I’m not a big Liza Minelli fan, and for over a decade now she has been rather pathetic (perishing early, like her mother, can be a smart career move for some artists), but still: I wonder if her film-ending performance of the title number in “Cabaret” is the most exhilarating solo by a female singer in any movie. It’s substantially the way the song is directed (by Bob Fosse), of course, that makes it so effective, but even so: the moment is a great legacy for Liza even if everything else in her career fades from memory. Just as Saroyan was right that if one human being sings your song, you haven’t lived in vain, creating one unique moment that inspires or uplifts others is a gift to the world.
And Liza’s moment also is a tonic I turn to to get me ready to face the day when the prospect of thinking and writing about ethics makes me want to go back to bed. Like right now.
1. Wait, I thought Joe Biden was supposed to be a nice guy! In an article about Andrew Cuomo’s final days in office, I learned that President Biden, who is a “close personal friend” of the now ex-governor of New York, has not spoken to him since Cuomo resigned two weeks ago. What kind of “close friend” is that? Whether Cuomo was treated justly or not (he was), his life has fallen apart in chunks this month (and began doing so months earlier). This is when friends, real friends, are most essential, and also when fake friends show their true character. Joe Biden’s entire political career has been built on the assertion that he is, whatever other flaws he might have (like being a lifetime chowderhead), a good, loyal and trustworthy person. Well, he’s not. This is hardly the first evidence we’ve seen of that, but it’s signature significance.
2. Is saying something should never happen again really “comparing it to the Holocaust”? This is Thursday, meaning that I get a lot of substack newsletters from pundits who want me to subscribe to theirs. Craig Calcaterra, the baseball writer whose product I will not pay for untilhe stops filling it with opinions on things he knows no more about than most people, filled today’s free offering with (let’s see) 740 words of baseball analysis (not counting brief accounts of last night’s games) and 2, 326 words about Republicans he hates, Billy Joel albums. and, most of all, a local school board member where he lives who wrote on his Twitter account,
“And if we are to truly learn from our mistakes these past 18 months Just as Jews after the horrors of the Holocaust We must declare, and implement laws to assure “Never Again” . . .Never again should we delegate policy authority to those qualified only to provide narrow advice Never again should we willingly sacrifice liberty without objective proof of imminent harm, and an objective restoration plan — in advance . . . Never again should emergency government authority extend beyond 7 days without legislative consent, reconfirmed every 7 days Never again should we blindly follow experts, regardless of the initials after their name, if they don’t provide proof, show their work & admit error . . . Never again should we EVER sacrifice the needs of children to the unfounded fears of adults.”
The writer is Jewish, by the way. Calcaterra uses the “offensive comparison” as a version of ad hominen attack to excuse him from the task of rebutting the writer’s substantive arguments and appeal to emotion, which is why I would never evoke the Holocaust in such a context simply as a matter of advocacy strategy. However, the school board member wasn’t comparing the genocide of 6 million Jews to pandemic totalitarianism, but stating that similarly absolutist policy prohibitions are appropriate after what we have learned from the past year and a half. There are a lot of things the U.S. has done that deserve a “Never again!” label—electing an obviously progressive dementia case as President, for example. Critics of the label are obligated, though, to deal with the reasons for making that claim, and should not be allowed to get away with “How dare you insult the victims of genocide by comparing what befell them to electing Joe Biden!”
3. “Have you, at last, no sense of decency?” Michelle Goldberg, one of the Times’ most reality-averse leftist columnists, authored an op-ed yesterday claiming that all that is occurring in Afghanistan as a result of the incompetent Biden “Run away!” order was inevitable, since there was no “decent way” to end the war. We can expect more of such desperate attempts to shield progressives and Democrats from accountability, especially after Americans are trapped.
4. Two NYC judges decide it is appropriate to sentence defendants to Wuhan virus vaccinations. A judge in the Bronx and another on Manhattan required defendants to get vaccine shots. One defendant was seeking a plea deal, the other seeking bail. Neither defendant objected for religious reasons or other principled objections, making the issue moot in their cases. However, law professor and legal ethicist Stephen Gillers, a reliable progressive, expressed ethics qualms.
I think that this requirement fits within the broader category of the judge’s responsibility for the safety of individuals or the public generally,” Prof. Gillers said. However, he added that we give the judges power over the lives of others that has to be used sparingly. These judges are saying,”I’m going to help you be a better person,” Gillers concludes, “And I don’t think that’s his job. As a therapist, perhaps, but not as a judge.”
I would describe the analyses of these cases by various legal ethicists as “mealy-mouthed.” That’s because, I believe , of the strong progressive bias in my field. For example, on the issue of whether such orders involve unethical intrusions on citizen’s bodily integrity, Bruce Green, a professor at Fordham Law and a former federal prosecutor, said that he did not see the orders as an “incredible intrusion into someone’s bodily integrity.”
Oh, a government order intruding on an individual’s bodily integrity is only unconstitutional if it’s “incredible,” is it? Interesting standard. Cite, Counselor?
“It’s actually doing the defendant a favor because it’s keeping them safe and it’s doing the community a favor by making sure this person’s less likely to transmit the virus,” Green added.
I never want to hear an argument like that again.