The Story Behind The Story Is The Most Interesting Story Of All

Sometimes the story behind the story is the best story of all. Let me explain.

America is all agog, and rightly so, at the latest revelations of alleged collusion between the Trump Presidential campaign, and Russia’s Putin regime, to get Donald Trump elected President of the United States.

One of the fruit of the President’s loins, some cynics might describe him as spoiled and damaged fruit, Donald Trump Junior, just released a series of emails which suggest he was ready, willing and able to collude with the Russians to get Daddy into the White House.

Donald Junior may well have unleashed a firestorm that could burn down the White House but that is another story for another time. His father, the President, took a long time to come to junior’s defence, which is interesting in itself.

When he did, he took to Twitter, of course, his preferred form of communication. And it’s his preferred form of communication because no one can contradict him. If anyone does, or tries to, they’re banned.

The President praised Donald Junior’s “transparency” and “openness”, in releasing the email correspondence. The Trumps use the word transparency in the same way they do modesty. Neither applies to them. For example, there was nothing transparent or open about Donald Junior releasing his emails. The New York Times newspaper already had them and was going to publish. Donald Junior got in first to try and steal the newspaper’s thunder.

While the President might be praising his son publicly, privately he would be calling him a jackass because he’s provided the FBI’s special prosecutor, appointed to investigate Russian collusion in the Presidential election campaign, part, if not all of the smoking gun he needs to prove the case.

Now I am not going to mine the nitty gritty of the emails and the whole Russian election thing. Plenty of others are doing that right now and doing it better than I ever could.

I’m more interested in the other intriguing questions that have come out of this. Such as, who leaked the emails to the New York Times? And what did they hope to achieve in doing so?

Leaked information is done with three goals in mind: the first is the explosive nature of the information being released publicly, the second is the hysterical publicity that almost always accompanies it, and the third is a higher purpose of some kind.

In other words it is always done, selectively, carefully and for a good reason. And the Donald Trump Junior emails leak is no exception.

So let’s start with the first question: Who might have leaked the emails to the New York Times?

The list of potential suspects would have to be small. The first, and most obvious, is that the leaker is someone close to Donald Junior who had access to his private computer. But it is a less likely scenario, I would have thought. Donald Junior could very easily narrow down and successfully identify a suspect and they would be made the scapegoat. Donald Junior would then be able to spin the narrative to be all about the betrayal rather than the contents of the emails. The fact that he hasn’t done so, would suggest the leaker isn’t someone close to him.

Could it have been someone in the intelligence service? Or the FBI? Who could remotely access Donald Junior’s computer? These days that seems perfectly achievable if the latest publicity concerning computer hacking and ransom demanded, is any kind of guide. So if the leaker was the FBI or someone connected to the Special Prosecutor’s office, the question is why would they do it?

That is a much tougher question to answer.

But one reason might be that whoever obtained the emails from Donald Junior’s computer, would have to, or be wanting to prove that Donald Junior wrote them. Just finding them on his computer is not enough and not proof beyond reasonable doubt. Someone else could have written the emails to try and discredit him. This would be especially so if Donald Junior denied being the author of the emails. Proving that he wrote them in the face of his denials would not be impossible but it would be difficult and time consuming. And we are talking about proving them to a legal and possibly criminal standard.

So why not roll the dice to see what Donald Junior does? Leak the emails to the New York Times and see if they can flush him out and get him to publicly say he was the author, which of course is what he did, almost on cue.

Donald Trump Junior is clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer. He has just opened a Pandora’s box worth of trouble for the President.

He has also placed a great deal of pressure on Congressional members of the Republican Party.

The Republicans hold the majority in the Congress and it is the Congress alone that can get rid of the President. Republican Senator John McCain made an interesting observation when he said that more shoes are going to drop before this has ended. Maybe he knows something we don’t.

In many ways President Trump is his own party’s worst nightmare. If they do decide to get rid of him by a Congressional majority he will hardly go quietly into the night. He will go kicking and screaming accusing everyone of a vendetta and a witch hunt. More disturbingly he has plenty of supporters, armed supporters, who believe him when he says it.

Consider this. What if the FBI knew in advance of Trump Junior’s meeting with the Russians and secretly recorded the conversation? Junior says the meeting was a dud and nothing of any substance in relation to the Presidential election was discussed. But… we only have his word for it. All I can say is watch this space.

I am reminded of the Chinese curse: May we live in interesting times. Except it’s not a curse anymore. We are.

The Story Of The Mystery Plane, The Drugs, The Cash And Maybe The CIA 5

This is a fascinating mystery. And I’m a little bit obsessed. It’s the story of a ghost plane that has confirmed links to the American CIA, which mysteriously turned up in Australia. It’s also a story about a significant quantity of illegal drugs and cash seized by New South Wales police, as well as a daring and dangerous under the radar flight operation into Australia.

As I have said more than once, it really is the story that keeps on giving. So many intriguing twists and turns. Here is part five. But first, some background to put the story in context.

At the heart of this tale, is a plane, a US-registered Swearingen Merlin 3 with twin turbo props, which arrived illegally in Australia. How it managed to end up parked at Wollongong airport, a tiny regional hub south of Sydney is a complete mystery.

The Australian Federal Police and the New South Wales Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad, raided the eight-seater private plane in 2014 while it was parked on the tarmac. The day of the raid was a real old fashioned cops and robbers type operation. The plane was surrounded by about 20 armed police, even though no one was on board.

A 43-year-old Wollongong pilot, Bernard Stevermuer, who is listed as the owner of the plane, was arrested and charged with being part of a criminal organisation and dealing with the proceeds of crime.

The News South Wales Police case, is that a major international crime syndicate was using the airport to import guns and drugs, for distribution throughout southwest Sydney.

The syndicate was allegedly operated by two men who, police claim, have links to a number of New South Wales outlaw motorcycle gangs. What their precise connection might be to Stevermuer has not been revealed.

Police clearly had Stevermuer under surveillance. They also claim to have documents showing that the syndicate commissioned Stevermuer to buy the plane in the United States for $US400,000, with money provided by a mortgage company in Sydney. But as you will discover, the purchase was anything but straightforward and is full of intrigue.

Police also allege the documents show Stevermuer, had access to large reserves of cash and was prepared to pay $A1.5 million to buy two aviation businesses based at the same airport where the plane was raided.

Several aviation sources have confirmed that Stevermuer was in negotiation to buy a flight training company, NSW Air and another company, Aerial Patrol shark-spotting.

Police allege these two aviation companies were to act as legitimate fronts in order to hide criminal activity. But when Stevermuer offered a $300,000 cash deposit, the seller became suspicious and the sale fell through. When Police arrested the Wollongong pilot, they discovered 36 kg of an illegal drug, which they now are refusing to name, but believed to be heroin, with a street value of $A9 million.

But then the story gets even more intriguing.

If you do a search of US Federal Aviation Administration ( FAA) records, you will discover, that an organisation called the Oregonian Aero Club, with an address listed in Wilmington, Delaware in the United States, owns the Swearingen Merlin 3 aircraft.

But the fact that this club has its registered office in Delaware, might be an extremely significant development. Delaware is one of the strangest American states in terms of corporate law, especially if you happen to be in the business of asset management.

Companies, incorporated in Delaware, enjoy similar freedoms and secrecy  as do the clients of other highly secretive organisations, such as the Vatican Bank or financial institutions based in the Cayman Islands. Asset Management companies, which own aircraft and yachts, register them in Delaware as a way of minimising tax and personal liability and also because the assets are automatically registered as belonging to a trustee corporation rather than an individual, making it a great place to hide true ownership if that was your desire.

And according to FAA records, it turns out the person listed as a Director of the Oregonian Aero Club, which owns the mystery plane, is none other than Australian pilot Bernard Stevermuer, who was arrested by Australian police.

 

The papers list Stevermuer as the purchaser of the plane on behalf of Oregonian Aero Club.

Now you might ask, why would an Australian pilot and skydiving instructor, bother to travel across the world to buy a 42-year-old plane? There is nothing in the least exceptional about this model of aircraft apart from its age.

Even more unusual, Why would an Australian who doesn’t live in the United States, be listed as a Director of a fictitious American aviation club? None of this makes sense unless of course unless there was a darker purpose behind the deal.

The Oregonian Aero club has no headquarters, no web address, telephone numbers, aircraft (apart from this one 42 year old plane) or members. In fact none of the other aero clubs in the Oregon area have ever heard of it.

And, as it turns out, the plane at the centre of this intrigue, the Swearingen Merlin 3 twin turbo prop aircraft, could best be described as a ghost plane. By that I mean there is no record, whatsoever, of it ever arriving in Australia.

In fact, the last known official record concerning this aircraft reveals that it flew into the Philippines on May 5, 2014, after a two-month journey from the United States. But the Swearingen Merlin 3 was doing a lot of flying right up until the time it left for the Philippines. It flew for a couple of weeks from Punta Gorda in Florida via Missouri and Texas and then to California and finally Washington State.

Flight records indicate the plane left Seattle, Washington on the 30th of April 2014. It touched down at Cold Bay, Alaska, a village of 108 people, one shop, one hotel and an airport. The next day the aircraft flew to Honolulu and then the Marshall islands, a series of atolls in the Pacific Ocean. Next stop was the US airbase at Guam before arriving in the Philippines capital, Manila.

But what happened to the plane after that is a total mystery. It clearly entered Australia some way but what route it took and who was flying it is anyone’s guess. What is also apparent, whoever was flying this plane, took extraordinary steps to avoid detection. By that I mean entering Australia at one of its most remote and least habited geographic points, flying visually, without instruments, at low altitude, for long periods so it wouldn’t be detected by radar.

That would have taken the expertise and daring of an extremely skilled pilot.

The next official record of contact between this plane, registered NH224HR, and a control tower, was at Coffs Harbour in northern New South Wales on the 27th of June 2014. The plane radioed in that it was bound for Albion Park airport. And that’s where it’s been ever since, on the tarmac, until the police raid.

The next obvious question is who flew the plane illegally into Australia? At this point in time we don’t know the answer to that question. So let’s talk about what we do know. Sometimes fact can be way stranger than fiction.

The contract to ferry the Swearingen Merlin 3 from the United States to the Philippines was undertaken by an Australian company called Snow Goose International.

Snow Goose was engaged by the Oregonian Aero Club, which of course exists in name only. So it might be fair to assume that Snow Goose might know the principals behind Oregonian. If they do, they are not saying. In fact Snow Goose released a statement making the point that it was their job to ferry the plane to the Philippines, which they did, At all times the flights were planned and approved by the appropriate authorities. Communication was maintained at all times by High Frequency Radio in accordance with international requirements. Snow Goose had no knowledge of what happened to the plane after they ferried it to the Philippines nor does it have any knowledge of how it ended up illegally in Australia.

Snow Goose is a very interesting company. It’s Director and Chief Pilot is David Baddams, who was awarded an MBE, a Member Of The British Empire by the Queen of England. On the company website, he is listed as an ex-Navy fighter pilot with 40 years flying experience on many aircraft types including the Sea Harrier, BAE Hawk and the Douglas A4 Skyhawk. Since leaving the Navy in 1999, Baddams has remained closely involved in aviation as the business development manager of a military flying training school, a highly experienced flying instructor, an aircraft salesman and as the Chief Pilot and director of an airborne surveillance company.  He has many years and many hours experience on numerous aircraft.

I am certainly not inferring or suggesting that David Baddams had anything whatsoever to do with ferrying the Swearingen from the Philippines to Australia. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest or infer he was involved. Nor is there any evidence to suggest or infer that he was involved in anything illegal.

But there is also no denying that he had the flying expertise and the skill set to undertake the most perilous of flying journeys in a small plane, for example, from the United States to the Philippines. Snow Goose International regularly posted photographic updates of the Swearingen ferrying job to the Philippines on its company Facebook page. A photo posted by Snow Goose International on April 30 showed Baddams and a man seated beside him the cockpit of a plane, with the caption: “It’s Bernie!!! He is back!” The man sitting next to him is Bernie Stevermuer.

Another photo, posted on June 13, was captioned: “Here she comes! On the pan at Clark about to continue on her journey with the owner!” The caption is referring to the tarmac at Clark Air Force base in Manila.  You might want to ask yourself the question: How is it possible that a private plane obtained the necessary permission to land and take off from a highly restricted US airforce base in the Phillipines?

On the same date, Baddams commented: “Here she comes to Australia! It’s N224HR, the one we brought across the Pacific!”

The next record of contact between this plane, registered NH224HR, and a control tower, was at Coffs Harbour in northern New South Wales on the 27th of June 2014. The plane radioed in that it was bound for Albion Park airport. And that’s where it’s been ever since, on the tarmac, until the police raid.

But would this mystery be solved if we were able to trace the full ownership of this plane from the time in rolled off the assembly line?

As I already established in a past blog post, the U.S. Forest Service was the first owner of the Swearingen Merlin 3 in the early 1970s.

 

 

The Forest Service has a track record of an activity known in aviation circles as sheep dipping planes on behalf of the CIA. You sheep dip a plane when you conceal or disguise its true owner. Sheep dipping explains how some Forest Service owned aircraft were discovered in exotic locations like Colombia and Mexico being used by drug cartels instead of fighting forest fires.

Are there any significant clues such as who might have owned the plane, before it was sold to the Oregonian Aero Club? Again a search of U.S. FAA records reveals the previous owner was a company called Sterling Strategic Consulting LLC based in Salem Oregon. Nothing unusual in that you might think except that Sterling Strategic Consulting LLC is owned by a dentist based in Colombia, Missouri on the other side of the United States. He bought the Swearingen Merlin 3 in 2011 and sold it to the Oregonian Aero Club a few months later. There is no suggestion or implication that any of these transactions were illegal. But they were definitely unusual and as per usual we end up with more questions than answers.

There is another interesting element to this story that invites further scrutiny. The fact that this plane began its mysterious odyssey across the world, from Charlotte County Airport at Punta Gorda in Florida, could be an indication of its true origin and purpose.

Punta Gorda, would have to be one of the more unusual locations in the United States and it’s all to do with its history. Punta Gorda could easily and humorously be re-named Spooksville. The founding fathers of Punta Gorda happen to be a pair of CIA spooks, Bud Cole and Al Johns, who turned a vast tidal flat into upmarket home sites complete with canals. As a CIA agent, Al Johns, was fairly gung-ho if you’ll pardon the pun. The CIA posted him to the East China Sea in the 1950s where his job was to supply pirates for junks used to attack Communist Chinese shipping. In fact, Punta Gorda seems to act as a magnet for CIA agents past and present. Porter Goss, former CIA Director during the Presidency of George W. Bush, was a long time resident of Punta Gorda and served as a local Mayor.

With that kind of history of CIA connectivity, it’s little wonder that Punta Gorda’s Charlotte County Airport has been home to some interesting characters and even more interesting allegations. For example at least one Congressional committee heard allegations that the airport was used to transport arms to the Contras in Nicaragua and to smuggle drugs, principally cocaine. Of course the allegations were never proven and no one was ever prosecuted or served jail time.

And there’s the case of the 23 helicopters that mysteriously disappeared from Charlotte County Airport. One of the helicopters was later discovered in Chile of all places. No one can explain how they managed to disappear, how they managed to leave the United States or who was responsible but the local Sheriff has suggested publicly that he has a pretty good idea even if he’s not saying.

Maybe it isn’t so surprising that a ghost plane that flew out of a mysterious place like Punta Gorda would end up thousands of miles away in Australia, linked to drugs and organised crime and with no record of it ever entering Australia in the first place.

So what might have happened to Bernie Stervermuer? He allegedly purchased the plane on behalf of a drug syndicate, and was also allegedly buying two companies so that the syndicate could launder dirty money. It turns out that Stervermuer bought not one but three planes on behalf of the syndicate between 2012 and 2014. NSW police say from 2012 to mid-2014, Stevermuer bought tplanes, in the United States, Malaysia and Cambodia, using money supplied to him.

Investigations by police reveal a “highly suspicious” paper trail linked to the purchase of at least two of the planes.

In the case of the US plane, which was infamously raided at Albion Park airport last July, $450,000 was paid through six bank transfers from five Chinese accounts, none of which had legitimate links to Stevermuer.

The US Department of Homeland Security told NSW investigating officers at least one of the accounts was used suspiciously in the past to transfer large amounts of money from Asia to the United States.

Two hundred thousand dollars was transferred to pay for the plane purchased in Malaysia, again using suspicious accounts, allegedly linked to drug operations.

Investigators couldn’t find any evidence to show who paid for the Cambodia plane or how it was paid.

When police raided Stevermuer’s house on the same day they raided the Merlin plane at Albion Park, they discovered $70,000 in cash, which, they say, was payment to Stevermuer for his involvement in transporting the Merlin to Australia.

After his arrest, Stevermuer decided to plead guilty to charges of dealing with property suspected of being the proceeds of crime and knowingly participating in a criminal group. But here’s where it gets even more interesting.

At the time, Stevemuer’s lawyer, Mark Savic, described his client as a “gentle, devoted and trustworthy family man” whose inherent naivety had been his undoing.

‘‘His love of flying caused him to be blind to what others might see were obvious signs to what was going on around him,’’ Mr Savic said, telling the Magistrate, hearing the case, that his client was extremely remorseful.

‘‘He’s not shied away from the charges, he has deep remorse and shame for being before the court today.

‘‘There was no intention on my client’s part to be involved in breaking the law. He didn’t go out to seek people in the underworld, he was approached by people with an agenda.’’

The Magistrate was clearly unimpressed with the submissions on behalf of Stevermuer, sentencing him to 19 months imprisonment.

However, Stevermuer appealed to the District Court of New South Wales and surprise, surprise won his appeal. His prison sentence was suspended and he walked away from everything a free man who will never spend a solitary second inside a jail cell.

Like I said, this story remains a fascinating and intriguing mystery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Letter To America

Dear United States of America.

Here I am writing to you again.

You’ll be pleased to know it’s not about guns this time. The truth is I can’t take my eyes away from you and your politics. Suddenly you’re a catastrophe waiting to happen. And if the news over the last 24 hours is any guide, the catastrophe’s already happening. It’s in slow motion, of course, but nonetheless moving inevitably towards a massive fallout and collateral damage. Your White House is in daily disarray, in case you haven’t noticed. It lurches from one crisis to another. It’s disastrous, it’s damaging, it’s chaotic. It’s also fascinating. Apologies if I seem to be basking in the warmth of someone else’s misfortune. But the chaos won’t last forever. It can’t. Something has to give.

As a spectator in the relatively safe backwater known as Australia, and a very long way away from you, I can only look on with shock and awe. I could write pages and pages and pages about your President Donald Trump. Whoever writes his biography will have endless sources of amusement and negativity to wade through. No point in me joining the chorus. It is stating the obvious.

I do want to try and understand him. And the only way I can do that, is to liken your President to a famous historic figure of tragedy. A figure, that could only be created by the master of dramatic tragedy, Mr William Shakespeare. Donald Trump really is Shakespeare’s modern day Julius Caesar. So many parallels. A man who thinks that rules and governance and the law don’t apply to him. So did Julius Caesar. A man who flies above it all in his private jet. And he is the only passenger. Ok. Not Julius Caesar, but you get my point.

Like Julius Caesar, Trump’s biggest flaw is vanity. He wants to bask in public adulation. To be adored and admired. To be recognised as a man, who is way bigger than the sum of many or even any parts. He stands alone. A colossus. But like Caesar his fate is foretold. He too, will be dispatched, ruthlessly. By that I mean metaphorically speaking and not literally. He will be dispatched to a political gulag. It won’t be at the hands of obvious enemies. No sir. Trump’s biggest enemies are his friends, his Republican friends in the Congress.

This tornado is getting ready to touch ground. It’s been gathering strength for some time but really the catalyst for what is about to happen began with the reasons behind his arbitrary sacking of the Director of the FBI, James Comey. Your President Trump can’t help himself. He has his press lackeys give one version while he gives another that is completely contradictory. He blindsides his own people. He hasn’t told them of his plans. Why should he? He’s Donald Trump. He can say and do whatever he likes. Well actually no he can’t. He’s not Donald Trump the businessman anymore nor is he Donald Trump the TV host who can simply say your fired. He is Donald Trump, President of the United States and different rules apply. If you don’t believe me, look at Richard Nixon. In fact the word Watergate is getting used a lot lately.

Why Watergate? Because Trump is said to be trying to do what Nixon wanted to do and couldn’t. Stop an official investigation. You see, Trump’s security advisor, General Michael Flynn was sacked after it emerged that he had lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

Now, the news has broken that the former Director of the FBI is said to have written a memo, accusing Trump of trying to stop the Flynn investigation. If it’s true, this is political interference of the worst kind. Using your office and power to try and thwart an independent and lawful investigation. That is intolerable. It will not be tolerated by Republican or Democrat. No one has seen the memo. No one knows, for sure, that it even exists. But plenty of people are now saying they desperately want to follow the paper trail. And the bad news for Donald Trump, one of those people most notably, is a Republican. And not just any old Republican. He’s Jason Chaffetz, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee. It is the one Congressional committee that has the power to follow that paper trail.

“On the surface that seems like an extraordinary use of influence to try to shut down an investigation being done by the FBI,” Mr Chaffetz said.

“(We are) going to get the Comey memo, if it exists. I need to see it sooner rather than later. I have my subpoena pen ready.”

The committee Mr Chaffetz heads has since sent a letter to the FBI requesting that it provide the memo – and any other relevant materials from Mr Comey.

Another senior Republican figure, former presidential nominee John McCain, openly compared the current situation to the Watergate scandal.

“I think we’ve seen this movie before. I think it appears at a point where it’s of Watergate size and scale,” Mr McCain said to former TV anchor Bob Schieffer at a dinner.

“The shoes continue to drop, and every couple of days there’s a new aspect,” he said. “Get it all out. It’s not going to be over until every aspect of it is thoroughly examined and the American people make a judgment. The longer you delay, the longer it is going to last.”

As you might expect, other Republicans are ducking for cover. It prompted CNNs political reporter Chris Cilliza to say: “ If you are a Republican in Congress, now is the time to panic.”

The story, about the former FBI Director’s alleged memo, was broken by the New York Times newspaper. The Times has not seen the memo, but says one of the former FBI Director’s associates, allegedly read excerpts from it, to one of its reporters.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go, Mr Trump allegedly told Mr Comey according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Now, I’m probably telling you something that you already knew. Please forgive me in the re telling, I know it’s boring and repetitive but I like to re tell the story because it helps me to understand what’s going on.

I also know it’s going to be hard to predict what will happen next. But in my experience these things tend to have a mind and a life of their own. I wouldn’t put money on betting that your President will still be in office by Christmas.

It’s a real pity, Bill Shakespeare isn’t around. I’m sure he’d love to write about your President Trump. What am I saying? He already did. Just called him by a different name. And the setting was Rome, not Washington DC. Smart bloke that William Shakespeare.

Anyhow, let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. I remain your friend as always.

Take care and kind regards.

Welcome To The World Of Donald Trump

A man walks into a bar in Kansas City. Many of the patrons are from a country other than the United States. Their physical appearance is a dead give away. The man asks them, as if he had some God given right, What visa did they hold? Were they in the United States illegally? There was method in his madness. He leaves and returns to the bar with a gun and opens fire killing one person, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian born engineer working for Garmin in the United States. Two other people are wounded, one of them seriously. The seriously wounded man, is incredibly lucky to be alive and still walking because the bullet that struck him narrowly missed his carotid artery and spinal column. This was a racially motivated hate crime. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

A celebrated Australian author of children’s books, Mem Fox, goes to the United States on business. She has a valid visa and Fox has travelled to the US many times before. Make that 116 times before without incident. But this time is different. This time she is travelling directly in the wake of Donald Trump’s anti immigration rantings, by that I mean his executive order on immigration. On her arrival, Fox is detained and questioned for two hours by US Customs officials. “I have never in my life been spoken to with such insolence, treated with such disdain, with so many insults and with so much gratuitous impoliteness,” she would later say. “I felt like I had been physically assaulted which is why, when I got to my hotel room, I completely collapsed and sobbed like a baby. And I’m 70 years old.”

Fox tells Australian reporters that the Customs officials seem to be turbocharged with the power granted to them by Trump’s order. Fox complains. She receives an apology, but says she will never again travel to the United States. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

The White House holds a press conference. The media, the fifth estate, exists to hold people like Donald Trump accountable. Now there’s a fine word with a multitude of meaning. Accountability. You see the media exists as a free and independent entity in a flourishing democracy. In fact it is one of the foundations that a democracy is built on. Politicians can be criticised, questioned and held to account. They can be caught out lying. Now there’s another good word. Mendacity. But when a number of media organisations, like CNN, the BBC and the New York Times, try to enter the briefing room, they are barred. Barred from entering? Are you serious? In contrast ‘friendly’ to Donald Trump news services like Fox News, One America News Networks and the hideous Breitbart news have no problem attending the White House briefing. In fact they are welcomed with open arms. Trump calls the media purveyors of fake news. They tell lies according to Trump. It’s a bit like that story of the pot, the kettle and the colour black. If Donald Trump really wants to see mendacity he should look in the mirror more often. Terrorist attack in Sweden anyone? Is this Stalinist Russia? Not it’s the good old USA, the greatest democracy in the world. Yeah right. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

This media ban is unprecedented. This is a disgrace. This has never happened before in the history of American democratic politics. By democratic, I mean democracy. Not the party. These are the actions of a dictator. A man who thinks he’s above the law and now that he is President of the United States can do whatever he likes, to who ever he likes. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

The son of the late and great Mohammed Ali, the greatest American heavyweight world champion boxer of all time, is detained at a Florida airport and questioned about being a Muslim. I guess the name was a dead giveaway. He has the same name as his Dad. But who cares in Trump America. He sounds like a muslim. And all Muslims are dangerous. Right? Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

Ali junior and his mother, who was Mohammed Ali’ s second wife, were returning to the United States after a vacation in Jamaica. Ali junior’s lawyer, told a Louisville Kentucky newspaper, that his client was detained and questioned for two hours by Immigration officials, who repeatedly asked him: Where did you get your name from? Are you Muslim? Clearly they were not boxing fans. For the record, Ali junior was born in Philadelphia and holds a US passport. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

He’s besieged. He’s taking a beating in the polls. He’s loved and loathed and despised equally by many including members of his own Government, some of whom keep feeding the media with damaging leaks designed to embarrass and humiliate. So what does he do? He takes his message to the American people. Mass rallies of his supporters.Hang on. Didn’t we just have a Presidential election campaign? He tells them the mainstream media are all liars and the economy is going great. And guess what? He says I’m going to keep having rallies, keep talking to the people because I can’t trust anyone. Only a fool would believe him. This man is a bombast. A wrecker and a hater. He can’t be trusted and will trash alliances, relationships and all of the goodwill the United States has spent decades cultivating. Welcome to the world of darkness. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

What’s The Deal with the Australia US Immigration Deal?

There is something very tawdry going on. I’m sure of it.

Something grubby, shabby and very underhand. It isn’t nice. It might even be illegal or at the very least immoral.

It is the immigration deal that Australia has made with the United States to re settle refugees in America. In a sense it has everything and nothing to do with Donald Trump. Let me explain. I will do my best because quite frankly much of the deal is very unclear and crucial information missing from the narrative.

The deal relates to 1,250 refugees held in Australia’s offshore Pacific detention camps on Nauru and Manus Islands. Many of these refugees are from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Iraq. The refugees are stateless, having spent years languishing in these offshore detention camps, that I would call prisons, which the United Nations has repeatedly criticised as cruel and illegal. The refugees are in a no man’s land. They are unable to go home, but cannot come to Australia – even when their right to protection as refugees is confirmed – because they travelled to Australia by boat and that is a no go as far as the Australian Government is concerned. The vast majority of those in Australia’s offshore detention regime are confirmed to have a valid claim to refugee status, meaning they are legally owed Australia’s protection. On Nauru, 983 of the 1,200 refugee status determinations were positive, while 217 were negative. On Manus Island, 78% of 859 the people finally assessed were found to be refugees, while 190 were found not to have a claim for protection. The deal with the United States was also to include hundreds of refugees previously held on Manus or Nauru, or who were in Australia receiving medical care, provided they had been found to be refugees.

Here is where it starts to get very murky. In November the US Obama administration agreed to take an undisclosed number of refugees from Australia’s offshore detention centres. It was both extraordinarily generous and totally inexplicable. Why would the Americans do such a thing? Why indeed. It is a deal that made no sense when Obama was President and even less so now that we have the Donald.

The American resettlement option was accompanied by some strict caveats. It was only to be available for detainees found to be refugees (under the refugee convention). Others who were assessed and found to not have an entitlement to protection would be deemed ineligible. Applicants were to be interviewed twice by US officials before being resettled, in a process that would take between six and 12 months. If a refugee missed out on US resettlement, the existing options of re settlement in Papua New Guinea and Cambodia were still available.

This deal was seen as a significant political win for the Turnbull government. Australia has searched in vain for a sustainable plan for refugees. For more than three years Australia consistently maintained it will never settle asylum seekers on the Australian mainland that come here by boat, a position that has been popular with some voters and is still supported by both of Australia’s main political parties. But the policy has led to regular reports of human rights abuses, and is bitterly condemned by refugee advocates inside and outside of Australia.

At the time of the US agreement, only 24 refugees had resettled in PNG, and a handful in Cambodia. The Manus Island detention centre, was declared illegal by the Supreme Court of Papua and Australia is under international pressure over allegations of the sexual abuse of women and children, assaults of children, rape, widespread mental harm and epidemic rates of self-harm and suicide attempts in the Nauru detention centre.

You can see why Turnbull striking a deal to resettle these people in the United States was a godsend. Which again, leads me back to the question: Why would the United States agree to this deal?

Enter the new American President Donald Trump. There is no one on this planet more likely to torpedo a deal like this than President Trump. One of the very first orders he signed as President was to ban Muslims from seven countries from entering the United States. So Australian Prime Minister Turnbull had good reason to be worried. Bilateral arrangements like this refugee deal, are made by the President of the day. They can just as easily be altered or revoked, at the stroke of a pen, by a new President. But even with the possibility of a Trump Presidency on the horizon, Turnbull seemed relatively untroubled. “ We deal with one administration at the time,” he said. “ There can only be one President at the time.”

So you can just imagine what a priority it might have been for Australia to ensure that this deal was ratified by the new American President, come hell or high water or Donald Trump.

Last Sunday a phone call took place between Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and newly inaugurated President, Donald Trump. It would be fair to say the phone conversation didn’t go well. Trump told Turnbull it was “the worst deal ever” and accused Australia of trying to send the US the “next Boston Bombers” Then he abruptly ended the conversation by hanging up the phone on the Australian Prime Minister. We know all of this courtesy of a leak to a Washington Post journalist who duly reported it. Which brings me to my second intriguing question: Who leaked this information? Was it the White House? Or someone else? Whoever did leak the information has a nice sense of irony in choosing the Washington Post. A newspaper that has no love for the Donald. Watergate anyone? The Trump people denied they leaked the conversation. Why would they? They certainly have nothing to gain from the embarrassing spectacle of an American President treating one of his closest allies with incredible rudeness. Trump later added insult to injury by tweeting; “Do you believe it? The Obama administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!”

I think it more probable than not that Australia was the source of that Washington Post story. Of course, I can’t prove it but we had everything to gain and nothing to lose from making it all public. President Trump while maintaining the rage says the deal will most likely be honoured subject to a strict vetting of the refugees. I was not surprised at all by Trump’s reaction. What I am surprised about is his change of mind. If this deal goes through it will be because we have done or are about to do a huge favour to the United States. They clearly owe us. And because all of this is shrouded in such secrecy it only makes me more determined, and hopefully you as well, to know what it is.

I smell a rodent.

 

 

 

 

Good Men And Women Have To Stop Doing Nothing

Humanity isn’t a word used much these days. We should be ashamed at that.

It’s a word I love because it has so much meaning. It’s a way of describing all of us. It’s a way of describing the good in all of us. Our commonality. We all live on this planet earth. We may speak a different language, but we are all still human beings. We breathe air, we have DNA, we walk on two legs, we have intelligence and we know right from wrong. We are all in this together whether we like it or not.

Humanity also means compassion, understanding and respect for our fellow human beings. A moral compass that we use, or are supposed to use, to guide us to act in a way that will benefit others for no expectation or benefit in return. We do it because it is the right thing to do.

Humanity is not a word in use in Aleppo, Syria these days. It hasn’t been used in that place in quite some time. All of us, and I do mean all of us,have forgotten, or don’t want to remember, or be reminded of humanity and our obligation to it when it comes to Aleppo, especially when every day we see video of the systematic destruction of a city brick by bloody brick.

Each bomb dropped, each building destroyed has people inside. Yes people, as in men, women and children. Innocent people. We don’t want to know about that either. People whose only crime is to be the unfortunates to live in a city in the cross hairs of a pointless and destructive civil war.

Of course they are not the only ones suffering in Syria. But Aleppo has become the lightning rod, a metaphor for everything that has gone wrong in Syria and in us and everything that has gone wrong in the futile and insincere attempts to stop the violence. We should be ashamed. Everyone on this planet should be ashamed. People are being slaughtered and we do nothing. It reminds me of the words of Edmund Burke, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing. We have become particularly good at doing nothing.

But collective shame doesn’t begin and end with Aleppo. It isn’t enough that we do nothing to help them. We then turn around and try and take away their hope. The people of Syria still have the will to survive in the midst of madness. The ‘lucky’ ones are trying to do something to help themselves when confronted with inhumanity and no one prepared to help them. They are doing what anyone else would do in their terrible situation. They are running away. They are taking to unseaworthy boats and making perilous crossings of the ocean to try and find a place that isn’t being bombed 24/7. It’s hardly surprising yet we, as in the nations of the world, are continually surprised. What is surprising to me is that we do nothing to help them yet we do everything in our power to dissuade them from running away. Dissuade them from boarding boats unfit to go to sea and paying people smugglers for the privilege.

We don’t have that right and they have no choice. We have no right to tell them they can’t board a boat especially if we are not going to help them.

If they stay they die, if they take to the sea they may still die but at least they have a 50/50 chance of survival. Fifty percent is better than nothing.

And to add insult to injury, those that do manage to make that perilous crossing and survive, are rewarded for their efforts by being forced to live as non-citizens, or forced to walk hundreds of kilometres in the hope that someone, somewhere will take pity on them. Worse still if they come to the country that I live in they will be put in prison in some third world Pacific island hell hole with no hope and no prospect of leaving. And our Government congratulates itself on the fact that this final solution has stopped the boats. Humanity isn’t a word used much in Australia either.

I am tired of humanity being hijacked by politicians and other selfish, soulless people. It doesn’t belong to them, it belongs to all of us and it’s time for human beings to reclaim it. If we don’t, we have no future and we certainly don’t have a world worth living in. We have to start being good men and women. We have to stop evil from triumphing. We have to tell politicians, we have to show them they don’t speak for us when they say they won’t help people in need. Because that is what good people do.

America. Grab On To Your Ankles

The last rites are being said over a political corpse. Decaying by the day. A political corpse called Donald Trump. He is politically dead in the water. He was probably dead, the minute he said he wanted to build a wall between the United States and Mexico and have the Mexicans pay for it.

There’ve been plenty of both feet in the mouth moments from him since. No reason to revisit them. It’s his latest piece of sexist misogyny, that has become his political death certificate. This is a man, who defies description. But if you were going to chance your arm and give it a go, try this: the single, biggest natural disaster in American political history.

Trump is officially unelectable. Despite what he says or what he thinks he will never/can never be President of the United States.

His demise is neither here nor there. It will hardly trouble history or those who record it.

No one will care or want to remember. However, there is a much bigger catastrophe being played out. A catastrophe much, much bigger than Donald Trump. It’s the death of the once proud and conservative Republican Party. A political party with an extraordinary history. A political party, which produced 18 past Presidents, who governed the United States for a total of 88 years. The first Republican President was Abraham Lincoln, the man who fought and won a civil war ending slavery in the United States. Their last will almost certainly be George Bush Jnr.

There can be no political comeback for the Republicans from this. They are stuck to Donald Trump like flies on honey. Even if they want to dump him they can’t. Not with the Presidential election a month away. All they can do, is reflect on their moment of reckless stupidity that allowed him to even stand as a candidate. It is too late to do anything. They will go to the Presidential elections with Trump. And when he loses disastrously, as he will, it will be followed by a witch-hunt among the Republicans, the likes of which has never been seen in American politics. I am thinking the equivalent of the Spanish inquisition. Senior party officials won’t survive. I suspect key financial backers of the Republicans, have already bailed. And when the dust has finally settled after the blood letting, the party will bear almost no resemblance to its traditional self.

But if you think I am about to give a ringing, glowing endorsement of his opponent, think again. Clinton is almost as bad as Trump. In some ways she is worse, in my opinion, if that is possible. I fear for my American friends. I fear for their future. I fear for ours as well. We have stood together in the past in many hours of adversity. Our collective hands stretching across the water, and all of that.

This is America’s worst nightmare. Americans are going to have to choose between two of the worst Presidential candidates in their political history. A good many of them, perhaps in record numbers, will simply refuse to choose. They won’t bother to vote. Why would you? It’s like changing deck chairs on the Titanic.

We share your nightmare. The whole world does. It’s inescapable. Neither Clinton nor Trump is going to make the world a safer place. They will only make it more dangerous. I fear we are witnessing a revolutionary change in the world order. And what we end up with is something no one wants. God help us all.

America. You are in big trouble

America, you are in trouble. Big, big, trouble. You just don’t know it yet. Or maybe you do and you just don’t want to admit it.

No. It’s not your politics. This time.

No, I am not talking about Trump and Clinton. I could.

If anyone ran a poll for the worst Presidential candidates in history, those two would win in a landslide. I do feel for you, having to choose between such a pair of losers.

And it is too trite, too simple, too easy to say that firearm ownership is at the heart of all your troubles. No doubt it’s playing a part. You guys have crazy, crazy, crazy gun laws. When you give mad people guns, innocent people get killed. Everyone knows this except you.

Sadly, the kind of trouble I’m talking about this time is much, much worse. Part of you is a stinking, wretched, seething, cauldron of institutionalised hate. How big a part of you? Big enough to truly shock and amaze the rest of the world. And, yes hate. The worst kind of hatred there is.

Race hate.

It’s hard to imagine there could be a worse kind. But what could be worse than law enforcement driven hate? Your police force hates black people.

How can you possibly draw any other conclusion? In the words of your own black President, Blacks and Hispanics are 30 percent more likely to be pulled over by police, three times more likely to be searched and twice as likely to be shot by police as white people. These are not statistics to be proud of. The color of your skin can get you killed, mighty fast in the good old U.S.A. Of course, not every serving police officer in America hates black people. But enough rotten cops do and it’s happening enough times across America to now say it has to stop.

What happened in the past 48 hours, is quite unbelievable.

In the remaining few seconds of his life, Alton Sterling a 37-year-old Louisiana black man seemed completely immobile. How do we know this? The entire incident, happened to be recorded on a phone-video-camera, by a random bystander.

You see on the video, two Baton Rouge, Louisiana police officers pinning Alton to the ground. You see clearly on the video, he is unable to move. One of the police officers then yells: “He’s got a gun” Within seconds, another police officer shoots Alton Sterling in the chest, at point blank range, not once but multiple times confirmed later by the post mortem examination. So how did this all come to pass? It seems cops were called to a convenience store after receiving an anonymous tip that a Black man, in a red shirt, was selling CD’s and waving a gun around. They got part of it right. Alton Sterling was a black man, matching the description. He was selling CDs and wearing a red shirt. Both police officers involved in this tragedy are now on ‘administrative leave’ and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is leading the investigation.

If that police shooting wasn’t bad enough?

Try this for size.

Twenty-four hours later. Another police shooting of a black man. This time it happened many, many kilometres away in Minnesota. Thirty-two-year old Philander Castile is driving a car with a broken taillight. He’s stopped by police. He tells police he is legally carrying a firearm. Not a good idea. He reaches into his pants pocket for his driver’s license. Police interpret this as him reaching for his firearm. They shoot and Philander slumps back in his seat while his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, videos the entire incident and streams it live to Facebook. The police officer, still pointing his gun yells at her “keep your hands where they are.” Reynolds doesn’t scream. Doesn’t cry. Remains polite at all times. In the car, as Castile moans dying beside her, Reynolds keeps talking, repeating similar phrases:

“Please, Jesus, don’t tell me that he’s gone.”

“Please don’t tell me he’s gone.”

“Please, officer, don’t tell me that you just did this to him.”

Later, at a press conference, the Minnesota Governor said what everyone already knew. “Would this have happened if the driver and the passenger were white? I don’t think it would have.

“This kind of racism exists and it’s incumbent on all of us to vow and ensure that it doesn’t continue to happen.”

Time to draw a line in the sand. We need to call it for what it is. These are hate crimes. In my honest opinion, there is no other way to describe them. Institutionalised hate crimes perpetrated by police because they don’t like the colour of a person’s skin. Worse still. It could insight a race war. What happened in Dallas in the last couple of hours is very worrying. Very troubling. America.you are in trouble.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Obituary – Ode To Common Sense

I publish this obituary with acknowledgement and admiration for the anonymous person (not me) who penned it in its original form.

Today, we mourn the loss of a much loved and close friend. You will know her because the name is very familiar. She’s called Common Sense. And yes, she is a woman. Now, not many will realise just how old she was.

Try as old as Methuselah? Nah, even older.

She was as old as civilisation itself.

But just like all things old, her birth records got lost in time or in bureaucratic red tape. Or both.

Common Sense will be fondly remembered as someone who cultivated and taught many valuable life lessons such as: Knowing when to come in out of the rain, Why an early bird always gets the worm, and that life isn’t always fair. Sometimes it’s very unfair and unjust.

And, lets not forget one very important lesson: It’s called maybe, yes maybe it was my fault. Who can forget that one?

Common Sense lived by very important philosophies and sound financial strategies such as don’t spend more than you earn and adults, not children, are in charge.

But Common Sense caught a disease. Her health began to deteriorate rapidly. The illness was exacerbated by very well intentioned but deeply flawed absurdities set in stone. Absurdities like, a report that a six-year-old boy was charged with sexual harassment after he kissed a classmate. And, a group of teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after eating their lunch.

But I saved the best until last: a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student.

Sadly, despite emergency treatment from people of good will, Common Sense continued to decline. Especially when parents began attacking teachers for doing the job they themselves had a responsibility to do. Namely, disciplining their appalling behaved children.

What chance did she have in the face of schools requiring parental consent to administer sunscreen or aspirin to a student but were forbidden from informing parents if a student became pregnant or wanted to have an abortion?

You might understand that Common Sense began to lose the will to live when churches became big businesses and criminals began receiving better treatment than their victims. There was no hope with the realisation that you can’t really defend yourself from a burglar in your own home. And if they became injured, you could be sued for assault or worse, charged with murder if they died.

Common Sense finally gave up the ghost when a woman failed to realise that the cup of coffee she was holding was in fact hot, spilled some on her lap and was promptly awarded a huge financial settlement.

Common Sense now joins other family members who have passed on such as Truth and Trust, Discretion, Responsibility and Reason.

But she is survived by sworn enemies: Ignorance, Intolerance, Stupidity, I know my rights, I want it now, Someone else is to blame, I am a victim and Please pay me for doing nothing.

Not many people attended the funeral for Common Sense because so few were even aware she was gone.

If, by some chance, you still remember her, please pass this on. If not, be just like most other people and do nothing.

 

 

 

Trump Or Clinton? You Have Got To Be Kidding

Man, I love politics. Seriously, I do. What is there not to love?

Think about it. No. Think about this: Two of the most loathsome, despicable, ghastly candidates, that could ever be found crawling under some rock, are favoured to run for President of the United States.

Happy days.

I’m talking Trump and Clinton of course. Should we be afraid? My word we should. Make that very afraid.

Who is the ‘we’? Why, the whole world silly.

Here is a small disclaimer. I’m not going to waste valuable time, space and oxygen talking about Clinton. If you want to know about Clinton, then I not so humbly suggest you buy my book called Cover Up and read the chapter on the death of U.S. Secretary for Commerce Ron Brown.

No, the guy I want to talk about here today is Donald Trump. You Americans are so funny. Only you could come up with someone like Donald Trump. He’s like some fictional parody from Saturday Night Live. Accept he’s neither fiction nor a parody. He’s real. The real deal is what you call it.

Absolutely love the bouffant hair and the fake tan. Seriously (I am saying that a lot) the guy is orange for crying out loud. How could you vote for someone orange? Great. Now I’m beginning to sound like a racist.

Speaking of race. Trump wants to build a giant fence to keep the Mexicans out of the United States.

Well, I guess it could work. Israel built one to keep out the Palestinians.

My question is this: who’s going to pay for this great idea?

Why Mexico.Who else? No way Jose I hear you say? No worries. Trump has a plan for that as well. Jack up all tariffs on Mexican goods until Mexico plays ball and pays for the wall.

And while they are at it, those pesky Mexicans should stop sending rapists and criminals across the border. Trump’s also promised to shut down Mosques, create a database on Muslims and round up the children of illegal immigrants.

Yeah right.

Seriously (there I said it again) this bloke thinks a fellow Republican, Senator John McCain, isn’t a war hero because he got captured.

Wait. It gets worse.

Trump still does not believe that the current American President was born in the United States.

Anyway, I don’t really care what Donald Trump has to say. What interests me are the Trump supporters. What are they saying? Now, I for one, really care and want to hear what they have to say. I’m sure that some of them represent the lowest common denominator going, but not all of them are ignorant, uneducated and inarticulate.

A great many of them are completely mainstream but they’ve been well and truly trumped by bellicose rhetoric. Here’s what some of them have said when asked why they support Donald Trump: ‘He’s a billionaire, a celebrity and a proven winner. A man not beholden to the influences nor the interests of the political establishment.’

A political establishment, I might add, many Americans believe has abandoned them.

These Trump supporters view his lack of experience in politics not as a flaw but as an asset. Even his most outlandish and controversial statements didn’t change their minds.

In fact the exact opposite.

They see those statements as evidence that he won’t back down in the face of adversity. Trump’s opinions are his own and not carefully crafted by some spin doctor handler. Opinions that will NOT be conveniently abandoned once he gets elected.

On that last point, I am not so sure. Trump is pretty good at saying what he means but what about really meaning what he says? It remains to be seen. The man is an unguided missile. It’s the Forest Gump, no make that Trump, box of chocolates, come to life.

Could he be elected President? Damn right he could.

There is a precedent.

Remember that B grade Hollywood actor, who occupied the White House not so long ago? And some Americans still speak in hushed tones about Ronald Reagan and what a great President he was. If Ronnie Reagan can get to be President, then a Donald Trump can certainly triumph.

You Americans are guilty of a grievous sin. I blame you. It’s your fault because you never took Donald Trump seriously. The Republican Party never took him seriously. And now that they have it’s too late for those Republicans, who aren’t on the Donald Trump bandwagon, to stop him. He’s turned into a runaway juggernaut. Unfortunately, the world must face the possibility that this lunatic may become the leader of one of the most powerful nations on earth.

All I’ve got to say is GOD HELP US ALL.