Saturday, July 23, 2011

Amy Winehouse Found Dead

The London singer was found in her apartment today a few weeks after being booed off the stage in Belgrade.

Singer Amy Winehouse, infamous for erratic public behavior, arrests and drug problems, was found dead at her apartment in London Saturday, the UK Press Association reported. She was 27.

Her death came less than two months after her latest release from a rehabilitation program and weeks following a disastrous performance where she was booed off a Belgrade stage by disappointed Serbian fans.

Winehouse died at the same age as four other music legends. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison each died of drug overdoses when they were 27. Kurt Cobain was 27 when he committed suicide, soon after his release from rehab.

Police called the death "unexplained" early in their investigation.

Wasn't a fan, but respected her talent.  Her pattern of choices on the other hand...well, you can have all the money in the world, all the talent, and the shot at stardom to boot, and it doesn't mean you're going to be happy.

Teleporting To Conclusions On The Norway Attacks

The reason I didn't have anything political to say about yesterday's horrific attacks in Norway, including the massacre of 85 at a youth camp on Norway's Utoya Island, was because details were sketchy.  That didn't stop Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post from pinning the heinous act on Muslims.

Moreover, there is a specific jihadist connection here: “Just nine days ago, Norwegian authorities filed charges against Mullah Krekar, an infamous al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist who, with help from Osama bin Laden, founded Ansar al Islam – a branch of al Qaeda in northern Iraq – in late 2001.”

This is a sobering reminder for those who think it’s too expensive to wage a war against jihadists. I spoke to Gary Schmitt of the American Enterprise Institute, who has been critical of proposed cuts in defense and of President Obama’s Afghanistan withdrawal plan. “There has been a lot of talk over the past few months on how we’ve got al-Qaeda on the run and, compared with what it once was, it’s become a rump organization. But as the attack in Oslo reminds us, there are plenty of al-Qaeda allies still operating. No doubt cutting the head off a snake is important; the problem is, we’re dealing with global nest of snakes.”

Rubin wasted no time in blaming Muslims for the slaughter yesterday afternoon.  Then we had a suspect:  and he turned out to not be a Muslim after all, but a Christian.

While police have not officially named him, Norwegian television and newspaper reports have identified the suspect as 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik, of Norwegian origin.

A picture is emerging, gleaned from official sources and social media, of a right-wing Christian fundamentalist who may have had an issue with Norway's multi-cultural society.

Shocking, I know.  Jennifer Rubin, completely incorrect about something to the point of staggering ignoranceThat never happens!  I'm with James Fallows: Rubin owes her readers an apology.

No, this is a sobering reminder for those who think it's too tedious to reserve judgment about horrifying events rather than instantly turning them into talking points for pre-conceived views. On a per capita basis, Norway lost twice as many people today as the U.S. did on 9/11. Imagine the political repercussions through the world if double-9/11-scale damage had been done by an al-Qaeda offshoot. The unbelievably sweeping damage is there in either case. For an example of a sober, dignified, shocked but resolute and democratic way to respond to national tragedy, see the moving and impressive speech by Norway's Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, here.

And all politics aside (as they should be at this moment) the people and the country of Norway have suffered an unspeakable tragedy.  It doesn't matter who did it or why in the end, only that 95 lives have been snuffed out for no reason other than to cause tragedy and pain.

But it didn't stop Jennifer Rubin from using the event to launch into attacks on Islam, President Obama, and Democrats in general.  Remember there's a reason I call her a hack, and this is why.

Google+ Revisited

Google+ is growing rapidly.  The feedback is mostly good, with a harsh review of the Android app leading the list of requested improvements.  I have hung out and talked with groups, and I love the clean interface.  Every function works well with a Linux system, which gave me hope.  Despite the review regarding the app, I actually like it.  There is plenty of room to grow but it is functional and I haven't encountered any bugs.

Hanging out was awesome, I've had a couple of chats and done some practicing with a fellow musician who likes to tinker.  The sound quality was better than expected.  With a little development it could hit Facebook where it hurts, as a cornerstone of everyday communication.  I am expecting to see some Gmail and Google Talk integration.  That would make Google+ a place to maintain your account while socializing, something that encourages time spent right where they want you.

I've seen several of you on there.  What do you think?  What do you think would improve it?  I'm pretty happy just how it is, my only real concerns are continued privacy and the effect of the mainstream flood that is to come.  Uploading the pictures is convenient for me, and the local chat is cool.  I ended up chatting a bit about some local events and it was interesting.

This could be the beginning of something good.  A lot of curious people will come in, how many stick around is what will matter.  There will be enough people who just don't like Facebook to give a boost to build a foundation of members.  The friend control and web sharing is the best I've ever seen.  This is enough to blow away Skype if the chips fall just right.  Google Voice development and enough members could let them truly dominate the social networking by making it home, business and everything in between.

Driving The Point Home

A Saudi woman whose imprisonment for driving drew global attention to the issue says she is more determined than ever to continue her campaign.
Manal al-Sharif, 32, was held for nine days in May after driving in the eastern city of Khobar.
"We won't stop until the first Saudi license is issued to a woman," she told the BBC in her first interview since.
It's easy to forget that in other parts of the world women have it far worse.  I could not imagine living where I couldn't drive myself where I needed to go, or marriage to a husband who would not support me in my independence.  As our world progresses by leaps and bounds this is a stagnant mess, a stain on our claim to be intelligent and evolving.  It's time for change, and each success should be celebrated.

No Dealing On The Debt Ceiling, Part 43

The wingers have discovered that Obama has played them for fools and allowed themselves to be painted into a corner on the debt ceiling talks.  They're not happy about it at all.  John Podhoretz's reaction is typical, that Boehner leaving talks and doing an end run around the White House is all Obama's fault:

An enraged Barack Obama just took to the nation’s airwaves to announce his effort to strike a deal with Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner has fallen apart. Perhaps for the first time in American history, this president is literally using this press conference to create a financial panic over the weekend about the opening of the markets on Monday. He is warning of disaster on Monday. Clearly,  he wants to use this as leverage to frighten the GOP into passing the plan proposed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, which will push the debt ceiling problem into 2013, but it’s still an entirely new and astonishingly reckless gambit.

Right.  Orange Julius walks away from talks, but somehow that's Obama's "astonishingly reckless gambit".   Look, the President did set a July 22 date on these talks, folks.  This was something he mentioned last month, and Republicans are not only gobsmacked that the President meant what he said, they're even more vexed by the fact he hasn't completely capitulated to their "Cut, Cap and Balance" nonsense which would mean a 25% across the board cut to all government programs, including Social Security and Medicare.

And let's not forget the fact that Orange Julius changed the deal himself and demanded the repeal of the health care reform law's individual mandate as a new condition.

As of Thursday, Obama and Boehner had been working on a grand bargain that would produce roughly $3 trillion in savings over 10 years, the officials confirmed. But talks broke down along three major differences: the two sides were $400 billion apart on taxes, Obama rejected a last minute demand from the GOP that the deal include a repeal of the individual mandate in healthcare reform, and the two sides were still haggling over a difference of $40 billion in cuts to Medicaid, according to the White House. 

The $400 billion in taxes and $40 billion in Medicaid cuts could have been negotiated, but the GOP demand to dismantle the heart of the ACA's cost-savings would have undone the entire package and they knew it.  The difference is as Lawrence O'Donnell pointed out last night that Obama has won the battle of who appears to be reasonable in this fight.

So where to now? Ezra reminds us that there are still three options on the table:

At this point, there are three serious options on the table. A $4 trillion deal that includes some revenues, a $1 trillion-$2 trillion deal that’s all spending cuts but leaves much of the job until after the election, and a deal in which Republicans don’t come to a negotiated agreement with President Obama but they grant him the authority -- and let him take the blame -- for raising the debt ceiling. Those are our three options, and Congress needs to pick one. Time is running short.

Option four is the Fourteenth Option.  The White House doesn't want to go there at all but if the GOP will not break, it's the President's trump card.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

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