Monthly Archives: December 2008

Vaccinate Your Damn Kids.

(cross-posted from US of J)

When you have the time, you should listen to last week’s This American Life; it deals with an outbreak of measles among a group of children in San Diego, brought on by parents who refused to vaccinate their children.  Here’s a quick summary:

Measles cases are higher in the U.S. than they’ve been in a decade, mostly because more and more nervous parents are refusing to vaccinate their kids. Contributing Editor Susan Burton tells the story of what happened recently in San Diego, when an unvaccinated 7-year-old boy returned home from a trip to Switzerland, bringing with him the measles. By the end of the ordeal, 11 other children caught the disease, and more than 60 kids had to be quarantined.

I have nothing but complete disdain for parents who refuse to vaccinate their children, and selfishly count on “herd immunity” to protect their precious snowflake from sickness and ill health.  For one reason or another, they don’t seem to understand that they are putting their children and others children at risk for really terrible diseases.  Measles for instance, can cause temperatures as high as 107 degrees, which can put a child at risk for serious brain damage.

Contrary to what some parents apparently think, this isn’t a “private” concern, it is very much an issue of public health; once a sufficient number of children have not vaccinated, the chances of epidemic disease spread (and claiming lives) jumps dramatically.  Unfortunately, there are growing numbers of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. In Ashland, Oregon (a small town of about 21,000)  for example, almost one-third of children have not been vaccinated.

Although a good deal of this is driven by misplaced fears and misinformation, I think most of the blame, ironically, should go to modern medicine and public health.  That is, there are probably very few people alive in the Western world who remember epidemic diseases like polio, measles and mumps, and the terrible damage they caused.  I’m sure hardly any of these parents realize that the only reason why they aren’t terrified that little Johnny will get polio, is because mass vaccination has nearly eliminated the disease.  And it’s precisely because there is no historical memory of mass outbreaks that some parents can forego vaccination for their children.  If and when there is a mass outbreak of some preventable disease, and children die, those parents will sing a different tune.

Hip Hop Wargames: Ransom vs. Budden.

Jay’s latest touches on a point made by the Philadelphia City Paper not long ago: in the age of YouTube, what’s (the point of) beef? If Artist X lobbed some volleys via mixtape or YouTube at the target of his ire, by the time he actually dropped an album, any diss track on said album would already be a quaint little artifact in their beef.

The rapid-response beefing also means that it’s impossible to make sense of what caused the animosity.



…I’m not sure there’s much else for me to say about this.

Should I change my mind,  I’ll be back with more.

We gotta put our heads together and stop the violence.


This depressing graph comes from a Northeastern University report released today, which as the Wall Street Journal explains, shows a marked increase in the number of African-American teens who were the victims of violent crime:

Murders of African-American teenagers have risen 39% since 2000 and 2001, according to a report due out Monday.

Homicides in which blacks ages 14 to 17 years old were the victims rose to 927 over the two-year period of 2006-07, the last years for which statistics are available, compared with 666 during 2000-01, according to the study by criminal-justice professors at Boston’s Northeastern University. The 39% increase is much greater than the rise in overall homicides, which jumped 7.4% from 2000-01 to 2006-07.

Murders rose among black teens in 2006 and 2007 as overall homicides dropped compared with the previous year. And the 2000-07 rate of increase among black teens was more than twice the rate of increase among white teens, the study found.



A Final Word on James Bevel.


Some people want to extend the benefit of the doubt to James Bevel, who died last week of pancreatic cancer. Is that wise, though? None of his accomplishments in the Civil Rights Movement offset the physical and psychic trauma he visited upon his daughters for decades. Indeed, he mocked the idea that he would apologize for what he’d done.  It certainly doesn’t mean those other things didn’t happen, but it seems incredibly callous to suggest that the women he repeatedly sexually abused should surrender their well-deserved anger just so it doesn’t  complicate other folks’ memories of the man.

The Best Journalism of 2008.

Conor Friedersdorf lists the best news features of 2008, and says that Nick Paumgarten’s “Up and Down” from the New Yorker is the “best article on a topic you don’t need to know anything about.” I couldn’t agree more. The story, about the physics and culture of the elevator, should be dry as hell, but anchored around the story of the poor dude in the above video — who was trapped in a work elevator over a weekend with the alarm ringing the whole time —  is deeply unnerving.

You could probably shout out any number of New Yorker pieces. Ryan Lizza’s piece on how Obama rose through the ranks of Chicago politics deserves a mention; or maybe  “The Hardest Vote,” George Packer’s excellent feature on Obama’s uphill battle with ambivalent working class whites in Ohio, or Ian Parker’s portrait of Alec Baldwin, which is easily the best celebrity profile I’ve ever read.

Conor also shouted out “Giant Pool of Money,” TAL’s beginner’s guide to the mortgage crisis, which we’ve linked to fifty-leven times this year.  There’s a reason everyone keeps referencing it.

What were your favorite pieces of reporting this year?