Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's remark that economic disparity between Israel and the Palestinians could be explained by "culture" and "the hand of providence" occasioned considerable stir this week, although it should not have, since both major political parties have longstanding and very open contempt for Arab peoples, especially the Palestinians, and both believe that Israel was ordained by God. (It's in the Bible - who can argue with Holy Writ?) But it makes for entertaining distraction, an essential function at any time, but especially in an election year, when voters have the power (theoretically, at least) to elect a representative government dedicated to promoting the general welfare. Where would our 1% be if that happened?
Next year "Internet use disorder" will be listed in the appendix of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, said Matt Richtel in the New York Times. The dangers of constant texting, tweeting, and web-surfing are said to be potentially devastating, since brain scans of Internet addicts, those who are online 38 or more hours a week, are said to resemble those of cocaine addicts and alcoholics.
Of course, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders also defined homosexuality as a grave mental illness until 1973, when the ideological idiocy could no longer be sustained, and the psychiatric profession has long pinned a whole host of alleged mental illnesses on women, whose clear lack of a penis encouraged psychiatric suspicion that they were mental and emotional defectives. And going farther back (1854), Dr. Samuel A. Cartwright of Louisiana did declare escaped slaves to be afflicted with "drapetomania," a dread mental illness characterized by an irrepressible desire for freedom. The bright side, said the good doctor, was that the disease was eminently curable.
Which is not to say that extreme internet use is not a bad thing. But it may very well turn out to be the case that 38 hours a week dedicated to any single activity is unhealthy. Obviously, the modern world is a complicated place, and people have a wide variety of needs and interests that put claims on their time. Consider just the short list - commuting, working, sleeping, cooking, eating, bathing, caring for children, housecleaning, paying bills, and recreating. Any full-time worker can tell you that it's an enormous strain to do all of these things if 38 or more hours a week are dedicated to holding down a job. So let's see the brain scans of people who devote 38 or more hours a week to housework, truck-driving, elderly care, data entry, plumbing, babysitting, and waiting on tables before we conclude that an extensive online life is among the gravest of threats to our national mental health.
The enemies of former Serbian Prime Minister Slobodan Milosevic are at it again. Ivica Dacic, Milosevic's former spokesman, has emerged as the new Prime Minister of Serbia, appointed by parliament to head up a coalition government three months after elections failed to determine a clear winner. Dacic is known for harshly criticizing the West for its bloody dismemberment of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, an apparently outrageous and inexplicable failing, since all NATO wanted to do was selflessly bomb the country into submission, which it ultimately succeeded in doing. Said Liberal Democratic leader (anti-Milosevic) Cedomir Jovanovic, "Serbia is the only place in the world where someone destroys the country and can just change a tie and move on."
Huh? Bill Clinton and NATO leaders did precisely that, destroyed Serbia with 78-days of round-the-clock bombing, and then moved on. Milosevic's contribution to the violence that gripped Yugoslavia in the 1990s was in the context of trying to keep the country from being fractured into ethnic mini-states, an effort that ultimately failed. If forcefully trying to keep a federal union from disintegrating is a crime, then Abraham Lincoln was as much a genocidal maniac as Milosevic was.
When the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics included a commemoration of the 2005 London subway bombings after an appeal to allow an official moment of silence in memory of the six Israeli athletes murdered in the 1972 games had been rejected, Jonathan Tobin published his indignation in Commentary Magazine. "For the Olympic Committee, like the United Nations and the rest of the international community, there are always different rules for Jews. And chief of those rules is that Jewish blood is cheap."
Priceless. That's why it's so difficult to hear anything about anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, or suicide bombings in Israel. It's also why the Diary of Anne Frank and just about anything written by Elie Wiesel are standard textbook fare in our school system. And it's surely why the killing of the Israeli athletes was made into a popular movie while the London bombings are barely remembered just seven years after they occurred.
If chutzpah were an Olympic event, Tobin might well be draped in gold.
"The Week - The Best of the U.S. and International Media," August 10, 2012