Hedda Sterne, 1910-2011

She was an artist in NYC who died at 100 on April 8.  From the CDS Gallery:

After studying art in Paris, Bucharest and Vienna, Hedda Sterne emigrated to the United States in 1941. Upon her arrival, Sterne’s work was included in the maiden exhibition of surrealism in the United States, First Papers of Surrealism (October 1942), curated by Marcel Duchamp and André Breton. In the fifties, she was a prominent member of the Irascibles, along with Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, among others. In this innovative milieu, Sterne was a key figure in developing the language of what came to be known as Abstract Expressionism.

A key figure in Abstract Expressionism.  Is she one of these wonderfully talented women who ‘simply’ disappear from public sight, to leave us with the idea that only men can be great artists?**

She can be seen in this famous photograph from a 1951 picture of the leading lights of Abstract Expressionism:

**That is to say, of the many mechanism that contribute to placing one in the national and international spotlight, too few were available to/applied to her.

Opposing big government: What’s that really about?

Darian Warren  at Colorlines has an interesting answer to the question,  What is behind the loathing of big government that the Tea Party has brought to the center of US politics?  You can get to his answer by asking yourself where the claims about states’ rights start to become very vocal. 

 Of course, that’s when southern states opposed government regulations that would deprive them of slave labor.  Keeping government small,  Warren claims, is about maintaining the exploitation of black labor and opposing any social amelioration of the resulting injustices.

I think it’s very tempting to respond by pointing out that an anti-big-government sentitment starts with the founding of the country; it begins as a resistance to the idea of having a king, and not as a plan to preserve slavery.  But this response probably misunderstands the issues raised, which are about the present sentiment.  If the Tea Party is really just against a large government, where were they during the presidency of GW Bush? 

Thinking about the possibly more subtle racism behind the Tea Party also offers a perspective on the mixed blessing of Obama’s speech today on the budget.  Against most economists, he has agreed that the deficit is a really, really bad thing.  But at least he did also say (from the NY Times):

“There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires,” Mr. Obama said of budget proposals put forward by Republicans in the House. “There’s nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. And this is not a vision of the America I know.”

I’m not sure what we should finally think about  Warren’s  idea, but it does offer a solution to a puzzle.  Why does the white fear that is so obviously fueling the Tea Party end up with bad economic ideas about cutting spending when the economy is still so fragile?  The answer is that it isn’t directly about economics.

And then there’s Mitch McConnell of Kentuky, Senate minority leader:

… too often, it seems, Democrats in Washington claim to be interested in helping those in need, when what they really seek is to protect big government.

What do you think?

Equality Act? that’s just pointless red tape…

In case anyone’s missed it, here in the UK we’ve got a shiny new coalition government, and one of the things they’re really keen on is cutting unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape.  So they’ve started a website, the Red Tape Challenge, where they’re inviting people to comment on which areas of pointless regulation they think should be abolished.  Note, regulation, NOT primary legislation: so this is supposed to be about the kinds of details which get set out in secondary legislation after Parliament has properly debated and decided the principles.

But then we get to the section on ‘Equalities‘.  Unlike the other topic areas, here they’ve put the key piece of primary legislation up for comment, and the first question is: should we scrap it?

Um, no??????

Let’s be clear.  This is the Act which makes discrimination because of sex, or disability, or ethnicity, or pregnancy, or any other protected characteristic unlawful.  It has provisions on equal pay.  It deals with harassment on grounds of a protected characteristic.  And our government is seriously asking whether it should be scrapped?!

Describing equality legislation as ‘red tape’ is outrageous and, frankly, offensive.  Please go to the site – ideally before Wednesday 20 April, when it seems it might close for comments – and:

  • point out that the Equality Act is primary legislation, not a regulation, and that it was supported by all the major parties only weeks before the last General Election;
  • point out how improper this process is, when it appears to be asking about mere regulations but is in fact inviting criticism of the entire Act;
  • explain why it’s important for discrimination to be unlawful;
  • give examples of the difference made in people’s lives by the existence of equality law.

Thanks to the Discrimination Law Association newsletter!