Saturday, April 25, 2015

Shelley Stamp's "Lois Weber in Early Hollywood"

Shelley Stamp is Professor of Film and Digital Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz. A leading expert on women and early film culture, she is author of Movie Struck Girls: Women and Motion Picture Culture after the Nickelodeon and founding editor of Feminist Media Histories: An International Journal. Stamp also provides audio commentary for DVDs, curates film programs, and consults on film preservation projects.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Lois Weber in Early Hollywood, and reported the following:
Page 99 features a discussion of The People vs. John Doe, Lois Weber’s 1916 film on capital punishment. Released at the height of a national debate on the death penalty, the film dramatizes the plight of Charles Stielow, an innocent man accused of murder, in order to present an argument against state-sponsored execution. Though all mention of Stielow was removed from the film at the behest of the National Board of Censorship, contemporary reviewers immediately noted the connections between Weber’s anonymous protagonist and the real-life Stielow. Indeed, Universal rushed the film into release after Stielow’s death sentence was commuted and The People vs. John Doe became a rallying point for anti-death-penalty advocates across the country: screenings were presented by abolitionist groups like the Humanitarian Cult and the film was shown to Pennsylvania legislators at a hearing to abolish capital punishment there.

The People vs. John Doe was one of many popular, profitable films that Weber wrote and directed on issues compelling to Americans during the Progressive Era. She tackled poverty and women’s wage equity in Shoes (1916), opium addiction and narcotics trafficking in Hop, the Devil’s Brew (1916), and the fight to legalize birth control in Where Are My Children? (1916) and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1917). She believed cinema was a "voiceless language" capable of presenting weighty topics for a mass audience, a new medium on par with a newspaper's editorial page. Weber, one contemporary observer remarked, fearlessly embraced contentious subjects that “other directors would not touch for fear of condemnation.” She endured her share of censorship battles as a result, but held firm in her commitment to her vision of socially-engaged, popular cinema.

Although she vowed to abandon such “heavy dinners” when she formed her own production company, Weber remained a trenchant critic of social norms. Films like Too Wise Wives (1921) and What Do Men Want? (1921) provoke fundamental questions about capitalism, changing sexual mores, traditional family structures, and a rising culture of consumption in the Jazz Age. The latter film, which features a spectacular scene of a pregnant, unmarried woman committing suicide in public, likely cost Weber her contract with Paramount Pictures. In the late 1920s, when it became increasingly difficult for her to find work, Weber made a trio of films critical of Hollywood’s star-driven glamour industry. She spoke openly of her desire to counter the flappers and vamps who increasingly clouded Hollywood’s imagination – she called them “cute little dolls dressed up in clothes that they do not know how to wear” – with “womanly” protagonists who possessed “brains and character.”

Throughout her career Weber remained a vocal advocate for women in Hollywood, demanding a place at the table when women were excluded from early professional guilds, mentoring many female screenwriters and actresses, decrying the limited roles available for women onscreen, and protesting the growing climate of hostility towards female directors in the 1920s. One of the first celebrity filmmakers, Weber used her renown as “The Greatest Woman Director,” to model female leadership in the fledgling movie business, to foster connections with female professionals and activist clubwomen outside the industry, and to embody an ideal of equality between men and women in the workplace.

Unjustly marginalized in film history, Weber remains a landmark figure, not only for the pioneering role she played as the first woman admitted to the Motion Picture Directors’ Association, but for her enduring commitment to making popular films on compelling, topical issues.
Learn more about Lois Weber in Early Hollywood at Shelley Stamp's webpage and the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 24, 2015

Jeffrey S. Gurock's "Holocaust Averted"

Jeffrey S. Gurock is the Libby M. Klaperman Professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University. His Jews in Gotham: New York Jews in a Changing City won the 2012 Jewish Book of the Year award from the Jewish Book Council.

Gurock applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Holocaust Averted: An Alternate History of American Jewry, 1938-1967, and reported the following:
I am pleased to report the following:

My page 99 describes a fictional meeting in 1941 between Winston Churchill and Peter Bergson where the militant Zionist proposes the creation of a Jewish army that would fight with the British in that nation’s struggle against the Japanese. Bergson hoped to leverage this offer as a means towards the establishment of Israel in a post-war world. But he was unable to garner American Jewish financial support for his initiative. Jewish leaders were skittish about how their involvement in a war that was not America’s own would play on their country’s isolationist streets.

This episode is but one of hundreds of intriguing scenarios that are at the heart of my counter-factual history of what American Jewish life would have been like had there been no Holocaust and if the U.S. had not been drawn into WWII. Both famous and not so renowned figures are placed in imaginative but compelling roles.

Basing my stories on actual historical documents, but with creative twists, I depict FDR as unsuccessful in attempting to run for a third term. I have Tokyo’s war council outvoting Tojo’s plan to attack Pearl Harbor. On the western European front, the Nazis get bogged down in their struggle against British and French troops and never succeed in invading eastern Europe where more than six million Jews live. The European war ends in 1944 when Hitler is assassinated. Meanwhile as late as 1946, the British are still fighting in Asia. This war-weary nation accepts American assistance in attempting to control a tumultuous Palestine where Jews and Arabs are squaring off. American peace-keepers arrive in 1946 but many are killed during the bombing of the King David Hotel. This provocation—viewed as terrorism in America—stokes anti-Zionist sentiments and American Jews run for cover. Their fear of dual loyalty creates a serious fissure between U.S. Jews and Israelis.

There are many real historical lessons to be learned from these and the many other contemplations that appear in my work. Most poignantly, without the war-time experience where American Jews felt empowered from their recognized role in defeating the Nazis, they would remain frightened about who they were and what they stood for. The roots of contemporary Jewish assertiveness for world Jewry and for social and political causes at home came out of the Holocaust where their brethren suffered. But American Jews emerged from WWII determined that their voices would be heard.
Visit Jeffrey S. Gurock's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bruce J. Hillman's "The Man Who Stalked Einstein"

Bruce J. Hillman, MD has distinguished himself as a health services researcher, clinical trialist, and author of both medical articles and short stories published in elite magazines and journals. He is Professor and former Chair of Radiology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. He has published over 300 medical articles, book chapters, and editorials, including his 2010 book for the lay public, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – How Medical Imaging is Changing Health Care (Oxford University Press). Hillman has served as Editor-in-Chief of three medical journals, including his current position with the Journal of the American College of Radiology. He was Deputy Editor of the online literary and humanities journal, Hospital Drive, and has published eight short stories in such journals as The Connecticut Review, Compass Rose, and Aethlon, the Journal of Sports Literature.

Hillman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Man Who Stalked Einstein: How Nazi Scientist Philipp Lenard Changed the Course of History, and reported the following:
The narrative on page 99 of The Man Who Stalked Einstein is an important aside to the main thread of the book. The page intrudes on the deliberations of ‘the small popes of Uppsala’ – the members of the Nobel Prize Committee for Physics. Between 1910 and 1922, the Committee received letters nominating Albert Einstein every year except 1911. Worldwide, he was the best known and most popular scientist of his era, yet the Committee consistently named lesser lights to receive the Prize.

The bias preventing Einstein from receiving the Nobel Prize reflected a Europe-wide battle between traditional experimental physicists like the ‘small popes’ and theoretical physicists like Einstein. The Man Who Stalked Einstein tracks the battle for the soul of physics between Einstein and the arch-experimentalist and 1905 Nobel laureate, Philipp Lenard. Ultimately, Lenard’s attacks on Einstein progressed from the professional to the personal. The narcissistic Lenard envied Einstein’s popularity with the common man. Following the end of World War I, Lenard progressively became more nationalistic and rabidly anti-Semitic, joining the Nazi party well before it was a political necessity. For more than 15 years, he publicly hounded Einstein, calling him a charlatan and his theory of relativity a fraud. Even after Einstein fled Germany in 1933, Lenard continued to depict Einstein and those who espoused his theories as ‘un-German,’ a Jewish stain upon the purity of superior Aryan physics.

In 1921, two of the ‘small popes’ died and were replaced by a theoretical physicist and mathematician, Carl Wilhelm Oseen. The politically astute Oseen managed to broker a deal for three years worth of Nobel Prizes that satisfied everyone on the Committee: the long-overdue 1921 Prize for Einstein, 1922 for the theoretician, Niels Bohr, and 1923 for the experimentalist, Robert Milliken.

Lenard wrote a long, tedious letter condemning the Committee for its inability to think with ‘Aryan clarity,’ but it was too late. For his part, a resentful Einstein proceeded with a planned lecture tour in Japan and skipped the ceremony. The irony of Einstein’s Prize is that the Nobel Assembly specifically noted that the award was not for Einstein’s theory of relativity but for his Law of the Photoelectric Effect, the groundwork for which had been laid by Lenard in the early 1900s.

Lenard became a leading advisor to Hitler and led the dismissal of Jewish professors from German universities. Many of these scientists immigrated to Germany’s enemies. Few remember Lenard’s name, while Einstein became Time Magazine’s Man of the 20th Century.
Visit Bruce J. Hillman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Emma Sky's "The Unraveling"

Emma Sky is a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute. She worked in the Middle East for twenty years and was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for her services in Iraq.

Sky applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq, and reported the following:
From page 99 of The Unraveling:
Why did the Iraqi chicken cross the road?

Coalition Provisional Authority:
The fact that the Iraqi chicken crossed the road
affirmatively demonstrates that decision-making
authority has been transferred to the chicken well in
advance of the scheduled June 30th transition of
power. From now on the chicken is responsible for its
own decisions.

We were asked to help the chicken cross the road.
Given the inherent risk of road crossing and the
rarity of chickens, this operation will only cost the
US government $326,004.

Muqtada al-Sadr:
The chicken was a tool of the evil Coalition and will
be killed.

US Army Military Police:
We were directed to prepare the chicken to cross the
road. As part of these preparations, individual
soldiers ran over the chicken repeatedly and then
plucked the chicken. We deeply regret the occurrence
of any chicken rights violations.

The chicken crossed the road, and will continue to
cross the road, to show its independence and to
transport the weapons it needs to defend itself.
However, in future, to avoid problems, the chicken
will be called a duck, and will wear a plastic bill.
Page 99 quotes from an email sent around the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in 2004, when the efforts to bring democracy to Iraq had already started to run astray. We were based in Saddam’s Republican Palace, then the headquarters of the CPA, and under regular bombardment. The decision was taken to hand over authority to the Iraqis by 30 June 2004.

It shows how we dealt with the absurdity of our situation through humor.

It depicts how different groups in Iraq see things through different lenses. As such, it is illustrative of the different voices that appear throughout the book.

What page 99 does not show is how The Unraveling interweaves my personal experience with those of Americans and Iraqis who I interacted with across a decade in my role first as the representative of the CPA in Kirkuk and then as Political Advisor to the top US Generals.

Through these vignettes, the reader gains deep insight into the coping strategies of people put in difficult circumstances, the bonds that tie them together, and the world views they possess. In each tale lies a deeper theme.

I was very sad and angry when I left Iraq and wondered what all the sacrifice had been for. I came to realize that I had witnessed key events and had a duty to record them. I believe we honor those who lost their lives by trying to learn the right lessons from the war. I set out to acknowledge the huge efforts of those who strived to give Iraq a chance for a better future and to pay tribute to Iraq, a country that I came so much to love.
Learn more about The Unraveling at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 20, 2015

Martin Goldsmith's "Alex's Wake"

Martin Goldsmith, author of Alex's Wake: The Tragic Voyage of the St. Louis to Flee Nazi Germany--and a Grandson's Journey of Love and Remembrance, is the host and classical music programmer for Symphony Hall on Sirius XM Satellite Radio and previously hosted NPR's daily classical music program, "Performance Today," from 1989 to 1999. He is the author of The Inextinguishable Symphony and lives in Maryland.

Goldsmith applied the “Page 99 Test” to Alex's Wake and reported the following:
Page 99 of Alex's Wake lands the reader in the midst of the initial developments that would become infamous as the tragedy of the SS St. Louis in the spring of 1939. A series of improbable events had culminated in more than 900 Jewish refugees being booted out of their native Germany on board one of the world's luxury liners. After a twelve-day voyage that included fine meals and spirited dances with a live orchestra (unfamiliar treatment for those refugees, who had faced increasingly violent discrimination for six years), the St. Louis pulled into Havana harbor and was not allowed to disembark its passengers. What began as a political standoff between Cuban President Federico Laredo Bru and other factions of his government evolved into a shameful episode of American history that chillingly resonates to this day.

The international aspects of the situation and how it would soon involve the U.S. government are right there on Page 99:
At one point in the discussions, Cuban Secretary of State Juan Remos met with President Bru to argue the moral implications of denying asylum to these victims of Nazism and to remind the president that his stance might cost him the disfavor of the United States. Unbeknownst to the secretary, the plight of the St. Louis refugees had indeed become a topic for debate in official American circles, but so far the direction of those discussions did not, in fact, contradict the Cuban president's position. Assistant U.S. Secretary of State George Messersmith wrote in a memorandum that it was his understanding that the United States would not "intervene in a matter of this kind which was purely outside of our sphere and entirely an internal matter of Cuba."
That passage hints at what was to come. Over the next week, as the St. Louis plied the waters off the coast of Florida, the U.S. government concluded that the plight of the 900 refugees was "purely outside of our sphere" of moral responsibility. Policies and mores that were equal parts law, politics, and a polite but lethal anti-semitism led to the "saddest ship afloat today" (in the words of the New York Times) being turned away from our shores and sent back to Europe. Nearly a third of the passengers, including my grandfather Alex and uncle Helmut, would be murdered in concentration camps.

And yet the voyage of the St. Louis is merely the most historically celebrated portion of the long lonely journey of Alex and Helmut, a journey my wife and I retraced in the spring of 2011. Over the course of six weeks and 5,700 miles we stood where they stood, bore witness, and met some extraordinary people along the way. On the final leg of the journey I discovered a means to escape the churning emotional waters of Alex's wake and to set aside the burden of guilt and shame I'd long thought was my emotional inheritance. It seems to have struck a chord with many members of the Second Generation, the sons and daughters of Holocaust survivors. At more than one of the many groups of readers I've met, someone has told me, with barely concealed tears, "You've written this book for me."
© 2015 Martin Goldsmith
Visit the Alex's Wake website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Tiffany D. Joseph's "Race on the Move"

Tiffany D. Joseph is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Affiliated Faculty of Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Stony Brook University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Race on the Move: Brazilian Migrants and the Global Reconstruction of Race, and reported the following:
Race on the Move takes readers on a journey from Brazil to the United States and back to explore how migration between each country is transforming Brazilian race relations. Brazil was once considered a racial paradise with its large multiracial population and absence of overtly discriminatory laws while the United States has a prolonged history of overt social exclusion aimed at nonwhites. However, with increasing Latino and multiracial populations in the United States, the use of quotas to reduce racial inequality in Brazil, and the movement of people between the two countries, contemporary race relations in each place are beginning to resemble the other. Using interviews conducted with residents of Governador Valadares (GV), Brazil’s largest immigrant-sending city to the U.S., I reveal how the exchange of racial ideals occurred among of these individuals and can potentially lead to a remaking of race in immigrant-sending communities.

Page 99 of Race on the Move demonstrates the extent to which changing one’s geographical context can influence his or her understanding of race as it relates to skin color. Specifically, this page discusses how GV return migrants classified their skin tones after returning from the United States and recognized that their skin tones were lighter compared to individuals who did not migrate from the tropical sunny climate of GV, which darkens skin tone. Returnees attributed the change to the colder and less sunny weather they encountered in the northeastern U.S. In sharing their conceptions, these return migrants constantly invoked the U.S. as a frame of reference to reinterpret the relevance of skin of color in Brazil post-migration.

The rest of the book also shows how return migrants use a similar process for readapting to race – particularly through negotiating classification, stratification, and discrimination – in Brazil. I argue that Brazil-U.S.-Brazil migration facilitates the development of a transnational racial optic, which alters how migrants “see” race in both countries by juxtaposing racial conceptions from each country. During migration, these individuals developed an understanding of race in the U.S. by incorporating Brazilian racial norms. An inverse process happened after these migrants returned to Brazil through which their experiences with race in the U.S. informed their post-migration perceptions of race in Brazil.

My concept of the transnational racial optic and using migration to compare race in the U.S. and Brazil is novel. Although there have been countless studies exploring micro and macro level differences in race relations in each country, Race on the Move is the first to consider how migration between both countries can influence racial understandings. Individuals on the move transport racial ideals with them which in turn can alter the places to which they migrate and the communities from which they come.
Learn more about the book and author at Tiffany D. Joseph's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 17, 2015

Nancy Woloch's "A Class by Herself"

Nancy Woloch teaches history at Barnard College, Columbia University. Her books include Women and the American Experience and Muller v. Oregon: A Brief History with Documents.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, A Class by Herself: Protective Laws for Women Workers, 1890s-1990s, and reported the following:
A Class by Herself tracks the rise and fall of women-only state protective laws – such as maximum-hour laws, minimum wage laws, and night work laws – from their origins in progressive reform through the passage of New Deal labor law to the feminist attack on single-sex protective laws in the 1960s and 1970s. The book explores the institutions that promoted women-only protective laws; the context in which the laws arose; the challenges that proponents faced; the arguments they invoked; the impact of the laws in ever-changing circumstances; and their dismantling in the wake of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Protective laws set precedents that led to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and to current labor law; they also sustained a tradition of gendered law that impeded equality for much of the century.

On page 99, I discuss a critical turning point in the history of protective laws: the passage of a 1913 law in Oregon to regulate working hours. The law imposed a ten-hour limit on the workdays of all persons in manufacturing, but allowed employees to work overtime for another three hours if their employers paid them time and a half.

From page 99:
The overtime provision, a seeming afterthought, was crucial. First, this provision embodied a specific intent: to deter employers from demanding long hours. “Time and a half” was an enforcement strategy. The threat to employers was weak—they risked little—but it was present. Second, “overtime” had longtime roots in labor law, mainly in laws that applied to men. . . . Most recently, demands for overtime had arisen briefly among strikers at the Lawrence, Massachusetts textile mills in 1912 . . . and in 1913 among Oregon timber workers . . . . “Overtime” was a labor demand suddenly catapulted into a “general” law. Third, although the Oregon law seemed to be gender neutral – that is, to apply to all “persons” in manufacturing—it soon applied almost entirely to male persons. Why? In June 1913, about six months after the Oregon legislature passed the 1913 law, lawmakers established an Industrial Welfare Commission, with the power to set maximum hours for women workers at or under the maximum set by statute. The IWC at once lowered maximum hours for women in industry to nine hours a day and forty-eight hours a week, with no loopholes for overtime.
The Supreme Court upheld the 1913 Oregon law in Bunting v. Oregon (1917), a landmark decision that served as a precedent for New Deal policy and a step toward modern labor standards. The decision fulfilled reformers’ goal of extending protective law to men; it also made “overtime,” or time and a half, an enduring part of labor law. But overtime was a wild card in protective law. The meaning of the term, unstable and volatile, was always in flux. Intended as a coercive tactic, an incentive for employers to limit working hours, overtime became by the 1940s an impetus for workers to earn more income; it also functioned as an employer prerogative. Finally, overtime became a divisive issue when activist women clashed over single-sex protective laws in the 1960s and 1970s. Page 99 suggests a theme that shapes my narrative: unintended consequences.
Learn more about A Class by Herself at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Joyce E. Salisbury's "Rome’s Christian Empress"

Joyce E. Salisbury is professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay. She is the author of Perpetua’s Passion: Death and Memory of a Young Roman Woman and The Beast Within: Animals in the Middle Ages.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Rome's Christian Empress: Galla Placidia Rules at the Twilight of the Empire, and reported the following:
Half of page 99 is a map of the divisions of Spain, ca. 411, and the narrative talks about “shifting imperial usurpers who needed high taxes to function” and “benevolent barbarians.” This page represents a couple of things about my book: 1) It has seven maps which show my interest in the intersection of history with geography as the movement of peoples shapes the organization of the land. This includes large spaces – Spain and the Hunnish Empire –as well as urban spaces – Barcelona, Ravenna, and Constantinople. 2) My account includes the crumbling of the Roman Empire in the West as tribes carve up the land.

The map on page 99 also signals that the publisher generously allowed illustrations, and there are thirteen in addition to the seven maps. This book is also about art and how people see themselves and how they are remembered. The cover has an image of Galla Placidia with her two children. It is a rare portrait of a fifth-century woman, and the reader can turn to page 161 to see the earliest portrayal of the Virgin Mary in the West – resembling Placidia complete with her pearls.

Where is my eponymous heroine on page 99? Traveling into Spain with her barbarian kidnapper turned husband as they head to Barcelona. They plan on creating a dynasty to challenge her brother, Honorius, the emperor who spent so much time in his palace with his eunuchs that he didn’t produce an heir. But things did not turn out as planned, and Placidia had many more struggles before she could leave barbarian-held Spain and take the imperial throne.
Learn more about Rome's Christian Empress at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dagmawi Woubshet's "The Calendar of Loss"

Dagmawi Woubshet is an associate professor of English at Cornell University. The coeditor of Ethiopia: Literature, Art, and Culture, a special issue of Callaloo, Woubshet has also published his work in Transition, Nka—Journal of Contemporary African Art, and African Lives: An Anthology of Memoirs and Autobiographies.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Calendar of Loss: Race, Sexuality, and Mourning in the Early Era of AIDS, and reported the following:
The Calendar of Loss illuminates a unique expression of mourning that emerged in the 1980s and early 1990s in direct response to the AIDS catastrophe, as queer mourners grappled with the death of lovers and friends in rapid succession while also coming to terms with the fact of their own imminent mortality. The time, consolation, and closure that allow the bereaved “to move on” were for the mourners in this book painfully thwarted, since with each passing friend, and with mounting numbers of the dead, they were provided with yet more evidence of the certain fatality of the virus inside them. The book thus identifies a particular grammar and timeline of loss that animates queer art and activism of the era, showing also how these outcast mourners employed their sorrow as a necessary vehicle of survival, placing open grief at the center of art and protest, insisting that lives could be saved through the very speech acts precipitated by death; that the bereaved can confront death in the face of shame and stigma in eloquent ways that also imply a fierce political sensibility and a longing for justice.

Page 99 comes from the third chapter of the book entitled “Visions of Loss,” which focuses on how the visual artist Keith Haring reckoned with his own illness and dying alongside other forms of violence that fueled the 1980s. The first time Haring discloses his HIV-positive status is in his diary, relating his impending death to the brutal killing of Michael Stewart, a black graffiti artist, in the hands of the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority Police. Haring saw a direct connection between AIDS deaths and the killing of black and brown youth by police in the ’80s, both of which he noted were authorized by the government. Haring also made a haunting painting after the Stewart killing, entitled “Michael Stewart—U.S.A. for Africa,” which I describe on page 99. The painting echoes, tragically, the spate of police killings of black people in our own era. To best appreciate the description, I suggest looking up the painting online. Here is how page 99 begins:
In looking at the disfigured image of Stewart in the painting, one can’t help but recall pictures of Emmett Till’s corpse, or narratives of Sam Hose’s remains, or “Strange Fruit’s” sound and imagery of black bodies, and countless other examples that reverberate in black American psyche. The painting extends its indictment of the U.S. also by troping Africa. Notice how two Xs dot the bleeding globe—one on the U.S., another on South Africa—signifying racial apartheid as their common denominator. And, how the title conjoins two contradictory images of America in the ’80s—American apartheid, exemplified by the killing of Michael Stewart, and American charity, by the famous logo/campaign “U.S.A. for Africa” to bring relief to millions of Ethiopians during the 1984-5 famine—the former belying the latter. Such a critical eye of race is a leitmotif of Haring’s work, a political temperament that distinguishes his work for instance from that of his Pop art predecessors of the 1950s and ’60s. Under the guise of celebration and nostalgia, “the aesthetics of plenty” had turned American optimism of the postwar boom years into a kind of virtue, sidestepping the undercurrents of racial violence and terror in America. But Haring, however much a product of the high commercialism of the 1980s, insisted in exposing the underside of Reagan’s morning in America, having no illusions about the tragic character of an era lived under the penumbra of sudden and protracted deaths.”
Learn more about The Calendar of Loss at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

James C. Robinson's "Purchasing Medical Innovation"

James C. Robinson is Leonard D. Schaeffer Professor of Health Economics and Director of the Berkeley Center for Health Technology at the University of California, Berkeley. His articles appear in a broad range of scholarly, medical, and journalistic publications, including Health Affairs, JAMA, and the Wall Street Journal.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Purchasing Medical Innovation: The Right Technology, for the Right Patient, at the Right Price, and reported the following:
From page 99:
But after years of acquiring each new technology, regardless of cost, hospitals no longer contract with every vendor, turn a blind eye to questionable marketing practices, and pay any price demanded. Hospitals are evolving from passive payers into active purchasers of medical technology.
Purchasing Medical Innovation addresses the dual imperatives of controlling costs and promoting innovation in the health care system. The book highlights the increase in health care expenditures caused by the introduction and utilization of new medical technology, including drugs and devices. At the same time, it underscores the importance of not undermining innovation through blunt increases in regulation, cuts in payment, or reductions in coverage for patients. The book argues that all four major players on the technology assessment and purchasing side of the U.S. health care system—the FDA, insurers, providers, and consumers—must alter the way they evaluate and adopt innovation.

Page 99 of the book focuses on the third of these four players: the changing role of hospitals as purchasers of medical innovation. Hospitals have historically competed with one another to attract physicians and patients by adding new technologies. While competition in other industries is typically a force for efficiency increases and cost containment, it has led to cost increases in health care. Locked in a “medical arms race,” many hospitals adopted new technology without regard to its cost-effectiveness.

The nature of hospital purchasing is changing, however. Financial incentives such as shared savings in Medicare and capitated payments from private insurers are encouraging hospitals to deliver high-quality care while containing their supply costs. Hospitals are moving away from passive adoption of new technology and playing an active role in evaluating and purchasing innovation.

Hospitals are important as purchasers and users of technology, but they are only one player. Systemic change is needed to curb costs and promote innovation in the long term. Regulators must ensure safety and efficacy while not creating insuperable barriers to market access. Insurers must weigh evidence from comparative clinical and cost-effectiveness research to make coverage decisions that improve the value of the services prescribed by physicians and adopted by patients. Physicians must not simply respond to the fee-for-service payment incentive to do more to make more. And consumers must become more engaged in medical decision-making.
Learn more about Purchasing Medical Innovation at the the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue