The day I posted about the Whitney Museum and its impending Andy Warhol exhibit, critic Stephen Metcalf published an article in the Atlantic Monthly on the same topic — except he’d seen the exhibit. I thought I was hard on Warhol! Metcalf acknowledges that Warhol is “now widely regarded as the most important artist of the second half of the 20th century,” but important and good are not synonyms. “Warhol’s great advance was collapsing any distinction between commercial and noncommercial modes of experience. . . . Despite its subtle and not-so-subtle ravishments, a Warhol canvas is expressively vacant,” Metcalf says. Then he really bares the fangs:
He impresses the viewer only insofar as the viewer’s defenses against him are weak. His greatness has always lain in our failing. The less we push back on the idea that prurience and detritus represent the sum of it, the greater his powers of divination seem. . . . An inner life, a sense of vocation, a distrust of fame and a special loathing for speculative fortunes, a personal relationship with God (or nature) that the image may partake in but never supplant — Warholism negates it all. No wonder he has never been bigger.
So if you like Warhol, you don’t just disagree with me. You’re weak, a failure, and symptomatic of all that ails our culture!
After that post, I wrote about Judge Jon Tigar granting a restraining order against the Trump Administration’s policy of accepting asylum requests only from immigrants who cross the border at an official port of entry. Trump dismissed Tigar’s decision as political when it was based entirely in law, causing Chief Justice John Roberts to rebuke Trump. “I don’t think Roberts said that solely to defend Tigar,” I wrote. “I think he also was signaling to Trump and his lawyers that if they thought Kavanaugh’s elevation meant they now have five Supreme Court votes to do whatever they want, guess again.”
A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit, led by Jay Bybee, a highly conservative George W. Bush appointee, backed Tigar’s ruling. So the Trump Administration went to the Supreme Court, which voted 5–4 to uphold the Ninth Circuit. The decisive vote? Yup — John Roberts.
It’s not unusual for judges to telegraph that a particular line of argument is fruitless and if the lawyers persist in it, the judge will rule against them. Good lawyers hear that message and adjust. In this case there was no adjustment. We can only guess whether the lawyers, Trump, or Trump’s toadies in the Justice Department missed Roberts’s message or decided to ignore it. Whoever and whichever, a foolish move.
In September I suggested limiting personal fortunes to $100 million. This month Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Elizabeth Warren put forth their own ideas for mitigating excessive wealth. Ocasio-Cortez proposed a 70% marginal tax rate on annual incomes above $10 million. Warren followed with a proposal for a two percent wealth tax on individual fortunes over $50 million and a three percent wealth tax on individual fortunes over $1 billion. (Warren is getting advice from two UC Berkeley economists, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman; Saez works closely with Thomas Piketty, whose book Capital in the Twenty-First Century may prove the most influential economics treatise of this era.)
Keep the conversation going, Democrats! However much the wealthy and their apologists freak out, the public is on board; a recent poll found 59% support for the Ocasio-Cortez tax increase. Even 45% of Republicans favor it.