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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Monday, 8 January 2007
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spin machine in Australian press, pre empts Monday shocker?
Mood:  irritated
Topic: big media

A strange combination of two articles appeared on the Sunday and Monday Fairfax press. The earlier one is offline by the look of the index archive and features a nice large image of charming, long distance running Melinda. Bill’s better half indeed. It’s a highly complimentary one page feature in the Sydney SunHerald 7th January 2007 at p71 after the lifestyle and glossy liftouts, with the curious non title in large font:


She has been dubbed the most powerful woman you know nothing about


But then next day we see this crash tackle in the much lower Monday circulation below, a very rude article undermining all that good PR they are getting about philanthropy of unprecedented level. What indeed is going on? Are we seeing a differential of circulation tactic to spin the impact of the second damaging story?


The Monday January 8th 2007 shocker in Fairfax Sydney Morning Herald is here

(and refer here for more horror info on the situation of Shell in Nigeria which is in the story: Shell Hell) sourced to the Los Angeles Times:



The Gates cash that keeps people healthy but makes them sick


Charles Piller in San Francisco and Edmund Sanders in Nigeria
January 8, 2007


JUSTICE ETA, 14 months old, held out his tiny thumb. An ink spot certified that he had been immunised against polio and measles, thanks to a vaccination drive in Ebocha, Nigeria, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


But polio is not the only threat Justice faces; he has suffered from respiratory ailments since birth. Many people blame this on the flames and smoke that rise 100 metres over a nearby oil plant. The plant is owned by the Italian petroleum giant Eni, whose investors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


The makeshift clinic where Justice Eta was vaccinated and the flares spewing over Ebocha represent a head-on conflict for the Gates Foundation. In a contradiction between its grants and its endowment holdings, the foundation reaps vast financial gains every year from investments that contravene its good works.


Elekwachi Okey, a local doctor, says hundreds of flares at oil plants in the Niger Delta have caused an epidemic of bronchitis in adults, and asthma and blurred vision in children. Many of the 250 toxic chemicals in the fumes and soot have long been linked to respiratory disease and cancer. "We're all smokers here," Dr Okey said, "but not with cigarettes."


The Gates Foundation has poured $US218 million ($280 million) into polio and measles immunisation and research worldwide, including in the Niger Delta. At the same time it has invested $US423 million in Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Total of France - the companies responsible for blanketing the delta with pollution, beyond anything permitted in the US or Europe.


Local leaders blame oil development for fostering some of the very afflictions the foundation combats. Oil bore holes fill with stagnant water, a breeding ground for mosquitoes that spread malaria. Health inspectors also cite an oil spill clogging rivers as a cause of cholera. The gas flares contain toxic byproducts such as benzene, mercury and chromium and lower immunity, said the area's health commissioner, Dr Nonyenim Solomon Enyidah.


Like most philanthropies, the Gates Foundation gives away at least 5 per cent of its worth every year, thus avoiding paying most taxes. In 2005 it distributed nearly $US1.4 billion.

A policy officer at the foundation, Monica Harrington, said the investment managers had one goal: returns "that will allow for the continued funding of foundation programs and grant making".

An investigation has found that the foundation has holdings in many firms that have failed tests of social responsibility because of environmental lapses, employment discrimination, disregard for worker rights, or unethical practices. The foundation has big holdings in several companies ranked among the worst US polluters, including ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical and Tyco.


The investments also include pharmaceutical firms that price drugs beyond the reach of AIDS patients the foundation is trying to treat. Hundreds of Gates Foundation investments have been in companies that countered the foundation's charitable goals.


This is "the dirty secret" of many large philanthropies, said Paul Hawken, director of the Natural Capital Institute. "Foundations donate to groups trying to heal the future, but with their investments they steal from the future." Worse, said Douglas Bauer, of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, was investing for profit without attempting to improve a company's way of operating.

By contrast, foundations that make social justice, corporate governance and environmental stewardship key considerations in their investment strategies include the $US11.6 billion Ford Foundation, America's second-largest private philanthropy.


The Gates foundation did not respond to written questions about whether it might change its investment policies.


Los Angeles Times



Posted by editor at 8:14 PM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 9 January 2007 8:01 AM EADT
Toe rags in the Big Media incite disharmony with figleaf 'reporting the facts'
Mood:  lazy
Topic: big media

Two fifteen year olds are described as "racists" in a shallow, stupid opinion piece by the egregious Paul Sheehan in the press today:

A whitewash of criminal realities

It was inevitable that someone like Andrew Farrugia was going to be killed by members of the feral underclass that exists in many rural towns with large Aboriginal populations, Paul Sheehan writes.

for their alleged role in fatal violence in what looks alot like a violent mugging that has gone horrifically wrong in Griffith last week. One white teen is dead, the lives of another two black teens (the alleged perpetrators) quite likely ruined.

No winners, great anger, great tragedy.

And Sheehan makes it all worse: Here's why: He says literally "Andrew Farrugia died for one reason only. He was white." in the second paragraph.

No hiding stereotypes here for Sheehan emboldened by community horror and distress like the emotional vampire these right wing shrieker media types always prove to be. No concern about tainting a legal case that is obvoiuslsy subjudice either.

Sheehan claims this so called tough straight talk is stating the hard facts and putting aside false "picancaninny" attitudes by which I guess he means treating Aboriginal folk like moral babies, or "mendicants" meaning beggars. We have to go hard, and apply tough standards expected of every other citizen.

Yeah? Really?  Fifteen year olds, likely very disadvantaged fifteen year olds, are supposed to have a handle on all this mature responsibility and obligations from within a slum pit surrounded by slippery walls, real and conditioned?

How simple and stupid of Sheehan who surely has no concept of a real slum the world over.

And the bigots in our society are similarly emboldened, but more of that below. First to dissect this pathetic thesis of Sheehan.

It is at least open to question whether one reason the "white" 17 year old reportedly was preyed on was that these "black" teens apparently were intent on criminal theft, to pursue an age old franchise - getting things with violence. Since when is theft a particular racist agenda? And if the richest pickings are white, well it might look racial but its just money. 

It is also an open question whether it was an immature gang attempt to enforce a territorial domain in 'their' streets at night. Again hardly a novel, particularly racist agenda. But Sheehan is so sure.

And it's not as though Black Australia has missed their lesson from the world's best teachers after the British Empire invasion, and subordinate colonial governments, from 1788 onward. Okay that's a very stale complaint you might say, but a defeated People know what they are even subliminally. It's just that non Aboriginals have never had to think about it. But even that old sore doesn't get to the heart of the situation of Black criminality.

How much money did those black teen alleged wrongdoers have on them? A mobile phone? Quality of their clothes? When did they eat last? What quality of food? What kind of adult supervision? Did they even have a Christmas? Even if not, it doesn't excuse the outrageous violence, but it does get closer to the truth than Sheehan ever will.

Indeed we've just come off the most stressful time in the year, the consumer excess of Christmas and New Year. Where life's winners and losers cannot avoid knowing their true lot in life even if they wanted to. But with a teenage mind much harder to accept. It sounds corny but not much love out there for some of these black kids.

Sheehan calls it racism, I call it just as likely systemic economic violence. And yes it is inevitable. But here is why Sheehan is so sick and has got it so wrong. If it was a rich black kid from middle class USA, or black teen from another tribal group elsewhere in Australia, on the taxi rank at 2am alone in Griffith, my feeling that black kid similarly would have got 'rolled' as in mugged, with possibly fatal consequences. That's violence based on envy and poverty at the heart of the problem.

If it was a black victim the outrage might not be nearly so great.

Sheehan on his highly indulgent $150,000 plus annual salary wouldn't get it in a hundred years, wouldn't know a childhood of poverty and desperation creating criminals the world over of every colour and creed, if it poked him in the eye.

The guy is a lightweight, though in person he is actually very pudgy.

Then Sheehan has the hide to condemn those with the stomach for even getting into those pockets of desperation, trying often against hope to unravel traditions of deep ingrained social poverty breeding criminality common to every slum from Santiago to Johannesburg. That's a real low act  for Sheehan in his ivory tower to exploit anguish over a teenager's tragic death to promote his own eccentric worldview through racial lenses.

None so blind as the affluent I suppose.

If it was just blow hard Sheehan on his bully pulpit in the local pub it wouldn't matter, but his Big Media influence, along with toe rag The Sydney Daily Telegraph (admittedly more moderate under David Penberthy with his Latin influences) widely spread their stereotyped white supremacist sickness to the less educated amongst us, the less disciplined in analysis.

You can just imagine the indignation of a Mandela or a Gandhi at the ignorance of someone like Sheehan. These giants were no apologist for black criminal violence, but they knew what a black underclass does to humanity.

Today I wrote this letter, as an example of the Sheehan intolerant sickness spreading:

Dear **** Board,


Can someone in a position of responsibility counsel X behind the counter at ***** to refrain from using insulting xenophobic language when he is working there. We are after all a ****** in the middle of a highly multicultural society which I rejoice in actually.



Fact is we live in a complex time of great diversity, with a premium on tolerance and mutual understanding, that requires listening and reflection, and careful avoidance of spiraling intolerance; suspicion; stereotypes and entrenched poverty (both financial but also educational and health wise).



Of course there is criminal violence in society, of course there is reverse racism, but I don't need a lightweight to preach to me from the counter of the ****** when I am responding to the [your] phonecall to me by making a visit last Saturday morning.



If I have to put up with dodgy aggressive weasel words it is quite the simple matter to generate a sworn statutory declaration, lodge it with the Anti Discrimination Board and see how many red faces that generates, not to mention empty pockets.



Here was last Saturday's soliliquy, with another staffer there as witness (whose name escapes me) totally unprovoked as best I can tell:


'my father and his father fought for this country'


'now Iemma and the ALP are destroying it letting these criminals in here' and


'so are your kind bringing the country down too' [whatever that means],




'don't talk to me about Aborigines, they don't know snot'.


The weird thing is it was all on the back pedal as if he couldn't afford to hear an answer to this simple convenient construct less the house of cards come falling down.



These attitudes are pathetic, and easy to laugh off, but I'm not laughing. These loaded obnoxious views ought to be confronted and rejected not as some harmless whimsy from a lovable old guy, but for what they are: The seed of violence and sickness that infects our society in multiple directions, and often in a negative spiral.



It hardly helps matters that easily led people are incited by toe rags like the Daily Telegraph and other shrieking right wingers in the Big Media pandering to Old White Empire like stupid Paul Sheehan in the Sydney Morning Herald who lives on a $150,000 annual salary and likely wouldn't know a childhood of poverty if it poked him in the eye.



X by all means in a democracy can choose to follow the Paul Sheehan's and Alan Jones of this world, but he can also accept the consequences.



X has an obligation to carry out his role diplomatically and ethically at ****** in a [a place] with all kinds of people with politics he may not agree with. It's not a place for white supremacist sympathies, volunteer for * years at ******* or not. I know he loves working there and is generally valued but that doesn't mean turning a blind eye as has been implied to me previously.



For the record I do think the future is coffee coloured and a good thing too (not least the melanoma rates). I don't need people agreeing with me, but staff will treat me civilly and with tolerance. I will make sure of it one way or another.



There are some fellow travellers of X knocking around the place, thankfully .... a tiny rump.... Bring on the positive changes, I say.



Yours truly


Tom McLoughlin, solicitor in NSW, grounds staff Addison Rd Centre,

principal, ecology action sydney http://cpppcltrust/ecologyactionsydney

editor www.sydneyalternativemedia.com/blog


For those interested in the nonviolence formula of a small brown man, called Gandhi here it is:
Gandhi nonviolence
including these ten principles:
Gandhi's ten principles of nonviolence:

1. Humiliating or deliberately provoking your opponent invites violence.

2. Knowing your facts and arguments well helps avoid violence.

3. If you are open about your cause your opponent is less likely to be violent.

4. Look for common ground between you and your opponents to promote trust and understanding.

5. Do not judge others.

6. Trust your opponent. They will sense this trust.

7. Compromise on inessential items to promote resolution.

8. Sincerity helps convert your opponent.

9. By making personal sacrifice you show your sincerity.

10. Avoid exploiting weakness in your opponent. Aim for integrity, not simply to win.
Postscript: The leadership of the ABC news media on this issue has been quite outstanding in the last 24 hours. Last night on 7.30 Report on Monday 8th Jan 07 regarding successful employment scheme in Moree agriculture (cotton, but that's another question), refer http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/.
Again on AM show on 702 radio this morning a successful employment scheme of Indigenous in "meaningful" conservation work on Cape York recognised with a $6M federal government grant: refer 9/1/07 at http://www.abc.net.au/am/ 
Less well known are a group of artists from the Central Desert who I am advised made $20K from their artwork created while in Sydney last year.

Posted by editor at 4:59 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 14 January 2007 9:30 AM EADT
Saturday, 6 January 2007
PM Howard wins 'most embarrassing' Australian in 2006: FHM Magazine
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: big media


A contributor has emailed us this 'strange but true' story in the NZ Herald of 3rd January 07 based on a Reuters report which perhaps is equal parts summer silly season, and real politik sledging as the tide turns on W Bush Presidency with the Democrats taking ostensible control of both houses of Congress in the USA as here:

"The Democrats are back: Pelosi opens a new era in Washington"

as reported 6th January 2007 in the UK Independent here:


The story on so called embarrassing Howard relies on the 'impeccable popular culture source' ahem, that is FHM magazine which is a porn glossy published by Emap in 15 countries and is said to be "the biggest selling men's magazine in Australia & New Zealand" (refer below), based on a blokey survey of a very big sample of 10,000 readers:

The NZ Herald story runs as follows:

Howard voted most embarrassing Aussie

Wednesday January 03, 2007

SYDNEY - Australian Prime Minister John Howard may be popular with voters, winning four elections in 10 years, but he has been voted the nation's most embarrassing Aussie in a survey of 10,000 readers of a major men's magazine.

The 2006 "Bloke Awards" in the latest FHM magazine ranged from best real and fake boobs, best beer, movie and punch, biggest sook and most embarrassing Australian.

Howard, who is often ridiculed by cartoonists and comedians for his diminutive stature and bushy eyebrows, picked up most embarrassing Aussie for 2006, narrowly ahead of recently retired Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe.

Thorpe is regularly lampooned by Australian media for his "metrosexual" fashion style.

Biggest sook went to Australian drug smuggler Schapelle Corby, who is serving a 20-year sentence in a Bali jail after being caught with a surf bag stuffed with marijuana. She claims she was set up by corrupt airport baggage handlers.

Best punch went to Australian rugby league forward Willie Mason for his "king hit" on British player Stuart Fielden, which left Fielden so concussed he reportedly forgot his mother was dead and had to be reminded by team mates.

And best beer went to Crown Lager, the country's original premium beer launched in 1953 to celebrate the coronation of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, who is also Australia's monarch.




The low brow fleshy flavour of FHM is here:


A run down on publisher Emap, an international media company, is here:


 FHM is described thus:

"FHM is the biggest selling men's magazine in Australia & New Zealand. Every issue, FHM offers the best fashion and grooming pages, plus sections dedicated to health, sports, motoring, relationships, alcohol, IT, gadgets, games and all the latest in book, film and music reviews.

The worlds fastest growing men's lifestyle magazine, published in over 15 countries. Each month, we follow a simple philosophy, if it's not funny, sexy or useful, you won't find it in FHM. But you will be guaranteed to be entertained, whether it's an exclusive photo of Jennifer Lopez or Anna Kournikova, or how to add spark to your home brew, you'll find it in FHM.

You can get 12 copies of this esteemed publication for only $79 apparently.
Here is the FHM advert at PBL's ninemsn site run by James Packer's PBL Ltd, usually seen as Howard loyalists, today:


Our view this sledge of Howard by the swinger and rich playboy crowd probably won't hurt him in the beltway church going seats, or with women voters either. 

SAM's editor can't remember too many political adverts this last 10 years promoting Howard's Crown Lager swilling, punching rugger style, as he manipulated the latest IT gadget with a blonde airhead on his arm. This survey might reinforce FHM readers self image as cool and free living but it won't bother so called Mr Average John Howard's grip on power in Australia.

But the tidal shift in the US Congress probably will.

Posted by editor at 7:36 AM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 6 January 2007 8:52 AM EADT
Thursday, 4 January 2007
West Wing tv series, bourgeois wank or worthy response to Ed Murrow's example?
Mood:  caffeinated
Topic: big media



My quest: What is WW? Is it really good (in no particular order: educational, moving, wise, appealing, entertaining) or stupid and fake? It’s created a frisson ....The answer to the questions above is “yes” thankfully for such an investment of time, with some tricks in their tv trade worth noting, and some constructive criticism too.


Ed Murrow’s challenge

Ed Murrow was the idealist tv journalist of the 1950’s who wanted television to help inform and therefore empower democracy in the USA:


Murrow was mightily unimpressed with the low brow race to the common denominator bottom advertising dollar. And he was soooo right with shiny car adverts today polluting most advertising minutes of most channels as the world exhausted and/or fouls itself in a sleep walk to destruction: The cars and the lifestyle it represents, that are killing my ecology for their inputs from mining for metals and drilling for oil, to greenhouse emissions hyperventilating the climate, to inexorable demand for more road base crushing community spirit, extending city limits, green lighting money politics through our planning regime.

The West Wing effect here

I’ve spent roughly 80 hours this holiday watching West Wing episodes on DVD and I’m not finished yet. Blinds lowered, fruit and veg supplies in, prawn oven bake snacks, smoked mussels on linseed rye. Dry ginger ale and long blacks. In fact I’ve spent so much time with these folks this holidays they almost feel like friends, but please don’t call me a groupie.

My quest: To find the answer to this: What is WW? Is it really good (in no particular order: educational, moving, wise, appealing, entertaining) or stupid and fake? It’s created a frisson


in the Australian political community influencing the lexicon


so I need to know and enjoy where I can too. Sure one can just read this enormous entry here:


but actually watching is surely the best way to measure up the show’s worth, that is on the terms it was meant to be assessed, on a tv screen fresh to a viewer without background research.

There is a full list of episode break downs here:


Some people like to drive away in summer to see the sights and meet and drink and I do too, but my driving job makes this less appealing, and I’m in training tea total now, and just sitting propped up on cushions on the floor of my live and work space ducking out for supplies, chatting with Video Ezy staff, the odd cycle down to the community centre, feels just fine so far.

After 80 odd episodes being most of series 1, 2, 3 and some of 4, I can say some things that might interest and even intrigue West Wing fans. Perhaps a vocational political activist has more chance than the average viewer in this respect.

The answer to the questions above is “yes” thankfully for such an investment of time, with some tricks in their tv trade worth noting, and some constructive criticism too.

A little background: WW is a forty minute quality tv production per week, fast paced sit com mostly centred in the Whitehouse of the USA President in the only military industrial super power on this planet. Thus it is essentially about the ways and means, trappings and perversities, of Big Power from that angle. There is plenty of other angles one could find same, say the Pentagon (military), or CBS/ABC/CNN/Fox (media), boardroom of Microsoft/General Motors (industry) etc. And absent a super power’s military the issues that come up face most governments I suppose.

As chief writer Aaron Sorkin points out in a trailer, in his WW we find ‘a love letter to government people in public service’.

Nevertheless the USA being as it is an economic and military behemoth, the WW is also a means of convenient PR of the host culture for their hegemony over the particularly western English speaking world, including all the way down to a room in Marrickville, Sydney where I am checking it out. Is it simply bourgeoisie wank as per the title above or perhaps that and a whole lot more, indeed a great broadcasting achievement to inform society in a way that Ed Murrow, the conscience of the television industry, told us is the real standard? In a complex political world these outcomes, wank and transcendence, are probably not mutually exclusive.

The review task

– compressed viewing

Some practical comments: Watching 50 hours (with more to go) of 1 hour format tv has problems: You get sick of the hyperbolic orchestral intro music pretty soon. What is meant to be a safe once per week dose soon becomes cheesy and pretentious. That’s an artefact of compressed viewing. Similarly the twee music over the end credits jarrs especially when it bookends a sombre storyline e.g. the murder of dignified African leader winning $1 billion in HIV/AIDS drug aid, only to find perhaps like chess which features a lot in the series, his journey has allowed a coup in their absence such that he is ‘killed in the airport parking lot’ on return: The desperately needed aid from the ostensible USA camelot of President Jed Bartlett dying with them.

Roll end credit twee music. Aaaargh!

- still not very dated

Fortunately the episodes date very well. The show began broadcasting in the United States of America (I don’t say America which disrespects all of South America etc) in 1999 and apparently has shut down in mid 2006.

An African President angst filled visit was in episode 26 "In This White House" (series 2 no. 4) but like good writing, acting and production, the story lines don’t go stale because most really big power struggles like epidemics, poverty, corruption, Middle East, environment, gender, energy, labour, capital special interests, racism, and did I say epidemics, are all here in familiar form 6 years after first showing in the USA, as everyone in politics knows.

One story is shockingly current: “War Crimes” at episode 49 (series 3 no. 5): ‘All wars are a crime’ notes the General to White House Chief of Staff and airforce veteran Leo McGarry explaining USA refusal to support an international court of justice on war crimes. All wars are a crime.

- language threads (beware ‘he Things’

Compressed viewing means you notice repeated phrases a lot easier: There are witty sparse phrases in moderate tones, to summarise, soften and mediate complex ‘insider power dynamics’: Big actual or potential problems become “a Thing” and “the Thing” (my capitalisation) which is intuitively contextualised as distinct from ‘the Thing’ yesterday, last week or indeed another Thing running parallel but in another policy area altogether.

(One could do a decent satire on such like: ‘Things’ as in Frankenstein monster political problems wander all of the corridors in this place and must be put to rest.)

The show is literally about Things lifted from big and oh so real political fights I read about for a vocation in a government near you. This is why it is worth watching the WW. It’s a gym work out for the mind concerned with democratic service, but also a really quite decent level of emotional and psychological intelligence. Good writing indeed. The influence of Clinton White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers seems apparent.

I also noted these terms:

“waddyaneed?” and equally “What do you need?” as in how I can help, not what I can exploit for my own career. That’s a healthy spirit of team work, and admirable.

"I'm on it" Meaning to voluntarily deal with a problem, culture of seeking responsibility amongst a high achieving ambitious culture

"blow off" In  Australia we would say 'piss someone or something off', to get rid of or dismiss.

“go away” and “get away from me” meant as an emotional safety valve, when the physical space will always be as close as the next office or corridor no matter how angry, disappointed, upset or horrified by workmates. Indeed space from those most dangerous to our sense of identity – our closest friends and colleagues. Time out for adults.

“not for nothin” a verbal underline prefacing something meant very sincerely in a world where conversation is so much insincere sales talk (at least in fast talking bullshit prone USA where child entrepreneurs charge a coin for classmates to borrow their pencil rubber).

“stop talking” when words dig a political problem deeper. Every political staffer knows the feeling of drowning where words usually so useful are the opposite.

“candy ass” as in what we would say ‘fairy floss arse’, all air and no substance, a flake

“get on the couch and I’ll do you right now” One of many amusing graphic verbal sex metaphors to mark an in fact sexless yet joyful political success. There is no sex amongst the President’s staff in all but a few storylines, but there are plenty of ‘adult themes’. Invariably invokes a genuine laugh perhaps relating to the age old truism that the pleasures of power compares, and competes, quite well with sex. Truth is these folks are married to their jobs, that is to power and ethical exercise of same. And if partners exist they are effectively widow(er)s. More of that below.

“what’s going on?” Because there is always something covert ‘going on’ in the office next door or corridor. To which there might be a useful answer or a ‘get away from me’ answer.

“paint a picture” Which of course is what political communicators always want to do either of their opponents (unflattering) or of themselves (appealing), and reminds me of abstract expressionism art on walls in big law firms here in Sydney. In that case it signifies they can paint any picture the client asks and can pay for!

“look at my face” meaning ‘I am really serious and your obtuse failure to notice my mood is pissing me off even more’. This is the Italian suit wearing version of a rap street kid’s ‘speak to the hand/the face don’t understand’ riposte.

“that’s a lid” – savvy media talk meaning end of daily news briefings.

“are you inside?” or “do you want to come inside?”– meaning the access/exclusion to a policy decision/debate.

“head’s up” as in tip off about a situation arising

"what's next?" the typical refrain of the smart busy person that you go to to get things done!

"wheels up/wheels down" meaning literal aeroplane travelling time (say on Airforce 1) perhaps out of cell phone contact for telecommunicate work, or free from ground based political troubles. Again 'busy person' talk.

- fast paced repartee

Never in all my news and current affairs watching, and then into popular culture, have I had to strain so much to really hear everything that’s going in the dialogue. So I got my headphones and watched the WW on computer. Lo and behold 20%, and it might be said sometimes the shiniest gem stones, was revealed to me. I have had this experience with some really subtle pop music and read a review once saying Mark Knopfler, the inspired plucker from Dire Straits, also deserves this attention to detail.

Homage to recent tv/film legends

There is the odd breath taking cross reference to recent quality broadcast history in keeping with the Ed Murrow quest outlined by Clooney’s movie referred above, that keeps the hardcore quality tv (remember that?) fan coming back to the WW even if only in hope of another: In episode 44 (no.22 in Series 2 called "Two Cathedrals") when CJ the press secretary character complains that ‘even Ted Baxter’ will ask the embarrassing question they are all dreading, no one blinks, everyone in character of the storyline knows, yet in truth’Ted Baxter’ finished as a fictional character on tv maybe 20 years previous: The iconic classic flaky (ie ‘candy ass’) bril creamed news presenter in the Mary Tyler Moore Show made in the feminist awakenings of the 1970’s. Loved that reference.

Incredible how a throw away line like that could say so much on so many levels.

On reflection MTM indeed was a kind of poor man’s West Wing about moderate power/human frailty but from the media angle not a politician’s office. Ed Murrow would have approved of grouchy Lou Grant the news director played by Ed Asner in the MTM show. A very moving show that WW writers surely lean on in modern times. A good read of the history here:


Murrow surely would have liked MTM and WW both, I have no doubt. True to Murrow’s worst fears, the highly flaky totally dispensible craven Ted Baxter newsreader type survives an economic purge at the station and everyone else is sacked as revealed in the link above.
Another fine moment for the viewers tipping the WW hat to those coming before, was the same really big bold episode of Pres Bartlett facing a huge hall of press corps over his once secret ‘remitting recurring MS’ health problem. Not so far fetched given real President Ronald Reagan really did have creeping Alzheimer’s, while noting the less fraught mild MS problem does not actually cook the intellect, while Reagan’s surely did for real while still in harness.

What I am referring to in broadcast history terms was the music overlay and surreal imagery of that episode: It was a 60’s faded guitar echo of the Doors with ‘The End My Friend’ or very similar, which in turn reprised Sheen’s earlier character of gritty, and thus ‘most dangerous when cornered’ Captain Willard way back in a giant movie achievement Apocalypse Now directed by Francis Ford Coppola:


(The fact a slice of Mark Knopfler’s Dire Staits spooky ‘Brothers in Arms’ tune was weaved in just prior underlined it all in another cute cross reference, a quite deserved slice for ‘deep well’ Knopfler’s work inserted this top line show: When you track MK’s stuff it is very social welfare and humanist in content. Very. And poetic too seeing him inevitably working with iconic fellow traveller Bob Dylan on album Slow Train Coming. I notice WW writer Aaron Sorkin is said to be a strong fan of Dire Staits too here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Sorkin )

Here was Sheen/Willard/Bartlet in one giant film/tv industry symbol facing massive destruction as director Coppola apparently did in the making of his film, and surviving somehow. Surviving being surely one of the most admirable qualities of humanity, sometimes against all odds.

Sheen/Bartlet/Willard/Apocalypse Now/West Wing. The artistic cross over was very powerful and moving. The ghost of pivotal maternal and feminist straight talking character Mrs Landingham, his guardian angel, leading him over the threshold from failure to success, as her character crossed the ultimate threshold herself of life into death, well that was sublime scripting. A wondrous climax. No wonder Hollywood writers are going back to tv with episodes like that.

Actor Rob Lowe who plays saintly Sam Seaborne series 1 to 3 inclusive (more of that religious dimension below) in the pioneering phases of the series, actually mentions in a DVD special feature: ‘the body of work of Martin Sheen including Apocalypse Now makes it easy to take orders from Martin as if he really was the President’. Mary Tyler Moore ….or is it Mrs Landingham now 30 years later?, and Apocalypse Now are two great works WW builds on.

The other great aspect of that climactic finale to series two was the Shakespearean use of weather parallel to the turmoil in the affairs of people. One can say its artifice but this writer recalls “not for nothing” by which I mean for real on Friday the 13th of Sept 1994 when the thunder clouds pounced on Sydney, the day the NSW then government made a terrible decision against the environment to be thrown out of office 6 months later. I am reminded of this too as the daughter of that premier John Fahey was in the newspapers earlier this week front page killed in a car crash at 27, may her soul rest in peace.

Cryptic name games

From the outset I want to say “not for nothing” that creator Aaron Sorkin is having a lend of us in a gentle charming way with his character names. You can be sure the makers were thinking about the sound of the names too: In one episode they joke about an engagement of Shellburne and Seaborn as hopeless as the double barrel name would sound stupid. Here are my personal decodes:

- Josh Lyman as political tactics man. Well who else but a ‘joshing lie man’? Mind you his character actually knows flake from barramundi so to speak. He won’t back the slick but vacuous Presidential candidate John Hoynes because ‘he’s not the real deal’. Bartlet gets this tactics prodigy instead.

- Toby Ziggler. A ‘tubby stickler’ very dogmatic about ethical government for the people and not powerful special interests. A good contrast to joshing man above.

- Leo McGarry. A ‘gritty lion’, not least his looks which we are told later is ‘made of leather, a map of the world’. See what I mean about poetic.

- Donna Moss. Sadly D…. M….. is actually a charming elegant indeed talented ‘door mat’ however idealistic and dedicated. In fact because of those very things. Every show we hear joshing man shout out imperiously to “DONNA!” his assistant that she is institutionalised to react to. We know this is partly by choice and personal psychology because she her ex boyfriend was ‘Dr Free Loader’ she supported through medical school before taking on co dependent Joshing man. She even turns down a high paid Issues Director slot with an internet start up for the same reason – it’s a stand alone position so no co dependence involved. Mercifully she breaks out of the cycle by the 5th series, but only after a car bomb shakes her sense of identity and mortality.

- Mandy Hampton. ‘Man’ ish with ‘tons’ of ‘ham’. Mannish but only in the alpha male tough driven personality aspect. Physically she is a pocket rocket feminista, very cute and knows it. And a comic ‘ton’ load of ‘ham’ ish hyperbole in her character ….like ignoring traffic cops on her mobile because she is just too busy to be arrested, kerb jumping in her bmw, trading down a $900K salary to work on the Hill. That tons of ham alpha man Mandy Hampton replaced by Amy Gardner character.

- Sam Seaborn. ‘C- born’. Geddit?! Like ‘Christ’ some people are just made both smart and yet totally good all the way through. No muck in them. Makes platonic friends with a prostitute and doesn’t disown her when the heat is on, just like a certain high minded God Jesus is reported to have done with Mary Magdalen. Sam’s righteous fury is frightening and dramatic firing the arse of 2 coward lawyer weasels to help Ainsley (see below). Writes the ‘cure for cancer’ speech which you just know won’t make the cut, angles for ‘super conductor/colliders’ for the purpose of ‘discovery’ over pork barrel small mindedness. An inspired performance by Rob Lowe, replaced by Will Bailey character.

- Ainsley Hayes who is ‘inanely hazed’, that is mindlessly cruelly mistreated on arrival.

- Will Bailey – This is really funny, like Toby is Tubby above (Tubby looks a lot thinner later in the long running series, and they even have him eating a salad which I think he calls weeds?). Will moves in to take on actor Rob Lowe’s pivotal role as Sam Seaborn who obviously wants to ‘bail’ out of the series after 3 solid seasons: Fair enough still youngish, surely has more professional plans of some kind. So we have actor Joshua Malina who literally ‘will bail’ out the West Wing after the critical loss of Rob Lowe who when you look at the early dust jackets is listed first in star quality ahead of all others including Sheen. Roll on series 4 and 5 in the business that is now the WW.

- Amy Gardener – Ambitious toiler for the fruits of the world. Amy is a sharp youngish career feminista like Mandy above. Amy is well dressed in black with the perfect accessory, a smart mouth. Like Mandy the ex girlfriend to joshing man who came on platonically as a staffer, so Amy becomes actual love interest of joshing Man as a staffer. It’s either that or consummate the tension between Donna and Josh man. One of the few actual sex amongst staff plot lines is with Amy. But it doesn’t work out. She overcooks the ambition for Josh and maybe herself.

- Lord John ‘Marbury’, as in here we go round the ‘Mulberry bush’. Eccentric brilliant UK ambassador. Always walking and talking ‘in circles’ and at quite ‘frenetic speed’. But always gets the job done too …like preventing a war on the Subcontinent being the best of british champ that he is. Just like the nursery rhyme here:

- Joey Lucas – looks like a baby kangaroo ‘joey’ in facial features, and petite frame is suggestive. Cute with it too. Plays the deaf polling expert who ‘links us’ to the voting public’s thinking. Step on up Joey Lucas.

- ‘Abbey’ Bartlett – is effectively a nun in an ‘Abbey’ widowed like so many other politician spouses by her dear husband’s election to President. Short for “Abigail” but rarely heard. On one occasion the couple reveal they haven’t had the opportunity for sex for 14 weeks for various reasons and not for the lack of interest. Way too classy to be a victim of circumstance and as a feminista ‘aircraft carrier’ amongst sail boats, she roams the world sewing emancipation, practices medicine even when she ought not and loves her hubby Jed, father of her 3 daughters. Played masterfully by Stockard Channing which has to be one of the best names for an actor in the world.

- Jed Bartlet – The real reason is because he is a convenient namesake of a real figure of American history as here
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josiah_Bartlett who actually did sing the Declaration of Independence. But I like this version too:

‘Jedi’ ‘Bart’ ‘let’. The suggestion here is ‘Jed’ is the human presidential version of an all saving hero ‘Jedi’ in the highly popular Star Wars franchise:

As to Bart: A “bart” apparently according to
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/bart includes this definition “best available retrofit technology” as per American Heritage Abbreviations Dictionary 3rd Edition

Think back to 1998 or so one year before West Wing broadcast 1999. The submission here is that in the West Wing the US Democrats effort is to retrofit or ‘bart’ the increasingly melodramatic and hysterical media presentation of President Bill Clinton at year 5 or 6 of his presidency facing impeachment 1998-9


with a better fictional version in Jedi Bart. It’s a little television screen fictional retrofit, so it’s a ‘bartlet’ (like pig/piglet).

Jed Bartlet in WW has this ‘once in a generation’ mind including ‘Nobel Prize for economics’, ‘successful State Governor’, doesn’t rely on shouting to solve problems. You could be forgiven (once maybe) for saying Bartlet ‘barks less” than he bites, because with all that intellectual power he doesn’t need to. His secret service name is Eagle for obvious reasons – US Presidential coat of arms has the eagle, but then so does a patrol in the 7th Warrnambool Boy Scouts (I know because I invented the name in about 1974).

- Charlie Young – Charlie as in Charlie ‘Brown’ (as the character is distinctively Afro American) and Young because he is conspicuously ‘young’.

- CJ (aka Claudi Jean Cregg) CJ looks like what we lawyers call a ‘Chief Judge’ always shortened to CJ in law reports – as in very judicious standing before and above the press throng, making decisions on all questions served up, and C as in sees everything which is what you want in a media manager. Also being an actress physically as tall as a light house probably helps. ‘Flamingo’ secret service term because she looks like one in colouring and slenderness. You can’t say they don’t enjoy names and their echo on the WW.

Danny Concannon – looks in complexion and whimsy a bit like ‘Danny’ Kaye the famous comic actor. Also con is latin for with. And Danny definitely has ‘a cannon’ known as the Washington Post newspaper as per his very own Wikipedia entry here complete with fictional Pulitzer prize:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danny_Concannon He gets the girl in the end apparently.

There are other amusing names in the show with bit parts straight out of Dickens like: Caprice, an office assistant. And Lieutenant Gantry the aircraft officer, gantry being a metal arm for loading unloading in big hangers and warehouses. All good for a laugh. Lawyer character Cliff Calley also springs to mind for willingness to jump off that cliff for friend Donna.

General comments

There is a serious degree of affluence exhibited in this show you might call the ooh and aah factor exploiting voyeuristic viewer envy. The parade of Modern Rome to the provinces (that us here in Oz) not unlike a recent movie review of ostentatious Marie Antoinette

directed by, and get this, someone called Sofia Coppola. How’s that for tangential connection to the West Wing via homage to Apocalypse Now director Francis Ford Coppola as above.
No doubt it generates the credibility of realism essential to the raison detre but from a long way away it looks egregiously selfish too in a world of pain and need. Thus my hard lefty friend refers to it’s bourgeoisie sit com flavour which does become quite apparent around episode 59 "Dead Irish Writers" (series 3 # 15) in their ball gowns and finery on display.
There is quite a deal of realism which is summarised by contrast with real events here:
Above is already discussed parallel of real Pres Clinton’s impeachment travails of 98 and 99 even if in flippant context by me about cryptic names, not to mention the grand jury process challenging fictional president Bartlet over non disclosure of a serious health issue crossing over to Reagan’s real health problems.

The black hat for real was investigator Kenneth Starr chasing after Bill Clinton which seems close to the plot line of "Ways and Means" episode 47 (series 3 #3) especially when you read


The show on Oct 3rd 2001 was a direct reaction to Sept 11th bombing with whole jet aircraft with hostages, and was called "Isaac and Ishmael" . It is about as moderate education as you might expect for a nation in shock and television industry likely back on its heels trying to work out how to approach the unprecedented viewer audience.

But in comparison to what they generated before and since covering complex fraught real politik it was pretty boring and more of a high school lecture full of existential angst, so no wonder it’s excluded from the general episode lists on wikipedia though it is included in the sequence on the DVD hire.

There are some inconsistencies over time of years too. Early on the McGarry character lays down the standards, stating ‘we don’t strut’ meaning to avoid arrogance and exhibitionism. But really there is quite a bit of strutting in the back office and in the ball gowns later on.

Overall its very entertaining and interesting I think for those wanting to improve and engage mainstream politics. I would recommend it to any activist or political science student at least to compare in a mature way how the Haves can do things better than George W Bush in power at the moment now, even if it leaves a lot to be desired as regards deeper solutions for the Have Nots of this world. These could only dream of the income and working conditions of these folks at the apex of the government sector out of 250 million population in modern Rome.

And not for intrinsic superiority. Basic statistics show there is an Einstein, a Newton, a Mandela, a Clinton and a Bartlet amongst the impoverished and disease affected in the world marching to an early death. A Jesse Jackson, a Shane Warne, a Federer, a [take your pick of modern sport stars]. It’s all about affluence and corruption at many levels and places.

For instance the model of democracy outlined in the synthesis of diverse White House characters with their different strengths and weakness is not much different to Nelson Mandela’s description in his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom (1994) of traditional chiefs meeting and talking for days at a time at a local village venue. So what else is new from rural black South Africa of the 1930’s to the White House in 2006?

Fictional Bartlet himself is quoted at the end of episode 80 "Inauguration Over There" (series 4 # 15) with the famous quote of American anthropologist Margaret Mead

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”


Sure, we all sort of always knew that. It’s not the model of discussion and debate that varies in successful political decision making societies. It always involves a sensible synthesis of a wide variety of views expertise and experience in a respectful process of listening and adjustment, testing against evidence in a constant feedback loop. Rather its structural economic and military abuse and likely other institutional abuse of power across the world that is at the heart of human suffering.

It will take more than playing Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah from the renowned album Grace


in episode 65 (Posse Comitatus, series 3 #22) to justify ex judicial assassination of a terrorist Arabic diplomat, while doing business with other murderers around the world, not least various thugs of the former Soviet Union, or China in the case of Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd.

Indeed the resolution of structural corruption involving USA oil dependence probably has a lot more to do with the thesis of Syrianna


with lead actor George Clooney, ironically the same Clooney as director of the love letter to Ed Murrow in Good Night Good Luck referred to at the outset for which West Wing surely was meant to address. Would Murrow


a decorated World War 2 correspondent at the liberation of Buchenwald, who flew in bombing raids, who reported from London in the Blitz and then famous tv broadcaster agree with covert assassination, even of a terrorist diplomat? I wonder. How can secret killing ever be justified?

That’s the trouble with self defence built on economic fascism as outlined in Syrianna: It’s a descending vortex of cruel self reinforcing violence.

With Rob Lowe and highly praised writer Aaron Sorkin both absent from the 4th and following series (anything to do with a drugs possession charge in Sorkin's case?) I will watch the fifth series now to see how the show changed for better or worse.

I wonder.

First published 1st January 2007 on



Postscript #1

a 'frisson' for USA nuke silos here?

by author of string Tuesday January 02, 2007 at 11:46 AM

First a correction: WW is about 40 minutes long per episode not 1 hour.

Secondly, we have this cute word "frisson" popping up last night on abc tv prime time news last night or was it 7.30 Report (I don't remember) as if someone gives a damn about my MIM piece here. Perhaps just a coincidence from my use of the unusual word above then into the media darwinian jungle/melting pot.

Also I was gratified to notice my presience regarding this paragraph of mine near the end of the main post:

"Would Murrow


a decorated World War 2 correspondent at the liberation of Buchenwald, who flew in bombing raids, who reported from London in the Blitz and then famous tv broadcaster agree with covert assassination, even of a terrorist diplomat? I wonder. How can secret killing ever be justified?

That’s the trouble with self defence built on economic fascism as outlined in Syrianna: It’s a descending vortex of cruel self reinforcing violence."

Indeed this huge moral question i discuss is picked up pretty early in the 5th series by the script writers, at


In the show we have these full on (in fact so profound its worth noting commencing at 20 min 20 sec) , quotes about the USA modus operandi in foreign policy (the show was broadcast on Oct 1 2003, say 6 months after the Iraq war):

delivered by fictional Pres Bartlet to chief of Staff McGarry

"It’s about our allowing situations to develop in countries like this in the first place. We choose the order and certainty of petty despots over the uncertainty and chaos of developing democracies …..”

And then quoting Dr Martin Luther King (as if both characters had met the 39 year old civil rights lawyer personally before he was gunned down in 1968


“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, returning violence with violence only multiplies violence adding deeper darkeness to a night already devoid of stars ….I’m part of that darkness now. When did that happen?”

And surely we are indeed in that geopolitical night in Iraq, Palestine, Africa. There are no horrors mankind is not capable of.

Fictional McGarry, who is the vietnam veteran airforce pilot

(who is compromised by a recent briefing, that unbeknownst 30 years earlier that McGarry killed 11 Viet civillians unintentionally when he bombed a dam wall as per instructions, in 'War Crimes' episode 49 broadcast Nov. 7 2001 which is 2 months after Sept 11, bombing with planes full of hostages of the WTC, a war crime like so many others).

responds to the Bartlet soliliquy above leaning on King's advice by saying:

'Dr King wasn't wrong he just didn’t have your job'

Elsewhere in the show McGarry points out the President’s problem is he ‘won’, meaning the election i.e. it goes with the job.

Consider however in the series 1 trailer for the show, actor Martin Sheen says there are plenty of things in series 2 and perhaps 3 that he greatly dislikes about his character, that he is a pacifist and environmentalist off screen unlike the character he plays.

These issues of violence and democracy seem reinforced somehow with this particular episodes heavy base and melodic soundtrack so familiar to the Thin Red Line movie soundtrack by Hans Zimmer: TRL again with Clooney in the cast briefly with idealists Sean Penn etc.

(A movie essentially about refusing an order in grossly violent ww2 Guadalcanal campaign, the essence of democracy in fact, but same informed defiance leading to victory over the ruthless Japanese army, in short democracy winning over totalitarianism for its lack of diversity. Quite profound movie adding to the genre here.)

There are lessons for Australia from this world of fiction and art in WW so well breifed by such as Dee Dee Myers of the actual Clinton administration as per the credits:

It would be a wise ally in a country like Australia to understand that 1st priority of the USA in all cases is the USA including breach of international law where arguably forced to.

This puts Australia’s situation a long way second despite all the flattery and mutual back slapping Australia America Leadership Dialogues petting of prominent professionals in the provinces here of Modern Rome (I’m thinking folks like Maxine McKew, or that sacked abc radio presenter Sally Loane).

Say for instance using Australia as a dumping ground for USA nuke waste, but just as likely or in parallel nuclear military silos. USA interest first, Australia interest way second.

Indeed in another episode, #90 entitled ‘Han’ about North Korea piano defector, broadcast only 2 episodes later Oct 22nd 2003, press secretary character CJ refers to North Korea having the ability to nuke Australia, with same McGarry character like this (at 1 minute into the show proper):

CJ: “You [North Korea[ could obliterate Australia but you are still just a punk”
McGarry: “Good opener, use that”

[said in gentle sarcastic way as they go to meet the NK piano player and his two govt minders in uniform]

Remember this show is broadcast back in late 2003 and this script is generated and broadcast in Modern Rome to the gratification and entertainment of the whole USA govt sector right and left. The general context of the script is nuke negotiations with North Korea that fail.

It is quite clear what the popular perception in the USA of what Australia’s role should be regarding North Korea here (just like Chile should do what its told in 1973 in the Cold War?):

Australia, at primary risk like Seoul/South Korea from demented North Korea, and therefore a pawn in Modern Rome’s geopolitik, whether we in Australia actually agree or not to being positioned in that way, say at the next federal election where we vote Rudd or Howard, or is there any difference between them, on USA nuke silos here?

I wonder. Demonstrably Rudd is against nuke power, so is that the subtext really between the federal ALP and federal Coalition - uneconomic nuke power but really national interest on nuke weapon silos on 'USS aircraft carrier Australia'.

Or, or perhaps additionally, is nuke power simply Howard's craven admission clean coal' is 'a joke PR term' of the coal industry (which is the view of another episode broadcast fully 3 years ago to the govt sector in Modern Rome # 93 "Constituency of One" broadcast around the same period Oct 29, 2003.

You really start to notice we are in the provinces of Modern Rome with all this 3 year time delay on stuff affecting us in Australia 2007.



Postscript #2

Garrett MP gets it for all his slick sellout?

I did a deep sledge of Peter Garrett on MIM before Christmas but I give him credit for this column, which truth to be told is Fairfax's way, green ink graphic and all, of positioning PG as the moderate environmental candidate to shove more radical Bob Brown machine aside as much as possible:


Most of it is in there: waste, terrorism risk, uneconomic, international waste dump.

He doesn't mention nuke weapons silos but I feel sure its behind Howard's enthusiasm via covert deal with Bush regime, eh? To lay off the AWB oversight farce, eh? That cost us alot in sovereignty eh?

Which in an indy media sense reinforces the great need for an independent pro green/Green mainstream press. And for that requires a platform of decent distribution. It all comes down to distribution capacity (or not as in the case of sorry arse offline Sydney indymedia at the moment for some 3 weeks).


Posted by editor at 8:56 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 24 January 2007 11:11 AM EADT

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