Late Night Music/Fashion Open Thread

Shout-out to beloved Malaysian Balloon Juice correspondent Amir Khalid!

Via NYMag‘s ladyblog The Cut, “Malaysian Pop Superstar Yuna on Fashion, Race, and Not Showing Her Hair.” I enjoy the lady’s music, yes, but I seriously envy her way with a headwrap. I would happily go full-metal Georgette Heyer “terrifying old lady in a turban” mode… except that on me, the look comes off as “drag Drew Carey impersonator”.

True-Life Tales of Terror

Jezebel has their top 10 reader horror stories up here. Meh. I think we can do better, Juicers. Anyone got any true-life tales of terror to tell this Halloween? I’ll start us off, even though mine isn’t really all that scary. I’ve alluded to it briefly before, but here it is in detail:

My maternal grandmother is from the Carolinas. She was a schoolteacher when my sister and I were growing up, so she had summers off, and she’d take us on road trips to go camping, see historical sites (she was a history teacher) and visit relatives.

One of her cousins had inherited the old family manse, which was built in the 1820s (I think):

haunted house

Everyone assumed Cousin Howard was gay because he never married or had a girlfriend that anyone ever heard about, and he was a natty dresser with a flair for decorating. Back then, people made those kinds of assumptions.

(Now that I think back on it, Cousin Howard’s speech and mannerisms were somewhat reminiscent of Senator Lindsey Graham’s, another confirmed bachelor from the Carolinas. So maybe things haven’t changed so much after all, as far as assumptions go.) Read more

Late Night Bemusement Open Thread

Because I am also Irish-American, some part of me suspects that some part of Joe Biden is getting just a little bit of a kick out of tweaking the horse-race touts. As professional cynic Charles P. Pierce phrases it:

I am as big a fan of Joe Biden as the next person, as long as the next people do not work for Tiger Beat On The Potomac, which apparently has decided as an institution to believe anything mumbled into the autumn breezes on the subject of a Biden presidential campaign. The other day, we had Mike (Payola) Allen, wandering amid the shades of anonymous sources, like Odysseus in the underworld, and coming out the other side with…well, what exactly?​…

The whole Biden shadow play is getting very, very old. The inclusion of him in current polling models is one very small step short of ratfcking Hillary Clinton’s numbers, and it does a real disservice to the other candidates as well. (Why not put Mitt Romney or Michael Bloomberg in the Republican field?) What we seem to have is a bunch of generally nervous Democrats, and some Biden loyalists who like to talk to reporters, and who still dream of that West Wing office that was denied them the other two times Joe Biden ran for president and got crushed. Oh, and there are some political reporters who find this whole thing a lot easier than working for a living.

Read more

Hi. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

Well, it’s been an interesting few months…

My last post, I was having a lot of problems with anger and sadness.  I spent four days in the inpatient psychiatric ward in observation. I slept a LOT during that time.  After I got out, I was going to individual counseling every other day for the first two weeks, then weekly after that. My wife and I started marriage counseling. Read more

Long Read: “Legacies of War”

The past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past. Annie Gowan and Linda Davidson, in the Washington Post, report that “Forty years after the fall of Saigon, soldiers’ children are still left behind“:

… When the last U.S. military personnel fled Saigon on April 29 and 30, 1975, they left behind a country scarred by war, a people uncertain about their future and thousands of their own children. These children — some half-black, some half-white — came from liaisons with bar girls, “hooch” maids, laundry workers and the laborers who filled sandbags that protected American bases.

They are approaching middle age with stories as complicated as the two countries that gave them life. Growing up with the face of the enemy, they were spat on, ridiculed, beaten. They were abandoned, given away to relatives or sold as cheap labor. The families that kept them often had to hide them or shear off their telltale blond or curly locks. Some were sent to reeducation or work camps, or ended up homeless and living on the streets.

They were called “bui doi,” which means “the dust of life.”

Forty years later, hundreds remain in Vietnam, too poor or without proof to qualify for the program created by the Amerasian Homecoming Act of 1987 that resettles the children of American soldiers in the United States.

Now, an Amerasian group has launched a last-chance effort to reunite fathers and children with a new DNA database on a family heritage Web site. Those left behind have scant information about their GI dads — papers and photographs were burned as the Communist regime took hold, and memories faded. So positive DNA tests are their only hope…

The pictures are as astonishing, and heartbreaking, as the stories.

Strange how hard it rains now

I have been dealing with overwhelming feelings of anger and sadness for some time now, and it’s gotten progressively worse. I won’t go into the details of how I got here because that would entail me violating some people’s privacy, but I do believe that overwork, my PTSD, and the May 20, 2013 tornado were some of the factors in this long, slow spiral. On Thursday last, I blew off work to go buy a bike, but at the sporting goods store, I kept hovering near the gun counter with images in my mind of shooting myself. I never once thought “I’m going to kill myself” but I kept seeing it, like watching a film, over and over again. I remember thinking “I should do something else.” So I got back in my car and drove around till I found a bar and got drunk. At some point in the evening, I called the VA’s crisis line. I don’t remember this, but I’m told that I did. I don’t remember driving home from there, but I must have done so. I woke up on Friday and decided that I needed help.

I went to Outpatient Mental Health at the VA on Friday. They were waiting for me, having received a referral from the crisis line people.  After talking to several people, we determined that the best course of action in the near term was for me to be admitted to inpatient psych ward for observation.  I don’t remember much of that. I know that I talked to a bunch of people, and I slept most of that time. I was released yesterday afternoon. We’re titrating a couple of different anti-anxiety medications. I am living with my dad on the other side of town at the moment. I can’t go home just yet. I’m not sure what I’ll find there when I do. In the short term, I need to get my head on straight. I still feel like I’m underwater sometimes but I can come up for air now, so there’s some small, if measurable progress already. In the medium to long term, I don’t know what the future holds, and my goal is mainly to fortify my emotional and mental abilities to handle whatever changes may come, and practically as well to try to study up and earn a couple of IT certifications that should position me well for a change in work if it comes to that. Some of those changes I’ll have to make myself. I can’t make those decisions right now. I don’t know what changes I’ll make, but I can’t stay in this place.

Before we go patting Mark Udall and Diane Feinstein on the back…

Remember that they knew all of the stuff in the torture report for years, and they did and said NOTHING.  Feinstein was in the “gang of eight,” as the Chair of the Ranking Member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence since 2009.  She’s known all or most of this stuff since then.  A couple other notable members of that group are Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

As for Udall, he has been on the Senate floor today as a couple of earlier posts by John and Anne Laurie pointed out. But he’s been on the SSCI for at least the last two years, and was very involved in the research on the torture report.

It’s good that an executive summary of the report has seen the light of day. It’s important for us to know what’s being done in our names, and I seriously doubt we’d have gotten actual information from the Republicans after they take over late next month.  It would be very nice for the Politicians who oversaw torture programs and the lawyers who twisted the law to claim it was legal to be punished, but I’m not holding my breath. The prime difference between Charles Graner and Dick Cheney is rank, after all.

Having said that, why, if this report shocks the consciences of those who’ve read it, are we only seeing the exec summary, and why only now? Udall waits until now when there’s no risk to him doing this. Well, better late than never for your ideals, I suppose, even if it’s to demand a couple of people resign and not, as he said he would, to enter the text of the report into the Record. Feinstein is as safe as a Democratic Senator can get. She could have read the actual contents of the entire report into the Congressional Record at will at any time and nobody could have stopped her and there would’ve been no cost to her at the ballot box in 2018.

Everything I’ve just said above applies to the other Democrats who’ve served on the SSCI in particular and to a lesser extent on the House Committee on Intelligence since 2001.  We still don’t have effective oversight of the CIA or the NSA or the rest of the Intelligence community because our representatives in Congress are complicit in keeping these secret.  If Congressional oversight is the mechanism by which we exercise control over our government, we are being sadly failed by the people that we’ve sent up there to provide that oversight. And the Republicans are every bit as complicit, but being Republicans, it was absolutely predictable that they’d actively work against the interests of the general public on issues like this, and the few who aren’t are notable for that.

And lastly, look in the mirror. After 9/11, the vast majority of the American public was demanding that the government do whatever had to be done to keep another mass-casualty attack from taking place. A lot of people who otherwise counted themselves as liberals supported the Bush administration in their taking a free hand to do whatever the hell they wanted in those early years.  And while Liberals began to peel off of that support within a couple of years, it wasn’t even as Iraq dragged on, and Abu Ghraib first exposed some of the ugliness did the majority of our country begin to express doubts and question what we were doing there. And in fact, it wasn’t until after Hurricane Katrina landed on our own shores and we witnessed the full extent of their incompetence and mendacity where they couldn’t hide it that the majority of the American public finally began to admit that Bush and Cheney and their minions had lied us into an unwinnable war on the other side of the world.  And our Congress, including the heroes of many people here, supported them for much of their agenda.  The USA PATRIOT Act passed a Democratic-held Senate, and a Democratic-held Senate gave retroactive immunity to the NSA and private corporations that assisted them later on.  These were our elected representatives that did these things or allowed them to happen.  They are our will made whole, and their acts and things, dark and light, are ours.  Before we spend too much time wallowing in the outrage bath, we would do well by our children and our ancestors to remember that.