Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Robin Long, Joni Mitchell, Bionic Woman, Iraq

Found in the paper. News on Iraq, music (Joni Mitchell) and TV (Bionic Woman).


"NDP calling for the release of US war resister Robin Long"
TORONTO -- Following the arrest of US war resister Robin Long yesterday in Nelson, B.C., NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina) and NDP MP Alex Atamanenko (British Columbia Southern Interior) are calling on the Harper government to reexamine their decision to deport Long and allow him to stay in Canada.
"Canada has always been a country that stands up for basic human rights. Conscientious objectors who have fled George W. Bush’s illegal war in Iraq should be allowed to stay," said Chow.
"Two war resisters' cases are currently before the Supreme Court of Canada," pointed out Atamanenko. "No one should be arrested or deported before the Court has a chance to make a decision."
Robin Long, from Boise, Idaho, received his orders in March 2005 and left for Canada the following June, believing the war in Iraq was illegal. He lives in Canada with his Canadian partner Renee and their young son. The Immigration and Refugee Board did not find his claims to be untruthful but ruled against his case and his deportation is imminent.
"anada has always been a place of refuge for war resisters who refuse to fight in illegal wars," noted Chow. "From Vietnam to now, Canada has a proud and distinguished history of putting justice first, and allowing people of conscience to seek refuge in our country. Canada has to release Mr. Long and allow him to stay in Canada."
Chow noted that a recent poll taken in Ontario showed that almost two thirds of Ontarians believe that Canada should allow war resisters to stay in Canada.

More news:

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills)
Tuesday, October 2, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, war resister Robin Long is arrested by the same creeps who pulled the stunt earlier with Kyle Snyder, Blackwater's Erik Prince testifies to Congress, the UK announces a drawdown, the US Congress (Democratically led) keeps buying into the illegal war, and more.

Starting with war resistance. Robin Long was arrested yesterday. War resister Long went to Canada in June 2005. He applied for refugee status. Like everyone who has applied thus far, Long was denied.
The New Democratic Party of Canada issues a statement "calling on the [prime minister Stephen] Harper government to reexamine their decision to deport Long and allow him to stay in Canada." It's noted that Long "lives in Canada with his Canadian partner Renee and their young son." So the Canadian government has arrested Long, intending to deport him and thereby split up a family. Olivia Chow points to "a recent poll taken in Ontario [which] showed that almost two thirds of Ontarians believe that Canada should allow war resisters to stay in Canada." The War Resisters Support Campaign notes that the poll was "conducted by phone from June 5 to 11, 2007" and that "close to two thirds of Ontarians favour letting US Iraq War resisters settle in Canada" and that polling was "conducted by the national research firm Strategic Communications Inc". Shirley Douglas (who worked her butt of during Vietnam and is as dedicated today) is quoted declaring, "This poll shows that the Canadian tradition of welcoming Americans who dissent from the policies of war is still important to us. The Canadian government should move now to make it possible for the war resisters to settle in this country, as so many did during the Vietnam War." The Christian Radical notes that Nelson was "arrested by the Nelson B.C. Police who intend to take him to Vancouver and hand him over to the US authorities at the border nearby. He was seized as he walked along a street. He is now detained in the local jail. Robin was not allowed to receive visits from friends; however he was able to call his spouse. She says that he is calm and hopeful that he will soon be released." The is the same Nelson B.C. Police that arrested Kyle Snyder on the orders of the US military -- in direct violation of Canadian soveriegnty. In the US, Gregory Levey (Salon) becomes the first at a US news outlet to cover that and he is also the last because it's just too much work for independent media apparently. Now a similar thing has happened to Robin Long. Exactly when the hell does independent media in the United States intend to do its damn job? The Christian Radical notes: "The War Resisters Support Campaign is urging all our friends and supporters to CALL THE NELSON POLICE AT 250-354-3919 AND TELL THEM TO RELEASE ROBIN LONG. We urge you as well to contact your local Member of Parliament and ask her or him to help release Robin."

Along with Kyle Snyder being arrested in a similar stunt (on his wedding day), the US military itself crossed over into Canada and posed as Canadian police officers -- harassing Winnie Ng at her home and demanding to know where war resister Joshua Key was. As independent media in this country -- including the "Nobody owns The Nation" useless piece of crap -- has refused to cover this story, the US has grown ever more bold about issuing orders to lackeys in Canada who aren't concerned with upholding Canadian law, just with being suck ups to the United States.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key,
Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko,Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.

Blackwater USA. Today, Erik Prince -- CEO of the mercenary company -- popped into Congress for a hearing on the issue of private security in Iraq held by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chaired by Rep Henry Waxman. Prince fidgeted throughout, used the phrase "I don't know" repeatedly, showed his disdain for Congress by frequently rolling his eyes, smirking and, when Rep Peter Welch was questinging him, combined the two with an extended head turn to the right and away from Welch. With his disain on full display, the obvious question was for committee members to ask him about his physical presentation. No one did. A lot of representatives wasted time. Rep Diane Watson was the best example of wasted time on the Democratic side and Prince's nonstop smirks during that exchange may have been warranted as Watson went on and on (about topics that had nothing to do with Blackwater such as the MoveOn ad and Rush Limbaugh) only to suddenly declare "And so my question to you" before going back to yammering on. Each time she would say "my question to you," Was there a point to her remarks? It was the embarrassment from the Democratic side as she seemd determined to deliver a free association monologue. Each time she would use the term "question," Prince would lead forward, open his mouth, then close it because Watson wasn't interested in an answer and wasn't interested in getting to a question. What was her point? Who knows with lines like "You are providing a service." At one point, around the fourth or fifth time Prince had leaned in to answer only to grasp she wasn't yielding, he looked around and as if he was about to laugh. Across America -- to the left, to the right, to the center -- many others may have been laughing as well.

On the Republican side? They win as ensemble, too many did far too much for just one to be signaled out. Top honors within the ensemble go to Lynn Westmoreland who wasted everyone's time by putting on his glasses and reading his remarks from prepared text. If you can write down everything ahead of time, don't even show up, just fax your prepared remarks to the media. And that was honestly a problem for most. Those who didn't so obviously read from their prepared remarks for their entire allotted time also didn't appear to listen too closely. That was true regardless of political party. Democrats John Sarbanes and Peter Welch deserve (positive) notice for questions and comments that demonstrated they were aware of what had been asked as well as what had been asked but not answered. Bruce Braley (Democrats) also deserves credit for not wasting his allotted time with a bunch of sop but instead tearing away at the issue of the laws that would or would not govern Blackwater in Iraq -- tearing away at the topic and refusing to let go. Noting the Blackwater employee -- allegedly drunk, who shot dead an Iraqi bodyguard on Christmas Eve 2006 (the committee agreed not to ask about the September 16th incident where Blackwater slaughtered at least 11 innocent Iraqis at the request of the Justice Department) and what passed for 'punishment' --Braley pointed out the message to take away was, "If I screw up . . . the worst that's going to happen is I have to give up a window seat for an aisle seat."

Braley was referring to the fact that Blackwater didn't discipline him. Prince repeatedly -- throughout the hearing -- would immediately go to flogging insisting (over and over) "We can't flog". The inablity to flog appears to be a big issue with Prince. Prince explained (at several points) that -- though they couldn't flog -- what Blackwater did with the employee was pull his plane ticket, withheld the employee's paycheck and the employee's bonus. Prince -- falling back on the flogging -- declared that Blackwater did all they could. Witholding earned wages is supposed to be against the law so it's a shame no one asked Prince what law Blackwater was operating under when they made that decision. A bonus can be given or taken away and any dispute over it can be handled by the courts but earned wages are earned wages and companies do not have the right to withold them.

What Price left out was that the employee didn't just leave. He was proud that the employee's security clearence was pulled. But he failed to show the public his pride over the fact that Blackwater hustled the employee out of Iraq before any serious questions could be asked. Price -- noting he watches crime shows on TV -- begged off ruling whether it was murder, homicide or manslaughter but didn't quibble that, in fact, it was a crime. That being the case, why an employee who had committed a serious crime was being whisked out of Iraq is a question he should have been asked repeatedly.

The point Braley was making was US service members -- in the same situation -- would be facing a court-martial but all the Blackwater employee basically lost was a window seat on the trip home. Throughout it at all, regardless of any question other than about his time in the US Navy Seals, Prince repeatedly fell back on "I don't know." On violence, on whether Chilean thugs who worked for Pinochet were now working for Blackwater (Jan Schakowsky brought that issue up and hit hard repeatedly on the human rights issue), what the make up of the Blackwater force in Iraq was, etc. It was left to Chris Murphy (after many had left the hearing -- press and committee members) to state the obvious, "Certainly as CEO you can tell us what your profit has been?" No, he couldn't.

But he could indicate that he believes Blackwater employees are destroying Blackwater equipment intentionally. That probably wasn't his intent but he declared, to Murphy, that "Our helicopters get fragged." "Frag" is internal not external. If the Blackwater helicopters are being "fragged" then the "fragging" would have to be done by a Blackwater worker. Listening to Prince go on and on about Blackwater's "costs" What costs? That's a serious question. Replacing a helicopter? Well talk to anyone in the trucking industry or the delivery industry and they'll tell you equipment's replaced all the time. But the point was driven home best when Jan Schakowsky was asking (repeatedly) how Blackwater checks out their employees. According to Prince, they basically just run Social Security numbers. So Glory, Glory Private Business . . . as it still depends upon all the tools of the federal government. As Henry Waxman noted in his opening statement, "Over the past 25 years, a sophisticated campaign has been waged to privatize government services. The theory is that corporations can deliver government services better and at a lower cost than government can. Over the last six years, this theory has been put into practice. The result is that privatization has exploded. For every taxpayer dollar spent on federal programs, over 40 cents now goes to private contractors. Our government now outsources even the oversight of the outsourcing. At home, core government functions -- like tax collection and emergency response -- have been contracted out. Abroad companies like Halliburton and Blackwater have made billions performing tasks that used to be done by our nation's military forces. What's been missing is a serious evaluation of whether the promises of privatizing are actually realized." Instead of addressing the reality, Prince elected to play like he didn't know, couldn't recall and invent fantasies. Such as when he wanted to tale the tale of his proudest moment of life. Picture it, if you could, because he couldn't. A man, an officer, unnamed, but this is the most vivid moment of Prince's life, right? So the officer tells him that all the troops serving under him know that if they get into trouble into Iraq, call Blackwater first. A lie and an obvious one. But if Prince wants to stick by it, then the US military might want to address policy with those serving because troops do NOT first call mercenaries when they are in need of help. In fact, to do so is a violation of the chain of command.

House Rep and 2008 presidential Democratic hopeful Dennis Kucinich attempted to seriously address the issue of the contracts Blackwater has been awarded by the federal government. He raised serious issues (including the huge increase Blackwater sees each year -- $48 million in 2004, $500 million last year). Prince told Kucinich these weren't "no bid" contracts, that Kucinich misunderstood. He fell back on that repeatedly allowing him to avoid Kucinich's questions. Then, after several other members had their turn at questioning, Prince wanted to clarify the record, turns out some of those contracts he was declaring weren't no-bid, were no-bid contracts.

It was very similar to his appalling response to US service members being scapegoated for the actions of Blackwater: "I don't believe that false story lasted in the media for more than a few hours." But when you're attempting to hustle someone out of the country, every hour counts. And what's a lie to Blackwater? Prince did the same thing with Kucinich's questions. He lied. Then, after he'd eated up the time on the clock, he would clarify his statements on the no-bid contracts. In fairness, if Prince is the idiot he pretended for the committee, then his lawyer assisted him because his attorney (seated to the left of him) was advising him throughout. But that is Blackwater for you. Lying doesn't matter if they correct it . . . after they've gotten what they wanted whether it's time to whisk an employee out of the country or to run down the clock on questions.

He smirked when the e-mail on the shooting was read, when "At least the ID of the shooter will take the heat off us" was read into the record. The heat was off Blackwater and it was placed on the US service members. But Prince thinks it's fine because it -- the lie -- was just out there for "a few hours." At another point, Prince would declare (of this same incident), "Look, I'm not going to make any apologies." No, he wasn't going to. And that he hasn't been forced to goes to how little accountability there is. Which is why he could also declare, "I believe we acted appropriately at all times."

If there was a more appalling moment than that -- to hear a CEO responsible for a company where an employee killed someone (they were focusing on the one death) declare he had no apologies to make -- it was when Mike Turner elected to whine about all the sympathy being shown. Why, he insisted, no one was even noting al-Qaeda. The issue wasn't al-Qaeda. The issue was a US company (of mercenaries) are harming Iraqi civlians (specific instances cited), not facing any punishment for it and it's the US service members that get blamed for it and have to deal with the further hostilities. But Turner -- who appeared genuinely stupid -- couldn't grasp that at and let his whine continue to declare that the focus on Iraqi civilians killed by Blackwater bothered him because "I think it crosses the line between our team and their team." Fortunately for Turner, there were other moments that people will probably zoom in on.Such as Lynn Westmoreland's crack-pot theories about a menace (Red?) in cahoots with trial attorneys across the nation. Thankfully, Westmoreland assured the country that this unnamed menace was not serving in the legislative branch ("There is a party not in Congress . . .").Less concerned with finger pointing within the halls of Congress, Darrell Issa attempted to paint the entire motive for the hearing as partisan, insisting that the hearing was being held because Blackwater has given so much money to Republicans. Erik Prince rejected that, noting, "Blackwater is not a partisan company." It flew over Issa's head. "I think you're exactly right!" Issa crowed, ignoring what Prince had just stated, and insisting this was an attempting to turn it into a partisan issue. Henry Waxman rightly pointed out, "The only one who's done that is you."Christopher Shays, before all but falling to his knees to praise the military, declared, "I was a conscientious objector. I was in the Peace Corp!"

As noted earlier, the September 16th slaughter was taken 'off the table'.
Demetri Sevastopulo (Financial Times of London) reports that the FBI's plans to open an investigation into the incident ("last month shot and killed 11 Iraqi civilians") and "send a team to Iraq to assist a State department investigation." There are plenty of witnesses for them to talk to. Jomana Karadsheh and Alan Duke (CNN) report that the Iraqi police officer operating in the square asserts Blackwater "became terrorists" and that "they entered the square, throwing water bottles at the Iraqi police posted there and driving in the wrong direction." The police officer explains, "I saw parts of the woman's head flying in front of me, blow up and then her entire body was charred. What do you expect my reaction to be? Are they protecting the country? No. If I had a weapon I would have shot at them."

After Eric Prince completed his testimony, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform heard from US ambassadors David M. Satterfiled, Richard J. Griffin and William H. Moser. This aspect of the hearing was much shorter than Prince's and that may be due to the fact that even the most basic questions from US Representatives were met with obstruction from the three employees of the State Department. As Jan Schakowsky declared during her questionign, "I have heard all of that." One typical exchange went Q: "Are you refusing to answer" A: "I'm not able to confirm the details."

Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer (five more wounded), while 5 other Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 2 lives (twelve wounded). Reuters notes a Khalis bomber killed himself as well 4 civilians "outside a police station" (one woman and one child were among the four dead) and a Jalawla roadside bombing left eleven injured. KUNA reports 6 dead with ten more injured in an Al-Khalis car bombing.


Reuters notes "a businessman and his son" were shot dead in Wihda while "primary school teacher Alaa al-Zubaidi" was shot dead in Suwayra, one person was shot dead in Hilla, an armed struggle in Abbasi claimed 2 lives


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 9 corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes 2 corpses discovered outside Kirkuk.

Mark Deen and Kitty Donaldson (Bloomberg News) report, "Prime Minister Gordon Brown, preparing for a possible election in the U.K., said he plans to pull 1,000 troops out of Iraq by the end of this year. The withdrawal would leave about 4,250 U.K. soldiers stationed near the city of Basra and put Iraqi forces in charge of day-to-day security across the south of the country." AFP notes, "In policy terms, Brown has so far shown little divergence from Blair on Iraq, although he has accepted the issue has been politically 'divisive' and that 'mistakes' were made in the post-war planning and reconstruction."

Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) notes, "The Democratic-led Senate has voted to authorize spending another $150 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Senate passed the spending measure by a 92 to 3 vote. Democrats Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma voted against the war spending. While the Senate bill authorizes the money to be spent, it does not guarantee it. President Bush will have to wait until Congress passes a separate appropriations bill before war funds are transferred to military coffers." On Bill Moyers Journal (last Friday in most markets and available online A/V and transcript) the issue of the financial costs of the illegal war were addressed:

BILL MOYERS: You said the other day to someone that we think we can fight the war in Iraq without paying for it. JOHN BOGLE: Well, we borrow the money to fight the Iraq War by some estimates and they're not absurd estimates is running now towards a $1 trillion. We could be doing what the British empire did. We could be bankrupting ourselves in the long run. And-- BILL MOYERS: You see us as an empire? JOHN BOGLE: Well, of course it's an empire. We reach all over the world. We thought of ourselves in many, many respects as the policemen of the world. God knows we know we're the policemen of the Middle East. And there are those say, even from Alan Greenspan on up or down, that oil is the root of that. I mean, these are great societal questions. Protecting oil, which is in turn polluting the atmosphere.We have problems as a society. And we don't have to surrender to them. But, we have to have a little introspection about where we are in America today. We've go to think through these things. We've got to develop a political system that is not driven by money. I mean, these are societal problems for us that don't have any easy answers.But you don't have to be an economist to know that a great deal of or a minimum in our economy is coming from borrowed money. People are spending at a higher rate than they're earning, and we're starting to pay a price for that now. Particularly in the mortgage side. But, eventually, that could easily spread and people won't be able to do that anymore. You can't keep spending money you don't have. It gets a lot of it, you know, and it wasn't that many years ago -- maybe a couple of generations ago -- that if you wanted something, you saved for it. And when you completed saving for it, you bought it. Imagine that. And that wasn't so bad. But, now, we know that we can have the instant gratification and pay for it with interest payments, of course, over time, which is not an unfair way to do it. We're going to pay a big price for the excessive debt we've accumulated in this society both in the public side and the private side.And it's no secret that this lack of savings in our economy -- just about zero -- is putting us at the mercy of foreign countries. China owns -- I don't know the exact number -- but, let me say about 25 percent of our federal debt. China does. What happens when they start to buy our corporations with all those extra dollars they've got there? I mean, I think that's very-- these problems are long term, are very much worrisome and very much intractable.

And, finally, tomorrow is an anniversary.
As Dennis Kucinich's presidential campaign reminds: "Five years ago tomorrow (Wednesday, October 3), Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich stood on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to deliver an impassioned, point-by-point refutation of the Bush Administration's arguments seeking passage of the Iraq War Resolution. For days leading up to that moment, Kucinich also widely circulated his own independently conducted analysis of the 'intelligence' that the Administration had presented to Congress in support of the resolution. Eight days later, despite the warnings of Kucinich and 132 other members of the House whom he had managed to persuade to oppose this prelude to war, the majority of the House and the majority of the Senate gave the President the war powers he sought. Among those supporting the 'Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002' were Senators Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Chris Dodd, and Joe Biden, all of whom spoke forcefully in favor of the President's strategy -- all four of whom are now Democratic Presidential candidates. All four subsequently approved additional measures for supplemental appropriations to fund the war, as did Democratic Senator Barack Obama after he was elected to the Senate in 2004. Now, five years after they approved a war that should never have been authorized in the first place, those same Democrats are scrambling to explain, excuse, or defend their votes. At the same time, the foremost among them are refusing to pledge an end to the war, admitting that it may extend well beyond 2013. Kucinich, the only Democratic candidate for President who voted against the original war authorization and every war-appropriation since, has recently raised loud warnings, in the Congress and in public statements, that House-approved and Senate-approve measures targeted towards Iran are 'dangerously and frighteningly similar' to those anti-Iraq resolutions approved five years ago." PDF warning: here for the independent analysis, here for the floor speech.



"Kat's Korner: Shine, Joni Mitchell's artistry intact"
Kat:: Shine, said the woman, so you better shine. The woman in question is Joni Mitchell, the CD is Shine and it's not just one of the year's best, it's Joni's return. That alone should be cause for excitement, just having a new album from Joni. For the half-awake, that may be the end of it. "A new CD by Joni? Nice."

But it's not "nice" and that's the really the problem for some. See, women are repeatedly told -- even now -- to be "nice." That's what's at heart of some of the criticism such as the self-proclaimed "dean of rock critics" with his laughable swipes at the album in the current edition of Rolling Stone. Robert Christgau. He had to declare himself "dean" because (a) no one else would and (b) no one else would want it. "Dean"? Rock can be loud, it can be low, it can grab everything left inside you and wring you dry. "Dean"? You might as well bill yourself as "cruise director."

So Christgau writes one of those embarrassing jottings he's become semi-famous for. He's a list maker, not a critic. And by writing those dreary couple of paragraphs for years he's ended up convincing a few that he's got something worth saying. He's the Roger Ebert of rock criticism and if you think that's a compliment that only demonstrates how far from its beginnings rock criticism has gone. In Portland last week, a student who had the CD and loved it pulls a print out on Christgau from her purse. I thought I'd kept it when she passed it on to me, but lost it somewhere on the road. It was a review of the film High Fidelity, a review of the book Rock She Wrote and a state of rock piece all rolled into one. Ambitious and full of life but not full of facts. Reading about the alleged history of rock, I realized how much had been lost and altered and started thinking back to
C.I.'s piece on Ellen Willis' passing.

Lester Bangs is dead, Willis is dead, most of the greats are dead. Christgau's like the last extra standing from a James Dean film, someone who really had little impact in the film but is still around and has the film credit, so people trot him out as an example of a glorious period when he's really peripheral to it.

The student came up after we'd all discussed Iraq and she was really offended by Christgau's Rolling Stone review. She'd never heard of him before so she'd gone online and Googled him only to learn he was an alleged "dean" (again, considering the frat house nature of most rock music, you really don't want to be known as "the dean" -- or am I the only one who saw Animal House?). I waived C.I. over because the woman was really upset and I knew C.I. would be able to offer perspective on Christgau much quicker than I could. Which did happen, C.I. dismissively noted "list maker" and then explained that Christgau thought Carole King's
Tapestry was an amazing accomplishment: "Not a bad decision, but one it took him two years to reach. Give him two years to think about something, is the general consensus, then he might have something worth saying on the subject." C.I. also explained that RC has never been a Joni fan, that he's been luke warm to Joni's lyrics, luke warm to her voice and not really a champion in real time of any female singer-songwriter from that era. At which point, I noted that Christgau was laughed at in the Bay Area for years and, back when I was covering concerts and doing profiles on bands, you only had to mention his name and the putdowns from musicians would come tumbling out.

The woman also had the Rolling Stone review and if she passed it on, I lost it as well. But when we got back home, I picked up my copy of the magazine and read over it. It really does come down to "nice."

In 1985, Joni released Dog Eat Dog which was one of her most masterful works and it got beat up in the playground repeatedly. This may be the what comes out of the tired and boring with Shine. And, to be clear, it didn't start with Dog Eat Dog and Joni herself has spoken of the phenomenon. On Shine she uses "you" and she's noted before, especially with regard to The Hissing of Summer Lawns, the violent reaction ("How dare you!") when she moved from songs with a narrator who used "I" in the lyrics to character portraits or the use of "you." If she'll use "I" and play the "sin eater," people are perfectly happy with her probing because some need that outlet. The "I" allows them to enjoy the song and think, "Oh, those are her problems and she's captured them so honestly." When the same keen eye, the same honesty, pops up without that outlet, even if the song is still confessional but uses "you," it makes some squirm.

And women, for the old boys, really shouldn't show anger. Let's be really honest, they could take Aretha demanding "Respect" because, in that song, Aretha's not threatening them with the loss of cash or sex. They can still have it but give her a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T . . . when they get home. From wherever they have gone off to -- and Aretha wasn't planning on asking any questions about where that was.

The old boys -- or old dogs -- can perk up a little for a young thang today showing a little anger. But they never really appreciated it or honored it in women their own age or near their own age. Wild Things Run Fast is the weakest album Joni has ever put out. I'm not big on her jazz work but even that was more ambitious. Still Wild Things Run Fast was praised -- overly praised. Treated in real time as if it were the return of Blue and still rated much higher than it deserves. (Someone in the White House may claim "You Dream Flat Tires" is on Bully Boy's iPod but do you really know anyone who listens to that song?) It opened with "Chinese Cafe" paired with "Unchained Melody" and "Chinese Cafe" is gorgeous and strong story telling but the album quickly went down hill. The key, for some, was -- and go back and read those real time reviews and you'll see that -- Joni was writing about love and being in love! That they could get behind, that they could support.

Night Ride Home is a really strong album but, if you read the reviews praising it, you'll probably pick up on that same thread: "Love songs!" Which was why "Cherokee Louise" got so little real time appreciation even though it was one of her strongest. Time and again, when Joni's probing eye strikes them as finger-pointing, a lot of old boys/dogs get nervous.

Which is why, despite the Grammy win, 1994's Turbulent Indigo, even winning praise, left some reviewers lukewarm and why 1998's Taming the Tiger received a hostile reaction. Of the many brilliant songs on the latter, "No Apologies" may stand as one of her best but the old boys/dogs don't clamor for that to appear on a best of, it hits a little too close to home.

It's not that they don't want her to explore the human condition, it's that they want her to explore it with an "I" to, as she has pointed out repeatedly, give them the safety valve of being their "sin eater," provide them with the safety release of saying, "That's her problem." "Needles, guns and grass, acid, booze and ass" is a still a much cited refrain (from "Blue") and it's made palatable by the "I love you, Blue" refrain.

The old boys/dogs squirm when a woman close to their own age asserts themselves because they're still reeling from the realization that woman as door mat faded from their lives before they could really get used to it. When a woman Joni's age stands up, it takes them back to the shock of "Well the coffee's over there" or "You answer the phone." Those moments in their lives where they saw the male entitlement they grew up expecting vanish bit by bit, where they had to face the fact that if they wanted Carol Brady in bed and Alice the house keeper cleaning up after them, they better hire somebody because women weren't going to make their own existence about ego stroking between bits of drudgery playing their personal assistant.

Joni reminds them of all that while a PJ Harvey doesn't. PJ Harvey is the wild, young (by comparison) woman they can picture having a brief (mid-life) affair with. But Joni, leaving the love songs and probing the human condition while using "you," reminds them of all the scars they still carry as a result of the strides women made.

As with Dog Eat Dog, Joni's painting on a large canvas this go round. She's pissed and using everything she has artistically to make sense of the world. Unlike Dog Eat Dog, she's not also exploring the latest in studio gadgetry. So, musically, the instrumentation harkens back to the hallmarks in her writing, the sound that -- no matter how many try to ape it -- still belongs solely to Joni.

"One Week Last Summer" opens the album beautifully. The instrumental track is gorgeous and filled with the sense of adventure and reclaiming that anyone who's ever played an instrument should enjoy. It's that moment when life has sucked everything from you -- you think -- and you pick up an instrument or sit down at a piano and, bit by bit, find yourself all over again. It's the perfect opening for this album because it sets the stage for all that will follow as Joni takes back her voice after nearly a decade (nine years) of releasing no new songs.

As beautiful as it is, "This Place" may be where some listeners finally can breathe again. Joni's voice didn't record well on all the tracks of 1998's Taming The Tiger and some were saying she'd lost it. That's really an obsession for some critics. And it's always "lost" (see some of the reactions to
Etta James' All The Way), never about what's found. (For all the citations of "Both Sides Now," it appears many never grasp that it's not win or lose, "But something's lost and something's gained in living every day"). And it's always women. I love Mick Jagger and loved the energy of A Bigger Bang (and love that CD more each day), but let's be honest here, Jagger vocalizing today is not Jagger of yore. Somehow that never enters the critique the way it does with any woman. "Progress" for the bulk of the male critics appears to translate as, "You don't have to be a virgin but, like Madonna, can't you be 'like one' and still pass for shiny and new." Or as Stevie Nicks sings in Fleetwood Mac's "Paper Doll," "You love a man with a future, you love a woman with a past. Well do you really believe that, I said to faces in the crowd."

So for those who are nervous, track two will allow you to calm down. Joni's voice is recorded better than on Taming The Tiger and she's got the range and softness some can't enjoy her without. When she does this vocal murmur on "Money, money, money, money makes the trees come down," she'll hook you (unless you're an old boy/old dog). She's singing about a mountain close to her home being turned into gravel and then sold "to California." It's very specific and it's also relatable unless you've lived in a shoe box for the last thirty or so years as our landscapes have increasingly been torn down, polluted and destroyed. In thirty more years, at this rate, the current big box stores may pass for historical landmarks solely due to the fact that we have nothing left.

"If I Had A Heart" captures society ills with Joni declaring "If I had a heart I'd cry." She captures the vocal on this song perfectly because obviously -- she is writing about it -- she does care but she's now the survivor -- not the defector -- "from the petty wars that shell shock love away" ("Hejira" from the album of the same name). The entire album is a summation of the career and the life. In 1976, she could "defect," she could hit the road and get away from the "petty wars" and be restored by the road; however, these days, travel the country if you don't believe me, there is no where or way to drop out. There's just been too much damage done. Or, as Joni notes, "There's just too many people now, Too little land, Much too much desire, You feel so feeble now, It's so out of hand." It's a reality that may come hard for some because for so long we've been of the opinion that we can save a section -- the rain forests, an untouched area in our own backyards -- and the constant sprawl could be lived with because we were designating areas to be preserved. The reality is that was all a lie. As the global crisis mounts, there is no "over there" or private sanctuary that can go untouched: "We are making this Earth, Our funeral pyre!"

"Hana" comes along and apparently left Christgau longing for an album's worth of "Marcie" (Song to a Seagull). Why, he ponders, couldn't Hana's approach be the theme for the album. Hana's a fixer and she's individual. Only in the tired minds does anyone think that one person, working all by themselves, can save the world. I believe many of those tired minds have flocked the campaign of the political "rock star" -- though they appear to be rethinking that decision now judging by the polling. "Hana" is included to note the power we do have and to note the futile nature of leaving global problems for others to deal with. Hana's sounding an alarm but there's only power if others hear it and if they act. Hana's out there, willing to fight "the beast alone," but it's not just Hana's battle and if left to just Hana, even Christgau might be sounding the alarms in a few years. (Or at least making a list of some of the problems!)

"Bad Dreams" captures our current reality perfectly. We can find momentary reassurance in things that tell us, "It's really not that bad." Mitchell establishes that with her opening, "The cats are in the flower bed, A red hawk rides the sky" but quickly that reassuring image is followed with the new landscape of isolation and disconnect ("cell phone zombies") as we all "have to grapple with our man-made world backfiring."

"Big Yellow Taxi" (Ladies of the Canyon) reappears and it's reborn. The original, or the use of the original in Janet Jackson's "Gone," will conjure memories but what Joni appears to be doing with this version (which is a major reconfiguring) is not proclaim, "I was here all those years ago! I was right!" but instead point out, "We knew this all those years ago, are we going to get it right? And if so, when?" This is no slide show, no "Celebrate me thereby celebrating the earth!" And I'll assume we all know the p.r. campaign I'm referring to.

When the blanket of night falls, we can find hope. That's been a point Joni's made since her first album (see "Night In The City") and it's that special time she's capturing here in "Night Of The Iguana" when people go to sleep and nature breathes. (Possibly due to the smog factor being lowered.) But it, like preserving small sections, is momentary and the point is made with "Strong and wrong" which says more about the current illegal war and its worship of the powers of destruction than you'll grasp on first listen.

Joni, the most poetic of all of our songwriters, ends the album (as she has before) by setting a poem to music. Some could argue she's done that throughout her career with her own poetry. In this case, it's Rudyard Kipling's "If." It's the right note to go out on, a benediction, a moment of hope.

The music is gorgeous throughout, Joni's vocals are strong and sure, and thematically, it's one to put in her canon which says a great deal because her canon already includes such notables as Blue, Court & Spark, Night Ride Home, For The Roses and Dog Eat Dog. Her lows would make for most people's highs. This is an amazing album and, yes, you can pick it up at Starbucks. Wherever you pick it up, you need to. Shine is not just one of the year's finest, it's one of Joni's most gorgeous albums. The tempos and arrangements of The Hissing of Summer Lawns did nothing for me but they inspired Prince. I'm sure this album will be an inspiration to artists for years to come. If it doesn't make your own playlist, you're cheating yourself.


"TV: Moronic Woman" (Ava and C.I.)
NBC kicked off "Bionic Wednesdays" last week with the two hour debut of Bionic Woman which honestly reminded us of the Mad magazine parody "Moronic Woman." It's easy to see why NBC was stricken with panic after viewing the pilot (one role was recast, that did not fix the problems). It's less easy to grasp how another press created genius thinks he's done anything original.

Executive producer
David Eick told Variety, "It's a complete reconceptualization of the title. We're using the title as a starting point, and that's all." Your brain dead Water Cooler Set went along with that fantasy and a great deal more last week.

It's impossible to talk about Bionic Woman without talking about the seventies The Bionic Woman because, despite Eick's claims, they've ripped off pretty much everything and what they didn't rip off, they've watered down.

Where to start? How about the phoniness of it all, having a British actress play an American woman living in San Francisco while the show is shot in Canada?

We're reminded of Joan Crawford's infamous quote about Greer Garson (after Garson won the Oscar) but we'll move on.

Bionic Woman appears to exist solely to demonstrate how much truth Lou Reed can pack into one line -- specifically "Sweet Jane"'s "Those were different times."

Indeed they were. The bionic woman began on The Six Million Dollar Man as a character for a two-part episode in 1975 meant to round out Lee Major's Steve Austin. The network wanted to get across the message that The Six Million Dollar Man wasn't a show for children only. Jamie Sommers, brilliantly played by Lindsay Wagner, bumps into Steve when he returns to his hometown, Ojai, California. (An actual city, it's where
Dennis Kucinich was speaking last weekend.) They rekindle their high school romance. Tennis pro Sommers is in a skydiving accident. Steve pleads for Jamie to be given bionic parts and she's s given a bionic ear, a bionic arm and two bionic legs. As part of the deal Steve makes, Jamie will also be a government agent which he attempts to back out on. (Pay attention, these details matter in the current version.) Jamie's body begins rejecting the bionic parts and she dies at the end of the two-parter. The reaction from viewers was huge so another two-parter ("The Return of the Bionic Woman") was prepared in which it turns out Jamie was really cryogenically frozen and then brought back to life without her memory. Why no memory? She was still a temporary character. Universal did not grasp what they had with Wagner from the start. While filming the first two-parter, Wagner's contract with Universal ran out and Harve Bennett (executive producer of The Six Million Dollar Man) had to fight with Universal to get the contract extended for a few days so that filming could continue. The filmed two-parter meant nothing to Universal. They didn't grasp what had been created until the letters started arriving. Wagner was not under contract to Universal and was in Canada (filming Second Wind) when it was decided to bring Jamie back to life. Ron Samuels, Wagner's agent, took the network to the cleaners for the two-parter. As The Six Million Dollar Man moved into the top ten, Fred Silverman (then head of ABC) ordered a spin-off and insisted on Wagner in the lead.

Kenneth Johnson was responsible for the writing of both two parters (and would become producer of The Bionic Woman) and has always explained Jamie died in the first two-parter because there wasn't a need to put Steve Austin in a relationship and Jamie lost her memory in the second for the same reason. (Johnson also created the mini-series V and his update of that, in book form, V The Second Generation, is released next month. ) The audience reaction to Wagner is what drove the character of Jamie Sommers into her own show.

All of that is important. Universal wasn't keen on Wagner, that's why they let her option drop. They weren't keen on having her back for the second two-parter. They thought she was "flat chested" and that audiences couldn't relate to anything but big breasts. They also thought, at five feet and eight and half inches, she was too tall. Michelle Ryan, who plays the current Jamie Sommers, is an inch and a half shorter and, though acting is a challenge for her, men can't shut up about her breasts.

In other words, all Eick's done is prove that he 'can rebuild her, he can make her shorter, breastier and younger!' and that's supposed to pass for better. Wagner's character was a professional tennis player who, in the spin-off, would be a teacher when not spying for the government. In a 're imagining' that strikes us similar to what the creators of The Days & Nights of Molly Dodd set out to do (trash the character of Mary Richards -- as they publicly and repeatedly bragged), the current Jamie Sommers has been downgraded from professional athlete to scantily-clad bartender. Call it Eick Ugly. Or as the original Jamie Sommers herself said in the first episode of the spin-off over a fake disagreement with the government regarding her salary (they knew bad guys were listening in, don't ask), "What do they think I am? Some kind of bionic cocktail waitress?" Apparently Eick did indeed.

Remember how boyfriend Steve, following Jamie's accident, had her implanted with bionics to save her life? The remake makes boyfriend Will Anthros (Chris Bowers) a college professor and a doctor! -- a bionic doctor in a super secret program -- who implants the bionics himself.

A lot of the Water Cooler Set were either too stupid to know how to work in the backstory from the previous show or just trying to be cute but Somers was not The Six Million Dollar Woman in the seventies. In fact, before there was Jamie Sommers, there was Barney Miller (played by Monte Markham -- and not connected to the sitcom character) who was the seven million dollar man. Obviously, the price of technology had risen. Whether, as people with the show often joked (predominately Richard Anderson who played Oscar on both The Bionic Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man), she cost less because the parts were smaller or more due to inflation (and, not stated, the ear which was a new part) can be debated but she was not the six million dollar woman. It should also be noted that her body rejecting the first set of bionics would require additional work further raising the price the government paid 'rebuilding' her.

What was Jamie Sommers in the seventies? A pretty advanced character though the Water Cooler Set seems determined to sneer 'feminist.' Well, remember, they have a natural aversion to women. Somers used her bionic powers to disarm and throw her opponents off balance. The corpses didn't pile up the way they did on The Six Million Dollar Man. Which is not to say that Sommers didn't get into some serious battles. There was of course, pay attention New York Times, the Fembots.

The Fembots did not come along with Austin Powers The Spy Who Shagged Me. They were robots with super strength. Those Water Cooler Critics who, while sneering that the first Jamie was a feminist, wanted to then play the last defenders of women by expressing shock that the new Jamie would battle another bionic woman obviously need to do a little more research before typing. Our 'research,' by the way, consisted of phoning people with the original production as well as the one currently airing.

The alleged 're imagining' has watered down the character's strength which did include a sense of humor -- something the Water Cooler Set couldn't tell you about -- apparently, in their minds, feminists can't be funny. What you're left with is Ryan who had two emotions to convey -- wide eyed wonder and hungover.

While her emotions are limited, she has been saddled with a sister (played by an 18-year-old actress who pouts and then pouts some more). This isn't new either. The spin-off brought on Max the bionic dog and that's basically all the new Jamie's sister is. (Though some may see her as the Dawn that destroyed Buffy The Vampire Slayer). Not content with saddling the new version with a kid sister (when the character herself can be described as a "kid"), they also saddle her with Daddy issues. Daddy's into politics and a drunk. While that will play into future storylines, it's a bit like biting the hands that feed you for Ryan's Jamie to sneer about their father's excessive drinking at a bar when that is in fact where she works. ("Oh, the layers!" a half-wit thought.)

What was most amazing about the two hours is how uninteresting it was. We kept waiting and waiting for Ryan's character to do something bionic and that was honestly because the character is so uninteresting. Listening to her put herself down (self-esteem issues hopped onto the saddle as well) to her boyfriend the professor (and government doctor!) or announce she was pregnant just left us bored. The big car accident came quick (thanks to the reassembling of the pilot -- and reshooting scenes with the recast role of the sister). Then you waited and waited.She was supposed to be angry upon learning she was bionic and then about being held against her will. All you could do was wait for the bionic powers because Ryan lacks the ability to act the part of the character (who, in fairness, is badly written) and it was like watching a really bad summer pop corn flick where the set pieces had been structured too far apart.

More importantly, they scavenged three seasons to get their two hour pilot. The 'darker' Jaimie Eick is so proud of is actually season three Jamie who is called a freak by kids on bicycles. The constant cuts in the two hours were needed because Ryan and the writers have yet to create a character that's actually interesting.

At the end of the episode, after she'd battled a bionic woman who preceded her (and had turned bad), she's supposed to toss off a light piece of dialogue to Miguel Ferrer's Jonas Bledsoe. It was a bad move for a number of reasons including the fact that Ryan can't handle light dialogue. But mainly it served to remind us of the show that was cancelled to make way for this crap --
Crossing Jordan which Ferrer was also a part of. Jordan was a full grown adult (played magnificently by Jill Hennessy) while Jamie strikes us as a child acting out.

We don't visit Crapapedia but two people with the original series find the Crapapedia entry offensive and in need of corrections (citations would probably also be a good idea). The illustration we're using for this commentary is from the show's merchandising which included far more than Crapapedia lists (we checked after the complaints were conveyed). In addition to the cards, there was also a board game. There was also quite a bit more. Crapapedia is known for its sexism (we know a female singer who is contemplating suing Crapapedia over the way they portray her sex life -- they make her -- but none of her male partners -- out to be a whore while treating men who had many more relationships than she did as 'cool' -- that, more than the many factual inaccuracies about her, has her ticked off and we don't blame her) so it's no surprise that, yet again, when it comes to anything to do with women, Crapapedia doesn't know what the hell they are talking about.

Maybe the Water Cooler Set runs Crapapedia? They slammed the original Jamie Sommers for being a feminist. We'd gladly agree the show was a feminist statement because so few women at that time solo-ed in hour long dramas and, if they did, hello Angie Dickinson, they usually spent a great deal of time undercover as hookers or something else that would require being scantily clad. What we feel the Water Cooler was railing against were advances. They were to be found throughout each episode of the original series, even in the teaching scenes, Jamie had the students circle up and taught in the round. What the remake celebrates is regression. Jamie's saddled with Daddy issues, a kid sister, low self-esteem, a dead end job and episodes that rely solely on gimmicks either because the actress in the lead has nothing else to offer or the writers don't believe she does.

In the ratings, it lost out to the spin-off from
Grey's Anatomy. Like the current character, we expect the ratings will regress as well.