A tale of two councils: Will they ever stand alone again?

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
I thought about this song by the legendary Joni Mitchell the other day as I was driving around a parking lot trying to find a space to attend a public inquiry into the proposed merger of two councils in Sydney’s north, Ku-ring-gai and Hornsby.
The meeting was held at the Pymble Golf Club in St Ives, and there was no access at the venue to public transport so everybody had to drive or get a taxi, possibly a Big Yellow Taxi like the one in Joni Mitchell’s song. It took 20 minutes to find the St Ives Village parking lot, and ten minutes to find a space. St Ives isn’t exactly paradise but it was much nicer 40 years ago before the developers reigned supreme. The golf club had no parking space for its members, so they closed the gates, even on drivers with disabled stickers. The Friends of Ku-ring-gai Environment (FOKE) president, Kathy Cowley, said: “The State Government apparently did not inform the club what this meeting was about. They were very secretive.” The government organisers said no attendees were locked out or turned away from the meeting. Yes, but it took us a long time to get there!
The New South Wales government wants to merge councils, allegedly to save money for residents, but Ku-ring-gai ratepayers believe it’s the State’s way of silencing the pesky locals about the growing number of high rises and McDonald mansions in the region. One of the few people at the 400-strong meeting who backed the proposal was the mayor of Hornsby, Steve Russell. He said: “I am confident that an amalgamated council will deliver substantial savings in the long term. The estimates are that up to 70 million in ratepayers’ dollars will be freed up for community services such as libraries and sporting fields, not the mention better planning.” (Photo of Steve Russell addressing the meeting below)
vcm_s_kf_repr_650x366
The general manager of Ku-ring-gai Council, John McKee, played a much different songbook, pleasing to the audience, when he pointed out the council was financially sound, with healthy operating surpluses for the past ten years. There was no need for a merger and Ku-ring-gai was fit to stand alone. On the claims of multi-million dollar savings, McKee said the $70 million forecast in the merger proposal would be small in comparison to the total budget of the councils, representing less than 1.5 per cent in savings — an average saving of $11 per person or 22 cents a week for the next 20 years! There was much applause at that assessment. McKee said: “Bigger is not better.” (Disclosure: I am a long-time resident of Ku-ring gai, and said the same in my short speech, adding “Small is beautiful. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”)
John McKee also compared the two suburbs: Hornsby is mostly rural, while Ku-ring-gai is urban. Hornsby is five times larger than Ku-ring-gai, which covers approximately 85 square kilometres. By 2030, the merged council will cover 540 square kilometres, with an increase in population from 270,060 to 350,000 – much larger than other merged councils in North Sydney. He said research showed: “… In many instances cultural differences between merged councils is an ongoing issue which in some cases is never resolved.”
Among his conclusions: “Both communities are already large and financially sustainable, and the community is opposed to the proposal.” Here’s a transcript of his speech. (Photo below of John McKee addressing the meeting.)
vcm_s_kf_repr_650x366
Although a vast majority of speakers were opposed to the amalgamation, a commercial property owner said dealing with the Ku-ring gai Council was impossible: “Never once have my calls been returned. I find them very good about telling me what I can’t do, but little or no help telling me what I can do.” Others, including me, said they didn’t have any problems with the council.
Mike Gooley, a Ku-ring-gai resident for 45 years, said: “The Baird government has betrayed the people of Ku-ring-gai … This is just a power play. The less councils there are, the more power they have.” Many other residents echoed those remarks.
FOKE’s Kathy Cowley said four generations of her family have grown up and lived in Ku-ring-gai. She has been a long-time Ku-ring-gai activist, fighting to preserve the region’s heritage and beauty. She claimed residents have been lied to: the KPMG report on the proposed merger was full of flaws, with the government not allowing access to the complete study. “This is not about people and the local community, it’s about the government streamlining things for planners and developers and taking away what little voice the community has left,” she said. Given those lies, Kathy Cowley called for a plebiscite to allow the residents to vote on whether the merger should go ahead.
Another FOKE member, Janine Kitson, tried to address the meeting face to face. The speakers were asked to direct their comments to the delegate, former Liberal MP Gary West, who will decide the fate of the merger and was seated in the front of the room. The organisers were trying to maintain order by avoiding any confrontation. It did seem a bit odd to me, but we all faced the front. Ms Kitson faced the audience and said: “I’m here to talk to the community.” She eventually gave in and turned around to Mr West, who had said earlier: “My duty is to listen to all submissions and consider them.” Ms Kitson described it as a sham meeting. (The photo of Ms Kitson, left, and Kathy Cowley at the top of the post is from the North Shore Times. All photos by Virginia Young.)
There was another session of the inquiry at the Pymble Golf Club later that night, which was addressed by Ku-ring-gai mayor, Cheryl Szatow, who had a video presentation, including photos of all the awards won by the council – yet a council not fit to stand alone. The one the mayor and the general manager are proudest of is the 2014 Bluett Award for Excellence in Local Government. Here is her presentation(it’s large).
One of the most powerful speakers was Diane Conolly, a political staffer to the former Liberal Premier Barry O’Farrell (she was his diary secretary when he was the NSW Opposition Leader). She said this was the first time she had spoken out at a public meeting because she was tired of the Baird Government’s broken promises. She claimed the government had already decided the result. Although the North Shore has some of the safest Liberal seats in the country, she warned Mr Baird: “There is no longer such a thing as a safe seat.”
If that happens, it will be one of the biggest political upsets since John Howard lost the election and his seat in 2007. But if Gary West was listening closely to all the submissions and considering them, he would have to recommend the proposed merger should not go ahead, or at least recommend a referendum to let the people have their say.
There were quite a few Liberals at the public inquiry who said they wouldn’t vote for the Baird Government if the proposed merger was adopted.
Mr Baird, are you listening?

Malcolm Turnbull: Born to rule; Must keep his cool

In the pub near the Northern Sydney suburb of St Ives, where Prime Malcolm attended boarding school, one of the regulars has not joined the “I love Malcolm” fan club. When asked why, he replies: “I didn’t have a view on Malcolm Turnbull, until I met him.” It’s not a favourable view, and he says the same could have been said of a former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.
This wily pundit is possibly referring to the PM’s massive ego, which loomed large in his final year at Sydney Grammar as head prefect and joint school captain in 1972 when he gave a hard time to the boys at assembly and everywhere else. Midnight Oil drummer, Rob Hirst, a year below the head prefect, wrote in The Bulletin in 2007 that “Turnbull managed to alienate almost everyone around him, students and teachers alike. A fighter and a winner, he nevertheless had a dearth of people skills: a ‘plummy brew of eloquence, imperiousness and un-humble pie, plus a kind of sighing, saturnine resignation that his job necessarily involves being constantly surrounded by cretins.”
This is how Paddy Manning, the author of Born to Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull (Melbourne University Press), sets up the school days of the man destined to become Australia’s 29th Prime Minister: “However much Turnbull hated his early years at boarding school, he retained a deep affection for Sydney Grammar …” At Sydney University in 1973, Turnbull was influenced by the eccentric and exceptional writer, Bob Ellis, who described his new friend as “ardent, ambitious, promiscuous and old beyond his years.” Later on, when Turnbull was a freelancer in the NSW press gallery, studying for a law degree, his ambition sometimes got the better of him, as Manning points out: “From the beginning he had an ability to piss people off, and he stepped on a few toes as he learned his way around. Something like this happened once too often for Channel Ten’s Paul Mullins who, ticked off by some snide Turnbull remark, decked him.”
This did not deter Turnbull from his goal of becoming prime minister. After pursuing journalism, writing for The Bulletin, and according to colleague Suellen O’Grady, pounding the keys of his typewriter so hard his desk shuddered, the man born to rule won a Rhodes scholarship at the end of 1977. David Dale, a journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald, met Malcolm Turnbull in the mid-70s, when he told Dale he wanted to be Prime Minister by the time he was 40. “For which party,” asked Dale. “It doesn’t matter,” replied Turnbull.
It’s not difficult to see where young Malcolm Turnbull’s ambition came from — both his mother and father. A friend of Malcolm’s father, Bruce Turnbull, estate agent Bill Bridges, said Malcolm “always wanted to be PM, Bruce wanted him to be, and so did his mother.”
Manning focuses on the relationship between Turnbull and his mother, Coral Lansbury, an actress, author and academic, who placed him in that boarding school when he was 8, leaving Malcolm and his father, two years later for another man. Turnbull acknowledged his father protected him from much of the pain; the other theme, according to Manning, was “whether his mother’s abandonment spurred him to succeed from an early age.”
His mother kept letters from his father, castigating her for leaving them, while he told Malcolm she hadn’t really left him. On a 2009 ABC Australian Story profile, Turnbull remembered what his father said: “No, she’s just gone to New Zealand to do some studies. She’s coming back. Don’t worry. Everything’s OK.” Everything was not OK, of course.
But the career of Malcolm Turnbull took off after his father died in a plane crash in 1982, leaving his son independently wealthy, allowing him to pursue fame and fortune. It also helped that he married Lucy Hughes, daughter of the prominent lawyer, Tom Hughes, with friends in high places, and niece of the prominent art critic and author, Robert Hughes. It was a marriage made in political heaven. (Photo above after the swearing-in ceremony: Malcolm holding grandson Jack, from left, his daughter Daisy, wife Lucy and son-in-law James Brown. AAP, Sept 2015)
MTBorntoRulepreview_Preview
Turnbull’s fortunes soared after he successfully defended Kerry Packer against allegations in the 1984 Costigan Royal Commission that he was “Goanna,” a figure linked to murder, drug smuggling and tax fraud. Turnbull said the commission was “one of the blackest episodes in Australian legal history.” Packer was extremely grateful to Turnbull for clearing his name.
His next successful defence involved former MI5 agent Peter Wright, author of Spycatcher, which alleged the head of Britain’s domestic counterintelligence was a Soviet spy. The book was to be published in Australia, but the British government, led by Margaret Thatcher, tried to stop it. Lucy Turnbull helped win the case with her knowledge of international law, arguing that Britain was attempting to enforce its own laws in Australia. Manning writes: “The case set the pattern for their relationship, as much a successful professional partnership as a marriage.” The book was published in the US, Australia and New Zealand, and Turnbull tried to be humble in a TV profile: “I hope I don’t exaggerate my abilities. By the same token, no one would accuse me of hiding my light under a bushel.”
Nor was he hiding his money anywhere either. Turnbull set up a cleaning company with former NSW Premier Neville Wran and became a merchant banker. His business venture with Nick Whitlam, son of Gough, Whitlam Turnbull, went south in 1990, with Whitlam citing staff resentment against Turnbull, whose nickname in the office was “the Ayatollah.” After Whitlam’s departure, the bank was renamed Turnbull & Partners and Nick and Malcolm did not speak to each other for many years.
There was another foray by Turnbull into Packer’s backyard, helping with the repurchase of Channel Nine from Alan “You only get one Bond in a lifetime,” Bond and the Tourang bid which prompted Kerry Packer to accuse Trevor Kennedy and Turnbull of treason, and prevented Packer from getting control of Fairfax. When Glenn Burge and Colleen Ryan wrote the definitive account of the Tourang saga, Corporate Cannibals, Turnbull demanded to see the galley proofs and insisted on minor changes, including footnotes. Manning sums up the brouhaha: “As a former journalist, Turnbull certainly knew how to make enemies in the media.” He also knew how to keep making money: Getting in early on the internet service provider, Ozemail, in 1994, earned him $40 million when it was sold in 1998. It also put him on the BRW Rich List, with an estimated $65 million.
Then there was the Republican campaign. The Australian Republican Movement (ARM) was launched in 1990, run out of the offices of Turnbull & Partners, with financial support provided by Malcolm. Turnbull became chairman and poured $2 million into the ARM, until the fateful date of November 6, 1999 when Australia voted no to a republic in a referendum. After ten years of fighting the good fight, Turnbull gave one of his best speeches in which he blamed John Howard for the loss: “Whatever else he achieves, history will remember him for only one thing. He was the prime minister who broke a nation’s heart. He was the man who made Australia keep a foreign queen.” Of course, there were others who gave credit to Howard and Kerry Jones of the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy (ACM), including Labor’s numbers man, Graham Richardson, in an interview with Nine’s Laurie Oakes on the referendum broadcast: “You’ve got to pay tribute to Kerry Jones and John Howard. They’ve out-campaigned the ARM.” ‘Laurie Oakes responded.’ “It was an unscrupulous, misleading campaign but it was clever, Graham, but wasn’t the ‘Yes’ campaign fairly un-clever’?” Turnbull admitted the monarchist campaign of promising a referendum for a directly elected president worked but he added in his speech: “… Do not forget who told you to vote ‘No’ with the promise … a promise they never, ever intended to keep.” Columnist Peter FitzSimons, who helped with the 1999 campaign and is now involved in another one as ARM chairman, said he did not blame Turnbull for the success of the ACM’s strategy: “I don’t think Malcolm was responsible. I think it was a brilliant line from the monarchists.” Malcolm is still a republican, but a very quiet one these days. He’s even met the Queen.
The rest is political history. Twenty years after his failed bid in his seat of Wentworth in East Sydney, Malcolm Turnbull beat Liberal Peter King so handily in the pre-selection, the former NSW Liberal President ran as an independent in the 2004 federal election. Turnbull won again, but this time he needed the help of Prime Minister John Howard and spent $600,000 of his own money on the campaign. The ultra-rich MP with an arrogant background tried to mend fences with the voters by listening for a change: “I learnt a lot from my mistakes. Clearly, your approach to people and issues must be more grassroots-based, people-based.” It’s a lesson he’s still learning. Along the way, Lucy fought her way through Labor Party machinations to become deputy mayor, then lord mayor of Sydney and in four years, approved $50 million worth of developments, cleaned up Kings Cross, removed a lot of graffiti and put the first bicycle path through the city. As Manning puts it, Lucy and Malcolm were now a “true political double act.”
From here it was a long way to the top. Four hundred of his supporters showed up in Federal Parliament on November 29, 2004 to hear his maiden speech. Opposition Leader Mark Latham quoted John Lennon, saying the audience could “perhaps, instead of applause, they could just jangle their jewellery.” Turnbull continued to boost his profile, speaking out on unfair dismissal and work choices, before it was “dead, buried and cremated,” and climate change. Howard promoted Turnbull to Cabinet in 2007 as Minister for Water Resources and Environment. As things went sour for the Coalition Government in 2007, Turnbull told Howard he should consider resigning (at least he had the courage to do so). Malcolm had the fight of his political life in Wentworth, but managed to win. When he called John Howard to tell him the good news, the prime minister wasn’t very happy as he’d not only lost his leadership, but his seat as well. Empathy was still not a strong point with Malcolm.
Turnbull became Opposition Leader in 2008 after behaving badly toward the incumbent leader, Brendan Nelson. Nelson suggested Turnbull had “a narcissistic personality disorder,” which took a battering with the Godwin Grech affair. It’s a long and complicated story, but can be summed up thusly: Grech was a Treasury official who leaked Labor policy details to Turnbull, persuading him that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan had done an underhanded deal over a 1966 Mazda Bravo Ute (hence the nickname: “UteGate). The evidence for this was a fake email forged by Grech. It was a monumental blunder by Turnbull, made worse when Australian Story filmed the Opposition Leader as the story broke, prompting Lucy to say: “How can you concoct an email?” It led to a censure motion in Parliament by Kevin Rudd, who said Turnbull was not only not fit to be opposition leader, “but he has also disqualified himself from ever being fit to serve as leader of this country.” It was perfect at that moment, but it wasn’t the only time Kevin Rudd had gone too far in a political assessment.
Despite this spectacular setback, the backbencher became a shadow minister, then a minister and quietly waited nearly six years to knife Tony Abbott and achieve the title he’s always wanted: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. So far the new PM has lifted his popularity and pounded Labor leader Bill Shorten in the polls, who at one stage was rating 14 points as preferred prime minister to Turnbull’s 69 per cent. The jury is still out on whether Malcolm Turnbull is “born to rule” for as long as Menzies or Howard.
But you can’t argue with the Liberal Party historian, Ian Hancock, on his assessment of Menzies and Turnbull as having the same characteristic: “Born to rule.” Hancock told Manning: “Being born to rule and being picked out as somebody who has obviously got this capacity to be at the very top doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get there. You’ve got to fight.”
Malcolm Turnbull is a fighter.
I can recommend Malcolm Turnbull: Born to Rule as a very readable and insightful profile of the Prime Minister, with myriad stories and comments. The former Fairfax business journalist Paddy Manning does get bogged down in some of the details on financial stories like Tourang, Ozemail, HIH and NBN, so you can skim through those chapters, but I applaud his footnotes – they’re at the back of the book so you don’t get distracted. And there are many: see pages 393-431. I also hate clichés (who doesn’t, except politicians), but I wasn’t as bothered by Manning’s use of them as the esteemed novelist and playwright Louis Nowra was in his excellent review of the book in The Weekend Australian of December 5-6.
9781760290542
And while we’re discussing footnotes, I was given a book for Christmas which tells the other side of the story. It’s about another politician, who wasn’t born to rule, but became prime minister anyway, and it also has footnotes, but they’re all at the bottom of the page. The Short and Excruciatingly Embarrassing Reign of Captain Abbott by Andrew P. Street (Allen & Unwin, 293 pages) tells that story in a droll and snarky sort of way. The footnotes are frequently funny, but there are too many of them and some can be distracting. The first one is on page 3 and refers to the “unambiguously bang-on title”: “1. Let’s be honest, you knew exactly what this book was about the second you picked it up. Thanks for doing so, by the way. Very good of you, and don’t think it’s not appreciated.”
Street is a Fairfax columnist who chronicles the gaffes, blunders and disasters that beset the Abbott government, including the one that cemented Tony’s nickname as “Captain.” It was his captain’s call to bestow a knighthood on Prince Philip, which caused whoops of hilarity around Australia and was the beginning of the end of the Abbott prime ministership. In one chapter, Street paints a Monty Python-like conversation between Abbott and an imaginary staffer who cannot believe the Prime Minister’s insistence that the Prince needs recognition. Here’s an excerpt: Imaginary Staffer: “… he needs to be given some recognition, you think?” Abbott: “Look, just send the damn email.” IS: “Rightio then. Anyone else I should know about?” Abbott: “Well, I’m also thinking we should make Queen Elizabeth a dame.” IS: “Let’s save that one for 2016, maybe.” Abbott: “Eh, fine. Hey, how’s about Pope Francis?”
If you don’t mind reliving the short and excruciatingly embarrassing reign of Tony Abbott, and need a laugh or two, buy Street’s book. He’ll be very grateful.

My Gonzo blog: 2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats analysts prepared a 2015 annual report for my blog (see below if you want to read the full report). I had fewer posts than last year, due to an increased work load, mostly journalism awards judging, grandchildren minding (a third grandchild was born in September!), and writing assignments for the Walkleys and the NSW Finance Department. And I decided I would only publish a post when I had something to say! But the good news is that the blog was viewed the same number of times in 2015, as it was in 2014. Thanks for your comments. One of my favourite (and most prolific) commentators was former Channel Nine editor, Steve “Slam” McQueen, who died last year. I wrote posts about him (May 31, 2015), my brother Jack and Sydney Swans legend, Adam Goodes (September 11, 2015), and my cousin Tom Gannon, who has just published a book of his poems I highly recommend (November 9, 2015). I have a couple of book reviews which I will publish soon (as soon as I finish reading the books!) Hope you all have a Sweet Sixteen, especially Villanova University, whose basketball team is ranked 11th in the nation in the US!

Here’s an excerpt from the WordPress analysts:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,400 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

From the City of Flowers to the City of Light: You can’t break our spirits

“You can break our hearts, but you can’t break our spirits, I think that’s what Sydney showed on that day.”
That was the New South Wales Premier, Mike Baird, speaking today on the first anniversary of the Lindt Café Siege when the Iranian refugee and gunman, Man Horan Monis, held 18 people hostage for 17 hours – a siege that ended in the deaths of café manager, Tori Johnson, and a regular customer and well-known barrister, Katrina Dawson. It brought home on a perfect Christmas shopping day how close we are to terrorism, whether by a lone wolf, as alleged in the case of Monis, or by a 15-year-old boy who killed NSW police accountant Curtis Cheng outside Parramatta police headquarters in October. The boy, shot and killed by police at the scene, was allegedly mentored by four males, aged between 16 and 22, linked to the clerk’s shooting.
Today, the Sydney Morning Herald said in an editorial, questions lingered on a year after the siege: “… debate rages as to whether Monis was a terrorist or a mentally ill criminal with a vendetta against the justice system dating back to a long running battle in the Family Court. What is important is how someone likely to commit violent acts masked as terrorism or open to incitement to criminal acts under the direction of extremists was able to carry them out in the midst of Sydney’s bustling financial district. Since the Martin Place siege a 15-year-old boy under the influence of Islamist extremists has killed a police clerk … a number of Islamic State sympathisers have been arrested across Sydney. Australians have been involved in IS operations in the Middle East.” Tonight,Sydneysiders will attend a public ceremony at Martin Place to mark the anniversary and remember the victims as images of the myriad floral tributes left at the site last year will be projected on the café windows, along with the countless notes and messages (Top of page: Family and friends of Tori Johnson pause to read messages of support at the site in 2014. Photo by Adam Taylor News Corp Australia).
UPDATE: Hundreds gathered in Martin Place on Tuesday night to remember the victims, with families and friends. The Ascham Chamber Choir sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow in honour of Ms Dawson. The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and the NSW Governor, David Hurley, read some of the messages and notes left by the mourners. Mr Turnbull read a note that echoed many others with these words: “Love is greater than hate.”
And I will remember Paris from only a month ago. Ever since the terror attacks on the City of Light on a Friday night in the middle of November, I have been trying to work out what to say on my blog about a Paris I haven’t visited for more than 40 years but still love. It’s not that I’m hoping to be profound, although that would be nice, but just to give readers something different to think about.
Finally, I found it – empathy, a word often used on this blog. Putting yourself in the shoes of the innocent victims in those horrible Islamic State murders, with the executioners gunning them down one by one in the Bataclan theatre. (Wounded being evacuated from Bataclan. Photo below: Yoan Valat/EPA) Nineteen-year-old Emma Parkinson from Tasmania, who was shot through the thigh, summed it up on 60 Minutes: “They were … laughing and being happy and doing what young people do.” She also took a shot back at the terrorists: “The only reason why you would want to target that specific demographic would be to incite hate and to incite fear and to try and make people afraid.” They were aiming at the Charlie Hebdo generation – the youths who shouted or carried signs saying: “Je suis Charlie,” after the attack on the magazine which dared to mock Muhammed.
vcm_s_kf_repr_620x413
Then there were the police and security services who had to deal with a well-organised group of terrorists, capable of launching several attacks at the same time, using bullets, bombs of the suicide kind, and mobile shootings of the drive-by kind. The law enforcers were scared, too.
Hardest of all to empathise with, would be the Islamic extremists, who screamed Allahu Akbar as they calmly killed people they had never met. But we have to empathise to a certain degree, otherwise, we will never defeat them. And there were many times that weekend where I found myself fantasising about shooting down a jihadist, even though I never pulled a trigger on a real gun in my life. What would I say to an extremist before he or she killed me? “I suppose a beer would be out of the question,” surely wouldn’t work, and I certainly couldn’t quote a text from the Koran. I’m guessing I’d be one of the first to go.
Then, more food for thought. Out of the blue came another terrorist attack, this time in the relatively affluent city of San Bernardino, only kilometres from Los Angeles, at a Christmas party for county health workers. Syed Farook, 28, a county environment health inspector, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people and wounded 21, at the holiday lunch. Farook was a US citizen, who was born in Chicago, while his wife was a Pakistani, who pledged allegiance to Islamic State on Facebook on the day of the massacre. The FBI says they had both been radicalised before they met and married, and had been planning it for some time.
la-me-san-bernardino-shooting-pictures-20151202
(LA Times photo above of mourners in San Bernardino at the weekend)
The attack spread fear throughout the county, and has sparked a rise in gun sales for protection in the politically conservative region in southern California. A resident, Matt Nicholson, told the Los Angeles Times, he had never owned a gun before, but decided it was time. He only lived 8 kilometres from the shootings: “It was a little too close to home.”
The terrorist couple were said to be living the American dream in Redlands, with their six-month-old daughter, and his mother living with them. They dropped the baby off with his grandmother before going on their killing spree. They also managed to secure at $38,000 loan and take target practice to get ready for their suicide mission. They died in a shootout with police.
This is when Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump got involved. He called for a ban on all Muslims from entering the US, comparing his proposal with President Franklin D Roosevelt placing Japanese in US internment camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Trump unleashed criticism from prominent Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but they said they would support whoever won the nomination.
Trump didn’t stop there, suggesting some areas of London were “no-go” because they’d been radicalised. The ever effervescent Mayor of London Boris Johnson couldn’t resist having a go at the presidential candidate: “… I have to say when Donald Trump says that there are parts of London that are no-go areas, I think he’s betraying a quite stupifying ignorance that makes him frankly unfit to hold the office of president of the United States. I would invite him to come and see the whole of London and take him around the city except that I wouldn’t want to expose Londoners to any unnecessary risk of meeting Donald Trump.” Donald Trump got into a war of words with another mayor, this time, Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, where politicians speak plainly, sometimes too plainly. Mayor Nutter, who is not really a “nutter,” described Trump as an “as_hole,” at a press conference, which included members of the clergy. He later apologised to the clergy. Trump responded, calling him a “low life,” tweeting he was a “crude dope.” I must admit it’s difficult to empathise with Donald Trump, but a lot of Republicans seem to have no problem doing just that.
Back to terrorist attacks and Muslim fears. Mayor Nutter’s outburst at Trump came at a press conference on the desecration of a mosque in Philadelphia, when a severed pig’s head was found outside the door of the Al Aqsa Islamic Society. Yasmine Mustafa, a refugee from Kuwait, who came to Philly with her family in 1990 to flee Saddam Hussein, told the Philadelphia Daily News she was worried that hatred and stereotyping would intensify against US citizens of Middle Eastern descent after the San Bernardino shootings: “It’s routine. You feel horror for the victims and their families. And then the worry begins.”
vcm_s_kf_repr_369x450
(Yasmine Mustafa, Photo Daily News staffer Alejandro A. Alvarez)
Daily News Columnist Ronnie Polaneczky points out Yasmine’s anxiety has spread around the world, with hate crimes against Muslims increasing threefold in the United Kingdom alone following the Paris attacks, according to Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), a UK non-governmental organisation. Anti-Muslim sentiment is already five times higher in the US than it was before the attacks of 9/11. And Yasmine and her family have experienced racism since the planes flew into the Twin Towers.
She tells the story about how the day after the bombings, her boss asked her: “You don’t know how to fly a plane, do you?” She was fired a few days later. Now aged 33, she runs her own start-up company in West Philly, ROAR for Good, producing safety jewelry that emits alarms, aimed at reducing assaults. With pre-sales going well, she plans to ship the pendant/pin called Athena to buyers in 47 countries in the northern spring.
Ronnie Palaneczky writes: “A percentage of ROAR for Good’s proceeds will be invested in nonprofits that are teaching children about empathy and healthy relationships, so that, one day, maybe no one will need a device like Athena.” As Yasmine puts it: “I want to make the world safer and better for everyone.”
Safer and better even for those who hate Muslims. We can but hope, Yasmine. The problem is how to handle those terrorists who empathise with groups like ISIS and kill innocent people in the name of Allah.
I’m not sure what the solution is. But I doubt that allowing people to buy guns for home protection is a good idea. The Los Angeles Times reports: Following the mass shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, Chattanooga, Tennessee and Roseburg, Oregon, so-called Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving on November 27, was the busiest single day for gun dealers since at least 1998. That was the same day a gunman killed three people including a policeman at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.
From a military point of view, the Paris attacks led French President Francois Hollande to declare a “pitiless war against the Islamic State,” and Russia to start supplying weapons and air cover to the opposition Free Syrian Army. While Australian counterinsurgency expert, David Kilcullen, applauds the cooperation by Europe, Russia, the US, Australia and other Western nations, he made this warning in the Weekend Australian of November 21-22: “Clearly Islamic State is far from contained. And given the atomised highly connected nature of the threat – and the possible emergence of low-grade urban guerilla warfare in Europe – it may be worth asking whether containment already may be overtaken by events. Urban guerilla warfare, indeed, could be coming soon to a city near you.” What can we do in Australia if urban guerilla warfare is coming to city near us? Stay calm, hope that Australian officials make rigorous checks of refugees coming here, and keep an eye on anything suspicious in your neighbourhood. I never thought I’d write that, but I’ve been thinking about it since the Lindt café siege in Sydney a year ago which left two innocents dead.
The latest Official Terrorist Threat Travel Bulletin from the Department of Foreign Affairs warns Australians and Australia are viewed as targets by terrorist groups: “Attacks in Paris in November 2015 have highlighted the capacity of terrorists to conduct attacks against soft targets in Western countries with little or no warning.”
Let that be a warning to all of us.

Food for a Journey: Poems and prayers and memories of a renaissance man

I have written many book reviews over the decades, but this one means a lot to me. It’s about a book of poetry by my cousin – a friend, a former priest, an editor of an acclaimed Jesuit magazine, America, an appellate attorney in the Criminal Division of the US Department of Justice fighting for social justice for the poor, a writer, and recently, an artist (photo above of Tom Gannon with some of his paintings at an exhibition last year).
Tom Gannon is a modern renaissance bloke, a family man, and a serious poet since 2013. Yes, I’m going to write a favourable critique of my cousin Tom’s book, but it has nothing to do with family ties, except that I always knew Tom would publish a book one day. He’s a great writer. When he was an editor for America, I read a few of his pieces and they were always good. The magazine’s offices were in New York City, and occasionally Tom and I would get together for a beer at the student bar near Columbia University at 110th & Broadway on a Friday afternoon after school.
The beer was good, the juke box played MacArthur Park and Didn’t We, songs written by Jimmy Webb for the album, A Tramp Shining, sung by the actor Richard Harris. It was 1968. I talked about the difficulties of teaching in a Catholic primary school, Corpus Christi, just up Broadway on 121st Street, one of many 20 somethings working in a disadvantaged area to avoid getting sent to Vietnam. Tom talked about editing the magazine and politics. He didn’t get ordained until 1970, and on the Saturday morning of the ordination, I caught a train from New York to the church in Philadelphia where I jokingly asked the new Father Tom to give me last rites. I had a terrible hangover, a result of a night at the local pub after a week of teaching. As I remember, he gave me his blessing instead.
Tom Gannon was a good priest and possessed a professional confessional manner – not that I ever asked him to hear my confession, except I guess unofficially in that Broadway bar – but I wasn’t surprised when he left the priesthood in 1978. He married his childhood sweetheart, Ann, shortly afterward, and they had two children, Mark and Kate, both of whom, you will not be surprised to learn, are now attorneys, living in Washington, DC. The family that studies together stays together.
Given his background, Tom was predestined to become a poet. Born and bred in an Irish Catholic family with a love for life, literature, and sport in the City of Brotherly Love, his autobiographical and poetical journey begins in South Philadelphia:
A rowhouse in South Philly,
Home of cheesteaks and hoagies,
Phillies and Flyers and Eagles.

Those first three lines of Indifference are a reminder of what it was like growing up in Philly: On a street full of closely connected rowhouses where you knew everybody on the block, all bound by a common taste for iconic sandwiches – the cheesesteaks even featured in the first Rocky movie when the boxer and his mates have a late night snack at Pat’s Steaks; the hoagies are what Subway tries miserably to emulate – and the city’s sports teams, perennial losers, who the knowledgeable Philly fans love to boo, but never leave till the Fat Lady sings. The rest of the poem is how the narrator gets pushed into a chute pouring coal into the family home. Coal was delivered like that in the 1940s and 50s. The young boy hits his face on the grate, but with the pain …
Came insight:
This small world of mine,
It was not what I thought it to be.

In Teaching Method, the memory is about the struggle with Latin suffered by so many students in Catholic high schools. Their goal: to learn Ten new vocabulary words,/A sentence of lofty Roman rhetoric,/Two lines of dactylic hexameter./Not a high bar to get over. How did they do it? It was the teacher’s command at the beginning of each class: “Take out a half-sheet.”/The matters they are quizzed on/Will stay with them./Bet on it.
If you were a sports fan in Philly, you lived and mostly died with the Phillies baseball team. One of my favourite poems in this collection is The Man: A Memory. The man is Stan Musial, the Hall of Famer for the St Louis Cardinals, who was facing the Phillies in a twilight double header at Connie Mack Stadium in another neighbourhood of rowhouses. Stan the Man is one of my heroes and I have written about him before, in a review of George Vecsey’s wonderful biography. Gannon’s description of Musial’s game-winning hit is beautiful: He uncoils from his crouch./Bat meets ball with a sharp crack and/The ball rockets though the warm July air/Towards the gap in right center field …/No fly ball this. More like the mother of all line drives. The Phillies’ Del Ennis hits a game-winning grand slam home run in the second half of the doubleheader, more dramatic than the Musial double, writes Gannon. But that line-drive double,/Almost sixty years later/Upon the death of the Man,/Is a memory still to be treasured. Hear, Hear Tom Gannon.
The former priest has an affinity for the small brown men from/From Guatemala and El Salvador/From Puerto Rico and the Dominican who have come to a county prison in the Pennsylvania Dutch country – Men of small crimes/That match their stature,/Caught up in a system they barely/Understand and cannot speak. Enter a seminarian from Spain, the Cigarette Man, who wins over the prisoners by grabbing a carton of Lucky Strikes, and smoking and chatting with them over several weeks. The last four lines:
The brothers ponder the mystery:
Who would have thought that
The path to a prisoner’s soul
Might lead through his lungs?

vcm_s_kf_repr_161x241
Lest this review get too long, and I wind up quoting every poem, let me concentrate on three of the best. The title poem, Food for a Journey, is a lovely autobiographical reminiscence. It’s about a newly ordained priest, working as an editor on a magazine, who wants more experience with people, when an opportunity emerges to work for two weeks in a hospital. Perfect. He offers Mass, gives Communion to the bed-ridden, hears confessions, but does not have the words to console a single mother/Who has lost her four-year-old son. Then he has to give communion to the most famous football coach in America, Vince Lombardi, who is battling cancer at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington. The priest approaches the room with trepidation, but the coach’s wife sends him away because Lombardi is having a blood transfusion.
Soon after, a nurse rushes up to the priest: “Father,” she says, “you have to come back to the coach’s room,/When he found out that his wife had sent you away,/He hit the roof.” The coach is sitting up in bed and says: “We had some trouble, Father,/but we got that straightened out.” The priest gives him a tiny piece of the host, and the coach thanks the novice priest, who returns to his magazine. The final stanza brings it all together: A few days later/The next stage of the coach’s journey begins.
Changing Times is a journey through one of the worst political events in American history: the 1968 Democratic National Convention when Chicago Mayor Daley and the city’s police force made sure the worst possible candidate became the party’s presidential nominee. The delegations from New York and California were banished, like unruly children,/to the farthest reaches of the convention floor/To be seen and not heard.The protesters told the police the whole world was watching as the constabulary charged the marchers with riot batons.
The poem begins with a young woman sitting at a piano, getting to ready to play … by part two After the beaten and bloody had retreated/into the relative safety of the Hilton; After a senator from Connecticut/Dared to accuse the mayor of/Using Gestapo tactics/on the streets of the mayor’s city; After multiple Johnsonian humiliations of Hubert Humphrey/Turned the vice-president into damaged goods,/Yet culminated in his nomination for/The highest office in the gift of the American people; the young woman started to play for a party that would never be held – The party that would have celebrated/The McCarthy nomination.
She picked out the Dylan song,
“Come gather round people
Wherever you roam.”
No need for sheet music.
She knew the song by heart,
Played it like a funeral dirge,
If not for the country itself
Then for a vision of the country
That had just died in its own small way
On Michigan Avenue,
And that was dying daily
In another, more deadly way
In rice patties and jungles hills
Half a world away.”
The poem ends with this brilliant stanza:
It was the end of August in 1968 and
The times, they were a-changin’.
No question there, but
For better, for worse? Who knew?
Even now, many wars later, who knows?
Last, but certainly not least, is Gannon’s piece de resistance, Saddest Words. It reminds me of a poem by the great American writer, Robert Lowell, For the Union Dead, a eulogy to a Civil War hero, Colonel Robert Shaw, and his Massachusetts 54th Regiment, composed entirely of black soldiers. Published in 1960, the poem compares the brave Shaw and his soldiers with present-day Boston and its lack of compassion for the monuments of the past. The monument to the regiment sticks like a fishbone in the city’s throat.
Saddest Words pays homage to the soldiers and marines home from America’s most recent wars, now lying in rest in the newest part of the Arlington National Cemetery: Section 60. Gannon uses a series of questions to ask what would have happened if Bill Clinton had not had a sexual liaison with Monica Lewinsky. There would have been no occasion for the President to be impeached, No occasion for thousands of Floridians/To be so offended by presidential tawdriness/That they vote for the man born on third base. George W. Bush, of course.
Gannon goes on to imagine what would have happened if the new President (Al Gore) had taken seriously the warning of intelligence agencies about a Saudi Arabian fanatic (Osama bin Laden) and his declaration of war: Those agencies concentrate on a man/ in custody in Minnesota for immigration violations,/a flight school student who wants to learn how to fly large jetliners, but not how to land them. The concentration foils the plot and removes any reason for the invasion of Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq and Removes any reason for/Cemetery officials to open Section 60.
After the ceremony to honour the dead, and the mourners and soldiers disperse, there is a lingering feeling:
So painful a feeling that
No one dares voice it.
It has been growing
For a decade, this feeling.
The solemn scene, the solemn ceremony,
They have revived it,
The feeling that
These burials did not have to be.

Those are the saddest words from the saddest acre in America. Food for a Journey is food for thought on many subjects.
FOOTNOTE: If you want to get a copy of Food for a Journey, you can order it through the publishers, Antrim House, in Simsbury, Connecticut. Here’s a link to the ordering process, plus a biography of Tom and six poems from the book to savour: http://antrimhousebooks.com/gannon.html You can also order it directly from the author on tmgannon46@gmail.com Send Tom an email and he’ll give you the details. You can also click on this link to the Politics and Prose bookshop in Washington, DC, which also has copies of Food for a Journey: http://www.politics-prose.com/book/978-1-936482-33-7. And yes, Amazon.com has copies of the book. The last time I checked, the site said: “8 copies in stock. Order soon.” Enjoy.

The US presidential election: Only 368 days to go!

Pity the poor editorial page editor who has to predict who will win the US presidential election a year ahead of the ballot.
I was thinking that the other night as I listened to Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor of The Washington Post, who’s in Australia under the auspices of the US Studies Centre (USSC) at Sydney University. In his lecture at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Sydney (photo above of Hiatt at the lectern), Fred had to explain the slings and arrows of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, the pivot or rebalancing of American policy from closer to home to the Pacific, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, as well as Bernie Sanders/Paul Ryan crying crisis in the country.
When Tom Switzer, former editor of Spectator Australia, now a USSC research associate, in a post-lecture chat with Fred, suggested the US was headed in the wrong direction, Hiatt said Bernie Sanders has described the present situation in America as “a crisis, the biggest since World War Two,” and Paul Ryan, who will be taking over from John Boehner as Speaker of the House tomorrow, says: “The Republic is in danger,” and that’s the only reason he’s accepted the job. Fred Hiatt claims the US is in much better shape than other pundits say it is, and Switzer challenged him by asking how can that be when Trump and Sanders are attracting a lot of support and talking the language of reordering American priorities in favour of domestic affairs? For the past decade starting with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it spelled the end of American exceptionalism, as journalist Paul Kelly put it at the time. Given the debt crisis, budget showdowns, congressional paralysis, all taken together, how can we be optimistic that American will have the confidence, the leadership to bring peace and stability to the world. Switzer’s question was a long one, and well-directed. Hiatt paused and said: “Okay, now I’m depressed.” It drew a big laugh among the 60-strong audience, including journalists Colin Chapman, the ABC’s Andrew West and Paul Kelly, The Australian’s editor-at-large.
The long-time foreign correspondent, columnist and editorial page editor said he didn’t know the answer, but the obituary about the death of American leadership has been written before. But Hiatt admitted Congress ain’t what it used to be: “It’s very disturbing to see people in Congress who are willing to entertain the possibility of default.”
Fred Hiatt had a busy day on Monday, doing quite a few interviews, starting with a media breakfast also sponsored by the USSC, and a pre-record with Janine Perrett on The Perrett Report on Sky News. A former foreign correspondent, Perrett asked Hiatt about the impact on the new Speaker Paul Ryan of dysfunctional politics, the threat of shutdowns, “the rabble that is the far right of the Republicans that (former Speaker) John Boehner found it so hard to corral?”
Hiatt responded: “You know Ryan sort of made the condition for taking the job people would behave better and all those various factions of the Republican Party would come together behind him. And he’s certainly a popular and a very respected figure. At the same time, I don’t think he has healed the fractures of the party. I don’t think it’s possible to do that. I think he still has 30 or 40 or 50, depending on how you count it, members of Congress, who, on the Republican side, really don’t believe in compromise, and have a different attitude toward government from a lot of their colleagues. Is Paul Ryan going to be able to paper that over? I think it’s still going to be difficult.”
In another pre-recorded interview on Monday on ABC’s Lateline“, Emma Alberici asked Hiatt how big a threat Bernie Sanders was to Hillary Clinton. “Well in this election year I think anybody would be crazy to make a flat prediction,” he wisely replied. “Certainly nobody would’ve predicted a year ago that Bernie Sanders would be at 40 per cent, this socialist from Vermont. But I think you’d still have to bet that he’s not likely to win the nomination. And, you know, early enthusiasm doesn’t always translate into winning primaries.”
vcm_s_kf_repr_650x366
And on the Republican side, she asked what it said about the state of American politics that a real estate tycoon, Donald Trump, and a retired neurosurgeon, Ben Carson (Reuters photo above showing Carson campaigning in Iowa), are the party’s leading presidential candidates. Hiatt said: “I think it’s amazing to both Donald Trump and Ben Carson that they find themselves where they are. It’s certainly amazing to the Republican establishment such as it still is. You know, I think it says a lot of people are frustrated with gridlock in Washington. I think some people are angry about demographic changes in the country and believe the United States is changing in ways that makes them uncomfortable or that they disapprove of. So I think it’s a combination of things and I think a lot of people are just kind of sick of politicians who talk like politicians and sound like politicians and neither of those two fit that bill.” Overnight, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll showed Dr Carson took the lead over Donald Trump by 26 per cent to 22 per cent. Trump was not happy with being second and had a go at Carson’s denomination, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church: “I am a great Christian. I’m a believer, and I believe in the Bible.”
Back at the Radisson Plaza, we’ll let Paul Kelly take the last question (edited, of course) about the dichotomy between capacity and political will. “You argue US has the capacity and the ability to lead and lead effectively, despite the lack of political will … How we will see President Obama at the end of the day, an aberration, a one-off responding to George Bush pushing the system an alternative way or as the inaugurator of a New Norm … a president who is more cautious, reluctant to get involved in the world? ” Hiatt’s answer was a good one: “The brokenness of our politics means that it’s not safe to assume entirely that what’s happening represents the will of the people … that’s a big problem, but … these 40 House Republicans who are preventing Congress from governing, do not represent the majority opinion in the US.” And on the caution question, Hiatt said: “It’s striking that you see even Obama doing a lot of self-correcting in his last year, the Afghanistan change of mind is one, committing troops to Iraq is another, his UN General Assembly speech where he acknowledged it was a mistake to pull out of Libya so quickly. I think there is already a bit of a swing back. If I had to bet, I do not think the likeliest outcome is a permanent retreat and a sort of fundamental change.”
So there we have it: Barack Obama is an honest president, not a weak one. The United States is not retreating into isolationism. Hillary Clinton is leading the Democratic candidates but don’t bet against Bernie Sanders … yet. And two non-politicians, an African-American Evangelist neurosurgeon and a billionaire developer, are on top of the Republican nominee poll … at this stage.
It has to be said: Aside from Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side, and possibly Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard chief executive on the Republican side (and who would believe the Grand Old Party would ever nominate a woman to be president), this gaggle of candidates is not very impressive. If you are able to access it, tune in to CNBC on Foxtel to watch the main Republican debate this morning (at 9am Australian ET, the business channel showed brief excerpts on The Rundown program). The early debate featured the lowest-polling candidates, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and former New York Governor George Pataki. The main debate has just begun on CNBC with Carson, Trump, Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul at the University of Colorado. Ten candidates are too many for a debate, especially when you’re up against the second game of the World Series between the New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals.
Only 368 days to go until the next president of the United States is elected. Pity the poor editorial page editor and the American people.

Hillary and Bernie: Democrats debating the real issues

“It was a great night for Democrats.”
That was the reaction of Hilary Rosen, CNN political commentator, to the first Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate in Las Vegas. A Democratic strategist, she also thought it was a great night for her friend, Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady and Secretary of State.
The respected Washington Post columnist, EJ Dionne, tweeted: “#HillaryClinton’s good night: For a long time, even supporters wondered if she had it. Tonight, she showed why she’s running 1st #DemDebate”
Unlike the two Republican Debates, there was no name calling among the five candidates (AP Photo above by John Locher L to R: Jim Webb, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chaffee), no denigration of women, and no back or front stabbing. Of course, Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner, who could be accused of all of the above, was sending tweets like this one, putting down all the candidates: “All are very scripted and rehearsed, two (at least) should not be on the stage.”
Well, there was a bit of truth to what he said: Lincoln Chaffee, former Governor of Rhode Island and US Senator, and Jim Webb, former Virginia Senator, Assistant Secretary of Defence, US Marine Corps officer, journalist and author, looked good on paper, but not on the stage. Chafee kept saying how effective he was as a Mayor, Senator and Governor, but didn’t show it during the debate, and Webb kept saying he knew how to lead, but continually complained about not getting as much time as the other candidates. Chaffee boasted about the lack of scandals in his career, and Webb, in answer to a question for the candidates about the enemy they were proudest to have made, said it was the “soldier (in Vietnam) that threw their grenade that wounded me … But he’s not around right now to talk to.” The reply fell flat on the Vegas crowd.
After the debate, CNN correspondent John Vause, hoped to get a quick interview with Jim Webb, but the candidate zipped past in the middle of a media scrum, causing the former Channel Seven journalist to say: “Maybe that’s the last chance I get to talk to him because maybe after tonight, that could be the end of his campaign.”
The clear winners were Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the Independent Senator from Vermont and self-styled democratic socialist, who blasted Wall Street and the corporate giants, saying a political revolution was needed to get millions of people to vote against the billionaires who run the country. A revolution including tuition-free public universities, criminal justice reform, $15 minimum wage and electoral finance reform. You can see why the Republicans don’t like Sanders. I think Hillary finished just ahead of Bernie, but he had the quote of the night, defending Mrs Clinton over having a private email server when she was Secretary of State. She admitted it was a mistake, but the host Anderson Cooper kept pressing her on the issue. Finally, Bernie stepped in, and said: “I think the Secretary is right, and I think the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.” That drew big cheers in Las Vegas, and Sanders continued: “The American people want to know whether we will have an oligarchy as a result of Citizens United. Enough of the emails, let’s talk about the real issues.” The audience loved that and gave him a standing ovation. Hillary leaned over and shook his hand, saying: “Thanks, Bernie.” The Los Angeles Times had a good piece on Bernie “slaying the room” in Las Vegas with his email line that also prompted a myriad of tweets.
vcm_s_kf_repr_880x480
The candidates did talk about the real issues: income equality, the criminal justice system, the Middle East, paid maternity leave, the cost of a college education, gun control, immigration reform, electability and racism. The former Mayor of Baltimore and Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, made up for a past mistake on the “Black Lives Matter” issue by saying the movement made the point that “we have undervalued the lives of black people and people of colour. Black lives matter and we have a lot of work to do to reform our criminal justice system and reform race relations in this country.” O’Malley was the most impressive of the three other candidates but he still has a lot of work to do to catch up to Clinton and Sanders.
Hillary Clinton summed up the debate in her closing remarks: “I think what you did see, is that in this debate we tried to deal with some of the very tough issues facing our country. That’s in stark contrast to the Republicans who are currently running for president.”
One of the major issues where Mrs Clinton differs with Bernie Sanders is on gun control. Hillary Clinton said he voted against the Brady Bill, requiring background checks on gun purchases, named after Jim Brady, Ronald Reagan’s press secretary, who was shot during an assassination attempt on the president. She also said he voted for a bill that helped protect the gun industry, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Sanders said he believed in background checks, but he’s a senator from the rural state of Vermont and needs consensus: “What I can tell Secretary Clinton, that all the shouting in the world is not going to do what I would hope all of us want.” It’s no wonder that Hillary Clinton simply responded: “No, I do not,” when asked if she thought Bernie Sanders had been tough enough on gun control.
Senator Sanders came out slightly ahead on the issue of foreign policy where Mrs Clinton has been criticised for voting for the 2003 invasion of Iraq when she was a Senator. He called the Iraq war “the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of our country.” When Sanders said he would not support sending US combat troops back to the Middle East, Mrs Clinton interjected: “Nobody does, Senator Sanders.”
Democratic supporters (disclosure: I am one) will continue to be bombarded by emails from both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns, asking for donations and declarations that you will back their candidate. I do like Bernie Sanders, but I’m leaning toward Hillary Clinton, simply because she is more likely to be elected. Bernie wants millions of Americans to vote against the right-wing Republicans and the disgraceful Tea Party movement. But I’m not sure he can get that many people on side, and the silent majority will still decide this election. And it’s highly unlikely the gaffe-prone Vice-President Joe Biden will join the Democratic presidential race while Hillary is in the ascendancy.
A final thought: If Donald Trump can get the Republican presidential nomination, God forbid, and Hillary Clinton the nod from the Democrats, it will be a hell of an election campaign. My prediction: She will be the first woman in the White House to be called President, and not First Lady. I almost forgot: Bill Clinton will be in charge of baggage.

The coup that led to a Liberal dose of leadership blues

Journo 1: “Rudd, Gillard, Abbott, Turnbull. Isn’t it incredible? Since June 2013, four Prime Ministers.”
Journo 2: “And Rudd twice. Rudd, Gillard, Rudd.”
Journo 1: “Quite incredible.”
Journo 2: “So much dysfunction.”
Journo 1: “So much dysfunction, or is it so much lack of care in choosing your party leaders because although the system would allow this to happen here, we just don’t tend to see it.”
That was the reaction of two news presenters on British TV commenting on the leadership coup that resulted in Malcolm Turnbull becoming the 29th prime minister of Australia this week (Mr Turnbull shown above holding grandson Jack, from left, his daughter Daisy, wife Lucy and son-in-law James Brown. AAP Photo).
In other words, five prime ministers in five years.
The ABC played the clip, along with reaction from New Zealand and other media outlets in Europe, as it waited for Tony Abbott to make his last statement as Prime Minister outside Parliament House on Tuesday.
It all happened so quickly on Monday that I barely had time to grab a legal pad and start taking notes as Malcolm Turnbull challenged Tony Abbott’s leadership in front of a media mob on the parliamentary grounds. Turnbull’s attack was swift and brutal: “We need to restore traditional cabinet government. There must be an end to policy on the run and captain’s calls. We have to remember we have a great example of good cabinet government. John Howard’s government most of us served in. And yet few would say that the cabinet government of Mr Abbott bears any similarity to the style of Mr Howard.”
Nine’s political editor Laurie Oakes said Turnbull had to explain why Abbott needed to go. He wasn’t going to make the same mistake as Labor when they didn’t say why they got rid of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister. Oakes said on Nine News: “Malcolm Turnbull is not making that mistake, he’s laying out his reasons for wanting Tony Abbott gone and for thinking he could do a better job.”
The media coverage of the lightning coup was good, especially at Sky News with a excellent team of presenters and people on the road and behind the scenes (they’re all good, but special mention to my friend Brihony Speed). In Canberra, there was the dynamic workaholic duo of political editor David Speers and chief political reporter Kieran Gilbert, joined by journalist and author, Kerri-Anne Walsh, and columnist for The Australian, Niki Savva, who has written two superb pieces for the paper this week, and the odd politician who could be convinced to go on camera. In Sydney, there was The Australian columnist and Sky anchor, Peter Van Onselen, and radio broadcaster and Sky presenter, Paul Murray, joined by Kevin Rudd’s former political director, Bruce Hawker, political analyst, former Labor minister, and Sky host, Graham Richardson, and Sky host of The Perrett Report and The Friday Show, Janine Perrett.
There was a bit of argy-bargy between Van Onselen and Murray, the former backing Turnbull and the latter supporting Abbott. It was understandable in a super-charged atmosphere. Perrett talked about how the latest leadership spill would hurt business, as they want certainty: “The economy isn’t going to turn overnight.”
After Tony Abbott said the messages of support were pouring in for him, and repeated a Liberal mantra: “We are not the Labor Party,” he made a last-minute appeal: “I am dismayed by the destabilisation that’s been taking place now for many, many months and I do say to my fellow Liberals that the destabilisation just has to stop … I firmly believe that our party is better than this, that our government is better than this and, by God, that our country is so much better than this.”
Graham Richardson said Abbott “did exactly what he had to do. It was pretty good. It wasn’t a Churchillian statement.” The soon-to-be replaced Treasurer Joe Hockey echoed Abbott’s remarks: “We cannot, we must not become a carbon copy of the Labor Party. We cannot and must not make the same mistakes that were made in the Rudd and Gillard years.”
Soon other Liberals joined the “We are not the Labor Party” crowd, including former Victorian Premier, Jeff Kennett, who blasted Turnbull: “Disgraceful, selfish, he has always put his own interests first … What he’s saying is the Liberal Party is no different to the Labor Party and Malcolm Turnbull is our Kevin Rudd.” Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, hearing Liberals attack Liberals, joined in the fun: “Australia does not need another out-of-touch, arrogant, Liberal leader; Australia needs a change of government.”
But all the Liberal pleas fell on deaf ears. Sky’s sharp political correspondent Laura Jayes reported Tony Abbott had offered the influential Social Services Minister, Scott Morrison, the roles of deputy PM and Treasurer, but he declined. Morrison told Sydney 2GB radio’s Ray Hadley in a testy interview yesterday that he was stunned by the offer: “I supported the prime minister, he offered me the job of treasurer hours out from that ballot. He’d never done that before, he’d never had a discussion with me before about being his deputy leader. I can’t understand why I was being offered that job when he had showed such strong support for Joe Hockey. He was asking me to throw Joe Hockey under a bus.” http://bit.ly/1KpFgFu
vcm_s_kf_repr_650x366
From about 7pm Monday, everybody played the numbers game while the ABC broadcast news packages of the day’s events, including a profile of Malcolm Turnbull and the traditional vox pops with voters in the candidates’ electorates, Wentworth and Warringah. All the networks had reporters in the field seeking comments from commuters on their way home from work. The ABC also had a mini-profile of Tony Abbott, and of course, a reporter in Canning, the site of today’s WA by-election, as well as a comment from election analyst, Antony Green, on the possibility of an early poll. He didn’t think there’d be one. On 7.30, Leigh Sales interviewed Senator Arthur Sinodinos, back from the ICAC wilderness to support Malcolm Turnbull, because “old habits have returned” and Turnbull has “promised a more consultative style.” The excellent Annabel Crabb provided more analysis, followed by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, backing Abbott, and Senator Cory Bernardi saying he’d already received hundreds of emails from voters not wanting any change. Soon the ABC stalwarts, political editor Chris Uhlmann, chief political correspondent Sabra Lane, and political correspondent Greg Jennett joined Annabel Crabb to keep the coverage rolling, cancelling Australian Story, Media Watch and Q & A (much to the delight of some Liberal politicians).
After the usual walking into the party room by Team Turnbull and Team Abbott, the Chief Whip Scott Buchholz made it official at 9.47pm: “Malcolm Turnbull was successful 54 votes to 44, one informal vote,” and for the deputy leadership, Julie Bishop was far ahead of Kevin Andrews, 70 votes to 30. Malcolm Turnbull would be sworn in as prime minister. On Nine, Laurie Oakes offered his condolences to Tony Abbott: “You’ve got to feel sorry for the prime minister.” On Ten, veteran political analyst Paul Bongiorno said Abbott could be a lightning rod for destabilisation. Abbott, of course, denied this the next day.
At 10.41pm, Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop faced the media, apologising for being late. The PM-designate was grateful and gracious: “I want to say at the outset what a great debt the nation owes and the party owes, the government owes, to Tony Abbott and of course, to his family, Margie and their daughters.” And he proposed something the previous government was lacking: “We need to have in this country and we will have now, an economic vision, a leadership that explains the great challenges and opportunities that we face and describes the way in which we can handle those challenges, seize those opportunities and does so in a manner that the Australian people understand so that we are seeking to persuade rather than seeking to lecture.”
The next day, a buoyant Malcolm Turnbull was sworn in by the Governor-General with his family around him but Tony Abbott got in first with his last statement as Prime Minister. It summed up Abbott: Honest and humble, but not particularly gracious – he did not mention Malcolm Turnbull, which was understandable. He admitted it was a tough day, but was proud of what he had achieved: free trade agreements; a spotlight shone on “dark and corrupt corners of the union movement;” responding to threats of terror, and yes, stopping the boats, which made the government “better able to display our compassion to refugees.” He was the first prime minister to spend a week a year in remote indigenous Australia, “and I hope I’m not the last.”
But the bitterness came out later, directed toward some of his leaking Liberal colleagues: “We stayed focused despite the white-anting.” And he also targeted the media: “The nature of politics has changed in the past decade. We have more polls and more commentary than ever before – mostly sour, bitter character assassination. Poll-driven panic has produced a revolving-door prime ministership which can’t be good for our country and a febrile media culture has developed that rewards treachery. And if there’s one piece of advice I can give to the media, it’s this: refuse to print self-serving claims that the person making them won’t put his or her name to: refuse to connive at dishonour by acting as the assassin’s knife.”
Whew, Tony, why don’t you say what you really think? Well, I will say what I think. At the beginning of your government I believed you could become a good prime minister. I wrote a post about it in November 2013, where I talked about your days as a volunteer firefighter in the seat of Davidson, how you drove yourself to early Sunday morning interviews because you didn’t think Commonwealth drivers should have to work on the Sabbath, your commitment to children in remote Indigenous communities, and the fact that you were a nice bloke. http://wp.me/p1Ytmx-eo And I quoted Laurie Oakes, discussing Tony Abbott becoming a good prime minister with Fran Kelly on ABC’s RN Breakfast. Oakes said it was possible but Abbott lacked vision and forward thinking: “I think Tony Abbott has very cleverly repositioned himself, but he still doesn’t come across as a visionary. Tony Abbott only a few years ago said you really can’t expect a politician to be interested in anything beyond his own period in parliament. Well, that’s really a very limiting view for a politician to have. If Tony Abbott really believes that, he’ll be useless as Prime Minister. Prime ministers have to be forward thinkers, but if Tony Abbott wants to be a good prime minister, he’s going to have to think a lot further ahead than his own period in parliament, so we’ll see.”
I’m afraid we have seen. The CEO of World Vision, Tim Costello, and brother of former Treasurer Peter Costello, commented on Abbott’s capabilities on Q & A on Thursday night (postponed due to the spill): “I certainly believe that Tony Abbott was an incredibly effective Opposition Leader. You sometimes find that people are made for opposition and the step up to being Prime Minister is sometimes too great.”
Turnbullnametag20150919_085611
But now to the new Prime Minister. What chance has he of reunifying a divided party and defeating the Great Satan, Bill Shorten, in the next election? Well, the leaks, which Tony Abbott said he has never done and would never do, have been taken up by his Liberal allies inside and outside Canberra; according to Dennis Shanahan, political editor of The Australian, “cabinet figures contradicting Mr Turnbull’s claims about promoting women have been leaked; some of Mr Abbott’s supporters have had meetings; and Liberals are complaining they were kept in the dark over the Coalition agreement Mr Turnbull signed with Nationals leader, Warren Truss.” http://bit.ly/1QKGn8h
And as far as the promise of consultative government is concerned, a Canberra source told me Mr Turnbull still hasn’t called one of the ministers who is likely to be axed in the Cabinet reshuffle to be announced this weekend. I said: “Well, Turnbull could argue that he’s been too busy settling in to government.” The response was: “Yeah, too busy looking at himself in the mirror.”
Welcome to the prime ministership, Mr Turnbull. You have a tough job ahead of you.
PS Malcolm Turnbull’s name plaque in the photo above has a funny story attached to it. Twenty or more years ago when I was working at Channel Nine, I went to the Link Department to pick up tapes. Phil Mahoney, who ran the small office, said he had found the brass plaque in the bin, as Turnbull no longer worked at Nine (he was Kerry Packer’s lawyer). “Would you like it?” Phil asked. I looked at it, and said: “Why not? Just in case he ever becomes Prime Minister.” It took me a while to find it, but I’ve put it on the mantelpiece.

Are you okay, Buddy? It’s not a crime to say you need help

Depressed. Feeling down. In the dumps. Bitten by the Black Dog. Beyond Blue.
All the phrases and words above have been associated with depression. I have been thinking about depression for some time, as my brother Jack committed suicide 24 years ago in September 1991, and I have been asking why ever since. I know one major factor: he was suffering from clinical depression. He wasn’t well: he had diabetes, had to leave his job as an airlines baggage handler, and was seeing a doctor, but not for depression. A former US marine, he was 50 years old when he died.
If only I had known, I might have been able to call him from Australia and ask: “Are you okay?” That’s the name of the organisation R U OK? (www.ruok.org.au), founded in 2009 to encourage people to ask that question to help prevent suicide. About 17 years before Jack took his own life, I suffered from depression and couldn’t work out why. I was healthy, had a beautiful wife and baby girl, and a good job with The Australian newspaper. But I had this “black dog” – Winston Churchill’s term for his depression — following me. Fortunately, an excellent psychiatrist, a good friend of my wife, explained what clinical depression was, prescribed anti-depressants, and in a month, I was back to normal (still a crazy journalist, but a happy one!). I would have told Jack I think you’re suffering from depression, you need to tell your doctor and get some medication. But I’m not sure he would have listened.
Thursday September 10 was R U OK? Day in Australia, but it was still being commemorated in the US when this post was published. I often think of Jack. I was also thinking of Lance “Buddy” Franklin (Herald Sun photo above), the Sydney Swans super star who withdrew from the qualifying Australian Football League (AFL) final with Fremantle Saturday September 12 with an “ongoing mental health condition.” The Swans did not describe it as depression, but coach John Longmire said: “Lance is currently being treated for a mental health condition. It is a serious condition that he needs to spend some time away from the football club.” The club denied rumours about Franklin’s condition that were spread on social media, rumours so ridiculous I won’t mention them.
Franklin also suffers from mild epilepsy and suffered a seizure Friday September 4. He was taken to hospital, but discharged later that afternoon. The Swans said the epilepsy was not related to his medical condition and he played on the Saturday night against Gold Coast. In The Sydney Morning Herald, sports writer Andrew Wu says the Swans were advised by the hospital not to play Franklin on Saturday, but the club said specialists told the team doctor Nathan Gibbs he could make the final call. The legendary Swans doctor had treated Buddy for the condition previously and passed him fit to play. http://bit.ly/1ihsYJx
But this story is about depression: Franklin knew he had a mental health problem, and told his club about his condition. Years ago, players like him might have tried to keep it secret. Now sportsmen and women are willing to talk about it. Longmire said: “This is very common across society and across professional sport. Whilst it is a personal issue, plenty of people deal with it and are able to be very successful. It doesn’t hinder them one iota.”
Former Victorian Premier, Hawthorn Club President and BeyondBlue Foundation chairman Jeff Kennett told The Australian how much attitudes have changed in the 15 years since he helped set up BeyondBlue (www.beyondblue.org.au), a national organisation aimed at reducing the impact of depression and suicide: “I don’t know what it is that Buddy is dealing with, but if he has recognised that he has an issue, then he has taken the first step towards recovery. It is sad for Buddy and football in the short term but it is a wonderful illustration of how far we have moved the goalposts in the interest of those who suffer mental illness.” http://bit.ly/1L3ILqi
Kennett also said Franklin’s action and the Swans’ support could save more lives: “It’s not a crime to say you need help and he will probably return to football in a better place than he has been recently.”
JackPhoto
I’ve been a member of the Swans since 1982 and the club has been very supportive of their players and created a culture where everyone looks after each other. Model Jesinta Campbell, Franklin’s fianceé, had been on a shoot in Japan for the Nine Network’s Getaway program, but she posted a message on Instagram where she praised this support: “I would like to thank everyone for the support both Bud and I have received over the past few days. This is an extremely challenging time for us and has been for some time now, however it has been made easier by the love, understanding and support we have been given.” http://dailym.ai/1K9JwJf She also denied the rumours on social media.
Former North Melbourne forward Nathan Thompson, who suffered from clinical depression during his career, told SEN radio in Melbourne those who had it tried to hide it: “People in the most are very careful not to let anyone into their private sanctuary, and you become very good at hiding it out of the fear of the outcome, which is having to deal with the reality.”
A key forward for Geelong, Mitch Clark, was walked into the locker rooms by coach Chris Scott, after the player started crying at the end of a match earlier this year. Clark tweeted then: “Depression makes very little sense and rears its head whenever it chooses and unfortunately last night was one of those times. Like I have said I’m nowhere near ‘cured’ and still learning how to best deal with my dark days.” http://bit.ly/1JWbZ66
Those who suffer depression experience many dark days, but with support and treatment, they can get better. But they have to recognise and admit they have the illness. So the simple question, “are you okay?”, may produce a profound answer: “No, I’m not, but I’m doing something about it.”
The AFL community is also getting behind Buddy Franklin in his time of need. Ross Lyon, the coach of Fremantle, reminded us it’s only a game: “Buddy’s personal wellbeing supersedes that of the game. He’s an absolute star, and a great fellow. I really enjoy his company.”
And Jack (pictured above in 1959), I would enjoy your company if you were still with us. We could talk about the day you proposed a toast to the Reverend Martin Luther King Jnr in the bar across the street from our house in Southwest Philadelphia after a number of regulars started calling the civil rights leader “Martin Luther Coon,” on the first anniversary of his assassination in Memphis.
As I said in a previous post (http://wp.me/p1Ytmx-2B), I was never prouder of Jack than I was that day. And if I asked him then “Are you okay?” I’m sure he would have said: “Damn straight.”
Footnote: When I published this story on my blog and posted it on Facebook and Twitter, I was amazed by the response by friends who told me about their loved ones who had committed suicide. I never knew about the tragedy in their lives, and they didn’t know about mine. But times are changing and depression, it seems, is no longer a taboo subject. Jack’s daughters gave me the blessing to write about his suicide. They were the major reasons I waited so long to tell his story. They both agreed he was now at peace. Jack, it’s my turn to toast you. Semper Fidelis, my dear brother.
UPDATE: Thursday, October 8: Great news about Buddy Franklin. He attended a regular end-of-season meeting with the Sydney Swans yesterday in his first public appearance since his mental health issue was revealed. He looked fine and in good spirits as he attended the meeting accompanied by Jesinta Campbell. Sydney Coach John Longmire told ABC Radio he expected Franklin to join his teammates at pre-season training in early December: “Lance is coming along really well. He’s been getting great support from professionals, which is the way to do it. We’ve been leaving the support network to those professionals as they’re the ones with the most qualifications.”

Jarryd Hayne: The NRL star doing the hard yards in the NFL

Americans call it football. Australians call it gridiron. For the more than 40 years I’ve lived in Australia, I’ve had to listen to criticism of the most popular spectator sport in the United States.
Budding behemoths with huge helmets and too much padding, playing a 60-minute game that lasts more than three hours, and is too difficult to understand, with too many players on the field, too much hype and too much grandstanding, are just some of the complaints I’ve heard. Some have validity, but I have suggested bewildered friends could watch a game with me, preferably at the pub over a few beers, and ask any questions they want.
It’s an exciting sport, one I played as a teenager and have watched for more than 65 years.
Another person who finds it exciting is Jarryd Hayne, former National Rugby League (NRL) star, now a rookie vying for a spot with the San Francisco 49ers, one of the most successful teams in the National Football League (NFL). He wouldn’t be the first Australian to play for the NFL, but he’d be the first to make it as a running back and a kickoff and punt return specialist. It would mean he would gain yards, score touchdowns and help win games. In two pre-season matches, Hayne has 11 carries for 117 rushing yards. That’s 10.6 yards per carry – five yards is considered above average. The senior reporter for 49ers.com, Taylor Price, talks about Haynes as one of the good results the team learned from the victory over the Dallas Cowboys (Photo above of Hayne being tackled. If you click on the photo on the 49ers’ website, you can see a video of his first run): “Hayne’s first three touches on punt returns went for gains of 27, 34 and 23. The rookie running back showed off nifty cut-back skills on his returns, too. Hayne finished the first half averaging 28 yards per punt return.” http://bit.ly/1MPNs8C
I always thought Hayne would make it, but I wanted to wait until the 49ers made it official. I’m jumping the gun a bit because I think the media is putting too much pressure on Jarryd Hayne. He’s a level-headed 27-year-old superb athlete, but the hype has done in other careers. I’m hoping he and Jason Day can continue to handle the pressure with humour and common sense. I think they can.
While Australians have complained about the stop-start nature of gridiron and the duration of the game, I have always criticised the way Rugby League players have to put the ball back into play after a tackle. They have to pass the ball back with their foot, and this has always reminded me of Trigger, Roy Roger’s horse. When asked by the famous cowboy how old he is, the steed goes “one, two, three” etc with his hoof. Jarryd Hayne will never have to worry about passing the ball back with his foot as long as he makes the NFL.
Hayne has gone into a dedicated training program since he decided to pursue his dream. Despite being a former star in the NRL, he has remained humble. He believes in his ability to make it in pro football, but he’s no prima donna. This is what he told reporters after the 49ers beat America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys: “I’m over here having a crack and doing my best. But I’m still a long way off where I want to be. I want to go into games confident that everything I do, I’m comfortable with. I’m still learning. It’s only my second game. I’m still very fresh. People had a lot of doubts. People are kind of surprised, the way I’m going. But like I’ve always said, I’ve got confidence in my own ability that if I keep learning the game and keep growing every week, I can be an NFL player.” http://bit.ly/1JRGsHK
In an excellent piece yesterday, Will Swanton of The Australian explained how Jarryd Hayne picked up a new nickname in the US: “Midway through the first quarter against America’s Team, he took a towering kick in his fingertips, grabbing the ball over his shoulder while running backwards like Steve Waugh behind the sightscreen at the SCG. The grab earned him a new nickname: The Say Hayne Kid. Sounds clumsy. Huge compliment. It’s in reference to legendary American baseballer Willie ‘The Say Hey Kid’ Mays and his over-the shoulder catch in the 1954 World Series.” Of course, Mays was also known for his nonchalance in catching a ball as if it dropped in a basket in front of him. An Australian commentator on a Foxtel video said Hayne’s catch was “near impossible.” (You can see both catches on the videos in the SMH story: http://bit.ly/1JhYM9z) Over the shoulder catches are, in fact, de rigueur in the NFL, although this was quite a good reception. Hayne admitted he lost his way for a second and luckily found the ball over his left shoulder. This is where media hype took over.
But the Sacramento Bee NFL reporter Mark Barrows writing in the Sydney Morning Herald was full of hope, as well as full of hype: “Dear Australia: It’s probably safe to buy a red and gold No.38 Jarryd Hayne jersey now. Hayne’s chances of making the 49ers’ final roster jumped again on Sunday in Santa Clara after the former Parramatta Eels star had three more impressive punt returns and another long run when lining up at tailback.”
But the one person who will decide if Jarryd Hayne gets the 49ers’ guernsey is the San Francisco head coach Jim Tomsula: “Having the guts to leave what he knew … he walked away from all that to come do this. That’s what makes this thing special to me. You’ve got a guy who has never played the game. To be in the conversation for making a 53-man roster on an NFL football team when you’ve never played football, there’s the story. That just speaks for who he is.”
Well, coach Tomsula, just one small point. He has played football before, it’s just that he’s never played gridiron. But if he can continue to catch balls like Willie Mays, and sidestep and swerve like the legendary Cleveland Browns fullback Jim Brown, he will be wearing number 38 for quite a few years. Hayne reminds me of other famous running backs, Jim Thorpe, Bronko Nagurski, Red Grange, Steve Van Buren (a Philadelphia Eagles’ star in the late 1940s) and the Chicago Bears’ Gale Sayers, to name just a few. Today Will Swanton followed up his piece on Hayne by predicting why he’d make it in the NFL: “He has the 100kg bulk of the power athlete. He has the swiftness of the Olympic sprinter. He covers 40 yards in 4.5 sec. The low centre of gravity is a polite description of the large backside. He has a 37-inch vertical leap. The thighs are tree trunks.” http://bit.ly/1KiRHYy And Swanton points out something else that sets him aside from other would-be NFL aspirants: “The underestimated ingredient is his love of the sport. His lifelong devotion to the NFL has allowed the 24/7 study of the playbook. In his earliest 49ers sessions, clueless about where to stand and what to do, handwritten notes were tucked into his pants.” That’s what I call devotion.
No more hype from me. I think Say Hey Jarryd Hayne will make it in the NFL because he has what it takes, and will do whatever it takes to get there. My prediction: The Parramatta Eels will be leaving their Hayne in San Francisco.
UPDATE: Even Coach Tomsula is trying to stop the hype. San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Tomsula has admitted to “peeing on” Jarryd Hayne’s parade as he tries to hose down the hype surrounding the former NRL star. This report from Nine’s Wide World of Sports: “Obviously the guy is doing a nice job,” Tomsula told San Francisco radio. “When you think about it it’s kind of cool. I’ve been kind of been peeing on that parade, but you know what I’m saying. We don’t need to put the cart before the horse.”
It is not the first time that Tomsula has attempted to temper the excitement surrounding his Aussie prospect, aware of the pressure Hayne would be feeling. “After his game last week, from what I understand, things got nuts (in Australia). My biggest thing to all that. I really don’t see the need to put anything more on his plate,” he said in the lead up to the Dallas game. “He doesn’t need to try and carry a country on his back, or try to carry crossover athletes and all that kind of stuff. I just want him to focus on football. On the game.”
AND EVEN MORE HYPE: Channel Seven have reportedly entered into talks with NFL media executives to televise Haynes’ matches with the San Francisco 49ers this season. Keen to cash in on the huge interest in the former Parramatta Eels superstar, negotiations were opened after Haynes’ spectacular game against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday, News Corp reported. Seven already has exclusive free-to-air rights to show three NFL games each week.