Friday, March 26, 2010

Oh frabjous joy, a victory!

I don't think very much of the health care reform bill. The insurance companies lie at the heart of the problem with the "health care industry." This bill means that we will fork over massive amounts of our tax dollars directly to those companies as part of "mandatory insurance."

Having said that, I am so glad that Obama won this battle and got his bill passed. If he had failed, I think that could have been a very early death knell for his presidency. What could he have gotten done after losing this confrontation with the No Party?

Now he has political momentum on his side - especially with the quick follow up of an agreement with Russia on nuclear weapons. Hopefully the fall elections will now not lead to the House or Senate falling to the Republicans (they have been purely and utterly disgusting throughout this entire period).

Go, Obama, go!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I Support Hillary Clinton

There I said it. That wasn't so hard.

But why did I say it, and what do I mean? Because I just read the following in Haaretz:

"In a telephone call to Netanyahu last week, Clinton laid out U.S. expectations from Israel including a rollback to the housing plan, a gesture of good faith to the Palestinians and an express statement that all issues dividing Israel and the Palestinians, including the fate of divided Jerusalem, remain part of the negotiations."

And it struck me: this is a really amazing moment. Our Secretary of State is telling Israel it has to explicitly accept that Jerusalem is still a negotiable issue (this is, formalistically, the case, in terms of the state of "peace negotiations", but the reality is that the Government of Israel states over and over again that Jerusalem will not be dividied - and is the capitol of Israel). This is an incredibly explosive issue among the hard-liners in Israel, a red line of their own, and could bring down the government.

I am stunned to see where this row over settlements has gone. Perhaps if Netanyahu and his truly fanatical, extremist coalition members hadn't been utterly disrespectful, disdainful really, in the way that they treated Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, there wouldn't be so much push-back. But they got careless, which is understandable. They hadn't been challenged in such a long time. The Israeli leadership has became casually arrogant.

And this is just the latest in a series of demonstrations of their arrogance since Obama was elected President.

Remember that Israel invaded Gaza in January 2009 and waged a brutal war against, officially, Hamas, but more accurately a trapped civilian population? The Israeli Defense Forces (considered one of the most competent in the world) killed hundreds of children. Think about that one for a moment. That is a fact. But my point here is actually more that they did this awful thing right on the eve of Obama's inauguration. As Obama was preparing to become the first President of color in history, Israel was killing Palestinian children and destroying the infrastructure of one of the most densely populated areas on earth.

Predictably, Israel pulled out of Gaza just days before the Inauguration, thereby avoiding a direct collision with Obama. Whew, that was a close one - but, still, a real slap in the face to Obama. Since then Obama said "No settlements, just stop it." And Netanyahu's administration just mocked him and ignored him, with words and actions.

And now here they are, their backs up against the proverbial wall, with no escape route. Suddenly, they will have to make a real sacrifice to demonstrate their commitment to the peace process. Namely, they will have to admit to the possibility that they might have to accept a divided Jerusalem. That's it. Doesn't seem like much, but I am not at all convinced Netanyahu can do this and still keep his government intact. 

Maybe someday soon President Obama will even tell Israel that it must join the IAEA and allow its nuclear weapons facilities to be investigated and monitored, like all other nuclear states.

Now that would be a signal day, a day to finally say to ourselves: perhaps there can be a peaceful and reasonably just solution to this conflict.

In the meantime, Hillary Clinton will be speaking at the upcoming AIPAC conference. Again, from the Ha'aretz article:

"Clinton said she expects to see Netanyahu in Washington next week, where both are to address the annual gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee."

Clinton may possibly be facing an extremely hostile audience at the AIPAC event, which is also startling to contemplate. And there will be enormous pressure on her and Obama to back down. She needs our help.

It seems to me that all the peace groups, like Jewish Voice for Peace, Brit Tzedek, American Jews for a Just Peace, AFSC, the massive End the Occupation coalition, you name it, should be getting together to organize the biggest possible support march for Hillary Clinton outside the AIPAC event.

That should be the single focus of the gathering: Support Hillary Clinton. Assuming her position hasn't by then changed. Support what she is calling for. Keep it simple and direct. Keep it pro-our government, not anti-Israel or anti- anything else. And if it could get really big, it could give Clinton the backup she needs to speak with a righteous voice.

To face Israel down at this critical juncture.

To change history.

C'mon peace and justice activists, organizations, coalitions: this is why you are in existence. To take moments like this to activate all the people who are hungry and frustrated but have never had a focus that could make a difference.

This could really make a difference.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Beta Testing Starts for the PL/SQL Challenge!

The PL/SQL Challenge is a daily quiz that culminates every three months in a championship tournament to determine the most knowledgeable PL/SQL developers in the world. You could win cash, O'Reilly Media books and other goodies - but only if you play!

From March 15 to March 26, we will be running a beta test of the PL/SQL Challenge website - and I hope you will help us. Visit, register and start playing (use real registration information - it will be valid for the real PL/SQL Challenge as well). A link to instructions for beta testing is right on the home page. Cruise around the website and let us know if anything should be fixed.

Please note that for the beta test we will be displaying nonsense Q&As (can't afford to "waste" any real questions!), so that part won't be very interesting. Please make sure to read the beta testing instructions before you get started.

During beta testing only, you are also allowed to register yourself more than once (but you will need to use a unique and valid email address). Why might you do this? So you can test the quiz-taking more than once per day - and be enrolled in our beta test raffle (giving away free copies of the ebook version of for each quiz you take, increasing your chances of winning!

PL/SQL Challenge Discount for ODTUG Kaleidoscope

There is going to be a fun, new activity at the Kaleidoscope conference this year:  "PL/SQL Developer, Quiz Thyself!" This is a live quiz on PL/SQL topics, co-sponsored by ODTUG and the PL/SQL Challenge. There will be cash and other prizes. It should be lots of fun.

ODTUG has generously agreed to offer a discount of $50 off the current registration fee for Kaleidoscope to developers who are playing the PL/SQL Challenge. Simply type "PLSQLCHALLENGE" into the Registration Code field as you go through the registration process. Early Bird Registration ends March 24, so register today for the lowest possible price.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

What has Toyota actually proven here?

Interesting article in the Chicago Tribune today: "Toyota rebuts claims of SIU professor: In webcast, consulting firm re-creates electronic glitch in other vehicle brands".

First, David Gilbert demonstrates to Congress a way to cause sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles.

Then Toyota countered his demonstration as follows: "Using similar methodology, engineers at Toyota's facility on Monday duplicated the results on camera in seven other vehicles, including a Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord and Ford Fusion. Officials said the results, though not maligning other manufacturers, show that the methodology was essentially flawed."

Gee, I don't know. It seems like you could just as legitimately conclude that the problems experienced by Toyota owners could well be showing up in other vehicles.

I must admit that as a programmer, it scares me to think that my safety (and the safety of my family members) when driving is so dependent on software.