Saturday, January 30, 2010

Susan Klepp's "Revolutionary Conceptions"

Susan E. Klepp is is professor of history and affiliated professor of women's studies and of African American studies at Temple University. She is author or coeditor of six books and editor of the Journal of the Early Republic.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Revolutionary Conceptions: Women, Fertility, and Family Limitation in America, 1760-1820, and reported the following:
Lots of people know the story of Margaret Sanger. In the early 20th century she opened clinic after clinic offering birth control devices to the poor. Readers may also remember that clinic after clinic was raided by the police and closed. Eventually the laws would change and the small clinics became Planned Parenthood. That history is the supply-side version--there was a demand for contraception that Sanger supplied.

But when did women and men begin to demand access to birth control information? When did they come to prefer small family sizes? After all for most of history large numbers of children were seen as valuable assets--bringing parents free labor, prestige, support in old age and more.

Revolutionary Conceptions traces that change in attitudes on family size to the era of the American Revolution. Americans were vowing not to be the slaves of Britain, they demanded liberty and independence. These ideas spread, not just among politicians, but among rich and poor, free and slave, men and women. Women came to seek equality in marriage, more options in life, and better treatment of children, especially daughters--goals that could be accompished through family planning.

Pp. 99-100 begin a discussion of how women used humor to spread new ideas. They created "a shared language of laughter, protest and reformation."

Other sections of the book trace changes in medicine and birth control, art and ideas of female beauty, law and the policing of sexuality. There is also a section on early opposition to new ideas on family planning.
Read an excerpt from Revolutionary Conceptions, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 29, 2010

Carol Graham's "Happiness Around the World"

Carol Graham is Senior Fellow and Charles Robinson Chair at the Brookings Institution and College Park Professor at the University of Maryland. She is the author of numerous books and articles on poverty, inequality, and social welfare policy. Graham has an A.B. from Princeton University, an M.A. from The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a Ph.D. from Oxford University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Happiness around the World: The Paradox of Happy Peasants and Miserable Millionaires, and reported the following:
Page 99 finds us right in the middle of studying happiness in Russia, from 1995 to 2000, a period of time when both economy and society were undergoing tremendous changes due to the collapse of communism. What we find, which supports one of the remarkable stories in the book, is how similar the standard determinants of happiness are across societies – even in contexts of adversity: Russia is no different. Enough but not too much income makes people happier; marriage, employment, and health also make people happier. There is a U shaped relationship between happiness and age, with the low point in the mid to late forties; remarkably this relationship holds across countries across the world. Happier people are healthier and generally perform better in the labor market.

Russia departs from the rest of the world, though, in that married people are not happier than the average and because retired people are unhappy (unhappy pensioners?). Other things about happiness in Russia do support our world-wide story: happier people are more supportive of democracy and have higher prospects of upward mobility for themselves and their children. In short, happiness seems to be linked to things we care about, like democracy, and may even result in better outcomes in the labor market and in the health arena.

That’s the simple part of the story. Our happiness research – both in Russia and in the rest of the world – suggests that people are remarkable at adapting to extreme adversity and maintaining their natural cheerfulness, while some others that live in prosperity report to be miserable: the paradox of happy peasants and miserable millionaires. Respondents in Afghanistan are happier than the world average, and Russian respondents living in contexts of high unemployment are happier than the average for Russia. This may be a good thing from an individual psychological perspective: Afghani respondents manage to retain their good cheer despite high levels of conflict, poverty, and corruption, while Russians living in low or no growth contexts have adapted to an unpleasant certainty, which they seem to prefer over the uncertain prospects of economic change. Yet this capacity to adapt may result in collective tolerance for things like crime, corruption, unemployment, and other bad things, helping keep some societies stuck in bad equilibrium.

My studies of happiness around the world suggest that happiness is a good thing and that we want more of it in the world. And happiness surveys are allowing us to answer all sorts of new questions, such as the effects of obesity, crime, commuting time, and participating in politics on happiness. At the same time, before we leap to making happiness an objective of public policy, we must understand its complexity and how its definition varies across people, countries, and cultures. Finally, some outcomes that we as societies care about, such as the toppling of dictatorships or the reduction of budget deficits, may require much unhappiness in the short term in order to achieve a greater good. This very nascent science is still grappling with these questions.
Learn more about Happiness Around the World at the Oxford University Press website, and read Carol Graham's brief essay, "Happy Talk: The Economics of Happiness."

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Kathleen Gerson's "The Unfinished Revolution"

Kathleen Gerson is Professor of Sociology and Collegiate Professor at New York University. The author of No Man's Land: Men's Changing Commitments to Family and Work and Hard Choices: How Women Decide about Work, Career, and Motherhood, she frequently contributes to such media as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, National Public Radio, and CNN.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Unfinished Revolution: How a New Generation is Reshaping Family, Work, and Gender in America, and reported the following:
As the last page of the first part of the The Unfinished Revolution, page 99 alludes to one of the book’s central arguments: amid the gender revolution at work and in the home, “flexible approaches to work and parenting help all types of families overcome economic uncertainties and interpersonal tensions (while) inflexibility in the face of new social realities leaves (other) families ill prepared to cope.” Contrary to popular images, 21st century families are unfolding pathways, not static types, and their fate depends on the ability of parents and other caretakers to respond to unexpected economic and interpersonal crises in flexible ways. The generation who came of age in this era of revolutionary change agrees that gender flexibility in providing both money and care is the key to achieving family well-being. Women and men from all family, class, and ethnic backgrounds thus hope to share earning and caring in the context of a flexible, egalitarian, and lasting partnership.

Page 99 concludes that “building on these lessons, young women and men from all family backgrounds are searching for new, more flexible ways to combine love and work. But mindful of the obstacles that block this path, they are also preparing for a bumpy journey with no preordained destination.” This conclusion hints at the central story of the book’s second part, in which we find that, despite their egalitarian aspirations, today’s young women and men are preparing for “second best” options that may put them on a collision course. While the gender revolution has created new ideals, it has not provided the supports needed to achieve them. Fragile relationships and rising standards for marriage leave women doubtful about the chances of finding a suitable partner to share family and work, while time-greedy workplaces leave men fearful of the heavy penalties that family involvement imposes. Amid these fears, women and men are falling back on different – and conflicting – strategies, with women seeking self-reliance through work and men hoping for a neo-traditional relationship that leaves primary caretaking to someone else.

Despite the obstacles, we can take heart in the high aspirations of young women and men. In today’s uncertain world, gender equality and family well-being are not in conflict. To the contrary, the welfare of a new generation and the generations to follow depends on creating the flexible jobs and child-supportive communities that will help them close the widening work-family divide.
Learn more about The Unfinished Revolution at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Alexandra Natapoff's "Snitching"

Alexandra Natapoff is Professor of Law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and a nationally recognized expert on criminal snitching.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice (NYU Press), and reported the following:
Criminal informants are everywhere in the American justice system. Every year, thousands of offenders--from drug addicts to Wall Street investors—avoid punishment for their crimes by providing the government with information. Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice reveals how influential these snitching deals have become: from the war on drugs to hip hop music, white collar crime, and terrorism investigations. An important consequence of these widespread deals is that they make the criminal system more informal and secretive. Guilt is increasingly resolved off the record and under the table, while investigations rely heavily on confidential criminal sources. Chapter 4, entitled “Secret Justice,” is devoted to this problem and it concludes on page 99 as follows:
Today’s informant culture goes beyond the inquiry in any specific case about whether it might be dangerous to reveal the name of an informant or whether a particular investigation might be compromised by such revelations. Rather, the system is moving towards wholesale policies of keeping cases, dockets, and practices secret. Today, the potential threat to some witnesses is now seen by courts as a reason to overcome the presumption of openness for all criminal records.

In these ways, the practice of using informants undermines public transparency throughout the criminal system. By resolving liability in secret, it insulates investigative and prosecutorial techniques from judicial and legislative scrutiny. This reduced public access affects numerous other constituencies as well, making it more difficult for the press, crime victims, families, and policy analysts to obtain information about the workings of the justice system or about specific criminal cases. Informant use has thus become a powerful and destructive informational policy in its own right, reducing public transparency and obscuring the real impact of criminal practices on individuals, communities, and other institutions.
Snitching creates some other big problems for the criminal system as well, each of which is addressed in a separate chapter. “Beyond Unreliable,” for example, discusses the infamous unreliability of informants and why police and prosecutors continue to rely on them. “Snitching in the Hood” describes the heavy use of criminal informants in poor urban communities and the increased crime and violence that can result, while the chapter on “Stop Snitching” explores problems of witness intimidation and police-community distrust. The book also surveys the common use of informants in white collar, political, and terrorism investigations. By examining these pervasive underground practices, Snitching reveals surprising and sometimes shocking features of how our criminal process really works.
Read an excerpt from Snitching, and learn more about the book at the official Snitching blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Catherine Lutz & Anne Lutz Fernandez's "Carjacked"

Catherine Lutz is the Thomas J. Watson, Jr. Family Professor of Anthropology and International Studies at Brown University where she holds a joint appointment with the Department of Anthropology. As an author and editor, Professor Lutz has published nine books. Anne Lutz Fernandez is a former marketer and investment banker with fifteen years of corporate experience. She is an English teacher in Westport, Connecticut.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and Its Effect on Our Lives, and reported the following:
To really understand what Americans pay and what they forego to own a car, however, we need to take a detour through a diverse set of the nation’s neighborhoods, because while all men and women may be created equal according to our political ideals, the American automobile discriminates between us based on whether it’s parked in the driveway of a double-wide trailer, a middle-class bungalow, or a mansion-studded gated community.
Carjacked is a book on a mission to understand how Americans feel about, and live with, their cars. To do this, we interviewed drivers from across the country, as well as car dealers and automotive executives, mechanics, cab drivers, toll booth operators, auto museum directors, crash victims, doctors, EMTs and other health professionals, and environmentalists. We traveled to traffic court, Detroit proving grounds, DMVs, seedy used car lots, exurban housing developments, and junkyards, among other places to learn about the often taken-for-granted and taken-for-inevitable object in our driveways.

Our page 99 quote focuses on the remarkably different effects that owning and operating a car have on families and individuals at different income levels. While car and oil stocks and stakes benefit the richest Americans, for everyone else, cars represent the largest family expense besides housing. Fully one in five dollars earned goes to their vehicles, on average, but an especially big bite is taken from the budgets of families with limited incomes. Car dealers and loan officers see the working poor as easy targets for overpricing—they are often victim to dealer fraud and pay high prices for older cars in poor condition; they can pay more for insurance based solely on their zip code; they pay higher loan rates; and they are the pool of customers for car title loan outfits that have repossessed hundreds of thousands of cars out of neighborhoods around the country each year. Finally, those Americans who are poor enough to be carless must rely on our thin public transit system. This creates an awful catch-22: with a landscape built around the car and job growth concentrated in the suburbs, the urban poor in particular find it difficult to get or keep jobs that they need a car to reach.

Besides its look at the car in American life, Carjacked also provides immediate, practical advice on how families at all income levels can reduce their dependence on the car and end up with greater savings, time, and safety.
Read excerpts and learn more about the book and authors at the official Carjacked website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 25, 2010

Janet Poppendieck's "Free for All"

Janet Poppendieck is Professor of Sociology at Hunter College, City University of New York. She is the author of Sweet Charity? Emergency Food and the End of Entitlement and Breadlines Knee Deep in Wheat: Food Assistance in the Great Depression.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Free for All: Fixing School Food in America, and reported the following:
I had never heard of the “Page 99 Test” before I received an e-mail inviting me to comment on its application to my new book, Free for All: Fixing School Food in America. My first association was the practice reportedly used for naming children in parts of the rural South. Open the Bible, stab your finger on the page, and the first gender-appropriate name you come to—that will be the child’s appellation for life. OK if you land on Elijah, but not so great if you strike Beelzebub. I turned to page 99 with some trepidation.

I found myself in the middle of a discussion of the preponderance of highly processed, pre-packaged food among school lunch entrees, part of a chapter dedicated to deconstructing the menu. A former President of the School Nutrition Association (SNA), the professional organization of food service workers, was explaining to me why I had seen so many corn dogs and burritos and other hand-held items in the schools I had visited; “That’s the way kids eat now…That’s the way families eat. Not sitting down with a knife and fork.” It could have been worse. At least it’s a page that captures the voices of some of the school food service personnel that I interviewed, a primary source of “data” for this book. Food service workers, and especially food service directors, were a crucial component of the process by which I tried to educate myself about the day-to-day realities of the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs that serve some seven billion meals to America’s school children every year. The challenges these workers face are enormous and really, really interesting. I’m glad they were represented on Page 99.

Day-to-day realities, however, were not my only concern. I was trying to get a grip on public policy—on the history that has shaped these programs, and the politics and policies that constrain them. I was glad to find, therefore, that page 99 at least mentions policy, though not the school lunch and breakfast programs per se. In fact, the critique of the role of federal commodity subsidies in shaping the larger food system that begins on page 99 is a fundamental point of the book: “the growing reliance on highly processed food is not some sort of inevitable, inexorable process driven by forces of nature. In many ways, it is an outcome of public policy. The farm subsidies created during the New Deal and revised after World War II favored seven basic commodities. Among those are corn and soybeans, two ingredients essential to the kinds of long-lived processed goods that fill our grocery shelves.” The passage goes on to explain that by making corn and soy exceptionally cheap, crop subsidies have induced agribusiness to invest in the technologies for producing long shelf-life “food like substances,” affecting the taste preferences of consumers and thus the foods that schools choose to serve.

Of course, one page cannot substitute for an entire book. Page 99 focuses on food quality issues while the book as a whole is at least as concerned with issues of access. It analyzes the stigmatizing means test that creates an administrative nightmare for program operators and deters some hungry children from eating the meals prepared for them, and it argues for universal free meals, integrated with the school day, as a solution to both the access and quality problems. I wrote this book in the hope of empowering reformers and mobilizing support for the change we need. Hopefully, you’ll care enough to read more than just page 99. What could be more important than the way we feed our children?
Learn more about Free for All at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Paul C. Rosier's "Serving Their Country"

Paul C. Rosier is Associate Professor of History, Villanova University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Serving Their Country: American Indian Politics and Patriotism in the Twentieth Century, and reported the following:
I revisited Page 99 of Serving Their Country, curious to see if it could support and sustain Ford Madox Ford’s insight. I believe it does; in fact, it offers a fine opportunity to visit the two main contexts of the book, which explores the ways in which American Indians acted patriotically in helping the United States assume a prominent role in world affairs during the 20th century, especially during the Cold War, both by serving in the Armed Forces and by demanding that the U.S. keep the promises it made in hundreds of treaties signed with Indian nations in the 19th century. Serving Their Country joins a growing body of scholarship on Cold War Civil Rights and contributes to studies of American patriotism and national identity.

The first context is how American Indians experienced new pressure on their land base during World War II, a portent of the federal government’s “termination” campaign to eliminate Indian reservations after the war. On Page 99 I assess the dynamic of Japanese Americans being sent to internment camps on American Indian reservations, a conflation of two ethnic American groups deemed un-American because of racial difference. I write on Page 99 that “the Japanese presence reflected Indians’ continuing struggle against colonial pressures to maintain the hard-fought boundaries they were willing to cross for the purpose of defending their right to be both American and Indian.” During World War II congressional terminationists began to assert that American Indians were kept against their will in those reservations, which they increasingly called “concentration camps,” a rhetorical strategy to justify their attempts to terminate them.

The second major context featured on Page 99 is the significance of this federal termination agenda in international terms. American Indians fought in World War II in part to gain access to the freedoms enunciated by President Roosevelt as well as to the right of self-determination for which they fought in the name of Wilsonian democracy during World War I. Both American Indian and non-Indian leaders connected the U.S. government’s increasingly coercive treatment of American Indians with its emerging leadership position among peoples seeking freedom from colonial rule. This story is situated within the rhetorical frame of the “American Dilemma,” the title of Gunnar Myrdal’s 1944 book An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and American Democracy. Myrdal highlighted the disjunction between America’s ideals of freedom and democracy, expressed in numerous documents of the 18th century such as the Declaration of Independence, and its practice of racial exclusion in everyday life in the 20th century. On Page 99 I use the words of John Collier, the commissioner of Indian Affairs, to emphasize this connection between the domestic and the international. Addressing the “problem of small states and small groups everywhere,” Collier argued in 1942 that “if here in the United States with our Indian groups we can show the solution to this problem we shall have made a material contribution to the maintenance of world peace.”

The rest of the book looks at how increasing termination pressures at home, which American Indians came to call a domestic “cold war,” complicated the U.S. effort to wage the Cold War abroad. The final chapter of the book looks at the intersection of American Indian treaty rights, Red Power, and the Vietnam War. And in a short Epilogue I consider how termination pressures remain an issue for American Indians in the 21st century.
Read an excerpt from Serving Their Country, and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 22, 2010

Michael Paris' "Framing Equal Opportunity"

Michael Paris is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Framing Equal Opportunity: Law and the Politics of School Finance Reform, and reported the following:
In the United States, reformers seeking progressive policy change often turn to law and courts. How do such reformers go about translating their moral visions and policy goals into plausible legal claims and arguments? What difference does it make for the politics of reform that would-be change agents choose to speak one way rather than another in legal settings? How can we best understand this process of “legal translation” and the difference that it makes?

Framing Equal Opportunity examines two controversial and far-reaching litigation-based campaigns to change the distribution of resources for education. It follows lawyers and activists in New Jersey and Kentucky as they negotiate the complicated political terrain of educational change in their respective states. The book shows that the kinds of legal argument that lawyers choose to make matter not only for their success in the courtroom, but also for the kinds of fights they face in the community at large. It also offers a general theoretical framework for understanding legal translation and the politics of social reform.

There isn’t much of a relationship between Page 99 of the book and “the quality of the whole.” Page 99 drops us into the middle of the New Jersey case study. Here, by way of a summary of a 600-page opinion by an administrative law judge, I am explicating the New Jersey reformers’ “compensatory vision” of education and its successful translation through pre-existing legal norms and categories. For example, consider these two paragraphs from Page 99 (the “ELC” is the Education Law Center, a Newark-based law reform organization):
The ELC’s case about what it called “program disparities” across rich and poor districts was highly detailed; it proceeded under fully eighteen subheadings, including such things as “science education,” “guidance and counseling,” and “class size.” The ELC’s main purpose was to fix the standard of “adequacy” in two ways: first in relation to the needs of the urban students and second in relation to the resources available to already advantaged suburban students. Moreover, it was here that the ELC sought to make vivid and lifelike the conditions of education and their social meaning for administrators, teachers, and students in the ghettos. A few illustrations of the ELC’s approach will provide a sense of its emotional appeal.

State regulations defined “artistic expression and appreciation” as a “state education goal.” However, art education received rather short shrift in poorer urban districts. Whereas elementary school children in the wealthy districts of Montclair, Princeton, and Scotch Plains/Fanwood received “art instruction at every elementary school with certified teachers,” Camden did not even employ any art teachers at the elementary level.
Read more about Framing Equal Opportunity at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Caroline Fraser's "Rewilding the World"

Caroline Fraser was born in Seattle and holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University in English and American literature. Formerly on the editorial staff of The New Yorker, she has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Outside Magazine, Allure, and the Los Angeles Times Book Review, among other publications. Her essays and reviews have also appeared frequently in The New York Review of Books. She has received a PEN Award for Best Young Writer and numerous prizes for her poetry.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution, and reported the following:
As luck would have it, page 99 is the last page of the first section of Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution, a book about attempts to save biodiversity around the world. The page examines the most bizarre “accidental” wildlife corridor in the world: the Korean Demilitarized Zone, 155 miles long and 2 1/2 miles wide, where no human being has set foot in fifty-five years. Because the DMZ is so dangerous, it has become a perfect corridor for the preservation of Korean biodiversity, providing a secure haven for 2,700 species of plants and animals, including the Amur leopard, the Asiatic black bear, and perhaps even the Siberian tiger. But perfection comes at a price: “The DMZ is more fully functional, less developed or disrupted or disturbed than Y2Y or the Mesoamerican or the Green Belt [corridor projects described previously]. It only took a million land mines to do it.”

Renowned biologists are urging that this strip of land be preserved as a conservation “peace park,” while developers eye its future potential for factories or farms. For now, the 38th parallel hangs in the balance, a living metaphor suggesting nature’s recuperative powers and the difficulty of curbing humanity’s voracious appetites. Page 99 sums up the most troubling issues facing conservation: “Land and wildlife recover when we leave them alone, but the question remains: Can we find the will to restrain ourselves without the threat of annihilation? Can we do it in time?”
Learn more about the book and author at the Rewilding the World website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

David Ekbladh's "The Great American Mission"

David Ekbladh is assistant professor of history at Tufts University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Great American Mission: Modernization and the Construction of an American World Order, and reported the following:
Harry Truman is the center of action on Page 99. Readers catch him in the midst of justifying a major foreign policy initiative. To do so, he did what politicians still do: relate it to domestic American life. What’s happening on the page illustrates some elements that are at play throughout a book that traces the role of modernization in U.S. foreign affairs in the twentieth century.

In 1949 Truman proposed the “Point Four” program as part of his Cold War strategy that would promote modernization on an American pattern worldwide. But what would the United States actually do to poorer nations? He had to make “Point Four” legible to domestic (and foreign) audiences. He compared it to a reigning model of how liberal societies could promote economic and social development—the New Deal’s Tennessee Valley Authority.

“We [the United States] are somewhat famous for...technical knowledge. What I propose to do is to present to the peoples of the world that know-how... That is what Point Four means... I see immense undeveloped rivers and valleys all over the world that would make TVA’s... All it somebody who knows the technical approach to their development.”

Such a comparison was popular with important constituencies. There were those who saw the TVA and similar projects as huge successes, proof that the deflating urge for reform at home could be successfully reinvigorated and transmitted overseas. John Gunther, a popular journalist of the day, concurred when he said that the TVA “proves the idea of…development works” and that “its horizons could be illimitable.”

Truman’s talk of the TVA shows how politics and ideology are connected with modernization and exposes the links between domestic reform and development Italicefforts abroad. These links were apparent even before Truman made his plea.

Of course, the rhetoric recounted on page 99 only begins to reveal the depth of the story. There is much more as the book covers the sweep of how such ideas and the policies they inspired were actually applied. Crucially, the liberal brand of development the TVA epitomized and Truman grasped as a Cold War tool, would be used around the world to contain the influence of fascist and communist models of progress. In places like China, South Korea, Iran, and South Vietnam tracing the impact of U.S. sponsored programs demonstrates that modernization did not always live up to the claims of its boosters.
Read an excerpt from The Great American Mission, and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jennifer Brier's "Infectious Ideas"

Jennifer Brier is assistant professor of gender and women's studies and history at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Infectious Ideas: U.S. Political Responses to the AIDS Crisis, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Infectious Ideas: U.S. Political Responses to the AIDS Crisis we find Gary Bauer, then a senior advisor to President Ronald Reagan and the administration’s point person on the AIDS epidemic, and several other presidential advisors, frantically trying to revise the content of Understanding AIDS, an AIDS prevention brochure being produced by the Department of Health Human Services (HHS). The booklet, authorized by Congress to be designed “without necessary clearance of the content by any official,” provided readers with information on how to prevent the spread of the AIDS virus by using condoms when having sex. HHS’s 1988 decision to focus on condoms infuriated Bauer: he argued the brochure “promotes condoms, assumes widespread promiscuity among young people, and is medically inaccurate by making categorical statements about the way AIDS cannot be transmitted [through kissing]. (100) In an attempt to censor this kind of educational material, Bauer had personally convinced the president, one year earlier, to sign a directive requiring all federally funded AIDS education to “encourage responsible sexual behavior…within the context of marriage.” That HHS was now designing Understanding AIDS in contradiction to this order left Bauer doubly mad. He not only opposed the discussion of sexuality and condoms, he also feared the “gradual dilution of or attenuation of executive power” because HHS was moving forward without presidential oversight.

While this battle’s resolution appears on page 100 of Infectious Ideas (HHS mailed 100 million copies of the brochure without making a single change to the document’s content), the disagreement detailed on page 99 is representative of one of the book’s major arguments: that internal battles within the Reagan administration often left social conservatives like Bauer unable to push through an agenda that relied exclusively on morality as a form of public health advice. In this respect, the content of the brochure was much more similar to the AIDS prevention material produced by AIDS workers (a term I’ve coined to refer to both AIDS activists and service providers) than it was to what Bauer called for.

Infectious Ideas’ argument is much larger than what appears on page 99, however. I detail the scope and substance of AIDS prevention produced by a wide range of actors over the course of the 1980s and 1990s to argue that with AIDS at the center of a political history of the 1980s we no longer see the decade as overwhelmingly conservative.
Read more about Infectious Ideas at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Paul Murdin's "Secrets of the Universe"

Paul Murdin is a senior fellow at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge and editor in chief of the Encyclopedia of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Formerly, he was head of astronomy at the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council and director of science at the British National Space Centre. He is the author of Full Meridian of Glory: Perilous Adventures in the Competition to Measure the Earth and coauthor of The Firefly Encyclopedia of Astronomy.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Secrets of the Universe: How We Discovered the Cosmos, and reported the following:
Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov described the most important feature of a scientific discovery as the open mind and curiosity of the person who makes it: ‘The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!”, but “That’s funny ...”.’ In this book I have tried explain what lies behind some of the great discoveries in astronomy, the train of events and thoughts that brought the scientist to exclaim ‘Eureka’ or ‘That’s funny…’ as he or she unlocked one of the major secrets of the Universe.

This book is therefore mostly scientific history – my top 65 cosmic discoveries. Their discoverers lived over the last 25,000 years, lived in many countries and on all the continents (including Antarctica). They were men and women, old and young, professional scientists and amateurs. They were experts in many different sciences. Collectively, they discovered the cosmos and set it in a context to which we can relate.

Pg. 99 pretty much illustrates this thesis. In the couple of pages beforehand I describe what we know about comets and then I turn to the question of where they came from:
It is thought that comets formed when the Sun formed, 4.5 billion years ago, from interstellar ices condensing onto grains of interstellar dust. They were originally planetesimals that congealed from scraps of dust and
gas in the presolar nebula. Since then, they remained almost unaltered in two cold, outer regions of the Solar System, until they fell towards the Sun, ultimately doomed to melt like snowmen when the Sun rises.

Short-period comets come from the Kuiper Belt, which is located in the outer Solar System beyond the orbit of Neptune. The source of the long-period or sporadic comets is thought to be the Oort Cloud, a spherical reservoir of comets surrounding the Solar System. Dutch astronomer Jan Oort discovered in 1950 that many long-period comets fall toward the Sun from a distance of between 20,000 and 200,000 times the distance from the Sun to Earth. Comets that formed inside Neptune’s orbit were ejected into distant orbits during encounters with giant planets, and formed the Oort Cloud and the Kuiper Belt. Occasional encounters with each other, or with passing stars or giant clouds of interstellar material, re-inject some comets from the Oort Cloud and Kuiper Belt back into the inner Solar System.

It is likely that, early in the history of the Solar System, there were frequent collisions of comets with Earth. Some of our ocean water may have been brought to Earth by comets. In addition to water, complex organic molecules (and especially ‘prebiotic’ organic molecules) could also have acted as seeds for the development of life on Earth.
At the end of the book I look forward to four major prospects for future discoveries: to uncover the secrets of dark matter and dark energy, to detect gravitational radiation and discover life elsewhere in the Universe – although we may not find what we expect. The challenge for the next generation of astronomers will be to put themselves in the position to uncover these momentous secrets of the universe.
See a gallery of photographs and sample pages from Secrets of the Universe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Arianne Chernock's "Men and the Making of Modern British Feminism"

Arianne Chernock is an Assistant Professor in Boston University's Department of History specializing in modern Britain and Europe. Her work focuses on 18th- and 19th-century cultural, political, imperial, and gender history.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Men and the Making of Modern British Feminism, and reported the following:
Men and the Making of Modern British Feminism tells the story of a group of men in late-eighteenth-century Britain who courageously insisted that women’s rights mattered. That is, in a world in which reformers daily clamored for the “rights of man” but refused to extend these same “rights” to women, these men – progressive educators, attorneys, writers, officers, physicians, and clerics – asserted that their nation would not be truly “enlightened” until women’s grievances were also addressed. Law, custom, and tradition may have jointly conspired to keep women subjected, but they maintained that reason required them to emancipate “half the human race.” There were no logical grounds on which to bar women from fuller participation in the life of the nation, given the preponderance of evidence in favor of women’s capabilities.

These men were not necessarily the first to make such claims, nor were their statements the most extensive or eloquent – for the most impassioned and sustained defense of women’s rights during this period, see Mary Wollstonecraft’s 1792 A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. What was novel about their approach was their emphasis on the fact that men had a significant stake in female emancipation. As they repeatedly stressed, “women’s rights” were not just a women’s issue, to be dealt with by the other sex. Rather, they believed that how a people treated its women was a crucial metric for measuring the overall health of a nation, as well as of the civility and virility of the men within that polity. As such, women’s rights were a human problem.

A lofty formulation, indeed. How these men actually went about enacting this vision, though, led them into some thorny situations. While they put forward some remarkably bold recommendations – several, for example, recommended that women have the right to vote and sit in parliament – and used their professional networks and social status to help women secure employment and equal education, they also at times struggled to present female emancipation in a way that pleased, and catered to the real needs of, women. This brings me to p. 99 of my book, which falls in my fourth chapter titled “Revising the Sexual Contract.” This chapter traces men’s efforts to reform women’s legal standing, and focuses in particular on women’s problematic status within marriage. While some men believed that modifying existing laws would produce more equitable marriage arrangements, others strongly contended that the institution of marriage itself would have to be abandoned if anything approaching equality could be claimed between men and women. This is the debate that I take up on p. 99, where I describe how this latter position was best articulated by the author Thomas Holcroft:
This was the platform adopted by the Jacobin novelist and playwright Thomas Holcroft, an intimate member of the Godwin circle and vigorous contributor to the dissident republic of letters, who assumed an antimarriage stance in his controversial 1792 novel Anna St. Ives, which explored the possibilities for creating a more ‘benevolent’ culture. (It was ‘the welfare and happiness of mankind, Mary Wollstonecraft explained in her largely positive review of the novel, which Holcroft tirelessly promoted.) For Holcroft, the abolition of marriage was central to this forging of a more selfless race of people. In the novel, Holcroft’s hero, the tireless reformer Frank Henley, decries marriage as an institution encouraging jealousy and covetousness.

Anticipating a world in which there might be true parity, Holcroft insisted that the family, like Engels’s state, would eventually wither away: ‘I doubt whether in that better state of human society, to which I look forward with such ardent aspiration, the intercourse of the sexes will be altogether promiscuous and unrestrained; or whether they will admit of something that may be denominated marriage. The former may perhaps be the truth: but it is at least certain that in the sense in which we understand marriage and the affirmation—This is my wife—neither the institution nor the claim can in such a state, or indeed in justice exist.’ Holcroft viewed marriage as a dangerous obstacle to humanitarianism, a means of confining passion to particular rather than general causes. As William Hazlitt explained, in his 1816 Memoirs of the Late Thomas Holcroft, Holcroft had longed for a world marked by ‘mutual philanthropy, and generous, undivided sympathy with all men,’ a world in which ‘every man would be a brother’ and ‘[e]xclusive friendships could no longer be formed, because they would interfere with the true claims of justice and humanity.’
Holcroft’s sentiments certainly were noble, but in his rush to abandon marriage he forgot to take into account the children. Who would be responsible for child-rearing in his new “humanitarian” system, with its emphasis on “brotherly love”? For Holcroft, as for several of the other men who endorsed alternative familial arrangements, this responsibility de facto fell to women. It was for this reason in particular that so many female women’s rights advocates of this period were at times wary of their male collaborators. They by no means construed “champions of the fair sex” as interlopers, but they did call into question their judgment. As is always the case, tensions emerged when one group tried to define and defend the best interests of another.
Read more about Men and the Making of Modern British Feminism at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Holger H. Herwig's "The Marne, 1914"

Holger H. Herwig holds a dual position at the University of Calgary as professor of history and as Canada Research Chair in the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies. He has published more than a dozen books, including the prize-winning The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914-1918 and (with Richard F. Hamilton) The Origins of World War I.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle That Changed the World, and reported the following:
Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole book will be revealed to you.” Yes, it is accurate for The Marne, 1914.
The going was nearly impossible. Dense fog not only inhibited accurate fire but also turned the battlefields into semidarkness. Combat was close and personal, in most cases ending with bloodcurdling bayonet charges.” The small creeks of the Vosges at times ran red. The din was unbearable. The woods rang with the screams of wounded soldiers….
For the common soldier, the Battle of the Marne consisted of six weeks of frightful slaughter in stifling heat and humidity. They marched 400 kilometers to the front and back. They suffered from fire, diarrhea, typhus, thirst and hunger. In the end, two million men lay exhausted along both sides of the Aisne River and dug in—for the next four years. When it was over, some 10 million were dead. It started at the Marne in 1914, it ended at Versailles in 1919. Europe would never be the same again.
Read an excerpt from The Marne, 1914, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Christopher F. Black's "The Italian Inquisition"

Christopher F. Black is Honorary Research Professor of Italian History at the University of Glasgow, and author of Italian Confraternities in the Sixteenth Century; Early Modern Italy: a Social History; and Church, Religion and Society in Early Modern Italy.

In answer to my request to comment on Page 99 of his The Italian Inquisition (Yale University Press, 2009), he replied:
Page 99 starts with the end of a section on death sentences under the Roman Inquisition, which emphasises that probably the first execution under the post 1542 Roman Inquisition, of a relapsed Calvinist heretic, in 1550 was a contested verdict among inquisitors, and that executions were rarer than under the Spanish Inquisition. “Under the Roman Inquisition death sentences tended to be for repeat offenders”. Page 99 then initiates a discussion on the staffing to help Italian inquisitors, indicating they had limited personnel and financial resources, and that secular supporters – from ‘familiars’ – were few and ineffective, again in contrast to the Iberian situation. “The main tribunals in Italy were not sufficiently well staffed to achieve their overall aims: to eradicate heresy and encourage correct belief and behaviour.”

The book – the first in English to analyse the Inquisitions in early modern Italy - covers the Roman Inquisition as centralised, under the Papacy from 1542 and developed to the late eighteenth century, operating through central and northern Italy, and Malta, creating eventually about 40 local tribunals. I also cover tribunals of the Spanish Inquisition operating in Sicily and Sardinia, and indirect Roman inquisition operations in the Spanish-ruled Kingdom of Naples. The book analyses inquisitional procedure from denunciation to punishment, emphasising due legal processes, the limited and controlled use of torture, and leniency of many punishments. Re-education could be as important as punishment under Roman control; plea-bargaining could mitigate punishments. Political divisions within Italy, and claims of many bishops that they should also control matters of faith, inhibited hard-line inquisition control. The book shows how the inquisition helped overcome major theological challenges to Roman orthodoxy, whether from northern Protestants, or home-bred ‘reformers’ like the followers of Juan Valdés (including Cardinal Reginald Pole, Michelangelo, and Pietro Carnesecchi burned at the stake in 1567). Thereafter the book (backed by statistical Tables), shows how the inquisitorial targets changed and expanded, including alleged practitioners of love and medicinal magic, females seen as ‘living saints’, priests sexually soliciting penitents, and people who moved – forcibly or voluntarily - between Christian affiliations, Judaism and Muslimism. A long chapter covers censorship and attempted intellectual control, its mixed effectiveness, and brings in the controversial cases of Giordano Bruno and Galileo.
Learn more about The Italian Inquisition at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Michael Jerryson & Mark Juergensmeyer's "Buddhist Warfare"

Michael Jerryson is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Eckerd College and the author of Mongolian Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of the Sangha (2007). Mark Juergensmeyer is Director of the Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies and Professor of Global & International Studies, Sociology and Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Buddhist Warfare, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Buddhist Warfare is from the chapter, “Legalized Violence: Punitive Measures of Buddhist Khans in Mongolia,” by Vesna Wallace. On this page, Wallace discusses monks being served with death sentences after they slandered Buddhist rulers. The Mongolian king, the Eighth Jebtsundamba, is supposed to follow the Buddhist doctrine and carries the title: Bestower of Happiness to All Sentient Beings. At the same time, this Buddhist ruler advocates a death penalty to anyone who defames his character including Buddhist monks.
Lower ranking monks were severely beaten or delivered to the Ministry Affairs for execution if they stole an object belonging to the Jebtsundamba’s private treasury. Those who publicly showed their irreverence for the Jebtsundamba were put to death. The Jebstsundamba was already losing the respect of Mongols of all classes because of his vices and extravagant lifestyle. As reported by Boryn Jambal, a lower-ranking monk at that time, the last such case occurred in 1921, just before the overthrow of the theocratic government. A lama by the name of Damdinsuren was executed for calling the Eighth Jebtsundamba “a wretched Tibetan beggar who has wandered here.” Since in all cases the death penalty, the final decision was made by the Eighth Jebtsundamba, the Bestower of Happiness to All Sentient Beings, himself, it is safe to conclude that Damdinsuren’s death sentence was authorized by the Jebtsundamba as well.
Buddhist Warfare challenges the common perception of a mystical, exotic and wholly peaceful tradition. This perception is all around us. It is reflected in the photos of Buddhist meditation, of grocery visits for soothing herbal teas with Buddhist aphorisms, and of posters detailing the far away monasteries on high snow-peaked mountain tops. This theme of serenity is one facet of many (a facet also found in Christian, Jewish, Muslims and other religious traditions). And like other religious traditions, there is an opposing facet in Buddhist traditions.

We provide historical accounts of Mongolian, Tibetan, Sri Lankan, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Thai traditions to show that Buddhism has a violent side: monks have fought in wars and advocated bloodshed for centuries. Whether it is Tibetan Buddhist assaults on competing schools, Mongolian Buddhist incarnated rulers torturing monks, or recent conflicts in Sri Lanka and Thailand, we find the human proclivity for violence manifested in Buddhist doctrine and practices.

The contents of page 99 illustrate the paradoxical nature of Buddhist warfare. Jebtsundamba is not alone in the vast history of Buddhist traditions, nor does he reflect a unique theocratic stance. Buddhist precepts may disavow murder, but we find different Buddhist doctrine and practices advocating this very act. In the end, what becomes more peculiar is not the Buddhist advocacy for violence, but rather the invisibility of this trait in our recent collective perceptions of the tradition.
Learn more about Buddhist Warfare at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 8, 2010

John Eric Goff's "Gold Medal Physics"

John Eric Goff is an associate professor of physics and chair of the physics department at Lynchburg College.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports, and reported the following:
I only recently learned of Ford Madox Ford's page 99 test. My book, Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports (The Johns Hopkins University Press -- released December 2009), is my first book. After learning of Ford's test, I pulled my book off the shelf with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. For I had no idea what was on page 99. Would I find equations, graphs, unrelieved prose? A smile came to my face when my eyes hit upon page 99. Here is all the text contained on that page:

Figure 6.4. Katarina Witt personified grace at the 1994 Winter Olympics. Note how her arms and back leg are far from her vertical axis. (©Wally McNamee/CORBIS)

Above those words is a wonderful photograph of Witt on the ice in Lillehammer, Norway. The photo takes up nearly the entire page, and it represents what my book is all about. Sure, I have some equations and graphs in my book, but Witt's majesty on ice is part of what motivated me to write a book on sports physics.

My book is not about dehumanizing sports with a bunch of equations. My book is about taking the thrill many of us experience when awed by athletes performing at the pinnacle of their métier and adding to that thrill a modest understanding of how the universe works. The more we learn about the universe -- be it through science, music, art, literature, athletics, or any of the other joys of being human -- the richer our lives can be.

Returning to my page 99, what does one see? Witt's arms are outstretched gracefully from her body. Her left leg is thrust powerfully behind her. Her right skate -- the only one on the ice -- kicks up bits of ice. Her emotional face reveals a passion and commitment to her craft that would make the hardest of hearts skip a beat.

Those images came to my mind before anything connected to science. Later, I realized that Witt had her arms and leg stretched as far from her body for a good reason. The reason is connected to something called angular momentum conservation. The laws of physics constrain what we and everything else in the universe can do. But, those constraints liberate our minds because even a small understanding of how the universe works can enrich the way we experience the world around us.
Learn more about the book and author at John Eric Goff's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

William Poundstone's "Priceless"

William Poundstone is the author of Fortune’s Formula and Gaming the Vote.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It), and reported the following:
Priceless is about the hidden psychology of prices: how we map the desire to possess things onto numbers with dollar signs in front of them. As you might expect, hucksters of various stripes have always been concerned with this. More surprising is that some of the most important psychology of recent decades bears directly on this topic. In the book I trace how the science has influenced marketing, and vice-versa.

Page 99 of Priceless describes the concept of loss aversion. One of the psychologists I write about, Daniel Kahneman, said that he considered loss aversion his most important contribution to the theory of decision-making. In that sense, page 99 could be considered pivotal to the book’s argument. Loss aversion refers to the fact that losing money is not simply the mirror image of gaining money. There is an all-important asymmetry: Losses are more keenly felt. That is, losing $100 stings more than winning $100 delights. Prices are monetary losses that may be balanced by the gains of what we acquire. Loss aversion is thus central to many the tricks of today’s psychological marketers. Kahneman speculates that loss aversion also explains some of our deep-set cultural traditions:
Kahneman observed that loss aversion ‘extends to the domain of moral intuitions, in which imposing losses and failing to share gains are evaluated quite differently.’ There’s a law against being a thief, not against being a tightwad. And while avarice makes the list of seven deadly sins, and charity the top three Christian virtues, the ten commandments forbids only stealing or coveting someone else’s wife and property. Charity is only a suggestion.
Read an excerpt from Priceless, and view a brief video in which Poundstone discusses charm prices and the mysterious allure of "99 cents."

Visit William Poundstone's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Chuck Thompson's "To Hellholes and Back"

Chuck Thompson, the author of Smile When You’re Lying, is a former features editor for Maxim and was the first editor in chief of Travelocity magazine and served as part of the editorial team for the launch of He has traveled on assignment in more than thirty-five countries and his writing and photography have appeared in The Atlantic, Esquire, National Geographic Adventure, Playboy, Spy, Escape, WWE Magazine, Outside, Men's Journal, and the Los Angeles Times.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, To Hellholes and Back: Bribes, Lies, and the Art of Extreme Tourism, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford had a prodigious memory, so my guess is that this whole Page 99 business began as some sort of Victorian-era parlor trick that allowed the old show-off to recite from memory the text of page ninety-nine from any number of the books in the average blowhard’s study — a way to dazzle would-be hookups and elicit mid-cigar grunts of grudging admiration from their husbands.

For me, I found it a frustrating assignment. I can buy off on the idea that “the quality of the whole will be revealed” by a single page. Like most writers, I pay attention to every word on every page, so I’m satisfied that the quality of my writing might be judged from any random spot. But reducing an entire organism to one of its atoms is no more an accurate way of judging a book than a close examination of a toe is an accurate way of judging a person.

To Hellholes and Back revolves around trips to four “hellholes” — the Congo, India, Mexico City, Disney World.

Page 99 finds us in Africa/Congo and features one of the stranger things I noticed on safari in Botswana — a young Austrian guy who, in addition to nodding to villagers on roadsides, had discreetly begun waving at animals on game drives.

“I kept a watch on this curious behavior out of the corner of my eye and the funny thing was that after a while I noticed Rolf waved only at the nice animals. Giraffes, turtles, and baby impalas became regular recipients of his affable alpine salutations, while baboons, crocodiles, and wild boar were passed without acknowledgment.”

Page 99 includes the standard elements of my travel writing — a couple of one-liners, anecdote, a little social observation/criticism.

In that sense, one can make the case that it reflects the book and my writing. But I wouldn’t want to rely on anyone unfamiliar with my stuff to open the book in a store and, based solely on page 99, decide to take the thing up to the counter.
Read an excerpt from To Hellholes and Back, and learn more about the book and author at Chuck Thompson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Anthony F. D'Elia's "A Sudden Terror"

Anthony F. D'Elia is Associate Professor of History at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Sudden Terror: The Plot to Murder the Pope in Renaissance Rome, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book, A Sudden Terror: The Plot to Murder the Pope in Renaissance Rome, falls near the end of the fourth chapter, "A Pagan Renaissance: Sodomy and the Classical Tradition." On page 99, the reader can see some of the homoerotic verse of the leader of the conspiracy (Callimachus) and see how Renaissance intellectuals were influenced by ancient pagan authors in ways that clashed with Christian morality. The humanists wrote obscene and occasionally grotesque poems about each other. The Pope had condemned the ancient satirical poets Juvenal and Martial as being a corrupting influence on boys and the conspirators. The chapter shows how the rich homoerotic culture of pagan antiquity was received and imitated in the Christian Renaissance. At the time, many thought that the humanists had gone beyond an academic imitation of classical poetry and had themselves adopted pagan sexual morality - that they followed the ancients not only in their words but also in their bedrooms. Page 99, therefore, is representative of the book in that it exemplifies the strong relationship the humanists had with ancient texts, texts that they imitated in words and actions.

Page 99, however, is not typical of the rest of the book, in that the book narrates a compelling story - the so-called humanist conspiracy to murder the Pope in 1468 and what at the time were thought to be the motives that would inspire this group of effete intellectuals to attempt such a violent act. It paints a picture of the protagonists: the parrot loving, make-up wearing, macaroni eating pontiff and the humanists, who would wear togas, have classical banquets, and meet in the Roman Catacombs to perform pagan rites. The book discusses charges against the humanists, which included anti-papal republicanism, paganism and immorality, and a possible alliance with the much-feared Muslim Ottoman Turks. The humanists were arrested, tortured, and imprisoned in the cold damp dungeon of Castel Sant'Angelo for over a year - most never recovered fully. They wrote letters from prison, describing their ordeal, begging for release, and attempting to find consolation in ancient philosophy. In the end, classical literature failed to console these men, but their relationships with each other helped them to survive.
Read an excerpt from A Sudden Terror, and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 1, 2010

John Lawrence Hill's "The Political Centrist"

John Lawrence Hill is Professor of Law and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, Indiana University at Indianapolis.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Political Centrist, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Political Centrist is broadly representative of the book. On that page, I am discussing a constitutional case, DeShaney v Winnebago County Social Service Agency. In this tragic case, a father beat his four-year old son so severely that it left the boy, Joshua, brain damaged and mentally handicapped for life. Rather than suing the father (who was probably not well-off), the boy’s lawyers sued the government. Their theory was that the social service agency should have prevented the beating since there was some evidence that they had received an anonymous report of previous abuse. As tragic as the case is, and as sympathetic as any sensitive person will be to poor Joshua, his injuries were not the government’s responsibility. Justice Brennan’s dissent argued that the agency was responsible since, by creating a state agency, society discourages direct intervention by neighbors or others.

The Chapter in which this discussion takes place is entitled: “Between the Night Watchman and the Leviathan: The Centrist’s Conception of Government.” The chapter offers an approach to government that steers a coherent and sensible middle course between “progressive” and “conservative” ideas of government. More generally, the book offers a sound and principled middle way between contemporary liberalism and conservatism as these terns are understood today. Other chapters address such issues as abortion, capital punishment, illegal immigration, drug legalization, affirmative action, gay marriage and several other hot button contemporary issues.
Read the introduction to The Political Centrist, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue