Friday, November 17, 2017

New Deal Dance Art (4/10): "The Ballet School" and "Ballet Fedre"

Above: "The Ballet School," a painting by Gwyneth King (1908-1985), created while she was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Weatherspoon Art Museum.

Above: A WPA poster, promoting the WPA production, Ballet Fedre. Ballet Fedre was performed in Chicago from January 27 to February 19, 1938 (Hallie Flanagan, Arena, 1940, p. 386). Perhaps its popularity allowed it to run beyond the date you see on the poster above. One of the authors of the play, Berta Ochsner, wrote another ballet, Fugitive From Rhythm, "in which a young farmer who applied for work on [a] W.P.A. agricultural project was assigned by mistake to a percussion ballet" (Arena, p. 139). Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

New Deal Dance Art (3/10): Swing Dancing

Above: "Swingtime," an aquatint and etching by Charles L. Sallee, Jr. (1911-2006) created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1943. Sallee was an African American artist and, according to the blog of the Sandusky Library (Ohio), he served in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II (as a draftsman and cartographer, designing "roads and escape routes"), and then went on to enjoy "a long career as an interior designer." Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Kelvin Smith Library, Case Western Reserve University.

Above: "Jitterbug Swing," a color woodcut print by David Burke, created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1943. I wasn't able to find much information on David Burke on the Internet or in newspaper archives but, interestingly, it seems that one of his woodcuts from the 1930s, quite possibly a New Deal artwork, is listed as stolen on the FBI's National Stolen Art File ("Fishing Port Landscape with View of Back Bay"). Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: "Evolution of Swing," a lithograph by Raymond Steth (1917-1997), created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1939. This artwork highlights the origins of (or major influence on) swing dance: Africa and slavery. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: A WPA poster, advertising the WPA dance production Swing Parade. Swing Parade was performed in San Francisco from April 15 through June 30, 1937 (Hallie Flanagan, Arena, 1940, p. 391). Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: A WPA poster, advertising the WPA dance production Swing Mikado. Swing Mikado was a very popular federal theatre production and played in several venues across the nation. In New York, it became so popular that some private sector Broadway producers became jealous and upset (see, Susan Quinn, Furious Improvisation, 2008, pp. 270-271). Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

New Deal Dance Art (2/10): "Cowboy Dance"

Above: "Cowboy Dance," a mural study by Jenne Magafan (1916-1952), created for the New Deal's Section of Fine Arts, 1941. On October 20, 1952, at only 35 years of age, Magafan died of a cerebral hemorrhage in New York. She had been an accomplished artist, for example, painting a mural for the Beverly Hills Hotel, and painting another mural that was displayed in the White House. Her twin sister, Ethel (1916-1993), was also an artist, and also participated in New Deal artwork projects. Like their physical appearance, their artwork was very similar, with one newspaper noting that "the works of the Magafan twins were so much alike that it took a practiced eye to detect the difference" (see "Jenne Magafan, Noted Artist, Dies At Albany," The Times Record (Troy, New York), October 21, 1952, and "Jenne Magafan Dies In New York State," Los Angeles Times, November 30, 1952). Just two months before she passed away, Jenne was with her sister Ethel in Europe, both of them studying and traveling on Fulbright Awards ("Village Notes," The Kingston Daily Freemen (Kingston, New York), August 15, 1952). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Monday, November 13, 2017

New Deal Dance Art (1/10): "Eagle Dance"

Above: "Eagle Dance," a painting by R.W.R. Taylor, created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and Mike Ramos.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

WPA Bocci

Above: A game of Bocci in Northern California, ca. 1935-1943, part of the WPA's recreation program. Bocci (or Bocce) is sort of cross between bowling and horseshoes. During the New Deal, the WPA offered many opportunities for people to get off their sofas and get into games, sports, dances, art classes, and more. It was great for physical fitness and great for socializing. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: "Bocci," a lithograph by Harold Anchel (1912-1980), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Case of Roy Moore: Are we abandoning the concept of "innocent until proven guilty," for the sake of political preference and political correctness?

Above: "The Accused," a woodcut print by Harry Rein (1908-1969), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1938. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

In a new Raw Story article, titled in a way that completely abandons the concept of "innocent until proven guilty"--"Morning Joe panel destroys 'depravity' of GOP justifying 'slimebag' Roy Moore's child molestation"--we read that conservative commentator Nicolle Wallace, a frequent critic of the hard right, scolded the Republicans who have not rushed to judgment against the GOP senate candidate Roy Moore, saying on Morning Joe: "I think every Republican there went out to do the right thing. They intended to say and do the right thing. But by saying 'if the allegations are true,' when women, many, many, years later, have put their names in the paper - no woman wants to be dragged into a sexual assault, a sexual harassment story. So I really think it's ignorance, not malice... Four women put their name in a story with absolutely nothing to gain."

I am certainly no fan of Republicans, or the loony tune Roy Moore, and it may very well be that Moore did what he is accused of. Also, sexual assault and harassment is obviously a nationwide problem. Who in their right mind wants their mother, sister, wife, girlfriend, daughter, or any woman, man, or child assaulted or harassed? But Nicolle Wallace's assertion, essentially, that no woman would lie about sexual assault and harassment is both naive and demonstrably false.    

Most of us are familiar with some high profile stories of false accusations, for example, the Duke Lacrosse rape accusation scandal, the Rolling Stone rape article debacle, and the amazing case of Brian Banks, the football player who secretly taped his accuser admitting she fabricated her rape story - after he served 5 years in prison, was forced to register as a sex offender, and probably had his opportunity to have a pro football career ruined (see, e.g., "Blindsided: The Exoneration of Brian Banks," CBS, March 24, 2013). But there are other, less famous cases too. For example, a summary of wrongful convictions from the University of Michigan Law School highlights the case of Nathaniel Lewis:

"Nathaniel Lewis was convicted in 1996 of raping a fellow student at the University of Akron in Ohio. He was exonerated in 2002 based on a portion of the supposed victim's diary in which she wrote that the sex was consensual and that she had accused Lewis of rape because she was tired of being considered promiscuous" ("Exonerations in the United States, 1989 – 2012: Report by the National Registry of Exonerations," pp. 74-75).

Above: "The Line-Up," another artwork by Harry Rein, this one a lithograph, created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

More generally (i.e., in all cases, not just cases related to sexual assault) false allegations, false arrests, wrongful prosecutions, and erroneous convictions are much more prevalent than most people know, or are willing to admit. In Massachusetts, chemist Annie Dookhan falsified lab results which caused an untold number of wrongful convictions ("Epic Drug Lab Scandal Results in More Than 20,000 Convictions Dropped," NBC, April 18, 2017). In Washington, D.C., inaccurate breathalyzers likely caused hundreds of wrongful convictions for alcohol-related offenses ("D.C. paid out nearly $400K for flawed breath testing system," WTOP - Washington's Top News, January 9, 2013). And, according to a project run by the Universities of California and Michigan, as of today, there have been at least 2,120 exonerations (most or all for serious crimes - where the scarce resources for this type of legal work are put) and these people have lost a combined 18,450 years of freedom (The National Registry of Exonerations).   

If you think women can't lie, or men can't lie, or children can't lie, you're not paying attention, you're not doing your research, and you're ignoring history. With respect to children, remember the Salem Witch Trials or the more recent and ridiculous satanic ritual abuse hysteria of the 1980s and 90s, where some children were coached and stirred into such a frenzy that they claimed their abusers took them "to outer space in hot air balloons." (Also see, Cathy Young, "Crying Rape: False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem," Slate, September 18, 2014.) 

Above: In this video clip, we see people banging pots outside the residence of one of the Duke lacrosse players accused of strangling, raping, and robbing Crystal Mangum in 2006. One protester shouts through a megaphone, "We're standing in solidarity with the women who've gone through this horrible atrocity." Another protester says she's "enraged and disgusted... that something like this has happened" (emphasis added). Signs we see in the video say things like, "Real men tell the truth" and "Sunday Morning: Time to Confess." The story was eventually shown to be a false accusation, the prosecutor on the case was disbarred, and Crystal Mangum is currently serving time for stabbing her boyfriend to death (only a few years after she was arrested for the attempted murder of another boyfriend).

I find that progressives (and I consider myself a progressive) are often the ones rushing to judgment. For example, liberal columnist and education expert Diane Ravitch castigated Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her staff for listening to those accused of crimes, scoffing: "DeVos' world gets stranger by the day. After hearing from rape victims, DeVos and her top civil rights official have decided to champion the rights of those accused of raping the women... The alleged perpetrators of rape, it seems... are the real victims. What a strange new mission for the Office for Civil Rights" ("DeVos's New Cause: The Rights of Those Accused of Raping Women on Campus," Common Dreams, July 13, 2017).

I am no fan of the goofy, silver-spooned, right-wing extremist Betsy DeVos but, I'm sorry Ms. Ravitch, what is wrong with protecting the rights of the accused, and listening to their side of the story too, especially when this nation has such a rich history of wrongful conviction, lynching, and mass incarceration?

Here is what justice demands: A person who alleges sexual assault should be listened to. A person who says "I didn't do it" should also be listened to. We should look at such instances, and examine the allegations and evidence with unbiased eyes and judgment. We should not sacrifice the concept of "innocent until proven guilty" on the alter of political correctness, or blind chivalry, or misogyny, or misandry, or any other knee-jerk Neanderthal impulses. We should not assume that a particular group, gender, or age group is utterly incapable of lying. Because, to do so, encourages lying. For example, if society were to declare that people over the age of 70 are completely incapable of stealing, some small percentage of people over the age of 70 might consider stealing, on the confidence that society is biased towards finding them innocent.

There are few things more horrible than sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape (and you'll know this if it ever happens to you or someone you love). But I can think of at least one thing that is more horrible: Living in a world where finger-pointing is all it takes to imprison or lynch someone. That's why centuries of injustice, horror, and hangings spurred the concept of "innocent until proven guilty." We must uphold this tenet of justice, no matter how angrily we're browbeaten by those who want to be the judge, jury, and executioner... and no matter how much we may dislike the accused.  

Above: "Prisoner," a lithograph by Julius Bloch (1888-1966), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936. In 1931, nine African American males, the Scottsboro Boys, were falsely accused of raping two white women. One of the two eventually admitted she lied, but the defendants' lives were forever damaged. Most served time, and one was even shot in the head trying to escape (see, Jay Bellamy, "The Scottsboro Boys: Injustice in Alabama," National Archives, Spring 2014). Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Weatherspoon Art Museum.

"[I]t is just as important for a state's attorney to use the great powers of his office to protect the innocent as it is to convict the guilty."

--Homer Cummings, 1924 (FDR's attorney general from 1933-1939), "The Suspect, the Prosecutor, and the Unlikely Bond They Forged: New evidence shows that Homer Cummings, who would later be FDR's attorney general, rescued an innocent man accused of murder," Smithsonian Magazine, January 2017. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The political right continues to peddle trickle-down economics. The question is: Will we continue to be their fools?

Above: "Drip, Drip," an etching by Edward Hagedorn (1902-1982), created while he was in the WPA's art program, ca. 1935-1943. I'm not sure what Hagedorn's intentions were, but this is a great representation of trickle-down economics. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Trickle-Down Lies 

Over the past several decades we've cut and kept taxes low on the rich. Not satisfied with that, many rich Americans are engaging in various methods of tax evasion and avoidance. As a result, the super-wealthy have become even more super-wealthy.

This coddling of the rich - cutting their taxes, not going after their tax evasion too aggressively (even encouraging it at times), and pampering them in various other ways - was marketed as a way of creating a better life for all Americans. Their wondrous investments, we we're told, would create a magical tsunami of great jobs. Trickle-down economics, we we're told, would be our salvation.

But multi-millionaire Nick Hanauer recently explained the reality: "For decades, rich guys like me have been selling you tax cuts on the merits of pure economic stimulus. The rich are 'job creators,' we've told you. The more money and incentives we wealthy few have to invest in creating jobs, the better the economy is for everybody - especially you. That's a lie."

Even right-wing superstar Ann Coulter has had enough, recently tweeting, "Bush cut taxes! Did it create millions of jobs? Nope. The rich pocketed their tax cut & sent jobs abroad, hired guest workers. F-- them." 

Trickle-Down Warnings

The trickle-down economics scam is not a new scam. Indeed, President Franklin Roosevelt warned us about trickle-down economics many times. For example, in a radio address to businessmen in 1936, Roosevelt said: "We must hold constantly to the resolve never again to become committed to the philosophy... that Government should be ever ready to purr against the legs of high finance; that the benefits of the free competitive system should trickle down by gravity from the top to the bottom; and above all, that Government had no right, in any way, to interfere with those who were using the system of private profit to the damage of the rest of the American citizens."

With regard to that last bit, it's interesting to note what billionaire Tom Steyer recently said: "There is an absolute, unspoken war between corporate interests and the American people... We're seeing a deliberate attempt to take away [working families'] future by really rich people." 

Trickle-Down Failures, Trickle-Down Tenacity

Since the New Deal, we've collectively dismissed Roosevelt's warnings and, instead, fell under the spell of the trickle-down tricksters of the political right. And the results have been devastating, as FDR would have foreseen. Wages have been stagnant for decades, job benefits are more stingy, retirements are more precarious, we've been killing ourselves more frequently, we're angry, we're sick, we're fat & unhappy, we're suffocating in debt, our children are drinking lead from crumbling infrastructure, and we're being evicted by the millions.

Trickle-down economics has not only failed, but its failure has been so obvious, and so spectacular, that you'd have to be comatose (or extremely wealthy) not to see it.

And still, still, the political right is pushing for more trickle-down economics - telling us that another round of gargantuan tax-cuts-for-the-rich is just what the middle-class needs. This morning, Trump's top economic adviser, Gary "the Goldman Sachs" Cohn, declared that tax-cuts-for-the-rich "means the workers get paid more; the workers have more disposable income, the workers spend more. And we see the whole trickle-down through the economy, and that's good for the economy" ("Gary Cohn: Trickle-down is good for the economy," CNBC, November 9, 2017).

Trickle-Down Fools Forever?

It's not surprising, of course, that Gary "the Goldman Sachs" Cohn and his ilk are pushing for more tax cuts; after all, they will benefit tremendously. And it's not surprising they want to eliminate the estate tax altogether, so that their children & grandchildren will be even more superbly-placed in America's fortified caste system. Their silver-spooned progeny will be able to enjoy idle & luxurious lives, while our children will have to work in crappier and crappier jobs to support their vanity and greed - just like today, but even worse.

No, none of this surprising. The only real question is: Will we continue to be their fools? Every American needs to look in the mirror and ask: "Am I going to be an idiot for the rich?" The answer to that question will have enormous consequences for the quality of our lives - now and in the future.