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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.

Alas, not so.

The fact that Jennifer filed this under ‘Humour’ and posted it on April 1st should have been a giveaway.

The references to Irving Janis are entirely accurate, and that, along with references to real people such as Vaclav Klaus and William Kininmonth give the blog post a high degree of verisimilitude.

I knew it could not be true when I got to this: In order to avoid groupthink the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has accepted the recommendation from President Klaus in particular that the IPCC adopt Janis’ nine principles including that several independent groups work on the same problem, that alternatives be properly examined, and at least one member of every working-group be assigned the role of Devil’s advocate.

Would that it were so! 

Well done, Jennifer, and thanks for the laugh.

Professor Neal Stoughton, head of Banking and Finance at the Australian School of Business at the University of New South Wales, has come out in support of my argument of several weeks ago that the stimulus programmes proposed by US and Australian governments are likely to do more harm than good.

Well, he didn’t specifically name me, but anyway…

Basically what he says is that what is needed is not simply increased spending, especially if that puts us further into debt, but increased employment and increased production. Of course. That’s exactly what I said. This Stoughton’s obviously a pretty bright chap.

“When you get into situations where government makes decisions where to spend money rather than leaving it up to the private sector, it usually is on the basis of influence and politics rather than the basis of sound economics.”

And it’s politics, not economics, that is driving the massive round of cash handouts according to Professor Stoughton.

Essentially, he says, the government has neither the information nor the skills needed to direct tax payer funds to where they will do the most good to improve employment and production, so they would be better off leaving the money in the hands of tax payers, who are already employing, working, producing.

Of course, Mr Rudd has a different perspective, one he feels quite strongly about. Though perhaps not as strongly as he feels about having his food exactly as he wants it.

So to be fair and balanced, I have written a poem about Mr Rudd’s achievements at the G20 Summit.

Our PM

‘Oh gosh, oh golly, gee, oh heck!
All our economies are wrecks.’
The blokes at the G20 sighed
As into their champagne they cried.
‘If only there was someone who
Could tell us all just what to do’
For cold despair had grasped the meeting
Despite Obama’s balmy greeting.
But at that moment – oh what rapture!
A joy no human words could capture.
For in a heavenly flash of light
The mighty Kevin hove in sight.
‘Now listen chaps,’ he sternly said.
‘You’ve stuffed it up, you’re in the red.
But if you promise to be good
I’ll tell you what to do you should.’
(He sounds like Yoda in disguise
Because he’s so supremely wise.
And though to mention I’d forebear
There is a certain likeness there.)
‘You chaps have all spent far too much
You’re with your people out of touch.
So all the debts that cause you worry
You must get rid of in a hurry.’
Delegates the world around
Were stunned and rooted to the ground.
Economists all said with smiles
‘He’s cleverer than us by miles.’
‘Oh Kevin of the mighty mind
And equally enlarged behind
Now we know just what to do
Please tell us how to do it, do.’
The mighty Kevin’s eyebrows lifted
As is quite right in one so gifted
‘You chaps are pretty slow I see
But I’ll be kind, because I’m me.
To get rid of the debts you had
you must go out and spend like mad.’
The delegates all gasped with glee
‘We were all blind, but now we see.
By our advisors we were dudded
But all is clear now we’ve been Rudded.’
By which they meant enlightened then
By thoughts beyond the ken of men.
Then Kevin to the sunset rode
With Caty in his blanket stowed.
And the G20 ended well
Between the nations things are swell
No more economies asunder
Thanks to the PM from Down Under.

Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer Kharrazi is a member of the Iranian Guardian Council – according to some, the most powerful body in Iranian politics – and is also Secretary General of the Iranian Hezbollah. This is someone at the heart of power in Iran. His public statement that there will be no dialogue with the US until Iran has nuclear weapons has to be taken seriously.

Of course this means (shock, horror!) that Bush was right about Iran’s nuclear intentions. It also means that Iranian President Imanutjob’s indignant rage and repeated claims that the fact the great Satan made such accusations against the peace-loving state of Iran proved how evil the West was, were , well, porkies. And yes, I know the word pork will probably upset him as well, poor dear.

The deadline of 2pm Tuesday has passed with no further word on whether three Red Cross workers kidnapped by Philippino terrorist group Abu-Sayyaf are still alive.

The terrorists demanded the withdrawal of government troops from ‘their’ territory on the island of Jolo or the hostages would be killed today.

As Philippino Senator Richard Gordon has said, there is no glory or bravery in murdering people who have come to the Philippines to help.

My parents lived in the Southern Philippines for a few years, and Kathy and I visited them there. It is a beautiful country with beautiful, hopeful people. It was dangerous when we were there, and obviously is dangerous still. I have enormous respect for people like my parents, and these Red Cross workers, and aid workers in Iraq and Afghanistan, to name just a few, who accept this danger as the price of bringing new hope to impoverished people, and people who have already been victims of violence.

Please pray for safety for the hostages and hope for their families, and an end to the torture and murder of others as a means to an end.

If it is true that maintaining good trading relationships with China is more important to South Aftica than an open commitment to human rights, and that this was the reason the Dalai Lama’s visa was refused, then the government of South Africa should be very embarrassed about this.

As South Africa should know from its own experience, giving in to bullies does not work.

There are clear, long-recognised links betwen HIV infection and infection with other opportunistic infections such as TB. It is these secondary infections which normally kill HIV/AIDS patients. It is interesting, however, that monitoring of TB deaths indicates that as many as 25% of such deaths have an underlying HIV infection.

TB, HIV and Malaria are terrifying killers in tropical regions. Only a lack of clean water kills more people. All these problems could be effectively erradicated with a well funded global response. So why aren’t they?

One reason is that vast amounts of money are spend by governments on utterly pointless non-problems such as global warming.

There is no evidence that the minor warming of less than one degree over the twentieth century was anything other than normal natural fluctuation. There is no evidence of unusual sea-level rises or arctic sea ice reduction. The world has been cooling for the last ten years.

Yet in response to media and special interest pressure, governments allocate billions of dollars to come up with solutions that won’t work, to a problem that doesn’t exist.

Similarly with stimulus plans, and especially those which use tax payer funds to create pointless ‘make work.’ This money would be better left in the hands of tax payers, where it is used to create real jobs and generate real production. But even if the govenment really believes it knows better than the people who make and earn the money, why not spend where there are real needs – increasing numbers of nurses, eradicating AIDS, malaria, TB, providing clean water to poorer regions in developing nations?

But instead of forming well-rounded plans of action which would address these problems, organisations like the International AIDS Society, go ballistic when Pope Benedict says something perfectly sensible and obviously true, namely if people would keep their pants on and have sex only within the bounds of marriage, there would be no AIDS problem.

The Church says that using a condom to attempt to avoid disease is a sin. First note that the only people remotely likely to take any notice of this at all are catholics. The Pope is not telling anyone else how to behave.

Secondly, many catholics (sadly) routinely ignore the teaching of the Church on matters of contraception. The more likely they are to ignore the Church’s teaching in one area, the more likely they are to do so in others – namely that sex outside of marriage is wrong. In other words, even in catholic countries it looks to me like telling people they should feel free to ignore the Church’s teaching in the area of contraception is likely to encourage, not discourage, risky behaviour.

But finally, does anyone really imagine that someone who is out to commit adultery, who is going to steal from his wife and family to pay a prostitute, who is going to have sex with another man in a public toilet, is going to be so troubled by his conscience over wearing a condom that he will refuse to do so, while still proceeding with the other mortal sin?

No, the problem here is that the Pope has the audacity to tell people that they can and should keep their sexual desires under control, and that good health, responsibility to others, and respectful, lasting relationships depend on their doing so.

You cannot spend your way out of debt.

If debt is the problem, to the extent that neither lenders nor borrowers are confident, then manipulating the economy to increase debt, hoping thereby to encourage spending and so stimulate economic growth is not going to help. What is needed is removal of barriers to increased production and employment.

So far Gordon Brown’s government seemed to be accepting this advice. Let’s hope they continue to do so in the face of mounting pressure from the US for a ‘global response’ to the recession.

Egyptian police have seized half a ton of TNT and 500 sheep being smuggled into Gaza.

One of my WoW characters is an engineer. I can make exploding sheep. They are fun, but not very useful, except as a distraction.

Any TNT being smuggled into Gaza is no fun at all. I am glad the Egyptian police are as watchful as they are. I think I would have let them keep the sheep, though.

And that demonstrates clearly just what the problem is.

The Palestinians make demands. ‘Just give us this and there will be peace.’ And everyone says that would be lovely, if only the Jews would agree. And Israel gives in.

And then the terrorist attacks begin again. And there is another demand.

The reality is that Palestinian leadership will not be content until, as they themselves have said many times, Israel ceases to exist.

He was a great actor and a brave man.

From an article by Daniel Finkelstein:

The night after he spoke to the 2004 Republican convention .. Ron said that he expected many of his Hollywood liberal friends would cut him off. It was something he didn’t relish, but he was ready for it. He thought it a price worth paying to be able to say what he thought.

Why should doing what he did have been so rare and so brave? And why did it have such a high price?

For most of his career Ron was an emblematic Hollywood liberal Democrat. He was president of Actors’ Equity for a decade, established the Creative Coalition liberal lobby group with artists such as Susan Sarandon and Alec Baldwin, stumped the country for Bill Clinton and was a prominent campaigner for abortion rights. But after 9/11 Ron went one way, and his liberal friends another. He believed that the fight against Islamism was a fight for his liberal values and he thought that his erstwhile allies didn’t take it seriously enough.

In Hollywood, supporting Bush on any grounds was completely unacceptable.

Group think is a dangerous thing – and it takes courage to stand against it. Thanks Ron.

I have Muslim friends, but am convinced that while there are reasonable and moderate Muslims, there is not and cannot be a reasonable and moderate Islam.

For Muslims, Mohammed is the perfect example of a life well lived. You canot criticise the prophet publicly without risking death. Yet Mohammed, as I have noted before, had sex with a nine year old girl, tortured his enemies, and was a mass murderer who in between killing Arabs who disagreed with him, decapitated several hundred Jews.

Unless Muslims are willing to repudiate Mohammed’s example, and that would mean disowning the prophet – impossible! –  an Islam which claims both to follow his example and to be moderate will simply be an impossibility.

Some interesting comments here about the film Islam: What the West Needs to Know.