Category Archives: politics

Wikipedia – it’s a secret sect you know!

secret societies I do a bit web building for fun sometimes and I’ve been working on a wikipedia page for a while – it’s just been deleted.  I was told there was a discussion about it but I wasn’t told that it had been deleted….I am not a happy bunny! So I’ve told them – and I’ll tell you too 🙂

As I have just been informed that several hours of my work has been deleted I wanted to write and say just how disappointed I was with the decision. Disappointed on several levels

  1. The clique that edits wikipedia pages seems to have double standards
  2. You use your own language – you don’t make it easy for occasional editors/creators such as myself
  3. Your system of communication is not user friendly

So let’s look at Double Standards – XXX XXX’s page was deleted – yet Linda Morand‘s is allowed to exist without attack – despite the individual being no more “notable” and having no more references that can be proven within the confines of the web. And whilst I’ll accept that Naomi Campbell is far more notable to claim that XXX’s page was “self-promotion” when Naomi Campbell‘s isn’t??? That’s just ludicrous.

Your own coding, your own language your own little discussion groups and committees – it’s like the inner workings of the catholic church or some sect. It’s seems that you make your won rules and then ignore them when it takes your fancy!

Communication – well for those of us who do not only live within the wiki-world we have other means of communication – one’s we are required to give wikipedia when we register and ones we are far more likely to use (email perhaps!). I was aware that there was a discussion but I was not personally informed that the page was being deleted – nor that someone had decided that I had a conflict of interest in this matter. Where was the notification of that.

I don’t expect the situation to be resolved anytime soon but it made me sooo mad!!

October “Rant-Fest”

Ladies and gentlemen, many apologies for my absence but c’est la vie!  Now I’m back with a bumper multi-target rant for you all to enjoy.  So this October “Rant-Fest” contains a couple of pops at the government’s idiotic approach to big society, the A34 as it goes past Oxford and the Daily Mail’s online site!  Enough to keep you going for a while?  I think so!!


OK – Big Society – aka how can  the Tory government give you the impression that they’re spending less on public services when in fact it’s all going to their cronies in the private sector.

2 classic examples of bonkers budgeting in as many days.  Yesterday we had a press conference from Clive Grunshaw, Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire and Steve Finnigan, Chief Constable, Lancashire Constabulary about  ‘CATASTROPHIC’ PROPOSED GOVERNMENT FUNDING CUTS

Lancashire Police will “not be viable” after 2020 because of cuts to funding, the chief constable has warned.

It’s happening elsewhere too – today we have an announcement that nn RAF air rescue team based at Chivenor in north Devon has handed over its role to a private firm.

Bristow took over from the military at RMB Chivenor at 13:00 BST and will fly out of St Athan in south Wales.

Astonishingly and extremely concerning is the fact that the handover was delayed by four days because Bristow said it needed extra time.  Needed extra time?  I’m sure those people in need of rescue from today onwards are delighted to hear that phrase.

Aberdeen-based Bristow has won a 10-year contract to take over the service, which is being privatised around the UK.  The £1.6bn search and rescue deal with Bristow ends 70 years of search and rescue from the RAF and Royal Navy.

£1.6bn!!

Yea gods the mind boggles at the potential waste of skills, resources and the decline in the quality of the service that will be provided!


The A34 to the west of Oxford – or specifically the cretins that are responsible for the planning and delivery of road improvements in this area.  Basic physics will tell you that if you have a circular pipe of diameter let’s say “2 lanes” and you also have a another pipe of  let’s say “2 lanes” again and you want the flow from both of them to go through a single pipe of say “2 lanes” you’re going to have problems at peak flow times.

So why do you not plan to increase capacity in the area where this is likely to happen?

Because you’re cretins that’s why!

So not only do thousands of motorists like me on their way to work in the morning end up spending too much time crawling from jam to jam we are all increasing our petrol consumption alarmingly and adding to the levels of pollution as well!  Now for a council that is so right on they want you park outside the city and pay for the privilege of getting on a bus to get in this seems counter-productive.

The issue is compounded by the apparent lethargy of the contractors to finish existing road improvements- I believe the end date for some work going on on the ring road to the north of Oxford is November 2016 – 2016!!!


Finally, and I apologise for having visited the site in the first place, I have to blame Google for this, let’s look at the Daily Mail’s website.  We all know it’s a right wing rag so the political bias of its owners and editors – neither are the sort of people you’d want your daughter to bring home are they? – aside it’s the prurient nature of its celeb reporting on the home page that is so revolting – specifically the section they headline as “Don’t Miss” it’s just trash!  It’s offensive, idiotic, rude, dumb- in fact everything you’d use to describe a daily mail reader!


Right I’m outta here!

The truth about the A34 Oxford southern bypass works

Here what the council says and what the reality is!

What is happening?
Improvements to the Hinksey Hill interchange and Kennington roundabout were identified as critical to reducing congestion on the ring road and A34.

We realise we ***ed up by not widening the A34 (a major trunk road!) when we decided to use it as the bypass for Oxford but we’re still going to ignore that issue!

Kennington
The Kennington Roundabout will be converted to a ‘hamburger’ style layout. A new carriageway for eastbound traffic will go through the central island providing a more direct route through the junction.

However we’ll still ensure that there plenty of queues as we’ll make sure there are loads of traffic lights to stop you!

For westbound traffic the roundabout will be widened to provide two segregated lanes for people travelling towards the A34. There will also be two lanes for traffic turning at the roundabout to travel into Oxford via the Abingdon Road.

Yeh, whatever

Hinksey
The improvements at the Hinksey Hill Interchange on the A34 that will include a new ‘free flow’ slip road from the Southern Bypass south onto the A34, by widening of the approach to the roundabout and removing the need for traffic to stop at the traffic lights.

Because we’re ignoring the fact that the problems are actually for traffic trying to get off the A34 both South and North at peak times – not getting onto it!

Traffic will be able to travel through the area during the work, and businesses will be open as usual. However drivers are advised to plan their journeys in advance to take account of anticipated severe delays, however, this improvement work will bring major benefits to the flow of traffic to this congested part of the city.

We’re going to make you suffer – and if you believe that this will improve your journey to work if you have to go past Hinksey Hill – you’re living in cloud cuckoo land!

The decision to allow the A34 to be used as a ring road for Oxford – without widening it in the first place – ranks along side the decision to allow Esso to build a garage in what was the obvious place to continue the ring road around Bicester. Both the product of deluded minds!

‘West Wing’ Uncensored aka Aaron Sorkin is a genius

I absolutely loved the West Wing – I have the complete series and have watched it from beginning to end several times. The writing was just fantastic, something that Sorkin has proved again with The Newsroom but the West Wing was special….how special? Well sufficiently special for me to post the text of the Hollywood Report’s recent web article – in full – read, enjoy and then go watch it yourselves.

‘West Wing’ Uncensored: Aaron Sorkin, Rob Lowe, More Look Back on Early Fears, Long Hours, Contract Battles and the Real Reason for Those Departures

A version of this story first appeared in the May 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

NBC executives stood before a sea of media buyers in Avery Fisher Hall 15 years ago this month and unveiled a series they hoped would defy television’s odds. The show, titled The West Wing, from Sports Night producers Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme, would explore the personal and professional lives of those in the White House who worked directly for the President of the United States. And if viewers embraced it, the drama would become the first White House drama in the medium’s history to succeed.

The following May, that same Madison Avenue audience would rise to its feet when the West Wing cast, led by Martin Sheen, took the upfront stage, this time at the Metropolitan Opera House. “A standing ovation. I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is a phenomenon,’ ” recalls Warner Bros. Television chief Peter Roth. Although the unapologetically liberal drama only would crack Nielsen’s top 10 once in its seven seasons, it was showered with awards (26 Emmys, including four best drama series wins), critical praise and a high-profile fan base that included President Clinton.

Over the course of its run, The West Wing weathered its share of loss, both onscreen (Rob Lowe departed midway through season four; star John Spencer died during season seven) and off (Sorkin and Schlamme exited after season four).
Here, the cast, creators and executives involved look back at the series that paved the way for a new generation of political series from Scandal to House of Cards.

‘I’D LIKE TO DO A SERIES ABOUT STAFFERS AT THE WHITE HOUSE …’
AARON SORKIN: I didn’t really know anything about television beyond watching a lot of it, and my plan was to come up with an idea for a new play or movie, but my agent wanted me to meet with John Wells, and I said, “Sure.” The night before the meeting, there were some friends over at my house, and at some point [Akiva Goldsman and I] slipped downstairs to sneak a cigarette. Kivi knew about the meeting and said, “Hey, you know what would make a good series? That.” He was pointing at the poster for The American President. “But this time you’d focus on the staffers.” I told him I wasn’t going to be doing a series and that I was meeting with John to meet John — I wanted to hear stories about China Beach and ER, and I especially wanted to hear about his years as stage manager for A Chorus Line. The next day I showed up for the lunch, and John was flanked by executives from Warner Bros. and agents from CAA. John got down to business and said, “What do you want to do?” And instead of saying, “I’m sorry, there’s been a misunderstanding. I don’t have anything to pitch,” I said, “I’d like to do a series about staffers at the White House.” And John said, “We’ve got a deal.”

JOHN WELLS, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: I had a deal at NBC because they wanted me to continue to be involved in ER. So we developed West Wing there, but they didn’t want to do it right away. “The American audience isn’t interested in politics” and “there’s plenty of that on Sunday morning television” were some of the things I recall hearing. But I insisted on getting it made if I was going to stay with ER.

SORKIN: Don Ohlmeyer and Warren Littlefield were running NBC at the time the pilot script was delivered. Sitting in a meeting in Warren’s office with John, my sense was that the network executives were respectfully underwhelmed. Referring to one of the stories in the pilot that was about Cuban refugees fleeing to America on inner tubes and should we or should we not send the Coast Guard out to help them, one of the execs suggested that it might be better if [Bradley Whitford’s character] Josh Lyman went out and saved them himself. I tried not to make it an awkward pause before I said, “You mean actually swim?” He said, “No, that would be ridiculous. I mean he rents a boat. A motor boat, a skiff, but the boat’s too small to get all the refugees on board and he has a moment like Oskar Schindler where he’s saying, ‘I could have rented a bigger boat! I could have saved that guy over there and those kids over there!” It was hard to avoid the awkward pause then because I honestly didn’t know if I was being messed with or not, and I didn’t want to insult the executive or appear to be difficult to work with (even though I badly needed the network to pass because by this point ABC had ordered 13 episodes of Sports Night) so I said, “That’s worth thinking about.” Sometime in the middle of shooting the first season of Sports Night, Don Ohlmeyer and Warren Littlefield were replaced at NBC by Scott Sassa, who took The West Wing out of the drawer.

SCOTT SASSA, THEN-PRESIDENT OF NBC ENTERTAINMENT, WEST COAST: I was inexperienced enough in that job that I didn’t know why I should not like it, so we set it up.

PETER ROTH, WARNER BROS. TV EXECUTIVE: I joined Warner Bros. in February 1999, and the script had already been written. My introduction to Aaron Sorkin was when I called him and said, “I think this is the most brilliant script I’ve ever read, but you should know that in the history of television, there has never been a successful series set in Washington, D.C., on broadcast television.” To which he said, “Why should I care about that?”

FILLING THE WEST WING
SASSA: It was one of the first shows greenlighted that season but the last one cast. One of the things we got crap for was not having enough minorities, but what people didn’t realize is we had offered Sidney Poitier the president role.

SORKIN: Those talks didn’t get far. Next was Jason Robards, but Robards was in bad health, and it was determined that if the pilot got picked up for series, he wouldn’t be able to handle the schedule. We also read Hal Holbrook and John Cullum, and they were both great, but one day John Wells called and said, “What about Martin Sheen?” I’d loved working with Martin on The American President but didn’t think we had a shot at him for this. A few minutes later Martin called and said he’d read the script and he’d like to do it. At the outset, I’d imagined that the president was a character we’d only see once in a while, and so Martin was originally signed to a contract that would have him appear in four out of 13 episodes.

WELLS: Martin was the highest-testing character in the pilot, by far. The network said, “We probably want to have more of him.”

SORKIN: I offered Brad [Whitford] one of the leads in Sports Night, but he was also offered a lead in a Carsey Werner show [Secret Lives of Men]. The Carsey Werner show had a guaranteed pickup and Sports Night didn’t, and Brad had recently gotten married and his wife was pregnant with their first child. So Brad, wisely, took the show with the better prospect of long-term employment. The Carsey Werner show was canceled.

BRADLEY WHITFORD (JOSH LYMAN, DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF): It’s hilarious looking back because my biggest concern [about doing Sports Night] was that Aaron, Mr. Big Feature Writer, would have nothing to do with the day-to-day writing. I always joke with Aaron — and it goes for Tommy, too — that The West Wing was a great show about democracy run by a couple of Kim Jong-ils.

SORKIN: I had no idea Rob was coming in [to read for Sam Seaborn], and once I saw that he was, I was determined not to cast him. Tommy, John and I were putting together an ensemble, and while it was all right with me that the president was being played by a movie star, I thought having one play Sam would throw the balance of the cast out of whack. And then he read the first of three scenes he’d prepared. I don’t remember the second or the third because he’d already gotten the part a page into the first, and I was thinking of stories for a character who has no idea he looks like Rob Lowe. “Pay him whatever he wants,” I said.

ROB LOWE (SAM SEABORN, DEPUTY COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR): Sam was the only role I ever wanted to play, and I was told that I would have to audition for it. My thought was, “Great.” When I’m given the ammo to kill in the room, I’m all about it.

SORKIN: I told Tommy and the casting directors, “We need someone like John Spencer” [for President Bartlet’s chief of staff Leo McGarry]. Tommy asked, “What about John Spencer?” Toby came down to a two-man race between Richard Schiff and Eugene Levy. Levy was fantastic — strong and sad and very compelling — but you couldn’t take your eyes off Richard.

RICHARD SCHIFF (TOBY ZIEGLER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR): I ran into [Eugene] at a party years later and he told me, “I was sure I was going to get it because I put my ear to the door when you auditioned and I couldn’t hear anything.”

SORKIN: For C.J. [Cregg, press secretary] it came down to Allison [Janney] and CCH Pounder. The only thing I’d ever seen Allison in was Primary Colors, and she’d made an immediate impression on me with a simple trip on a flight of stairs. Pounder’s auditions were great, but looking back, it would be hard to argue we made the wrong decision casting Allison, who became the heartbeat of the show.

ALLISON JANNEY (C.J. CREGG, PRESS SECRETARY): I remember going back to the hotel I was staying in, the Montage, and I had a huge bouquet of flowers in my room. They were from Aaron, welcoming me to the pilot.

SORKIN: Moira Kelly didn’t have to audition; she was offered Mandy [Hampton, political consultant]. Moira was a joy to work with, a total pro who understood as time went on that for whatever reasons — and those reasons had nothing to do with her considerable talent — it just wasn’t working. She was a model of graciousness. Janel Moloney came in to read for C.J., but when it became clear that Allison was going to get the part, we asked her if she’d like to help us out and play the relatively thankless role of Donna [Josh’s assistant] because who knows? We may see her from time to time.

JANEL MOLONEY (DONATELLA MOSS, JOSH’S ASSISTANT): I was hostessing at an Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills called Il Pastaio, and I kept my job at the restaurant at first. But by the third episode, I knew that they were never going to get rid of me.

ELISABETH MOSS (ZOEY BARTLET, PRESIDENT’S DAUGHTER): The girl who was on The Wonder Years, Danica McKellar, was in the waiting room as well, and I was like, “I’m screwed. She’s totally going to get this.” [McKellar later was cast as Will Bailey’s stepsister in season four.] I was 17 at the time.

DULE HILL (CHARLIE YOUNG, PERSONAL AIDE TO THE PRESIDENT): I hadn’t done much TV, and I was definitely overwhelmed. But the first time I met Martin, he taught me the handshake that Laurence Fishburne had taught him during Apocalypse Now. The relationship that Charlie and the president had started [first began] offscreen with myself and Martin.

STOCKARD CHANNING (ABIGAIL BARTLET, FIRST LADY): I was on a layover in Calgary when my agent called. I was literally wearing hiking boots and a coat, changed planes and went to Los Angeles. The next morning, I was thrown into an evening gown on the set. Martin was sneaking a cigarette, and they shouted, “We’re ready for you.” We had to descend a staircase, and I said, “Hi, how do you do?” never having met him before. He said, “Oh, hello, we’ve been married like 35 years, and we have three children.”

‘I’VE BEEN DOING THIS FOR 40 YEARS; I’VE NEVER SEEN THAT HAPPEN’
GARTH ANCIER, PRESIDENT, NBC ENTERTAINMENT: It is rare in your career to see [a pilot] that absolutely must make it to air. The West Wing was one of those rare instances. The only challenge was NBC internal politics. Senior management was dead set against it: “Too liberal.” “Isn’t this Aaron Sorkin guy difficult to deal with?” The attitude was, essentially, you can put it on the air, but it’s on your head.

SASSA: We started having our writers meetings that summer, and the first meeting we have is for Third Watch, John Wells’ other new show with us. The room is packed, and they bring in these gigantic white boards — each episode has one. There are columns for A stories, B stories, C stories, and it’s done with color codes — firemen are red, police are blue, paramedics are brown — and they have these five boards filled out. Aaron walks in afterwards, and he’s got nothing. He goes, “Uh, well, I don’t know what this guy had for breakfast or where he went to school. This morning I woke up and said he’s a two-term governor from New Hampshire because it sounded good. That’s just how I write, OK? The script you have is what you have.” Now I’m terrified.

THOMAS SCHLAMME, DIRECTOR/ EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Before we aired, I remember talking to John, who had just talked to Peter Roth about how this was insane and we’d have to be more fiscally responsible. But then the [episodes] started coming in, and people started to see the kind of show that we were doing. It wasn’t that we didn’t hear from them at all. John shielded most of those calls, and then I would get them and shield them so that Aaron could continue to write.

SORKIN: Tommy created the look of the show, and then he ran the show. He took the heat for cost overruns when the cost overruns were because I was taking 10 days to write a script instead of eight. Tommy put his body in between heat and me.

WHITFORD: The hours on that show were so bad. I mean, just horrible. I remember going to Tommy and saying to him, “The invisible carnage of the unf—ed wives and the children not being read to is just wafting out.”

SCHLAMME: I think Brad thought of that line later and wished he had said it to me. (Laughs.) But I’ll tell you, it’s the truth. Fortunately, our children are still standing, though my three still call it “the West Wing years.” We were doing Sports Night and The West Wing at the same time, and Disney and Warners are five minutes apart. There was one Friday night deep into the season, and it was about 3:30 in the morning. What I realized was at Warner Bros., the massive lot where we did West Wing, there was no one else working but us. And when I went to Disney, another massive lot, where we did Sports Night, there was no one else working but us. And I thought, “Aaron and I might be the worst producers in the history of television.”

SASSA: West Wing didn’t become a hit until the second season. We had Friends, Will & Grace, ER, and then we had Law & Order — they all did better than The West Wing. It was not even in the top five shows on NBC in the first year, though the demographics were really strong. It wasn’t until the second year that it really took off.

ROTH: I vividly remember when the cast of The West Wing came out onstage at the upfront in May 2000. They got a standing ovation. I’ve been doing this for 40 years; I’ve never seen that happen — nor do I ever expect to see it happen again.
In its first season, The West Wing won nine Emmys, including outstanding drama series, the first of four consecutive wins in the top category.

SORKIN: Martin had to be convinced to submit himself in the best leading actor category instead of supporting actor. He felt it was an ensemble and that there was no lead on the show and that to submit himself for leading actor would be an insult to rest of the cast and particularly John Spencer. It was only after telling Martin that he might be taking a supporting actor nomination away from John, Richard, Brad or Dule that he agreed. It was for the same reason that Allison did the opposite. After winning best supporting actress two years in a row she wanted Janel or Stockard to be recognized, so she submitted herself for best leading actress and then won that too.

KEVIN FALLS, CO-EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: When Sports Night went down, Aaron asked me to run the writers room on West Wing, which was going into its second season. Our consultants were Marlin Fitzwater, Bush’s press secretary; Dee Dee Myers, Clinton’s press secretary; Gene Sperling, Clinton and later Obama’s chief economic advisor; columnist Peggy Noonan. On staff was former Carter aide Pat Caddell and Sen. [Daniel] Moynihan’s chief of staff, Lawrence O’Donnell. Eli Attie, a Gore speechwriter, came on in the third season. It was an intimidating room to be in, and I was very nervous my first day. Some of these people answered to American presidents and about the only subject I could address with confidence was when we’d break for lunch.

SCHLAMME: The first time we went to Washington, D.C., it was very difficult to get anyone to let us shoot anywhere. They just thought it was another bad political TV show. Then we came on the air and everything changed. I remember one night, Brad, Janel and I were shooting in front of the West Wing, and somebody had recognized Brad and said: “We’re doing night duty in the situation room downstairs. When you guys get done, come down and have a drink.” Next thing we know, we’ve wrapped and we’re in the situation room at 2:30 in the morning drinking vodka.

FALLS: The [2000] Democratic Convention [in Los Angeles] coincided with the [peak] popularity of the show, and we had these big parties on our stage during the convention. One of the days an office production person said, “Hey, we’re going to take Martin to the convention. Do you want to go?” I thought, “I’ve got to do this.” So we go downtown, and we have to walk a quarter-mile to Staples Center, and as we’re walking, everyone recognizes Martin — hard hats, delegates, everybody — and Martin is embracing it. Martin thinks he’s president. He’s waving, signing autographs. It was surreal.

THE GLORY DAYS
SORKIN: The series began one year into Bartlet’s first term, and as we went on I began feeling like there were a lot of good stories that happened before the series began — like how they all got together in the first place — and I was looking for a way to start telling some of them. Also, the audience for the show, which started out relatively small, had been building all year. I felt like I wanted to re-pilot the show at the beginning of the second season — to write an episode for the newcomers. In March I went to Tommy with a sketch of an idea I had for the second-season premiere and he was pretty startled because he was used to getting information about an episode two days in advance and not six months. He liked the idea, and I started working backwards from there — having the season-one finale set up the season-two premiere and so on. Except by the time we started filming the season-one finale I still didn’t know which one of the characters was going to be shot, so Tommy had to shoot that exterior scene in Rosslyn, [Va.] — the attempted assassination — in such a way that it wouldn’t disqualify anyone. And instead of shooting both the last scene of the last episode and the first scene of the first episode all at once — which would have made sense — Tommy had to go back and re-create every square foot of every frame in the scene. Tommy, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry. I think in the end it turned out good and you won your 148th DGA Award for it but, again, sorry.

WHITFORD: I remember in Washington, when we shot the scene at the end of the first year. We knew that somebody was going to get shot, and I remember Aaron saying to me, “I think it’s going to be you,” which just scared me.

SORKIN: His fear didn’t last long. After the table read I said, “Do you want to know why it’s Josh?” and he said, “Cause you wanted your friend to win an Emmy?”

WHITFORD: I hadn’t told anybody, and I remember I called my mom, who has since passed away, on the East Coast the night it aired and said, “I just want you to see the beginning of the show.” I remember her screaming and hanging up on me when she saw it was me.

FALLS: Kathryn Joosten, who played Mrs. Landingham, would have probably survived the run if she hadn’t decided to step out and smoke a cigarette with Aaron and me at an awards show. She told Aaron that she was up for a pilot test, and since she wasn’t a regular he knew he couldn’t hold her. At first I could tell Aaron was bummed, and then after she walked away he turned to me and said: “We’re going to kill Mrs. Landingham …” He wasn’t angry, he was just happy he had a story, and it became the crux of “Two Cathedrals,” where, ironically, Bartlet crushes his cigarette on the floor of Washington Cathedral after a tirade pointed to the heavens where he questions, among other things, a God who would take someone like Mrs. Landingham.

SORKIN: We shot the service at the National Cathedral, and during rehearsals there were a number of clergy standing around watching. I walked up to a priest who was standing nearby and said, “Excuse me, Father? I think you should know that in the scene we’re about to do Martin Sheen is going to curse at God.” He smiled and said, “I know, it’s gonna be great.”

TROUBLE IN CAMELOT
In April 2001, Sorkin was arrested at the Burbank airport with a carry-on bag containing marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms and crack cocaine.

SORKIN: Tommy and I called the cast and crew together the morning after I was arrested. I told them what happened and that I was guilty and I apologized for embarrassing the show. They seemed more concerned with my health than with unwanted attention, but that didn’t surprise me.

WHITFORD: It happened the day after he finished the [second] season, and one of the things that has saved him in that struggle is his writing. Look, I had known he had struggled with this stuff before, and I was terrified for him. I remember saying to him, and it was very emotional, but I said, “Don’t jeopardize all of this. It’s a sweet life you have ahead of you.”

SORKIN: Most of the cast had lowered their quotes considerably because it was an expensive show with an uncertain future, but after two seasons, the future was more certain and some of the actors wanted to renegotiate their contracts, which is both reasonable and common. What wasn’t common was that it wasn’t every man for himself: John, Allison, Brad and Richard wanted to negotiate as a group, and they all wanted to be paid the same. Brad said, “I don’t want to be doing a scene with Allison and know that I’m getting paid more than she is because I have a previous quote and she doesn’t.”

JANNEY: It was a very, very scary time to go through that renegotiation period. I really don’t enjoy that part of the business. That’s why I hire lawyers and then managers and agents. I said, “I am going to go crawl under a rock; let me know if I can come out.”

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
FALLS: Everything we came up with just paled in comparison to what was happening in the world. “Isaac and Ishmael” [a stand-alone episode that for the first time addressed the news] was an effort to be relevant as it pertained to 9/11, but I think doing that every episode would have been a mistake. So it became something that was there, that was the new world, but we never mentioned real historical figures during that time. The show managed to go on for five or six years, but nothing was the same after that.

SORKIN: Because our characters lived in a parallel universe, as opposed to the characters on Mad Men who live in historical fiction, our characters were the only ones not affected by 9/11, and that was a problem.

SCHLAMME: The Clinton administration was unbelievably generous with us and very helpful; then the Bush generation came in, and though we had our fictitious president calling the new president a white-knuckled drunk doesn’t help open doors, it was 9/11 more than that. Whether it had been a Gore administration or a Bush one, all doors were shut to us — and they should have been after 9/11.

A FEW DEPARTURES (AND A NEW FACE)
The fourth season (2002-03) brought several exits from the West Wing family. First, Lowe decided to leave, reportedly over money and screen time. As big a blow as it was, it was nothing compared to the departure that would follow.

LOWE: It was one of those moments that I think people have where you can stay static or you can invest in yourself, and both choices are legitimate choices. It just depends on what kind of person you are. And here’s what would’ve been the worst thing: to stay on The West Wing only to have Aaron leave like he did.

SORKIN: Tommy, John and I did everything we could to try to change his mind, but Rob had his own plans, and after he gave us his best for three-and-a-half years, we wanted the best for him.

WHITFORD: There’s a natural anxiety when you’re lucky enough to be on a show that’s taking off to wonder who the show is about. And it became very clear that it was about all of us and that there was tremendous strength in that. I think that where Rob was in his career, he felt like it needed to be more focused. He needed to be elite. I thought it was a mistake.

JOSHUA MALINA (WILL BAILEY, DEPUTY COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR): I read that Rob Lowe was thinking about leaving, and I really needed a job. I sent [Aaron] an email, the contents of which basically were: “What about a less well-known, less good-looking actor who would work for less money?” It was shameless, but to my surprise, Aaron’s response suggested that he had already talked to Schlamme about the idea. I drove to meet him at the Four Seasons for lunch, and he said, “Here’s the character I’m thinking of for you.”

SORKIN: Tommy and I had been discussing our exits from the show since the third season. It was an impossible decision because we’d built a home for ourselves and even felt like we kind of had kids — although by then we both actually had kids — but we also knew that it was time to do whatever we were going to do next and give the show to fresh legs. On a rainy day in late March, we asked our publicists to work with the publicists at Warners to draft a press release. We gathered the cast in the Roosevelt Room and told them that this was our last episode. We didn’t plan it this way, but the next scene they had to shoot was Bartlet resigning and John Goodman being sworn in.

SCHLAMME: When that decision was made, it was very quick. We’re talking 24 hours. I remember it being an unbelievably difficult thing.

JANNEY: We all felt kicked in the stomach. We felt like we were being abandoned by our parents. We didn’t understand it, we didn’t want it to happen and there was nothing we could do about it.

SCHIFF: I pitched an idea to both to them: “You know what would be amazing? If we lost [the election]. Just imagine. No one would be expecting it. We would lose and we’re gone. That’s the end of it.” Tommy said that was actually an amazing idea but the network and studio would never go for it because they have to make their money back.
ROTH: It was a very difficult experience for all of us. The only thing that mitigated it was the fact that we had John Wells, who brilliantly took over. I’ve thought a lot about what happened during the course of it, things like overages and late material, and you ask yourself: “What happened?” When I really think back, what happened most especially was the country changed post-9/11.

WHITFORD: We were like Branch Davidians and David Koresh left. I think John would tell you that he felt like the first year after Aaron left that we tried to do the show the way Aaron would do it, which was a mistake. But I remember John gathered us all there [after Aaron and Tommy had left]. He stood up and he said, “Jesus, I feel like Ethel Merman’s understudy.”

WELLS: We were all scared to death. The obvious concern that everybody had was, would the quality suffer dramatically while we were trying to learn on our feet how the show was going to operate without Aaron and Tommy? There were episodes that I thought we did very successfully and then ones that were kind of pale imitations. I remember saying to [Aaron] when I took over: “Aaron, you wrote a cliffhanger. What happens next?” And he said, “I haven’t any idea.” That wasn’t a good moment.

SORKIN: At the time I’d been reading stories about Rapturists — people who want to hasten the end of the world by creating the appearance of an international incident so that there’d be an international incident. I decided that’s what happened to Zoey but we wouldn’t know that until the start of next season. In my mind, Nancy McNally [Anna Deavere Smith] was right when she said we’d find Zoey tied to a chair in the back of a muffler shop upstate. But I wasn’t as interested in the thriller aspect as I was in the suddenly powerless president whose daughter’s life is in danger. Are he and his wife being kept under guard in the East Wing? Blair House? A hotel? And what if Bartlet didn’t like some of the commands that were being given by his temporary successor and he gave Leo a contradictory instruction? Would Leo be loyal to the Constitution as Bartlet promises his Cabinet he will be? What if Josh or C.J. or God forbid, Fitzwallace [John Amos], decides to be loyal to Bartlet? In my mind we’d explore all those things over the course of one long night-into-day-into-night at the White House. When I left the show I didn’t leave any instructions or last wishes. I wanted John and the new writers to do what they wanted and not have to write someone else’s idea.

MOSS: I spent that whole summer with people coming up to my on the street in New York and being like, “Are you going to be okay? Are you alright?” and I was like, “Well, I’m fine now. I’m having a good summer, thank you.” I didn’t know [what was going to happen].

WHEN THE CAMERA WAS OFF
LOWE: I can remember vividly doing one of those unending Oval Office scenes. That was always the Bermuda Triangle for us. We died there. Aaron learned the first year not to put all of us in a scene there, and if you watch the show, after the first year you saw less and less of all of us in the Oval.

SORKIN: It would get rowdy in the Oval Office, especially at 2 a.m. on a Saturday morning trying to shoot a nine-page scene with 11 actors, one of whom blows his one line on page eight. But I wrote them anyway because I loved them. The worst offenders were Richard and Allison. If they had a scene together they’d be serious geniuses for three takes and then they’d lose it. It got to the point that where we were doing single coverage, we’d have to move one of them out of the room. Many of the best moments of Toby talking to C.J. are Toby talking to the Script Supervisor.

SCHIFF: When I am on that borderline of emotional intensity, I can trip over into hysterical laughter at a moment’s notice. Somebody says something the wrong way and I’m off on a 45-minute laughing binge that the crew starts hating me for. This was a pattern of behavior that went on for many years on The West Wing because there was a lot of very emotionally intense stuff.

JANNEY: Richard Schiff and I would constantly think of terrible ways to spend our time waiting to work. We started doing just ridiculously silly things in my trailer like playing air guitar and lip-syncing to crazy songs. We made Aaron come in to see us do “The Jackal,” and then he put it in the show.

WHITFORD: Josh was the perverse one on set. He’d set everybody’s iPod to Mandarin, or you’d be reading a book on set and the last four pages are torn out. And he had no sense of proportion. One day I am doing a scene and there’s a big crowd of people and Jimmy Smits comes over and he hugs me and goes, “I love you too, man. And those flowers were amazing and the letter means so much to me.” Josh had snuck into my trailer, gotten my stationary and written a vaguely homoerotic thing to Jimmy about working together.

MALINA: I would, with great frequency, find my way into Brad’s trailer when he wasn’t there, just to see what I could do. He’d keep weird, life-affirming Post-its on his mirror and I’d change them into horrible insults. Janel came to me one day and said, “We should send some sort of bouquet from Brad to Jimmy for Valentine’s Day,” and I thought, “Oh my god, that’s brilliant. Plus, I have personalized stationary, which will certainly add artistic verisimilitude.” We bought something ridiculous like 3,000 roses to be delivered to Jimmy.

WHITFORD: I remember I had a check written for $3,000 to the guy who was editing the In Memoriam reel at the SAG Awards because I thought “How great, let’s kill Josh.” But the guy chickened out. So when I wrote my second script, Josh had to say several times on national TV, “I’m a terrible actor. I can’t act.”

MALINA: The entire cast was on the Ellen show just before or just after the airing of the final episode. We were all interviewed together, and at the end there was a cake for each actor with our names on it. They were about to role the credits and I caught Jimmy whispering to Richard Schiff, “I’ll give you $5,000 if you smash that cake into Josh’s face.” I instantly started running. I didn’t really care that I was on TV.

THE ENDGAME
The seventh and final season of the show split its focus between Bartlet’s last year in office and the presidential race between Jimmy Smits’ Congressman Matthew Santos and Alan Alda’s Sen. Arnold Vinick.

JIMMY SMITS (MATTHEW SANTOS): I was in New York doing Shakespeare in the Park [Much Ado About Nothing], and I had gotten a couple calls from my team that John Wells wanted to have a conversation. This was a year after Sorkin leaving, and I’m not going to say there was a slump in the show, but I think they wanted to mix it up a little.

WELLS: We were very lucky to get Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda to come and work. And then I made a phone call to Rob [about returning at the end] just because you want to give fans some sort of closure to it.

LOWE: It was a very easy decision because I loved the show. I always did, and I also just wanted Sam to be there for the end. But The West Wing, with all due respect to everybody, is Aaron, full stop. I turned it on once [after I had left] and saw a flashback to when John Spencer [Leo] was a young man wading through a rice paddy in Vietnam. I thought, “You know, I don’t think I’m really going to watch much more of this.”

MOLONEY: We had joked about [Josh and Donna getting together] with Tommy and Aaron, but I think all of us knew that it wasn’t going to happen until the very end. And it was so much better than I would have imagined. I was always afraid it was going to be a “very special episode of West Wing” and something schmaltzy, but it wasn’t. I don’t think Aaron ever watched the show when he stopped writing it, but I think he would’ve enjoyed how it was done.

SORKIN: I was always scared to get Josh and Donna together. I don’t know why. I know it was something the audience wanted to see and something that would make sense but I didn’t do it.

WHITFORD: Unlike in life, in television there’s nothing more boring than consummation. I remember thinking, “How emotionally constipated is this dude?” But I think they wisely held off. I remember we finished the scene where we finally end up in bed, and I said, “We need to reshoot that. I got shot in the f—ing chest, and there’s no scar.” We never reshot it and nobody noticed.

SCHIFF: Aaron wrote me a very lovely email saying that Toby is one of his favorite characters he’s ever written, and he talked about our relationship building that character. He said, “I’ve heard what’s happening to your character [Toby was fired and faced years in prison during season seven but ultimately was pardoned] and I’m so sorry.” And that’s how I felt: very sorry that they had chose to do what they did. They didn’t tell me in advance like Aaron and Tommy would have. Clearly they didn’t want to tell me because they were scared of my reaction to it. I would have talked them out of it because it was not in line with the six years of work that I built with that character. I was very, very hurt by it.

Another disaster hit the West Wing family, one it ultimately wouldn’t recover from: Spencer’s death of a heart attack on Dec. 16, 2005, days before his 59th birthday.
WHITFORD: I remember getting a call that John was in trouble. I was with him for quite a while after he had passed away. Stockard was there, too. And then I was a pallbearer at his funeral. You don’t want to exploit anything, but we all felt that honoring his character in the show would have been something he’d be comfortable with.

CHANNING: It was devastating. I remember the funeral episode, and I think we did two takes and we were just bawling. John died at Christmas and it was within a month or so that we filmed it. It was raw enough for all of us.

HILL: The episode where we actually had to carry his casket because his character had died … it was an empty casket, but it wasn’t an empty casket.

WELLS: I couldn’t get my mind around how to do the show without him. My heart kind of went out of it. I don’t know if NBC would have picked us up for another year, but I called them and said, “I think we’re finished.”

SORKIN: From time to time, my mind would wander to what a series finale would look like. I didn’t have any ideas — just an image. Bartlet, the now ex-president, would be in street clothes and a baseball cap and just blend into the crowd until we couldn’t make him out anymore.

Now that’s what I call customer service – NOT!

Now that’s not strictly true I had a perfectly pleasant chat conversation with a BT Broadband person. It’s just that they operate in such constrained manner they can’t actually help you. They are rigidly controlled and are dictated to as to what they can do – they have a list of tests they must undertake – even if they’re completely useless and provide absolutely no valid data to support any hypothesis they might want to propose.

They really don’t (perhaps can’t is a better word) help you solve problems they just waste your time – unless like me you decide to run with it and just see how far it can go… I’ll hold my hands up and say that I may be completely wrong on some of the technical specifics but I’m fairly confident that the overall argument I’m outlining is sound! Oh and I apologise for some of the typos – I was multi-tasking, playing with my new Jolla phone, downloading some Frank Zappa music as well… All in all time well spent I thought 🙂

Ok here it comes: first off I enter details about the problem – slow broadband speed over the holiday period and my personal details into their chat service – I only had to wait for a couple of minutes before the session started – pretty good I thought!!

SRIJITA : Hello. I’m SRIJITA . Thanks for that information, I’ll check it and get back to you in a moment.
paul west: Personally I think that in today’s technological world being unable to watch small youtube video without it stopping every couple of seconds is unacceptable and therefore you should be providing me with compensation. I’m paying a premium price for a crap service!
paul west: You’re advertising Infinity and half he price I pay for a service which has been well below 0.5 meg for most of this holiday period – that’s poor.
SRIJITA : Pau I am really very sorry for the inconvenience .. Please give me a moment while I look into the issue..
paul west: There have been no reports on your website about the bad weathr affecting broadband performance anywhere where near here – so that’s not an excuse
SRIJITA : Paul I do understand your concern please give me few minutes so that I can retrieve the account.
SRIJITA : Thank You for your patience Paul
SRIJITA : Paul is the connection slow for all the websites ?
paul west: Yes.
SRIJITA : Could you please confirm are you using a wired or wireless connection?
paul west: inside the house it’s wireless but the problem is outside the house – your service is shockingly poor the internal wirelss network is performing perfectly.
paul west: I suggest that the problem is that you simply don’t have enough bandwidth to cope with people being at home and using the internet conection at the same time – but you won’t admit that
SRIJITA : Paul is it possible for you to connect an ethernet cable from the device to the hub so that I can do the checks from my end?
paul west: No because that won’t help you – it will just waste my time – the problem is outside the house I have told you this already. I’ve gone through this waste of time with you before. So don’t waste my time get your engineers to laod test the cable from the exchange to the village I live in = that’s where the issue lies
SRIJITA : Paul I am sorry for all the issue you are experiencing however if you won’t allow me to do the checks I will not be able to book an engineer if required.
paul west: We’ve been down this route before – the problem is outside the house – it’s a capacity issue on the network – but you won’t admit it. Why not? My kit is working perfectly well – I know that because I use it every day and the performance inside the house has not changed – but the connection to the internet has suffered recently – because – your network can’t cope with the demand – just admit it
paul west: You would expect me to believe you if you said there was no problem with your network – so why don’t you believe me when I say there’s no problem with the kit at my end?
SRIJITA : Paul I do undrstand your concern however I need to do the checks before getting into any conclusion.
paul west: No you don’t – I’ve given you the information that the kit at my end is working fine – we’ve been down this route many times since I’ve been a BT customer – you’re wasting both your and my time with these checks on my kit. I have used broadband speed checkers to test te spee dof the line – it is the line thta is not performing to my expectations, not my router, that’s fine, not my pc, that’s fine – the problem is with your line in fact the problem is probably that the exchange has really old kit in it which you aren’t likely to update soon as we’re out in the sticks here and you’d yya it wasn’t cost effective. But if I change to another provider , using your kit you throttle their service so it’s worse that yours ALL OF THE TIME!
paul west: My router – actually your router – is connected to your telephone line already – that should be enough for you to conduct any speed tests yourself.
SRIJITA : Paul may I know the Operating system installed in the laptop?
paul west: Why? That bears no relevance does it
SRIJITA : Paul for the checks I need to know the OS. If you could please tell me that.
paul west: Windows 8.1
SRIJITA : Thank You
paul west: As you aren’t connecting to my pc why did you need that information?
SRIJITA : Paul please let me do the line test and for that I need to know this information.
paul west: I really don’t understand why you need the os of my pc to run a test on your line?
SRIJITA : Paul there is certain procedures which we need to follow that is the reason I ma asking you about this information.
SRIJITA : Paul could you please connect an ether net cable from the laptop till the home hub so that I can run the line test?
SRIJITA : To check the connection from the exchange till the hub?
paul west: OK but what are those procedures? If your tests is “touching” my pc I need to understand what it is doing – my pc is my private properrty and you do not have the right to access it
SRIJITA : Paul it is not touching your PC I need to know the OS as we need to put in the information to run the check
paul west: Really what impact does my operating system have on he performance of your line? If different os’s affected broadband speed over time I’d think that would be public knowledge
SRIJITA : Paul as I can see from te previous test that there is no Major Service Outage in your area
paul west: Yes I could have told you that
paul west: So wjhat is your explanation for the very klow speed thta I have been seeing. I should add that a friend of mine in a different village, connected to a different exchange also reports that his BT broadband line speed has declined dramatically – I believe he called it a”a new low”
SRIJITA : Paul if you wont allow me to run the line test I will not be able to escalate this case to our next Level
paul west: You’re free to run the line test as that is your property – what you are not free to do is to access my personal computer as you have not given me an explanation of why you need to do this and what exactly you want to do to it – as I have previously expressed to you it is working fine – there are no issues with it – all the evidence points to a demand based problem for your network….which has rsulted in poor performance for me as a consumer and for which you should be seeking to improve performance and provide compensation
SRIJITA : I am sorry Paul. Unfortunately, we are unable to help any further as we can only support a speed test based on results while connected via Ether net.
paul west: So after this lengthy conversation you havbe still not given me a good reason why you need to connect to my private computer, despite the fact that I have said that the router is connected to your line and that all the evidence points to the fact that the issue is external to my (and other customers) properties.
paul west: You are am multi-billion pound company with a monopoly stranglehold on broadband – particularly rural broadband supply in this country and perhaps this is why the level of service both broadband speed and customer service is so low.
paul west: I am surprised that n oprganisation of the scale of BT is unable to arrange a simple ping test to a router they must know the IP address of – I’m pretty sure I could organise that remotely using open source and freely available services.
SRIJITA : Paul the fault could be anywhere and I can only find out where the actual fault is and why this is happening only if you could help me to do the checks.
SRIJITA : A ping test or finding your IP is not going to help finding out the line fault.
paul west: I think the issue is that you have a script – a set of rigid instructions that you are required to follow by senior management which attempt to push the “blame” for the fault, poor performance or whatever the issue onto the customer rather than your organisation or your infrastructure.
paul west: It will provide the detail of time it takes for the packet to travel along the route from your location to the router – that in itself is a valuable tool. The other tests I’m surprised you haven’t picked up on are the load tests which are probably the most significant ones to be focussing on as you have already said there is no serious fault – something I fully accept.
paul west: As I have repeatedly stated there is no issue with the kit at my end – the issue – and here I refer you back to other supporting evidence form my friend in the next village – that the issue lies squarely outside of our houses and in the realm of the limited bandwidth that can be delivered over our creaking copper wires and at increased differences from the exchange. We understand that performance decreases in relatino to the distance away rom the exchnage, we understand that performance decreases when you get more user son the line – why can’t you see this? Surely checking the load logs on your network form our exchange is a simple issue – any good IT service will be able to d this.
SRIJITA : Paul what I can see from the previous tests that the hub is in sync with the exchange and the minimum guaranteed speed offered to you at the point of sale is 512 K.
paul west: I appreciate that you personally may not have this capability so I think it is better that you refer this issue (verging on a customer complaint no…) to a higher and more technical authority/
SRIJITA : And result shows the speed is higher than the minimum guaranteed speed offered to you at the point of sale.
SRIJITA : Paul if you are initiating a chat session I can do the checks only with the connection provided to you
paul west: Aha we get to the knub of the matter – the minimum speed guaranteed is only 512k. I think you’ll find the paperwork expressly suggested I should be able to receive over 2meg. So are we now talking about a marketing issue – one where I know you have already had your knuckles rapped for advertising what fantastic speeds you can get when in fact you don’t deliver anywhere near that.
paul west: I go back to my previous comment that you have a script, you can’t solve my problem so please refer me not a higher authority who can assist me me please.
SRIJITA : Paul if you want you can speak with my supervisor.
SRIJITA : Paul is it ok if my supervisor calls you on ladling?
paul west: That’s a kind offer but I don’t believe that he or she will be best placed to resolve this matter – i need to speak to someone on your network services team who has access to the traffic logs over the past week or so and who can analyse the performance you have delivered in light of my, and my friend’s comments on poor delivery.
SRIJITA : Paul I am sorry however it wont be possible for anyone to do what you are asking for un till you cooperate and allow us to do the basic steps.
paul west: Well I’m rather afraid that we’ve reached an impasse. I’ve provided you with a good amount of evidence on the issues I’m facing at my end and good reasons why I’m not prepared to go through a series of un-necessary (from my end) tests which will tell you nothing of use – unless you use the data you gain from being connected to my computer for things I’m not currently aware of. You have not been able to offer me any reason for needing to be connected to my personal and private computer to run these tests.
paul west: Using the claim of me not cooperating is rather unpleasant and not customer focussed and it really doesn’t sit well with me. I am therefore copying this entire conversation into a blog post which I will publish online in a few minutes. While my broadband speed my remain at it’s very low level until the holiday is over the futility of the process by which you claim to help us solve our broadband problems will at least be revealed in its full futility. It really is a shame that my time has been wasted- well mostly wasted!
SRIJITA : I am sorry to hear that you feel this way however Paul asking for OS does not mean I am accessing your computer, and I am not connected to your computer and not accessing anyof your personal and private details.
paul west: Why then did you not ask why you needed to know my os? It has no impact on the speed of your broadband service.
SRIJITA : OS has impact on speed to let you know.
SRIJITA : And I am afraid there is nothing more I can do apart from ask my supervisor to talk to you.
paul west: Please provide me with te evidence to support your claim that the OS of a personal computer has an impact on the speed of broadband that it is possible to delvier down a copper cable
SRIJITA : But I am sure that he is going to inform you the same.
SRIJITA : If you talk to any computer expert then you will come to know the details of the impact.If you have an old OS which has a browser with a lot of add on services on it then that will make the computer performance slow.
paul west: But as I have said on number of occasions the peformance of my computer is excellent – the poor performance is coming form your network. I’ve provided you with evidence of that – it’s not just me that is suffering
SRIJITA : Paul the fact is BT can not give you a resolution until you help BT to perform the basic trouble shooting steps.
SRIJITA : And I have given you all the information I could and I am afraid there is nothing more I can do for you if you do nto allow me to perform the tests.
SRIJITA : So I will have to end the chat here as in the last 1.5 hours we have not got anywhere.

paul west: Goodbye
SRIJITA : Wish you and your family a very Happy New Year.
SRIJITA has disconnected.

A perfectly polite end to the conversation and merely indicative of the rigidity of the process that BT imposes on it’s staff whi I’m sue frustrates them as much as it frustrates us customers – think outside of the box guys, c’mon!

Now if this had been the first occasion I’d had to contact BT for assistance I’d be spitting blood, but it must be the oh I’ve lost count of the times I’ve tried to get them to help me. Which is why I carried it on to the death. I’ve gone through those tests on my computer many times before, I’ve checked wiring, ferrite rings, rebooted, been called back again and again and frankly it still boils down to the same issue. BT are not prepared to invest in small rural communities – despite what the papers and their PR may say – which means that as long as they have the monopoly on kit in local exchanges we’re ****ed!

What’s worrying is that we have a government championing small businesses, we have a programme of investment in rural broadband (which BT seems to be getting nigh on 100/% of), we are preparing to spend (waste) £40bn+ on HS2 to get us, sorry those of us who can afford it, to Birmingham 20 minutes faster.

We’re missing the point here.

It’s the information age, a digital world – I don’t need to be in Birmingham at all – if I had even a half-decent broadband service I could be anywhere I liked, I could be boosting the rural economy, I could be cutting down of the need for energy to get me and my chosen mode of transport from A to B, I could be enjoying a better quality of life.

So in conclusion (in the vain hope that you might actually have read this far!) I’d like to recommend something to BT, and indeed to those in charge of government budget decisions – and it’s not new advice, it’s been around for years. 2 things in fact: 1. Focus on delivering what the customer wants and 2. Work Smarter!

That is more than enough!

Amandla – the king is dead

Jacob Zuma said it best “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.”  In reality we have all lost.

For me, Mandela was the defining figure of my generation.

It was he who transformed a world from one where we picketed Barclays Bank to one where we could embrace the idea of a truly multi-cultural society – let’s set aside the pernicious effects of religion here and speak only of men of this world!

We know he wasn’t the only figure, there were many – including Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama USA – but Madiba transcended mere national boundaries and became a global unifying force for good.  He was able to capture the hearts and minds of a generation through his dignified struggle against Apartheid.

Listen to Martin Luther Kings “Free at Last” speech, listen to “Biko” by Peter Gabriel, listen to “Free Nelson Mandela” by the Special AKA – just 3 of the many voices that began to merge into a single message.  It was like a wall of pressure building up and for the South African government of the day – things just had to change – and once they changed there they changed (almost) everywhere.

I remember the wonderful, joyous day Mandela was released from jail and the measured way in which he spoke – a warm and inclusive message from a man who had every right to judge society coldly and harshly.  People like him are few and very, very far between.

For us silly middle class people who like to play “who would you invite to dinner” Mandela was most likely to be high up on the list.  I would have been honoured to have met him but at least I was alive when he was – and that in itself is a blessing.

I think it is immoral, unethical and downright wrong to tax Bereavement Allowance – discuss!

I think it is immoral, unethical and downright wrong to tax Bereavement Allowance – discuss!

My understanding is that if your husband, wife or civil partner has died you may be able to get Bereavement Payment: a one-off, tax-free, lump-sum payment of £2,000.

You might also be able to claim Bereavement Allowance if you’re a widow, widower or surviving civil partner between 45 and State Pension age.  It is paid to you for up to 52 weeks from the date of death of your husband, wife or civil partner.

Now presumably these are to help you get over the initial impact of the loss of income from the person who has died – it will also help cover any expenses that you have to pay out for example the cost of the funeral – or for that matter the cost of getting certified copies of the documents you’re going to need to sort out the late person’s estate.

The Bereavement Allowance is however taxable!  Which seems to me somewhat unethical, immoral and downright wrong.  The amount you get is based on the amount that your late partner paid into the state via their NI contributions and is paid on the basis that your partner will not be able to receive the state pension that would normally be paid, for the duration of their life after pensionable age.

So in my example where my wife died at 54 having paid her NI contributions for over 30 years and with a normal life expectancy for women of what 80(?) she could have expected to receive somewhere in the region of £85,800.  So it would appear that instead the amount the government will have to pay out is in the region of  £5,500.  So in my case the government is in profit to tune of over £80,000.

So tell me Steven John Webb, better known as Steve Webb (born 18 July 1965), is an English Liberal Democrat politician, the Member of Parliament for Thornbury & Yate and the Minister of State for Pensions – how do you justify making that benefit taxable?

According to Wikipedia, Webb was born in Birmingham to Brian and Patricia Webb, and attended the local comprehensive school (Dartmouth High School), before going on to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Hertford College, Oxford. He then worked at the Institute for Fiscal Studies in London, where he specialised in researching into poverty, taxes and benefits. In 1995, he became a Professor of Social Policy at the University of Bath.

Sound to me like he researched into how to increase poverty by decreasing benefits and increasing taxes. As he says on his website…..

If you are not one of my constituents but would like to raise an issue related to my role as Pensions Minister, please check the contact page at the Department of Work and Pensions or write to me at: Department for Work & Pensions Caxton House Tothill Street London SW1H 9DA.

So Steve answer my question – just how do you justify this policy?

The Road is long….

Well length is a relative concept – at least I’ve always hoped that’s true!! Anyway the real point here is about the fact that  the state of the road between Gawcott and Marsh Gibbon in Buckinghamshire feels like it’s longer than it actually is because it’s in such a shocking condition. Unless you’re in a tractor in which case you just don’t give a sh*t or a large Mercedes when you just don’t feel a thing!

Unfortunately I’m not in either of those I’m in a small low slung hard suspension Porsche Boxster S (Anniversary Edition) and I can tell you it’s a very very long way.

theroadOver the past 5 years it is clear that the local councils Aylesbury Vale District Council and Buckinghamshire County Council have decided to spend the absolute minimum on maintaining them -irrespective of their claims – see “We’re working on it“.   I’ve no idea where these so-called 57 members live but it’s clear from their priorities that they’ve never had to travel down the road I’m referring to – see map.

Now I’m not saying they’ve done nothing – but what they’ve done is actually worse than nothing!  No offence but a bunch of monkeys on the back of a pick up truck with a vat of tar and some small rollers isn’t going to solve the problem.  In fact a bit of frost and hey presto not only have the holes reopened but there’s now a load of grit and gravel to sent flying around the road damaging paintwork and windscreens!

There are just sooo many potholes it needs a complete rebuilding-  yes rebuilding-  not even just resurfacing will sort this.  As long as you’re going to allow heavy vehicles trundle along it to the Calvert tip – and future incinerator you’ve also got a number of farmers who, “frankly scarlet”, couldn’t give a damn about traffic calming measures nor worrying about destroying the road edges you’re going to be pouring good tar after bad – and us motorists will start to get more organised and start sending you – Mr Council Big-Wig (Martin Tett, Leader of Bucks CC,  mtett@buckscc.gov.uk , resident of 168 Amersham Way, Little Chalfont, Amersham, Bucks, HP6 6SG – Bus. phone:  01296 382302, Mobile:  07939 278064) the bill for the work we have to have done to repair our vehicles.

Those of you who have suffered may find this site useful Potholes.co.uk – personally I think a better plan would be to kidnap kindly request Mr Tett to accompany me on a journey from Gawcott to Marsh Gibbon – I promise not to exceed the speed limit, nor to drive in an aggressive manner – although I may have to swerve to avoid a pothole or three and he may find it a bit un-nerving as I find it is actually safer  (and cheaper, when measured in the cost or replacing shock absorbers and sundry bits of suspension) to drive down the middle of the road.  However I have also posted this on their site as well!!

I did think about video recording the journey but the camera would be shaking so much you wouldn’t be able to see it clearly – hey ho.

One Cochlea is better than two – says who?

According to NICE having 2 (bilateral) cochlea implants is not recommended for adults unless they have other problems – such as blindness.  Well they’re wrong!

I spent part of yesterday at Cardiff University listening to Professor John Culling presenting some soon to be published research on the topic which clearly shows that there are significant benefits to the individual from having 2 implants.

(Jelfs, S., Talbert, A. and Backhouse, S. S. (in press) “The benefit of bilateral versus unilateral cochlear implantation to speech intelligibility in noise” Ear and Hear.”).

The figures are clear – this new research has highlighted the inadequacies of the original data and presents a compelling case for a bilateral approach – but perhaps what we’re looking at is another case of where money/budgets seems to be the primary focus not patient care and well-being.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders: A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing. The implant consists of an external portion that sits behind the ear and a second portion that is surgically placed under the skin (see figure).

Illustration of cochlear implant.

An implant does not restore normal hearing. Instead, it can give a deaf person a useful representation of sounds in the environment and help him or her to understand speech.

The British Cochlear Implant Group believes that if a patient meets the criteria for a cochlear implant as specified in the NICE Guidance, funding for that treatment must be provided by the appropriate healthcare commissioning body following a positive assessment by the specialist cochlear implant centre.

The data it presents on implants is stark – 28 new bilateral adult implant cases between April 1st 2010 to March 31st 2011 – but 494 unlilateral adult cases. That’s a lot of people who will still be hard pressed to separate speech from background noise!

This looks like a problem which has been parked

NICE’s guidelines clearly state a review date of February 2011 – but it would appear that this has not happened and it’s now February 2013 hmmm…….

Time to act especially when we have just witnessed David Cameron speaking in the House of Commons,  saying he was “truly sorry” for what happened at Stafford Hospital, which was “not just wrong, it was truly dreadful” and the government needed to “purge” a culture of complacency.

If I could quote Sir David Nicholson – “We need action, we need to make things happen.”

Is the law an ass?

The tragic death of the nurse allegedly hoaxed (or rather passing on a call ) by the Aussie radio DJ’s is that – tragic. Why she should consider that taking her own life was the right thing to do is beyond me and most other rational thinking humans. But passing the issue to the CPS in case a crime has been committed – oh come on get real!

Hoax calls have been going on for ages. They can and often are extremely funny. Occasionally they go over the limit – we all know who I’m talking about here – but did this one? The specific nurse who actually gave away the information has not been seen nor heard in the media, the hospital have been banging on about the despicable DJs when perhaps their own standards of training might be considered – or their employment choices… how did this poor nurse come to be in a such a fragile state yet be employed by the hospital – where is their duty of care in this matter.

Let’s hear the real nurse give her side of the story – or has she too decided to end it all in response to the media furore.

If the CPS decides that there is a case to answer then frankly they’ve lost the plot and should not bother to come back to work after the Christmas break.