Archive for December, 2011

Appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University?

Friday, December 16th, 2011

By David

Today I received a reply from Peter Miskimmin. His letter is reproduced below. I am grateful that Miskimmin has taken the time to reply to my email. However, in my view, Miskimmin’s letter is full of the deception and guile that characterizes much of New Zealand sport. The most brilliant piece of trickery is in the third paragraph. Here is what the letter says, “SPARC did not direct the Board of Swimming NZ about any of its decisions. The terms of reference for the two nominee directors, as agreed between SPARC and Swimming NZ, state that “All decision making whatsoever including whether to accept or act on any input from the (nominee directors) is retained by Swimming NZ”.

Do you see the classic sting? Whatever Miskimmin’s hired guns on the Board of Swimming New Zealand say; whatever intimidation they exercise; whatever stand over tactics they employ, whatever financial destitution they threaten it can never be inappropriate because Miskimmin has a piece of paper that says, irrespective of the provocation, every decision is down to Swimming New Zealand.

What a sick joke. Does Miskimmin really expect swimming people to swallow the line that anything Miskimmin does is lawful because he has a piece of paper signed by Swimming New Zealand that says anything he does is lawful. The last people to use a defence like that were found guilty in Nuremberg in 1946.

Well, SPARC I don’t give a damn what your agreement with Swimming New Zealand says. It is of no concern to me that you have conned Swimming New Zealand into signing a permanent get out of jail card. When your hired guns go into a Swimming New Zealand Board Meeting and threaten ruin; when they use the financial might of SPARC to change the vote of the Swimming New Zealand Board – then that is wrong beyond belief. Miskimmin, you can hide behind semantics. You can use linguistic deception in an attempt to justify the unjustifiable. But your representatives, and therefore you, acted like school yard bullies. You deserve to be taken down and we will work for as long as it takes to see that happen.

The rest of the letter is pretty much empty words. With arrogance unique to public servants Miskimmin attempts to insult me by asking me not to bother him any further because I am merely a “member of the public who was not present at the meeting.” Well, Peter Miskimmin, members of the public are not second class flotsam for you to ignore. You are employed by us. Your Minister is elected by us. The Ombudsman’s Office was established to protect us. I will not be palmed off to your puppets that sit on the Swimming New Zealand Board. I will deal directly with you whether you like it or not. Because you are the problem. And beware the reply you have given in this letter is weak and will not work with the members of the public that read Swimwatch.

I will now write to the Minister of Sport complaining that SPARC’s representatives misused their position on the Swimming New Zealand Board and improperly forced three members to alter their vote to decline the nomination of Butler and Wrightson.

Here is a copy of Miskimmin’s reply.

Parents: Some Clubs Do Have ‘Em

Friday, December 9th, 2011

By David, with a lot of quotations from Gawker.

We’ll let you know which bits we added at the end.

You’ve probably never heard of Marty Martin. He spent most of his life as an anonymous CIA operative. But he very recently came out of the closet as the man George Bush put in charge of finding Osama bin Laden in the aftermath of 9/11, and guess what? It turns out the man Bush put in charge of finding bin Laden is an extremely shady and allegedly corrupt war profiteer. Who would have thought?

Martin, of course, never succeeded in catching bin Laden. He ran the CIA’s bin Laden unit from 2002 to 2004, a fact that we now know only because he emerged to grab some credit for bin Laden’s death and celebrate the agency’s discontinued torture program: “We got beat up for it, but those efforts led to this great day,” he told the Associated Press three weeks ago. Prior to that, he was just a nondescript former agency official who went into the security consulting business after retiring. The closest hint to just how key an official he was came from references to a “Marty M.”—described as a sort of Jack Bauer of the bayou—in former CIA director George Tenet’s memoir.

Now that we know who Martin really is, we can get a sense of what kind of guy George Bush turned to for arguably the most crucial job in the war on terror.

1. The Kind of Guy Who Bilks Taxpayers for His Own Enrichment

In 2007, after leaving the CIA, Martin joined International Oil Trading Company, a Florida company that delivered fuel to U.S. forces in the Middle East. In 2008, congressional investigators accused it of ripping off the Pentagon to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. This year, the Pentagon’s own audit found that the company overcharged the government by as much as $204 million on a series of massive Iraq war fuel contracts.

2. The Kind of Guy Who Bribes Foreign Officials

According to a Florida lawsuit against International Oil’s owner Harry Sargeant III, Martin paid a $9 million bribe to the head of the Jordanian intelligence service back in 2007 to secure his company’s exclusive rights to ship fuel across Jordan to U.S bases in Iraq. (That allegation comes from the Jordanian king’s brother-in-law, Mohammad al-Saleh, who is suing Sargeant for purportedly screwing him out of a $100 million stake in the company.)

3. The Kind of Guy Who Helps Launder Illegal Political Contributions

In 2008, the Washington Post reported that Sargeant, a billionaire, raised funds for John McCain’s presidential campaign with help from an unnamed “former head of the bin Laden unit” who worked for him. The men reportedly skirted campaign finance laws by funnelling the money through Arab-American “straw donors.” McCain quickly returned $50,000 of Sargeant’s lucre. The Post never named the ex-chief of the CIA bin Laden unit involved in the fundraising, but unless two former heads of the bin Laden unit were working for Sargeant at the time, that man was Marty Martin.

4. The Kind of Guy Who Gets Totally Psyched When People Die In a War He Profits From

In a court filing last week, attorneys for al-Saleh quoted from an e-mail that Martin wrote to Sargeant in 2008 in which he appeared to gloat over the escalation of violence in Iraq:

“Fyi, word of a ‘re-surge’ is floating around amidst shit hitting the fan in Iraq today. ☺”

The “shit hitting the fan” was the Battle of Basra, the Iraqi Army’s attempt in March 2008 to finally roll up militias loyal to Moqtada al Sadr. It was widely seen as a debacle and victory for al-Sadr, and many feared the conflict threatened to reignite the civil war. That month, 40 Americans died in Iraq. ☺!

5. The Kind of Guy Who Has a Daughter Who Swam In My Last Swim Club and Whose Wife Was the Club Secretary

Believe it or not that’s right. I did wonder why he spoke fluent Arabic on the phone while other parents watched their Bronze Squad offspring attempt the 25 metres butterfly. What did he do to afford a $2.6 million house and an international business jet? At a swim meet in Jupiter he brought me up to date on several ways of killing a human being without needing a weapon. That too seemed a bit different from other swim team parents. His ex-British diplomat wife, Carla, was very picky about where the swim team’s money was spent. So picky, she once questioned whether I could have used French side roads instead of paying motorway tolls when I took our club’s best swimmers to Mare Nostrum. For the sake of a few Euros, she made a hell of a fuss. Aware of the concern about the growing Euro toll booth bill, paid to get swimmers from Canet, France, to the tour’s last stop in Monaco, the swimmers paid several of the toll booths themselves. Still, when they got home, Carla didn’t care. The expenditure from the club was still unacceptable.

It seems she may have a several million times bigger financial problem that is about to see her husband return to the care of the US Government. Karma – it’s a wonderful concept.

Anyway, that’s Marty Martin, the guy George Bush put in charge of the bin Laden hunt. Glad it worked out for him.

Harry Sargeant’s lawyers couldn’t be reached for comment on this story. The CIA declined to comment. And Marty Martin’s bin Laden-hunting predecessor, Michael Scheuer –- who served for two years as a special adviser to Martin’s unit –- claims to have never heard of Marty Martin (which we can only presume is a CIA first-rule-of-Fight-Club omerta thing). Reached on his phone, Martin said: “No no, man. I don’t want to talk to you, man,” and hung up before we had a chance to ask a question.

Swimwatch thank the American political blog GAWKER for this story – all the bits that is, except the paragraph about Marty and his wife being parents of a swimmer on our Florida swim team. Again, if you want to read the original, you can find it here .

Somewhat associated with this story – our apartment in Florida was in a complex called the Delray Racquet Club. One of the more infamous residents of an apartment in the floor just above our unit was Mohammed Atta. On September 11 2001 at 8.46am he flew American Airlines Flight 11 into the North Tower of the World Trade Centre.

Just… wow.

A Letter To Sparc

Friday, December 9th, 2011

By David

I have tonight written to the CEO of SPARC, Peter Miskimmin. The letter is copied below and is fairly self explanatory. We will publish Miskimmin’s reply when it is received – if it is received.

Dear Peter,

You may be aware of the concern felt by many involved in the sport of swimming by the events reported by Andrew Alderson in the Herald on Sunday on Sunday November 20 2011. I refer to the following extract.

“The SNZ board consists of six directors elected at the AGM. They can appoint two further directors – commonly referred to as independents – to the board. Butler and Jane Wrightson put forward their names for further terms on the board as independents until next year’s AGM. Their re-appointments were rejected by a 4:3 vote.

At that point McDonald and Cull joined the three who voted for the return of Butler and Wrightson and exited the meeting. It left the board incapable of continuing without the requisite quorum of 60 per cent. Cull is alleged to have returned later. He told the remaining four board members they needed to change their vote or the Sparc advisors would leave and the sport would be reduced to further dysfunctional depths. The Sparc advisors were apparently concerned consequences of the previous vote could result in further media criticism of the sport. Consequently three of those who voted against the return of Butler and Wrightson reverted their decision; one board member remained against. The decision to repeal the initial vote underlines how much influence Sparc has over swimming’s sovereignty. McDonald and Cull have a brief to maintain the status quo where possible. This precedent suggests they have the power to continue doing it.”

Further investigation has revealed the detail of what transpired. I understand that the meeting voted on the reappointment of Wrightson and Butler and on the appointment of Butler as Chairman/President. All the appointment remits were lost by four votes to three. The four elected members voting against the motions to reappoint Wrightson and Butler as the two independent Directors were Speer, Sutton, Pullon and Fitch. The three Board members voting for the appointments were Berge, Clarke and Wrightson. It needs to be noted that Butler was absent from this meeting. Once the vote of reappointment to the Board and appointment to the position of Chairman/President was lost, the three members who had voted for the appointments and the two SPARC Board observers (Kerry McDonald and Nelson Cull) left the meeting. I understand they left after expressing their disgust at the appointments being rejected by the Board. Fifteen minutes later the three directors and the two SPARC observers returned to the meeting. I understand that Nelson Cole proceeded to lecture and harangue the four negative voters and ordered them to change their vote. I understand there was a clear threat made that SPARC’s funding was at risk if the votes of the dissenting Board Members were not changed and the appointments proposed in these remits were not confirmed by the Board in a revote. The discussion took twenty minutes and was clearly a case of governmental/political interference in the management of a sporting organization. Cole called the Board dysfunctional and said he would report to SPARC that it was not capable of managing the sport. He would recommend that the current Review of the sport be discontinued. These were all clear threats to the Board of Swimming New Zealand by a New Zealand government agency; a clear case of intimidation using the power of the state. A second vote was ordered. Three of the four dissenting Directors folded and changed their vote to approve the appointments. Only Suzanne Speer continued to vote against the appointments.

I am sure you appreciate the concern swimming people feel at the events described above. I am resolved to take every step possible to ensure your organization does not continue to manipulate the management of the sport. This was a properly taken vote of the Swimming New Zealand Board that SPARC had no authority to change. Our legal advice is that SPARC has acted unlawfully?

SPARC can only act in keeping with the functions available to SPARC under the Sport and Recreation New Zealand Act 2002 or any functions given SPARC by the Minister responsible for sport.

The only provision in the Act with any possible connection with SPARC’s role in using Nelson Cull / Kerry McDonald to obtain a reversal of the SNZ’s board’s intentions is Clause (i) that says SPARC can, “facilitate the resolution of disputes between persons or organizations involved in physical recreation and sport” But SPARC’s power under (i) above relates to dispute resolution only; creating an environment for discussion and conciliation; acting in a mediation role for example. SPARC isn’t permitted to meddle inside a sport’s organization or intimidate or take control of that organization’s governing body.

So, there is a case that SPARC has acted illegally. Is there any right of legal redress? Before going down that path those involved with me in this action have resolved to follow the following course of action.

  1. Write to you as the CEO of SPARC requesting an apology from SPARC be published on the Swimming New Zealand website and that the original vote to reject the appointment of Butler and Wrightson to the Swimming New Zealand Board be reinstated and stand as the decision of the Board.
  2. If that approach is rejected to write to the Minister of Sport setting out the circumstances of SPARC’s actions and asking the Minister to order a SPARC apology and the reinstatement of the initial vote of the Board.
  3. If the approach to the Minister is rejected to file a complaint with the Ombudsman asking his office to order a SPARC apology and the reinstatement of the initial vote of the Board.
  4. If the ruling of the Ombudsman is negative we will consider asking the Court to rule on SPARC’s involvement in this Board meeting in a civil action.

I hope you can appreciate the depth of our concern at the illegitimate power your organization has exercised over the affairs of swimming in New Zealand. It would be preferable to avoid the steps detailed above. With this in mind we would ask and sincerely hope SPARC will be able to apologize on Swimming New Zealand’s website and reinstate the Board’s vote to reject the appointment of Wrightson and Butler.

I look forward to your reply to this email within seven days. If we fail to hear from you or the terms of this email are rejected in this time we will proceed to the next step of contacting your Minister.


David Wright

Swim Coach

The Fingerprints of SPARC

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

By David

West Auckland Aquatics’ fastest swimmers are working their way through 70 to 100 kilometres a week. The kilometres are ticking by at a healthy four kilometres an hour. With a self motivated group like this there is time for the coach to ponder the condition of swimming in New Zealand. So much of what goes on these days is done behind closed doors; in secret. Inevitably that leads to a succession of conspiracy theories – each one more bizarre than the next. But are they bizarre? Perhaps not. Here is what I think has happened since the Regions agreed to a wholesale review of swimming a few weeks ago.

The first sign of SPARC’s unacceptable appetite for power came when the CEO of SPARC, Peter Miskimmin, ordered a properly taken vote of the Swimming New Zealand Board to be overturned. By a vote of 4 to 3 the Board of Swimming New Zealand voted to reject the appointment of Wrightson and Butler to the Board. Democracy, meeting procedure, the rule of law – none of that concerned Miskimmin. He ordered the vote to be overturned and that’s what happened. It stinks, it’s wrong, it’s inexcusable. I have no doubt that Miskimmin will claim that the interests of stability justified his intervention. Every tin-pot dictator in history has made the same claim. Caligula said it was “disloyalty to the state” that justified his bad behaviour. Lincoln brushed aside the Bill of Rights to “Save the Union”. Germany used “lebensraum or living space” as justification for war. Papa Doc claimed that “saving his poor Negro Republic” justified unspeakable atrocities. They were wrong and so is Miskimmin.

Then I made an Official Information Act request for a copy of the Agreement reached between the Regions and SPARC at their Wellington meeting. Miskimmin wrote to me claiming that the Agreement was commercially sensitive and would sour relationships between SPARC, Swimming New Zealand and the Regions if a copy was given to a West Auckland swimming coach. That was clearly rubbish and so I filed a complaint with the Ombudsman. With an ounce of luck the Ombudsman will see through Miskimmin’s deception and will order him to provide a copy of the Agreement. The whole process reflects badly on Miskimmin and his organization. The management of sport should not be about secret deals hidden from those who commit their lives to achieving athletic success. I can only hope the Ombudsman appreciates the importance of my request. There is no reason for this Agreement to be hidden from the membership of the sport. It is only kept secret because that’s the way Miskimmin does business – in dark alleys, behind closed doors.

And then I wrote to FINA with a formal complaint. Peter Miskimmins organization is in clear breech of FINA Rule 13 which prohibits government organizations interfering in the management of national swimming bodies. Not a day goes by that SPARC does not breech that rule. Their involvement in Swimming New Zealand goes way beyond interference. Peter Miskimmin and SPARC run the show. They decide who will be on the Board, what structural changes will be made and who will be appointed to senior staff positions. One of the most delightful moments in my life occurred recently when I read a letter from Chris Moller, the Chairman of the Swimming Review Working Group. In it Moller said, “This group will formulate recommendations separately and independently of SPARC.” How outrageously funny is that? Nothing, not a damn thing in swimming these days is done “separately and independently of SPARC.” Miskimmin’s fingerprints are all over everything that goes on down there. New Zealand’s swimming results in London, the conclusions of the Working Group, Ross Butlers and Mike Byrne’s next cup of coffee belong lock, stock and barrel to Peter Miskimmin. He appointed himself to the Steering Committee that runs the Working Group remember. He made the phone call to appoint Chris Moller. How separate is that? There is no “separately and independently” in the Peter Miskimmin world. Oh and I have not heard back from FINA in response to my complaint. I do hope they take it seriously. Their sport is in deep trouble down here in New Zealand.

Most recently, we have the decision to set up a High Performance Centre in Wellington. This decision fascinates me. Clearly the intention was to make such a significant change and enter into such important financial commitments that, along with the Millennium Institute in Auckland, would compel the Review Working Group to leave intact Swimming New Zealand’s control of elite swimming. The level of involvement is already so great that the Working Group have no option but to leave things as they are. Miskimmin has outsmarted the Regions just as I said he would. But how do we know this sleight of hand was down to Miskimmin. Well, I’ve met Butler – as smooth as silk, full of charm and “hail fellow well met”, but without much in the way of substance. I just don’t think Butler has the balls to set up a Wellington High Performance Centre knowing that the Working Group is about to begin its Review. A decision like that takes better than the likes of Butler. No, my guess is that Miskimmin has told McDonald and Cull to order the Swimming New Zealand Board to approve the Wellington initiative. The “dead of night” secrecy and the lack of any formal announcement are classic Miskimmin. He has a clear goal of what he wants the Review Working Group to decide and he’s putting structures in place that ensure he gets it.

The real problem with SPARC’s invasive interference in the affairs of Swimming New Zealand is that Miskimmin, McDonald and Cull know nothing about the product. They have no idea what it takes to win a swimming race and in every decision they make it shows. Twice I have been in meetings where Miskimmin has told me he will never intervene in the internal management structure of a national sport. I hope the content of this report prove that twice Miskimmin has lied to me. His finger prints are all over the affairs of swimming in New Zealand. He is as guilty as all hell. For the health of swimming, I hope FINA and the Ombudsman help Swimwatch nail the scoundrel.

An Example of Miskimmin Management

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

By David

I am conscious that the author of a blog such as Swimwatch needs to be careful that the blog remains positive. It should not become a constant source of complaints. During this period of mismanagement of swimming in New Zealand it has been difficult to avoid the whingeing label. Someone needed to say something. The behaviour of the Board and senior management could not be ignored. And, again today I noticed a report on the Wellington Capital Swim Club’s website that is of concern. What is it that the CEO of SPARC, Peter Miskimmin, is allowing his subordinates in Swimming New Zealand to do? Here is the report I found on the Capital Swim Club’s website.

Update from the Chair


Wellington Regional High Performance Unit

Last night your Board met with the CEO’s of SNZ and WhiPA to finalise the lane space that will be used by the CSC and HPU. The Board agreed that the formation of a Wellington Regional HPU was in the best interests of swimmers and the sport and has no detrimental effect on the CSC. It sees some of the overall benefits as:
A net gain for swimming including Capital swimmers

Swimming has more lanes

Swimming has more 50m set ups

Swimming has a first opportunity to run a complete HPU in Wellington in accord with SNZ strategic direction to form regional HPU’s

Greater opportunity to get leading edge swimming equipment

Greater opportunity to recruit sponsorship

Parents and swimmers of members of the CSC HPU were recently briefed by the CEO of SNZ and Gary Hurring on what this means for them. All members of the CSC HPU will transfer into the Wellington Regional HPU. It will be operational from 16 January 2012 and based at WRAC. (subject to written agreement with the WCC -see below)

The formation of the Wellington Regional HPU will mean a restructuring of our squads and a change of pool for training from WRAC to Freyberg. Timon and Luke are currently working through the squad changes and these will be advised as soon as the exercise has been completed and confirmed by the Board.

The last remaining thing that is required before this can proceed is confirmation from the Wellington City Council on the lane space and the signing of a 3- 5 year written agreement between us on lane space at WRAC and Freyberg. We are hoping to have this in place by 16 December 2011.

If you have any feedback you wish to provide please do so by Friday 6 December 2011.

Regards Greg Crott

I am not concerned that a High Performance Unit is being established in Wellington. The merits of that decision can be debated at another time. What is of concern is the decision making process employed to arrive at this announcement. Miskimmin effectively runs Swimming New Zealand these days. This announcement is his responsibility. How has he performed? Not very well is the answer. He has demonstrated a liking for autocratic rule. He occupies a powerful position and wields that power with little concern for procedure or process. Just consider the following list of factors that should cause unease among swimming people.

  1. A new Swimming New Zealand High Performance Unit is a major structural change. And yet it is not even reported on the SNZ website. Swimming New Zealand enters into a five year contract with the Wellington City Council for pool space and they tell no one. Miskimmin gets his hired help to hide the decision. A geek like me has to find the announcement of a major structural change in an obscure corner of a local swimming club’s website. Like many of his agreements, for some reason, Miskimmin seems to want to hide this one. And I think I know why.
  2. I can find no record of this decision being discussed or approved by the Board of Swimming New Zealand. The organization is about to sign a $300,000 contract for five years pool space without Board approval. Evidently that’s not required these days. Get Miskimmin’s verbal approval – I hear he commits very little to writing – and Byrne and Butler scurry off to do their master’s bidding.
  3. As we all know Swimming New Zealand is currently in the middle of a hugely expensive “Period of Review”. What will the future structure of Swimming New Zealand look like? Will the organization continue to directly manage New Zealand’s high performance swimmers? Will the structure of Swimming New Zealand be based on a centralist model or be founded on what Swimwatch has called “rugged individualism”. The whole place is up for review. Miskimmin has said all the options are on the table. The future, he says, cannot be constrained by the organization’s past. The best solutions, whatever they are, must be found for this sport. And yet while Miskimmin is saying all this stuff his employees are making structural changes and financial promises that will commit Swimming New Zealand to the Miskimmin unspoken plan for another five years. It is a slight of hand of Houdini proportions. Miskimmin has never wanted to reform swimming. He just wants it moulded to his image.
  4. A key to the Miskimmin plan is to have Swimming New Zealand enter into long term structural changes and financial contracts that the Review Committee must take into account. Far from all the options being on the table, Miskimmin is putting in place structures that guarantee the Review Committee can only come to one conclusion – the Miskimmin Conclusion.
  5. I am concerned about the position of Gary Hurring. In another typical example of Miskimmin duplicity Gary was appointed to the Swimming New Zealand Review Committee. The announcement of the new Wellington High Performance Unit means Gary will be paid a portion of his income by the Swimming New Zealand high performance organization. How can Gary possibly sit on a Committee charged with possibly abolishing Swimming New Zealand’s involvement in High Performance swimming when his income is so dependent on Swimming New Zealand preserving its high performance role? He has a serious and obvious conflict of interest. I suspect that will cause Gary some concern – it certainly should. I don’t think it will worry Miskimmin. He could see it simply as a tricky way of buying another vote. Gary should get off the Review Committee before his reputation and standing are compromised beyond repair.

Beware – although this announcement is presented to you in the guise of all that’s good for Wellington swimmers, it is probably a deception assembled by skilled operators to manipulate the work of the Review Committee. Right from the beginning I have consistently warned Swimming New Zealand’s regions that they were being conned and silenced by skilled operators. That is still my view. Why else has Swimming New Zealand made this change in secret? Why else hasn’t Miskimmin told you about it?