An eye-opening book that cries out for change—but can policymakers show the resolve to make that change?

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INSANE

AMERICA'S CRIMINAL TREATMENT OF MENTAL ILLNESS

A searing exposé about the criminalization of mental illness that features a simple underlying theme that a society attempting the same disastrous policies over and over but expecting a different outcome is where the actual craziness resides.

Former Marketplace reporter Roth goes broad and deep, first explaining why the United States has never devoted adequate resources to dealing with its millions of mentally ill inhabitants, then using case studies to demonstrate why incarcerating the mentally ill in jails or prisons often makes no sense and does more harm than good. Because compassionate, well-trained, readily accessible professionals are unavailable to most severely mentally ill individuals—those with schizophrenia and/or bipolar disorder especially—when those individuals appear as threats to themselves or others, the first responders are usually police officers or others unequipped to deal with such situations. Too often, Roth explains, encounters between the mentally ill and armed police result in serious injury or death. As for the mentally ill who survive such encounters, their incarceration without medical treatment is quite likely to result in the worsening of the disease, until no amelioration seems possible or suicide results. Although Roth expresses pessimism about the future of mental illness treatment—especially when poverty and race and lack of education enter the equation—she shares rare positive examples of community-based care that is adequately funded as well as the laudable work of a few law enforcement agencies mounting sincere efforts to treat inmates humanely and effectively. In the instances where an incarcerated mentally ill individual enters an actual courtroom, Roth explores how judges can aid in solutions rather than compounding an already fraught situation. Though the subject matter dictates that much of the book is relentlessly depressing, the author is such a talented information gatherer and fluid stylist that the narrative becomes compulsive reading.

An eye-opening book that cries out for change—but can policymakers show the resolve to make that change?

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-465-09419-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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