Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: May 2006 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Monday, May 29, 2006

In Memorium

The Card family wishes to express its deepest appreciation to those who have risked and given their lives to protect our freedom. Servicepersons in blue, green and white have helped protect our democracy for 230 years, and those serving today are making the same sacrifices that their ancestors made when they won our freedom from oppression at the birth of this country.

Whether or not we agree with the justification for going to war in Iraq, those who are serving and dying there are doing it for the noblest of reasons.

No words can express our gratitude for what these soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are doing for their country.

God bless you all, and we pray for your safe return.

update: Burnt Orange Report has published a list of the 234 native Texans who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Please take time today to reflect on the sacrifices they've made for us, and pray for comfort for their families and friends.

¿hable inglés?

The immigration bill that passed the Senate and now goes to House has general support from both Democrats and Republicans at all levels of government, although no one seems to support all aspects of the bill. Some are not happy with the guest worker program, and some are not happy with the criminalization of hardworking people who are just looking for a better life for themselves and their families. The portion that raises my ire is the part that makes English the official language of the United States.

I have no problem with calling English our common language. In reality, English is the language of success in this country. What I take issue with is the language in the bill which states that the government has no obligation to make any information available in any language other than English.

Businesses realize that to succeed, you need to make your services easily accessible to everyone. Most product owners manuals provide instructions in multiple languages, and they’re still incomprehendable. To make our information available only in English smacks of isolationism - not just from other nations, but from some classes of our own people as well.

Education in this country is in poor condition, with record numbers of dropouts and students who are performing well below standards. Yet our lawmakers see the need to limit services to those that lack English reading skills, rather than doing something to improve the reading skills of all classes of Americans.

Many immigrants, once they learn English, become top performers in school. Instead of allowing these students to accellerate their learning, this legislation will hamstring them by denying them bilingual opportunities as they learn our language.

This legislation will limit access to public services, including emergency service and voting procedures, to only those with adequate reading skills. If you thought hanging chads were a controversy, wait until only those who can read well will have their votes counted. It’s a form of class warfare, promoting the haves over the have-nots.

Not everyone has a babel fish, or the good fortune of being born into an English speaking family. This legislation, if passed as currently written, means that services now available to all citizens need only be provided to those who can read English. What better way to limit the voices of Americans than to put limits on how they can communicate?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

NSF, UC-Berkeley rotten to the corps

This week, the National Science Foundation, spearheaded by UC-Berkeley, issued a report on why the levees failed in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. They were none too kind to the Army Corps of Engineers, Congress, and local and national agencies responsible for levee construction and maintenance. According to the report, not only have these agencies been lax in the past, their current efforts leave much to be desired as well.

The findings undermine assurances by the Bush administration and the Army Corps of Engineers that the federal levee repair program due to be completed in June will provide a higher level of protection to New Orleans, which sustained 1,293 deaths and property losses of more than $100 billon from Katrina.

The team's 600-page report disputed most of the corps' preliminary findings about what caused levee breaches, saying the corps' investigators had made critical errors in their analysis.

The corps "is conducting the most important engineering analysis in its history" in determining why storm walls and levees around New Orleans failed last August, Seed said.

"And they got it wrong. When the entire world is watching and a city has been destroyed, you want to get it right."

According to the report, the damage done by the hurricane wouldn't have been near as severe had preventive measures been taken based on predictions by, it seems like, just about everybody.

The report alleges that Katrina wouldn't have breached the region's hurricane protection system had it been properly financed, designed, built and maintained. It said all breaches and levee failures could have been avoided had the federal government been willing to pay for better designs that didn't require building "too close to the edge of safety."

Unfortunately, attempts to protect New Orleans from a major hurricane were shot down by the pork barrel politics in Congress. Apparently, South Louisiana didn't have a Tom DeLay to protect their interests. They do have William Jefferson, but apparently he was too busy lining his own pockets.

Granted, the Army Corps of Engineers did what they could with the resources available, yet they defended their actions with the usual beurocratic sleight-of-hand common in American politics:

Maj. Gen. Don Riley, director of the corps' civil works operation, said Monday that his staffers must finish reviewing details of the new report released Sunday before they can respond with specificity.

But Riley said his own review of the report's executive summary, coupled with remarks he heard Seed make in a lecture about a month ago, gives him a pretty good picture of the team's focus.

"I'm confident that all the recommendations he makes that are in the corps' control are already under way," he said. "We've taken action on everything in our purview."

The changes, which he said are being incorporated into repairs of the storm-damaged system, include more robust wall designs, increased safety factors, new scour protection behind floodwalls and armoring of critical levee sections.
Riley said the experts would have to sit down together and look at each other's work.

Riley said IPET has asked several times to see the Berkeley team's work, but it was not handed over until this weekend, when the report was also given to the media and posted on a Web site.

"We've asked them many times to share their analytical information, but they never did," Riley said "It may have helped us."

Until we can move away from finger-pointing and excuses, disasters like this will not be avoided, they will be blamed on others. Where's this "uniter" we elected 2004? Oh yeah, I forgot. He has problems of his own these days.

Meanwhile, NOAA predicts above average Atlantic hurricane activity this season, which begins June 1. They predict 13 - 16 named storms, 8 - 10 hurricanes, and 4 - 6 of them major (category 3 or greater). Compared to last year, when we had 28 named storms, and 15 hurricanes (7 of them major), this year sounds kind of light. But taking into account that NOAA predicted fewer storm last year than this year, I'm not chowing down on my hurricane supplies yet. This year's predictions are less than last year's because Atlantic water is not as warm now as it was this time last year, and there shouldn't be any El Nino or La Nina effects coming over from the Pacific.

So batten down the hatches, folks, and keep your hands and arms inside the ride at all times. Hurricane season's coming! Though it may be a little tough to work up a good fear from Hurricanes named Chris, Debby, Gordon, or Sandy. But then I always thought Hurricane Katrina sounded like a Soviet roller derby queen. Shows what I know...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Making the rounds

I've been guest blogging for a couple of compadres recently, so if you want to see my latest posts, hop on over to MindSpeak for this post on progressive bloggers' effect on politics.

Then head to the People's Republic of Seabrook for this one on wind turbine farms in South Texas, and this one on The DaVinci Code.

I also posted this at TPRS on Mother's Day, and caught some flack from the mother of my children for not posting it on my own site. So for her sake, please give blood at your neighborhood blood center and name your mom as a recipient. It'll get me off the hook, and your mom will thank you for it. And I was mistaken; they weren't open on Mother's Day. Instead, I'll be donating at the newly resurrected KIOL's blood drive this month. Maybe I'll even rap with Outlaw Dave, who's broadcasting live from several locations (but not all at the same time).

Also, I've added some newcomers to my blogroll. Please welcome Texas Kos, an offspring of the Daily Kos, to the Texas blogosphere. Also, MindSpeak is a brainchild of Fyreplace that takes its place in the progressive political spectrum, and the new Common Sense site makes its debut.

Check out these sites and learn what you can do to help make Texas, America, and the world, a better place to live in.

And feel free to let us know what you think. That's what interactive politics is all about.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Zealots Gone Wild: the video

This horse has probably been beaten to death several times over by now, but as a parent of a soldier, I have to comment. I could hear the anger in my son's voice when he brought it to my attention, and after watching the video clip, I could see why. Shirley Phelps Roper, who claims to be a Christian, rationalizes all the evils that are plaguing us, including the deaths of American soldiers at war and AIDS, as the justifiable wrath of God.

I've got news for her. The evils that are plaguing us are products of the ignorance of man. Anyone who can hate in the name of God just adds fuel to the fire; Roper and her ilk are perfect examples of what happens when religion goes overboard.

Man's ignorance has always played a part in his spirituality. Early in mankind's history, he has looked up at the stars and seen them as evidence of a greater being. Anything that could not be explained by man's limited knowledge was attributed to the mysterious workings of some almighty deity or another.

Nowadays, Roper's church displays that ignorance openly and arrogantly. Religion has always produced nutcases, and the present day is no exception. This church's beliefs shocked people a few weeks ago when Roper was interviewed on Hannity & Colmes. It didn't suprise me a bit. Jesus tried to teach the masses about love, tolerance, and understanding. Instead, the most persuasive of His "followers" have distorted his message to gain power and money.

Roper's father, Fred Phelps, runs the Westborough Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, and encourages his congregation to protest at the funerals of soldiers who were killed in action. Apparently, he and his followers believe that the wage of sin is literal death, and that the deaths in Iraq are the result of God's wrath because of - get this - America's promotion of homosexuality.

Where have these people been for the past six years? The last thing this country is promoting is any kind of alternative lifestyle. The powers-that-be are gnashing their teeth because everyone in the country doesn't believe in the same "value system" as them, and most Americans don't want to change their lifestyles to conform to the right-wing version of what an American should look and act like.

And now these religious right-wing "social conservatives" have created a monster. A monster so deluded that it considers it its christian duty to demonstrate at funerals, carrying banners that say "Thank God for dead soldiers", while the families of those soldiers mourn.

If God's wrath is responsible for these soldiers' deaths, it's aimed at the Bush administration for sending them to die unnecessarily. If He's pissed at anything, it'd be at the way Roper, Phelps, and their ilk are twisting their followers into the mindless zombies they are, and using His name to promote hatred.

If I remember correctly, Jesus preached love, peace and tolerance. Kinda the opposite of what these clowns are promoting. Or for that matter, any of the religious right-wing groups that are trying to shape our country into a homogenous, mindless congregation.

I just hope this episode serves as a wakeup call for those who feel justified in tormenting, or even discriminating against, someone who is different than them. If not, more of these groups will surface, and not all of them will be satisfied with peaceful protest. They'll take God's wrath into their own hands, and people will die. Normally, we call these groups terrorists.

Are you ready for christian terrorists?