Saturday, September 14, 2019

Ian Stewart's "Do Dice Play God?"

Ian Stewart was born in 1945 and educated at Cambridge (MA) and Warwick (PhD). He is an Emeritus Professor in the Mathematics Department at Warwick University, where he divides his time equally between research into nonlinear dynamics and furthering public awareness of mathematics. He is also an Emeritus Professor of Gresham College, London. He has held visiting positions in Germany, New Zealand, and the USA. He has five honorary doctorates (Open University, Westminster, Louvain, Kingston, and Brighton) and is an honorary wizard of Unseen University on Discworld.

Stewart is best known for his popular science writing—mainly on mathematical themes.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Do Dice Play God?: The Mathematics of Uncertainty, and reported the following:
The top half of page 99 finishes off a discussion of two main current approaches to probability and statistics: Frequentist and Bayesian. In the Frequentist approach, which until recently was dominant, the probability of an event quantifies the proportion of times it occurs, in the long run, after many repeated trials. In the Bayesian view, which goes back to the Presbyterian Minister Thomas Bayes in 1736, probability is a measure of how strongly we (should) believe that something is true.

The bottom half of page 99 looks at one area where Bayesian methods have a serious impact on people’s lives: criminal trials. More to the point, the misuse of Bayesian methods — notably conditional probability, the likelihood of some event occurring, given that something else has already occurred. The Prosecutor’s Fallacy confuses the probability of some event occurring to a randomly chosen person with the probability of the accused being guilty, given that the event has occurred.

The text here reads:
A court of law might seem an unlikely test ground for mathematical theorems, but Bayes’s Theorem has important applications to criminal prosecutions. Unfortunately, the legal profession largely ignores this, and trials abound with fallacious statistical reasoning. It’s ironic — but highly predictable — that in an area of human activity where the reduction of uncertainty is vital, and where well-developed mathematical tools exist to achieve just that, both prosecution and defence prefer to resort to reasoning that is archaic and fallacious. Worse, the legal system itself discourages the use of the mathematics. You might think that applications of probability theory in the courts should be no more controversial than using arithmetic to decide how much faster than the speed limit someone is driving. The main problem is that statistical inference is open to misinterpretation, creating loopholes that both prosecution and defence lawyers can exploit.
The page 99 text doesn’t work very well for Do Dice Play God?, even though the chapter concerned covers a very important topic. The reason is that no one-page selection, except perhaps from the opening chapter which outlines the contents, can convey the broad scope of this particular book. The one feature that does generalize to the rest of the book is the link between mathematical theory and human impact; in this case, that a court can convict an innocent person of a serious crime — such as a mother murdering her own children, or a nurse murdering dozens of hospital patients — on the basis of flawed mathematics, even when there is absolutely no other corroborative evidence.

The book is about a much broader topic: uncertainty. It concentrates on the many different mathematical techniques that have been developed, over the ages, to help us manage uncertainty, reduce it, remove it, or exploit it. Probability and statistics represent only one of six ‘Ages of Uncertainty’ that provide a loose organisational structure to a widely ranging discussion. Page 99 gives a false impression because its scope is too limited.

In the first Age of Uncertainty, we were at the mercy of the natural world, subject to fires, floods, earthquakes, famine, hurricanes, and tsunamis — not to mention the unpredictable ravages of other people, such as an invading army. Unable to control these things, an evolving priesthood invented belief systems, attributing such events to the will of the gods. The priests claimed the ability to predict what the gods would do, or even to influence their decisions, based on methods such as examining the liver of a sacrificed animal.

This first age is still with us, perhaps in more sophisticated forms, but for most practical purposes it has given way to the second Age of Uncertainty: the scientific method. Planets don’t wander about the sky according to godly whim: they follow regular elliptical orbits, aside from tiny disturbances that they inflict on each other. Uncertainty is merely temporary ignorance. With enough effort and thought, we can work out the underlying laws and predict what once was hidden from human knowledge.

Science forced us to find an effective way to quantify how certain or uncertain an event is, and how errors affect observations. This opened up a new branch of mathematics: probability theory. The theory grew from the needs and experiences of gamblers, who wanted a better grasp of ‘the odds’, and astronomers, who wanted to obtain accurate observations from imperfect telescopes. Probability, and its applied arm of statistics, dominated the third Age of Uncertainty, and led to a revolution: the application of statistics to large-scale human behaviour.

The fourth Age of Uncertainty arrived at the start of the 20th century. Until then, it was assumed that uncertainty reflected human ignorance. If we were uncertain about something, it was because we didn’t have the information needed to predict it. New discoveries in fundamental physics forced us to revise that view. According to quantum theory, sometimes the information we need simply isn’t available, because even Nature doesn’t know it.

The fifth Age of Uncertainty emerged when mathematicians and scientists realised that even when you know the exact laws that govern some system, it can still be unpredictable, because unavoidable errors in observations can grow exponentially and swap the true prediction. This is ‘chaos theory’, and it explains such things as why weather is so unpredictable, even though we understand the basic physics that it involves.

We have now entered the sixth Age of Uncertainty, characterised by the realisation that uncertainty comes in many forms, each being comprehensible to some extent. We now possess an extensive mathematical toolkit to help us make sensible choices in a world that’s still horribly uncertain. ‘Big data’ is all the rage, although right now we’re better at collecting it than we are at doing anything useful with it. Our mental models can now be augmented with computational ones.

The story of these six ages spans a wide range of human activity, and many branches of science. In particular, quantum uncertainty is still not properly understood, mainly because we don’t really know how to model an observation of a quantum system. I cover this ground in two chapters: first the orthodox story, then the unorthodox alternatives currently emerging. The topics in the book range from reading entrails to SatNav, from gambling with dice to fake news, from statistical regularities in human behaviour to the widely misunderstood difference between weather and climate.

We’re beginning to recognise that the world is much more complex than we like to imagine, and everything is interconnected. Every day brings new discoveries about uncertainty, in its many different forms and meanings, and new methods to help us deal with it. The science of uncertainty is the science of the future.
Visit Ian Stewart's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 13, 2019

Victor Fan's "Extraterritoriality"

Victor Fan is Senior Lecturer at Film Studies, King's College London and Film Consultant of the Chinese Visual Festival. His articles have appeared in journals including Camera Obscura, Journal of Chinese Cinemas, Screen and Film History: An International Journal. He is the author of Cinema Approaching Reality: Locating Chinese Film Theory (2015). Besides his academic works, Fan is also a composer, theatre director and filmmaker.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Extraterritoriality: Locating Hong Kong Cinema and Media, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Ann Hui, Shu Kei and Wong Chi are not modernists. Rather, they use the classical Hollywood paradigm to invite their viewers to live with characters who are reduced to a socio-politically deindividuated, desubjectivised, and deautonomised position. Giorgio Agamben calls such a position a bare life or homo sacer, a life identified by the rest of the community as an outsider, which can be kept alive, persecuted, ostracised, or even killed without breaking the communal law. Julia Kristeva calls such a life abject. The abject is part of me (the subject) that I eject. Facing the abject, I feel disgusted and am eager to objectify it. Yet, it has once been part of me and it has once formed––and still does––a relationship with me. In biological terms, bodily fluids such as vomit, phlegm, excrement, blood, and semen can be regarded by a subject as abject. In political terms, refugees, illegal immigrants, queers or even women are often perceived and treated by the larger community as such. Yet, becoming abject is not the end of all hopes. Instead, the abject figures in Hui’s works come to terms with their own extraterritorial positions and form alternative kinships with one another, thus suggesting that a new sense of agency can be generated from their state of deindividuation and desubjectivisation.

‘The Boy from Vietnam’, together with feature films Hu Yue de gushi [Wu Jyut dik gwusi or The Story of Woo Viet, 1981] and Touben nuhai [Tauban nouhoi or Boat People, 1982], are now known as Hui’s Vietnam trilogy. Hui’s trilogy was inspired by the influx of Vietnamese refugees (later renamed boatpeople) into Hong Kong between 1978 and 1989. After the Fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975, ethnic Chinese, especially middle-class families in the South, were increasingly targeted in the new government’s economic and political reforms. By 1978, many of them were sent to the New Economic Zones, remote areas where they were forced to clear landmines in order to cultivate the land. In May 1978, a large number of ethnic Chinese began to leave Vietnam by boat. Some of them reached Hong Kong directly or via Mainland China. Those who had relatives or were picked up at the sea by vessels registered in Hong Kong could apply for permanent residency. Otherwise, they would stay in refugee camps for resettlement in Europe or North America. On 11 June 1979, there were 51,400 Vietnamese refugees waiting for resettlement, and only 3,400 were successfully resettled. [footnotes omitted]
The first paragraph cited here serves as a good window onto the key conceptual framework of my book and the second paragraph gives browsers a taste of the kind of cinematic and media works examined. In my monograph, I argue that as a geopolitical community, Hong Kong has been historically and socio-politically set up as a zone of exception. It is best seen as a liminal space doubly occupied by two conflicting sovereign authorities––China and the United Kingdom––which have exercised their political powers over its biopolitical lives, ironically, by abandoning them outside their respective territories. For these lives, political individuation, subjectivisation, and autonomisation are perpetually deferred. Hong Kongers are neither Chinese nor British, at once Chinese and British. Their state of double occupancy and double abandonment have therefore rendered them homines sacri or abject.

Under these conditions, Hong Kong cinema and media are therefore best understood as a public sphere, where complex and mutually contesting affects generated by their audience’s extraterritorial positions are negotiated. My book traces through the history of Hong Kong cinema and media (including television and video art) from 1967 (the Leftist Riots) to 2016 (the aftermath of the Umbrella Movement in 2014). It analyses how filmmakers and spectators have developed aesthetics and strategies to mediate their affective responses to their various modes of extraterritoriality. Page 99 is taken from a chapter on the television phase of the Hong Kong New Wave during the second half of the 1970s. In this chapter, I examine the experimental cinema of Tang Shu-hsuen and the televisual works by Patrick Tam/Ivy Ho and Ann Hui. I especially focus on how women filmmakers and screenwriters adopt different stylistic strategies in order to enable themselves, their female spectators and characters to speak as women without any interlocutors, a concern not only interested filmmakers in Hong Kong and elsewhere during the 1970s.
Visit Victor Fan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Christopher W. Shaw's "Money, Power, and the People"

Christopher W. Shaw is an author, historian, and policy analyst. He has a Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, and is the author of Money, Power, and the People: The American Struggle to Make Banking Democratic (2019) and Preserving the People’s Post Office (2006). His research on the history of banking, money, labor, agriculture, social movements, and the postal system has been published in the following academic journals: Journal of Policy History, Journal of Social History, Agricultural History, Enterprise & Society, Kansas History, and Journalism History.

Shaw applied the “Page 99 Test” to Money, Power, and the People and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book provides a snapshot of the debate over the Federal Reserve Act. Bankers wanted a single central bank that they would control. But public opposition to financial monopoly yielded a compromise that President Woodrow Wilson endorsed, which recognized public authority by establishing a supervisory board of presidential appointees to govern twelve Federal Reserve Banks.

In the summer of 1913, this contest was fought out in the Democratic Party's caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bankers' congressional opponents wanted the legislation to further curb the power of bankers and make farm loans more affordable. Among the reforms they proposed was an amendment banning individuals from serving on multiple banks' board of directors. House Democrats who supported the administration's bill managed to sidetrack this amendment, setting the stage for the pivotal moment in the caucus's deliberations. Among the bankers' most prominent political opponents was William Jennings Bryan—the three-time Democratic presidential nominee then serving as secretary of state. However, eager to support President Wilson, Bryan announced that he backed the existing legislative compromise, revealing that the bankers' congressional opponents lacked the support of a critical figure, and clearing the way for the bill's subsequent passage in the House.

The Page 99 test identifies a central theme of my book: political resistance to bankers. Because the actors on this page are bankers, congressmen, and Bryan, however, the grassroots political activism that is crucial to my book is not spotlighted. Working people not only exerted the political pressure that forced bankers to compromise over the Federal Reserve Act, they also compelled the establishment of the predecessor of today's Farm Credit System. Workers and farmers would play a similarly crucial role in securing financial reform during the New Deal.
Visit Christopher W. Shaw's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

James Lindley Wilson's "Democratic Equality"

James Lindley Wilson is assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Democratic Equality, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Democratic Equality distinguishes two ways in which people can treat others as authorities. In one way, we treat other people’s expectations of certain kinds of treatment as authoritative. For instance, you expect that I don’t tread on your feet on the subway, and I treat that expectation as authoritative when I take it as determining what I should do (e.g., stepping carefully). In another way, we treat other people as authoritative, when we take their decisions about what we ought to do as playing an important role in determining what we should do. For instance, you tell me that we should go get an ice cream, and I treat that decision as weighty in my deliberations about what we should do together. I then begin to explain my view that true democracy requires that citizens equally share authority in the sense of authority of persons. One important consequence of this is that representatives should see themselves as tasked with doing what their constituents believe the representative ought to do, not with simply advancing the constituents’ interests.

Page 99 presents a central thesis of the book—that equal authority is a morally central part of democracy. It moves directly between philosophical clarification of ideas and practical consequences for democratic ethics. Page 99 is from a chapter that’s a bit heavier on the clarification, because I introduce a new way of thinking about the authority of persons. I suggest that we can obligate others to attend positively to our views about what to do without putting them under obligations to obey us. (I don’t have an obligation to obey your verdict that we should go for ice cream, but, if we are friends, I ought to take your judgment seriously, and engage with it in various ways.) This way of thinking about the mutual authority of citizens is suitable for a democracy of equals, or so I think.

Page 99 gives a flavor of how this clarification of ideas can help develop a moral argument about how we should pursue democratic reform. But it does not alert the reader to the fact that the book takes up many of these political questions in some detail (by philosopher standards, at least!). Later chapters discuss, among other issues, proportional representation, racial vote dilution, gerrymandering, and campaign finance regulation. Earlier chapters try to ground these more concrete discussions in a wider ideal of citizen equality.

Page 99 catches the discussion in the middle of movement between the wider ideal and the concrete applications. The page shows how painstaking it can be to make this movement. But I hope it also reflects how fascinating it can be to reflect on how our democratic aspirations involve ideals drawn from familiar features of our social life. There is something democratic in this very idea that most of us understand what it is to be treated like an equal, and are fit to judge our political conditions accordingly.
Learn more about Democratic Equality at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 9, 2019

Jennifer A. Herdt's "Forming Humanity"

Jennifer A. Herdt is Gilbert L. Stark Professor of Christian Ethics and Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the Yale University Divinity School.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Forming Humanity: Redeeming the German Bildung Tradition, and reported the following:
On page 99 the reader is deeply embroiled in Johann Gottfried Herder’s political theology. In what sense can humankind be, or become, the image of God? While Herder is often seen as shedding a conception of Bildung as the divine (re)formation of humankind in favor of a secularized understanding of Bildung as a purely human process of self-realization, on page 99 we learn why this is too simplistic. Herder’s understanding of Bildung is rooted in earlier medieval Christian humanism’s understanding of human beings as active participants in the cosmic reditus or return of creation to God. But this notion of human participatory activity is given a more dynamic historical and political expression by Herder and others in the Bildung tradition; it is a teleological process by which immanent powers unfold and interact throughout the universe: “the more you recognize perfection, goodness, and beauty,” writes Herder, “the more these living forms will form [bilden] you to an image [Nachbilde] of God in your earthly life.” Politically, this yields a consociational, communitarian vision. “Humanity,” the telos of Bildung, is realized in myriad forms of human culture and community, creating increasingly complex webs of interconnection that are capable of harmonious coexistence insofar as they prove capable of mutual recognition in all their embedded particularity. Simply put, ideal humanity is essentially plural, not singular.

What page 99 cannot convey to the reader is the broader narrative arc of the book, which begins long before Herder, in Greek paideia, Latin humanitas, and medieval Christian conformatio, moves through Meister Eckhart’s yearning to transcend images, Paracelsian epigenesis, and Pietist suspicions of human image-making, and engages competing conceptions of Bildung at work in Wilhelm von Humboldt’s religion of art, Schiller’s aesthetic education, Goethe’s exemplary Bildungsroman, and Hegel’s metaphysical project of reconciliation. Yet however partial and bewildering a starting point, this page is critical to the book’s broader claim that the Bildung tradition from Herder to Hegel drew on inherited theological notions of humankind’s creation in the image of God while rejecting suspicions of human creativity and imag-ination. This, in turn, is central to Forming Humanity’s aim of assembling usable resources for a dialogical humanism adequate to our own historical moment. So the page 99 test comes out rather well, on the whole.

Of course there is much more to be said. While Herder helps us envision a pluralistic cosmopolitanism worthy of endorsement, his thought can no more be uncritically retrieved than that of anyone else in the Bildung tradition. Herder’s most egregious failure lies in his naively providentialist view of history; he assumes that historical progress is assured, whatever the ups and downs along the way. Historical conflicts further a process of equilibration that issues in harmony. Herder’s providentialism thus justified past evils or present injustices as serving the progress of humankind.

Why redeem such a troubled tradition of reflection? Because the best anti-humanism is itself a renewed humanism. Our best critiques of existing notions of our common humanity, past and present, are forms of immanent criticism. Essential as it is to diagnose the ways in which the powerful make over the world in their own image, erecting their own identity and values as the ideally human, it is equally indispensable to arrive at more adequate conceptions of the human, that vindicate the humanity—and hence the equal dignity—of the marginal and dispossessed. Dialogical humanism thrives on what Paul Gilroy, in his own recent defense of humanism, has called “heteropathic identification.” So long as we recognize “perfection, goodness, and beauty” only in our own image, we ourselves are not yet fully human.
Learn more about Forming Humanity at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Alexandra Minna Stern's "Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate"

Alexandra Minna Stern is a Professor in the Department of American Culture at the University of Michigan. She also holds appointments in the Departments of History, Women's Studies, and Obstetrics and Gynecology, and directs the Sterilization and Social Justice Lab housed in the Department of American Culture.

Stern applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate: How the Alt-Right Is Warping the American Imagination, and reported the following:
Page 99 is a revealing prism on to key ideas in my book, including the centrality of race realism to white nationalism, and how "diversity" functions as the bête noire for the alt-right. I show how extreme disdain for diversity, combined with anxieties over changing demographics in America, fuels assertions about impending white extinction. These ideas undergird the alt-right equation that "diversity equals white genocide" and sit at the core of emergent, reactionary "white identity politics."

This page also connects the alt-right anti-diversity mindset to a longer trajectory of eugenic thinking, that espouses that race and intelligence are fixed attributes, immutable to change. This fatalistic attitude is part and parcel of "race realism," which I examine in the context of sociology and behavioral genetics in subsequent pages.

Yet the test has limitations, as page 99 does not capture the gist of the chapter as a whole, which focuses on the depraved gender politics of the alt-right, and the alt-light, both of which engage in caricatured anti-feminism and explicitly or implicitly celebrate patriarchy and traditionalism.

Overall, I'd give the page 99 test a B+, at least for this book.
Visit Alexandra Minna Stern's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Julie Guthman's "Wilted"

Julie Guthman is Professor of Social Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her books include Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California and Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism.

Guthman applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Wilted: Pathogens, Chemicals, and the Fragile Future of the Strawberry Industry, and reported the following:
As luck would have it, on page 99 of my book you find a photograph and some summary language of the preceding pages. The main paragraph you read states a key paradox of the use of mitigation measures for chemical fumigation of agricultural fields: that they exist to enable chemical use not to reduce it. The next paragraph, which only begins on this page, summarizes several arguments about the weakness of U.S. agro-chemical regulation. Here we read that it has allowed easy substitutions (if a particular chemical is restricted another potentially as toxic takes it place), that it exists more to manage these chemicals than to eliminate them, that it has largely disregarded populations with little recourse to contest chemical use violations, and that toxicity assessments neglect cumulative and interactive exposures. The photo helps illustrate some of these points, as it shows an agricultural field with tarps, designed to keep chemical fumigants in the ground and not expose those nearby, ripped from the wind.

If you opened my book on page 99, you would learn about one aspect of what the book is about – restrictions on fumigation. And you would see that the book isn’t light reading, but some sort of scholarly analysis. But you wouldn’t know what fumigation is and what it is for, and that these restrictions threaten some industry as well as enable it. And you certainly wouldn’t know that the book is primarily about the many converging crises facing the California strawberry industry, only one of which is restrictions on fumigation. So the test works in terms of signaling something about the book, but gives you no context. I would still take that as a “pass” of the page 99 test.

Wilted is written by a geographer (me) with an abiding scholarly interest in the political economy of California agriculture and the contradictory pressures of supplying so much of the country’s fresh fruits and vegetables while doing so in less toxic and more land-sustaining ways. In Wilted, I focus on the fate of the strawberry industry, which supplies 88% of US strawberries, most of which are grown within a few miles of the Pacific Ocean, competing with suburbanites for land. The industry’s earlier success come from innovations in plant breeding, soil fumigation, irrigation, and more, which together have improved upon the natural advantages of the sandy soil and climate of the California coast to produce nearly year round harvests. Growers have enjoyed exceptional profits and consumers have enjoyed the affordability of a fruit that kids love to eat. Today, however, many of the industry’s earlier advantages have morphed into threats, including the tighter restrictions on soil fumigants discussed on page 99. Chemical fumigants have long allowed growers to manage a number of soil-borne diseases and pests and plant year after year on the same blocks of land. Making things even more difficult, these restrictions have converged with several other threats discussed elsewhere in the book. Together, these have made the future of the industry highly uncertain – and thus also the future availability of affordable strawberries.
Learn more about Wilted at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Byron E. Shafer & Regina L. Wagner's "The Long War over Party Structure"

Byron E. Shafer is Hawkins Chair of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Regina L. Wagner is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, The Long War over Party Structure: Democratic Representation and Policy Responsiveness in American Politics, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford did not have the social sciences in mind, with their need to blend text and evidence at every point, when he suggested the Page 99 Thesis. Or perhaps he did, and he meant to alert readers that what is being conveyed in these books must be a compound of interpretation and evidence.

In that sense, it is pages 99 and 100 of The Long War over Party Structure that are his introductory sample. A reader who cuts into the story there meets the political ideologies of the ordinary American, not of scholars and theorists. With an eye on current politics, what stands out is the long-running presence of a strong streak of Populism. Once, this Populism was one of two fundamental strands in American politics. For a long time, it has instead been suppressed by political activists in both parties, but the data—not to mention current experience?— suggest that it never went away.

The argument about ideology is nested in a larger argument, keyed in the title of the book, about changes in the way political parties connect public preferences with the real activities of government. And this builds on a huge, data-driven, irony. Forty years of attempts to ‘open up’ politics by increasing the clout of issue activists have come at the expense of a general public that has a lot more to think about in its daily life than politics. A party system that once focused on delivering concrete rewards to partisans, from party officials drawn from local community organizations, has been successfully replaced by a party system focused on mobilizing intense, independent, issue activists, for whom rank and file citizens and their daily lives are in effect the enemy.
Learn more about The Long War over Party Structure at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 2, 2019

Martin S. Flaherty's "Restoring the Global Judiciary"

Martin S. Flaherty is the Leitner Family Professor of International Human Rights Law and founding codirector of the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at Fordham Law School. He is also a longtime visiting professor at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He lives in New York City.

Flaherty applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Restoring the Global Judiciary: Why the Supreme Court Should Rule in U.S. Foreign Affairs, and reported the following:
Anyone opening Restoring the Global Judiciary at page 99 will find a discussion of the Supreme Court’s epic decision, Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer. In that case, a majority of the Justices held that President Harry Truman could not order the seizure of the country’s steel mills in the face of an imminent nationwide strike in the midst of the Korean War. The specific passage on this recounts how some of the Justices came to this conclusion. Justice Hugo Black, writing for the Court, famously relied on a strict reading of the Constitution’s text provided the president no authority for his attempted action. Justice Felix Frankfurter, no less famously, goes on to argue that how the Constitution has operated over time supplements the text, but in this instance finds nothing to help Truman. Just after this page, the book goes on to review Justice Robert Jackson’s opinion, which proved to be the most thoughtful, eloquent, and enduring.

Despite stopping just short of Jackson, the page offers a superb window in the the overall book. Restoring the Global Judiciary argues that the Supreme Court once did, and once again should, take a much more active role in cases involving foreign affairs. The point holds with special force when the courts are called upon to check the overreaching of the president or Congress, when fundamental rights are at stake, or both. Youngstown is perhaps the Court’s most famous and relevant illustration of what Restoring the Global Judiciary advocates. For that reason, it is something of a threat that runs throughout the work.

With Youngstown as a point of departure, the book makes three basic argument in support of the decision’s approach. First, it argues that the Founding generation intended the doctrine of separation of powers to apply as full to foreign as domestic affairs, with the corollary that the courts should uphold the law in cases before them. Second, the book notes that two hundred years of practice has put pressure on this understanding, thanks mainly to the expansion of the presidency as the US became of world power, but that this pressure should be resisted. Third, the book makes a complex argument that modern international relations theory gives a further reason for a robust judicial role. Finally, Restoring the Global Judiciary shows how these precepts should apply to modern doctrine, not least the Youngstown decision itself.
Learn more about Restoring the Global Judiciary at the Princeton University Press website, and follow Martin Flaherty on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Jeffrey S. Adler's "Murder in New Orleans"

Jeffrey S. Adler is professor of history and criminology, as well as distinguished teaching scholar, at the University of Florida.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Murder in New Orleans: The Creation of Jim Crow Policing, and reported the following:
Murder in New Orleans explores the collision of violence, race, and criminal justice in the South’s largest city from 1920 to 1945. It analyzes changing patterns of violence and policing, charting the impact of the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, racial segregation, Jim Crow, and World War II. In the wake of World War I, New Orleans experienced a series of counter-intuitive trends in crime and punishment that combined to generate mushrooming racial disparities in law enforcement and criminal justice, eerily presaging late twentieth-century developments in policing, incarceration, and race relations. Deadly violence soared during the 1920s, when the economy boomed, and, surprisingly, homicide plunged during the Great Depression, even as the economy collapsed and poverty increased. Rapidly changing trends in gun violence, spouse killing, and street life played particularly important roles in shifting levels of murder. For African American New Orleanians, policing became more aggressive and punishment more draconian precisely when crime decreased. Deteriorating race relations shaped this process, and the city’s African American community went from being under-policed to being over-policed, in inverse proportion to rates of criminal violence. At the start of the era, African American murder skyrocketed, but policemen, prosecutors, and jurors routinely ignored this violence; local courts convicted white homicide suspects more frequently than African Americans, and police brutality mainly targeted white suspects. By the 1930s, the patterns had reversed. African American violence plummeted, yet horrific racial disparities developed, with African American New Orleanians far more often beaten and killed by the police, convicted at higher rates, and incarcerated for longer terms. In New Orleans, the roots of the modern carceral state began to emerge during the 1920s and 1930s, when trends in law enforcement and punishment bore scant connection to patterns of crime.

Page 99 explores a crucial component of the argument in Murder in New Orleans, explaining why African American violence plummeted during the 1930s, despite worsening poverty and deteriorating race relations in the city. This portion of the book focuses on the social pressures that reduced African American gun violence.

The larger argument in Murder in New Orleans, however, connects this decrease in lethal violence to larger trends in law enforcement. Precisely as the African American homicide rate plunged, local officials and white commentators insisted that African American New Orleanians posed a growing threat to the safety of white residents and to social order in the city. As a result, municipal policemen became increasingly aggressive and violent toward African Americans. Police shootings surged; coercive interrogations became more commonplace, race-based mass arrests emerged in a core response to robberies and burglaries in the city. Racial disparities in prosecutions, convictions, and executions ballooned as well. Ironically, Jim Crow criminal justice emerged at the same time that African American crime dropped precipitously. Crime and punishment in interwar New Orleans shifted in opposite, counter-intuitive ways, redefining the relationship between race and the law in the city and presaging the age of mass incarceration.
Learn more about Murder in New Orleans at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 30, 2019

M. David Litwa's "How the Gospels Became History"

M. David Litwa is a scholar of ancient Mediterranean religions and Research Fellow at the Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry in Melbourne, Australia. His most recent books include Desiring Divinity: Self-deification in Ancient Jewish and Christian Mythmaking and Hermetica II: The Excerpts of Stobaeus, Papyrus Fragments, and Ancient Testimonies.

Litwa applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, How the Gospels Became History: Jesus and Mediterranean Myths, and reported the following:
Page 99 of How the Gospels Became History tells the story of the Roman astrologer and diviner Nigidius. It was he who accosted Octavian, father of Caesar Augustus, on the steps of the Senate House. There Nigidius publicly prophesied that “the ruler of the world has been born!” Octavian, fearing that his son would overthrow the Roman Republic, planned to kill the child. Yet Nigidius rebuked him, remarking that it is impossible for the child to evade his imperial destiny.

This story, told by the Roman historian Suetonius, I compare with the presentation of Jesus in the gospel of Luke (2:29-32). In this account, a hoary old man meets the parents of Jesus in the temple courts. Scooping up the infant Jesus in his arms, he bursts forth in prophecy. The child—called light and glory for Israel and the nations—is thus announced as the world ruler (Messiah) whom God had promised the old prophet he would see before closing his eyes in death.

Although this comparison cannot sum up the whole work, it well exemplifies my comparative method. I search ancient texts thought to be historical (here using a biography by Suetonius). In these works I examine fantastical stories (“myths”) made to look like past events but which better correspond to imagined literary templates. In this case, the old prophetic sage who prophesies the future world domination of an infant in a public building before many witnesses is one of these templates. Both the author of Luke and Suetonius molded this entertaining and poignant template to look like a historical account.

Nevertheless, this same template appears in so-called mythical texts. In one of these texts, the old Theban prophet Tiresias makes a prophecy before the infant Heracles about his future domination and glory. In a version of the myth told by Theocritus, Tiresias makes a private revelation to Alcmene, Heracles’s mother, which resembles the aside that Simeon makes to Mary, mother of Jesus.

This is one of the many comparative ventures readers will encounter in my book which argues that the gospels, though written in the form of history (as the ancients understood it), features many fantastical stories spun from literary templates.
Visit M. David Litwa's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Nicholas Jubber's "Epic Continent"

Nicholas Jubber moved to Jerusalem after graduating from Oxford University. He'd been working two weeks when the intifada broke out and he started traveling the Middle East and East Africa. His books include The Timbuktu School for Nomads, The Prester Quest (winner of the Dolman Prize) and Drinking Arak Off an Ayatollah's Beard (shortlisted for the Dolman Prize). He has written for the Guardian, Observer, and the Globe and Mail.

Jubber applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Epic Continent: Adventures in the Great Stories that Made Europe, and reported the following:
Page 99 finds me in the Balkans, in one of the most disturbing parts of my journey. Exploring the legacy of epic poems across Europe often brought me into exciting or even humorous experiences. However, my encounter in Sarajevo was more discomfiting. For there, I met Eset Muračević, a Bosnian poet who was imprisoned in a concentration camp in 1992. He recounted some of the horrors he witnessed and explained how he survived it: by writing poems. ‘It was necessary,’ he explained, ‘to keep me calm.’ Without his poems, he believes, he wouldn’t have made it through the war.

This page reflects a key point of the book: poetry can be powerful, for good and ill. It can stir people to terrible deeds (as did the Balkan epic known as the Kosovo Cycle, which was stirred and exploited by warmongers like Radovan Karadžić, the Bosnian Serb president), but it can also save their lives. This point is reflected in different ways throughout the book, from the impact of the Homeric epics on the formation of Greek nationhood to the enduring popularity of Icelandic poetry recitals. Page 99 is, I believe, a strong example, albeit a particularly dark one.

Before starting this journey, I knew the Balkans less than the other regions, and the Balkan epic was less familiar to me. So travelling across the Balkans was one of the most intense and eye-opening sections of the journey. Discovering that epic stories – which I loved very much – had been used as political weapons was disheartening but also illuminating. However, I had hoped to come across a more positive example of the impact poetry can have, so meeting Eset was really meaningful. His raw honesty captivated me, and I was fascinated to talk to him about his experiences, from which he had emerged with a heroic stoicism.

Throughout my journey, I sought out storytellers – poets, playwrights, singers, puppeteers and actors – and through them, I learned how Europe’s storytelling traditions continue to help us to look at the continent today. Eset’s poetry is very individual, rinsed in the pain of his wartime experiences, but it fuses with history and the interconnectedness of European culture. This is reflected in the title of one of his anthologies, The Last Circle, which references Dante’s Divine Comedy. As I learned from many other storytellers, when we refract our experiences through our literary past, it can help us to come to terms with the many problems we face today.
Visit Nicholas Jubber's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 26, 2019

Donald Stoker's "Why America Loses Wars"

Donald Stoker was Professor of Strategy and Policy for the US Naval War College's Monterey Program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, from 1999 until 2017. The author or editor of eleven books, his Clausewitz: His Life and Work (2014), is on the British Army professional reading list.

Stoker applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Why America Loses Wars: Limited War and US Strategy from the Korean War to the Present, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book examines the reasons for and the effects of President Lyndon Johnson’s decision to restrict American ground forces to operations in South Vietnam. This decision is often criticized because it allowed the North Vietnamese to have a form of military sanctuary in North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia (an issue relevant to today’s war in Afghanistan). This gave the Communists abundant flexibility in how they waged their war against South Vietnam.

Johnson’s decision was not completely unsound. He rightly feared a repeat of the Korean War debacle when the U.S. and UN forces invaded North Korea and the Chinese intervened. Though Johnson did not know it, the Chinese had promised to support the North Vietnamese in a similar fashion. But does this preclude U.S. action against North Vietnamese sanctuaries in Laos and Cambodia? The Chinese also exploded their first atomic bomb in 1964, which raises the important consideration of whether or not the U.S. wants to risk war with another power possessing atomic and later nuclear weapons.

The Page 99 test works fairly well in this case as my book deals extensively with the problem of ambiguity in warfare, the problems of decision making and assessing their respective effects, and the fact that the political constraints placed upon the waging of wars intrude more fiercely in wars fought for limited aims, because the political object being pursued often has less value than an unlimited one.
Learn more about Why America Loses Wars at the Cambridge University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Clausewitz: His Life and Work.

The Page 99 Test: Clausewitz: His Life and Work.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Holly Lawford-Smith's "Not In Their Name"

Holly Lawford-Smith is a Senior Lecturer in Political Philosophy at the University of Melbourne. She obtained her BA and MA at the University of Otago, and her PhD at the Australian National University. Her first permanent position was at the University of Sheffield in the UK in 2012, and she moved back to Australia in 2017 to join the University of Melbourne. Her interests are in social philosophy broadly construed, with a particular focus on collective agency and collective responsibility and their applications to climate change and the ethics of consumption.

Lawford-Smith applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Not In Their Name: Are Citizens Culpable For Their States' Actions?, and reported the following:
The first three quarters of page 99 are the remainder of a section that introduces problems for thinking about the distribution of responsibility from a collective to its members. We think that collectives can be morally responsible for what they do -- Australia can be responsible for offshore processing of asylum-seekers. But we don't know what that means for those people who are 'members' of the collective 'Australia'. (There are really two questions here: who/what is Australia? And can responsibility be passed from Australia to its members). The last quarter of the page turns to the thought experiment that drives the conclusion that citizens are not responsible for what their states do. I suggest that in groups where the relations between members are strong enough, the costs of holding the collective responsible can be distributed to members in a range of different ways (equally, proportionally, randomly). The most important thing on the page is this sentence: "The question for the remainder of this part of the chapter is whether that is also the case when relations between members are weak". The thought experiment, and subsequent discussion, will show that it is not. And because relations between citizens are weak, the upshot of this is citizens cannot be distributed their state's collective responsibility.

I think the page 99 test works surprisingly well for my book! A thought experiment / case is a great way into a topic. So reading only the thought experiment and thinking about what your intuitions are would get you a long way into being interested in the topic of the book, which is collective responsibility as it applies particularly in the case of the state. In the thought experiment, a small group of people cause some damage to property, and three variations of the case manipulate what the relations between those people are. In one case they act as an organized group, in another they don't know each other and are organized by a mutual friend, and in yet another they each act independently and just happen to (together) produce certain effects. The question is whether there could be collective responsibility for what is caused in the second and third kinds of cases. I think there couldn't be, and that the relations between individuals in these cases have the same structure as the accounts of the state that include citizens as members. So I conclude that citizens don't have distributed collective responsibility for what the state does, even when it does it in their name.
Visit Holly Lawford-Smith's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Jens Zimmermann's "Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christian Humanism"

Jens Zimmermann was born and raised in Germany. He holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of British Columbia, Canada, and a PhD in Philosophy from the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. He formerly occupied the position of Canada Research Chair in Interpretation, Religion and Culture, and is Professor of English at Trinity Western University (TWU) in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. His publications include Humanism and Religion: A Call for the Renewal of Western Culture (2012).

Zimmermann applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christian Humanism, and reported the following:
I tried the page 99 test and found it to work at least in part. After all, Ford Madox Ford claimed that this page would reveal the “quality of the whole,” and not the content of the whole work. Here is why the test kind of worked: My book Bonhoeffer’s Christian Humanism offers a new reading of this famous, important German theologian by placing his theology within the context of the greater Christian tradition. This tradition reaches back to the very beginnings of Christian theologizing in the patristic period, that is, to the time of the early theologians from the second to the sixth century, who understood the Christian gospel in a sense quite different from what we often hear in contemporary churches. For them the “Good News” was not so much a personal message of salvation to allow escape from God’s wrath or hell, nor predominantly a social gospel for turning earth into heaven. Rather, they preached that God became a human being in the person of Jesus in order to restore humanity to the kind of existence God originally intended for it.

Following other theologians who have studied these church fathers, I call this interpretation of the New Testament message “Christian humanism,” because the gospel is all about the “new humanity,” about becoming a genuine human being. On this interpretation of the good news, Jesus is not so much a moral teacher as the actual recapitulation of the human race and exemplar of what human existence should be like: to live a life of freedom in peaceful communion with and responsibility for others. In short, the goal of the Christian life was also the goal for all humanity. This goal entailed that human beings should become like Jesus in their love for God, and therefore for the world itself, and for other human beings. The patristic gospel of Christian humanism was expressed in the language of “the image of God” according to which humanity had been first created. For the early Christian tradition, this image or icon was the eternal word of God who became flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. The whole of the Christian life, then, was to become shaped into this image. Early theologians called this process of becoming shaped into Christ-likeness deification or becoming like God.

What does all this have to do with the page 99 Test? Well, it is a central claim of my book that Bonhoeffer stood within this tradition, and page 99 takes the reader to the beginning of this central argument within a chapter of the book that shows the strong agreement between Bonhoeffer’s own interpretation of the gospel with the humanist reading of the church fathers. The most difficult part of this argument is that the notion of deification or becoming like God has been widely misunderstood (especially within Protestant traditions) to express the kind of sentiments we find in New Age philosophies, namely that human beings become actual gods, that they become divine by nature. Yet, as I show, early theologians never understood deification in this way. Indeed, they couldn’t because their view of reality, derived from Judaism, was based on a radical difference or huge gap between the being of God and every other creature or created thing.

Once this misunderstanding is out of the way, the way is clear for placing Bonhoeffer’s writings within the context of this earlier reading of the gospel as humanism. My desire for doing so in this book was by no means arbitrary but was motivated by the astonishing parallels between Bonhoeffer’s statements about the incarnation (God’s becoming human) and its importance for the Christian life. For example, his famous book Discipleship (in German, “Nachfolge”, i.e. following after Christ), is all about the new humanity as becoming transformed into the image of Christ. As I go on to show in the other chapters of the book, Bonhoeffer’s entire theology with its deeply interpretive character (Bonhoeffer put a premium on discerning God’s will with reference to reality rather than simply finding it dictated in the Bible or a sermon), his holistic view of reality, his support of all cultural traditions that had humanizing character, and indeed his political resistance against the inhumanity of Nazi politics—all these aspects of his thought and life are connect to and driven by the idea that God became a human being so that human beings be transformed into the humanity of God as accomplished in Christ.

There is much more going on in this book (for example, the reader will find a close examination of Bonhoeffer’s use of the Bible, of how he related faith and reason, or how he envisioned the relation of the church to society and the state, and also of what his enigmatic notion of religionless Christianity was all about), but page 99 of Bonhoeffer’s Christian Humanism indeed takes the reader to what one may consider the heart of this important Christian thinker.
Learn more about Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christian Humanism at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Brian Fox's "James Joyce's America"

Brian Fox is a senior assistant professor at Okayama University, Japan. His research interests are in all aspects of Anglo-American literary modernism, with a focus on Joyce. Fox was educated at Trinity College Dublin, l'Universite de Paris (7), and University of London (Goldsmiths and Royal Holloway). Before Okayama, he was a Visiting Lecturer at Kyushu University, Japan and is an active member in Japan's lively Joyce scene. He chairs the Kyushu-Chugoku Ulysses Research Seminar. In addition, he has worked as a co-translator on selected works of Kenji Miyazawa.

Fox applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, James Joyce's America, and reported the following:
From Page 99:
…[His] opening address to ‘Meesta Cheeryman’ (FW 516.03) suggests the ‘nigger dialect’ of minstrelsy that Joyce was so interested in, while also appearing to appeal to a ‘Mister Juryman’ of the court. With a reference to ‘Miles’ (FW 516.12) coming shortly after, it is possible to see an allusion to his trial in this passage. His hanging is suggested via an allusion to the notorious Major Sirr and the torture of ‘halfhanging’ used in suppress ing the rebellion of 1798: ‘half hang me, sirr’ (FW 516.15). That we are told this by a ‘Masta Bones’ (FW 515.32) who also describes HCE as ‘whiskying into a bone tolerably delicately’ (FW 516.07–8), suggests that the victims of Yawn’s ‘plantagonist’ (FW 516.24) can be found simultaneously in the plantations of Ireland and America. Hence, we see again amid the confusion a sustained interest in the question of colonial legacies as Joyce draws a connecting line between British law in Ireland and lynch law in America. In the end, Yawn so obscures his account (and identity) that his interrogator interrupts with a desperately confused attempt to recapitulate: ‘A sarsencruxer, like the Nap O’ Farrell Patter Tandy moor and burgess medley?’ (FW 516.31–2). Bringing blackface minstrelsy (Moore and Burgess Minstrels) and revolutionary minstrelsy (Napper Tandy in ‘The Wearing of the Green’) into proximity, Joyce yet again entwines two histories of subjugation through allusions to popular culture. But it is the very nature of blackface minstrelsy (fraudulent, silencing) that prompts the idea that, owing to the poisoned legacy of the ‘plantagonist’, the ‘land of the free’ shades in to its Wakean epithet as the ‘land of breach of promise’ (FW 442.13– 14).

Joyce, as I have argued, was particularly drawn to a specific kind of American popular culture, one with a strong sense of a connection to a history of empire. There is, for instance, more of black American culture (or rather its misappropriation through minstrelsy) than almost any other kind of American culture in the Wake. Moreover, he typically viewed this culture through the lens of Irish–British colonial relations. In Ulysses and the Wake, through the wide range of cultural allusions to issues of race in the United States, he took American history and focused on these colonial aspects, their future implications, historical reverberations, and contemporary legacies.

An interrogation of colonial legacies in the American republic through its culture is an especially apt pursuit for an Irish artist writing after 1922 and the founding of the Free State, whose citizens must now also negotiate the complex legacies of colonialism, revolution, and civil war. Indeed, in the passage we have just been looking at in III.3 in the Wake, we can hear in a musichall refrain (‘There’s hair like wire coming out of the Empire’) the explosive consequences of repressed emancipatory forces such as occurred in America in 1776 and the Civil War and in Ireland from 1916 to 1923: ‘like fire bursting out of the Ump pyre’ (FW 516.14–15). These dangerous sparks flying out from the funeral pyre of the British Empire connect Irish and American revolutions and civil wars. Certainly, Joyce is not prescriptive, and he raises far more questions than programmatic solutions about what America could teach Ireland through their shared histories of colonialism and revolt. But as this chapter has argued, the return of the ‘seim anew’ in America (the British imperial model being replicated by its former colony) strongly suggests a warning of sorts. The enjoining of KKK hoods and minstrels’ hats, Abraham Lincoln and lynching, Yankee Doodle and Zip Coon,…
I would say the Page 99 Test does a pretty good job of reflecting the overall argument of James Joyce’s America, helped no doubt by the fact that readers opening the book to this page would find themselves in the middle of the conclusion to a section in the second chapter on how Joyce alludes to blackface minstrelsy in his final work, Finnegans Wake (abbreviated above as FW).

Admittedly, this may also be something of a hindrance: Finnegans Wake, with its experimental hybrid language, is hardly the most accessible of texts to be quoting from by way of introduction! Nevertheless, page 99 includes a number of helpfully broad statements intended to sum up attempts to shine light into the corners of Joyce’s ‘book of the dark’ (FW 251.24).

Perhaps if I can briefly draw out just one of those statements as it applies to the book as a whole: the claim that, where America is concerned, Joyce’s work demonstrates a sustained interest in the question of colonial legacies. Joyce started writing Finnegans Wake in the immediate aftermath of revolution, civil war, and the founding of a new state in Ireland, and his allusions to America in that work often reflect a sense of a shared history of decolonization from the British Empire. But he also implicates America in the perpetuation of historical crimes by juxtaposing British colonial abuses in Ireland with historical and contemporary racial abuse in America: Finnegans Wake includes several allusions to the Ku Klux Klan, for instance, recently resurgent when Joyce began writing that work. Thus, Joyce viewed America through the lens of Irish colonial history, but it’s fair to say that he also viewed Ireland through the lens of American history: a decolonized America provided an obvious point of reference with which to interrogate the emancipatory forces and potential legacies at work in the Ireland Joyce was writing about. Finnegans Wake is often seen as an elaborate and rarefied word puzzle somewhat removed from the immediate politics of the day, but his interrogation of the legacies of colonialism in America and the ‘breach’ of its emancipatory ‘promise’ (through slavery and murderous racism) were undoubtedly connected to the recent founding of the Irish Free State, ‘whose citizens must now also negotiate the complex legacies of colonialism, revolution, and civil war’.
Learn more about James Joyce's America at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Rachel Kahn Best's "Common Enemies"

Rachel Best is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan. She studies political responses to social problems, focusing on how advocacy and culture shape whose concerns are addressed and whose are ignored.

Best applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Common Enemies: Disease Campaigns in America, and reported the following:
Does the National Institutes of Health spend the right amount of money to research various diseases? Or are some diseases over-funded, and others neglected? The trouble with answering this question is that there’s no obvious way to decide which diseases are most deserving of public research funding. Should we count up deaths? Ask which diseases inflict the most suffering? Account for healthcare expenditures? Page 99 jumps into the middle of these debates, discussing two other measures people sometimes use to prioritize diseases for research funding.

First, some scientists and health officials argue that we should prioritize research based on scientific opportunity, funding the areas with the greatest potential for new treatments and cures. This is a reasonable suggestion, but one that could reinforce inequalities in funding. “Since research funding attracts students and researchers to specialize in fields, develop expertise, begin projects, and make discoveries,… using potential to set priorities would widen the gaps between well-funded and neglected diseases.”

Second, scientists and officials also sometimes argue that we should base research funding on “the degree to which a disease is neglected by private industry.” This is another reasonable suggestion, but given that public research findings are often licensed to private companies, it raises concerns about providing a subsidy to the already lucrative pharmaceutical industry.

Page 99 gives a snapshot into the politics of ranking diseases. The rest of the book reveals the long history of disease campaigns, from the early twentieth century crusade against tuberculosis to contemporary fights against diseases like breast cancer. Other chapters explain why so much of American philanthropy and public policy focuses on campaigns against single diseases, and how this disease focus shapes how we distribute resources and the types of health policies we pursue.
Learn more about Common Enemies at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 16, 2019

Ricky W. Law's "Transnational Nazism"

Ricky W. Law is Associate Professor of History at Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania. He has received grants and fellowships from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Japan Foundation, and the Royster Society of Fellows. In 2013, he received the Dean's Distinguished Dissertation Award at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill where he earned his Ph.D., and the Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize of the Friends of the German Historical Institute.

Law applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Transnational Nazism: Ideology and Culture in German-Japanese Relations, 1919-1936, and reported the following:
From page 99:
… Japan’s perception of Germany. What a people invests in the human resources, time, and money to render from a foreign language says a lot about what it prioritizes as worthwhile from another nation. So the aggregate of translated works is one civilization’s evaluation of another. Seen from this perspective, interwar Japan esteemed Germany highly and broadly. It even imported works on obscure topics such as procedures for transporting corpses by rail or regulations governing horseracing. Where appropriate, this chapter analyzes translated volumes collectively as a gauge of what information from Germany piqued Japanese interest.

The chapter concentrates primarily on the few score books on current affairs, politics, culture, economy, and contemporary history. Their genres include monographs, biographies, travelogues, memoirs, and encyclopedic anthologies. Like pamphlets and lectures, these works purported to relay facts. Unlike speeches and booklets, nonfiction did not operate within such thin profit margins or tight publication schedules. The quick turnaround of pamphlets enabled, even demanded, responses to breaking news, such as the commentaries chiming in within days of the Anti-Comintern Pact. But book authors and editors could use the extra time and pages to incorporate in-depth analyses and wider contexts. The more generous profit and time margins also allowed books to indulge in themes deemed less pressing or practical than those in pamphlets. Information in books was meant to last far longer, like the paper it was printed on. Hardcovers were sold with a sturdy sheath for preserving the volume inside for years and even decades. Book writers should have felt less pressure than pamphleteers to sensationalize issues because their readers were probably more educated and committed in time and money than consumers of pulpy booklets. Whereas many pamphlets were adorned with graphics and slogans to boost sales, most books, especially hardcovers with a brown cardboard shell, were designed to be judged not by their covers but their contents.

The depictions of Germany in interwar Japanese nonfiction fall into two phases. In the first, spanning the 1920s, authors and translators explored a wide range of topics that reflected the relatively open, liberal Weimar and Taisho zeitgeists. Early publications dwelling on the postwar gloom soon gave way to those that marveled at Germany’s recovery in the mid-decade, though opinion makers could not agree what a resurgent Germany should look like. But just as the revival was accepted as a…
Page 99 gives a useful snapshot of the scope of the book, especially the first half, on the interwar Japanese media’s reception of Germany. Because of the distance between the two countries, Japanese and Germans learned about each other mostly through the mass media rather than experiences. The book analyzes German-Japanese mutual depictions in the media to explain the cultural context of Tokyo and Berlin’s political rapprochement in 1936. It argues that in the early 1930s an ideological outlook, transnational Nazism, enticed some Japanese to support Hitler and Nazism, and convinced some Germans to accommodate Japan in the Nazi worldview.

The page belongs to the beginning of Chapter 3, on Germany in Japanese nonfiction publications. It describes how they differed from other media categories and how their characteristics influenced or were influenced by transnational Nazism. Interwar Japan eagerly imported knowledge from Germany in translations and books written by Japanese authors. In the 1920s, such works tended to be apolitical and aimed to acquaint readers with a Germany transformed by World War I and revolution. But with the rise of Hitler and his movement in the early 1930s, Japanese nonfiction on Germany took on a partisan tone. Several writers emerged to praise Nazism and to advocate Japan approaching the Third Reich. The first Hitler biography – with several to follow – was published in this period. Transnational Nazism even affected the visual appearance of books: pro-Nazi works in Japan often stood out for their graphic, colorful covers and easy, simplistic language. Beyond nonfiction, similar transformations took place among Japanese newspapers, lectures and pamphlets, and language textbooks.
Learn more about Transnational Nazism at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Anna Sherman's "The Bells of Old Tokyo"

Anna Sherman was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. She studied Greek and Latin at Wellesley College and at Lincoln College, Oxford. Sherman worked as an editor at Millennium Journal of International Studies, Financial Times Energy, and then, after moving to Asia in 2001, for Hong Kong University Press and other imprints in Hong Kong and Tokyo.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Bells of Old Tokyo, her first book, and reported the following:
The Bells of Old Tokyo evolved as voices in a labyrinth. Each speaker connects the reader to the city’s past and its future. Page 99 is an interview with Yamamoto Makoto, who rings the Bell of Time in Ueno Park, as his grandfather and then his mother had before him.

With a few brief words, Yamamoto sketches the history of time-keeping through the twentieth-century and the twenty-first: its evolution from radio announcements to television broadcasts to satellite signals beamed to mobile phones. How did anyone know what time it was before those modern technologies existed? I asked Yamamoto. Before the modern era, no one really cared about being so precise, he answered. ‘But now it’s the Digital Age, and things are different.’

I came away from the interview profoundly moved by Yamamoto’s fidelity to an ancient concept in a city famous for its cutting-edge technologies; also how lonely it is, ringing that bell every single day at 6AM and 6PM. (Yamamoto’s wife rings it at noon, when he is at work.) When Yamamoto retires, someone else will take over: his children will give up the house and the position. I asked Yamamoto if he himself, as a child, wanted to become the bell-ringer. ‘Absolutely not,’ he said, somber. ‘I wanted what everyone wants. I wanted the life other people had. When you’re the bell-ringer, you can never go away on holiday. You can never take time off to be sick…’

It’s eerie: page 99 is the crossroads of The Bells of Old Tokyo; its heart. The passage follows the book’s two great narrative fractures – the first is a break in Tokyo’s own history: the last shogun has just departed the city, after which Tokyo became the capital, and Japan began modernizing at breakneck speed. The second fracture happened in my own life: I left Tokyo after the 2011 tsunami and the Fukushima reactors exploded. Page 100 marks my return, but on page 99 I’m still outside Tokyo: an exile.

Page 99 is very characteristic of the book: I take the reader inside a private space, one out-of-bounds to most people living in the city. While writing Bells, I often visited hidden, forgotten places and sometimes forbidden ones: the inner sancta of temples; laboratories where physicists build atomic clocks tiny as rice grains; memorials to war victims in softly-lit chambers inside the earth; artists’ workshops. Places anyone can visit and others where you have to beg your way in. Yamamoto’s house and its bell tower were places I begged my way in, but once there, found richness – Yamamoto's family memories, the bonds that tie him to place, and the great bell itself.
Visit Anna Sherman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 12, 2019

Frank O. Bowman III's "High Crimes and Misdemeanors"

Frank O. Bowman III is a law professor, legal historian, and former federal and state prosecutor. He has written extensively on impeachment in legal journals and the popular press, including the New York Times, Politico, and Slate, where he is regular contributor. He has provided testimony to both Houses of Congress on multiple subjects including the meaning of 'high crimes and misdemeanors' during the Clinton impeachment crisis.

Bowman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, High Crimes and Misdemeanors: A History of Impeachment for the Age of Trump, and reported the following:
Interesting premise, this “page 99 test.” Can’t say it works perfectly for my book, but reading page 99 does land the reader at a kind of hinge in the argument and therefore hints at one important theme.

Page 99 falls in the middle of the explanation of how the Framers of the American constitution meant impeachment to fit into its system of checks and balances. It follows the account of how, in the summer of 1787, George Mason, James Madison, and the rest decided to include the impeachment power in their constitution, and why they settled on “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” as the definition of impeachable conduct. “High crimes and misdemeanors” was a phrase used by the British parliament since 1386 to describe conduct by ministers of the crown (and others) that parliament found to be impeachable. The question asked on page 99 is whether the American Framers intended these enigmatic words to mean much the same thing they had meant in England.

I argue that the answer is yes, and that this has at least three important implications:

First, the Framers adopted the British view that impeachment is an essential tool with which the legislative branch combats the tendency in hereditary or elected executives to autocracy and resistance to the rule of law.

Second, the Framers had a good understanding of the "high crimes and misdemeanors" for which parliament impeached royal officers: serious ordinary crimes, corruption, betrayal of the country’s foreign policy interests, gross incompetence or maladministration of office, and subversion of the constitution. They intended such behavior by American officials to be impeachable. They also intended Congress to have the same power as had parliament to decide that bad official behavior was impeachable even if not criminal in the legal sense.

Third, the Framers placed the power to impeach in the legislature, and adopted the ancient, and flexible, standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors” because they intended impeachment to be a political process in the large sense of a mechanism for defending constitutional order.

The Framers nonetheless made impeachment hard by adopting a 2/3 requirement for conviction in the Senate because they didn't want Congress throwing out presidents in partisan hissy fits. Still, the Framers meant it to be used if, somehow, a manifestly unfit person were to become president and endanger the constitutional order they so carefully constructed.

Most of the book examines the relatively few cases of American impeachment – Senator William Blount (1797), Justice Samuel Chase (1805) and other judges, Secretary of War William Belknap (1876), and Presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton – for lessons on how the impeachment power should properly be employed. It closes by asking whether Donald Trump is the contingency for which the Framers gave us the weapon of impeachment, and, if so, whether our politics is so broken that we can no longer wield it.
Learn more about High Crimes and Misdemeanors at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Guy Ortolano's "Thatcher's Progress"

Guy Ortolano is an Associate Professor of History at New York University. He serves as an editor of Twentieth Century British History, and is also the author of The Two Cultures Controversy: Science, Literature and Cultural Politics in Postwar Britain (2009).

Ortolano applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Thatcher's Progress: From Social Democracy to Market Liberalism through an English New Town, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Thatcher’s Progress, the reader meets the American futurologist, Melvin Webber. It is 1968, and the British state is building a city for 250,000 people, from scratch, between Oxford and Cambridge. Planning for a world that does not yet exist, they enlist Webber to figure out what’s coming. He forecasts a fantastical world of nuclear power, limitless prosperity, and lifetimes spent in leisure. That leisure, however, will bring challenges of its own, as technological developments compel “enforced leisure” – that is, unemployment – that could exacerbate racial tensions. Fortunately, medical advances will enable societies to call upon the services of their greatest statesmen – the future equivalents of Aneurin Bevan and Winston Churchill – for up to 100 years.

Page 99 conveys several key aspects of Thatcher’s Progress. The book narrates the building of the new town of Milton Keynes, today a punchline in British culture. Fifty years after its founding, this suburban city is often seen as drab, disorienting, anti-urban, and un-English. But when Webber arrives from Berkeley, bringing tales of automotive bliss, readers can begin to understand how this peculiar place came to be. Webber’s vision of a world in which limits to prosperity, leisure, and even lifespans have been lifted helps to convey the thrill of MK’s founding. Sometimes his premonitions hit their mark, as when he warned that diversity could foster resentments no less than tolerance; but other times he misfired, as when he predicted that rising incomes would enable grateful wives to leave the workforce and return home.

What a single page cannot convey is the direction of this history. Subtitled “From Social Democracy to Market Liberalism through an English New Town,” Thatcher’s Progress follows this massive infrastructure project on either side of market liberalism’s ascendance. By contrast with more schematic accounts, which make “neoliberalism” seem inevitable, the building of a city illuminates the halting, contested, partial nature of that process. Rather than supposing that social democracy collapsed in the face of economic and political challenges, the daily work of social democratic actors shows them responding creatively to trying times. But the terms of political life did come to change, and seeing how these figures navigated that transition reveals how tactical adaptations helped entrench a politics contrary to their own.

We now inhabit the future that these characters on page 99 were straining to perceive. Charged with building a better world, they hoped to learn from us. Today our charge is not so different – can we learn from them?
Learn more about Thatcher's Progress at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Alexander L. Fattal's "Guerrilla Marketing"

Alexander L. Fattal is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California, San Diego. He is also a filmmaker. His research and creative work focus on questions of representation in Colombia’s armed conflict.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Guerrilla Marketing: Counterinsurgency and Capitalism in Colombia, and reported the following:
From page 99:
As the concert began, the minister of defense boarded a helicopter to La Gabarra to deliver the symbolic humanitarian aid. Citing lack of space in the helicopter, Marcela explained to the journalists that only one photographer could travel with him. The flood assistance was reduced to a photo op, raising the question: who is assisting whom in this “humanitarian” exchange? The more substantive exchange during the minister’s brief appearance in La Gabarra was of bullets. As his helicopter elevated to return to Tibú, the local police station took fire from the FARC’s Thirty-Third Front. Nobody was injured, but the skirmish left a few more pockmarks in the building’s facade. The FARC was sending its own message.

Marcel Mauss’s classic book on the gift and the literature it has spawned have provided anthropologists with an analytic framework for understanding humanitarian aid as an expression of power relations. In this line of critique, gifts given in the wake of an emergency or during or after a military confrontation assert a soft form domination over the receiver of the aid (be it a person, organization, or institution). Such a critique could be applied to the military’s distribution of token flood relief kits. The act places the military in the position of ameliorating the effects of recent inundations of roadways that have left the residents cut off from critical markets and struggling to access basic provisions. By showing its disposition to combat natural disaster, the military seeks to articulate its primary war-waging function with its ancillary role as an armed relief agency. One logical conclusion of this armed humanitarianism is that the FARC is but another disaster and the local population, which is receiving the ministry’s flood-relief kits, is symbolically subordinated to the military and interpellated as military collaborators.
As it so happens this page makes two key points in Guerrilla Marketing: first, massive media spectacles and military interventions are increasingly intertwined; and second, this convergence is often intended to represent militaries as humanitarian actors. Page 99 engages with the anthropological literature on “the gift” of humanitarian aid, which has argued that such assistance is often an expression of power relations. Elsewhere on page 99, I describe the hollowness of this particularly utilitarian gift exchange and question its efficacy.

Page 99 comes from Chapter 2, Operation Christmas, a pivotal chapter in the book. Operation Christmas was the name that a marketing firm that has stewarded the brands of Mazda and RedBull in Colombia gave its campaign to demobilize FARC and ELN guerrilla fighters during the holiday season. The idea was to “attack the heart” of guerrillas when they might be missing loved ones back home. This is a theme throughout the book — intimacy as a battleground, both in the media war and the physical war, two realms that I insist cannot be neatly separated. In fact, one of the big takeaways from the book is that we need to think about propaganda as something that is the centerpiece of warfare in the twenty-first century.

We see this in Colombia time and again. The cover of the book comes from the 2013 version of the Christmas campaign. That year the military-marketing partnership came up with the slogan, “Before being a guerrilla, you are my child.” The campaign featured photographs culled from the archives of guerrillas’ mothers that showed their sons and daughters as babies. In all of the efforts to “attack the heart,” this assault was the most direct.

At the other end of the binding, the book’s epilogue focuses on the FARC doing some marketing of its own at a giant conference/party in which it tried to rebrand itself as a political party in anticipation of the changes set up by the 2016 peace accord. Those who are following news out of Colombia know the conflict [and the “brand warfare” that goes along with it (see pages 11–23)] continues even as the country has been struggling to implement the historic agreement. Unfortunately, Guerrilla Marketing remains highly relevant to post-peace accord Colombia. Further afield, I hope that the case study will help shed light on the murky realm of propaganda in the early twenty-first century.
Learn more about Guerrilla Marketing at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue