Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Robert Wuthnow's "Red-State Religion"

Robert Wuthnow, a native of Kansas, teaches sociology and directs the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University. He is the author of many books about American religion and culture, most recently Remaking the Heartland: Middle America since the 1950s.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Red State Religion: Faith and Politics in America's Heartland, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Red State Religion lands the reader squarely in the middle of a fight for control of the Republican Party. The year is 1900. Old-guard Republicans have dominated the party since the Civil War through closed primaries and generous patronage. They are mostly veterans and age is now thinning their ranks. The challengers are anti-boss Republicans, younger, better educated, and intent on broadening the party’s base. They favor open primaries and greater efficiency in government agencies.

The anti-boss Republicans win. But it has taken the Populism movement of the 1890s to stir the party into action. It will be 1924 before the party’s new face is firmly in place. Meanwhile a third faction of law and order Republicans puts their agenda on the table. It leads to ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919 – Prohibition.

The major players on page 99 are Mort Albaugh and David W. Mulvane. Hardly anyone is likely to recognize their names. This is a fight for control of the Republican Party in Kansas.

In those years Kansas routinely made headlines that readers on both coasts and in many places in between cared about. Eastern banks were making a killing on high interest loans to Kansas farmers. It mattered that many of the farms were in foreclosure. Advocates were fighting tooth and nail over Prohibition. Methodists’ strength in the heartland radiated in every direction.

Red State Religion tells the story of faith and politics in Kansas from Abraham Lincoln’s visit in 1859 to the murder of late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in 2009. The story explains how Republicans proved themselves nearly invincible decade after decade. It chronicles how Methodists and Roman Catholics contended for souls. At every juncture there are surprises. Suffragist Susan B. Anthony wages a courageous battle for women’s suffrage. William Allen White takes on the Ku Klux Klan. Congregationalist minister Charles Sheldon plays an unwitting role in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. A sit-in in Wichita leads to the better-known one in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The story demonstrates that politics is indeed local. One of the nation’s most extended battles over creationism comes into focus here in the heartland. So does the decades-long struggle over abortion that included hundreds of protests, thousands of arrests, and the death of a doctor one Sunday morning at a Wichita church.
Learn more about Red State Religion at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Nigel Cliff's "Holy War"

Nigel Cliff is a historian, biographer, and critic. He was educated at Oxford University, where he was awarded the Beddington Prize for English Literature. He is a former theater and film critic for the London Times and a contributor to the Economist and other publications. His first book, The Shakespeare Riots, was a finalist for the National Award for Arts Writing and was selected as one of the best nonfiction books of 2007 by the Washington Post.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Holy War: How Vasco da Gama's Epic Voyages Turned the Tide in a Centuries-Old Clash of Civilizations, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Afonso had the long papal bull read out in Lisbon’s cathedral, a fortresslike structure that had been built on the site of the old Friday mosque, in front of an audience of international dignitaries. In glowing words, the pope praised Henry the Navigator as “our beloved son” and his discoveries and conquests as the work of a “true soldier of Christ.” He also affirmed the new Lord of Guinea’s right “to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery.” It was the clearest possible sanction from the highest authority for any iron-fisted actions Europe might wish to indulge in overseas, and it would come to be known as the charter of Portuguese imperialism. Together with the bull granted to Henry in 1452, it would be trundled out time after time to justify centuries of European colonialism and the Atlantic slave trade.
When Vasco da Gama set sail for India in 1497, his king not only charged him with discovering the sea route from Europe to Asia and cornering the trade in spices, then among the most valuable commodities in the world. He was also to locate a long-lost Christian emperor who was believed to rule over a magical Eastern realm and strike treaties that would clear the Indian Ocean of the Muslim merchants who had long dominated its trade. That done, he and his successors would sail up the Red Sea and push on to Jerusalem itself. If the old prophecies were to be believed, a Last Emperor would then take his throne, the End Times of the earth would begin, and the Last Judgment would follow as surely as day follows night.

Was this millenarian fantasy, as many have claimed, nothing more than a fig leaf for unbridled greed, an attempt to make something sordid seem palatable or even noble? Personal ambition and a royal lust for wealth and power were undoubtedly powerful motives behind the voyages of exploration. But in my book Holy War, I argue that the Age of Discovery was also the climax of the Christian Crusades against Islam that had begun four centuries before Vasco da Gama set sail.

By the mid-point of the millennium, the Crusades to the Holy Land were a distant glory, whereas the Muslim conquest of Constantinople in 1453 was a vividly remembered disaster. As Islamic armies marched deep into eastern Europe, the papacy increasingly turned to zealously Catholic Spain and Portugal, the only former Roman territories that had driven out their Muslim rulers, to shore up its dreams of a universal Church. Beginning with Prince Henry the Navigator, the Portuguese launched a decades-long campaign of conquest in Islamic North and West Africa. As they pressed on through the Atlantic and crossed the equator, they began to dream of sailing around Africa and pursuing their former masters into their heartlands.

Even the Portuguese felt they had to obey the rule of law, and the ultimate lawgiver was the pope. Rome backed the voyages with a long series of bulls that explicitly authorized the Portuguese to conquer and subdue any non-Christians they encountered; Romanus Pontifex, the notorious papal bull described in this passage, was issued on January 8, 1455. Vasco da Gama and his men set sail on ships blazoned with red Crusader crosses, with the assurance that if death came their sins had been remitted. They exported to Africa and Asia a world-view that saw non-Christians as fair game to be civilized, converted, enslaved, or eliminated. Though their king’s apocalyptic scheme turned out to be a flight of fancy, their success allowed Europe to believe that it could turn the tide against Islam and become a global power. For good and ill, the repercussions are still with us today.
Learn more about the book and author at Nigel Cliff's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 28, 2011

Paul North's "The Problem of Distraction"

Paul North is Assistant Professor of German at Yale University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Problem of Distraction, and reported the following:
A pause in one flight of thoughts, beginning of another, a transition, a good example because a bad example, signs pointing in many directions—Kafka’s critique of Max Brod’s fledgling aesthetic theory; Kafka’s theorization of “small literature”; one intellectual context of early twentieth-century Prague: Brentano’s students and their brand of “descriptive psychology”—through these relays back, and forward, to the thesis of the book, the proposal that there is another sort of distraction, all but ignored today in the furor to control a phenomenon whose concept by rights should be disambiguated and called “diversion.” All this is not present on page ninety-nine. A book is not an aleph, of course, in Borges’s sense; it is not a pleroma equally full in all directions or a monad in any drop of which one sees the whole perfectly reflected. Fullness is sporadic, contents asymmetric. And what you find depends on what you are looking for. Looking back, I found that this page, unlike some other pages perhaps, does not summarize, abbreviate, exemplify, reduce, formulate, or any of the other acts that are supposed to “represent” complex conceptual projects.

It so happens that this exact problem, the problem of abbreviations and their relationship to the abbreviated, is just what the pages leading up to this non-page circle around. Thought, which abbreviates, holds no actual authority over experience, which must be gone all the way through. Art, for Kafka in a very early and uncharacteristically theoretical fragment, is aligned with experience, not consciousness. So, I wrote, “those interested in art’s effects will not be able to simply think about art, since they will not be able to dispense with the next reading, the next work, the next experience” (99). And then a remark on the peculiarity of this position: “art certainly makes objects, for the young Kafka, but it makes them in an odd way; it makes objects available for release from consciousness” (99). Binding an artwork to a concept, understanding it, betrays it. The reverse is also true, and more important. Real artworks are unintelligible, unconceptualizable, unconscious even. They are received in a mode that should be called, according to a clandestine tradition running from Aristotle to Walter Benjamin, distraction.

The distraction—in German Zerstreuung—that Kafka is interested in here is the kind in which cognition is set out of work. Thought is suspended, such that the world becomes unrecognizable—i.e. it has to be experienced anew—and thought has to scramble to reorganize itself or else do something we would not yet call thinking. This sort of distraction, if it afflicts “peoples,” as Hobbes feared it would, initiates historical transformations. It is the mental correlate of epochal world-change. Ontological rather than psychological, it is a disposition or capacity for letting go of the world as now conceived, preparing for an alien experience, as it would appear to a being alien to the self that consciousness and self-consciousness have preserved. Experience without a subject, you might call it. Aristotle had a vision of it. In 17th-century France the moraliste Jean de la Bruyère described “le distrait,” the distracted one, stumbling around Le Grand Siècle without recognizing its beings, social classes, norms, and conventions. In the early 20th century primal, ontological distraction was theorized by three students of phenomenology—Kafka, Heidegger, and Benjamin—who thought that by means of it they could save the art, thought, and culture of the West from their worst tendencies.

The book is a plea to those involved in the current battles to recapture attention to think more broadly, and specifically more historically, about the nature of human thought and its capacity to transform.
Learn more about The Problem of Distraction at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Susanna Paasonen's "Carnal Resonance"

Susanna Paasonen is Professor of Media Studies at University of Turku, Finland. Her scholarship includes Figures of Fantasy: Internet, Women, and Cyberdiscourse.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Carnal Resonance: Affect and Online Pornography, and reported the following:
Carnal Resonance explores the modalities and dynamics of online pornography in an attempt to tackle some of the affective complexities of porn as a genre and the public debates concerning it. The focus is especially on how digital production, distribution, and consumption has affected porn as a genre and how it might be possible to address the genre beyond the binary logic of the porn debates to date. Here, I have been especially interested in the interconnections between sensing and making sense--that is, in the resonances and dissonances that pornography evokes in its viewers and the possibilities of conceptualizing these sensations.

Page 99 of the book is very much about these issues. It can be found in the middle of chapter 3 on amateur pornography and it involves a discussion on texture and media images. The first paragraph connects to a passage on the “textures of domesticity” in amateur porn--the traces of everyday lives lived, the products of material culture displayed at the edges of the images, and the generally unglamorous body styles of the performers placed in front of the camera. Here, the discussion on the feel of the images is extended to media formats in order to pave way for a further discussion on the materiality of digital images (that tends to be generally understood more in terms of immateriality):
The physical aspects, formats, textures, and makeup of images resonate in different ways, and they give rise to different sensations and experiences. Hence, “it is not the meanings of things per se that are important but their social effects as they construct and influence the field of social action that would not have occurred if they did not exist, or ... if they did not exist in this or that specific format” (Edwards and Hart 2004, 4, referencing Alfred Gell). It matters how objects feel since such “feeling” gives rise to different kinds of attachment and resonance. The feel, tactility, and texture of pornography are intimately tied to its technologies of production and distribution—whether the high definition and texture of 35mm film, the grainy authenticity of gonzo and amateur videos, or the apparent immateriality of digital images, videos, and texts that consist of zeros and ones and are open to virtually endless remodification. A photographic print can be touched; its surface becomes marked with fingerprints, creases, folds, and other signs of wear; and it can be carried and handed over to other people. There is a certain uniqueness to photographic prints as objects. Film and video involve more distanced forms of viewing, and their images—projected on a screen or made sense of as a flicker of pixels—are much less tangible. Tapes and rolls of films are firmly material objects that can be grabbed and held, compared to digital image files that are stored as data files, easily downloaded and uploaded, saved as aliases, deleted, renamed, and circulated further. Porn stories printed in a book, read on a screen, or printed out on paper all involve a different materiality, as do relations between people, words, media formats, and experiences of reading. The same goes for digital images. Nevertheless, as Laura U. Marks (2002, 163) notes, “Digital and electronic images are constituted by processes no less material than photography, film, and analog video are.”
Learn more about Carnal Resonance: Affect and Online Pornography at the MIT Press website.

Writers Read: Susanna Paasonen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 25, 2011

Eliot A. Cohen's "Conquered into Liberty"

Eliot Cohen is Robert E. Osgood Professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). He directs the strategic studies program at SAIS and the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies, which he founded. His books include the prize-winning Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime (2002), Commandos and Politicians (1978), and Citizens and Soldiers (1985).

Cohen applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Conquered into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles along the Great Warpath that Made the American Way of War, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Conquered into Liberty falls at the beginning of Chapter Four, “Fort Carillon, 1758,” which deals with the disastrous assault by an Anglo-American army nearly 15,000 strong commanded by General James Abercromby against a French garrison barely a fifth that size at what is now Fort Ticonderoga.

The book itself explores the roots of the American way of war in nearly two centuries of conflict with Canada; it does so by looking at eight battles and half a dozen ‘phantom campaigns’, from the burning of Schenectady in 1690 through a Confederate raid on St. Albans, Vermont in 1864. In each case I describe the fight, set it in a larger strategic context, and conclude by tracing the longer term consequences of the battle, down to the present day.

Page 99 sets the strategic picture (“The mood in Paris was far less resolute: Louis XV and his court faced two questions: what expense was Canada worth, and what, practically, could be done?”). The chapter begins, however, with a depiction of the actual assault, as seen by soldiers of the 42nd of Foot, the famed Scottish Black Watch.
Three times their commander ordered them to withdraw and three times they ignored him, one officer of the Fifty-fifth marveling that the Black Watch appeared like roaring lions breaking from their chains.  Canadian militia and colonial infantry attacked their flank, but the Scots brushed them off and continued to plunge into the dense growth. They got close to the French soldiers, barely visible in the greenery and smoke, who manned firing positions and picked them off, the Frenchmen passing loaded muskets to the marksmen on the wall. Some of the Highlanders even crossed over the barrier, but the French reserves, held for such a moment, counterattacked, and bayoneted the few who did.
The assault was a debacle but it did not save New France from the British armies that conquered her in 1759. The larger import of this campaign, however, was considerable: the American troops who made up the bulk of Abercromby’s forces learned a lot about the mundane business of organizing, training, moving and supplying armies. They also learned a great deal about the fallibility of British leadership, and less than twenty years later, those lessons mattered. “Unwittingly, along the Great Warpath and elsewhere the British army had trained its opponents in the next great American war.”
Learn more about the book and author at Eliot A. Cohen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Robert Brenneman's "Homies and Hermanos"

Robert Brenneman is Assistant Professor of Sociology at St. Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont. He is the author of Faith and the Foreigner.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Homies and Hermanos: God and Gangs in Central America, and reported the following:
It's appropriate that JJ speaks on page 99 of my book Homies and Hermanos. JJ is one of the sixty-three former gang members I interviewed in Central America in 2007 and 2008, and in many ways, JJ's story frames the book. I quoted him in this section exploring why gang members engage in violence because I wanted to give readers a sense of the emotional energy that gang members derive from wielding a gun. Here, he describes the thrill of firing the gun to commit a crime in another city:
"I went to my mother's house, washed my face, changed clothes and went racing back to the capital and I told the homies, 'Now I'm a real man. I just [describes the crime] with this [referring to the gun]. And anyone who gets mixed up with me is going to meet with this mother. That weapon had been my, like my God.'"
Page 99 falls in the middle of a chapter called "Turning Shame into Violence." In it, I try to help readers understand the violence that seems "senseless" to so many who know little about the transnational gangs like the Mara Salvatrucha and the M-18 other than that they are violent, often in hideous ways. My argument in that chapter is that violence, and by extension access to violent weapons--just touching or handling them--is deeply attractive to many young boys of the barrio precisely because it offers an avenue to respect and a (temporary) escape from social shame. I wrote the chapter because I wanted readers to understand youths' attraction to the gangs and the gang mystique before building my argument about why evangelical-Pentecostal conversion is such a popular pathway out of the gang for the gang members who live long enough to tire out of the gang lifestyle. As it turns out, evangelical-Pentecostal churches offer their own remedies for young men facing shame and social stigma by providing an alternative form of masculinity built around the project of "facing down the devil" and "battling sin." It helps that many gang leaders themselves "respect" evangelical religion, although they do not practice it, and extend a conditional "pass" on the "morgue rule" for gang deserters. But the ex-gang member who converts must provide ample evidence of the sincerity of his conversion by walking, talking, dressing, and acting like a true hermano (Christian brother). Anyone caught "messing with Curly" (Curly being God in the gang's vocabulary) by faking a conversion in order to be free of the gang can expect to meet a quick ending.
Learn more about the book and author at Robert Brenneman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

David Rothenberg's "Survival of the Beautiful"

David Rothenberg is professor of philosophy and music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

He has written and performed on the relationship between humanity and nature for many years. His books include Why Birds Sing, on making music with birds, and Thousand Mile Song, about making music with whales. Other books include Sudden Music, Blue Cliff Record, Hand’s End, and Always the Mountains.

Rothenberg applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Survival of the Beautiful: Art, Science, and Evolution, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Survival of the Beautiful I am in the middle of an interview with ornithologist and evolutionary biologist Richard Prum, who believes that biology has not been paying enough attention to aesthetics for the last hundred years or so. We’re off on a tangent as to whether sex is an art form. Prum asks: “So do beautiful people have greater sexual pleasure than ugly people? To me the answer is no. Now, one may lust after whomever, but the very fact that a larger audience of people would think that the people involved in the sex act are actually lovely or attractive to a greater number of people does not speak to the quality of the sexual experience of those people. All the broken marriages in Hollywood support the view that a lot of beautiful people have really shitty experiences—it is kind of related to this aesthetic question. We are constrained by our biology, in terms of sex, but also in terms of art. Until the ear actually evolves, we have a certain standard set of potential harmonic capacities to appreciate sound.”

Though perhaps page 100 is more interesting, where there is an illustration from Prum’s remarkable experiment trying to understand the intricacies of the corkscrew-like penis of the Pekin Duck, along with the appropriately convoluted Pekin Duck vagina. Really, there’s nothing like this in the rest of the book, I promise. Or maybe there is… later we have male cuttlefish changing themselves into females temporarily to distract more dominant males so the little males can sneak in and mate with the best females… And we have the purple prose of surrealist animal sex writer Wilhelm Bölsche, a now-forgotten bestselling writer of the 19-oughts... though sorry this is from page 48: “An animal is as if bewitched during loving- time. In all its feelings it belongs to another dimension... for a more or less brief period of intoxication it is a citizen of another world sky-high above the ordinary cares of life. Something in the animal reaches out beyond the individual: that something is the life of the species, which wanders over generations, over millenniums.... The time of love’s feelings becomes ... a time of liberated aesthetic inner life, a time of beauty.”
Learn more about the book and author at the Survival of the Beautiful website.

Writers Read: David Rothenberg.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 21, 2011

Susan Herman's "Taking Liberties"

Susan N. Herman became president of the American Civil Liberties Union in 2008 after serving on its national board for twenty years. A constitutional scholar and chaired professor at Brooklyn Law School, she is the co-editor (with Paul Finkelman) of Terrorism, Government, and Law and the author of The Right to a Speedy and Public Trial.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Taking Liberties: The War on Terror and the Erosion of American Democracy, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book is a good example of the Page 99 test working well.

Taking Liberties is about the many ways in which antiterrorism measures we launched in the fall of 2001 affect ordinary Americans – far more extensively than most suspect. I discuss many types of post-9/11 changes in the law, including supersized criminal laws, bloated and unreliable security screening programs, the conscription of businesses and charities in a bizarre world of watchlists, Know Your Customer and Suspicious Activity Reporting forms, etc.

But the most widely known changes in American law, and the changes affecting most ordinary Americans, are enhanced governmental surveillance powers. Government has many new tools to find out all about us without getting court approval for an investigation or even without any basis for suspicion of the person whose information is being explored (and conversely, it has become far more difficult for us to know what the government is doing).

Many people ask whether the massive invasion of privacy entailed is really problematic, or indeed of concern at all in an age where people don’t expect privacy. Page 99 is where I get to the heart of the matter and begin to provide some answers to the key question, “Why should I care if the government knows all about me if I’m not doing anything wrong?” Here’s what I say on page 99:
In his groundbreaking 1967 book on privacy, Alan Westin posed the question, “Why should I care what the government knows about me if I’m not doing anything wrong?” He then answered this question: “The answer, of course, lies in the impact of surveillance on human behavior.” Students of privacy since then have identified many different ways in which behavior is affected by pervasive government data collection and data mining.

Intrusion. Business records about you, including bank records of the checks you write or online payments you make and your medical or school records, provide a detailed and profoundly revealing picture of your whole life to any reviewer. Have you written a check to an HIV-testing clinic? Made a contribution to a splinter political group? Planned a trip to Yemen? Entered an institution for alcohol rehabilitation? Failed physics? The broader the dissemination of information about your life, the more you are exposed to others’ suspicion or scorn. Is it more or less upsetting that you won’t know how many people on the government payroll may be reviewing and reacting to details about your life? Will your behavior be affected if you don’t want to expose yourself by leaving tracks – perhaps paying for the HIV test in cash or deciding to go to the Grand Canyon instead of Yemen?

Confidentiality. If you share information about your physical or mental condition with a doctor at a hospital, or information about your finances with a bank in order to apply for a mortgage, you agree to share with a limited audience for a limited purpose. Your sense of trust in that relationship may be shaken by knowing that the doctor or bank may pass that information on to government databanks, voluntarily or not. Without any real guarantee of confidentiality, you may not be willing to share information the doctor or mortgage broker needs in order to help you.

Control. If you cannot choose the extent to which your information will be shared, you lose control of who will have access and whether you will be judged out of context. Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems, famously said, “You already have zero privacy – get over it.” But young Facebook users who do not mind exposing their views or their bodies on the Internet nevertheless care deeply about whether or not they can control the information they decide to post.

Identity Formation. Michel Foucault found a powerful image of the modern world in Jeremy Bentham’s “Panopticon,” a circular prison where the inmates are within view of their guards at all times. This constant....”
And there p. 99 ends. The rest of the discussion and the rest of the book are quite interesting too, and quite important. I go on to discuss what we are actually getting in exchange for intrusions on our liberty and privacy, and reach some uncomfortable conclusions.
Learn more about Taking Liberties at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wendy Pearlman's "Violence, Nonviolence, and the Palestinian National Movement"

Wendy Pearlman is Assistant Professor of Political Science and the Crown Junior Chair in Middle East Studies at Northwestern University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Violence, Nonviolence, and the Palestinian National Movement, and reported the following:
My book, Violence, Nonviolence, and the Palestinian National Movement, argues that self-determination movements must be internally cohesive if they are to use nonviolent protest. When they are fragmented, their use of protest is likely to become violent. I demonstrate this argument through analysis of 90 years in the history of the Palestinian national struggle.

Page 99 of the book is representative of the book as a whole. It discusses how Palestinian civil society leaders and mayors spearheaded nonviolent protest in the West Bank in the 1970s. Activists from different factions and ideological persuasions came together to create coalitions to take action for the goal on which nearly all under occupation agreed: creation of an independent Palestinian state in the territories that Israel seized in 1967. Page 99 discusses two grassroots coalitions: the Palestine National Front (PNF), which Israel had declared illegal, and the National Guidance Committee (NGC), which served as its legal expression. Their ability to work together and their legitimate roots in society helped them mobilize mass demonstrations against provisions in the 1978 Camp David Accords that proposed Palestinian “autonomy” rather than full statehood:
The nonviolent character of this protest was predictable given Palestinians’ minimal access to weapons. Nonetheless, this does not explain how activists mobilized large crowds despite fears of repression or kept gatherings from becoming riotous. Such feats would not have been possible had organizational structure not played a mediating rule. The PNF provided a forum for cross-factional consensus, and mayors and other NGC members served as respected leaders rallying participation in each community. These institutions were grounded in local relationships, but were also linked country-wide into an effort of broad scope.
Page 99 goes on to explain Israel’s reprisals against this unarmed mobilization:
Though this protest was nonviolent, Israel’s move to suppress it was swift. It banned the NGC and deported or dismissed some West Bank mayors. Settlers planted bombs that maimed other mayors. In 1981, Begin launched the Iron Fist, a series of policies that expanded curfew and restrictions on political activity, universities, and the press, as well as more forceful military repression. Israel also established the Civil Administration, an adjunct to military rule that Palestinians saw as a cover for creeping annexation of the territories. It then unveiled the Village Leagues: an attempt to formalize its network of Palestinian collaborators as an alternative leadership in the rural West Bank. That scheme met with public disdain and collapsed.
These passages challenge some conventional views of the Palestinian struggle. Before the first Intifada burst on to televisions screens in 1987, few in the West thought of Palestinians under occupation as spearheading their own struggle, no less through nonviolence. Of course, Palestinians have also used violent strategies. However, page 99 – like the book at large – hints at the extent of Palestinians’ use of unarmed protest that does not make it into the US media. It also shows how Israel’s suppression of this protest has often provoked the shift from nonviolent to violent strategies.

Page 99 has great resonance today, as Palestinians seek United Nations recognition of statehood. It shows the tirelessness of Palestinians’ appeals for their right to self-determination, and for how long those appeals have fallen on deaf ears. Page 99 shows this to be the case forty years ago. How many more pages and more years will it take for the international community to get the message?
Learn more about Violence, Nonviolence, and the Palestinian National Movement at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 18, 2011

Charles Lemert's "Why Niebuhr Matters"

Charles Lemert is Senior Fellow at Yale's Center for Comparative Research. His recent books include The Structural Lie: Small Clues to Globalization (Paradigm, 2011) as well as Why Niebuhr Matters (Yale University Press, 2011).

When he applied the “Page 99 Test” to the new book on Reinhold Niebuhr, he found the following:
Even though page 99 of Why Niebuhr Matters is but a chapter ending fragment, it offers a concise brief for Niebuhr's famous idea that a personal ethic of love can never overcome the social force of states and societies. States are preoccupied with their global interests. Individuals who profess to change the world by loving others not only fail against the power of the larger society but, in the process, lapse into the inherent selfishness of human nature. This was the basic idea behind Niebuhr's1932 book Moral Man and Immoral Society which is recognized as his most important popular book. Reinhold Niebuhr went on to develop the idea that the conflict between individual morality and social structures makes social justice, when it comes to pass, a hard won outcome. After the 1930s, he became one of American's most serious and influential left-liberal leaders whose teachings on religious and political realism are increasingly popular today. Though many on the left can't see it, Barack Obama is known to be a Niebuhrian realist -- hence, a man of unbreakable patience who thoroughly understands the ubiquity of evil in the world at large and the tough-mindedness needed to deal with it.
Learn more about the book and author at Charles Lemert's website and the Yale University Press.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tonio Andrade's "Lost Colony"

Tonio Andrade is associate professor of history at Emory University. He is the author of How Taiwan Became Chinese: Dutch, Spanish, and Han Colonization in the Seventeenth Century.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Lost Colony: The Untold Story of China's First Great Victory over the West, and reported the following:
On p. 99 of Lost Colony, the Chinese protagonist of the book, the dread Koxinga, is trying to persuade his generals to attack the Dutch and capture the island of Taiwan. Born to a Chinese pirate and raised by a Japanese samurai clan, Koxinga has raised one of the largest armies in the world and is devoting his life to trying to unify China. On p. 99 he tells his generals that the Dutch red-haired barbarians should be easy to drive away from Taiwan. His generals object. He overrules them. His massive fleet sails to Taiwan.

The war that ensued was hard-fought and brutal. It was also the first war between Chinese and western European forces, and the most important Sino-Western conflict until the famous Opium War of the nineteenth century. We know a great deal about the Opium War, of course, but this is the first book about the Sino-Dutch War, and it has important lessons about one of the most important questions in world history, to wit, why did Europeans rather than other Eurasians become so powerful on the world stage in modern times (i.e., after around 1500)? Asians – most notably the Chinese – had been world leaders in science and technology for millennia. What accounted for the sudden leap in European power in recent centuries?

Historians and sociologists have been vehemently debating this question. On one side are the revisionists, a group of historians and sociologists who believe that the most developed societies of Asia were progressing along paths similar to Western Europe. They argue that the divergence between Europe and Asia came late (i.e. around 1800), when industrialization and its concomitant economic revolutions changed the game. This is a radical challenge to established views, and it has been hotly contested by a group of scholars known as the neo-traditionalists, who argue that Europe’s lead over Asia began by the 1500s at the latest.

The debate has been intense and rather unproductive, but this war gives us an opportunity to directly gage the effectiveness of European and Chinese military technology. After reading through the wonderful sources I was forced to conclude that although the revisionists are right on many counts, the Dutch did have a slight but important advantage in nautical technology and in fortification techniques. Still, we must accept that China was far from stagnant in the 1500s and 1600s and 1700s. Many processes were occurring that were quite similar to the modernizing trends that were altering Europe. Was Europe in some ways evolving faster? It seems likely, but we still know astonishingly little about Asian history.

One of the most fascinating things I learned was the depth and brilliance of China’s military tradition. Once, in a college Chinese class, I was shown a newsreel from the 1940s in which the narrator said, in a theatrical voice, “The Chinese are a peaceful people, who have never started a war of aggression in their history.” Of course I knew even then that that was silly, but this view of Chinese as a pacific people is still extant. A small but growing group of scholars is studying China’s military history and turning up some fascinating findings. My book is part of this exciting trend. Indeed, I believe that Koxinga won his war against the Dutch thanks in part to China’s rich and effective military tradition, and since that tradition still deeply informs China’s current leaders, we can learn important lessons about the China of today by studying Holland’s Lost Colony and the warriors who captured it.
Learn more about Lost Colony at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Franklin E. Zimring's "The City that Became Safe"

Franklin E. Zimring is the William G. Simon Professor of Law and chair of the Criminal Justice Research Program at the University of California, Berkeley. Since 2005, he has been the first Wolfen Distinguished Scholar at Boalt Hall School of Law. Zimring's recent books include The Great American Crime Decline and (with David T. Johnson) The Next Frontier: National Development, Political Change, and the Death Penalty in Asia.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The City that Became Safe: New York's Lessons for Urban Crime and Its Control, and reported the following:
The book is a comprehensive analysis of New York’s record-breaking decline in crime and violence—more than 80% drops in most important crime categories in 19 years. What lessons about crime and its control can be learned from this story?

Page 99 of The City That Became Safe closes one of four chapters in the book where the implications of the New York story for specific policies are considered in detail. The chapter outlines the “war on drugs” assumptions of federal policy which assumed that only major reduction in heroin and cocaine use would cut drug-related violence and create safer streets. But page 99 tells us “the New York experience may be an outstanding example of successful influence on patterns of drug trade without any much greater suppression of drug traffic and use.” This produced a 90% drop in drug killings and the end of public drug markets but total drug use was relatively stable. The page concludes, “The city may be winning its war on crime (and on drug violence) without winning the war on drug abuse.”

Later chapters show similar lessons on increasing police effectiveness (Chapter 5), reducing the overuse of prisons (Chapter 7) and using our new knowledge of the variability of crime patterns to reduce crime in all big cities.
Learn more about The City that Became Safe at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Roger E. Backhouse & Bradley W. Bateman's "Capitalist Revolutionary"

Roger E. Backhouse is Professor of the History and Philosophy of Economics at the University of Birmingham. Bradley W. Bateman is Provost and Professor of Economics, Denison University.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Capitalist Revolutionary: John Maynard Keynes, and reported the following:
Our book is about John Maynard Keynes, the economist who suddenly entered the news bulletins after the financial crisis erupted in 2008. When we first turned to page 99 of Capitalist Revolutionary, we were not sure how well we would do. The page is split neatly in half, with a new section of the chapter starting in the middle of the page. This did not look auspicious. But Ford Madox Ford turns out to have been right after all. Several important threads of our argument about Keynes are nicely summarized in the transition between the two sections of the chapter.

One of the book’s themes is that the media stereotype does not do justice to Keynes’s views. We claim that he was not an advocate of “big government”, offering a magic formula whereby government can cure unemployment simply by turning on and off a fiscal tap. He was a subtle thinker who was seeking pragmatically to find solutions that would solve the immediate problems that the world confronted during his lifetime – the financial chaos of the world economy after the First World War, the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the problems created by the Second World War. We say this in the section that begins on page 99:
Wartime Inflation and Planning for Peace

In The General Theory [his magnum opus], Keynes had developed the tools he needed to diagnose the ills of capitalism, but he had not reached any settled conclusions about the precise cures that were needed, and he was open to experiment. He had written that “only experience can show” how far the state should operate on the propensity to consume or the incentive to invest. Recall also his later comments, quoted above, that his book “does not offer a ready-made remedy as to how to avoid these fluctuations” and that his proposed cures “are not worked out completely” but were “subject to all sorts of special assumptions and are necessarily related to the particular conditions of the time.” But this caution and pragmatism concerning policy were lost on some of his “Keynesian” followers, who, infused with the ethos of social engineering that was pervasive after the Second World War, used his theories as the basis for simple policy prescriptions much more in keeping with the magic-formula mentality that lay behind the Treatise [his previous big book].
Another central thread in our argument is that, though he was renowned for changing his mind, Keynes held a consistent vision of capitalism as being inherently unstable (a view that resonates with the economic turmoil that we are going through now). Moreover, to stabilize capitalist economies he thought it was necessary to make sure that investment was maintained at a high level. The two and a half sentences at the top of page 99, just before the section we have already quoted, obviously do not make this argument because they are the tail end of a section, but we do find mention of investment as well as the argument that he was a pragmatist moving back to views he had previously held.
[there] could be no presumption that investment would be sufficient to maintain a high level of employment. But Keynes’s view of policy is closer to their ideas of incremental change and limited government intervention than it was to his own vision of activist interest-rate policy in the Treatise. As his ideas swung back toward the traditional Cambridge theory of the trade cycle, with its emphasis on the expectations of the future, the extent of his activism moved back toward the more subtle Cambridge approach to economic policy.
Keynes was misunderstood because he advocated limited government, yet wanted government to be active in stabilizing the economy. This involved careful management that took into account the crucial role played by expectations. Page 99 does not say all of this, but the key words and phrases are there: investment, limited government intervention, activism, expectations of the future, and subtlety.

Looking at page 99, the big idea that is missing is Keynes’s moral critique of capitalism. Why? We dealt with that in the previous chapter and page 99 is in the chapter on his economic theory.
Learn more about Capitalist Revolutionary: John Maynard Keynes at the Harvard University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 14, 2011

Emrys Westacott's "The Virtues of Our Vices"

Emrys Westacott is Professor of Philosophy at Alfred University, Alfred, New York.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Virtues of Our Vices: A Modest Defense of Gossip, Rudeness, and Other Bad Habits, and reported the following:
The Virtues of Our Vices contains five linked studies in everyday ethics. The topics of the essays are: gossiping, rudeness, snobbery, humor, and respecting people’s opinions.

In the book I do two things. First, I examine these issues to try to sharpen our understanding of what we mean by the key terms and of how we usually decide whether someone should be criticized for gossiping, for being rude, for being a snob, telling sick jokes, and so on. Second, as the subtitle indicates, the book offers a “modest defense” of what some people consider dubious practices. For instance, there are times when rudeness may be the best or even the only way to get a point across to someone. Sick humor can be viewed as a way of dealing with certain anxieties, and it may help loosen the fetters imposed on us by traditional notions of the sacred and the taboo.

Page 99 is the final page of the chapter on the ethics of gossiping. Since it is a summing up of the whole chapter, it offers general conclusions. In one way this makes it unrepresentative of the book as a whole, since elsewhere, much of the time, I describe, ask questions about, and analyze concrete, down to earth situations that arise in everyday life.

But in another way p. 99 is highly representative since the general conclusions I draw about gossiping link up to those I offer concerning other “bad habits.” From p. 99:
…we should be suspicious of the censorious attitude that moralists have traditionally taken toward gossip…. In relation to both the individual and society it has many positive aspects that tend to be overlooked. A proper appreciation of these should make us less ready to condemn it and feel less guilty about doing it.
Although it may seem strange for a moral philosopher to say this, I believe we are often too moralistic, both about others and about ourselves. One of the purposes of the book is suggest ways in which we might loosen our moral corsets in order to breathe more freely.
Learn more about The Virtues of Our Vices at its Facebook page and the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 13, 2011

David O. Stewart's "American Emperor"

David O. Stewart's books include the highly acclaimed The Summer of 1787, the bestselling account of the writing of the Constitution, and Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy. He has practiced law in Washington, D.C., for more than a quarter of a century, defending accused criminals and challenging government actions as unconstitutional. Stewart has argued appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and was law clerk to Justice Lewis Powell of that Court.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, American Emperor: Aaron Burr's Challenge to Jefferson's America, and reported the following:
American Emperor tells the story of Burr’s audacious attempt to raise a private force to invade Mexico and Florida. He hoped to form a new empire consisting of those lands and as much of the American West as would be willing to join him. At Page 99, we find Burr dining on an Eden-like island in the Ohio River with Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett, two Irish expatriates who were the most implausible and the most pathetic of Burr’s recruits:
Then forty years old, Harman Blennerhassett cut an Ichabod Crane figure: six feet tall, slender, with gray hair, a large nose and weak eyes. When reading, he held books so close that his nose brushed the page. His mansion included a library and a scientific laboratory. His favorite pursuits were music and chemistry. In contrast, Margaret Blennerhassett was a skilled horsewoman, tall and athletic, able to vault the five-foot fence that surrounded their property. Educated far beyond the norm for the Ohio Valley, the Blennerhassetts liked to display their learning. Harman spouted passages from the Iliad in Greek. Margaret favored Shakespeare, though she also read to guests in French, following with her own translations.
Without a martial bone in his elongated, myopic body, Blennerhassett eagerly joined Burr. The Irishman wrote newspaper essays urging Westerners to secede from the United States, recruited his neighbors to join the effort, and shoveled so much of his money into the enterprise that he impoverished his family. Blennerhassett ended up in a Richmond, Virginia prison, facing trial for treason, though he was released after Burr won an acquittal on the treason charges brought against him.

Throwing in with Burr did not often end well. As one of Burr’s friends wrote years later (quoted on page 297 of the book):
“I have found myself sometimes in company with half a dozen of Mr. Burr’s friends, all cursing him for having duped them, and all duped in a different manner . . . always adapted to their peculiar characters.”
Fascinating fellow, that Burr!
Learn more about the book and author at David O. Stewart's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: American Emperor.

Writers Read: David O. Stewart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 11, 2011

Gernot Wagner's "But Will the Planet Notice?"

Gernot Wagner is an economist at the Environmental Defense Fund. He teaches at Columbia and graduated from both Harvard and Stanford. He doesn’t eat meat, doesn’t drive, and knows full well the futility of his personal choices.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, But Will the Planet Notice?: How Smart Economics Can Save the World, and reported the following:
But Will the Planet Notice? is about environmental policies that actually make a difference. It's not about you and I recycling -- although that's good, too. It's about putting a tiny fee on plastic bags that decreased their use in Ireland by 90% and one billion bags this past decade.

Page 99 is rather wonkish. It introduces one of the fundamental concepts: making sure someone owns the rights to a particular resource is the best way of protecting it. In this case, it's fish:
That simple step makes all the difference. It’s no longer a race. Much like with the Maine lobster, what you don’t catch today will still be there for you tomorrow. You own the right to a certain number of fish. Period. Your neighbor can’t take it away from you, just because you take the day off. The motivation to treat fishing as if it were a competitive free-for-all is gone.

Bigger engines enable you to haul in your catch earlier, but the reason to go overboard in the technological arms race is gone. [...] Fishermen no longer use larger and larger boats to chase fewer and fewer fish. It is now in their interest to decrease costs. Things generally get much more relaxed. Alaska's halibut fishing season has increased from two to over two hundred days, all without additional restrictions or regulations.

Sounds like socialist nirvana with the guiding hand of regulators replacing the invisible hand of the market. In fact, it’s anything but. This is much closer to the “privatism of free enterprise” Garrett Hardin described as the other solution to the commons problem, the exact opposite of socialism. Fishermen affected by the changes wax poetic, using terms like "liberty," "freedom," and "dignity." Increasing the fishing season from two to two hundred days doesn’t just make fishing more relaxed; it also means that fishermen no longer bring in half their entire annual catch in one day. That avoids flooding the market with halibut all at once, crashing the price in the process.

With higher prices, lower costs, and more sustainable catches, revenues doubled and profits quadrupled in the first five years of the program. It doesn't get more free market than that--except that it does.
Learn more about the book and author at Gernot Wagner's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jena Pincott's "Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies?"

Jena Pincott writes about the quirky, hidden side of science — the shocking, subconscious, under-the-radar stuff. Her book Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes?, on the science of love and attraction, is being translated in 17 languages.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies?: The Surprising Science of Pregnancy, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies? is about conflict:
I confess the only part about parenthood I’m not looking forward to is conflict. The squabbles and skirmishes. The tensions between mother and father, parents and children, grandparents and parents, not to mention sibling rivalry if we have more than one child.
Turning the page, the reader realizes that this passage isn’t about the usual family feud. It’s about genes. In particular, it’s about imprinted genes. Imprinted genes have a tag that says whether they come from Mom or from Dad, and the tag silences the gene. This means that sometimes Mom’s genes have the upper hand and sometimes Dad’s genes do. When the father’s genes have the upper hand in pregnancy, as they often do, the result can be a greedy fetus and an overeating mother. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s in the father’s best interest for the fetus that is carrying his genes to survive and pilfer the most resources from the mother. Women who overeat in pregnancy may place at least some of the blame on their partners.

This is just one example of the sort of strange, surprising, under-the-radar stuff that happens in pregnancy. There’s a lot more, from chemosignals in pregnant women's sweat to prenatal flavor-learning, fetus-friendly semen and gender-biased bodies; labor-expediting dreams, mood milk, and a lot of brainwashing and brain-boosting.
Learn more about the book and author at Jena Pincott's website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: Jena Pincott's Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes?.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gershom Gorenberg's "The Unmaking of Israel"

Gershom Gorenberg is an Israeli historian and journalist. His previous books are The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977 and The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Unmaking of Israel, and reported the following:
On an autumn day in 2009, at the height of the West Bank olive harvest, I drove into the Israeli settlement outpost known as Gilad's Farm, southwest of Nablus. Twenty-five families lived at the settlement, and another thirty young men were studying there at a religious seminary called Sing Unto the Lord Yeshivah. On the study-hall notice board at the yeshivah, I found a handbill. In the diction of Jewish religious law, it called on young settlers to raid Palestinian olive groves, seizing the ripe fruit for themselves if possible, destroying the groves if not.

I was in the midst of my research for The Unmaking of Israel, which describes the forces undermining Israel's democracy and Israel's existence as a state. Gilad's Farm is very tangible product of some of those forces: It's one of about a hundred outposts established by young Israeli settlers in the West Bank since the 1993 Oslo Accord. Ostensibly, the outposts settlers have defied the Israeli government and the law in force in the West Bank; in reality, government agencies have ignored or actively assisted in the outpost effort. As with previous stages of the settlement enterprise, the outposts undermine the rule of law, blur the borders of the state, and undercut basic principles of democracy.

Through supporting the settlements, the state has also helped transform religious Zionism - once a moderate political movement - into a nationalist sect centered on Jewish control of the Whole Land of Israel. As I explain on page 99, the leaflet I found at Gilad's Farm is an example of how Judaism is transmogrified in the West Bank hills:
...The handbill tacked to the notice board demonstrated an old principle: with enough determination, an interpreter of sacred texts can turn them inside out, making a sin into an obligation. On the simplest level, the writer had to explain away the explicit commandment in Deuteronomy 20:19 against chopping down fruit trees as a means of waging war. He rationalized an obvious act of theft as reclaiming one’s own property. He also ignored an ancient and well-known rabbinic gloss on the disagreement between the shepherds of Abraham and his nephew Lot in the book of Genesis: Lot’s men, the tradition says, grazed his herds in fields owned by Canaanites, rationalizing that God had promised the land to Abraham’s descendants. But Abraham rejected that excuse. The story teaches that a divine promise for the undefined future cannot justify theft from the land’s here-and-now inhabitants. This is a tradition that schoolchildren learn.

Historically, religious groups that believe God’s kingdom on earth is near are particularly vulnerable to this kind of photo-negative morality. There’s no better way to demonstrate that a new age has dawned than to say that new rules have replaced the old. In Judaism, the classic example is the seventeenth-century false messiah, Shabtai Tzvi, whose followers turned adultery into a ritual. In our time, theologies that absorb extreme political doctrines suffer similar vulnerability to sanctifying sins—as shown by Islamic radicals who have turned the forbidden act of suicide into heroism.

The religious settlement movement is doubly vulnerable: it springs from the faith expressed by Tzvi Yehudah Kook that “we are already in the middle of redemption,” and from recasting nationalism, at its most tribal, as religious doctrine....
Learn more about The Unmaking of Israel and the author at the HarperCollins website and the South Jerusalem blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Jonathan M. Hansen's "Guantánamo: An American History"

Jonathan M. Hansen, a historian at Harvard University, is the author of The Lost Promise of Patriotism: Debating American Identity, 1890–1920.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Guantánamo: An American History, and reported the following:
Page 99:
...barked a century and a half earlier. Huntington described the clearing in his official report to the marine commandant. “The ridge slopes downward and to the rear from the bay, the space at the top is very small, and all the surrounding country is covered with a thick and almost impenetrable brush. The position is commanded by a mountain, the ridge of which is about 1,200 yards to the rear.” The first night the marines “slept with our clothes on and rifles by our side,” Keeler remembered. “Had the Dons surrounded the hill they could have fired upon us with deadly effect, for they could have fired from all sides without hitting their own men.”

In hindsight, Huntington’s choice of a campground seems inauspicious. In Key West, Huntington had proved incapable of checking the abuses of the Panther captain; at Guantánamo, he lacked the confidence to question the decisions of his superiors. In the three days between occupying the outer harbor and the arrival of the marines, the navy had seen little or no enemy activity along the shores of Guantánamo Bay. When the Panther pulled in, Captain McCalla directed the marines toward a landing site and campground selected in advance by a colonel in the Cuban Army. McCalla informed Huntington that it was safe to erect tents. As a veteran commander, Huntington might have thanked McCalla for his assistance and proceeded as he had been trained to do: secure a safe landing site, identify a suitable campground, and entrench. A young captain in Huntington’s command remembered the colonel declaring the position “faulty” and deploying pickets. But that’s as far as Huntington’s initiative went.

Spain opened fire the following afternoon. “I was looking at my watch,” wrote Keeler. “It was just 5 o’clock, Saturday, June 11th, when we received the greatest surprise of our lives.” Some of the men were in the water bathing; some “were asleep when the reports of the rifles rung out.” As the marines dove for their guns, the “bullets came among [them] like rain.” There was no place to hide. “We dodged about trying to find shelter but there was neither trees or big rocks to get behind.”

U.S. Marine Corps major Henry Clay Cochrane remembered being surprised by the vulnerability of the camp and disappointed in Huntington’s response to the initial onslaught. When the marines went ashore on June 10, Cochrane remained aboard the Panther to oversee the unloading of cargo. He first set foot on land just as the Spaniards
I like to think that the “quality” of research and writing is consistent throughout the book (namely, high), but the character of the book changes dramatically, as its aspiration is at once comprehensive and synoptic, encompassing natural, military, political, cultural, and intellectual history, as well as legal and critical analysis. Without overdoing it, I try to adjust literary style to subject matter. Early sections on Guantánamo’s natural history, for instance, strive for a clarity and directness that you might find in a scientific journal, though with perhaps a little more art. Page 99, quoted above, pertains to the U.S. marines’ initial capture of the bay, hence the writing tends to be a little more dramatic. Likewise, as the book moves in the last two chapters towards the present day, some readers detect a critical edge suffusing the writing, which I, too, was aware of, and which I tried to tamp down but not eradicate.

Still, if I were to pick a page or passage that conveys the “quality” of the book, I would not have chosen page ninety-nine—not because it lacks merit or interest—but because the U.S. marines’ capture of Guantánamo Bay in 1898 is one of the few things that folks who know something about Guantánamo’s history are already aware of. The book is full of surprises, not least, for example, the fact that Mount Vernon, our national shrine, is named after British rear admiral Edward Vernon, who George Washington’s half-brother Lawrence served with for three months in Guantánamo, of all places, in the summer of 1741. In ways that few of us might imagine, Guantánamo is woven into the fabric of American nation-making and imperial ambition. The very summer that Lawrence Washington was sweating it out in Guantánamo, newspapers up and down the Atlantic seaboard were advertising this section of Cuba as the “Land of Promise”—a solution to the overcrowding and economic stagnation besetting Britain’s North-American colonies.

In sum, the book brings together past and present, insisting that you can’t understand the debacle of post 9/11 Guantánamo without understanding the century-long history of America’s occupation of the naval base, and you can’t understand that occupation, in turn, unless you understand Guantánamo’s role in transforming a group of fledgling British colonies into the imperial juggernaut we know today.
Learn more about Guantánamo: An American History at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dean Falk's "The Fossil Chronicles"

Dean Falk is a Senior Scholar at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her books include Finding Our Tongues: Mothers, Infants, and the Origin of Language and Braindance, Revised and Expanded Edition: New Discoveries about Human Origins and Brain Evolution.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Fossil Chronicles: How Two Controversial Discoveries Changed Our View of Human Evolution, and reported the following:
Amazingly, page ninety-nine of The Fossil Chronicles does, indeed, capture the essence of the book. Part of the reason is because one section ends and another begins near the middle of this page. A goal of the book is to portray the twists, turns, competitiveness, and passions that have always characterized research on human origins (what I call “paleopolitics”). In this spirit, the top of page ninety-nine reminds the reader that Raymond Dart’s discovery of the famous Taung fossil (Australopithecus africanus, 1925) was dissed for decades because of turf guarding on the part of the British scientific establishment, which continued to promote Piltdown Man as the father of us all. It was not until 1953 that Piltdown was revealed as an elaborate fraud. Meanwhile, poor Dart was psychologically bloodied and paleoanthropology was impeded by the actions of the “Piltdown Committee.” Dart died a happy (old) man, though, because the tremendous importance of his discovery was recognized while he was still alive. Page ninety-nine also observes that similar turf guarding is currently involved in the intense scientific controversy about the validity of a tiny skeleton nicknamed “Hobbit” (Homo floresiensis, 2004), which was recently discovered on the island of Flores in Indonesia. Hobbit is already changing the textbooks on human evolution, although the find is so new that the last word is not yet in. To my surprise, the acrimony over Hobbit makes the Piltdown gang look almost gentlemanly -- no small achievement.

The section that begins near the middle of page ninety-nine discusses the reactions of religious fundamentalists to Homo floresiensis, reactions similar to earlier Biblicists’ response to the discoveries of Pithecanthropus (now Homo) erectus, Neanderthals, and Australopithecus africanus. Invariably, fundamentalists suggest that important new discoveries of fossilized human relatives represent apes or pathological contemporary people -- i.e., anything but evolutionary ancestors of humans whom, they believe, were created supranaturally. I hasten to add, as does the book, that religious fundamentalists are no more invested in their explanations of human origins than some scientists are and that, in a sense, we are all asking the same big questions -- where did we come from, and where are we going? If readers of The Fossil Chronicles feel some of the excitement and drama of pursuing questions about what made us human and the thrill of refining the tentative answers in light of newly discovered fossils, the book will have achieved its goal.
Learn more about The Fossil Chronicles at the University of California Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Dean Falk's Finding Our Tongues.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Julian Go's "Patterns of Empire"

Julian Go is Associate Professor of Sociology at Boston University, where is also a Faculty Affiliate in Asian Studies and the American Studies and New England Studies program.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Patterns of Empire: The British and American Empires, 1688 to the Present, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Patterns of Empire refers to the rising class of educated political activists in late nineteenth century India. That class made demands upon their colonial rulers – the British – for political reforms that would give them more participation in political affairs. But the book is not just about India. Nor is it even about British colonialism. It is about how the US empire has repeated the patterns and forms of the British empire. It is about how the US empire has not been different from other empires, despite our persistent idea that the US empire is somehow “exceptional.”

British India and the demands for colonial reforms from Indian elites as discussed on p. 99 is in fact exemplary of this larger point. The page begins: “The emergence and proliferation of these groups [educated Indians’ political groups] was important. It meant that British officials faced a flurry of political activity and mobilization from educated professionals, urban elites, and powerful rural landowners who spoke their language, deployed their political concepts, and demanded the sorts of privileges and political institutions that rich Englishmen were afforded. ‘One hears a great deal at home about the immobility of the East,” Lord Ripon wrote to Gladstone in 1881, “but I have, on the contrary, been much struck by the changes which are evidently being effected in India by ... the spread of English legal ideas and methods, and by the increasing knowledge on the part of the people of their legal rights.’ Equally imposing was the fact that, beginning in the 1870s, Indian political leaders took inspiration from the Home Rule movement in Ireland and found allies in Parliament. Lord Dufferin was especially worried about this. ‘[E]vents at home in regard to Ireland,’ he noted, ‘[have] produced a very considerable effect upon the minds of the intelligent and educated sections of our own native community.’”

Page 99 thus discloses one of the critical similarities between the US and British empires. While some scholars continually insist that the US empire has been “exceptional” because it enacts benevolent colonialism aimed at promoting democracy, the examination of British colonialism in India in this chapter shows that the British empire already did this. The British responded to the educated elites’ demands by making a more liberal colonial state, open to Indian participation and even to elections. The chapter in which p. 99 occurs (“Colonial Rules”) argues that the US colonial state in the Philippines (and also Puerto Rico) did the exact same thing. The chapter also shows another similarity: while the British colonial state was seemingly “liberal” in India, just like the US colonial state in the Philippines, it was more despotic in colonies like Fiji, just as the US colonial state was in Guam and Samoa. Page 99 continues: “The post-Mutiny context [in India], the states’ fiscal considerations, and the rising educated classes and their ‘modern democratic agitation’ eventually gave colonial governmentality in India its tutelary and transformative tone, making the regime in India look very different from Fiji and more like the Philippines.”

If the United States empire, like the British empire, was “liberal” at all, it was only because it was forced to be by the agency of the colonized peoples it meant to rule. If we are to understand either the US empire today, or the British empire before it, we need to recognize that agency and respect it. This is one of the lessons of Patterns of Empire.
Learn more about Patterns of Empire: The British and American Empires, 1688 to the Present at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mia Bloom's "Bombshell: Women and Terrorism"

Mia Bloom is Associate Professor of International Studies and Women’s Studies at Penn State. She is a leading expert on suicide terrorism and is the author of Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror (2005). In addition to her research on terrorism, Bloom conducts research on ethnic conflict, the strategic use of rape in war, and child soldiers.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her most recent book, Bombshell: The Many Faces of Women Terrorists, and reported the following:
I looked through page 99 of the book and in fact it is representative of the book as a whole. Page 99 discusses the suicide terror operation against the Sbarro Pizzeria in Jerusalem in which a women, Ahlam al Tamimi* scouted the located and helped the bomber, Izz Eddine Al Masri kill 15 civilians, most of whom were children and their mothers and wounded 130 others.

Allow me to provide the description of the scene:
It was 2:00 PM, and the two story restaurant was packed with families and young children eating their afternoon snack. When the bomb exploded, 15 civilians were killed instantly and another 130 wounded. Half a dozen strollers lay charred on the street where mothers had left them while they ate lunch. When rescuers ran into the restaurant, the blistered bodies were still smoking, so hot that they could not be touched. The first wave of good samaritans ran in and wrapped the pizzeria's checkered tablecloths around the victims' hair and clothes. Everyone in the restaurant and several passersby had been struck by shards of flying glass when the windows shattered. Streaks of blood ran down people's arms, legs, and torsos. (Bombshell, p. 99)
The book examines what roles women play in terrorist organizations. From scouting locations and planning attacks, to leading some groups and comprising the most elite fighting units, to suicide bombers who use their bodies as weapons. Most people think of women as being inherently more peaceful, and this stereotype is precisely the reason why more and more terrorist groups are using women.

The face of terrorism is changing—and it is now often a woman’s face. No longer can we expect terrorists to look a certain way, be a certain age, or gender. The arrests in the United States of Jihad Jane and Jihad Jamie—two blue-eyed, blonde-haired women—epitomize the increase of women participating in all levels of terrorist organizations. Women are becoming key players. They can even be found in the most seemingly chauvinistic and male-dominated terrorist organizations, like al-Qaeda.

Terrorist organizations know that female bombers generate eight times the amount of media attention that men do using the same tactics. They also know that an attractive woman can also be an excellent distraction. If there are several women from which to choose, they will select the prettier girls. The women chosen for missions are quite literally Bombshells, i.e. some of the most attractive women in their community. Looks aside, women, especially in the Middle East and South Asia, dressed in traditional clothing like the Niqab or the Silwar Kameez, can hide an Improvised Device (IED) effectively and if anything, might give the impression of late term pregnancy – yet another excellent disguise. For the terrorist organizations that use women operatives, it is a win-win scenario. The terrorist organizations increase their recruitment pool by 50% but additionally, are better able to recruit men who may balk at the fact that women are doing their job. Having women involved in terrorism shames men into participating.
[*Editor's note: Ahlam al Tamimi was one of the prisoners exchanged by Israel in October 2011 to secure the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.]

Learn more about Bombshell at the University of Pennsylvania Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Barron H. Lerner's "One for the Road: Drunk Driving Since 1900"

Barron H. Lerner is a physician, historian, and professor of medicine and public health at Columbia University. He is the author of Contagion and Confinement: Controlling Tuberculosis along the Skid Road, When Illness Goes Public, and The Breast Cancer Wars: Hope, Fear, and the Pursuit of a Cure in Twentieth-Century America, winner of the William H. Welch Medal of the American Association for the History of Medicine and named a notable book by the American Library Association.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, One for the Road: Drunk Driving since 1900, and reported the following:
My book, One for the Road: Drunk Driving Since 1900, is about the many reasons why the United States has done a much less effective job of controlling drunk driving than many other countries. When I opened it to page 99, the first thought I had was: "With friends like that, who needs enemies?"

The page describes the research of sociologist H. Laurence Ross, who called into question much of the accepted wisdom of anti-drunk driving activists. Specifically, he argued that the stricter laws and punishments implemented after the founding of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) did not deter people from driving drunk. These findings frustrated MADD and other activist groups, who had finally put drunk driving on the map as a serious public health problem. One MADD official termed Ross "the drunk driver's best friend."

This was not really a fair complaint. It is hard to criticize Ross for doing high quality research that complicated fairly simplistic assumptions about drunk driving control. We are seeing some of the same issues these days as statisticians question the value of
mammograms and prostate specific-antigen to screen for cancer. The challenge for public health campaigns is to evolve when existing constructs are challenged.
Learn more about One for the Road at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

John Perry's "The Pretenses of Loyalty"

John Perry is McDonald Fellow for Christian Ethics & Public Life at the University of Oxford. His Ph.D. is from the University of Notre Dame and he has published articles in the Journal of Religious Ethics, Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, and Scottish Journal of Theology, and elsewhere.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Pretenses of Loyalty: Locke, Liberal Theory, and American Political Theology, and reported the following:
The Pretenses of Loyalty is about the way we relate religion to politics. One of the best-known bits of this story is that we’ve been influenced by John Locke (1632-1704). Prior to his time, the government regulated specific details of religious life, and members of disfavored religions were persecuted (Jews, Catholics, Muslims, and certain Protestants). After Locke’s time, this was essentially—though not entirely—abandoned throughout the West. Locke is particularly influential in America. At the time of the Revolution, he was among the most-read authors in the American colonies (second only to the Bible, apparently). What most people don’t know is that Locke actually began his career as an opponent of religious freedom. How did he come to be one of its great advocates? That is the story of The Pretenses of Loyalty.

The central section explores why he changed his mind so completely, and this is where page 99 falls. On that page, I quote a letter written by Locke when he was still an opponent of religious freedom. He closes with a curious phrase: “leaving nothing to doubt but whether [toleration] now be practicable.” He’s saying that he now realizes religious freedom is desirable, but he just thinks it won’t work. Why not? Because people will take advantage of it.

The two ways in which it will be taken advantage of are (1) the Pretense of Loyalty to God (in which believers avoid legitimate civic duties with spurious religious claims) and (2) the Pretense of Loyalty to the Common Good (where religious bigotry is justified by pretending civic order is at risk). Examples of the first include not paying taxes because an angel told you not to and (true story) the British youth who hid his face with a hood, against a grocery store’s shoplifting policy, because he is a Jedi. An example of the second pretense is the French argument for banning yarmulkes in public schools because they threaten public order. The remainder of the book tells the story of how Locke thinks we can guard against these pretenses, because only once we have, can we form a safe society committed to religious freedom.
Learn more about The Pretenses of Loyalty at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue