Devastating news from South Asia

Via AP:

A devastating earthquake triggered landslides, toppled an apartment building and flattened villages of mud-brick homes Saturday, killing more than 18,000 people across a mountainous swath touching Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

The casualty toll from the 7.6-magnitude tremor rose sharply Sunday as rescuers struggled to dig people from the wreckage, their work made more difficult as rain and hail turned dirt and debris into sticky muck. Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, Pakistan’s chief army spokesman, told Pakistan’s Geo TV network early Sunday that more than 18,000 had been killed _ 17,000 of them in Pakistani Kashmir, where the quake was centered. Some 41,000 people were injured, he said.

God be with ‘em.

Sunday Lunchtime links: Michelle Malkin has a roundup of relief links. Joe Gandelman links to local blogger reaction to the quake.

Should we push for English to be declared our official language?

I hate to beat this dead horse, but it seems like something new pops up in the news everyday about government officials making things easier for those who cross our borders to live here who refuse to learn to speak English. Occasionally, you’ll have one who takes a stand, as was the case in this story:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill yesterday by a South County legislator that would have allowed California to test students in Spanish to measure whether schools are meeting federal education goals.

[…]

The legislation by state Sen. Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego, cites a clause in the federal No Child Left Behind Act that allows students to be tested “in the language and form most likely to yield accurate data on what such students know.”

State tests to measure whether schools are meeting federal goals for students’ proficiency in math and reading are administered in English. Ducheny’s bill proposed developing Spanish-language tests and allowing students who have attended schools in the United States for less than three years to take those tests instead of English-language exams.

“Forcing newly arrived students to test in English measures their language ability, not knowledge of school subjects,” Ducheny said in a statement released by her office. “The bill didn’t exempt students from taking the tests and wouldn’t keep us from our goal of teaching them English; it simply would have given us a better tool to test what they know in science, math and other subject areas.”

The Chula Vista Elementary School District, San Ysidro School District and Sweetwater Union High School District are among 11 in California suing the state to stop English-only testing.

I went into a Wendy’s fast food restuarant a couple of weeks ago to have lunch with a friend, and while standing in line I noticed a plastic document holder that had been nailed to the wall that contained job applications . One set was in English. The other in Spanish. I sighed and shook my head. We’ve all encountered things like this in our daily lives: for example, when we call a customer service number, you often hear “if you’d like instructions in English, press 1″ and then it gives the Spanish translation to that for those who need instructions in Spanish, or when you go to an ATM machine and you have the option to get instructions on how to use the machine in English or Spanish.

My personal thought is this: if I moved to France, or Germany or any other non-English speaking country to live and/or work, I would take the time to learn their language. I certainly would not expect them to offer school books in English for my kids (if I had any at the time I moved) and I certainly would not expect them to offer me an English menu in a French restaurant (for example). Some of the blame can obviously be left at the feet of the people who come here who don’t even know how to say “hola” (hello) in English, but a big part of the blame rests with our politicians on both sides of the aisle, who don’t want to risk offending even a tiny minority of a big voting group by taking a stand that may offend those who are here legally and who can vote. Arnie is obviously an exception to this rule.

What can we do, if anything?

Hat tip: Flopping Aces

(Cross-posted at California Conservative)

Guess this was W’s fault, too

From the LA Times, we have a story that I doubt will get much play outside of that particular newspaper because the usual suspects continue to want to blame all the New Orleans Katrina woes on the President. The newspaper reports:

Soil Failure, Not Overflow, Cited in Levee Breaches
Separate investigative teams reach conclusions that are at odds with the original explanation.

The levee breaches along two major canals that flooded New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina resulted from massive soil failures under concrete storm walls, not from hurricane surges that sent water over the tops of the walls as Army officials initially said, according to teams of investigators who have examined evidence in the last week.

The findings appear to chip away at the simple story that the storm surge was much larger and higher than the walls were designed to handle, though investigators caution that it is too early to blame design or construction.

“No question there was soil failures,” said Peter G. Nicholson, a University of Hawaii engineering professor who is leading an investigation for the American Society of Civil Engineers. “But we can’t speculate whether it was a construction, material or design flaw.”

If soil problems are widespread in New Orleans’ 350 miles of protective levees, then upgrading the system to protect against hurricanes more powerful than Katrina could require a major investment.

Immediately after the storm, the Army Corps of Engineers thought that a surge from Lake Pontchartrain had moved up drainage canals in the city and overflowed concrete storm walls, eroding foundations and leading to the breaches.

Investigators have found no evidence of such overflow and foundational scouring at the breaches in the London Avenue and 17th Street canals, two main failures behind the central New Orleans flooding. In fact, in one case, water marks are a full 2 1/2 feet below the tops of the walls.

Instead, investigators have found strong evidence that the soil structure was too weak for the pressure of the water, wind and waves.

Soil failure is like pushing on a chocolate cake that is sitting on a plate: At first the cake sticks to the plate, but if you push hard enough the gloppy structure eventually moves, said Raymond B. Seed, an engineering professor at UC Berkeley who is leading a separate National Science Foundation investigation of the levee breaches.

So far, Seed thinks the failure of the soil structure initiated the breaches at London Avenue and 17th Street. The levees were constructed on “particularly unfavorable” foundations of organic peat, which is both compressible and weak, he said.

Captain Ed nails it:

This shows the foolishness of making snap judgments about fault in the immediate aftermath of a catastrophe. The experts, both locally and at FEMA, had concluded that based on water levels at the levees the city would be safe from a systemic failure and widespread flooding. That resulted in the cheery prognoses offered by Michael Brown, Ray Nagin, and others on the Monday of the levee failures. No one knew that the levees had base design deficiencies, nor could they tell until after the levees failed. That does not let Louisiana or New Orleans off the hook for not properly evacuating the city in accordance to its plans, but it at least shows why the concern dropped after Katrina passed through the area.

Yep. While Ed’s analysis is spot on, I also have a big complaint with the media, who engaged in premature conclusion-based reporting – the conclusion being that the reason these levees were breached were because the funding for them had been cut by the Bush administration (even though the funding issues went back decades) – just days after the levees broke, prior to any formal investigations into the matter. This is what happens when you’ve got a story-hungry media hell bent on being “the first” to report “breaking news” – not to mention that I’m sure there were more than a few reporters who wanted to be able to pin the levee breaks on the (understandably) media-unfriendly Bush administration.

(Cross-posted at Blogs For Bush)

Culture in the 21st century: Part 2

As a follow up to my last post where I ranted a bit about how the images we see have influences on us all, especially when we were younger – I neglected to add in there comments about the music we listen to influencing us to some degree … probably a good thing I didn’t, considering tonight as I was making a CD of favorite older songs from an online "jukebox" I have, three songs I downloaded were Bell Biv DeVoe’s "Do Me", Prince’s "Darling Nikki", and Sly Fox’s "Let’s Go All The Way" emoticon 

Seriously, I really dug those songs – but they didn’t influence me to be promiscuous. In fact, I wasn’t promiscious then nor have I ever been.  So to expand on my prior post about culture, I should add that I know that a lot of what we were influenced by when we were younger had to do with how we were raised and what impact our parents teachings had on us.  But even at that, there were influences that were outside the control of our parents because your parents couldn’t and can’t shelter you 24-7.  I think society today (including governmental policies, that date back decades) enables and encourages youth that single motherhood is ok, and the prevalent attitude still is "a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle."  It pushes that sex outside of marriage is ok, as long as you wear protection, and that intimacy outside of the actual consumation of the act is not considered sex – just ‘sexual relations’ (thanks, Bubba!).  It also pushes the idea that older female/teenage male relationships are ok but older male/teenage female relationships are reprehensible (the classic double standard).

Sometimes I wonder if I am overblowing all this because, as I said in my last post, I feel like I am turning into my mother – who used to worry about the exact same things, and I in turn blew off those concerns as no big deal.  And that was 20 years ago.  Has our society changed much since then?

Saturday blogging

I’ve got some things to take care of (like car issues) for most of the day and will be back to blogging this evening as I have the rest of the weekend all to myself for once (hooray!).  In the meantime, for those of you who haven’t yet taken part in it, please see the "Tell Me About You" thread and tell us a bit more about who you are emoticon  I’ll release comments for posting when I return.

Catch ya’ll later.