For the first time since the U.K.’s smoking ban took effect in July 2007, someone has been sent to prison for the crime of allowing cigarette smoking on his property. Pub owner Nick Hogan was fined £10,000 for violating the smoking ban and sentenced to six months in prison when he refused to pay. Hogan remains undaunted: “This isn’t about smoking. It’s about freedom of choice, and I’m prepared to go to court to fight for what I believe in. This legislation is dictatorial, and I’m going to allow people the freedom to choose.” By way of contrast, a sentence of only two months in prison was handed down to a Brighton woman who terrorized a council house, slashing one of the tenants with a razor, and stole tenants’ money and property.
It can hardly be denied that being president of the United States is a very stressful line of work. For a high-strung, somewhat introverted type like the incumbent, the temptations of self-medication are irresistible. It is therefore not surprising to learn that the president still likes a smoke and a drink. A recent report by his physician, just made public, urged Obama to “continue smoking cessation efforts” and show “moderation in alcohol intake.” Apparently Michelle does not wield the domestic authority of Rutherford B. Hayes’s wife, “Lemonade Lucy,” who banned all tobacco and alcohol from the White House. We do not begrudge the president his occasional lapse into minor vices, but wonder where he goes to enjoy his Marlboro Reds. The Truman balcony? — said to have been Laura Bush’s choice (though she smoked Kents). There may be an opportunity here for some enterprising paparazzo with a good telephoto lens.
The American Psychiatric Association has given us a peek into the forthcoming (2013) edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the authoritative text for telling us when, and for what, we need the attentions of APA members. This new edition will be the fifth, the first having hit shrinks’ desks in 1952. As with previous editions, DSM-5 does nothing to fortify psychiatry’s claims to be a rigorous practice based in hard science. Much of it merely chronicles lifestyle fads. Fifty years ago you were a sexual deviant, suffering from a malady listed in the DSM; today you are “gay,” and no longer DSM-worthy. Fifty years ago you were a heavy smoker of no interest to psychiatrists; today you are afflicted with DSM-listed “Nicotine-Use Disorder.” There are of course real mental pathologies — varieties of madness — and we should strive to understand and treat them. Including eccentricity, unpopular habits, and everyday unhappiness in the mix can only vitiate the psychiatric enterprise and provide yet more rationalizations of irresponsibility to a populace already seriously addicted to the making of excuses (an addiction not listed in DSM-5).
The green enthusiasm has now reached into the opera house. The company in Cleveland has launched a “Green Opera Initiative.” They are “adding sustainability to the repertoire.” All of their productions are to be “green,” but Lucia di Lammermoor is to be especially so (somehow). Opera Cleveland has examined its “carbon footprint” and is asking patrons to give money for the purchase of “carbon offsets.” Will our descendants look on this period of greenery as lunacy or wisdom? In any case, we trust that Opera Cleveland will look after its sopranos, conductors, and stage directors, in addition to its “footprint” and “offsets.”
Sen. Harry Reid says unemployment causes men to beat their wives. We wonder what Reid would say about Ric Flair, the durable, semi-retired pro-wrestling superstar, and his spitfire of a wife, Jacqueline Beems. After returning from a convivial dinner, the couple had what Flair’s agent described as an “unfortunate disagreement,” which ended with Jackie punching her beloved several times and getting hauled off to jail. According to one news report, “police don’t know what the argument was about, but sources believe that alcohol was a contributing factor.” Could be. Flair, of course, did not hit back; he is a committed social conservative who would never strike a lady without getting paid for it. Still, his agent went on to say that “Ric finds this incident unsettling and is committed to correcting any issues in his personal life.” You mean issues like the 16-time world wrestling champion getting his butt kicked by a girl half his size and then apologizing? Whatever the upshot of that situation, Flair has announced his imminent return to the ring, which we are sure will dispel whatever malaise his recent lack of gainful employment may have caused.