Welcome To World Of Donald Trump

A man walks into a bar in Kansas City. I’m not telling a joke by the way. Many of the patrons are from countries 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 is cold blooded method in his madness. He leaves and returns to the bar with a gun, killing one person, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian born engineer working for Garmin in the United States. Two other people are wounded, one seriously. The seriously wounded man, is incredibly lucky to be alive and still walking. The bullet narrowly misses his carotid artery and spinal column. This is 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 holds a valid visa and Fox is a regular traveller to the US. By regular, I mean 116 times before, without incident. But this time it’s different. This time she’s travelling directly in the wake of Donald Trump’s anti immigration rantings, his executive order on immigration. 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 the Customs officials seem turbocharged with the power granted them by Trump’s order. Fox complains. She receives an apology, but says this will be her last trip 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. Accountable. You see the media exists as a free and independent entity in a flourishing democracy. In fact it is one of the foundations of a true democracy. Politicians are criticised, questioned and held to account. They can be caught out lying. Now there’s another good word. Lying. But when a number of media organisations, like CNN, the BBC and the New York Times, try entering the briefing room, they are barred. Barred from entering? Are you serious? In stark contrast the ‘friendly’ to Donald Trump news services like Fox, 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. It is a disgrace. Nothing like it 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’s President, can do whatever he likes, whenever he likes, to who ever he likes. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

The son of the late, Mohammed Ali, the greatest American heavyweight world boxing champion of all time, is detained at a Florida airport and questioned about being a Muslim. I guess the name is a dead giveaway. The same name as 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, Mohammed Ali’ s second wife, are returning to the United States from a vacation in Jamaica. Ali junior’s lawyer, tells a Louisville, Kentucky newspaper, 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.

Trump’s besieged. He’s taking a beating in the polls. Loved, loathed and despised equally by many including members of his own Government, who keep feeding the media with damaging leaks designed to embarrass and humiliate. So what does he do? Trump takes his message to the American people. Mass rallies of supporters. Hang on. Didn’t we just have a Presidential election campaign? Trump tells them the mainstream media are 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 the goodwill the United States spent decades cultivating. Welcome to the world of darkness. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

Dealing to Australia’s 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.

Princess Leia. More A Victim than Icon

I’ve been thinking about Carrie Fisher. Thinking about her a lot, lately. But my thinking isn’t in a way that I might have expected.

Yes. I was shocked by her death. So were a lot of people. It made me sad. She was still comparatively young. It is always kind of sad to lose someone like Carrie Fisher, who was highly intelligent, very talented, possessing a great sense of humor and clever at mocking others as well as herself. Read one of her books if you get the chance.

The thing is I had a mild epiphany when I saw a headline describing Fisher as an icon and a role model and a trailblazer for women. The story went on to say that the “ iconic actress paved the way for girls to take over their own galaxies, and she did so while battling her own personal demons. Her ‘Star Wars’ role, and her strength and humour in real life inspired a generation of women who are now deeply mourning her loss. She empowered them to be their own heroes!”

Normally I would totally agree with all of that. But In Carrie Fisher’s case I am not so sure. I think she was more of a victim than an icon. A victim of a Hollywood system, that continues to regard a woman as second class. Certainly treated as worth much less than any man.

In 2005, The American Film Institute awarded the Life Achievement Award to Star Wars creator George Lucas. But it was Fisher’s speech to roast him that stole the show. In just over four minutes, Fisher practices gender equality. She flagellates Lucas as equally as she honours him. She was fearless in sharing her story, while also taking pot shots at herself, and the franchise and the industry that made her famous.

“Hi, I’m Mrs. Han Solo and I’m an alcoholic,” Fisher begins. “I’m an alcoholic because George Lucas ruined my life.” She goes on to call Lucas a sadist, but adds that “like any abused child wearing a metal bikini, chained to a giant slug about to die, I keep coming back for more.”

Fisher praises Lucas while also reminding everyone of his shortcomings, and with it, the sexism of Hollywood. She points to “Queen Amadillo, or whatever her name is” in the prequel series, who changed hairstyles and outfits “practically every time she walks through a door.”

“I bet she even got to wear a bra, even though you (Lucas) told me I couldn’t, because there was no underwear in space!”

Fisher was especially aggrieved at how Hollywood and Lucas ‘stole’ her identity. How millions of dollars were made selling her Princess Leia likeness. Fisher did not receive a cent. This is what she had to say in an interview with Newsweek : ” The mistake was I signed away my likeness for free. In those days, there was no such thing as a “likeness,” which is a funny thing to say coming from the family that I came from. There was no merchandising tied to movies. No one could have known the extent of the franchise. Not that I don’t think I’m cute or anything, but when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t think I was signing away anything of value.

“Lately I feel like I’m Minnie Mouse—the identity of Princess Leia so eclipses any other identity that I’ve ever had. How much money could I have made from all this stuff? I don’t want to know. It’s too upsetting. Yet funny. For example, I found out recently that I am a type of marijuana. A friend of my daughter’s actually went to one of those medical places, and she told me there was a type of marijuana named Princess Leia. I never liked marijuana, so the fact that I’m a type of marijuana is ironic.

“I’ve teased George Lucas about this over the years, but he’s never been apologetic.

“When you’re 19 you don’t even think about these things. I don’t know what everyone else’s excuse was. Harrison Ford was 33! He should have known better! Here’s where I’m dumb. I assume if there’s an argument to be made, Harrison would have made it, and if he made it, I would have heard about it, because we had the same deal. But Harrison hasn’t fixed his deal. So this is an ongoing mistake.

“Mistakes are a drag, because you get in the area of regret and self-pity. I don’t like to linger in this zone.

“Me, having a tantrum in the corner for my cut of Star Wars toothpaste? I don’t want to get into it. Every so often, I wonder if Natalie Portman is getting more money than the none I’m getting. If she’s holding a check for Princess Amidala’s likeness in one hand and her Oscar in the other, that would piss me off. “

Ironically, Portman is a classic case in point at how everything and nothing has changed for women actors in Hollywood. In a very recent interview with the British magazine Marie Claire, Portman revealed that Ashton Kutcher was paid three times her salary when they both made the rom com movie No Strings Attached. Portman said that while the pay disparity was ‘crazy’ she was not complaining because her salary was still more than what it would take for the average person to earn in a lifetime of work.

“Compared to men, in most professions, women make 80 cents to the dollar, “ Portman said. “ In Hollywood, we are making 30 cents to the dollar.”

The gender pay gap is now a hot topic in Hollywood especially since Patricia Arquette made an impassioned speech about the issue when accepting the Oscar for best supporting actress for Boyhood in 2015.

Later that year, Jennifer Lawrence also bought into the issue after the Sony hacks revealed she had been paid far less for American Hustle than her male colleagues.

“I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled,'” Lawrence would later write in an essay for Lena Dunham’s Lenny newsletter. “At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the internet and realized every man I was working with, definitely didn’t worry about being ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled’.”

Most recently actor Felicity Jones who starred in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story told Glamour magazine: “I want to be paid fairly for the work that I’m doing. That’s what every single woman around the world wants. We want to be paid on parity with a man in a similar position. And I think it’s important to talk about it.”

Portman, who is widely tipped to score an Oscar nomination for her role in the Jackie Kennedy biopic, Jackie, also told Marie Claire that she intends to make sure that her next film is directed by a woman.

Will all of this make a difference? Maybe. In time. In the meantime, let’s keep having the conversation.

Cobar Camels- Rugby In The Desert

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 Must 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 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.

 

 

 

Ode To Common Sense- An Obituary

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

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

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.