An editorial from The New Republic: Fog of War:

“The occasion for the American flailing is Israel’s antiterrorist operation in the West Bank, which the United States cannot but support in principle but is failing to support in practice. What Israel calls Operation Defensive Shield is in no significant way different from what the United States called Operation Enduring Freedom, except that it is even more urgent, since the killers in the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Haifa and Netanya and Afula come from next door. But suddenly the United States is treating Israel’s campaign of self-defense as just a huge strategic headache. In the weeks after the destruction of the World Trade Center, the joke made the rounds that Ariel Sharon had called George W. Bush to counsel restraint, but the joke is no longer funny.”

Compare and contrast: Word Play: all wars against terrorism are not the same by Peter Beinert, editor of The New Republic:

“Does Israel have the same right to defend itself against suicide bombers in Tel Aviv as the United States has to defend itself against suicide hijackers in New York? Is an attack on the Indian parliament as evil as an attack on Congress? Absolutely. But the question isn’t moral; it’s strategic. And strategically, Israel’s and India’s wars against terrorism differ radically from America’s because Israel and India aren’t merely fighting a terrorist network; they’re fighting a people. And a people can be militarily occupied, but they can’t be militarily crushed. The moral right to respond to terror with single-minded, overwhelming force doesn’t make such a response successful. And in the end, if a government’s response to terror doesn’t stop future terror, the moral clarity it provides is cold comfort indeed.”


The Man Who Isn’t There: review of Laurent Cantet’s film L’Emploi du Temps (Time Out), “very loosely based on the notorious real-life escapades of one Jean-Claude Romand, who spent 18 years pretending to work for the World Health Organization in Geneva, and then, when discovered, murdered his family.” I wrote about this chilling case when Emmanuel Carrère’s book about Romand, The Adversary: A True Story of Monstrous Deception, came out several years ago.


War Crimes Tribunal Becomes Reality, Without U.S. Role:

“More than half a century after it was proposed in the ruins of World War II, the world’s first permanent court for the prosecution of war criminals and dictators became a reality today as the United States stood on the sidelines in strong opposition.

The treaty that established the court, which is expected to take shape in The Hague over the next year, went into effect after the 60th nation had ratified it. The court closes a gap in international law as the first permanent tribunal dedicated to trying individuals, not nations or armies, responsible for the most horrific crimes, including genocide and crimes against humanity.

Until now, just ad hoc courts like the Nuremberg trials after World War II and the Balkans tribunal that is now sitting in judgment on Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav president, have done that work.” NY Times


Checking Out the Checkpoints –

Malcolm Gladwell: The curious irrationality of airport security: “What all this demonstrates is the folly of a system focused primarily on the detection of weapons. The hardest task facing any would-be terrorist is not getting his weapon on the plane. That’s just a game of hide-and-seek, and the seeker’s odds in that situation are never particularly good. The real problem for the terrorist is getting himself onto the plane. People about to commit violent acts make mistakes. They get nervous. They have to construct elaborate cover stories for themselves and fall back on training that may have been conducted months or even years before in a country far away.” Slate


Your analyst, my matchmaker: I can only echo what Spike said in sending me a pointer to this item. Holy moly! Eligible New Yorkers currently in therapy can hire psychoanalysts as matchmakers, at $2,000 a whack. Your therapist — in all true, gruesome candor — reveals your personality styles, neuroses, defenses and styles of self-deception to other participating therapists, they find a suitable match on that basis, and you discuss how the arranged relationship is going in your therapy. The self-serving rationale of Frederick Levenson, the analyst organizing this service is that only people who are in therapy are self-observant, and smart, enough to be good romantic prospects, and that only having your therapist present your attributes avoids the dishonest self-promotion people do when dating under their own steam.

My reactions, as a psychiatrist? It’s a no-brainer; this is reprehensible, both in terms of its grandiose claim to omniscience, its exploitative opportunism, and the damage it does to patient autonomy and growth. I think there are grounds to report these people to their profession’s board of ethics, in fact! I’m not alone in these misgivings, of course; the article does a good job of collecting critical quotes. Put succinctly by therapist Jane Greer — organizing your patient’s life for them “is contrary to the notion of therapy, which is teaching patients how to take care of themselves.” Not explored in the article, but worth asking, is how to think about the patients who resort to this service — helpless victims at the mercy of their transference to their analysts or pitifully collusive in their own failure to grow up?

This dating service phenomenon does not stand in isolation, but should probably be seen as part of the more general societal trend away from genuine autonomy as a value. For example, consider the increasingly popular new ‘helping profession’ called life coaching whose practitioners explicitly frame their role as not refraining from telling their clients what to do. It’s not therapy, but… Dr. Levenson, making more of a mockery of his psychoanalytic credentials then he did by authoring the ludicrously titled but similarly exploitative-sounding self-help book, The Anti-Cancer Marriage: Living Longer Through Loving, would be well advised to hang out a ‘life coaching’ shingle instead, but then he couldn’t charge his outrageous Manhattan analytic fees to mess with his clients’ minds, could he? The New York Observer

Here’s a Google search for Levenson. Don’t get me started on how irresponsible it is considered in the medical field to blame cancer patients for their malignancies by unproven innuendoes that their unresolved emotional issues (what? which they can only deal with by paying those Manhattan analytic fees to Levenson and his ilk?) cause or enhance their tumor growth. But, then, he’s not a member of the medical profession after all, he’s a Ph.D. psychologist. (Recall my diatribe several weeks ago when psychologists received prescribing privileges in New Mexico?) It’s a different discussion altogether, but traditional psychoanalytic training institutes, elitist though it may be considered to be, restricted their membership to medical doctors, i.e. psychiatrists. In response, we’ve seen in the last decade the traditional psychoanalytic establishment pit against the explosive growth of alternative psychoanalytic institutes with fewer restrictions on admission criteria, such as the one with which Levenson is associated. Controversy over such populism has torn the field of psychoanalysis asunder, as documented in Janet Malcolm’s eloquent coverage of the discipline in the New Yorker a decade or so ago, for example. Would it strike you that analysts like Levenson are an argument for a return to far more stringent gatekeeping standards on the profession?


The Fully Immersive Mind of Oliver Sacks: Steve Silberman writes a beautiful, detailed portrait of erudite neurologist Oliver Sacks on the occasion of the publication of his memoir Uncle Tungsten. The picture of a complex, quirky, intense, cherubic polymath that emerges makes me even more envious than I would have been already that Sacks allowed someone to ‘hang out’ with and write about him for essentially the first time.

Silberman zeroes in on Sacks’ impact in “rescuing the clinical anecdote from the margins of medical practice” and taking our ministrations to our patients beyond mere diagnosis (which Sacks and I agree should be more like the starting point — rather than the ending point it so often is in modern medical practice — in appreciating the person, and their dignified struggle, behind the affliction). In relating Sacks’ interest in descriptive narrative to his lifelong literary aspirations (according to Silberman, one of the things that drew Sacks to the Bay Area in the early ’60’s was the presence of English poet Thom Gunn), I wondered whether Silberman had discreetly refrained from speculating on the extent to which Sacks’ direction had been influenced by something abit more personal. Silberman has previously written about Asperger’s Syndrome for Wired; Sacks of course wrote a memorable and loving depiction of Temple Grandin, a woman with Asperger’s, in the title chapter of his An Anthropologist on Mars; this conjunction may account for Silberman’s acute but nonjudgmental sensitivity to Sacks’ own interpersonal quirkiness. Although I doubt that Sacks himself has Asperger’s and in any case one cannot presume to diagnose sight unseen, it may be that his preoccupation with case history functions as a way to attempt to connect to mysteries of human interaction and meaning that elude him from a position on the sidelines.

Silberman alludes to what appears to be a central mystery in Sacks’ life — his transformation from passionate student of the natural sciences to medical humanist. Is Sacks simply unrevealing — he’s stated he doesn’t plan a memoir similar to Uncle Tungsten of the ‘next phase’ — or himself uninsightful about this? Silberman finds that Sacks is only now turning his case study method to his own mind, although an early Sacks work Silberman doesn’t mention, A Leg to Stand On, explores the internal experience of a neurological calamity that befell Sacks himself in exactly the ways he does for others in Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat or Anthropologist…. The accident and Sacks’ way of processing it may have been formative as well.

Readers of FmH would expect that I would find this article fascinating. Except for the ‘geek-syndrome’ sideline, and some brief allusions to Sacks’ take on mind-as-computer metaphor, it is not clear to me how appealing this would be to typical Wired readers, however. It seems much more like a New Yorker piece; perhaps we’ll be seeing Silberman’s articulate prose there… Related: Here is Oliver Sacks’ own website.