Donald Trump

Trump’s response to NRL: “Ratings are down”

I’m not much of a footy-head, but even I was pretty chuffed to see that the Cowboys have made it to the Grand Final this coming weekend.

I don’t usually follow sport, but it seems like you can’t get away from football coverage at the moment. The Cowboys are in the NRL grand final. Richmond have made it through to their first AFL grand final since 1982 – sparking an uproar over which jumper they should be wearing.

And over in the United States, huge controversy is brewing over players choosing to “take the knee”.

It started last year, when Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the national anthem, in protest to police treatment of minorities. This season no team has signed him, which many believe is because he’s deemed ‘too controversial’.

Donald Trump reacted predictably to Kaepernick’s peaceful protest – by tweeting his outrage, and calling for players who don’t stand during the anthem to be fired.

Truthfully, I can understand why Trump is angry. Failing to respect the national anthem can be viewed as a disrespectful slight against veterans, soldiers and first responders.

But Trump’s indelicate handling of the whole affair has been a catalyst for tensions to build further.

Instead of acknowledging the situaton in a respectful way, he’s employed his trademark ‘bruised ego approach’, which has inflamed and inspired more players to exercise their right not to stand during the national anthem.

Over the weekend, AP reporters counted 102 players kneeling or sitting, and at least three raising their fists. Majority of the protestors are African American, adding even more tension. In response, Donald Trump tweeted:

“NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.”

“Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country. Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings!”

“Please (sic) to inform that the Champion Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL will be joining me at the White House for Ceremony. Great team!”

Trump’s tweets have prompted calls for Kaepernick to be re-signed. The controversy has also spilled over into other sports, with baseball and basketball players beginning to #taketheknee.

And all I can think is: if this is how Trump and his megalomaniac ego handles a relatively simple NFL controversy, how on earth are we going to avoid nuclear war with North Korea?

Gold Coast Suns player collared shirt

What the AFL really think of the Gold Coast Suns

The Gold Coast Suns didn’t even play at the weekend, yet somehow they have suffered the biggest defeat of the season.

Possibly the biggest of their short history.

Two completely independent situations – the Ken Hinkley and Gary Ablett situations – momentarily converged early this week thanks to an AFL media pack that is determined to see this upstart waste-of-money franchise fail and die.

For those that want to catch up on the latest double standard into double standards, Damien Barrett’s article on AFL.COM captured the mood best.

It, along with other articles and commentary this week, highlighted loud and very clearly just what the AFL community thinks of the Gold Coast Suns.

Let’s step outside Barrett-world for a moment and go through the two situations shall we;

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley, understandably unhappy about the antics of Chairman Mao (Koch), might have for several days at least pondered the prospect of coaching elsewhere in 2018.

Not the Suns fault at all.

Hinkley has strong links to the Gold Coast and would have obviously known that they were looking for a coach which may have heightened his indecision about his future.

Reports that Hinkley’s management was contacted by the Suns can be true, false or otherwise it doesn’t matter – if there is even the hint of blood in the water in footy then clubs swoop in when it is advantageous to do so.

Again, not the Suns fault at all.

The Suns are guilty of nothing here, every club does it multiple times a week from board members and senior coaches to star players all the way down the line.

Then there is Garry Ablett.

Paid much of his 2018 money already, Ablett will be very cheap for the Suns to keep on next season but if he requests a trade to Geelong as everyone expects, the Suns are absolutely within their rights to say no and thus force the little master to either suck it up for another season (this time surely in the fwd pocket) or retire.

No chance in hell is this the Suns fault and suggesting the Suns ‘can’t have it both ways here’ while still maintain the moral high ground is ridiculous because they absolutely can.

In one of these situations they have a contract with a player, the other is about a coach contracted elsewhere who may have been unhappy and looking elsewhere.

The reaction from the Melbourne and Adelaide media however has revealed just how steep the angle is for the Suns to push the proverbial uphill to get ahead in the AFL.

The way Barrett litigated the prospective ways Hinkley could (very legitimately) cancel his current contract was very telling, comparing Koch’s ridiculous post-game antics last week to something that Suns chairman Tony Cochrane might one-day potentially do or say.

It also shows just how quickly the Melbourne media go from ‘we all want to see the Suns go well’ to completely bashing them and throwing childish false equivalency claims at the club which gets gutted every off-season by Melbourne and South Australian clubs.

24 hours after the Melbourne and South Australian media had hopped on its soap box about Hinkley, the belligerent Suns and their double standards, the beleaguered Port Adelaide coach announced he would be staying at Port.

With the coup by the upstarts averted, everyone could go back to feigning sincerity when speaking about how much they wanted the Suns to succeed.

Road Rainforest

Redemption Road

There is no more powerful human narrative than the story of redemption, the assurance that no matter what evil we have done we can atone, strive to be better and ultimately find forgiveness. Not everyone believes in true redemption. But, like the good preacher, a good lawyer has to believe we all can hope to one day be delivered  from our sins.

Not so long ago, I’m aimlessly following my wife around a weekend flea market, trying to look interested in the recycled junk she keeps insisting would improve the ambiance of our home, when a guy who looks just like another ordinary everyday slob steps up to me and asks “Don’t you remember me?”

What can I say? He’s around 45 years old, an average-looking John Citizen with a bad comb-over and expanding waistline, and he bears absolutely no resemblance to anyone I ever knew.

“Sure,” I say. “Of course I do.” How could I not? When I last saw him, 25 years earlier, he was a wild young savage in a whole heap of trouble. He and his mates had loaded up on dope and booze, went for a joy ride, one thing had led to another, and someone wound up dead. He swore it was an accident, and for about two minutes it was all over the news, before he eventually and inevitably dealt down to manslaughter, and was carted off to gaol. His parents cried. The dead boy’s parents cried. It was an awful, tragic time.

But now my erstwhile client looked positively happy to see me, grinning proudly as he introduced the cute kid holding tight on to his hand. Life was good for him these days, he told me, he had settled down, got married, had some kids. He was in hardware now, flicked me his business card, and suggested I come see him if I ever needed doorknobs.

Go figure.

As he walked away with his little girl cuddling up to him I couldn’t help but bring to mind the curious case of Arthur J. Hutchins. Like my former client, Arthur was a wayward kid who once kicked up a heap of dust, and caused a lot of heartache.

In 1928, in Glendale California, nine year-old Walter Collins disappeared from his single mother’s house without a trace. When police went hunting for the missing boy, they eventually found Arthur, then an itinerant juvenile, sleeping rough and on the lam. But he was a big fan of Hollywood cowboy Tom Mix, so when he heard a kindly lady in California was desperate to find her long lost little boy, Arthur was happy to oblige, hoping he might get to Hollywood to meet his cowboy idol. He told police he was the missing Walter Collins whereupon, in a burst of publicity, the Los Angeles Police Department shipped him off to California, where they proudly reunited the grieving mother and her child.

When Christine Collins insisted the boy was not her missing son, police dismissed her as emotionally distraught. Uncertain, and under pressure, she took the boy home with her anyway. But when she returned Arthur three weeks later, the LAPD accused her of shirking her duty as a mother. And when she publicly embarrassed them with claims they had reunited her with the wrong child, they had her committed to an insane asylum.

Arthur Hutchins caused a lot of trouble before his masquerade was finally uncovered. He upset a lot of people, not least of all the Police Department, and for his sins he copped two years in the Iowa State Training School for Boys.

He would later seek redemption, publicly apologising to poor Mrs Collins, and to the State of California. And it seems eventually he may have found it.

When Arthur J Hutchins died of a blood clot in 1954 at the age of 38, he left behind a grieving wife and a young daughter, Carol. In 2008, Carol Hutchins, by then an old lady, remembered her loving father fondly. “In my mind,” she was reported as saying, “My dad could do no wrong.”

I guess none of us could hope to do much better than that.

People sometimes do some monstrous things. That doesn’t make them monsters. As a lawyer I have to believe even the very worst of us is capable of true redemption.

In his 1959 memoir of his experiences in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, Jewish psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl wrote of a young Austrian doctor who became known as “the mass murderer of Steinhol”. When the Nazis implemented their so-called euthanasia program, the doctor was in charge of administering it at the Steinhol Mental Hospital in Vienna, and was singularly fanatical and efficient in ensuring no psychosis sufferer ever escaped execution in the gas chambers.

After the war ended, he was imprisoned by the Russians in one of the isolation cells at Steinhol, and later shipped off to the gulags of Siberia, and eventually to the infamous Lubyanka Prison in Moscow.

Years after the war, Frankl treated a former diplomat who had been imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain, and had met the former mass murderer of Steinhol. The diplomat reported the murderous doctor had died in a Soviet prison at the age of forty. His death was unremarkable, but his life was not. Before he died, the diplomat reported, the young doctor had undergone a profound personal reformation. He had striven to atone for his horrendous misdeeds, becoming a selfless and supportive comrade to his fellow inmates in the gulags, showing them constant and much-needed kindness and solace, and reportedly living up to “the highest conceivable moral standard.”

We all do bad things in our lives, some much worse than others. But likewise, whatever our sins, we all have the capacity for redemption, if we choose it, whether we’re a mass murderer, a wild young savage, or just a very naughty boy.

This article was first published in Ocean Road Magazine, Autumn 2016

Mum and Children

Was parenting easier a few decades ago?

After spending time with some relatives on the weekend, I left feeling anxious for my cousin.

“My son has not hit one milestone early or on time,” she said of her toddler (her only child).

“He was late to sit up, late to crawl, late to walk and now late to talk. When someone asks me how many words he has, I feel like I might as well be wearing a sign that says, ‘I’m a crap mother who doesn’t engage with my child enough’.”

She even suggested that she might put him into childcare a couple of days a week, at the prompting of a friend, so he could potentially learn more from the educators than he might learn at home with her.

I asked her where she felt all of this pressure was coming from.

Family, friends, online, social media, playgroup: these were some of the sources of her anxiety, she admitted.

“Everyone seems to be nailing it as a parent,” she said, “and I feel like I’m failing him.”

My advice to her – and to every other mum or dad who is experiencing the same feelings – is straight to the point.

Please don’t stress!

Kids hit different milestones at different times. One of my kids crawled at 5 months, while another didn’t even think about crawling ‘til a week before turning 1. My eldest could write her own name at 2 ½, but my other daughter is just starting to work it out now, aged 4.

Whether your kids go to childcare or not, they are learning every moment. They’re like tiny sponges: they learn from absolutely everything!

Going to the shops, mingling at playgroup, watching you cook, trailing you as you do housework, and (my personal favourite), overhearing your conversations… Whatever you are doing, they are watching, listening, absorbing and learning.

Sometimes, they just take their time in processing that learning into action.

I truly do wonder if parenting was easier a few decades ago? Before there were strategies to ponder, sleep training regimes to consider and philosophies to follow, parents just… parented. A return to this less structured way of raising kids could be just what the doctor ordered.

The Meddler

Assisted suicide: so harrowing, it’s unwatchable

What’s your view on assisted suicide?

Those of us who have watched someone we love die, generally have a different perspective than the people who are privileged enough to have a purely hypothetical view on the subject.

For those of us in this unfortunate club, it’s a no-brainer. Euthanasia should be a viable, legal end of life option.

For context, consider Greg Sims. He’s the focus of a new short film – it’s just five minutes long, but it’s very, very difficult to watch – which shows the awful, horrific reality of what it’s like to die of a difficult disease.

Stop the Horror is based on the 56-year-old’s painful death. He died 12 years ago, but not before suffering through torturous pain and crippling convulsions for days upon days in his hospital bed.

The gruesome film, created with Greg’s family’s participation, has been released as the Victorian government’s prepares to debate the assisted dying law in parliament.

Now, I understand the fears around euthanasia: the concerns that it will be abused.

But there are a number of restrictions and safeguards around the proposed law, which should address most (if not all) of them.

According to the law that will be put in front of parliament, a person who wants to access euthanasia will be required to:

• Make three requests within a 10-day period.
• One of those requests must be written and witnessed by two adults.
• One of the adult witnesses must be a non-family member, or someone who is unlikely to receive benefits in a will.
• The patient must be assessed by two doctors.

My dad is currently dying. He has end-stage pancreatic cancer, and he is fading away in front of us. He is actually too far-gone for the above conditions to apply to him, as he’s lost the ability to grip a pen and write. He recently reached the point where he couldn’t walk or go to the toilet by himself, so he has moved into a care facility.

And when I say he is a whisper of the man he used to be, I mean that literally: he is 40kg lighter.

He is sick, and weak, and pained. When he was first diagnosed with cancer, he pleaded with us: “Don’t let me fade away, and become bed-ridden and depressed. Put me out of my misery if it comes to that.”

It has come to that. And tragically, there is nothing we can do, but watch him deteriorate in front of our eyes.

Which is why I passionately believe that assisted suicide needs to become a viable medical option, Australia-wide – a true alternative to the completely torturous policies we currently have in place to manage end of life care.

What is your view on assisted suicide?