Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Benghazi vs. Iraq: When do GOP Senators Get Riled Up?

That the consulate in Benghazi could have been breached and four Americans, including the Ambassador killed, shows that there were mistakes made. The Obama Administration should investigate, report its results, and then perhaps it might make sense for the Senate to evaluate that report and decide if it should investigate, all on its own.

Instead, Republican Senators have apparently decided that they can make a gigantic mountain of what is likely a molehill: Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice's comments on TV soon after the attack took place.

A mountain they have made, and so Rice asked for a meeting with senators to tell her story, answer their questions, and (she hoped) move on. Yeah right.

She met, she answered questions by the increasingly repulsive John McCain and the usually disgraceful Lindsey Graham - and they came away from the meeting with "more concerned than I was before."

From the article (link above):

“We explained that the talking points provided by the intelligence community, and the initial assessment upon which they were based, were incorrect in a key respect: there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi,” Ms. Rice said.

“While we certainly wish that we had had perfect information just days after the terrorist attack, as is often the case, the intelligence assessment has evolved,” she added. “We stressed that neither I, nor anyone else in the administration, intended to mislead the American people at any stage in this process, and the administration updated Congress and the American people as our assessments evolved.” 

That did not mollify the senators. Mr. Graham said that as the ambassador to the United Nations, Ms. Rice had access to classified intelligence about the attack, and had an obligation to question intelligence agencies before presenting an account that later proved inaccurate. 

That last paragraph caught my attention. So Graham doesn't accept that Rice used the talking points handed to her by the CIA. She should have challenged them, demand to see all the proof that they were accurate, before she ever thought to actually use them in public.

My gosh, just imagine if she had taken her inaccurate talking points to the United Nations, served them up as a Powerpoint, and convinced nations that this inaccurate information justified going to war!

Remember Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Powell? Remember how they selectively chose "intelligence" (the most critical part of which was extracted under torture from a prisoner of Gaddafi, delivered to that strange creature by the Bush Administration through its secret rendition program.), cobbled together a narrative (discredited widely at the time, even by members of the U.S. diplomatic corps), and on that basis steamrolled Congress and the Security Council to authorize an invasion?

I remember, and I imagine Graham and McCain do, too. But I sure don't remember them ever raising a hue and cry that Cheney, Powell and and the others "had access to classified intelligence about the attack, and had an obligation to question intelligence agencies before presenting an account that later proved inaccurate."

Breathtaking hypocrisy.

And those criminals, those liars, those killers of tens of thousands of innocent Iraquis, go about their daily affairs, wealthy, secure and arrogant.

Ah, what a democracy we live in!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Obama's 3 Million Vote, Electoral College Landslide, Majority of States Mandate

I have found the following article to be very useful in countering a rightwing narrative that Obama just barely won, and probably did that through voter fraud (!).

From The Nation

The vote count in national elections is never finished on election night. It takes days, sometimes weeks, to count all the ballots in fifty states, 3,077 counties and tens of thousands of local jurisdictions. So if Americans want to know the real results, they must wait a few days and add up all the numbers in order to get a clear picture.

That clarity is based on something we call “math.”

Former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour said on the morning after the election that it was “pretty close to a tie.” Barbour was echoing conventional wisdom going into the election: that it would be very close, that President Obama might win an Electoral College majority but lose the popular vote, that the United States was a closely divided nation that would send no clear signal.

Now we know that Barbour was wrong.

It was not “pretty close to a tie.”

By Friday morning, Barack Obama had a vote total well in excess of 62 million, as compared with Mitt Romney’s 58.8 million. The president’s popular-vote margin is now in excess of 3 million.
Obama has now won Florida with a margin of 75,000 votes. That’s more than 100 times the alleged margin of victory for George Bush in 2000 in that state. And, with Florida, Obama has 332 electoral votes, as compared with 206 for Romney.

When all is said and done:
1. Barack Obama has won an overwhelming majority in the Electoral College, a daunting majority of the popular vote and a majority of the nation’s states—including most of the country’s largest states and states in every major region of the republic: New England, the mid-Atlantic, the Great Lakes, the South, the Southwest, the Mountain West and the West.
2. Barack Obama has won more popular votes than any Democratic candidate for president in history—except Barack Obama in 2008.
3. Barack Obama is the first Democratic president to win more than 50 percent of the popular vote in a re-election run since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1944.
4. Barack Obama is the only Democratic candidate for president since FDR to twice win more than 50 percent of the national vote.
5. Barack Obama has, in both of his presidential runs, won a higher percentage of the national vote than any Democratic nominee since Lyndon Johnson in his 1964 landslide victory.
Add it all up and Obama has a mandate from this year’s presidential election that is significantly greater than those afforded John Kennedy in 1960, Richard Nixon in 1968, Jimmy Carter in 1976 or George W. Bush in 2000 or 2004.

But wait, there’s more: It appears that Obama had coattails or, at the very least, led a ticket that ran remarkably well in congressional, state and local races. To wit:
1. In a year when Democrats were in the worst position in decades to make gains in their Senate majority. They came into the 2012 race with the seats of twenty-one Democrats, plus two independents who caucus with the Democrats, up for election, while the Republicans had only ten seats up for election. Every early calculation had the Democrats losing seats, but they gained two Republican seats (Massachusetts and Indiana), held the seats of targeted incumbents (Florida, Montana and Ohio), picked up open seats that were once presumed to be unwinnable (North Dakota, Wisconsin) and came close in states such as Arizona and Nevada. Of thirty-three Senate seats up nationally, Democrats (and independents likely to caucus with Democrats) won twenty-five. Republicans won just eight.
2.  Democrats won the most votes cast in contested House races. It can well be argued that only redistricting abuses and Karl Rove’s money prevented Democrats from retaking the US House. An analysis compiled the day after the election found that 53,952,240 votes were cast for Democrats seeking House seats, while just 53,402,643 votes were cast for Republicans. That 500,000-plus advantage for the Democrats has been steadily increasing as votes from Democratic states such as Washington and Oregon continue to be counted, along with provisional ballots. FairVote’s Rob Richie explains that because of the structural advantages created by Republicans through their control of state-based redistricting processes, the Democrats did not just need to win a majority of the votes—as they did. “Democrats would have needed to win 55% of the national vote to earn a House majority.”
3. Democrats won seven of the eleven gubernatorial races that were on the ballot Tuesday. And a switch of just 41,000 votes in Indiana would have given them an eighth victory.
The point here is not to suggest that Barack Obama, congressional Democrats or their gubernatorial compatriots should be celebrated as perfect political players. In fact, quite the opposite: they ran imperfect campaigns in a tough year. But the choice that was presented to American voters was stark: Did they prefer the austerity agenda of Paul Ryan and Republican governors who have attacked unions, public education and public services? Or did they want a more humane and equitable governance.

“After the most expensive election in our history, voters defeated the relentless efforts of billionaire bullies, voter-suppressing politicians, and political strategists who broke new ground with campaigns built on blatant falsehoods,” explained People for the American Way president Michael Keegan. “Americans re-elected a president who has offered a vision of an American community in which equality and opportunity are for everybody, a vision of government that is willing and able to advance the common good while protecting the rights of individuals, and a vision of society in which we embrace our growing diversity as a unique strength of the American Way, not a threat to it.”
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was just a little bit more blunt.

“My sincere hope is that the Republican Party now understands that the American people do not want a government pushing right-wing extremist policies. They want a government that addresses the needs of working families, the elderly, the children and the sick, and not just the wealthiest people in this country,” says Sanders.

If the Republicans do not get it, Sanders suggests that, instead of compromising away his mandate, President Obama should keep campaigning on it.

“My strong hope is that, on behalf of the American people, President Obama forcefully challenges the right-wing extremist agenda,” says Sanders. “My hope is that he visits states around the country where House and Senate members are defending the interests of billionaires at the expense of working families, and asks those Americans to demand that their members of Congress represent them—and not powerful special interests.”

That’s the right calculus. After all, while Obama got a mandate, Bernie Sanders secured a landslide—winning more than 71 percent of the vote and every county in Vermont.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Trainings in Dusseldorf and Prague in February 2013

I know, I know....I said I was going to stop traveling. And I have, largely, done so. But I still like to get out in the world occasionally and remind myself how to teach a class. So I am going to teach at two "celebrity" seminars, sponsored by Oracle. Here's the info on the seminar, with links to the 18-19 February seminar in Dusseldorf and the 21-22 February seminar in Prague (one of my all-time favorite cities; I am very glad to be returning! If you'd like to get a sense of why I like Prague so much check this out):

Making the Most of the Best of PL/SQL

Oracle PL/SQL is a robust and powerful language for developing applications that work with Oracle Database. However as Oracle has increased the feature set of PL/SQL, it has become more and more challenging for developers to apply those features in a way that produces high quality code: code that runs efficiently and is easy to maintain. In this seminar, Steven Feuerstein presents the most important features of PL/SQL, and explores how to apply those features so that the resulting code is easy to understand, maintain and enhance. From high level principles to specific techniques, this course will give you the information you need to transform your PL/SQL programs into high quality code of which you can be proud.

Dusseldorf Seminar

Prague Seminar

Hope to see you there! 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

I Am So Happy

I will start my post-election blog with a picture of my granddaughter:

I do this because I am happy precisely for the next generations of America. I am reading Facebook posts and tweets that go like this: "Sick to my stomach. Our future looks bleak and I feel sorry for my daughter and her generation. How Obama can win this election based on the disaster of the last 4 years is beyond comprehension."

For me, just the opposite is true: If Romney had been re-elected, it would have been a crucial victory of the aristocracy in this country over the majority. It would have been a crushing blow for the welfare of millions of children in this country. It would have ensured the decline of America and the impoverishment of many, many Americans. All to satisfy the bottomless greed of a few.

Yes, I am very happy.

President Obama has been re-elected. Of course, his re-election won't end the deadlock. It won't completely change the tune of the Republican obstructionists in the House of Representatives (unless, that is, they wake up and smell the demographics).

But the opposite result would have been so devastating. And it goes beyond Obama's victory.

Many of the Tea Party crazies have been thrown out of office. Goodbye, Joe "She's No Hero" Murphy. Goodbye, Richard "Rape as God Intended" Murdouck. Goodbye, Todd "Legitimate Rape" Aikins. Goodbye, Scott "Scalp Her!" Brown.

Hello, Elizabeth Warren! A true economic populist with eloquence and expertise, who will do battle with the oligarchs on Wall Street. She gives me great hope.

Of course, just enough Americans woke up to where the fundamentalists in the Republican Party wanted to take this nation. Just enough. 50 million people voted for Romney. Most races were very tight.

I don't have many illusions here; the results of 6 November 2012 represent a clawing back of some severe losses from 2010; a holding back the tide of intolerance and white backlash. 

But the demographics are clear: a party that panders to whites, and especially white men, is doomed. A party that trades on racism is out of touch with the new generations of Americans for whom multi-racial and mixed race friends and lovers is the norm. A party that attacks immigrants as the "Other" will wither before the growth in Latino and Asian populations.

I hope that we will look back years from now and see this election as the time when the moderate wing of the Republican Party charts a path to retaking the party back from the Ayatollahs and fundamentalists, like Karl Rove and Grover Nordquist, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck.

These people will be causing trouble for a long time to come, but maybe they will do so increasingly from the fringes, and not the positions of power, within the GOP.

Yes, I am very happy. We are still deeply divided, but at least "my side" has woken more fully to the dangers and said "Enough! No more!"