I read all the time and it is not unusual for me to learn something new from a book. It is less common for me to find a book that changes the way I loI read all the time and it is not unusual for me to learn something new from a book. It is less common for me to find a book that changes the way I look at my world, and The New Jim Crow falls into that category. Every American needs to give up five or six hours of his or her life to read at least part of this book.
Law professor Michelle Alexander argues that the death of Jim Crow laws gave rise to a new racial caste system in which people with black or brown skin are routinely convicted and imprisoned for mostly minor drug charges. White people commit the same crimes at the same (or higher) rates but are not given the same lengthy prison sentences. The structure of the War on Drugs, which Alexander deems unnecessary and racially charged, is designed to incarcerate huge numbers of people for nonviolent crimes.
The impact on poor communities and communities of color is stunning and devastating. In 2006, one in every 14 black men was in prison, compared with one in 106 white men, although most of the drug crimes are committed by whites. These men are branded as felons and relegated to second-class status even after they have served time in prison: denied federal housing and food assistance, denied jobs, and in some states denied the right to vote.
Alexander's solution is no less than a complete transformation in the way we view race. The notion of a colorblind society is unrealistic and likely even more damaging than segregation, she says. Instead, we need to recognize that we all have racial prejudices, and find ways to create policies that compensate for those prejudices instead of perpetuating them.
From the book: Today, no less than fifty years ago, a flawed public consensus lies at the core of the prevailing caste system. When people think about crime, especially drug crime, they do not think about suburban housewives violating laws regulating prescription drugs or white frat boys using ecstasy. Drug crime is racially defined in the public consciousness that the electorate has not cared much what happens to drug criminals -- at least not the way they would have cared if the criminals were understood to be white. It is this failure to care, really care across color lines, that lies at the core of this system of control and every racial caste system that has existed in the United States or anywhere else in the world....more
In 200 pages, Dr. Offit summarizes the history of the anti-vaccine movement and the current and future consequences of refusing these life-saving shotIn 200 pages, Dr. Offit summarizes the history of the anti-vaccine movement and the current and future consequences of refusing these life-saving shots. Dr. Offit relies on statistics and medical research to make his arguments but he also illustrates them with stories of individuals whose children have suffered, and sometimes died, because they or their peers were not vaccinated.
Vaccination alone will not protect all children. Vaccination is a social compact; there will always be babies too young to receive vaccines, and some people's bodies will never develop the appropriate antibodies even with vaccination. Immunocompromised patients, such as those in chemotherapy, lose the immunity they developed from past vaccines.
One of the most heartbreaking sections of the book is a long list of cases in which parents were acquitted after withholding life-saving medical treatment from their children. Apparently, you can't leave your kid in the car while you run into the grocery store, but it is fine to let a diabetic child die because you don't believe in insulin treatment. Why is this relevant to vaccines? Offit believes that in light of these legal cases, the courts will never deny parents the right to refuse vaccines on religious or philosophical grounds. He sees two possible scenarios that will increase vaccination rates back to safe levels. One is for parents to talk to each other about the absolute necessity of vaccination. Science and stats don't convince anti-vaxxers but sometimes parental encouragement is successful.
The other scenario is to wait. Wait until vaccination rates drop even lower and the United States experiences an epidemic and hundreds or even thousands of children die from a preventable disease. Then, maybe, the anti-vaxxers will realize the value of immunization. Let's try not to get there....more
This is a relatively quick read about the Supreme Court as it has functioned under President Obama. Toobin clearly leans to the Obama viewpoint but thThis is a relatively quick read about the Supreme Court as it has functioned under President Obama. Toobin clearly leans to the Obama viewpoint but this is not a political screed. He covers major cases, culminating in the Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, and weaves in stories about past and current justices. ...more
I am returning this book to the library because I've had it over a month and cannot renew again. I read about a third and it is a fascinating book aboI am returning this book to the library because I've had it over a month and cannot renew again. I read about a third and it is a fascinating book about the presidencies from FDR to GWB and how each president coped with the health care issue. The authors include any personal or family health issues that might have shaped that president's view of health care. The book is well-written and dense with useful information and some wonkish details about legislation and almost-legislation. The turmoil surrounding the passage of Medicare makes me hopeful that we will one day have national health care.
I hope to finish this someday but it is not a quick read and I have other books calling my name. ...more
No one would question the fortitude and perseverance of Dr. Susan Wicklund. In her early 20s, she was a single mom on welfare. She went to college, thNo one would question the fortitude and perseverance of Dr. Susan Wicklund. In her early 20s, she was a single mom on welfare. She went to college, then medical school, then devoted her career to providing safe abortions. I had a vague idea that abortion providers were harassed by protesters and I'd read articles about extreme cases in which protesters murdered doctors and clinic staff. But I had no idea of the day-to-day struggles these doctors negotiate. Dr. Wicklund was threatened, barricaded into her home, stalked and terrorized with phone calls and letters. Her memoir details her efforts to provide healthcare for women, including abortions, while maintaining her own safety and a semblance of a personal life. It is not a particularly well-written book. One of her friends co-wrote the book and it suffers from an undercurrent of, "What a martyr! What devotion to the cause!" Those things are true, but I could figure that out for myself. Dr. Wicklund talks a little about the changing state of women's healthcare and I would have liked to hear more about her views on that. I recommend the book despite its flaws; this is a visceral story about one person's convictions and how she constructed a life that allowed her to walk the walk....more