elected President does not deserve to live. And they are doing their level best to kill it. And they're getting very near to succeeding.

  46. I have no problem with the word "hero". As far as I am concerned, this country is full of heros - men and women who get up each day, put on their various uniforms - military, police, fire, FBI, CIA, DOD, etc - to protect his country and the people in it. They are not perfect and some make mistakes and some are failures, But lucky for us, the majority to do their jobs to the best of their abilities without the benefit of Monday Morning Quarterbacking.

    Not every war hero is Audy Murphy -- many have a hard time with civilian life, some are just plain a##holes. But they did and do their job.

    As for Sen. McCain, many senior citizens do not mellow into nice sweet grandparents - instead they become whinny grumpy angry miserable old people.

  47. Your definition of 'heroes' is all together way too limiting, by your definition anyone not wearing a uniform can't be a hero and that's a woeful misconception. Our nation wouldn't be what it is without many a hero who never donned a uniform.

    1. You may, if you like, visualize me making the facepalm right now.

      We were discussing "war heroes" in the context of John McCain’s military service. No where, repeat no damned where, did I say or imply that you had to wear a uniform to be a "hero." No where.

    2. I read "Anonymous 9:03" as responding to "Pamela Lee" who used the uniform requirement to define "hero".

    3. Anonymous is welcome to clarify his or her position.

      However, I'll say that it should be patently obvious that Pamela Lee didn't mean it that way - even if you don't consider the overall context of this discussion thread.

      And this is exactly why I didn't want this to turn into The Hero argument, right here. Because it always ends up with people arguing over words and context and the position of the moving goalposts

  48. I don't believe I need to 'clarify' my position. I was clear when I stated it the first time.

    I don't believe I am moving any goalpost. Pamela certainly was not describing 'war heroes'.

    I responded to Pamela Lee precisely because her definition of hero was limited to people who get up and put on uniforms.

    It's not a stretch to state that there are plenty of heroes who never saw a uniform.

    Not sure what words or context could be misconstrued or that might be missing in that premise, it's pretty simple and fairly straightforward.

    1. Anonymous, the question wasn't about what you meant, the question was who exactly it was addressed to. Because I follow comments on my blog via an email feed, it wasn't clear that your comment was in response to Pamela Lee's comment, since it wasn't attached to Pam's comment nor did you address it to her.

      Be that as it may, sure, whatever, uniform, no uniform, this is exactly my point vis a vis the word "hero" no matter how you define it, somebody will manage to find a way to be offended.

      The context of the conversation was whether or not John McCain was a "war hero" since that's what I called him in the essay. As always, it turned into The Hero argument, i.e. what is a hero, who is a hero, everybody is a hero, nobody is a hero, yadda yadda and so on. You may not have moved the goalposts, but they are moving nonetheless.

    2. See below, I had thought I was responding to Pamela Lee and hadn't thought to cause any confusion about who or what I was addressing.

      About the goalposts, I think that scoring drive was played out, (McCain's war hero question) I've got my eye on the opposite end of the field for now.

  49. Sorry some became focused on "heros only wearing uniforms". I re-read my post. I referred to "various" uniforms and then listed several groups including military, police and fire -- as well as FBI, CIA and DOD who really don't have a uniform per say but whose jobs include protecting us and this country. The point being, one should not have to be shot down to be a hero. While one's willingness to protect and defend this country no matter in what capacity (other than elected officials) should earn one hero status for that and only that.

    I consider John McCain a hero because he served his country. But being a hero does not automatically make him qualified to be President, a great senator or even a good person.

    1. Pamela, What's with the exemption or exception for elected officials?

      So someone in their capacity as an elected official is called upon to defend and protect this nation, and does so, are you somehow opting them out of your qualification for hero status?

      Jim, I realize some of the comments focused on whether McCain was or was not a 'war hero', I'm not trying to redefine someone's subjective opinion of what a war hero is. I'm speaking to the general usage, or might I say overused term hero.

      I don't subscribe to the over-reaching notion that anyone and everyone serving in our military automatically deserves 'hero' status. Things being what they are, there are people entering the military simply because they feel they have no other viable alternative, be it social, economical or even legal considerations. Some, unfortunately have joined with less then honorable intent. With the lowered standards of today, people can 'serve' and can be granted discharges that won't reflect what their 'service' actually consisted of, and no, not everyone who 'serves' does so for all the same reasons, or with all the same probity, honor or rectitude. That said, besides maybe narrowing what 'hero status' ought to designate, I do want to broaden the awareness of what 'hero status' might ought to also be inclusive of.

      I am wondering why when the mention of hero status is bantered about, there is so often no recognition of those heroes who 'protect and serve' their nation in ways other than military service or other than governmental agency employment. For just one instance, what about the lawyers and judges who uphold the rule of law? Is their service to their country any less deserving? What about the activist who fights for such issues among many others, such as equality, education or environmental issues? We know of many instances where private individuals have provided a service that no one else in or out of government had addressed. Are those contributions any less deserving? No they are not any less deserving.

      I submit that hero, in the context as it's too often employed today, is overwrought and too often morphs into little more than some jingoistic talking points constantly thrashed over with little actual conscious awareness of how it's becoming little more than cliche. Do most military service members deserve the respect of the nation for their service? Without a doubt. Does that automatically elevate them all to 'hero status', I can't grant that much without acknowledging the exceptions.

      Can you say that service is always about 'keeping us free', or to protect our 'freedoms'? No, that's not strictly the case every time, all too often our military has been employed in a goal which is about something entirely different, such as protecting corporate interests, or to gain control of so-called 'strategic' resources through little more than imperialistic over-reach, or a combination of the two.

      I remember a time when we fought against fascism, I can't discount the times we've propped up fascists since that time. We need to keep perspective, else we become something other than what we should.

  50. Jim - Speaking of McCain, any commentary on his defense of Obama during a constituent meeting last week?


    Ah, Arizona Republicans. Because you can't spell "CRAZY" without "R-AZ"

    1. Meh. McCain always runs true to form. He generates and propagates conspiracy theories, but then acts shocked when others grab the crazy ball and run with it. If he wants credit for doing the right thing, then he should do the right thing all of the time instead of when it's just politically expedient for him.

  51. Well, obviously it IS a c-o-n-spiracy, else how did McCain know? Seriously, a great, insightful read, as always!


  52. I have no speakable thoughts about John McCain, but I do remark that I went out and found a copy of "The Caine Mutiny" based on your original post. Although I read it several times when I was a know-nothing kid, probably 40+ years have passed since the last time I had a go at it, and I find it an enthralling and astonishing novel now that I'm reading it as an adult.

    I am now on Chapter 28, "A Visit to Halsey," so I haven't even reached the worst of the ructions, but my adult perspective allows me to see some of the reasons that I have never done well under any sort of micro-managing supervisor, yet have thrived during all the years that I've set the pace and worked alone; fortunately, I have been able to structure much of my adult working life without the nuisance of someone standing over me.

    Thanks for the reminder about this utterly-splendid book!

  53. I'm not going to hold my breath simply because McCain has said that the only reason he's voting no on this is because it doesn't follow procedure correctly. In theory, after Monday's hearing, he could be satisfied enough to vote yay immediately.

    I really hate that we're going to go through this every month or so for the next election cycle. Unless they actually pass it, in which case, then I get to hate watching my state go bankrupt in a blatant demonstration of malicious wealth redistribution which ultimately ends with everybody worse off than they are now.

  54. W ran a far dirtier campaign against McCain than Obama and he seems to hold no grudge over that, so if McCain still burns with anger over his loss to Obama it's because it was largely his own fault. While I agree that Palin sunk his campaign, I'm not convinced he would have won even without her. I do think it would have been a far, far closer race. I also agree that he's not stable or dependable, and his no vote isn't a sure thing until his vote is cast or the bill is pulled.


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