celebrating a wise decision, holding on, art by reputation

My 5th grade teacher Miss Jones( not her real name) was a bully, but in the Coen brothers-like world of her classroom she also possessed at least one good side. She was both an able and patient instructor of reading comprehension and analysis. It is just as important to understand the implications of a sentence as is it to understand its direct meaning. Reading Between the Rights

This week marks the 46th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court reproductive-rights case Griswold v. Connecticut, in which the Court struck down Connecticut’s ban on the distribution and use of contraceptives (at least for married couples). The decision was important not only in itself but because it laid the framework for other important decisions like Roe v. Wade, which came less than 10 years later.

It may seem remarkable that a strong 7-2 decision striking down a stupid and unpopular law that the Warren Court’s house conservative John Marshall Harlan called the most clearly unconstitutional law he had seen in his career has become such a source of controversy. The attack on Griswold represents the ability of Republicans to selectively use catchphrases to deride concepts in decisions they don’t like, even if the concepts themselves are unexceptionable.

Justice William O. Douglas’ opinion for the Court argued that the Connecticut statute was unconstitutional because it violated the “right to privacy.”

The phrase, which has been fodder for conservatives’ critiques of the Roe decision since it was made in 1973, does not, of course, appear in the Constitution. But as Justice Douglas noted: “Specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance.” If you think about what this means, it’s perfectly sensible: Explicitly stated rights in the Constitution entail other rights. And yet conservative legal observers have made a cottage industry of invoking “penumbras and emanations” and “right to privacy” as if merely repeating the words were enough to refute Douglas’ opinion. Throw in “judicial activism,” and you have a list of the most common buzz phrases used to discredit opinions conservatives don’t like.

I’ll stay with a well-worn example. We do not have the right of association with others – the right to association. Yet the 1st Amendment’s right to petition and assembly would be hollow rights at best if we did not assume the implicit right to associate with others. In political causes, social issues, religious institutions or to redress economic injustice we must have the right to associate with other like-minded people. None of those associates have unlimited freedom – i.e. you can’t wave around your semi-automatic and call for the violent overthrow of the US government ( though the government and courts, contrary to paranoid libertarians and conservatives – has been pretty tolerant of extreme speech). Even most conservatives – public official of that persuasion anyway, have largely conceded there is a right to privacy. I realize there is a large contingent of internet rolls who think otherwise. So conservatives have come at some privacy rights such as a woman’s autonomy over her own body as a special case. For some reason they do and do not have the right to privacy. The article notes Justice John Paul Stevens astute observation that conservatives are saying women have a right to privacy that some how magically disappears once a zygote is formed. Talk about inserting words and meaning without substance into the Constitution. What amendment is that – the now you see them now you don’t rights amendment.

holding on

Her Own Light – A new biography tries to untangle painter Lee Krasner from the husband whose outsize personality and paint-splattered canvasses left her in the shadows. I was and I guess I’m going to anyway, introduce Krasner as Jackson Pollock’s wife. It is difficult to get around.

But never on Krasner. The contrast between her obscurity and Pollock’s worldwide fame was especially striking. In 1949, Life ran a feature with the headline “Jackson Pollock: Is He the Greatest Living Painter in the United States?” Meanwhile, Krasner was one of 17 artists in a group show in a small East Hampton gallery, where her work received one sentence in a New York Times review: “Lee Krasner’s rigidly patterned abstracts sound a call to order.” A New Yorker piece on the couple described her as “a slim auburn-haired young woman [in fact, she was 41] who is also an artist,” and showed her “bent over a hot stove, making currant jelly.” Levin demonstrates that this kind of sexism, which now seems appallingly blatant, was standard practice in the macho art world. The bohemians of East Hampton were no more enlightened than the executives and suburbanites of Mad Men.

People who can afford it do know who Lee is. Her work sells very well and is in America’s most imminent museums. Perhaps if she had been the alcoholic and adulterer, she would have gotten the kind of publicity Pollock received. And there was the sexism. And Lee didn’t sleep with Peggy Guggenheim.

A couple of her painting that I like, Celebration 1960, Untitled 1958 ( this is an ink stretch).

O’Reilly and Fox News Has Long Been A Home For Race-Baiting Attacks. A demented book end to Matt Drudge has cool new white supremacist fans!  From the first link,

Stossel Said “Private Businesses Ought To Get To Discriminate” And “It Should Be Their Right To Be Racist.” On Fox News’ America Live, Fox Business Network host John Stossel stated that “it’s time now to repeal” the public accommodations sections of the Civil Rights Act. Stossel went on to say that “private businesses ought to get to discriminate” and that “it should be their right to be racist,” adding that he personally would not go into a business that discriminated. [Fox News, America Live, 5/20/10]