Wednesday, March 9, 2011


"It was when I found out I could make mistakes that I knew I was on to something."

--Ornette Coleman
"Jazz, rock, pop, blues, gospel, and classical are all yesterday's titles. I'm playing the music of today..."
--Ornette Coleman
"Play the music, not the background"
--Ornette Coleman
"Sound is to people what the sun is to light"
--Ornette Coleman

"You don't have to worry about being a number one, number two, or number three. Numbers don't have anything to do with placement. Numbers only have something to do with repetition."
--Ornette Coleman


It is impossible to overstate the monumental significance of the astonishing musical art and vision of the consummate musician/composer/arranger/conductor/multi-instrumentalist/philosopher/prophet Ornette Coleman (b. March 9, 1930 in Fort Worth, Texas). For over 50 years (!) Ornette has been a major innovator in, and creative influence on, the rich global history of improvisational and structured ensemble music alike. A grandmaster of the myriad forms, genres, and expressive/conceptual traditions and strutural legacies of Jazz, Blues, R & B, Funk, 'classical' 'Pop', and spiritual musics Coleman has left an indelible mark on the art world generally through not only his many extraordinary recordings and live performances throughout the U.S., Asia, Europe, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Pacific islands but through his electrifying and highly original creative collaborations with singers, dancers, painters, poets, visual artists (film and painting), architects, scientists, actors, martial artists, and playwrights. In celebration of the 81st birthday of this truly great artist and amazing human being what follows are a series of writings and commentary by and about Ornette by a number of different sources including critics, fellow artists, and historians. I have also contributed some of my own writing on and about Ornette and his music over the years. ENJOY...



Why We Love Ornette Coleman
September 24, 2010

Rarely does one person change the way we listen to music, but such a man is ORNETTE COLEMAN. Since the late 1950s, when he burst on the New York jazz scene with his legendary engagement at the Five Spot, Coleman has been teaching the world new ways of listening to music. His revolutionary musical ideas have been controversial, but today his enormous contribution to modern music is recognized throughout the world.

Coleman was born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1930 and taught himself to play the saxophone and read music by the age of 14. One year later he formed his own band. Finding a troublesome existence in Fort Worth surrounded by racial segregation and poverty, he took to the road at age 19. During the 1950s while in Los Angeles, Ornette's musical ideas were too controversial to find frequent public performance possibilities. He did, however, find a core of musicians who took to his musical concepts: trumpeters Don Cherry and Bobby Bradford, drummers Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins, and bassist Charlie Haden.

In 1958, with the release of his debut album SOMETHING ELSE, it was immediately clear that Coleman had ushered in a new era in jazz history. This music, freed from the prevailing conventions of harmony, rhythm, and melody, often called 'free jazz' transformed the art form. Coleman called this concept Harmolodics. From 1959 through the rest of the 60s, Coleman released more than fifteen critically acclaimed albums on the Atlantic and Blue Note labels, most of which are now recognized as jazz classics. He also began writing string quartets, woodwind quintets, and symphonies based on Harmolodic theory.

In the early 1970s, Ornette traveled throughout Morocco and Nigeria playing with local musicians and interpreting the melodic and rhythmic complexities of their music into this Harmolodic approach. In 1975, seeking the fuller sound of an orchestra for his writing, Coleman constructed a new ensemble entitled Prime Time, which included the doubling of guitars, drums, and bass. Combining elements of ethnic and danceable sounds, this approach is now identified with a full genre of music and musicians. In the next decade, more surprises included trend-setting albums such as SONG X with guitarist Pat Methany, and Virgin Beauty featuring Grateful Dead leader Jerry Garcia.

The 1990s included other large works such as the premier of Architecture in Motion, Ornette's first Harmolodic ballet, as well as work on the soundtracks for the films "Naked Lunch" and "Philadelphia." With the dawning of the Harmolodic record label under Polygram, Ornette became heavily involved in new recordings including Tone Dialing, Sound Museum, and Colors. In 1997, New York City's Lincoln Center Festival featured the music and the various guises of Ornette over four days, including performances with the New York Philharmonic and Kurt Masur of his symphonic work, Skies of America.

There has been a tremendous outpouring of recognition bestowed upon Coleman for his work, including honorary degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, California Institute of the Arts, and Boston Conservatory, and an honorary doctorate from the New School for Social Research. In 1994, he was a recipient of the distinguished MacArthur Fellowship award, and in 1997, was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2001, Ornette Coleman received the prestigious Praemium Imperiale award from the Japanese government. Ornette won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his 2006 album, SOUND GRAMMAR, the first jazz work to be bestowed with the honor. In 2008, he was inducted into the Nesuhi Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame. The NEJHF honors legendary musicians whose singular dedication and outstanding contribution to this art shaped the landscape of jazz.

by Patrick Jarenwattananon (for
September 24, 2010

This past weekend, The Jazz Gallery in New York hosted a three-day festival called Celebrating Ornette Coleman. As tributes to the jazz legend go, this one was special.

For one, the lineup was packed with stars and musician's musicians: Mark Turner, Joe Lovano, Nasheet Waits, Johnathan Blake, Kevin Hays and Joel Frahm were leading bands with such sidepersons as Matt Wilson, Seamus Blake, Marcus Gilmore, Stanley Cowell, Avishai Cohen, Joey Baron and more. (The collaborative trio of Vijay Iyer, Matana Roberts and Gerald Cleaver also performed.) For another, The Jazz Gallery was a small room usually committed to the up-and-coming generation of artists — last weekend, they were packed with artists who often command theaters and weeklong club runs. And as a third, the shows were presented by Jimmy Katz, the jazz portrait photographer and audio engineer. With his wife, Katz raised all the funds; he also recorded the shows, and the musicians got their masters. There were no guidelines for how each group played their tributes.

In advance of the performance, I reached out to a number of the artists that performed last weekend for their brief thoughts on Ornette Coleman. Here's what I got back.

What makes Ornette Coleman special for you? Leave us a comment.

Mark Turner, saxophones: Master Ornette Coleman knows where he comes from, where he is and where he wants to go.

Joe Martin, bass: As a bassist, Ornette's music enlightens how crucial, beautiful, and dramatic the relationship between a bass line and melody is. (Of course melody and bass line counterpoint have always existed, but for me hearing Ornette's music showed me that even without a specific harmony, this said relationship is even more pronounced, perhaps essential.)

Johnathan Blake, drums: Ornette's fearlessness and honesty is a constant inspiration to me. I've always loved the humor that he puts inside his music.

Joel Frahm, saxophone: For me, Ornette is a great example of the power of flow in music; when I listen to him, I feel like he's never out to prove something to anybody. It's more like discovery and reaction. For me, he's hard to talk or write about without feeling like words are completely useless to describe him.

Matt Wilson, drums: Mr. Coleman personifies courage. He persevered through intense scrutiny and criticism to convey his sonic message. That alone is a reason to celebrate this American master.

Did you know that Ornette Coleman once commented at a rehearsal, "Let's find the right temperature for this tune"? Is that hip or what? BIG love to Maestro Coleman!

Matana Roberts, saxophone: Ornette Coleman is a saxophonist in a class all by himself. He stands for what making interesting art is all about — having a voice all of one's own, but having a creative spirit that is wide open, selflessly nuturing and welcoming to collectivity and celebration of the human experience

Seamus Blake, saxophone: Ornette has profoundly touched and influenced every important jazz musician since he first recorded in 1958. The genius and stylings of Wayne Shorter, Joe Lovano, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny and John Scofield as well as many, many more greats owe a great deal to Mr Coleman. He is without a doubt as crucial a figure in jazz as Charlie Parker.

Nasheet Waits, drums: What Ornette Coleman represents to me is a fierce dedication to being yourself. He listens to the inner voice whose source is within and beyond.

Vijay Iyer, piano: Ornette Coleman's music combines conceptual innovation, rigorous detail, and profound emotional resonance. He completely changed the music we know and love, and yet his ongoing impact extends well beyond the "jazz" world, into punk rock, American literature, cinema and contemporary art. To me, the best way to pay tribute to Mr. Coleman is to follow his lead — i.e., to be radically, audaciously yourself. (09/28/10)


Mark Kostabi (MK3) wrote: Very well said Vijay Iyer. I'd also like to add that Ornette often leaves the door open. But sometimes it's closed and he pretends to lose the key. Then suddenly someone finds it buried in the dirt of a planter.

Taylor Atkins (etatkins) wrote: This is an easy question for me to answer. Ornette Coleman's music is the most joyful and playful in the idiom, right on up there with Louis Armstrong's. I don't mean to say he cannot or does not express pathos or melancholy. But most of the time when I hear that horn of his, he seems to be romping with such abandon, just having a ball exploring the universe around him, playing with sounds. It is so hard to see why anyone back when he first came out would say he sounded "angry" or that he had no regard for the music's traditions. Maybe the "angry" tag was more intended for Cecil Taylor or Albert Ayler, but Ornette? Naw. Pure, infectious joy. Much love to you, Mr. Coleman. Much love.

National Public Radio

Ornette Coleman Artist Page

Ornette taught himself how to play the tenor saxophone at the age of fourteen. Coleman found the poverty and racism surrounding him to be too much too bear and hit the road at age nineteen. Coleman first traveled around with Silas Green from a New Orleans variety show and with various rhythm and blues bands. After being assaulted by a white mob after a live show his saxophone was destroyed and he then switched to alto and headed west to Los Angeles with Pee Wee Crayton's band. In Los Angeles Ornette began pursued his own musical visions much more so and became quickly controversial and had difficulties finding places to play. He was however able to find a core group of musicians to play with that included Don Cherry, Bobby Bradford, Ed Blackwell, Billy Higgins and Charlie Haden.

Coleman made Jazz history in 1958 with his album 'Something Else' with Don Cherry, Higgins, Don Payne and Walter Norris. Ornette's playing was not from the mainstream perspective of harmony, rhythm and melody and approached music with total freedom. All of the musical ideas incorporated in Coleman's music were not new per say because they did all exist in different cultures around the world but these ideas were newer to Western/European music and certainly Jazz in America at that time and Coleman called the concept Harmolodics. Through the 1960s Coleman recorded over fifteen albums on Atlantic and Blue Note and most are classics including 'Tomorrow Is the Question!', 'The Shape of Jazz to Come', 'Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation' and many more.

In the 1970s Ornette traveled the world including Morocco and Nigeria and sought out local musicians in these places to play with and tried to soak up as much of their music as possible. Coleman took the differences in melodic and rhythmic approach from these musicians and constructed a new band called Prime Time with two guitars, two bass players and two drummers in order to capture and incorporate these new sounds. Ornette continued working through these new concepts into the 1980s and recorded such 'avantgarde' and popular albums 'Song X' with Pat Methany and 'Virgin Beauty' with Jerry Garcia. In the '90s Coleman created Architecture in Motion, which is a ballet based on his Harmolodic concept and worked on soundtracks for films including Naked Lunch and Philadelphia. He also released three major albums during the decade 'Tone Dialing', 'Sound Museum' and 'Colors'.

Ornette Coleman continues to perform to this day though not too often and any chance to see him must be taken advantage of. Coleman has received many awards including a honorary doctorate from New School University, a MacArthur Fellowship award, and the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his album 'Sound Grammar' in 2007

(For Ornette Coleman)

Ornette sings the breakneck passion
song while resting in the lilting liquid light
that becomes him
His sound a heady rhythmic
nomenclature on starry melodic nights
His horn erupts into turquoise flames
A turning toward Terror is not his style though he
casually conjures tempestuous histories
soaring over smokey black earths
Bluesy constellations emerging from our most hidden

Poem by Kofi Natambu
(from: The Melody Never Stops, Past Tents Press, 1991)

The Blues in 4-D
by Kofi Natambu
Detroit Metro Times
June, 1982

For over 20 years now, Ornette Coleman has been a major innovative force in world music. During this period Coleman has been able to consistently change the direction of his music and still greatly influence other musicians. Ornette has been able to do this in spite of the fact that his massive achievements have often been misunderstood, vilified, ridiculed or patronized by dense white American “music critics.” Through it all, Coleman has prevailed because his artistic vision is so clear, strong and compelling that no opposition could stop him. Like most “great masters,” Ornette has been forced to fight for his art.

That is why Coleman’s latest recording, Of Human Feelings, is such an inspiring triumph. In this record we get an intimate look at a brilliant musician/composer organizing the varied elements of his music into a multi-tonal mosaic of great power, humor, color, wit, sensuality, compassion and tenderness. The fact that Ornette has once again managed to create such intelligent and passionate music using only the most venerable and fundamental of all African-American “forms” (i.e. the Blues) as an aesthetic focus is cause for celebration in a culture that worships gimmicks and cant over vision and heart. It is also an indication that like all truly “great artists,” Ornette recognizes and uses the eternal value(s) of simplicity. Of course, as any working artist can tell you, this is one of the most difficult things to do. Luckily for the rest of us, this is Coleman’s strength.

In this record, Ornette and his now six-year-old Prime Time Band never lose sight of the essential conceptual and spiritual aspects of Ornette’s musical philosophy: “Play the music, not the background.” In the eight pieces on this recording, as in all of Ornette’s music, the emphasis is never on virtuoso pyrotechnics for their own sake, or in empty stylistic phrase mongering. In every composition there is a synergy of thought and feeling that communicates instantly. There is always a dynamic unity of structure and execution that is performed with spirit and expressive animation. Coleman’s intricate and functional knowledge of black creative music tradi tions allows him to do this in a deceptively easy manner. The music literally pours out of this ensemble in strains of melody and rhythm that sums up the last 100 years of creative development in Afro-American music.

This awesome command is augmented, in Coleman’s case, with a very strong emotional affinity for the most ancient and basic “folk musics” developed by black people in the New World. Thus, in this recording there are rocking riff figures, field hollers, intensely lyrical worksongs, roaring call-and-response counterpoint, wailing melodic laments and exultations, wry little stompdown ditties and jumptime rent part be-bopping. There are also multi-rhythmic chants, sound clusters, tonal density and instrumental speechmaking. This colorful tapes try is held together by Coleman’s famous Harmolodic method, a theoretical construct that Ornette devised in the early 1970s to “allow all instruments in the band the equal opportunity to lead at any time...” This means that all members of the band can play melodic lines in any key at any time, because structurally the tempo, the rhythm and the harmonics are all equal in terms of what they can express. There is a constant modulation of tonality and rhythms as a result. In this liberated environmental setting the tonal “jumping-off point” is always the Blues, and I mean all kinds of Blues!

Ornette plays every conceivable Blues ever invented and a few that he introduced to the world. In every sound, gesture, cadence and juxtaposition. Coleman reminds us that without the Blues there would be no “jazz,” no “rock,” no “pop,” no “funk,” no “punk.” In short, no American vernacular music, just bland one-dimensional imitations of European, Asian, Latin and African musics. It is a humbling and sobering thought that makes us reflect even as we dance like mad to the throbbing, driving rhythms. Strangely, despite the echoes of Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Jimi Hendrix (among many others) throughout this music, the overall effect is unlike any Blues you have heard before. This is because of what Coleman does with the form in contemporary terms.

Meanwhile, Ornette rides the swelling and descending crest of these tidal waves of melody and sound through keening, darting and singing improvisations that convey a very wise and ancient message. This is the eternal blues message of joyful affirmation in the face of adversity and despair. A “heroism” based on hard-won experience and not media posturing. Whether shouting, screaming, moaning, laughing, crying or sighing, the music in Of Human Feelings never fails to express this message that lifts you higher and makes you dance no matter what “the problem.” The energy derived from the spirit of this recording is the “solution” to our problems. In fact, the title of one of Ornette’s tunes in this recording is “What is the Name of that Song?” I betcha Reagan doesn’t know. I hope we do.

Ornette Coleman's 'Sound Grammar' first jazz work awarded Pulitzer Prize 

Associated Press
April 24, 2007

NEW YORK -- Ornette Coleman won the Pulitzer Prize for music on Monday for his 2006 album, "Sound Grammar," the first jazz work to be bestowed with the honor.

The alto saxophonist and visionary who led the free jazz movement in the 1950s and 1960s, won the Pulitzer at age 77 for his first live recording in 20 years. The only other jazz artist to win a Pulitzer is Wynton Marsalis, who won in 1997 for his classical piece, "Blood on the Fields."

The Pulitzer Prize for music, an award founded in 1943, has always focused on classical music. Legendary jazz composers Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk were honored only with posthumous citations in 1999 and 2006, respectively. In 2004, Pulitzer administrators decided to expand the criteria for the music prize, encouraging a broader range of music that included jazz, musical theater and movies.

Coleman, who grew up poor in a largely segregated Fort Worth, Texas, didn't first believe his cousin when he told Coleman that he had won the Pulitzer. He spoke by phone to The Associated Press from his New York City home minutes after hearing the news, and reflected on his long, unlikely journey.

"I'm grateful to know that America is really a fantastic country," said the jazz legend, recalling when he first asked his mother for a saxophone. "And here I am."

What began for Coleman as a fascination for the bebop of Charlie Parker, led him on a path to discover -- through music -- what he calls "the culture of life and intelligence."

 On "Sound Grammar," which was recorded at a 2005 concert in Ludwigshafen, Germany, Coleman also plays trumpet and violin. He was awarded a Grammy lifetime achievement award in February.

"Of all the languages that human beings are speaking on the planet, it's some form of grammar," Coleman said of his album. "For me, playing music is analyzing grammar." Though Coleman can speak of large, heady ideas in a way not dissimilar from his often conceptual music, he said he has never wanted to be inaccessible. 

"I've been doing what I think I'm trying to achieve ever since I was teenager and I was only doing it because of the quality of human beings," Coleman said. "I've never really thought about being smart; I've only really thought about being good." 

Some members of the Pulitzer board such as Jay Harris, a professor at the University of Southern California, have said the Pulitzers have "effectively excluded some of the best of American music" by concentrating fully on classical works. Coleman's win suggests that may be changing.

When asked whether he hopes more jazz musicians will follow him in winning Pulitzers, Coleman replied, "I would like to help them if I could." 

On the Net:

Ornette in 1959/1960:

Ornette in 1960/61:

Ornette in 1960:

Ornette in 1971:

Ornette in 1971 (Ornette Coleman's composition "Science Fiction" featuring a poem by David Henderson)

Ornette in 1993:

Ornette in 2007

Ornette in 2007:

Ornette in 1987:

Ornette in 1974:

Ornette in 1959:

Ornette in 1985:

Ornette in 1988:

Ornett in 2009:

Ornette in 2007:

Ornette in 1978:


The Intellectual Clarity, and Political Integrity of Naomi Klein and Rachel Maddow

As a wave of anti-union bills are introduced across the country in the wake of Wall Street financial crisis, many analysts are picking up on the theory that award-winning journalist and author Naomi Klein first argued in her 2007 best-selling book, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism." In the book, she reveals how those in power use times of crisis to push through undemocratic and extreme free market economic policies. Democracy Now! interviews Naomi Klein to discuss how the shock doctrine is being used by politicians pushing drastic cuts and reforms as a response to the financial crisis.

"The Wisconsin protests are an incredible example of how to resist the shock doctrine," Klein says.

PART 2 of Democracy Now! discussion with Amy Goodman on Wisconsin workers struggle


Naomi Klein and Rachel Maddow are two of the most profound, dynamic, informative, and EFFECTIVE public intellectuals, journalists, writers, and progressive activists in the United States today and it is an absolute joy for me to share a very important conversation these dynamos had with each other last night on Rachel's outstanding daily news and commentary program on MSNBC. and in Klein's discussion with Amy Goodman on her award winning program 'Democracy Now!' Alongside such truly visionary and stalwart champions of radical and progressive journalism, incisive ideological and political analysis, and social advocate/progressive activist-driven commentary in both "mainstream" print and electronic media contexts as Keith Olbermann, Amy Goodman, Frank Rich, Paul Krugman, Michael Moore, Bill Moyers, Glenn Greenwald, Bob Herbert, Laura Flanders, and Charles Ferguson, etc. and the contributing writers and commentators for such important leftist and liberal alternative public media sources as Democracy Now!, Truthout, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, Daily Kos, and GritTV (among others), an extraordinary new generation of journalists and 'information organizers' are making themselves heard in a manner that frankly hasn't be seen since the legendary muckraking days of Edward R. Murrow and his contemporary colleagues (and early descendants) of the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s The conversation above between Naomi and Rachel and the sheer quality and depth of the discourse of these women and their male and female contemporaries who are strongly committed to fundamental social, economic, and cultural change in the United States is a clear indication that they are more than prepared to seriously take on and defeat the Right in all of its guises...Enjoy...


President Obama Caves In On Protecting Constitutional Rights of Military Prisoners and Keeps Guantanamo Bay Prison Open


As usual a pathetic combination of the Republican right's relentless bullying and the President's typically inept, passive, and weak response to the reactionary demands of his (and our) political enemies once again overturns the basic rule of law and the legal rights of military prisoners mandated by the Constitution. So as even the NY Times admits, a bipartisan consensus of political cowardice and rank stupidity wins out over any rational or moral adherence to justice or real national security. Welcome to the ongoing travesty of political and moral "leadership" in Washington...


News in Brief: Obama Restarts Guantanamo Trials, and More ...

Nadia Prupis | Tuesday 08 March 2011

Obama Restarts Guantanamo Trials

President Obama has signed an executive order to indefinitely detain prisoners at the military jail at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Democracy Now! reports. Along with detainment, the White House has also authorized new military commissions at the base, resuming a process that Obama had previously frozen. On his second day in office, Obama had ordered for Guantanamo to be closed. According to Lawrence Korb, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, the newest announcement is a sign that Guantanamo will stay open "for as far as we can see, because if in fact you can transfer the prisoners, you do try them, then you'll have to put them some place if you convict them."



March 8, 2011

The Prison That Won’t Go Away

The prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has long been the embodiment of Bush-era arrogance and lawlessness, and Barack Obama raised the hopes of millions around the world in 2008 when he campaigned on the promise of closing it. On Monday, that promise crumbled, the victim of Congressional spinelessness and President Obama’s inability to create political support for a way out of the moral quagmire created by his predecessor.

The president announced that military commission trials for detainees would resume at Guantánamo after a two-year suspension. That became inevitable in December after members of Congress from both parties, in an act of notable political cowardice, banned moving those trials to the United States. The ban, inserted in a needed defense bill, also makes it virtually impossible to release prisoners to other countries willing to take them.

The White House says the president remains committed to closing Guantánamo, but, given the political cast of Congress, it seems likely that the prison camp will remain a scar on the nation’s conscience for years.

Beyond the important symbolism of closing the camp, the more substantive issue was the system of indefinite detention that took place there. The president’s decision to formalize that system, made official in Monday’s executive order, was largely his own. It applies to 47 prisoners who cannot be tried because the evidence against them was classified or improperly obtained (usually through torture) but who cannot be freed because they are considered a serious terrorist threat.

The executive order requires regular review of those prisoners by an independent panel and access to legal counsel never granted by the Bush administration.

These are improvements, as is the more obvious requirement that procedures comply with international laws that ban torture and other forms of inhumane treatment. But the Obama administration has still chosen to accept the concept of indefinite detention without trial, which represents a stain on American justice.

The president made that acceptance clear in a speech in May 2009. To some degree, he was forced into it by the Bush administration’s legacy of torture and abuse, which made some important cases impossible to prosecute. But the White House could have pushed harder to try some of these cases in the United States.

Last year, the administration essentially backed off its original fervor to try the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, in New York City after encountering nearly unanimous opposition from the area’s Congressional delegation and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (Most of those officials were Democrats, proving that groundless timidity is bipartisan.)

The torture has stopped, and it is good to know that this regrettable policy will not be applied to any future prisoners beyond the group of 47. Perhaps in the future, Congress will wake up and restore the rule of law to Guantánamo Bay, including the transfer of some prisoners to other countries. But, for now, the wound to the nation’s reputation remains unhealed.

Henry Giroux On The Political and Ideological Dominance of Corporations and Wealthy Elites vs. The Struggle of Citizens for Democracy in the U.S.


This typically outstanding essay by the renowned Canadian political theorist, cultural critic, historian, teacher, author, and activist Henry Giroux gives a detailed and very insightful analysis of the devastating and dramatic transformations of American society, economy, and culture since the rise in 1980 of Ronald Reagan one of the most reactionary Presidents in U.S. history and the deadly success of the concomitant philosophy of "Reaganism" that followed in his wake. What Giroux documents is that this philosophy whose fundamental edict is that "the rich know what is best for the country so everyone else--especially the government-- should simply shut up, step aside, and do their bidding", has led directly over the past decade to the emergence of an even more comprehensive and notoriously rightwing assault on the human, civil, and democratic/constitutional rights of poor, working, and middle class individuals and their families with profoundly destructive consequences. Giroux systematically dissects precisely how and why this rapacious and sustained assault on the American people is taking place and identifies exactly who ius doing it. Finally Giroux outlines exactly what needs to happen in response on our part as engaged citizens to not only seriously combat and undermine this highly organized and well financed attack from the far rightwing of the U.S. ruling class but to ultimately defeat it. Check it out...


From "Morning in America" to the Nightmare on Main Street
Tuesday 08 March 2011
by: Henry A. Giroux, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

Ronald Reagan's infamous "it's morning in America" slogan, used as part of his 1984 presidential campaign, paved the way for a set of market-driven policies that historians faithful to the human record will be compelled to rename twilight in America to signal a historical crisis fueled less by a spirited hope for the future than by a shocking refusal to be held accountable to and for it. The policies that informed Reagan's neoliberal agenda have given way to the intense assault now being waged by his more extremist governmental descendants on all vestiges of the democratic state. This brutal evisceration includes a rejection and devaluing of the welfare state, unions, public values, young people, public and higher education; and other political, social and economic institutions and forces in American life that provide a counterweight against the political power of mega-corporations, the rich and the powerful.

In order to protect the interests of the wealthy and powerful corporations, the formative cultures, social formations and institutions necessary for a viable democracy are under a wide-ranging assault. The intensity and barbarism of such an attack is evident in the current right-wing attempts to dismantle crucial social safety nets, collective bargaining rights, unions and the regulatory constraints on powerful corporations. This conservative assault is not just about the enactment of reactionary government policies; it is also about the proliferation of a war at home, the collateral damage of which is harsh and brutalizing, especially for young people, the unemployed, the elderly, the poor, and a number of other individuals and groups now bearing the burden of the worst economic recession since the 1920s. But there is more at stake than an increase in the hard currency of human suffering; there are also disturbing signs that American society is moving toward an authoritarian state largely controlled by corporations and a financial elite.(1)

Political power is now up for sale just as government resources are increasingly being contracted out or sold off to the highest bidder. Like lemmings in heat, thousands of corporate lobbyists flock to Washington determined to corrupt the political process, while multibillionaires such as the Koch brothers use their $42 billion-dollar war chest to fund right-wing think tanks, the Tea Party, and other conservative groups in order to crush the labor movement and enact legislative policies designed to decimate the social state and hand over the levers of political and economic sovereignty to the rich. Commenting on the real agenda of the Koch brothers and the Republican Party, New York Times op-ed writer Frank Rich rightly argues, "[t]he real goal is to reward the G.O.P.'s wealthiest patrons by crippling what remains of organized labor, by wrecking the government agencies charged with regulating and policing corporations and, as always, by rewarding the wealthiest with more tax breaks."(2)

As the public spaces for cultivating democratic values, critical citizens and compassionate social relations disappear, American society gives rise to an army of anti-public intellectuals, a powerful center-right media and cultural apparatus and a system of public and higher education, all of which largely function to undermine dialogue, dissent and critical thinking in American life. As politics is rewritten as a script to serve the rich and powerful, the democratic elements of social life are emptied out, along with an ongoing and well-financed conservative campaign to further sabotage those public spheres which enable a culture of questioning and modes of collective struggle to develop. This ideological and political assault is matched by the savagery of policies, which not only amplify a growing gap between the rich and poor, but also take a deadly toll on the most crucial of public services and those marginalized populations who bear the human cost of the disappearance of such services. Sen. Bernie Sanders highlights some of these cuts, while rightfully criticizing a federal budget that rewards millionaires and billionaires while cutting over $60 billion from programs that will have a deadly impact on many Americans. He enumerates some of the cuts as follows: "$1.1 billion form Head Start depriving services for 218,000 children; $1.3 billion for Social Security delaying benefits for 500,000 Americans; slash[ing] 1.3 billion from community health centers taking primary health care from 11 million patients; [cutting or eliminating] Pell Grants for 9.4 million low-income college students; [cutting] $403 million from Community Services Block Grants affect 20 million seniors, families with children and the disabled; [and ending] job training and other employment services for 8 million Americans."(3) These figures are troubling and point to an exemplary register of casino politics that prides itself on toughness, the merits of individual responsibility and a mode of governance in which social problems are increasingly criminalized while those who experience such problems are left adrift to solve them on their own, regardless of whether they had any control over causing such problems in the first place.

Politics has now become an extension of war, and the call to austerity a metaphor for a politics of disposability. With the collapse of the social state, those citizens viewed as disposable are now subject to a form of necropolitics in which the social contract, however inadequate, is viewed as a drain on government resources, and any notion of social protection is viewed as a pathological form of dependence. Complaints by right-wing politicians and conservative pundits about the growing federal deficit and their call for a harsh politics of austerity are both hypocritical and disingenuous: Hypocritical, given their support for massive tax breaks for the rich that will cost $850 billion for the next two years - more than the entire 2009 government bailout - and disingenuous, given their blatantly transparent goal of implementing a market-based agenda that imposes the burdens of decreased government services and benefits on the backs of the poor, young people, the unemployed, the working class and middle-class individuals and families. In this transparent scenario, austerity measures apply to the poor, but not to the rich, who continue to thrive under polices that produce government bailouts, support deficit producing wars, tax breaks for the wealthy and deregulation policies that benefit powerful corporations. The conservative and right-wing politicians and policy wonks calling for shared sacrifices made in the name of balancing budgets have no interest in promoting justice, equality and the public good. Their policies maximize self-interest; support a culture of organized irresponsibility; and expand the pathologies of inequality, military spending and poverty. Clearly, there is much more at stake in the current war against democracy than the right-wing ideological assertion that shared sacrifices have to be made in the name of balancing budgets. In a socio-economic climate marked by deep economic and social inequalities, the call for shared sacrifices and responsibilities translates in the hallowing out of social services, public spheres and educational resources that are vital to a democracy. Austerity in this script translates into an agenda that combines punishing policies with the elimination of the formative cultures and safety nets that make a decent life and political culture possible. We get a glimpse of this in Bob Herbert's rendering of the effects of such policies. He writes:

"In the real world, schools and libraries are being closed and other educational services are being curtailed. Police officers are being fired. Access to health services for poor families is being restricted. [As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities tells us:] 'At least 29 states and the District of Columbia are cutting medical, rehabilitative, home care, or other services needed by low-income people who are elderly or have disabilities, or are significantly increasing the cost of these services.'... At least 44 states and the District of Columbia have reduced overall wages paid to state workers by laying off workers, requiring them to take unpaid leave (furloughs), freezing new hires, or similar actions. State and local governments have eliminated 407,000 jobs since August 2008, federal data show.(4)"

Increasingly, the unthinkable emerges in American life as the austerity measures are transformed into a specifically deadly way of exercising modes of sovereignty and government power. Budgets are cut, denying individuals life-saving organ transplants. Houses burn down and are guttered because fire protections are now provided only for those who have paid subscriptions; prisons are run by outsourced private corporations; thousands of people die because they cannot afford health insurance; and rights that public servants and workers have fought for over the course of many generations are erased with the banging of a legislative gravel. Democracy has become a ritual controlled by a small number of extremely wealthy individuals and corporate power mongers. And, yet, as the corporate and right-wing political stranglehold is tightened around the necks of the elderly, workers, young people and those marginalized by class and race, coalitions and the seeds of new social movements are taking shape in states across America and beginning to fight back. Workers, the elderly and young people are demonstrating in large numbers in Ohio, Wisconsin, Georgia, Montana, Tennessee, and other states against the assaults being waged on unions, public servants and the social state in the name of concentrated corporate and political power.(5) Shared bodies are now interacting with new technologies to produce new spaces for organized struggles. Increasingly citizens are producing counternarratives and counterpublic spheres to offset the tidal wave of propaganda that informs both the liberal and right-wing media industries. The discourse of decline and cynicism has taken a hit as protest movements are emerging that are taking a cue from the drive for democracy waged by young people and workers in Egypt, Libya, Western Europe, and other countries that are fighting the barbarism of casino capitalism with its disdain for civic discourse, public values and democratic ideals and social relations.

Public service workers, young people, educators, and others who now occupy the liminal space of political resistance are once again struggling to make official power visible, especially in terms of the toll it takes on those who are viewed as excess, unworthy of government supports and often excluded from the benefits of a good life. At the same time, protesters organizing in Wisconsin and other cities are making clear the necessity to recognize that power is not entirely subsumed within a politics of domination, and that there is a growing and increasingly collective resistance to the assaults being waged on those marginalized by class, race, age and ethnicity. What is being learned from these struggles is that if democracy is to be reclaimed as a radical idea - "the idea that people can control the functioning of society [and that] people should make decisions about all the issues that affect them" - it is crucial for progressives and others to struggle to create those formative cultures that enable people to translate private injustices into social and systemic problems.(6) At stake here is a notion of democracy that refuses to be reduced to the dictates of a market society. Such a view is crucial for those emergent social movements and struggles that suggest that democracy is once again being viewed as the "sharing of an existence that makes the political possible."(7)

The current upsurge in collective resistance against the corporate state will succeed if it speaks to and connects with a broader crisis of public values, the eclipse of a democratic public spheres and the disappearance the social state. If the principles of democracy are not to be turned against themselves in order to further the savage assaults waged on the American people by advocates of casino capitalism, it is crucial that emerging social movements emphasize what the late Tony Judt called the raising of social questions through a language that stresses the importance of public goods, shared responsibilities and a language that connects private troubles with social considerations.(8) Hopefully, what we will see from those fighting the nightmare in America is both a narrative of critique and possibility, one that attempts to recast the public conversation about memory as a condition for learning, higher education as a crucial public good, academics as public intellectuals, critical agency as a basis for social responsibility and democracy as the radical frame through which meaningful political struggle becomes possible once again. We don't need delusional appeals to Reagan's invocation of "morning in America" from those politicians who have become lackeys for the rich and corporate elite. On the contrary, we need justice in America, and that demands more than crowd-pleasing slogans. And that requires the kind of struggles that we see in Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states where the very principles, social relations and institutions that make for a viable democracy are under siege.


1. There are too many books on this issue to cite. Some of the more notable are Sheldon S. Wolin, "Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism" (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008); Henry A. Giroux, "Against the Terror of Neoliberalism" (Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2008); Chris Hedges, "Death of the Liberal Class" (Toronto: Knopf Canada, 2010); and Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, "Winner-Take-All Politics" (New York; Simon and Schuster, 2010).

2. Frank Rich, "Why Wouldn't the Tea Party Shut It Down?," The New York Times, (February 24, 2011) p. WK8. See Jane Mayer, "Covert Operations: the Billionaire Brothers Who are Waging a War Against Obama," The New Yorker (August 30, 2010). Online here.

3. Bernie Sanders cited in Editorial, "Bernie Sanders: Don't Balance the Budget on the Backs of the Middle Class," (March 2, 2011). Online here.

4. Bob Herbert, "A Terrible Divide," The New York Times, (February 7, 2011), p. A27.

5. Zaid Jilani, "Main Street Movement Erupts as Thousands Across Country Protest War on the Middle Class," Think Progress Report (February 24, 2011). Online here.

6. Ian Angus, "Emergent Publics: An Essay on Social Movements and Democracy" (Winnipeg, Massachusetts: Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2001) p. 34.

7. Pacale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, "Translator's Note," in Jean-Luc Nancy, "The Truth of Democracy" (New York: Fordham University Press, 2010), p. xi.

8. Tony Judt, "Ill Fares the Land," (New York, New York: The Penguin Press, 2010).

The Republican Party Declares War on the Rights of Women Nationwide


Just how vicious and obsessive is the Republican right's concerted attack on women nationwide and how far are they and their sexist, misogynist, and authoritarian colleagues in state governments across the country willing to go? Check out the following editorial below for the very ugly and ominous details...


The GOP Takes Its War on Women to the States

PFAW Staff |
Tuesday 08 March 2011


In 1992, the Supreme Court, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, upheld women’s constitutional right to abortion services, but allowed certain leeway in placing restrictions on access to reproductive healthcare. Since then, right-wing politicians have increasingly pushed through state laws meant to chip away at the right to choose and undermine the protections of Roe v. Wade. These state-level draconian proposals are intended to cripple the ability of women to access reproductive health services. Burdensome waiting periods and parental notification requirements have been passed throughout the country, and now anti-choice activists are increasingly turning to new ways to undercut women’s healthcare and constitutionally protected liberties.

Following the 2010 elections, more state legislatures have become hostile to choice. Their efforts to undermine reproductive rights include ultrasound requirements that impose callous and cruel psychological pressure on women who have made the decision to terminate their pregnancies; targeted restrictions on abortion providers (TRAP laws), which levy unnecessary regulations against clinics that could force many to close; and constraints on abortions supposedly sought because of the “race and gender” of the fetus. Some states are even considering legislation that could legalize the murderof abortion providers.

Not only are radical state legislators threatening the ability of women to gain access to reproductive health services, but they are also testing the boundaries of both Roe and Casey. States are now weighing laws that challenge well-accepted medical research, banning abortions in the second trimester under the guise of “fetal pain” and even in the first trimester at the detection of a fetus’s heartbeat. Among the most radical measures being considered are “personhood” laws, which would declare zygotes and fetuses fully legal persons completely separate from their mothers. Once at the extreme fringe of the anti-choice movement, personhood laws now have a chance at passing in a number of states and could lead to new challenges to Roe v. Wade. Along with the attacks on choice and women’s healthcare coming from the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, these new and dangerous laws emerging from the states put women’s healthcare and reproductive freedom at grave risk.

Ultrasound Requirements

Legislation that would require doctors to perform ultrasounds on all women seeking abortions, even when not medically necessary, has been introduced in states including Texas, Florida, Arizona, and Wyoming. Ultrasound requirements are widely acknowledged to be medically unnecessary attempts to place psychological pressure on women who have decided to seek abortions.

Such requirements also risk actively harming the fetus, according to the Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. According to the Houston Chronicle, the association warned that if they use the sonogram in the manner described [by the Texas ultrasound bill], the prolonged exposure to ultrasound waves could hurt the woman or damage the fetus.” The Guttmacher Institute notes that “since routine ultrasound is not considered medically necessary as a component of first-trimester abortion, the requirements appear to be a veiled attempt to personify the fetus and dissuade a woman from obtaining an abortion.”

The Texas House and Senate recently passed a bill that would require women to undergo ultrasounds at least 24 hours before having an abortion. In the majority of cases, a woman would be forced to hear a detailed description of the scan. Gov. Rick Perry has fast-tracked the legislation through the Republican-controlled legislature, declaring it an “emergency priority.” Sen. Dan Patrick, the bill’s author, recently declared, “This is God’s time to pass this bill.”

Florida’s GOP-led state legislature passed an ultrasound-requirement bill last year only to have it vetoed by then-Governor Charlie Crist, who said it “places an inappropriate burden on women seeking to terminate pregnancy” and “unwisely expand[s] the role of government.” The bill’s sponsors are planning to reintroduce it this year. If passed, the ultrasound bill will most likely be signed by newly elected Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who condemned Crist’s veto of the bill during his campaign last year.

Biased Counseling

State laws increasingly attempt to interfere with the relationship between a woman and her doctor by forcing health professionals to provide erroneous and deceptive information about abortion. State-designed counseling sometimes incorporates inaccurate information by falsely linking abortion to psychological harm, breast cancer, and future fertility problems, and is frequently coupled with a mandatory 24-hour waiting period that makes it even more difficult for women to obtain abortions.

On February 22, Republicans in the South Dakota House and the State Senate passed a bill, supported by the Governor, that would require women seeking abortions to first visit a “pregnancy help center,” also known as a crisis pregnancy center (CPC), which must inform women of “the risk factors” and “complications associated with abortion,” and “have a private interview to discuss her circumstances that may subject her decision to coercion.”

In 2006, a congressional committee looked into federally funded CPC’s, and found that “the vast majority of the federally funded pregnancy resource centers contacted during the investigation provided information about the risks of abortion that was false or misleading,” and “in many cases, this information was grossly inaccurate or distorted.” The National Abortion Federation notes that such centers are mostly staffed by volunteers whose “main qualifications are a commitment to Christianity and anti-choice beliefs,” rather than by medical professionals, and “many CPCs are connected with religious organizations, but few disclose that fact in their advertising.”

Kentucky’s House of Representatives is considering an amendment slipped into an unrelated bill about regulating nursing homes that compels doctors to tell patients seeking abortions about purportedly higher rates of cancer and psychological “anguish” among women who have had abortions. Such claims are not supported by scientific research.

Race and Gender Requirements

On February 21, the GOP majority in the Arizona House of Representatives voted 41-18 to pass a bill that would criminalize abortions sought because of the race or sex of the fetus. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Steve Montenegro, claims that “there are targeted communities that the abortion industry targets.” If his bill becomes law, women seeking abortions in Arizona will have to sign a statement declaring that race or sex was not the reason they sought the procedure. The biological father or the woman’s parents, in the case of minors, could sue the doctor and health professionals involved in terminating the pregnancy on behalf of the fetus “if they were aware of race- or gender-based procedures and failed to report them.”

According to the Cronkite News Service, the vast majority of abortions (92 percent) take place “before 13 weeks of pregnancy,” while doctors cannot determine the sex of the fetus “until at least the 17th week.”

Anti-choice activists consistently portray legal abortion as a stealth genocide committed against minority communities, painting groups such as Planned Parenthood as “racists” and “Nazis.” However, studies show that the statistically higher abortion rate among women of color is due to a higher rate of unwanted pregnancies, with no evidence pointing to a racially-motivated campaign.

Michelle Steinberg of Planned Parenthood points out that the bill “could be a slippery slope in terms of requiring women to disclose why they’re choosing abortion.”

TRAP laws: Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers

Virginia may soon enact a “targeted restrictions on abortion providers” (TRAP) law that could force most of the state’s abortion clinics to shut down. Members of the Republican-led House of Delegates stealthily amended a bill on infection preventions and hospital security, which had already passed the Senate and a House committee, to mandate that only clinics that meet hospital specifications can perform first trimester abortions. The state Senate approved the bill, with Lt. Governor Bill Bolling casting the tie-breaking vote. Gov. Bob McDonnell is expected to sign it into law shortly.

The Richmond Times Dispatch reports that Gov. McDonnell’s action “effectively could force most of the commonwealth’s clinics to shut down because of the costs associated with upgrading facilities to hospital standards.” The law would likely force seventeen of the twenty-one clinics offering abortion services in the state to close, particularly impacting rural and low-income communities.

Proponents of TRAP measures claim that abortion clinics should be required to meet the same standards as hospitals because of the purported health risks involved in abortion procedures. These arguments conflict with the facts about abortion, which, since it was legalized has become one of the safest medical procedures in the United States. According to the National Abortion Federation, just “0.3% of abortion patients experience a complication requiring hospitalization.”

Like other TRAP laws, the Virginia law mandates that clinics performing first trimester abortions—which currently must meet all the regulations of any other clinic that provides surgical medical procedures—must additionally meet the same parking lot, room, doorway and hallway dimensions as hospitals. Jodi Jacobson of RH Reality Check writes that these unwarranted architectural changes could cost each clinic upward of $2 million, despite the fact that “the complication rate from abortion is vastly lower than that of breast augmentation, another procedure commonly performed in physicians’ offices.”

Constitutional law professor Lawrence Tribe of the Harvard Law School doubts the measure’s constitutionality, arguing that its “transparent purpose and effect would be to make such early abortions far more difficult if not impossible for many women to obtain.” But the Center for Reproductive Rights adds that “TRAP laws have proven extremely difficult to challenge in court.”

David Nova, vice president of Planned Parenthood Health Systems, said that ultimately these unnecessary and costly regulations will make abortion services “considerably more expensive and therefore less accessible, in particular for low-income clients.”

Virginia is not alone in considering TRAP laws this year. The Arizona House just passed a measure that would place similar unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers, potentially curbing services at three in-state clinics.

Fetal Pain Laws

A number of states are considering measures, based on disputed scientific claims about when a fetus can feel pain, that would drastically limit when in a pregnancy a woman could obtain an abortion.

Kansas, Oklahoma, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, and Missouri are considering bills that would prohibit abortion during the second trimester of a pregnancy.

On February 23, the GOP-dominated Kansas House passed a measure that would criminalize abortions after the 21st week of gestation, and the Republican leaders of the Missouri House and Senate have pledged to pass a bill that would ban abortion after the 20th week. Republican legislators in Florida, Idaho, Minnesota and Georgia have introduced bills that ban abortion after the 20th week, and an Ohio proposal places the ban at 22 weeks “if a test determines a fetus is ‘viable.’”

Kansas State Rep. Barbara Bollier, a Republican and former anesthesiologist, disputed the scientific basis for such bills, saying, “Most medical journals don’t believe pain is felt until 29 to 30 weeks.”

A major study by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists concluded that a fetus “feels no pain before 24 weeks.” Even after 24 weeks, the study found, “it is difficult to say that the fetus experiences pain,” as it experiences “a continuous sleep-like unconsciousness or sedation.”

The Guttmacher Institute has found that just 12% of abortions in the U.S. take place after the 12th week of gestation, and a miniscule 1.5% take place after the 20th week.

Heartbeat Laws

Religious Right activist Janet Porter of Faith2Action is championing legislation in Ohio that would make abortion a crime as soon as the heartbeat of the fetus is detected. Porter, who recently prayed that Christian fundamentalists will gain control of “every single level of government,” is attempting to rally grassroots anti-choice activists to apply pressure to the state legislature’s GOP leadership. State Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, the chairman of the Health Committee who has been dubbed “Captain Caveman” for his ultraconservative views on social issues, is the bill’s chief sponsor. The bill already has fifty cosponsors, giving it the votes to pass the ninety-nine member body, and Porter is bringing in a fetus to “testify” before the House Health Committee as a legislative witness.

Porter is an unabashed extremist: she believes that President Obama is attempting to intern and kill Americans through the swine flu vaccine and that “evil” Obama supporters are going to hell for cursing America by electing him President.

According to the Dayton Daily News, the heartbeat legislation will “ban abortion as early as 18 to 24 days after conception.” Case Western Reserve University School of Law Professor Jessie Hill called the bill “clearly unconstitutional,” since it criminalizes abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Robin Marty of RH Reality Check writes that the heartbeat bill, if it became law, would “eliminate virtually all abortion.”

“For most women, that would provide a window of two weeks or less in order to learn she was pregnant, make her decision about the pregnancy, arrange for an appointment, gather money for an abortion, obtain the mandatory counseling and sit through the required 24 hour waiting period,” writes Marty. “For a woman with irregular menstrual cycles, by the time she realizes she is pregnant it likely would already be too late to do anything but continue the pregnancy.”

Porter claims that legislators in states like Oklahoma, Georgia, Texas, Kansas, and Arizona are planning to introduce their own version of the heartbeat bill. Already, Arizona’s mandatory-ultrasound bill would force doctors to “provide the woman with an opportunity to view the active ultrasound image of the unborn child and hear the heartbeat of the unborn child if the heartbeat is audible.”

Personhood Laws

The effort to classify zygotes and fetuses as “persons” completely separate from their mothers and with full legal rights first appeared in Colorado, where voters have consistently voted down a so-called “personhood amendment” to the state constitution. Personhood laws would not only criminalize abortion with no exceptions, but also ban common forms of birth control, stem cell research, and in-vitro fertilization. This year, personhood measures are under serious consideration in Iowa, Mississippi, Florida, North Dakota, and Georgia, and the organization Personhood USA hopes to bring personhood campaigns to states including Texas, Montana, and Wisconsin.

In Mississippi, a personhood amendment to the state constitution will be on the ballot in 2011. Supporters of the measure include the American Family Association, Liberty Counsel, Lt. Governor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Bryant, U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, and Sen. Roger Wicker, who plans to introduce a bill “identical” to the personhood amendment in the U.S. Senate.

Les Riley, the architect of the Mississippi personhood amendment and the leader of Personhood Mississippi, is a featured blogger for the group Christian Exodus, which has the “goal of forming an independent Christian nation that will survive after the decline and fall of the financially and morally bankrupt American empire.” Christian Exodus, which has close ties to the separatist and Neo-Confederate League of the South, has attempted to move thousands of supporters to South Carolina in order to “form a biblically inspired government and secede from the United States.” The group also encourages adherents to move to Panama and Idaho in order to build theocratic settlements.

On February 11, the GOP-controlled North Dakota House, by a 68-25 vote, approved a bill that declares personhood “at every stage of development.” Daniel Woodard of North Dakota Right to Life and the North Dakota Life League asserted that “this bill should shut down [the last] clinic” in the state that offers abortion coverage.

Republicans in an Iowa House subcommittee approved a personhood measure, HF 173, which declares that a zygote and a fetus have all of the same legal rights as a “person.”

Personhood legislation introduced in the Georgia Senate has already garnered the support of Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, who called the measure “a reflection of a growing pro-life sentiment across the country.” The personhood bill introduced in the Georgia House declares that “a fetus is a person for all purposes under the laws of this state from the moment of conception” and would classify miscarriages caused by “human involvement” as “pre-natal murder,” a crime that would be punishable by death. Jen Phillips of Mother Jones writes, “Under Rep. Franklin’s bill, HB 1, women who miscarry could become felons if they cannot prove that there was ‘no human involvement whatsoever in the causation’ of their miscarriage.”

The “Florida for Life Act,” introduced by Republican state representative and ordained minister Charles Van Zant, declares that “all life comes from the Creator and begins at conception.” The bill goes on to delcare that “the Supreme Court’s removal of moral and political questions from the political power of the people to determine, under color of constitutional adjudication, is a violation of the peoples’ right to self-government guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States.” According to the Sarasota Herald Tribune, Van Zant’s personhood bill “contains no abortion exceptions for victims of rape and incest” and “would turn abortion doctors into felons for violating the measure’s strict provisions.”

Legalized Murder of Abortion Providers

Last month, the South Dakota House tabled a bill that would have legalized the murder of doctors who perform abortions by classifying it as “justifiable homicide.” Now the Nebraska Senate is weighing a bill that would amend the state’s self-defense code “to authorize protection of an unborn child.” Under the amendment proposed by the fiercely anti-choice state Sen. Mark Christensen, a “third person or person to be protected includes an unborn child” which “means an individual member of the species Homo sapiens at any stage of development in utero.”

State Sen. Brad Ashford, the chairman of Nebraska Senate’s Judiciary Committee, said “we could see firefights at clinics” if Christensen’s amendment is passed in the unicameral state legislature. David Baker of the Omaha Police department warned that the bill “could incite violence at abortion clinics.” Even though proponents deny that it is the intention of their bill, the legal ambiguity would create a perilous and potentially deadly environment for abortion providers in the state.

Along with the personhood bill under consideration in Iowa, the state House plans to consider HF 7, a bill that expands the right to use deadly force to protect a third party. Essentially, by declaring that a zygote and a fetus have all of the same legal rights as a “person” while also broadening the legal protections regarding the reasonable use of deadly force, the bill opens the door for attacks on abortion providers. Criminal defense attorney Todd Miler told The Iowa Independent that since HF 7 “explicitly provides that people have a right to defend themselves or others at any place they are legally allowed to be,” if someone attempted “to kill a physician or a clinic worker, and if they did so while believing they were protecting another person, which would be defined under House File 153 as a fetus, then, under this law, they would have the right to do that.”

Michael Moore Goes To Wisconsin To Express His Solidarity With Public Employees and their Unions


In spite of everything some artists/intellectuals in this country are still kicking ass and taking names. One of the most courageous and genuinely committed is the documentary filmmaker and social activist Michael Moore who unlike most people in public life ALWAYS puts his money, his time, and his body where his mouth (and ideas) are--on the frontline for truth and justice. As Da Mayor tried to explain to Mookie: IT'S ONE THING TO SIMPLY TALK ABOUT DOING THE RIGHT THING, BUT IT'S QUITE ANOTHER TO ACTUALLY DO IT. Michael understands that and acts accordingly and that makes him an invaluable force as always in our national struggle to actually CHANGE this country and not just hand it over to the wealthy CRIMINALS AND PSYCHOPATHS like the Koch Brothers and the Republican/Tea Party...Don't ever stop Mike!...We (the People) got your back...


Begin forwarded message:

From: "Michael Moore"
Date: March 6, 2011
To: Chuleenan
Subject: How I Got to Madison, Wisconsin ...a letter from Michael Moore

How I Got to Madison, Wisconsin ...a letter from Michael Moore

Sunday, March 6th, 2011


Early yesterday morning, around 1:00 AM, I had finished work for the day on my current "project" (top secret for now -- sorry, no spoiler alerts!). Someone had sent me a link to a discussion Bill O'Reilly had had with Sarah Palin a few hours earlier about my belief that the money the 21st Century rich have absconded with really isn't theirs -- and that a vast chunk of it should be taken away from them.

They were referring to comments I had made earlier in the week on a small cable show called GRITtv (Part 1 and Part 2). I honestly didn't know this was going to air that night (I had been asked to stop by and say a few words of support for a nurses union video), but I spoke from my heart about the millions of our fellow Americans who have had their homes and jobs stolen from them by a criminal class of millionaires and billionaires. It was the morning after the Oscars, at which the winner of Best Documentary for "Inside Job" stood at the microphone and declared, "I must start by pointing out that three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by financial fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail. And that's wrong." And he was applauded for saying this. (When did they stop booing Oscar speeches? Damn!)

So GRITtv ran my comments -- and all week the right wingopoly has been upset over what I said: That the money that the rich have stolen (or not paid taxes on) belongs to the American people. Drudge/Limbaugh/Beck and even Donald Trump went nuts, calling me names and suggesting I move to Cuba.

So in the wee hours of yesterday morning I sat down to write an answer to them. By 3:00 AM, it had turned into more of a manifesto of class war -- or, I should say, a manifesto against the class war the rich have been conducting on the American people for the past 30 years. I read it aloud to myself to see how it sounded (trying not to wake anyone else in the apartment) and then -- and this is why no one should be up at 3:00 AM -- the crazy kicked in: I needed to get in the car and drive to Madison and give this speech.

I went online to get directions and saw that there was no official big rally planned like the one they had last Saturday and will have again next Saturday. Just the normal ongoing demonstration and occupation of the State Capitol that's been in process since February 12th (the day after Mubarak was overthrown in Egypt) to protest the Republican governor's move to kill the state's public unions.

So, it's three in the morning and I'm a thousand miles from Madison and I see that the open microphone for speakers starts at noon. Hmm. No time to drive from New York. I was off to the airport. I left a note on the kitchen table saying I'd be back at 9:00 PM. Called a friend and asked him if he wanted to meet me at the Delta counter. Called the guy who manages my website, woke him up, and asked him to track down the coordinators in Madison and tell them I'm on my way and would like to say a few words if possible -- "but tell them if they've got other plans or no room for me, I'll be happy just to stand there holding a sign and singing Solidarity Forever."

So I just showed up. The firefighters, hearing I'm there, ask me to lead their protest parade through downtown Madison. I march with them, along with John Nichols (who lives in Madison and writes for the Nation). Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and the great singer Michelle Shocked have also decided to show up.

The scene in Madison is nothing like what they are showing you on TV or in the newspaper. First, you notice that the whole town is behind this. Yard signs and signs in store windows are everywhere supporting public workers. There are thousands of people out just randomly lining the streets for the six blocks leading to the Capitol building carrying signs, shouting and cheering and cajoling. Then there are stages and friendly competing demos on all sides of the building (yesterday's total estimate of people was 50,000-70,000, the smallest one yet)! A big semi truck has been sent by James Hoffa of the Teamsters and is parked like a don't-even-think-of-effing-with-us Sherman tank on the street in front of the Capitol. There is a long line -- separate from these other demonstrations -- of 4,000 people, waiting their turn to get through the only open door to the Capitol so they can join the occupation inside.

And inside the Rotunda is ... well, it will bring tears to your eyes if you go there. It's like a shrine to working people -- to what America is and should be about -- packed with families and kids and so many senior citizens that it made me happy for science and its impact on life expectancy over the past century. There were grandmas and great-grandpas who remember FDR and Wisconsin's La Follette and the long view of this struggle. Standing in that Rotunda was like a religious experience. There had been nothing like it, for me, in decades.

And so it was in this setting, out of doors now on the steps of the Capitol, with so many people in front of me that I couldn't see where they ended, that I just "showed up" and gave a speech that felt unlike any other I had ever given. As I had just written it and had no time to memorize it, I read from the pages I brought with me. I wanted to make sure that the words I had chosen were clear and exact. I knew they had the potential to drive the haters into a rabid state (not a pretty sight) but I also feared that the Right's wealthy patrons would see a need to retaliate should these words be met with citizen action across the land. I was, after all, putting them on notice: We are coming after you, we are stopping you and we are going to return the money/jobs/homes you stole from the people. You have gone too far. It's too bad you couldn't have been satisfied with making millions, you had to have billions -- and now you want to strip us of our ability to talk and bargain and provide. This is your tipping point, Wall Street; your come-to-Jesus moment, Corporate America. And I'm glad I'm going to be able to be a witness to it.

You can find the written version of my speech on my website. Please read it and pass it around far and wide. You can also watch a video of me giving the spoken version from the Capitol steps by clicking here. I will be sending you a second email shortly with just the speech so you can forward a clean version of it without the above story of how I abandoned my family in the middle of the night to go to Wisconsin for the day.

I can't express enough the level of admiration I have for the people of Wisconsin who, for three weeks, have braved the brutal winter cold and taken over their state Capitol. All told, literally hundreds of thousands of people have made their way to Madison to make their voices heard. It all began with high school students cutting class and marching on the building (you can read their reports on my High School Newspaper site). Then their parents joined them. Then 14 brave Democratic state senators left the state so the governor wouldn't have his quorum.

And all this while the White House was trying to stop this movement (read this)!

But it didn't matter. The People's train had left the station. And now protests were springing up in all 50 states.

The media has done a poor job covering this (imagine a takeover of the government HQ in any other country, free or totalitarian -- our media would be all over it). But this one scares them and their masters -- as it should. The organizers told me this morning that my showing up got them more coverage yesterday than they would have had, "a shot in the arm that we needed to keep momentum going." Well, I'm glad I could help. But they need a lot more than just me -- and they need you doing similar things in your own states and towns.

How 'bout it? I know you know this: This is our moment. Let's seize it. Everyone can do something.

Michael Moore

P.S. This local Madison paper/blog captured best what happened yesterday, and got what I'm really up to. Someone please send this to O'Reilly and Palin so there's no mistaking my true intentions.

P.P.S. Full disclosure: I am a proud union member of four unions: the Directors Guild, the Writers Guild, the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA (the last two have passed resolutions supporting the workers in Wisconsin). My production company has signed union contracts with five unions (and soon to be a 6th). All my full-time employees have full medical and dental insurance with NO DEDUCTIBLE. So, yes, I'm biased. Sounds the Alarm About the Draconian and Anti-Democratic Budget Proposed By the Republican Party>
Date: March 7, 2011
To: "Kofi Natambu"
Subject: Immoral

Dear MoveOn member,

It's time to sound the alarm.

This week, Congress could cut a deal on the budget. And if Republicans get their way, billions will be cut from vital programs that millions of Americans count on—while tax cuts for the richest are protected.

But most people don't have any idea what's at stake—and how devastating these cuts would be to their communities—even though the cuts could take effect within weeks. So we're launching an emergency campaign to spread the word. Republicans want to gut programs with enormous public support, and hope no one notices. So it's up to all of us to spark a public outcry before it's too late.

The devastating impact these cuts will have on our country—and on your community—is unprecedented. Check out the list below. If we can get it out to a million people, we can start to sound the alarm and stop the GOP. Click here to post on Facebook and Twitter, or simply forward this email. Thanks for all you do.

–Daniel, Peter, Carrie, Kat, and the rest of the team

Top 10 Worst Things about the Republicans' Immoral Budget

The Republican budget would:

1. Destroy 700,000 jobs, according to an independent economic analysis.

2. Zero out federal funding for National Public Radio and public television.

3. Cut $1.3 billion from community health centers—which will deprive more than 3 million low-income people of health care over the next few months.

4. Cut nearly a billion dollars in food and health care assistance to pregnant women, new moms, and children.

5. Kick more than 200,000 children out of pre-school by cutting funds for Head Start.

6. Force states to fire 65,000 teachers and aides, dramatically increasing class sizes, thanks to education cuts.

7. Cut some or all financial aid for 9.4 million low- and middle-income college students.

8. Slash $1.6 billion from the National Institutes of Health, a cut that experts say would "send shockwaves" through cancer research, likely result in cuts to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's research, and cause job losses.

9. End the only federal family planning program, including cutting all federal funding that goes to Planned Parenthood to support cancer screenings and other women's health care.

10. Send 10,000 low-income veterans into homelessness by cutting in half the number of veterans who get housing vouchers this year.

We've got to get the word out about this awful budget—right away. Please, share this with your friends on Facebook and Twitter, or by forwarding this email, today.


1. "GOP spending plan would cost 700,000 jobs, new report says," The Washington Post, February 28, 2011

2. "GOP budget would cut funding for public broadcasting," The Washington Independent, February 14, 2011

3. "NACHC Statement in Response to the Budget from the House Appropriations Committee," National Association of Community Health Centers website, accessed March 4, 2011

4."Bye Bye, Big Bird. Hello, E. Coli.," The New Republic, February 12, 2011

House Republican Spending Cuts Target Programs For Children And Pregnant Women

5. "Obama and the GOP's Spending Cuts: Where's the Outrage?" Mother Jones, February 18, 2011

6. Ibid.

7. "Deficit Reduction on the Backs of the Most Vulnerable," Center for American Progress, March 2011 (PDF)

8. "The GOP Budget and Cancer—Why New Research Is at Risk," Politics Daily, February 27, 2011

"Republican Budget Cuts at Heart of Medical Research: Albert Hunt," Bloomberg, February 20, 2011

"Durbin: Cuts to NIH put research jobs at risk," Business Week, February 28, 2011

9. "GOP Spending Plan: X-ing Out Title X Family Planning Funds," Wall Street Journal, February 9, 2011

10. "House GOP Spending Cuts Would Prevent 10,000 Low-Income Veterans From Receiving Housing Assistance," Think Progress, March 1, 2011

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