Tuesday, August 31, 2021

M. David Litwa's "The Evil Creator"

M. David Litwa is a scholar of ancient Mediterranean religions with a focus on early Christianity. He has taught courses at the University of Virginia, the College of William & Mary, and Virginia Tech. His books include Desiring Divinity, How the Gospel Became History: Jesus and Mediterranean Myth, and Posthuman Transformation in Ancient Mediterranean Thought: Becoming Angels and Demons. He is currently Research Fellow at the Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne.

Litwa applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Evil Creator: Origins of an Early Christian Idea, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Evil Creator: Origins of an Early Christian Idea discusses the biblical basis for contrasting the creator with a higher deity. The particular passage treated is 2 Corinthians 4:4-6. In 2 Corinthians 4:4, “the god of this world,” evidently the creator, blinds the minds of people from seeing the light of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 4:6, however, Paul refers to a God who shines the light of Christ into the hearts of human beings. Marcion of Pontus, who flourished in the mid-second century CE, and his later followers (“Marcionite” Christians) understood the verses to refer to two different beings: the creator who blinds people from seeing the light of Christ, and the true and superior deity who reveals the light of Christ in human hearts.

By opening up to page 99, the reader would receive a reasonably accurate idea of what the book as a whole is about. All of Part II of the work discusses Marcionite interpretations of various passages which reveal an evil creator in opposition to the true God. It begins with Marcionite interpretations of the creator’s character in the Christian “Old Testament,” analyzes 2 Corinthians 4:4, examines Christ’s so-called destruction of the Law (Eph 2:15) and the Lawgiver, and shows how Christ finally succumbs to the “curse of the Law” inflicted by the creator (Gal 3:13). In Part I, the focus is on the interpretations of Exodus and John. Firstly, ancient Egyptian assimilation of the Jewish god to the evil deity Seth-Typhon is studied to understand its reapplication by Phibionite and Sethian Christians to the Judeo-catholic creator. Secondly, the Christian reception of John 8:44 (understood to refer to the devil’s father) is shown to implicate the Judeo-catholic creator in murdering Christ. A concluding chapter shows how and why current readers of the Christian Bible have concluded that the creator manifests an evil character.
Visit M. David Litwa's website.

The Page 99 Test: How the Gospels Became History.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Catherine J. Ross's "A Right to Lie?"

Catherine J. Ross is Lyle T. Alverson Professor of Law at the George Washington University Law School, where she specializes in constitutional law (with particular emphasis on the First Amendment) and family law, including legal and policy issues concerning children.

A Right to Lie? Presidents, Other Liars, and the First Amendment is Ross’s second book on the First Amendment. Her prizewinning Lessons in Censorship: How Schools and Courts Subvert Students' First Amendment Rights (2015) was named the Best Book on the First Amendment of 2015 and received the Critics’ Choice Award from the American Educational Studies Association.

Ross applied the “Page 99 Test” to A Right to Lie? and reported the following:
A reader browsing page 99 of A Right to Lie? would be introduced to two of the book’s themes: the difficulty of ascertaining what falsehoods count as lies under the law, and the harms lies cause. But other, more central, themes that run through the book would remain invisible.

The final paragraph on page 99 is like much of the book. It examines whether President Trump’s pandemic falsehoods met the legal definition of lies:
If Trump genuinely did not understand or believe in science, it could be argued that the stream of deception and obfuscation that flowed from repressing data would not qualify as “lies” because he would have lacked the requisite intent to deceive. But Trump’s private conversations prove he knew he was lying in public—he left the sort of evidence that lawyers call an “admission against interest” at trial.
Page 99 appears in the chapter “Viral Lies: Life and Death in the COVID-19 Era.” The page follows a discussion of Trump’s false assurances to the public that COVID-19 was not dangerous and would disappear, even as he promoted dangerous, ineffective remedies. The section that begins on this page focuses on how Trump suppressed the collection and sharing of scientifically reliable data.

Chapter 5 is atypical in several ways. Instead of using dramatic legal stories and controversies to analyze the relationship between free expression and lies, this chapter primarily relies on emerging medical and social science data. It has one simple purpose—to demonstrate the harm Trump’s lies about COVID-19 caused, measured in unnecessary death, long-term illness, economic devastation, and social divisions that made a cohesive societal response to the pandemic all but impossible.

* * * 

Measurable harms resulting from falsehoods have crucial legal significance.

In United States v. Alvarez, decided in 2012, the Supreme Court indicated that the Speech Clause protects even the most blatant lies unless the government can show something more: harm to others or benefit to the speaker. The court did not flesh out what it meant. Throughout the book, I test the parameters of harms caused by public falsehoods that might satisfy the court’s requirement in order to see what government regulations on lies might survive a First Amendment challenge.

I zero in on two sets of harms attributable to Trump’s persistent mendacity, either of which surely are severe enough to merit discipline: lies about COVID-19 and what has come to be known as the “Big Lie,” falsehoods that began months before the 2020 election and continue to this day aimed at undermining the legitimacy of the presidential election and of democracy itself. This story -- which opens and closes the book -- continues through the January 6 insurrection, Trump’s second impeachment and trial, and attacks on the 2020 election that continued through the last changes I could make (on May 17, 2021) and as I write this in August.

The first page of A Right to Lie? asks: “Is there any way to stop a president who lies constantly about matters large and small, who regularly displays his disconnection from facts or verifiable reality, and whose lies endanger the nation and threaten the very foundations of democracy?”

I consider that question through the lens of the First Amendment by way of false claimants to military honors, purveyors of birtherism, political candidates who falsely malign their opponents and pad their own resumes, and the uses and misuses of defamation claims involving Roger Corsi, Joe Scarborough, Dominion Voting Machines and more.

In the last two chapters of the book, I propose a constitutionally viable solution to the problem of mendacious presidents and other high officials who, I argue, have less First Amendment protection in the course of their duties than other people. While the current political environment makes speedy adoption of my proposal unlikely, I argue that a failure of political will to demand honesty of the president -- not freedom of speech -- leaves democracy vulnerable. Events since my book went to the printer have only added to the urgency of my argument.
Visit Catherine J. Ross's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 27, 2021

Vivienne Sanders's "Wales, the Welsh and the Making of America"

Born in Cardiff, Wales, Vivienne Sanders writes on American history and is living in Porthcawl, in South Wales.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Wales, the Welsh and the Making of America, and reported the following:
Page 99 is probably one of the most exciting pages in the book. It is part of a long, descriptive account of the difficulties faced by the Lewis and Clark expedition. There is plenty of action on the page. Meriwether Lewis gets shot in the backside by the boatman, then survives William Clark washing his wound in murky Missouri river water. The men are plagued by malarial mosquitoes and infected bites, by the long, sharp spikes of prickly pear piercing their moccasins, by eye gnats, by a flea-infested gift from the Chinook, and by boils, dysentery and sore eyes.

In some ways, page 99 is typical of the book in that it lets the actors speak for themselves whenever possible. Lewis can be heard cursing his boatman (“Damn you, you have shot me”) and bemoaning the mosquitoes (“my dog even howls with the torture”).

On the other hand, page 99 probably gives the browser a misleading impression of the whole work. There are not many pages like this one, with its extended dramatic narrative but lack of evaluation of how much anyone with Welsh ancestry contributed to the development of the United States.

Re-reading page 99 reminded me that the Lewis chapter worried me for several reasons. First, I was giving Lewis more extended coverage than anyone else before page 99, and I feared that this might be unbalancing the book. In the end, I chose to keep the section intact, partly because it is such a wonderful story, but mostly because it shows more than Lewis’s contribution to American expansion – it serves to illuminate the determination, courage and contribution of the ordinary Welsh pioneers on the moving frontier. Second, as I wrote about Lewis’s dealings with the Native Americans, I was conscious that while many Welsh emigrated to escape English domination and English landowners, they often went on to behave similarly toward the continent’s original inhabitants. I never really faced this issue in the book. I focused instead upon my chosen remit, which was what the Welsh and Welsh Americans contributed to the making of the United States, and left it open to the readers to decide whether or not they liked the America that resulted. Third, this anxiety about the balance between narrative and analysis and about whether my book was in the old triumphalist tradition of outline histories of the United States and therefore insufficiently “woke”, added to my fears that my Welsh patriotism might have ruined my reputation as a historian! Time will tell...
Follow Vivienne Sanders on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Mary Angela Bock's "Seeing Justice"

Mary Angela Bock is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. She teaches courses on visual culture, gender, visual journalism and qualitative methods.

Bock is a former journalist turned academic with an interest in the sociology of photographic practice, the rhetorical relationship between words and images, and digital media.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Seeing Justice: Witnessing, Crime and Punishment in Visual Media, and reported the following:
By amazing coincidence, page 99 of my book, Seeing Justice: Witnessing, Crime, and Punishment, presents a seminal moment that inspired the project. Page 99 is the opening page of Chapter Five, titled, "What picture would they use?" and it opens with this vignette:
Scene: “Please don’t use his mug shot.” That was a plea from the public defender who was handling the case of Scott Demarco Newman, one of several men accused in connection with a horrifying shotgun murder of a local attorney in Des Moines, Iowa. It was 1985, and the first major trial I covered as a TV reporter. (This was long before the hashtag “whatphotowilltheyuse.”) The attorney, now a law professor at Drake University, knew that potential jurors who saw Newman’s mug shot would presume him to be guilty. Robert Rigg gave me access to his client’s school portrait, which we incorporated into coverage.
Seeing Justice blends my twenty years' of experience as a TV journalist with my academic research to examine the way visual journalists cover the American criminal justice system. Using a series of case studies, visits to actual court cases and dozens of interviews, I'm able to describe in detail the complicated “dance” between state actors -- that is police, prosecutors, court officials and so on -- with visual journalists and the way these negotiations affect the resulting news narratives.

Because photo- and video-journalism is a physical activity that requires practitioners to be on location in real time, the work is subject to what I call embodied gatekeeping -- the regulation of visual journalists' physical positioning in real time. The narratives that result from these negotiations usually favor the state, but digital technologies in the hands of everyday people are chipping away at that power structure.

The opening vignette on page 99 also points to the book's discussion of visual ethics and human rights. The use of mug shots is under debate in 2021 as more news organizations come to grips with the way digital images live forever on the internet. A published mug shot cannot be forgotten with time, and people's lives have been forever changed by these images, which connote criminality and never face online. The chapter that starts on page 99 presents this ethical debate while also describing the way social media users have discussed and shared mug shots as a means of shaming individuals such as Brock Turner, the Stanford swimmer convicted of sexual assault.

All news is constructed by real people making myriad practical decisions. This book is for anyone interested in the unintended consequences that result from these decisions, and how in turn the resulting stories affect the public’s understanding of how the system works. At bottom, these practices usually result in narratives that advance the state’s interest in legitimizing the criminal justice system.
Visit Mary Angela Bock's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Carolyn N. Biltoft's "A Violent Peace"

Carolyn N. Biltoft is associate professor of international history at the Graduate Institute Geneva.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, A Violent Peace: Media, Truth, and Power at the League of Nations, and reported the following:
In re-opening my own book (never easy for an author, so recently entangled in the long wrestling and writing, and so ready to move on) I was pleased to discover that page 99 is in fact one of the most important turning points in the book—it centers on a discussion of the Jewish-Czech journalist and poet Štefan Lux’s protest suicide at the League of Nations in 1936. Lux took his life on the public stage of the League Assembly in protest of the violence of the Nazi regime. And yet, we discover that the League tried to bury rather than advertise Lux’s final message to the world. What is more, the League buried the Lux affair (ironically) in the same year that they held an international conference on the threat of “False News.” Page 99, unfurls a textual analysis of Lux’s suicide letter (that never saw the light of day). One significant quote: “In pointing to the criminality of National Socialism, Lux also claimed another right endowed by death, the right to call things by their 'proper names.' The right of naming remained connected through the inexorable bond between truth and life, as in Fiat Lux [let there be light].
Learn more about A Violent Peace at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Cynthia Estlund's "Automation Anxiety"

Cynthia Estlund is the Catherine A. Rein Professor at New York University's School of Law. She has written widely on the law and policy of work, including three prior books: Working Together: How Workplace Bonds Strengthen a Diverse Democracy (2003), Regoverning the Workplace: From Self-Regulation to Co-Regulation (2010), and A New Deal for China's Workers? (2017).

Estlund applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Automation Anxiety: Why and How to Save Work, and reported the following:
Page 99 drops the reader into the middle of a very brief account of the rise and fall—here, the fall—of the venerable shorter hours movement in the US. It picks up during the Depression, after the near-enactment of a 30-hour work week in 1933 and the shift among New Dealers away from shorter hours and toward “full-time, full employment” as a goal:
Some New Dealers doubted that most people could, or would, or even should replace productive work with salutary “higher” pursuits. And they questioned whether the American economy was indeed close to meeting the people’s material needs. After all, parts of the country still lacked access to electricity. In the meantime, many workers themselves, having gained a modicum of leisure, aspired to higher incomes and the security and comforts they could buy; their unions followed course.
After describing the shorter hours movement’s culmination in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (which prescribed a national minimum wage and a 40-hour work week plus time-and-a half for overtime, and which excluded many middle class and poorer workers from coverage), I turn to the movement’s decline (and this passage sneaks onto the top of p. 100):
The movement for shorter hours soon began to fade. The war made full-time full employment a national imperative; after the war, pent-up consumer demand helped fuel a drive for material prosperity. Some labor leaders, especially the few women among them, sought to keep the shorter hours movement alive, and some unions successfully bargained for shorter hours. But most unions put their clout instead behind higher incomes—bolstered in part by more overtime—that would support a stay-at-home wife and a house in the suburbs for their overwhelmingly male members. In the meantime, the rise of anti-Communism lent an almost un-American ring to the goal of “higher progress” versus material abundance (not to mention the goal of peacefully overturning capitalism). In the Cold-War battle for hearts and minds across the world, America advertised capitalism as a path to prosperity; and at home, consumption took on a patriotic tinge, while increasingly sophisticated advertising campaigns fueled consumer appetites for comforts, luxuries, and status goods.
Page 99 hints obliquely at a core point of the book: there are reasons to welcome, and not just to fear, a more automated future of less work if we mount a constructive response. (Four pages later I turn to policy prescriptions.) Studying the history of the shorter hours movement, and especially its more idealistic strains, helped cement in my mind the potential upside of a future of less work. By the same token, the movement’s decline evoked a certain wistfulness about what might have been—captured here, I think—if the labor movement and progressives had kept their eyes on the goal of reducing working hours, and of “higher progress”—an evocative phrase from Walt Whitman—rather than shifting so wholeheartedly toward pursuit of material affluence in the post-WWII era.

My initial interest in, and anxiety about, automation took root in my own conviction (explored in Chapter 4 and elsewhere) that widespread engagement in shared work has vital social and political benefits apart from its economic outputs—goods and services, and income for workers—and apart from its individual psychosocial benefits. There’s both more actual interaction and more ethnic and political diversity at work than elsewhere in most adults’ lives. Through sustained cooperation and sometimes shared adversity, co-workers develop weak and strong ties of familiarity and solidarity with once-strangers, which help bridge the gap between family and intimates and the larger diverse society. Hence my anxiety about the prospect of a future with fewer jobs, especially for those who lack higher education and specialized skills.

At the same time, most people would clearly choose, if they could afford it, to spend less of their lives at work. We see that in both the historical movement for shorter hours and contemporary calls for better work-life balance. The key to a solution lies in spreading work from those with too much of it to those with too little. That is, we should aim for widespread work, though less of it, for nearly all rather than little or no decent work for many. We can start by catching up with the rest of the rich world in terms of guaranteed paid vacations, sick leaves, and parental leaves. That’s only the beginning, but—like nearly all of what I propose—those steps all make sense here and now, whether or not automation ends up reducing total demand for labor.
Learn more about Automation Anxiety at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 23, 2021

Kate Vigurs's "Mission France"

Kate Vigurs is a freelance historian, academic advisor, and researcher. Her postdoctoral research was used for the BBC World War One at Home series.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Mission France: The True History of the Women of SOE, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Her primary concern was her family, and she found saying goodbye to her widowed mother the most painful thing she had ever had to do. She told her mother a half-truth, saying she was going abroad, but to Africa; she had found maintaining the deception cruel. Vera asked Noor if there was anything she could do to help with family matters, and Noor replied that, if she went missing, SOE should as far as possible avoid worrying her mother.

Noor’s ‘dreamy’ nature and inability to lie had been raised, alongside other security issues, by nearly every member of staff who came into contact with her. Quite simply, Noor was not felt to be suitable agent material, but was the product in a chain of human supply and demand, evidenced by the fact that Buckmaster overrode the instructors. He had known from the moment he took her on that Noor had the wireless skills and knowledge of France that he required. From Buckmaster’s perspective, any wireless operator was better than no wireless operator.

After landing by Lysander in the Loire valley, Noor was to become known by her false identity of Jeane-Marie Regnier, her codename was ‘Nurse’ and her field name to her colleagues in the circuit was ‘Madeleine’ (and later ‘Rolande’). During her first few days, Noor met her organiser Émile Garry, but she did not move out to her original destination of Le Mans; Garry was spending part of his time in Paris with his fiancée, so Noor also stayed there. Noor’s first wireless transmission on behalf of PHONO was received in England on 22 June 1943, but just days later, Noor stood by as much of PROSPER, ‘parent’ circuit to PHONO, fell apart around her.

The disaster had started on 15 June. Yvonne Rudellat and Pierre Culioli of PROSPER received two Canadian F Section agents, John Macalister and Frank Pickersgill. The following night, Noor, Cicely and Diana arrived in the area, which was fraught with tension and enemy activity. The agents kept their heads down and tried to remain as safe as possible. However, it was not that easy for Yvonne and Culioli
This test works well for my book, the page is an extremely important part of the history Mission France is addressing and offers critical analysis of the decisions, thought processes and personality traits of two key players – Maurice Buckmaster and Noor Inayat Khan. It also begins to unravel one of the worst disasters to befall the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in France during World War Two – the fall of the PROSPER network. This test shows that page 99 holds important information at a pivotal point in the book's narrative as well as a key example of the author's critique and point of view.

The test reveals a key question that SOE historians address today, were any mistakes made in recruiting of agents and why was this specific agent (Noor) allowed to progress to the most dangerous of roles when so many believed her to be unsuitable. It addresses issues of agent selection and of human’ supply and demand’ - an ugly but essential part of SOE’s role during the war against fascism.

The people involved in the events on this page are both controversial and provoke widespread discussion and debate. The fact they both appear on this page and Buckmaster's influence over Noor’s very life is fascinating. The characters and these choices will appear time and again throughout the book, even to the point where Buckmaster will say he did nothing to endanger anyone’s life, and yet against others' judgement he decided to send Noor, a decision for which she paid a terrible price.
Visit Kate Vigurs's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Celia E. Schultz's "Fulvia: Playing for Power at the End of the Roman Republic"

Celia E. Schultz is Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Michigan and the author of Women's Religious Activity in the Roman Republic and A Commentary on Cicero, De Divinatione I.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Fulvia: Playing for Power at the End of the Roman Republic, and reported the following:
Page 99 cuts right to the quick since it describes the most exciting and scandalous evidence for Fulvia’s life, some lead sling bullets that bear her name. Fulvia’s great, shining moment came during the Perusine War – really a siege of what is now the modern Italian city of Perugia in the winter of 41-40 B.C.E. Inside the city was an army led by Fulvia’s brother-in-law, Lucius Antonius; outside were the forces of Octavian, who would become Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, and his ally Agrippa, the greatest general of his generation. Antonius, Fulvia’s husband, was away in the east, where he would eventually take up with Cleopatra; Lucius and Fulvia had been left in Italy to look after his interests there. Fulvia was not at the battle: she was more than 100 miles away, frantically trying to enlist more troops to help raise the siege and writing to Antonius’ allies in Gaul and Africa, asking them to come to Lucius’ aid. Even so, her name appears on some of the bullets hurled in the battle. Ancient sling bullets are just big enough to carry messages, often just the name of the commander or the army unit, but also sometimes insults literally aimed at the opposing commander. Some of the Perusine bullets “talk”, like one that claims, “I’m looking for Fulvia’s clitoris” and another one that says, “I’m looking for Octavian’s ass.” The bullets show how important Fulvia was for Octavian’s propaganda: it benefitted him if his men thought they were fighting troops led by a woman. What could be less threatening? The bullets echo the ancient portrayal of Fulvia as a sex-crazed militant, an image I interrogate in what follows page 99. It is safe to say that the page 99 test works well for this book, with the caveat that one must read further to know how to understand the evidence presented there.
Learn more about Fulvia: Playing for Power at the End of the Roman Republic at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 20, 2021

Daniel Brunstetter's "Just and Unjust Uses of Limited Force"

Daniel Brunstetter is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Tensions of Modernity: Las Casas and His Legacy in the French Enlightenment (2012), and co-editor of two edited volumes that cover a variety of themes related to the ethics of war: The Ethics of War and Peace Revisited: Moral Challenges in an Era of Contested and Fragmented Sovereignty (2018) and Just War Thinkers: From Cicero to the 21st Century (2017).

Brunstetter applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Just and Unjust Uses of Limited Force: A Moral Argument with Contemporary Illustrations, and reported the following:
From page 99:
"My people are afraid; these armed men move through the villages all the time trying to recruit our youth and turn us to their religion. Even yesterday people called me in alarm to say the jihadists had come because God had directed them to this or that village. My people feel under pressure from all sides—if they tell the army, they will be executed as informants; if they don’t, the army will think they are collaborators."

What is clear from this description is that the Malian government no longer has a monopoly on the use of force within its sovereign borders, and is incapable of enforcing the laws of the land.

The case of Mali serves to illustrate what contested order looks like. Corinne Dufka, the West Africa Director at Human Rights Watch, interviewed scores of Malian citizens to ascertain why some locals welcome the jihadists to rule:
an equal number of villagers told me they welcomed the presence of the Islamist groups in central Mali; they saw them as a benevolent alternative to a state they associate with predatory and abusive governance. Many seethed as they described Malian army abuses during counterterrorism operations, including arbitrary arrests, torture, and executions.
The above description paints a picture of contested order in which individuals are caught between vying ideas of order, each laced with a violence that undermines their ability to go about their daily lives. According to Dufka, establishing long-term peace involves regaining control of the area—that is, putting an end to the status of contested order and governing the region in a way that departs from the chain of abuses cited above. “The Malian government,” she reflected, “needs to re-establish its presence in the north so everyone has the basic security needed to go on with their lives.” This is a tall task, to be sure. Limited force—French Special Forces and armed drones—have been part of this re-establishment process insofar as they are used in conjunction with Malian forces to root out jihadist groups.

Dufka’s reflections yield important insights into the best intentions of using limited force. The goal of limited force can be to facilitate a shift from contested order to fractured order, or something better. Hence the re-establishment principle: the view that limited force should be used in conjunction with diplomatic actions that seek to re-establish a new, less violent, order. What should such order look like and who should be at the governing helm? The answer depends on how one defines legitimacy.]
The Page 99 Test works nicely for my book, highlighting three key features the reader will encounter across the seven substantive chapters.

First, it showcases the methodology employed, that of casuistry. The page begins with a quotation from a local mayor in northern Mali, followed soon by a quote from the West African Director at Human Rights Watch. Taken together, these quotes are suggestive of the legitimate purposes limited force might serve or the abuses that could ensue. With a clear nod to Michael Walzer’s emblematic work on just war, casuistry is the choice methodology because it engages what involved actors say and how they reason morally about limited force.

Mali, where drones and special force have been used, is one paradigmatic case that offers illuminating insights explored across the book. Other cases offer new angles from which to view many of the major conflicts of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Other voices–from Egypt, France, India, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, the UK, and the US–help tease the moral maxims that enlighten our understanding of limited force.

A second feature is that of theory-building. The book moves beyond critical appraisals of limited force to tease out a moral framework for adjudicating, as the title suggests, the just and unjust uses. Page 99 falls in the middle of chapter 3, which is the first part of the constructive, theory-building, phase of the book. While most work on just war follows the linear route–the justice of going to war, justice in war, and justice after war–my book begins, somewhat counterintuitively, with the ends.

What can a state hope to accomplish by using limited force? The upshot seems obvious enough: limited force is inherently circumscribed by the very nature of being, well, limited; you cannot seriously envision achieving decisive victory with a no-fly zone, drones, special forces, or limited strikes. This simple observation guides the unfolding of the moral augment in the chapters to come, unveiling restraint-oriented moral intuitions to better adjudicate when it might be just to employ limited force, how to go about doing so, and what to do if limited force fails.

A final feature emerges from the last line of page 99, which betrays skepticism about the justice of recent democracy-building wars. It is noteworthy, as chapter 2 illustrates, that escalation from limited force to war characterized all the major US-led wars–Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya–during 21st century thus far. While the book is not a call for pacifism, by arguing that limited force is strategically and morally distinct from war, it implies we need to be much more skeptical about what “just” war can accomplish.

Whatever the reader might think about the use of military force in its different guises, the examination of real-world cases across the book–and the emergent moral language these reveal–succeeds if it helps us to talk about the dilemmas, permissions, and restraints related to limited force with greater moral precision.
Learn more about Just and Unjust Uses of Limited Force at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Tom Standage's "A Brief History of Motion"

Tom Standage is deputy editor of The Economist. His books include An Edible History of Humanity, the New York Times bestseller A History of the World in Six Glasses, and The Victorian Internet.

Standage applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Brief History of Motion: From the Wheel, to the Car, to What Comes Next, and reported the following:
Page 99 of A Brief History of Motion is all about jaywalking, and the way the car industry weaponised the term in order to deflect criticism around rising numbers of road deaths. At the time, such deaths were mostly blamed on reckless drivers, who were denounced as “joyriders” and “speed maniacs”. So the industry decided to promote the stereotype of the jaywalker, and the idea that accidents were primarily caused by careless pedestrians, who needed to have new (car-friendly) rules drummed into them to keep them safe. Originally, “jay” was a slang term for a country bumpkin who was unsure how to behave in the city, and a jaywalker was someone who got in the way, either on the sidewalk or on the road. Around 1915 police officers who oversaw busy intersections began to describe pedestrians who would not follow instructions as jaywalkers. The word then came to mean something more specific, namely someone who crossed the road in the middle of a block, rather than at a corner. In footage of American streets from the early twentieth century, horse-drawn vehicles, streetcars, bicycles, and automobiles can be seen moving at roughly walking pace, with pedestrians weaving in between them. By the 1920s, cars accounted for most of the vehicles on the roads, and motorists were becoming increasingly frustrated by the limits this free-for-all approach imposed on their speed. Carmakers, dealers, auto clubs, and other pro-car interests, collectively known as motordom, duly launched a campaign to talk up the dangers of jaywalking. Outwardly this approach seemed to champion the safety of pedestrians, but by arguing that people should only cross at junctions and at right angles to the traffic, it promoted and reinforced the industry’s position that the streets were now primarily for the use of motor vehicles.

I think this is very representative of my book as a whole, for three reasons. First, it’s the quirky story behind something familiar to do with urban transport, which is the formula for the entire book. Second, it’s a reminder that things have not always been the way they are now, and could be different. In some parts of the world they are: street space is being taken away from cars and given back to pedestrians and cyclists, turned into green space, used for outdoor dining, and so forth. And third, it’s an example of how the world we live in has been reshaped by cars, in ways we may no longer notice. Today it’s easy to assume that roads exist solely for cars and trucks, and anything else is getting in their way. This is exactly what carmakers wanted us to think! But go to India, and you will see streets where pedestrians, cyclists, rickshaws, cars, trucks, and even cows and elephants all have to rub along. Or go to Helsinki or Oslo, where drivers in the city centre are made to feel like sheepish interlopers. Even in car-loving America, private cars have been banned from Market St in San Francisco!

My book is about the many things we take for granted about the modern world that are the way they are because of the influence of cars: suburbanisation, commuting, supermarkets and malls, fast food. It explains how things got that way, and also examines things like why red means stop and green means go; why some countries drive on the left and some on the right; and how cars defined the model for modern manufacturing and marketing (our smartphones are built in ways invented by Ford, and marketed in ways invented by General Motors). It looks further back into history, from the invention of the wheel around 3,500BCE to the advent of bicycles and railroads in the 1800s; and it looks forward, to consider the impact of electric and self-driving cars, and what a less car-dependent world might look like. It’s sometimes said that fish have no idea what water is, because they are surrounded by it all the time, so they just think it’s normal. We’re sort of like that about cars. So ultimately I’m just pointing out the water to the fish.
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--Marshal Zeringue