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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

According to protestors at the G20, capitalism doesn’t work.

G20 Protestors - Captitalism Doesn’t Work

It certainly works better than anything else that has ever been tried.

It seems odd to me that people complain endlessly about the government, and then some of those very same people claim to want a system in which everything is run by the government, and everyone works for the government.

Of course it’s true that some people, and some parking meters, make obscene amounts of money. Sometimes markets are manipulated and the poor suffer. There will always need to be safety nets for people who cannot cope, or who are inveterately lazy.

But encouraging people to use their abilities to help themselves and those around them works. It is a way of doing things that has resulted in living conditions for most people around the globe – clean water, good food, access to education and medical care – that even royalty would have been envious of 200 years ago. And it has enabled the building of a world community in which it is possible to respond to disasters and other great needs quickly and generously.

But the protestors are right – another world is possible. A cold, dark, hungry world. Like North Korea.

Korean Peninsula by Night

Well, that’s not quite what he said. Jesus said that people had a choice about building their lives on the rock foundation of truth, or on the shifting sands of fashion and desire.

Obama said people had a similar choice about building a new economy on the rock of his wisdom, including, for example, higher taxes, discouraging business, and record debt, or continuing with the unstable sands of a market economy which has brought unprecedented wealth and opportunity around the globe. Although he didn’t put it quite that clearly.

“It’s more than most Congresses and most presidents have to deal with in a lifetime,” Mr. Obama said, speaking of the financial crisis.  Really?

“I know there’s a criticism out there that my administration has been spending with reckless abandon, pushing a liberal social agenda while mortgaging our children’s future,” Mr. Obama said.

Yep. That’s pretty much it.

The Prime Minister of England. But he seems a decent enough bloke. I find it difficult to believe he would ever have countenanced the kind of deliberate and malicious smearing of poltical opponents that one of his advisors seems to have suggested to another Labour figure.

Damian McBride, who has now resigned as one of Brown’s senior advisors, sent emails containing gossip and fabricated stories to Derek Draper. Draper is a Labour party publicist and blogger, who had proposed setting up a website called ‘Red Rag’ dedicated to gossip about Conservative MPs. Draper originally described McBride’s ideas as ‘brilliant.’

But the idea came to nothing. It was, as Draper points out, a few juvenile ideas tossed about by a couple of mates. They decided, after a few laughs, that it would be wrong to proceed in that way, and they didn’t.

The harm seems to have been done by British blogger Guido Fawkes, who somehow got hold of those emails and made them public, causing embarrassment not only to McBride, Draper, and now to Gordon Brown, but to the people mentioned in the stories. Without Guido, those bits of gossip and baseless stories would never have become public knowledge.

Guido’s allegations about Brown’s likely knowledge and approval of the plan seem to me to be just as baseless and malicious as any of the ideas McBride and Draper emailed to each other.

The difference is that McBride and Draper told no one else about their silly stories. Guido did. And now he’s making up some of his own, with the intention of doing exactly what McBride and Draper talked about doing. But didn’t.

Guido’s a right-winger and so am I. And as I said, I am no supporter of Brown or Labour. But fair is fair.

Is this guy out of his mind?

Unemployment is at its highest levels for twenty years. People are being forced out their homes, soup kitchens are struggling to meet the demand.

And President Barack Obama, community organiser, wealth redistributor, has a pizza chef flown 860 miles to make 20 pizzas for he and his family and mates.

I guess it was someone else’s pizza Michelle Obama had in mind when she said that in order to get universal health care and a better education system, some people were going to have give up a piece of their pie.

Nearly 300 killed in the Abruzzo earthquake including children, others still missing, and this is a cause for rejoicing?

“At last they have had their dark days too. O Allah, kill them and leave them destitute vagabonds,” said one of a series of comments that have appeared on various jihadist websites this week. “O Allah, keep the earthquakes and tragedies coming – cursed be Europe, Israel and the United States,” wrote ‘Ashiq al-Irhab’, which in Arabic means ‘desirous of terrorism.’

Charming.

Islamic leaders are not to blame for the rantings of a few. But if they want to be taken seriously, and if they want the West to believe Islam is a religion of peace, Islamic leaders must condemn these outbursts.

Anyone want to put money on it?

I’m not sure I know what that means. I guess it means Gerald Warner thinks Barack Obama is a bit of a nancy boy. Or at least that Obama is more style than substance – but surely no one needed to be told that?

Whatever it means, Warner is right to say that in terms of concrete results, the presidential tour did not achieve a great deal.

Obama has been lauded for his role at the G20. But the G20 didn’t do anything except list a few naughty tax havens. After that it was all up to the mighty Kevin.

He has been lauded for his conciliatory words to the Islamic world. But every positive and conciliatory thing he said had already been said by President Bush.

On North Korea, he has managed to sound like Hans Blix in Team America (extreme language warning). ‘We will be very, very angry with you, and we will write a letter telling you how angry we are.’

OK, the guy is new in the job. But the fact is, the guy is new in any job. He has no management or leadership experience. It is becoming clear, as Joe Biden pointed out before the election, that the presidency is not the place for on-the-job training.

The US is the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world. With great power comes great responsibility. That responsibility extends beyond US interests and security. US citizens when voting have a responsibility not only to their own nation, but to the world.

I ask again – what were you thinking?

Opposition Finance spokesperson Helen Coonan says the government ought to be harder on the banks, taking steps to make them pass on the full amount of Reserve Bank cuts in official rates.

A perennially popular move.

But is this really the best the opposition can up with? This is not offering new options. It is simply repeating what the government has said, just a bit louder. A few days ago Wayne Swan said the banks deserved a kick up the bum for not passing on the rate cuts.

There are two things wrong with the apparently united view of Wayne and Helen on this.

Firstly, official rates are not the only factor in the cost of money to banks. Expecting them instantly to be able to pass on the full amount of any Reserve Bank rate reduction is naive. Such a suggestion does not inspire confidence in the knowledge and competence of either government or opposition.

Secondly, the banks are not charities. Nor are they in business to please their chums in government. They are in business to make a return on investment for their shareholders. That is their primary responsibility. That does not mean that can or do charge what they like.

The home and business loan markets in Australia in are highly competitive. It is easy for consumers to check rates. Market competition is the most effective way of ensuring the best possible terms to bank customers. Pouting and posturing by members of parliament may make good headlines. It may even win a few votes, or it might if government and opposition were saying anything different. But it won’t make any difference to the banks.

While Queen Elizabeth gets a nod. This is all over the internet, I know. Perhaps because it seems to say something important.

I wasn’t going to comment, but this YouTube video makes it clear just how different Barack Obama’s behaviour to each of the two monarchs was.

Behaviour sends a message. You can’t act with such obsequiousness to someone like Abdullah and with so little apparent respect for Queen Elizabeth, and not expect people to notice and to comment and ask questions about the difference.

Maybe Obama in all honesty thought that a nod was what was expected in England, while a deep bow was expected in Saudi Arabia. But in that case, why not just say so? Instead the White House is denying Obama bowed at all, saying it was just that he is taller than King Abdullah, and bent down to be at his level. There are only two problems with this. First, it isn’t true – Obama did bow to Abdullah. And second, Queen Elizabeth is shorter than Abdullah, so if difference in height was the issue, she should have got an even deeper bow.

If you think you’ve done the right thing, you don’t need to lie about it.

Kevin Rudd admitted today that the Federal Government had no business plan to confirm the new broadband plan’s viability or cost effectiveness compared with other options.

Malcolm Turnbull said: “This is the most reckless statement about a financial matter I’ve seen from an Australian government. This makes the Whitlam era look modest and unassuming.”

What the heck does Rudd’s government they think they are doing? I don’t spend $50 in business unless I think spending $50 will earn me more back. That’s just common sense. The more I plan to spend the more care I take in thinking about options and the cost effectiveness and efficiency of each.

Malcolm Turnbull is right to complain about this – it’s a turkey with a captital T. And apart from that it is the job of the opposition to probe, question, and oppose. He’s doing his job. Why aren’t the state libs? Why would they agree with Labor on such a pointless and expensive proposal?

Because they are spineless nitwits. I don’t know why, but the state Libs either have no idea at all of Liberal values, or no idea how to explain and sell them. And because they have lost their moorings, they’ve got nothing to offer except picking up popular causes. So they seem not to stand for anything, and no one votes for them.

A bit like the Anglican Church really.

Having made millions from ransoms in recent years, Somali pirate gangs are using increasingly sophisticated boats and radar equipments to spot, chase and capture other vessels. On average a ship is attacked every day. About one attack in seven in successful. That’s a ship seized every week. Payment of ransoms has changed a few ratbags in fishing boats to highly trained and well equipped mega-ratbags.

Good luck to this US crew who recaptured their vessel. Their captain is still being held, and US and other warships are on their way to try make sure he is returned safely.

Money paid in ransoms to Abu Sayyaf in the Southern Phillipines has helped them build up arms. Even more importantly it has helped them build support. They are able to give food, medicines, etc to villagers and make themselves look like the good guys. They are not the good guys.

The two remaining Red Cross hostages are still being held. The Red Cross has refused to consider a $5 million ransom demand – a terribly hard choice, but the right choice – and the military is refusing to pull back further, saying to do so will enable the kidnappers to escape or to obtain reinforcements or supplies.

It’s a dangerous time for the hostages, and a sad and worrying time for their friends and families. If no ransoms had ever been paid to Abu Sayyaf, it might also never have happened.

And yet, the things the Europeans said ‘no’ to were things I would have said ‘yes’ to.

Namely, a stronger response to North Korea’s missile launch (which was meant to be threatening, demonstrated an ability to strike as far Alaska and Australia, and has been backed up by more threats), and more troops (in fact a surge) in Afghanistan, with the hope that that will lead to a stronger and more stable government.

This comment comes from the Telegraph article linked to above: Fortunately for the President, the Republican opposition is more loyal than was the Democratic opposition to Bush. John McCain has backed Obama’s Afghanistan policy, and conservative commentators, although more than a little annoyed by the President’s rubbishing of his own country in order to pander to European and Muslim audiences, are supporting him.  Democrats in Congress are sullen but not (yet) mutinous.

I think the anonymous ‘conservative colleague’ is probably right about increasing problems for EU economies, and decreasing EU influence on global matters, over the next few years.

It’s 65 years since the landing at Omaha Beach in Normandy. Over 9,000 Americans are buried at the American cemetary there, including the eldest son of President Theodore Roosevelt.

President Sarkozy invited President Obama to visit while he is in Europe for the NATO summit. French and US officials walked through the cemetary to plan how Obama and Sarkozy could travel the same route.

But according to White House officials, it was never going to happen anyway.

“It wasn’t going to happen,” said an American official in Washington. “We went through the motions to placate President Sarkozy but giving special treatment to France was not on our agenda.”

I don’t know who should be more insulted – US veterans or the French. Or maybe the Germans – because it is surely insulting to think they would have been insulted by a US president visiting a US war cemetary.

What’s next? Not visiting Auschwitz because he doesn’t want to upset Iran?

Emergency medicine specialists say as many lives are lost in Australia each year because of inadequate ER resources (including staff), as are lost on our roads.

Time to think about your priorities, boys and girls. Or get some decent IT advice. Or both.

No that’s not just a grab for more visitors by using three of the most requested search terms in one heading. Though I’d be quite happy if it worked that way.

Remember the McCain ad that basically said Barack Obama was an empty headed celebrity like Britney Spears or Paris Hilton?

I’m now quite sure that was unjust to both Britney and Paris. Well, to be fair, I’ve always thought so. Britney Spears has, after all, achieved a thing or two. She came from nowhere, and has become a world famous multi-millionaire through a mixture of hard work and talent. Paris, despite her occasional quirks, some of them still available on the internet for those who like that sort of thing, is no airhead. And her ‘let’s try everything and do what works’ policy on energy was better than anything either McCain or Obama came up with.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, has zero leadership or management experience. His only real claim to fame is an autobiography that he almost certainly did not write.

He looks great, of course, and he sounds great. Get him to read your last MacDonalds order and you’ll have crowds of foreign journalists applauding.

But if you take away the teleprompter, and Obama has to think for himself and use his own words, what you hear is disturbing when you consider that this is the most powerful man in the world.

Paris and Britney don’t have that problem. What they say is their own words, and they seem to say what they think and mean. Themselves. Without help.

Via John Ray’s Education Watch, this article from The Age about the damage caused by bad behaviour at school.

My wife is a teacher, as are many of my friends. Disruptive behaviour is endemic in Australian schools. Not the slightly cheeky, have a bit of fun at the teacher’s expense stuff that I remember, but outright bullying, and violent or abusive behaviour that means schools are not safe places for either students or staff.

There are many reasons for this decline in behaviour. One is poor behaviour by staff. You’ll see posters about bullying and class rules everywhere. But teachers often do not model safe, considerate behaviour. Teachers who are new or do not fit the mould are frequently isolated, denied access to resources, not given information about meetings or events, etc. Students see this behaviour from staff, so they assume it is all right, no matter what the posters say.

It’s more than just bullying of staff by staff of course. I have known teachers who get drunk on the weekends, get into fights, commit acts of vandalism, use drugs, and then turn up on Monday expecting their students to respect their authority and do what they are told.

Good teachers do model good behaviour, and try to make a difference by setting rules about acceptable behaviour and encouraging students to follow them. But they are frequently undermined by senior staff who are either lazy, or more concerned about their careers or placating parents than making classrooms places where real learning can take place.

Then there are ‘counselors’ who insist students should not have to face the consequences of their behaviour because they come from a ‘troubled background.’ Instead students who are disruptive, even violent, are pampered, given ‘supportive’ one on one attention, taken for treats, etc. Nonsense of course. Whatever your background or feelings, you are still responsible for how you act. Rewarding bad behaviour does even more to discourage the good students.

Students who by any standard should be suspended or expelled are not, because ‘We have a responsibility for them, and they have nowhere else to go.’ Yes, but schools also have an equal or even greater responsibility to the majority of students who want to listen, participate and learn. What about their rights, and the rights of teachers – the right to be able to learn and to teach in a safe environment? Those who are violent or abusive, even if it is true that ‘they have nowhere else to go’ can solve the problem any time they like simply by changing their behaviour. Conscientious students do not have that choice. They are stuck with the problem till someone fixes it.

It is absolutely true, as The Age article notes, that an unfair burden is placed on teachers, who are expected no longer just to teach (actually, I’m sure good teachers always expected to do more than just teach)  but to ‘solve society’s problems,’ including diet, manners, self-esteem, etc.

If parents have not been willing or able to instil some sense of the value of learning, to teach good manners and respect for others, and to set and maintain fair boundaries for behaviour, then by the time a child gets to school it is probably too late. Children who won’t take responsibility or are angry, or see no point in being at school, frequently have parents who won’t take responsibility, or are angry, or see no point in education. So they are unlikely to be supportive of school or teacher efforts to get the child to do what they don’t value themselves, and will sometimes be actively hostile.

Good teachers will try to help. But constantly badly behaved children in a class take up a vastly disproportionate amount of a teacher’s time, which means less time for the good students, the ones who want to learn. Also, and obviously, the more time a teacher has to spend correcting and controlling bad behaviour, the less time there is to spend on teaching and learning, and the more difficult it is for a teacher to build a positive relationship with the class as a whole. And then, equally obviously, noisy, argumentative, rude or violent students create an environment which is not conducive to learning, either because other students (and often the teacher as well) do not feel safe, or simply because of constant noise and interruptions.

So yes, enough is enough.

Teachers and other staff are right to expect and demand that parents take more responsibility, both for teaching values and manners, and for correcting bad behaviour when it does occur. But the fact that many parents have not done so and won’t do so is at least partly the fault of teacher organisations, which have trodden over parents’ rights and concerns.

School documents may say parents are the primary teachers, and that the school works in partnership with them, but the reality is often very different. Parent concerns about curriculum are treated as a joke, and schools have insisted, often against strong resistance from parents, that they have a ‘duty’ to teach sex education, morals, politics, and ‘childrens rights’ – frequently in ways that parents find offensive or counter to their own values. So it is a bit rich for teacher organisations, which by their actions have told parents they are incompetent and should stay out, now to start blaming parents for not taking more responsibility.

I have often seen the signs at hospitals that say something like “We are obliged to provide a safe environment for patients and staff. Abusive behaviour will not be tolerated.”

If the same kind of zero tolerance policy were put in place at schools, if education departments took seriously their responsibility to provide a safe work environment for staff, and a safe learning environment for students, our schools would be very different.