Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Jeffrey L. Kirchmeier's "Imprisoned by the Past"

Jeffrey L. Kirchmeier is a Professor of Law at the City University of New York School of Law. He is the author of several law review articles on issues including criminal procedure, constitutional law, U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence, and capital punishment.

Kirchmeier applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Imprisoned by the Past: Warren McCleskey and the American Death Penalty, and reported the following:
Imprisoned by the Past examines the history of the U.S. death penalty from colonial times to modern day, connecting that history to the case of Warren McCleskey where the Supreme Court considered how race affects capital sentencing. In that case, the Court held that even if there were a significant risk that the race of the victim affected death sentences, that finding did not violate the U.S. Constitution.

McCleskey’s case played a pivotal role in the history of capital punishment for a number of reasons. For example, the Court’s decision remains a landmark example of the country’s failure to address race issues.

Another reason McCleskey’s case is a centerpiece of the book is that it was a turning point for how lawyers, judges, activists, and others view capital punishment. His 1987 case was the last time that the Supreme Court realistically might have ended the death penalty, following after the Court struck down the death penalty in 1972 and then upheld new death penalty statutes in 1976.

Page 99 of the book in Chapter 8 (“A New Era”) discusses those 1976 cases where the Court allowed the death penalty to return. In a sense, page 99 does not reveal the expanse of Imprisoned by the Past because the book traces the history of the American death penalty across centuries as well as the role that race plays in the criminal justice system.

But on the other hand, page 99 does reveal a core theme of the book. Gregg v. Georgia and other cases on page 99 discuss the Court’s struggles with the arbitrariness of the system. The Gregg Court considered whether new statutes had eliminated the arbitrariness of distinguishing those sentenced to death from those sentenced to prison. And the Court found that some of the new statutes had satisfactorily curtailed the arbitrariness.

More than a decade later, though, McCleskey’s case challenged that conclusion. Although McCleskey lost his case, his evidence later affected several justices who had decided Gregg v. Georgia. By 2008, three of the justices who voted to uphold the death penalty in Gregg had changed their minds, a swing that would have eliminated the death penalty in the U.S. had they changed their minds earlier. But it took decades of evidence, including the studies presented in Warren McCleskey’s case, to persuade them -- too late -- that the death penalty experiment had failed.
Learn more about Imprisoned by the Past: Warren McCleskey and the American Death Penalty at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Brian Fagan's "The Intimate Bond"

Brian Fagan was born in England and spent several years doing fieldwork in Africa. He is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of New York Times bestseller The Great Warming and many other books, including Fish on Friday: Feasting, Fasting, and the Discovery of the New World, and several books on climate history, including The Little Ice Age and The Long Summer.

Fagan applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Intimate Bond: How Animals Shaped Human History, and reported the following:
From Page 99:
The sacrificial beast processed to the altar, where a priest would scatter grain upon it and then drink a libation. He would then pour the remainder of the wine between the beast’s horns, some hair from the area being burnt as an offering to the gods. The animal was then stunned before its throat was cut and the carcass disemboweled . . . . Every detail of the ritual had to be absolutely correct, or the ceremony and the sacrifice had to be repeated.
Page 99 of The Intimate Bond comes at the end of a chapter on the symbolic ambiguity that surrounded bulls in ancient times. They were symbols of strong leadership, sacrificed to the gods, yet were a vital source of meat, creating a dilemma for those who revered them. Intimate is a history of the changing relationship between humans and animals that focuses on this ambiguity, so p. 99 is a good jumping off point. Ice Age hunters respected, even revered, their quarry. Then they tamed dogs, followed about 12,000 years ago by pigs, sheep, goats, and then cattle. This was when the relationship began to change from one of partnership and respect to one of exploitation, not only for meat and dairy products, but, later, as load carriers when we tamed pack animals, starting with the donkey. These humble beasts I call the “pickup trucks” of ancient times, which opened the first international trade routes across semi-arid lands in what is now the Middle East. They are the unsung heroes of history, working quietly in the shadows, unlike the horse and the camel, both domesticated somewhat later. Camels opened up the Sahara and worked Eurasia’s Silk Road. Horses annihilated distances on the steppes and brought the Mongols to the frontiers of Europe. The Intimate Bond traces the futile, wasteful history of cavalry warfare, epitomized by the Battle of Waterloo and the Charge of the Light Brigade, and shows how an emerging passion for cats, dogs, and other pets coincided with the rise of campaigns against animal cruelty in Victorian times. The Intimate Bond is a multi-faceted account of our complex, ambivalent relationship with animals that forms the background to the current debates over animal rights. This was a very sobering, often disturbing book to write. And I’ll never look at a donkey the same way again.
Visit Brian Fagan's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Great Warming.

The Page 99 Test: The Attacking Ocean.

Writers Read: Brian Fagan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 27, 2015

Margaret Moore's "A Political Theory of Territory"

Margaret Moore is Professor in the Department of Political Studies at Queen's University (Canada). She is the author of Foundations of Liberalism and Ethics of Nationalism.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, A Political Theory of Territory, and reported the following:
Page 99 is not fully representative – it’s a critique of someone else’s account of territory. To be more a more representative page, it would have to articulate my own theory of territory. My theory argues that the right-holding agent (the holder of rights over territory) is the people, and the state is the mechanism by which the people are self-determining. I justify the idea of territory or having territorial rights in terms of the moral value of self-determination.

The book argues in favour of a world divided up in territorial units, as I understand them, both against people who are against territory, and against people who hold a different theory of territory. I apply that theory to a range of problems linked to territory, all of which are now dealt with in an ad hoc way: disputes over natural resources, disputes over boundaries, unoccupied islands, the ocean, the Arctic, and disputes rooted in historic injustice with regard to land; and secessionist conflicts.
Learn more about A Political Theory of Territory at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Shelley Stamp's "Lois Weber in Early Hollywood"

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 24, 2015

Jeffrey S. Gurock's "Holocaust Averted"

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Emma Sky's "The Unraveling"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 20, 2015

Martin Goldsmith's "Alex's Wake"

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 19, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 17, 2015

Nancy Woloch's "A Class by Herself"

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 16, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dagmawi Woubshet's "The Calendar of Loss"

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

James C. Robinson's "Purchasing Medical Innovation"

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

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

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

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

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

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 13, 2015

Steve A. Yetiv's "Myths of the Oil Boom"

Steve A. Yetiv is the Louis I. Jaffe Professor of International Relations at Old Dominion University. His books include The Petroleum Triangle (2011) and National Security Through a Cockeyed Lens (2013). He has also published over 250 editorials in papers including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Christian Science Monitor, and has appeared on CNN, CNBC, C-SPAN and NPR.

Yetiv applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Myths of the Oil Boom: American National Security in a Global Energy Market, and reported the following:
Page 99 is representative of my book only in so far as it helps sketch one of the many myths of the oil boom. The oil boom refers to the revolution in the production of American oil—a development that has altered global energy and security but whose effects, I believe, are exaggerated. Many thinkers and leaders believe that the oil boom, for instance, will significantly protect the United States from oil disruptions which would be very important since most of America's recessions have been related to such disruptions.

There is some truth to this view but I feel that it is exaggerated because the United States and the world over the past four decades have become much better at deterring and containing oil disruptions and this occurred before the oil boom. Therefore, the oil boom is just one more shock absorber against oil disruptions. It can be added to the mix of shock absorbers that have developed over time, including the development of strategic petroleum reserves and American military capability and cooperation in the Persian Gulf.

Page 99 discusses two of these shock absorbers, including a measure of efficiency called energy intensity. Even though as page 99 notes the United States lacks a comprehensive energy policy, it has become become much more efficient at using energy over the past several decades which makes the economy less susceptible to the impact of oil shocks.

While page 99 ties into the broader book concept of myths of the oil boom, it cannot capture the ultimate message of the book which is that the American oil boom is no replacement for sustainable energy practices. We cannot have long-term energy independence by producing more oil. That can only come by using less fossil fuels. Producing more oil does not deal with some of the fundamental problems of our time which are tied to using oil including conflict, climate change, and transnational terrorism. While pursuing the oil boom makes sense so long as the world is so dependent on oil, there is a danger that the oil boom will make us complacent about the importance of more involved and sustainable energy practices.
Learn more about Myths of the Oil Boom at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Raymond Taras's "Fear and the Making of Foreign Policy"

Ray Taras's recent books include Xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe and (editor) Challenging multiculturalism: European models of diversity.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Fear and the Making of Foreign Policy: Europe and Beyond, and reported the following:
What is the only thing François Hollande has done as President that has proved popular with the French public? If you’ve answered bombing Mali you’d be right. Why this decisiveness shown by Hollande in January 2013 was popular is explained on p. 99 of my book. But there are other reasons why I would like readers to look at page 99, and the 200 others, of my book.

“Fear’s a powerful thing” cautioned Bruce Springsteen on Devils and Dust; “It can turn your heart black.” I distinguish many kinds of fears in contemporary society – existential, official, cosmic, national, religious, hypopsic. Hypopsic? A fear and distrust of others is how Thucydides defined hypopsia, one of five words he used for fear in his History of the Peloponnesian Wars. Distrust is important to understanding why international politics are so fractious these days. Why there are so many academic books on trust and so few on distrust is puzzling.

My book is about Europe – and beyond. In his 2013 United Nations speech Iranian President Hassan Rouhani catalogued the world’s many fears: fear of war and of hostile regional and global relations; fear of violence and extremism; fear of aggressive religious, ethnic, and national identities; fear of poverty and toxic discrimination; fear of the destruction of life-sustaining resources; fear of widespread contempt for human dignity and rights; fear of disrespect for moral arguments. Paraphrasing Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie’s speech to the U.N. on war in 1963 (adapted in a Bob Marley song), we can say that all over there is fear - fear in the East, fear in the West, fear up North, fear down South.

Slavoj Žižek has chronicled other malign phobias today: fear of immigrants, fear of crime, fear of godless sexual depravity, fear of the excessive state. For him the menacing shark in the 1975 film Jaws represents a master signifier today. It foreshadowed the arrival of “waves” of immigrants, often also coming across the sea. Stranger danger. Foreigner fear. Xenophobia. All the subjects of my study. The consequences of these irrational but altogether natural phenomena – stranger anxiety appears in the infant at about six months when an unfamiliar person shows up in its life – are my concern. Specifically, how fears at home shape a country’s foreign policy abroad.

Back to the bombing of Mali. In my case study of France I argue that Hollande’s foreign policy behavior is connected with, though not caused by (as a short methods chapter makes clear) many French citizens’ fears of Muslims living in their midst. In a second case study, of Poland, I find that political elites more than the public have always been distrustful of neighboring Russia. But attributing chronic russophobia to this nation isn’t supported by the evidence we have. I ask: were Poles nevertheless prescient in being suspicious about the Kremlin’s grand strategy well before fears of Russia spread across the world in 2014 (opinion surveys show such a dramatic upturn)?

A third case I examine is Sweden where it is claimed that fear of fear itself is an influential norm. Despite a gold standard of humanitarian policies in both domestic and foreign policies there is a dark, unspoken side to the interconnected dimensions (as in a Stieg Larsson novel). The most recent scandal (not covered in my book) illustrates this well: a new Swedish foreign minister announces a feminist foreign policy but when she shows she is serious and chastises Saudi Arabia (with which Sweden conducts a significant arms trade) for its record on women’s rights, Margot Wallström is called in for a talking to by the King of Sweden himself. Does this foreign policy – fear of the Saudis among others – mirror the flawed record the country has at home on recognizing and empowering outsider groups like asylum seekers, the majority of whom today come from the Middle East?

Fear is just one prism through which we can observe the turbulent contemporary world. In the last chapter I ask if the U.S. is exceptional – once again – in engaging in foreign policy behavior that is marked less by fear than by fearlessness. That would distinguish it viscerally from the fearfulness permeating European states. I offer no conclusive answer to this question in the concluding chapter. But my modest hope is that I have captured some of the spirit of Thucydides’ meditation on fear that his History has been called and, in this way, helped explain the chaos and irrationality of our times.
Visit Ray Taras's website.

The Page 99 Test: Xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 10, 2015

Kimerer L. LaMothe's "Why We Dance"

Kimerer L. LaMothe is a dancer, philosopher, and scholar of religion who lives on a farm in upstate New York with her life partner, two oxen, two horses, three cows, four cats, eleven hens, and five children.

LaMothe is the author of numerous articles and five books, including Nietzsche’s Dancers: Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, and the Revaluation of Christian Values, Between Dancing and Writing: The Practice of Religious Studies, and her latest, Why We Dance: A Philosophy of Bodily Becoming.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to Why We Dance and reported the following:
When I first flipped to page 99, I thought: Oh no. My book is nothing like this. I don’t even use the word “dance”!

Page 99 appears near the end of chapter 4, “To Dance is to Be Born.” It appears a page after I have just finished tying up a large argument in which I weave an account of my fifth child’s birth through a discussion of birth in the human species from an evolutionary perspective, in order to make the case that humans are creatures for whom dance is a “biological necessity.” Exciting!

On page 99, I am taking a bit of a breather, shifting gears, and citing developments in the scientific literature that bolster this argument. Not so exciting.

Then again, I thought, perhaps page 99 is perfect after all. It shows that Why We Dance is not only or merely about dance. This book is about what it means to be human. In it, “dance” serves as a catalyst for reconsidering and revising assumptions about humans that animate contemporary culture and its scholarship.

Chapter 4, for example, challenges the idea that “we” humans are minds who live in bodies. The scientific discoveries I describe on page 99 are building the case that our brains and the “mindness states” they generate “have evolved for the express purpose of helping us move our bodily selves in the most efficient, expedient, and expressive ways” (from page 98). These studies indicate that how we move our bodily selves matters to the biological development of our brains. Or rather, they indicate that how our bodily selves move makes it possible for us to have a brain that can think of itself as “I” at all.

Page 99, then, is not just evidence in support of my argument; it is an exploration of its implications. Page 99 offers new ways to appreciate the significance of facts we have already gathered for understanding why and how dance is vital to our humanity. That, to me, is exciting.
Visit Kimerer L. LaMothe's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Natalia Mehlman Petrzela's "Classroom Wars"

Natalia Mehlman Petrzela is Assistant Professor of History at The New School and a former public school teacher. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, and The Huffington Post.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Classroom Wars: Language, Sex, and the Making of Modern Political Culture, and reported the following:
The words “Some Kind of Precedent” lead page 99 of Classroom Wars. They title the last chapter of the book’s first part, “Language,” and intimate the “so what?” of Classroom Wars as a whole: that the vitriolic wars over sex and bilingual education in the 1960s and 70s were a turning point in American political culture, and that their contemporary legacy is mixed. Today’s schools have been shaped by the victories of progressive education as much as by the triumphs of traditionalism, and we can better understand our contemporary context – and the meaning of that vaguely defined precedent, about which I will say more in a moment – by exploring how schools interacted with two of the era’s most signal developments: the sexual revolution and civil rights movements.

Specifically, journalists who covered the Lau v. Nichols case in 1974 repeated the noncommittal phrase “some kind of precedent” endlessly in their coverage of this precedent-setting Supreme Court case. Lau followed the Bilingual Education Act of 1968, strengthening the federal requirement that schools address the needs of foreign-language learners, policies resulting from the efforts of a surprisingly inclusive cross-section of activists, educators, and lawmakers ranging from Brown Power Chicanos to moderate Republicans, all of whom realized that the influx of Spanish-speaking immigrants after 1965 represented an urgent challenge – or an opportunity, depending on your politics – for American schools and society. As the more radical elements of this uneasy coalition took ownership of the bilingual education cause, “a conservative resistance,” as page 99 describes, “gained strength precisely because of this success.”

Such journalists, shying away from definitive pronouncements about the implications of this bilingual education activism, foreshadowed a reticence among historians, who explore many facets of the educational culture wars, but who either ignore bilingual education completely, or see its troubled course as merely another step in the uninterrupted forward march of late 20th-century right-wing conservatism.

But the rise of the Right isn’t the whole story – nor is page 99. The second half of the book, “Sex,” argues that sex education, like bilingual-bicultural education, was another initiative paradoxically energized by the counterculture and simultaneously tasked with mitigating its nefarious effects on young people. Classroom Wars explores the strange and intertwined histories of these two very different initiatives, and raises questions about what they might mean to our present.
Learn more about Classroom Wars at the Oxford University Press website and Natalia Mehlman Petrzela's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Donald R. Hickey's "Glorious Victory"

Donald R. Hickey, whom the New Yorker described as "the dean of 1812 scholarship," teaches history at Wayne State College in Nebraska. He has written several books on the conflict, including The Rockets’ Red Glare: An Illustrated History of the War of 1812 and The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict.

Hickey applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Glorious Victory: Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans, and reported the following:
Great Britain’s Reconnaissance in Force, treated on page 99, was the second of four battles fought south of New Orleans in late 1814/early 1815 when the British invaded the Gulf Coast near the end of the War of 1812. Andrew Jackson won all four times, which was not only a tribute to his generalship—which was superior to that of any other commander in the war—but also a reflection of the difficulties of waging offensive warfare in the North American wilderness.

The three offensive campaigns that involved at least 10,000 men in this war—the double-barreled U.S. assault against Montreal in 1813, the British invasion of northern New York in 1814, and the culminating battle of the Gulf Coast in 1815 (which was the Battle of New Orleans)—all failed, largely because it was so much more difficult to keep an army that was marching through the wilderness supplied and reinforced than it was to dig in and hold a position near one’s supply lines and reserves. In sum, neither side figured out how to overcome the stupendous logistical problems of waging war in this environment. And that, more than anything else, explains why this campaign failed and why the war ended in a draw on the battlefield, with neither side in a position to demand concessions from the other.

Hence, even though the end of the war in Europe in the spring of 1814 had meant the British could re-deploy men, ships, and material to the American war and thus were now in the driver’s seat, they had to settle in the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the contest, for a settlement that simply restored the status quo ante bellum, that is, the state that existed before the war.
Learn more about Glorious Victory at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 6, 2015

Stephen R. Berry's "A Path in the Mighty Waters"

Stephen R. Berry received his doctoral degree at Duke University and is an associate professor of history at Simmons College where he teaches courses in Early American, Atlantic World, and American religious history. He enjoys sailing and wrote part of his new book, A Path in the Mighty Waters: Shipboard Life and Atlantic Crossings to the New World, at the Munson Institute of Mystic Seaport.

Berry applied the “Page 99 Test” to A Path in the Mighty Waters and reported the following:
If you turn to page 99 of A Path in the Mighty Waters: Shipboard Life and Atlantic Crossings to the New World, you will find yourself in the middle of a description capturing the particular difficulties that women passengers faced aboard British sailing ships. This section argues that maritime workers created a distinctly masculine space that created problems for women when they embarked upon these vessels. “Male crews sometimes viewed women aboard ship to be “Jonahs,” on whom could be placed the responsibility for seagoing misfortunes.” After citing several examples of how sailors scapegoated women for problems encountered during the voyage, I conclude, “Eighteenth-century sailing vessels were anything but gender-neutral sites.”

My book focuses particularly on the religious aspects of shipboard culture, and page 99 shows how clergy could also be singled out as “Jonahs” within the particular gendering of this space. For example, the eighteenth-century itinerant preacher George Whitefield noted the disfavor his presence stimulated during a military convoy “that our ship was looked upon with an evil eye, upon my account and that I was the Jonah in the fleet.” Faced with the same sorts of accusations as women, clergymen often allied with female passengers to combat the perceived excesses of shipboard masculinity.

Overall, this page demonstrates my book’s concern with how the distinct shaping of shipboard time and space affected the cultural practices of those crossing the Atlantic. The conflict over the gendered nature of ship space took place in the extended time of the Atlantic crossing and within a space that condensed social distinctions. In terms of religious practice, Atlantic travel narratives from the eighteenth-century reveal a kaleidoscope of practices and beliefs. Europeans of varying backgrounds intermixed on British sailing vessels without the dominance of any single religious tradition. In varying degrees, these groups competed to establish themselves aboard ship and to create community where none may have existed previously. The ship required a reorganization of practice to enact spiritual order on the chaotic sea. The beliefs of the Old World did not simply transfer to the New, but experienced a translation in the crossing. Approximating the old cultures, migrants never completely recreated them. The barrier of the storm-tossed Atlantic Ocean accounted for the disruption in the transfer of mental and material culture, yet this same Atlantic provided the time and space in which the process of cultural adjustment took place. Page 99 illustrates this type of cultural shifting in terms of the gendered space aboard ship.
Learn more about A Path in the Mighty Waters at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 5, 2015

John M. Kinder's "Paying with Their Bodies"

John Kinder is an assistant professor of American studies and history at Oklahoma State University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Paying with Their Bodies: American War and the Problem of the Disabled Veteran, and reported the following:
From page 99:
During the first few months of the ceasefire, Woods’s office was inundated with letters, postcards, and wire messages from veterans seeking work. Some men sent in full resumes complete with detailed lists of their qualifications and vocational interests. The saddest missives told of veterans revisiting their old firms only to discover that they were considered no longer qualified or that former underlings had now become their superiors. In March 1919, Woods created the Emergency Employment Committee, consisting of former soldiers, college professors, and experts in the fields of business, management, and law. Over the next nine months, the committee sponsored job classes, promoted public works projects, and distributed thousands of engraved citations to businesses that hired out-of-work veterans. Recognizing the importance of good publicity, Woods launched a multimedia propaganda campaign to convince hesitant employers that ex-soldiers were, in his words, an “excellent buy.”

Despite Woods’s efforts, veterans with disabling injuries or mental impairments remained vulnerable to the dramatic contraction of the postwar economy. Many of the private-sector jobs promised in the flush of victory never materialized, and government placement officers struggled to persuade employers that permanently disabled men could hold their own alongside their nondisabled counterparts. In some cases, veterans’ unemployment (or underemployment) was a result of recurring war-related illnesses or old wounds that refused to heal. Hit by a piece of shrapnel in the Argonne Forest, Ralph V. Anderson, a carpenter from Harwick, Pennsylvania, was forced to quit his job after only four months because of insomnia, post-traumatic nervousness, and chronic necrosis (his head wound did not stop draining fluid until 1922). Others had been unhealthy upon enlistment and, despite incurring no actual wounds, were mustered out of service physically and mentally incapacitated. When he joined the Navy in July 1917, Francis Burke, an electric crane operator from Philadelphia, already suffered from painful varicose veins in his legs and a possible case of pulmonary tuberculosis. Aggravated by his service, his symptoms grew progressively worse, as near daily bouts of nausea and vomiting were compounded with night sweats, weight loss, and a relentless hacking cough. By the time Burke was finally discharged for disability in April 1919, he was spitting blood and too weak to return to the factory.
Page 99 is a somber page in a largely somber book. The page opens with a scene from the early months of 1919. World War I is over, and the US economy has slipped into recession. Arthur Woods, a former New York police commissioner, has been tasked by the War Department to help ex-soldiers transition to civilian life. But not all veterans have returned from the Western Front on equal footing. Some former doughboys are blind, have lost limbs, or are incapacitated by disease—and now they need assistance.

Page 99 illustrates one of the central themes of Paying with Their Bodies: the postwar hardships of disabled veterans. The historical experience of disabled vets in the United States has been marked by recurring patterns of social prejudice and economic privation. Indeed, a cynical reader might come away from the book thinking that Americans prefer fatal casualties to disabled ones. (And, to be honest, that cynical reader is probably right.)

At the same time, page 99 hints at a significant change in public policy toward disabled veterans. By World War I, many in the federal government were no longer content to reward disabled vets with a pension or a bed in a soldiers’ home. Instead, they believed that the “problem of the disabled veteran” was best solved by turning “helpless cripples” into “useful citizens.” As a result, the government reorganized its veterans’ programs around the concept of rehabilitation, an integrated regimen of physical therapy and vocational training. Aimed at restoring wounded warriors to “normal” life, rehabilitation has been the backbone of US disabled veterans’ policy ever since.

Still, page 99 fails to capture perhaps the most important concern of the book: the relationship between disabled veterans and American conceptions of war. In Paying with Their Bodies, I contend that disabled veterans have been at the center of two competing visions of war since the late 19th century. The first imagines the dawn of a post-disability era of American warfare, one in which the most devastating wounds can be erased thanks to technology and social planning. The second vision is far less optimistic and, in my mind, far more credible. Its dominant message: that life-shattering physical and mental trauma has been—and will be—an inevitable consequence of American military conflict overseas.
Visit John M. Kinder's website.

Writers Read: John M. Kinder.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 3, 2015

Gary Scott Smith's "Religion in the Oval Office"

Gary Scott Smith is Chair of the History Department at Grove City College. He is the author of numerous books on history and religion including Faith and the Presidency: From George Washington to George W. Bush, and Heaven in the American Imagination.

Smith applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Religion in the Oval Office: The Religious Lives of American Presidents, and reported the following:
My page 99 discusses John Quincy Adams’s efforts to understand the nature of the Trinity. Adams, like his father John, was one of the nation’s most erudite and pensive presidents. John Quincy spoke several languages, read widely, wrote poetry, and was very knowledgeable about the sciences. Adams’s faith was central to his convictions, character, and conduct and strongly influenced his political ideals and practices. He attended church faithfully for much of his life and while president worshipped twice every Sunday, alternating among Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and Unitarian services.

Unlike his father who concluded that Jesus was not divine, John Quincy Adams could never make up his mind about Christ’s deity. The nature of Jesus, Adams wrote, was a “speculative question” upon which he refused to take sides. Only a few other presidents apparently grappled with this issue, most notably Thomas Jefferson (especially in his famous “Jefferson Bible” that eliminated almost all New Testament references to Christ’s divinity and miracles) and William Howard Taft (who was a life-long Unitarian). However, several other presidents, including George Washington, James Madison, and Richard Nixon, said little publicly or even privately about Jesus.

Nevertheless, numerous presidents have exhibited a deep and meaningful faith that has shaped their worldviews and characters and have testified that their religious convictions influenced their political philosophy, analysis of issues, decision-making, and performance in office. His religious commitments strongly affected John Quincy Adams’s efforts to fund roads, canals, and educational institutions and promote diplomacy. Their Christian faith also influenced William McKinley’s decisions to declare war against Spain and take control of the Philippines; Herbert Hoover’s quests to reform prisons and defend civil liberties; Harry Truman’s approach to the Cold War and decision to recognize Israel; Bill Clinton’s promotion of religious liberty; Barack Obama’s policies on poverty and gay civil rights; and the crusades of several presidents to advance world peace.
Learn more about Religion in the Oval Office at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Heaven in the American Imagination.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ian Millhiser's "Injustices"

Ian Millhiser is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and the editor of ThinkProgress Justice. He received his JD from Duke University and clerked for Judge Eric L. Clay of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. His writings have appeared in a diversity of publications, including the New York Times, the Guardian, the Nation, the American Prospect, and the Yale Law & Policy Review.

Millhiser applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Injustices: The Supreme Court's History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted, and reported the following:
Injustices is the history of the Supreme Court told through the eyes of the people who've suffered most because of its decisions. The book focuses on two intertwined narratives. One describes the political and legal culture that produced justices who were willing to uphold segregation, strike down child labor laws and give wealthy donors free rein to use their fortunes to influence elections. The second portrays the lives of ostensibly freed slaves forced to work in peonage or under other forms of apartheid. It reports the mind-numbing and, at times, deadly work that children performed in factories and coal mines. And it shows how the modern Court is rapidly embracing the values that animated these older decisions.

Page 99 of Injustices is a pivotal moment in the first of these narratives. Lochner v. New York struck down a law prohibiting bakery owners from overworking bakers. It's frequently cited by lawyers as the pinnacle of judicial arrogance. More than simply an anti-labor decision, Lochner was a repudiation of the idea that America is a nation governed by the people's representatives. As I explain on page 99, the decision wrote "fear of democracy into the Constitution."

Lochner concluded, among other things, that bakeries are not sufficiently unhealthy workplaces to justify limiting the length of a baker's work day. Page 99 explains that the author of Lochner "had neither training as a physician nor any background in the sciences. Yet he took it upon himself to decide which workplaces were healthful and which ones dangerous enough to justify state intervention. And his opinion in Lochner was an invitation for every other judge in the country to do the same."

The book's discussion of Lochner is the culmination of several chapters discussing how the justices substituted their values for those of the people's elected representatives. Yet it also is one of the more technical pages in the book. The parts of the book that I am most proud of concern the book's second narrative—the stories of individual Americans who suffered dearly because of the decisions of nine judges in Washington.

There is no shortage of scholarship attacking the legal basis of bad Supreme Court decisions—and Injustices does plenty of that as well. I hope that its greatest contribution, however, will be its many pages describing the human cost of a Court that replaces the law with its own desires.
Learn more about Injustices at the publisher's website; follow Ian Millhiser on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue