The Cobar Camels

Cobar is a tiny town in far north-western New South Wales. As the crow flies, it is more than 700 kilometres from Sydney.

The locals like to think that their town is part of rugby’s heartland, grassroots style – but there is barely a blade of green to be seen anywhere in Cobar.

Barren wasteland and desert is more like it. And in the middle of that barren wasteland, stretching almost as far as the eye can see, is the huge, underground Endeavor mine.

It’s the zinc, lead and silver that the mine produces that sustains the town of roughly 3,800. However, on winter weekends, 99.9 per cent of the town’s inhabitants can be found supporting their local heroes, the Cobar Camels rugby team.

In fact, one of the few places where you can find patches of green (with a lot of brown trampled through) is at the Ailsa Fitzsimmons Memorial Oval, the Camels’ home field and training ground.

The Cobar Camels, who play in the Western Plains zone, would have to be the most unique rugby club in Australia, if not the world.

Firstly, there is the team itself. As you would expect, it is comprised entirely of miners. The coaches have no choice but to juggle their team selection around the mine’s work roster: Seven days on, seven days off.

Then there is the travel required just to play an eighty-minute match.

Cobar is geographically challenged, and that is an understatement. The nearest away ground is 130 kilometres by road. The farthest is 480.

A Camels player might finish his shift at seven on a Saturday morning, jump in a bus, travel three or four hours on the road, play two halves of rugby, and then travel another four hours back to Cobar. Dedication is the only way to describe it.

And with mine work being a transitory profession, the Camels get creative in recruiting new players.

In 2008, the club was facing a major crisis as they struggled to find enough players to field a team. Thankfully for the Camels, fate intervened when a former Fijian international rugby player, Netava Tagi, answered the call. A job was found for Tagi at the mine and he took up the roles of player and coach with the team.

The crisis passed and the club soon began taking on members from different sporting codes, with players from rugby league, AFL and soccer beginning to turn out for the Camels. At one point they even recruited a former Canadian Ice hockey player as a prop forward.

Fast-forward to 2016 and the Camels are doing their best to embrace the modern way of playing the game. There is a new head coach, John ‘The Outlaw’ Barnes, suitably named for a town in the state’s ‘wild’ west. An experienced sportsman, Barnes also doubles as the team’s strength and conditioning coach.

The Outlaw originates from a strong rugby pedigree, having spent 30 years playing the game in South Africa. More than half those years were in first grade, and five years  playing provincial rugby. He moved to Australia to become strength and conditioning coach for the Western Force in Perth, who won the international Super Rugby competition in 2014.

Barnes also has a Master’s degree in personal training. He was a trainer for the South African Army’s special forces and, at one time, wrestled professionally under the name his Camels would come to know him by: ‘Outlaw’. They like to do things a little differently in Cobar.

The Camels only had one win last season. They’ve only ever won two first grade premierships in their history, in 1976 and 1996. The Outlaw is determined turn this record around, and this year could be the year.

If you’re sceptical, just ask anyone from Cobar and they’ll put you right.

But even if the Camels don’t end up being the best side in the competition, they are certainly going to be the fittest with the ‘Outlaw’ laying down the law.

You might think that travelling vast distances just to play a game would become a bit of an ordeal for a team, but it doesn’t seem to worry the Camels one little bit. The travel isn’t a problem but the cost of doing so is. At one point, the club was spending close to $20,000 a year just to play games of rugby.

The Camels needed a cost effective solution so they did what any other club might do in their situation. They bought themselves a bus. It’s not the fastest or flashiest piece of machinery but it gets the job done, and the club does its best to make each away trip a special event.

How do you go about entertaining a group of hard nut rugby players for four hours? No worries, the Camels have that sorted: You get everyone to sing songs. Plenty of songs. You sing them loud and out of tune, but it won’t bother anyone. When you’re with your mates and doing something you love no one’s going to be bothered if you don’t get the tune quite right.

The team is named after an animal that is a ship of the desert, built for endurance and the long haul. There really is no better way to sum up this bush rugby club.

 

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.

Everyone Is Crazy Afraid

It’s amazing what fear can do.

It’s amazing what people will do when they are fearful. They go crazy. Man, do they go crazy.

If you don’t believe me, then consider this: A nutcase with a gun goes into an elementary school in the United States and kills teachers and little children. Normally you might expect a thunderous crescendo of noise calling for a ban on the proliferation of guns.

But exactly the opposite happened. People went out and bought more guns. There was a significant spike in the sale of guns after the Sandy Hook massacre.

Crazy.

But you need not be a rocket scientist to come up with the reason. People are afraid. Americans went out and bought more guns through fear. Yes fear. And fear becomes self-perpetuating. If more people have guns, it makes massacres of innocent people more likely, not less. In other words fear breeds more fear and stupidity. But I don’t want to talk about guns. I want to talk about fear. The more fearful we become, the greater the ignorance, the irrationality and stupidity of our actions.

Here’s another example: Brexit. I used to think the Poms were a bit measured and considered and less hair brained than their American cousins. But their decision to leave Europe was completely insane. Seriously, what were you thinking, English people? Has anyone in the UK looked at an Atlas lately? Geographically, you are part of Europe. No amount of wishful thinking is going to change that.

But I know why you did it. You were afraid. You were afraid of all those Syrian refugees somehow finding their way to the UK. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones fleeing war and oppression and ignorance and bigotry and zealotry. The ones who need someone to show them a bit of compassion. And if you stayed as a part of Europe, you were going to have to accept your share and do your bit. Anti immigration is fear. Xenophobia is fear. You don’t need to be afraid.

Fear has become our mantra especially when we are confronted with lone wolf terrorist attacks that inflict mass casualties. What happened in France, Germany and Turkey is appalling, unacceptable and outrageous. And when Governments are powerless to protect their citizens from these attacks, as they seemingly are, everyone becomes fearful and irrational. If Donald Trump becomes the next President of the United States, God forbid, it will be because Americans are afraid. They want a leader who they think will protect them. Who will talk and act tough and build walls to keep people out and ban people on the basis of their race or religion.

Little do they realize this only makes a bad situation much worse. Banning all Muslims or attacking all Muslims or excluding all Muslims because we are afraid of them only creates more fear. It makes Muslims fearful of us and the whole cycle self perpetuates. We need to break the cycle. Instead of fear, we need to show love and compassion and understanding and tolerance and be inclusive. As people, we are all in this together, irrespective of whether we are Muslim or Christian or any other religion you care to name. What happened in Nice and elsewhere was an attack on humanity. And as human beings we need to stand together and embrace one another. We need to reassure Muslims we don’t fear them nor should they fear us. The vast majority of Muslims don’t want to kill us nor do we want to kill them. There will always be individuals who are fanatics. Muslim and Christian alike.But these fanatics don’t speak for anyone except themselves. And when these fanatics attack some of us randomly, they are attacking all of us.

They are attacking humanity and it is humanity as a whole that needs to respond. Let me say it again. That means all of us in this together. Xenophobia was never a chapter in the guide book for being human.

We have to stop being afraid and start being inclusive.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Night Sweet Prince

Good night sweet prince and may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. It’s a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet Act 5 Scene 2. But the bard could easily be talking about the other Prince. The music world’s purple Prince. The one found dead just the other day in an elevator at his recording studio and home in Minneapolis. That Prince also happened to be very intriguing, enigmatic, supremely talented but incredibly private. An air of mystery now hanging over him in death as it did in life.

And following his death the worldwide well of public grief has been tapped and turned on. Gushing is a better description. There are tributes everywhere you look. Video clips of him playing. People speaking in hushed tones about their experiences of working with him, playing with him. But even if you didn’t know him personally you couldn’t help but admire Prince. He could play any musical instrument you care to name. Not just well but with sublime perfection. There was a staged arrogance about him but it was never obnoxious. There are plenty of good stories doing the rounds to illustrate the point. The one I like was when Rolling Stone magazine took him off the list of the world’s top 100 guitarists. Prince took it very badly. He wanted to make a point in public so he managed to wiggle his way on stage during a music award tribute to the late George Harrison. He was one among a posse of musical royalty. Just the audience he wanted. And the tune, ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ became the perfect vehicle for a perfectionist. Prince fittingly played the final solo. He made his point.

No one was like him. No one will ever be like him. He played being the individual extremely well. His cockiness was just self-confidence. He knew he was good and what bits that weren’t he simply worked on until they were. You have to admire people with that strength of character.

There is no doubt he was eccentric. Publicist Alan Edwards recalls the first time he did business with Prince in 1991 with bemused clarity. “I got a call from Rogers & Cowan in America, the PR firm, asking if I would like to work with him,” says the veteran publicist, whose clients included David Bowie, the Who and Michael Jackson.

“I was flown out to Minneapolis and picked up by a chauffeur. It was flat and cold and it was the middle of winter. We drove for miles and miles through the snow, then suddenly Paisley Park [Prince’s recording studio and headquarters] pops up. I was shown up to a suspended room – just hanging in the air, with a glass floor and everything – in the middle. I sit there. No one even offers me a cup of coffee. A button is pushed and an album starts playing. It was Diamonds and Pearls, and I had a sense I was being watched. So I put on a lot of foot-tapping.

“At the end, the receptionist comes and gets me and says the car’s outside. I’d come halfway around the world and no one had spoken to me. I get in the car, and we’re driving along. The driver, this cool African American guy, says to me: ‘What did you think of the album? What about this track?’ I was being questioned forensically, so I guessed it was being taped, or played back to his highness. I got back to London, and three days later I was hired to work on Prince.”

From all accounts he was a lover of life and loved his own which only makes his death all the more mysterious. There is talk of drugs and a possible overdose. But those closest to him say he wasn’t a recreational drug user and he took a dim view of people who were. But he did have medical problems. He needed a hip operation and his religious beliefs only presented an added complication. Prince was a Jehovah’s Witness, a religion opposed to blood transfusions. If the reports are true, Prince was in a lot of pain and a lot of discomfort.

Again, unconfirmed reports suggest he was taking the narcotic painkiller Percocet. He had to be hospitalised only days before he died after taking an overdose. It has been widely reported that Prince’s private jet made an emergency landing so he could seek medical assistance for “flu” or “flu-like” symptoms. At the time Prince’s publicist said the singer was suffering from the flu, but details have surfaced in US media that the catalyst for that emergency was actually concern for Prince’s condition after taking a dose of Percocet on his way home from a recent concert in Atlanta.

This is a drug which has a very bad reputation for misuse. Percocet, has several other trade names including Endocet. It’s a combination of paracetamol and the semi-synthetic opioid, oxycodone. Percocet’s generic name is ‘acetaminophen and oxycodone’. In 2009, a US federal advisory panel voted to recommend a ban on Percocet because of its damaging impact on the liver, and the high incidence of accidental overdoses involving the drug. The panel reported that “more than 400 people die and 42,000 are hospitalised every year” in the United States from overdoses of Percocet.

Authorities have all but ruled out suicide and say there were no “obvious signs of trauma” to his body. A post mortem examination has already been conducted. Authorities said all information regarding Prince’s “medical and social history” will be gathered and that anything considered relevant will be “taken into consideration”.

The autopsy and toxicology results will take weeks to finalise but the sheriff’s office could release preliminary results much sooner. It would be extraordinary but, given the character of the man, not all that surprising if his religious beliefs were somehow indirectly linked to his premature death at the age of 57. He was and is and will always be an enigma. When asked as a black man did he think that white people understood his music he replied: “ No, of course they don’t. White people are very good at categorising things – and if you tell them anything they’ll remember it, write books about it. But understand? You have to live a life to understand it. Tourists just pass through.”

He certainly lived a life but it was all too brief. He once said this about himself: “I’m no different to anyone. Yes, I have fame and wealth and talent, but I certainly don’t consider myself any better than anyone who has no fame, wealth or talent. People fascinate me. They’re amazing! Life fascinates me! And I’m no more fascinated by my own life than by anyone else’s.”

Of course he was different. Of course we will miss him. He was a rare jewel and one that truly sparkled. And now that bright light has been extinguished and the world seems a slightly duller place. Unfortunately people like him don’t come along often enough. His passing is very sad. Personally I don’t think it overly sentimental to repurpose Bill Shakespeare’s words:

Good night Sweet Prince.

 

 

 

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.

An Unarmed 12-year-0ld Child Shot Dead By Police. You Call That Justice?

We’re about to herald in a new year. 2016. But clearly someone forgot to tell the good old US of A.

I say that because, this week, America stepped back in time.

By more than 150 years to be precise.

Stepped back to a time when black people were not considered good enough to be called second-class citizens. Not even ranked high enough in the food chain to be called second-class, nor were they citizens. They were slaves. At the whim of white people who could, and did ,literally decide if they should live or die.

Now, of course, slavery has been abolished but attitudes have not. White people are still deciding, very arbitrarily it seems, if Black Americans should live or die. Certainly as far as law enforcement is concerned.

Sounds a bit harsh? Well a Grand Jury has just decided that two cops who shot a 12-year-old black child dead should not have to face criminal charges.

Tamir Rice, was playing in a park with an imitation pistol in Cleveland, Ohio. But in the United States, in the 21st Century, that can get you killed. It certainly got Tamir killed. This incident would be laughably absurd if it wasn’t so tragic. It shows many things about American society and sadly none of them good.

Let’s just step through the events as they happened. A panicked citizen makes a 911 call about Tamir who was pulling a gun out of his pants and pointing it at people. You have to remember that this is a gun happy, no make that trigger-happy society. That call was the start of many, many mistakes. If the people involved had been level headed and shown more common sense this tragedy might have been avoided.

The audio of that 911 call was publicly released. On the tape you hear the caller say very clearly, in reference to the gun Tamir had, “ it’s probably a fake but it’s scaring the shit out of people.”

The 911 phone operator, then asks the caller, not once but twice, whether Tamir was black or white as if that is somehow relevant or makes a difference. Who am I kidding? Of course it made a difference. By how much, you are about to find out.

The caller tells the operator that the perpetrator is a child and finishes the conversation by restating that he does not know if the gun is real or a fake. However, NONE of this information is passed on to the police patrol car that responds to this situation. I use the term ‘respond’ very loosely. The patrol car has a rookie cop on board and his field-training officer. They arrive at the park to discover Tamir playing on a swing and in the space of just TWO seconds, that rookie cop Timothy Loehmann shoots Tamir Rice dead. That is how it happened.

A Grand Jury was given the responsibility of finding if the two police officers involved in this should be criminally prosecuted. Cuyahoga County Justice Centre Prosecutor, Tim McGinty, announced that rookie cop Loehmann and his field training officer, Frank Garmback, would not be indicted because of “indisputable” evidence that the officers believed Rice was reaching for a real gun. “Simply put, given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunications, by all involved, that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police,” McGinty said. “The outcome will not cheer anyone, nor should it.”

McGinty went on to say that Tamir Rice was trying to show the police the gun wasn’t real but the officers had no way of knowing that was what the young boy was trying to do. It was not until after the shooting, with the gun on the ground, that police learned the boy was playing with a replica firearm that shoots nonlethal plastic pellets.

Ok. Let’s take a moment to deconstruct this. The outcome of this seems to have been a foregone conclusion the minute the 911 dispatcher told the patrol car they were about to deal with a black kid armed with a gun in a park.

I was under the mistaken impression that Police in the United States, also carried nonlethal force in the form of pepper spray and Tasers. Both of which, and I’m sure Tamir Rice’s family would agree with me, should have been used instead of lethal force. But no consideration was given to either of those options.

Secondly, why was a rookie cop allowed to take control rather than his more experienced partner? I would think given the rookie’s level of experience, it was the kind of situation he was not qualified to deal with.

Thirdly, I thought Police were supposed to be measured, calm and take time to assess the situation. I can appreciate that sometimes this is simply not possible because of the fast moving nature of an incident.

But in this case it was the Police and not Tamir Rice who were moving at the speed of light. They arrive at the scene and in the space of just TWO seconds, a 12-year-old child is shot dead. That is not responsible policing. That is trigger happy, rogue cop behavior in my opinion.

In a statement, Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, said she was “devastated” by the decision and she urged federal officials to pursue civil rights charges.

“I don’t want my child to have died for nothing and I refuse to let his legacy or his name be ignored,” Samaria Rice said. “As the video shows, Officer Loehmann shot my son in less than a second. All I wanted was someone to be held accountable. “We mourn for Tamir, and for all of the black people who have been killed by the police without justice. In our view, this process demonstrates that race is still an extremely troubling and serious problem in our country and the criminal-justice system.”

Yep.

We Are All Paris

The world is a different place today. France is a different place. Paris is a place I barely recognise and I don’t know what will become of it.

The Paris I know is a city of romance. A city of light. A city of cafes and restaurants and history. Of baguettes and croissants and cars with yellow headlights and fantastic public transport. Of iconic monuments and buildings which made it so easily recognisable. A city of art, culture and life. Wonderful life. Now it’s a city splashed with the blood of hundreds of its innocent citizens. Slaughtered randomly, brutally by a small group of depraved fanatics.

Paris will never be the same. It can never be the same. Its citizens aren’t safe. Unfortunately making them safe means making big life changes. It may mean they must live in a constant state of martial law. Police and the army, heavily armed, patrolling the streets, to deter and intimidate. In all likelihood, a permanent presence. It is a tragedy. Absolutely contrary to a country built on liberty, equality and fraternity. France fought a revolution for freedom and democratic principles. And now its citizens, in its capital, can no longer trust anyone or anything. They will always be looking over their shoulders. Looking at each other with fear and doubt. They won’t be able to travel freely and easily. Everywhere they gather in numbers must now involve being searched and delays and difficulties and inconvenience. It’s the price they will have to pay to feel and be safe. It is sad and horrible. Many tears have been shed and will be shed over the coming days, weeks and months. Not just tears for the dead, or the injured or for the survivors. The traumatized survivors who will be forever haunted by what they saw and heard. They will never forget. They can’t forget. There will be tears for what Paris has now become. For the world we now live in.

And not just what Paris has become. This kind of attack can happen anywhere, anytime. In any capital city in any country that dares to take on IS. And it probably will. That is the frightening reality all of us must now face.

As long as the Islamic State exists, nowhere and nobody is safe. Governments have a responsibility to keep their citizens safe. And that will mean all of us making sacrifices, giving up hard won freedoms. It is the price we must pay.

And what will become of the people fleeing oppression who have landed in the thousands in Europe and elsewhere hoping for a new life? We have only just learned that one of the terrorists responsible for the Paris massacres gained entry to France by arriving in Greece pretending to be a Syrian refugee. Countries will begin to close their borders. These poor people will no longer be welcome, permanently displaced. They have run away from oppression only to suffer a form of oppression in some ways much worse than what they have left. It is so unfair and wrong.

There will be change. There has to be change. No doubt the events in Paris has awoken the sleeping giant. Retribution will be swift and, as the French President has already pointed out, merciless. This has galvanized the world and so it should. It will be the coalition of the willing and the unwilling all united with one stated purpose: the annihilation of the so-called caliphate.

The people responsible for the Paris massacres are cowards and bullies. They will pay a terrible price for what they have done. Already there is speculation of a political settlement in Syria, which would clear the decks for a united military approach to IS. A worldwide declaration of War already made in part by the French President.

All of us mourn with the people of Paris. We stand united with them. We share their grief but it must somehow ( and I don’t know how) result in a better world, a safer and kinder world. If it doesn’t, then what has happened will truly be for nothing. And that doesn’t bear thinking about.