5 Best Sunday Columns

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  • Holman Jenkins on the Future Google  Jenkins discusses the possibilities of targeted advertising--Google knows, he explains "'roughly who you are, roughly what you care about, roughly who your friends are.' Google also knows, to within a foot, where you are." Jenkins finds this "a bit scary," and takes a look at Eric Schmidt's attitudes towards privacy, which, as Schmidt says and Jenkins admits to be true, "go[es] far beyond Google."
  • Allen Frances on the New D.S.M.'s Anti-Emotion Attitude  The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders, writes Frances, former chairman of psychiatry at Duke, contains guidelines that would lead to the bereaved being diagnosed with "major depressive disorder." What's wrong with this? We should oppose the "wholesale medicalization of normal emotion," argues Frances, not least because grieving "with family and friends, as people always have," is quite effective. There's no need for drug companies to "quickly and greedily pounce on the opportunity ... 'teach' physicians how to treat mourning with a magic pill."
  • Frank Rich on Judith Dunnington Peabody  Rich dedicates his column to recalling the tremendous service the late socialite did for the cause of gays dying from AIDS. She "did the unthinkable," he writes, "by volunteering to work as a hands-on caregiver to AIDS patients and their loved ones" at a time when the patients were treated "'as bearers of the plague,'" and even healthy gays were "second class citizens." Peabody's example, Rich says, "had a discernable effect in beating back ignorance and fear in New York." Rich then goes on to discuss other civil rights battles. "Make no mistake about it," he writes: "The Proposition 8 trial, Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision and the subsequent reaction to it (as much a non-reaction as anything else) constitute a high point in America’s history-long struggle to live up to its democratic ideals."
  • Joanna Weiss on Maternity Leave  We don't really care about family values, argues Weiss in The Boston Globe. If we did, we wouldn't be leaving maternity leave "up to luck: the size of your company, the generosity of your boss, the salary (or existence) of your spouse." Simply, "we need ... some national standards for affordable leave." She reviews a few options, "hardly European-style social welfare," and also suggests it's time for the "boring Mommy Wars, which view working motherhood as a luxurious option for the upper-middle class," to end. "In truth, working moms are a fact of life. Children are a biological reality."
  • Michael Hofmann on the Importance of Languages  Forget the economic justifications some offer for learning a foreign language, or the idea that you need "another language ... to use and understand your own." The real reason to study another tongue, asserts the translator in The Guardian, "is "that you're not making enough of your individual (or collective) human potential if you allow yourself to be enclosed by one language." Here's Hofmann passionately making his case against the increasing inattention to languages in the British school system:
On the individual level, think of the loss of possibility, the preordained narrowness of a life encased in one language, as if you were only ever allowed one, as if it were your skin in which you were born. Or your cage. That's your lot. When the great Australian poet Les Murray said: "We are a language species", he didn't mean English. We think and are and have our being in, and in and out of languages--and where's the joy and the richness, if you don't even have two to rub together? If you don't have another language, you are condemned to occupy the same positions, the same phrases, all your life. It's harder to outwit yourself, harder to doubt yourself, in just one language. It's harder to play.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.