Lighter prosecution may be warranted


A Dec. 31 article ("Drugs and thugs slide down priority scale") reported that criminal prosecutions for drug crimes have dropped significantly at the U.S. Attorney's office in Minneapolis under the leadership of B. Todd Jones. There are those, apparently, who are concerned about this, and to them and others, I would suggest a book: Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow."

Alexander argues convincingly that the new Jim Crow is the mass incarceration of black and Latino men convicted of drug crimes. She suggests that the war on drugs initiated during the Reagan administration unfairly and disproportionately targets these men. She supports her conclusions with significant data. A few examples: 1) the large increase in the prison populations in the last 20 years is primarily due to drug arrests; 2) the overwhelming percentage of arrests are for possession, with few of the dealers being charged, and 3) the vast majority of drug users are white, but the vast majority of those in prison are black or Latino.

This is a poignant, powerful book that urges us to carefully examine the struggle for racial justice in our country's legal system. If you read the book, you might conclude, as did I, that Jones' focus may be a step in the right direction.


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Settled? Not really, but spankings are in order


As long as the government can continue to sell the program that it will provide everybody with anything that they want and get the rich guy to pay for it, our country will continue to go over the fiscal cliff.

MIKE MCLean, Richfield

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Memo to Grover Norquist: I believe we've now located that bathtub you wanted to use to kill the government. The problem is we all have to get in it -- we all have to take a bath.


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The children in Washington do not know how to play well. They all ought to be spanked. Can we please elect adults the next time around?


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I was disappointed that President Obama chose to speak to the American public on Monday afternoon while fiscal-cliff negotiations were taking place in the Senate. At times like this, it is often best if one understands that silence is golden. Obama's timing was poor, and he lacked good judgment when he chose that moment to chastise Congress and let the Republicans know that "I'm going to be president for the next four years." Leaders know when to speak and when to remain silent. On Monday, silence from the White House would have been a much better choice.


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Chosen wisely, art can enhance natural views


Regarding the Dec. 28 Letter of the Day ("Some of the best landscapes are those left unaltered"): I agree with the letter writer's feelings about imposing "man-made" objects onto a beautiful outdoor space like the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. However, if the artworks were to enhance what is there, to draw attention to the natural beauty, or to blend into the landscape, it would be a different story. The arboretum staff needs to think carefully about the work chosen to complement this beautiful place.


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Article misled readers on presence in libraries


Maybe the Star Tribune needed to fill out a page after a holiday, but that's no excuse for spreading misinformation ("Are libraries the new hot spot for bedbugs?" Dec. 26). This article recycled an earlier one by the New York Times that included misleading reportage. The Times quoted an entomologist named Michael Potter, coauthor of a survey on bedbug incidents, as saying that there's been an increase of such incidents in libraries in the last few years. The article didn't mention, however, that the survey also showed that libraries still lag well behind hotels, motels, college dorms, nursing homes, office buildings, public transportation and movie theaters. An exasperated Potter told the website Reluctant Habits that, in a long interview with the Times, he stressed that the "odds of you picking up a bedbug from a book in the library are so low that it's not even worth talking about." Reluctant Habits also learned that "some of the library directors who [the Times reporter] spoke with have never had a bedbug epidemic at all. They were merely taking preventive measures in the wake of recent media stories."

A few statistically insignificant incidents get turned into an epidemic by news media hungry for content; libraries -- increasingly and unfairly stigmatized as irrelevant, when they are more necessary than ever -- react defensively; their reaction is reported as further evidence of an epidemic; the stigmatization intensifies. This isn't a story, it's a ghost story, not worthy of a major newspaper and not one you'll find in your local public library.


The author is a reference librarian.