Tuesday, July 23, 2019

James Tharin Bradford's "Poppies, Politics, and Power"

James Tharin Bradford is Assistant Professor of History at Berklee College of Music, and Adjunct Lecturer at Babson College. He has published in the Journal of Iranian Studies, Oxford University Handbook of Drug History, and Illegal Cannabis Cultivation in the World.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Poppies, Politics, and Power: Afghanistan and the Global History of Drugs and Diplomacy, and reported the following:
Jumping into page 99 of Poppies, Politics, and Power, puts the readers into one of the most significant shifts in the history of drug policy in Afghanistan. Prior to 1956, Afghanistan was engaged in the quasi-legal sale of raw opium to many European and American pharmaceutical companies. Although in 1945, the Afghan government had announced a ban on the production and sale of opium it did not, however, pass legislation or enforce the law, mainly using the prohibition to convince the United States to sign a massive economic aid package in exchange for a ban on drugs. More important, the lack of legislative action was due in part largely to the fact that the production of opium was common in many parts of Afghanistan, and in some cases, had developed into an important export crop throughout much of the early twentieth century. Many Afghan officials within the Afghan government were reluctant to prohibit a product that could be a potential lucrative source of revenue for one of the poorest countries in the world. By page 99, we are in the thick of the Afghans rationale…
A legal opium industry could become a core export for a state in dire need of one, and through increased trade with the United States, the state would become a powerful ally in a vital region of the world…Seventy-five tons a year would hypothetically add $1.5 million in foreign exchange reserves. Given the outflow in foreign exchange that started at the end of World War II, this was advantageous. The opium export would also provide a stable source of revenue for poor regions of Afghanistan, Badakhshan in particular. (pg 99)
As you are reading this, much of the Afghan rationale for a legal opium industry probably makes sense. However, one of the keys for ratification for legal production and export under the Opium Protocol was that the government needed to demonstrate control over production. And this was the death knell for a possible legal opium industry in Afghanistan. The Afghan government was limited in its capacity to control much of the country, let alone control the opium trade. Recognizing that legalization was unlikely, Daud Khan announced a nationwide prohibition of opium in 1957.

This page 99 test captures an interesting period in Afghan history given that in 1956, the Afghan government almost became an internationally recognized producer of licit opium. However, as the rest of my book details, in the decades following the 1956 deliberations the illicit drug trade in Afghanistan expanded dramatically, to the point where it now supplies nearly 90% of the world’s illicit supply of heroin. It is certainly interesting to think where Afghanistan would be today if they had been granted legal status, and whether the opium trade would be a beneficial part of the legal economy, rather than the world’s leading source of illicit heroin.
Learn more about Poppies, Politics, and Power at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 22, 2019

Nemata Blyden's "African Americans and Africa"

Nemata Blyden is associate professor of history and international affairs at George Washington University. She is the author of West Indians in West Africa, 1808–1880: The African Diaspora in Reverse.

Blyden applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, African Americans and Africa: A New History, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The new nation did not allow for easy acceptance of African Americans as equal and full citizens. By labeling blacks inferior white Americans could justify their shameful treatment of them. In the new century the expansion of democratic rights for whites accompanied a lessening of black rights. The swelling number of free blacks in the postrevolutionary period posed a major problem, particularly in the South. The United States essentially had a free black problem, as those newly emancipated faced more legal restrictions. The flexibility and mobility they had enjoyed in the seventeenth century was gone by the nineteenth. Although Northern blacks had a little more autonomy than their counterparts in the South, they still confronted restrictive legislation and racism. The federal government itself behaved in discriminatory ways, passing immigration and naturalization laws limiting citizenship to whites, and restricting blacks from enlisting in militias or serving as mail carriers, among other things. Individual states also imposed onerous legislation curbing the rights of free blacks. In the South free blacks, especially those who thrived, like the Jones family, exposed the myth of black incapacity. The many successes of free blacks belied Southern justifications that slavery was necessary because those of African descent needed the care and protection of whites to survive. The expanding number of successful blacks like Jehu Jones challenged the very idea of black inferiority.

Slaveholders feared a thriving free population might incite the enslaved to rebel or run away. Consequently, they assigned them to the inferior category in which slaves had been placed. With the growing number of them in the North at war’s end, Southern legislatures passed restrictive laws targeting the free blacks in their states, and curtailing the possibility of freedom for those still in slavery. There were very few free blacks in states like South Carolina and Georgia, although Charleston and Savannah had small populations of affluent blacks. Although laws in many Southern states recognized free blacks, their status was conditional, relying on recognition and validation from white citizens. Regardless of their class and status, all blacks faced restrictions and prohibitions. In most Southern states free blacks had no voting rights and were forced to prove their status. This required them to register with authorities, sometimes to...
I was not necessarily skeptical of this test, but was curious about how it would work for my book which is such a long sweep of history and a particular focus on African American engagement with Africa. I was, therefore, quite pleased with my results. Is it a good “browser’s shortcut?” I am not sure, but it does highlight a very important theme I address throughout the book – the discrimination African Americans have faced in the United States which has sometimes made (makes) them turn their gaze towards Africa. Page 99 (particularly the first paragraph) addresses the diminution of black rights in the United States during the nineteenth century. Increasing discrimination and marginalization of black Americans resulted in loss of rights, increasing racism, and even violence. The nineteenth century saw a hardening of slavery in the South, while blacks in northern states faced legal restrictions and economic competition from a growing immigrant population from Europe. What I have shown in previous chapters is how African descended women and men came to be in the United States, the many adjustments they had to make, how they coped with life in enslavement, the ways they tried to maintain a connection to Africa, and their growing claims on America and its ideals. The chapter from which this page comes, shows the frustration felt by African Americans as they tried to assert their right to citizenship, equality, and to find a place in American society. For some the increasing hostility was a sign that blacks would never be fully accepted as equals in the United States, and they looked to Africa as a possible solution. For many more African Americans, however, the solution was not emigration, but an opportunity to mobilize and fight for equality in the country of their birth, engage in activism against slavery, and assert their right to citizenship. Unfortunately, as subsequent chapters show African Americans continued to face rejection, relegation to the sidelines, and unequal opportunities which ensured that Africa would remain in the consciousness of many.
Learn more about African Americans and Africa at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Pamela D. Toler's "Women Warriors: An Unexpected History"

Armed with a PhD in history, a well-thumbed deck of library cards, and a large bump of curiosity, author, speaker, and historian, Pamela D. Toler translates history for a popular audience. She goes beyond the familiar boundaries of American history to tell stories from other parts of the world as well as history from the other side of the battlefield, the gender line, or the color bar. Toler is the author of eight books of popular history for children and adults, including Women Warriors: An Unexpected History. Her work has appeared in Aramco World, Calliope, History Channel Magazine, MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, The Washington Post and Time.com.

Toler applied the “Page 99 Test” to Women Warriors: An Unexpected History and reported the following:
I went into Women Warriors with a simple definition of women warriors as women for whom battle wasn't a metaphor. It was a nice starting point, but I quickly realized I needed more detailed standards as I sifted through the thousands of possible stories and decided which ones to tell. These were the main criteria that I worked with:
  • Women had to have been part of an army, served as what the modern American military calls a combatant commander, or physically wielded a weapon, even if that meant throwing rocks down from the wall of a besieged city.
  • There had to be some reason to believe a woman actually existed, even if she acquired some mythical elements over time.
  • I wanted women from a variety of time periods, cultures, and social standing. (In other words, not just women from Western Europe and not just queens and their equivalents.)
Twice I consciously chose to fudge on my definitions. To my amusement, page 99 deals with one of those exceptions.

My chapter on warrior queens ended with the story of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who did not lead her forces at the front in World War II even though she had in fact planned to "share the fate of the soldier and...to be the last man to fall in the last ditch." Thwarted in her desire to be a literal warrior queen, she became an emblem of resistance.

I chose to include her story because it illustrates beautifully that the time of warrior queens has largely passed. Wilhelmina took on a new role as queen at the same time that thousands of women had new opportunities to enlist in their countries' military forces as a result of desperate manpower shortages.

Here's Wilhelmina's story as it appears on Page 99:
Informed the army could no longer guarantee her safety, Wilhelmina reluctantly left The Hague and boarded a British destroyer. Once aboard, wearing a life jacket and a steel helmet, she instructed the commander to set his course for Zeeland province, at the southwestern tip of the country, where Dutch and French troops were fighting the Germans. The British commander informed her the sea route to the southwest was too dangerous. His instructions were to go directly to England. She had no choice but to agree. Once she landed, she demanded an immediate return to Holland, and was politely refused. Clutching a gas mask and the steel helmet she had worn on the destroyer, Wilhelmina boarded the train to London.

Unable to join her troops on the battlefield, Wilhelmina found another way to fight. The queen, who had always been separated from her people by custom and her own stiff personality, became the heart of her country’s resistance. Hours after the German attack began, she made her first radio broadcast against the Nazis, declaring over Dutch radio, “I raise a fierce protest against this flagrant violation of good faith, this outrage against all that is decent between civilized states.” She made her next broadcast the day after she arrived in Britain. Every day thereafter, the queen spoke to her people at the start of the Radio Orange program broadcast to the Netherlands by the BBC. Her radio speeches were passionate and personal; with one exception, she wrote them herself. Again and again she told her subjects the war was a struggle between good and evil. There could be no compromise with Hitler and his “gang of war criminals.” She urged her people to resist the invaders and berated the Dutch “scoundrels” who cooperated with the Third Reich. The Dutch joked that the queen’s grandchildren weren’t allowed to listen to her broadcasts from their refuge in Canada because she used such foul language when she talked about the Nazis.

Late in World War II, Winston Churchill quipped, “I fear no man in the world but Queen Wilhelmina.” A ferocious chess player, he recognized the power of a queen in motion.
Visit Pamela D. Toler's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Joseph M. Adelman's "Revolutionary Networks"

Joseph M. Adelman is an Assistant Professor in the History Department at Framingham State University in Framingham, Massachusetts.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Revolutionary Networks: The Business and Politics of Printing the News, 1763–1789, and reported the following:
A section break sits in the middle of page 99 of Revolutionary Networks; reading the conclusion of one section and the introduction of another, it turns out, is an awkward way to represent the argument of a book. Nonetheless, it actually provides a decent window into what I aim to accomplish in Revolutionary Networks. The page begins with the conclusion of a section on the interaction between newspaper printers and the Boston Committee of Correspondence, an extralegal organization formed in 1772 to circulate news and information about anti-imperial efforts in the colonies. For obvious reasons, the Committee wanted to enlist the help of Boston printers to circulate their letters and arguments in print (especially their newspapers), but printers balked because committee members sent dozens of requests for printers to publish notices for free. Though many of them had political beliefs that roughly aligned with those of the Committee, they stood up to the Committee and refused to print the letters unless the Committee subsidized their publication.

Members of the committee also tried to build networks beyond Boston, which is where we find them at work on page 99. As they received correspondence from towns around the colonies, they would forward those letters back to newspaper printers in the area from which they came to be reprinted:
For instance, the committee ordered that a copy of resolves from the town of Ashford, Connecticut, offering support for Boston during the Port Act crisis, be delivered “to the Printer of the New London Gazette, desiring him To Print the same.” Along the same lines, Samuel Adams struck up a correspondence with Charleston printer Peter Timothy in the early 1770s and continued the connection after the Tea Act crisis, when Timothy had become secretary to the Charleston Committee of Correspondence.
The final part of page 99 opens a new section on how newspaper printers, the Boston Committee of Correspondence, and others mobilized the pathways they had developed (and which I outline in Revolutionary Networks) to generate opposition to the 1773 Tea Act and then circulate news about the Boston Tea Party. Their efforts form part of the larger story of Revolutionary Networks, in which colonial printers—men and women who were middling artisans rather than elite members of society—shaped the political arguments and actions of the American Revolution through the prism of their commercial interests.
Visit Joseph M. Adelman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Robert Samet's "Deadline: Populism and the Press in Venezuela"

Robert Samet is assistant professor of anthropology at Union College in New York.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Deadline: Populism and the Press in Venezuela, and reported the following:
Deadline is based on fieldwork with crime reporters in Venezuela during the Hugo Chávez era. It began with a seemingly simple question. Why was urban violence out of control? The question was complicated by an atmosphere of extreme political polarization that pitted the private press against the Chávez government. Page 99 lays bare this dynamic. Readers who open to this page find themselves in the middle of a murder mystery. At the center is Jorge Tortoza, a crime photographer killed during the failed April 11, 2002 coup d’état against President Chávez.

I’ll admit that I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized page 99 was occupied by the intertwined stories of Tortoza’s death and the failed coup against Chávez. These materials encapsulate the substance of the book. No episode in recent Venezuelan history has been more closely scrutinized than April 11. On page 99 I am explaining what is widely known among Venezuelan journalists—the private press openly supported the coup.
In the months leading up to April 11, news coverage returned time and again to two subjects: the president’s declining popularity and loud rumblings of discontent within the military. Press elites fanned rumors of a coup, and in at least one important case these elites actively and intentionally planted them. The press also played a pivotal role in promoting the march. The time and place of the demonstration were a relatively last-minute decision and it took a Herculean effort on the part of the private television and radio stations to get the word out. Without the massive pro bono publicity campaign, it is unlikely that anyone would have showed up on the morning of April 11. In addition to promoting the march, some of the more radical news outlets pushed it toward a confrontation. For example, on the morning of April 11 the headline of El Nacional read, ‘The Final Battle Will Be at Miraflores.’ It is not simply that this headline used combative imagery. It seemed to publicly proclaim intent to violate the marching permit by crossing into chavista [i.e., Chávez’s supporters] territory.
April 11 is crucial evidence for the book’s argument. For half a century, the private press has been the main channel for populist mobilization in Venezuela. This point may surprise some readers. Most discussions of Venezuelan politics cast Hugo Chávez as the populist and his opponents in the press as liberal democrats. Working with crime reporters revealed to the contrary the logic of populism suffused everything in Venezuela.

There are parallels between the Venezuelan case and events unfolding in the United States. Chávez’s feud with the Venezuelan press echoes the war of words between our president and the Washington news corps. Conservative media outlets propelled this rising tide of rightwing populism and mainstream journalism has adopted an increasingly populist tone.

It would be a mistake, however, to blame the media for our predicament. This is exactly what happened among Chávez’s supporters in Venezuela. They came to see journalists like Jorge Tortoza as the enemy. His fellow crime journalists believe that his press credentials made him a target. After his death it became known that Tortoza supported the Chávez government. Eventually, both sides of the political aisle—chavismo and the opposition—claimed him as a martyr for their cause. None of this benefited Tortoza, his family, or his fellow crime journalists. Instead, it shows how the spiral of polarization dehumanizes people who might otherwise be allies. As I conclude:

“Setting aside the question of responsibility, there is no doubt that Venezuela’s main media outlets threw their weight behind the effort to oust Chávez. If the people driving these efforts were owners, high-ranking editors, and opinion makers, it was beat journalists like Tortoza who were literally and figuratively caught in the crossfire.”
Learn more about Deadline at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Tyson Reeder's "Smugglers, Pirates, and Patriots"

Tyson Reeder is an editor with The Papers of James Madison at the University of Virginia.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Smugglers, Pirates, and Patriots: Free Trade in the Age of Revolution, and reported the following:
On page 99, Smugglers, Pirates, and Patriots reveals the plummet in Portuguese wine sales occasioned by U.S. independence. It focuses on the Portuguese Atlantic island of Madeira—the most important source of wine in British America before the American Revolution. The page describes the decline with statistics but also with anecdotal evidence of U.S. merchant firms that declined to do business with Madeirans. In the depressed markets of the 1780s, Madeira could no longer turn a profit in America.

On page 99, the audience would read very little about smugglers, pirates, or patriots. They would see, however, a snapshot of an important trend. Prior to independence, British Americans purchased and consumed vast amounts of Portuguese wine, especially from Madeira. Due to their commercial freedom following the American Revolution, Americans explored new wine markets in Spain and France, so they severed most of their commercial ties with Portugal. As a result, Brazil surpassed Portugal as the most enticing destination for American goods in the Portuguese Empire. Because Portugal prohibited trade with their South American colony, U.S. traders targeted Brazil by smuggling.

Convinced that independence and republicanism would free trade from imperial controls, many Americans conspired and cooperated with Brazilian revolutionaries to throw off monarchy in Brazil. Some even accepted dubious commissions from revolutionaries to prey on Portuguese commerce, inhabiting a shadowy legal space between a pirate and a privateer. During the Age of Revolution, empires fractured as they contended with smugglers, pirates, and revolutionaries who sought to trade on their own terms. After independence in 1822, Brazilians adopted a monarchy—a turn unanticipated by most Americans. Free traders in the United States came to accept that Brazil would not become a fellow republic in the Western Hemisphere. Instead, the two nations became fellow slave powers.
Learn more about Smugglers, Pirates, and Patriots at the University of Pennsylvania Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 15, 2019

Nick Haddad's "The Last Butterflies"

Nick Haddad is a professor and senior terrestrial ecologist in the Department of Integrative Biology and the W. K. Kellogg Biological Station at Michigan State University. He lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Haddad applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Last Butterflies: A Scientist's Quest to Save a Rare and Vanishing Creature, and reported the following:
Two threads that connect The Last Butterflies, natural disturbance and the marriage of basic and applied conservation, are in full display on page 99. The butterfly featured on Page 99, the Miami Blue, is iconic in its rapid decline, its extinction, and its resurrection. Once widespread in southern Florida, it was considered extinct in 1992 in the wake of Hurricane Andrew. It was rediscovered in 1999 at Bahia Honda Key, only to die out there again in 2009. A second population was found in the Marquesas in 2006, which is now the only known population, leaving Miami Blues still vulnerable to hurricane driven extinction.

What I did not know at the time I travelled into the tropical storm on page 99 was the role of hurricanes, both positive and negative, for imperiled butterflies. Hurricanes have been implicated in butterfly extinction twice, once when the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane struck Schaus’ Swallowtail’s entire range, and again when Hurricane Andrew struck all remaining Miami Blues in 1992. In both cases, the butterflies were resurrected by later re-discovery. When a hurricane’s eyewall strikes, the wind and storm surge can completely wipe out local butterfly populations.

As with other natural disturbances featured in The Last Butterflies, hurricanes can also have positive effects. Distant from the storm’s eyewall, strong winds can fell trees that overgrow grasses and herbs that caterpillars need. The disturbance can be a regenerative force critical to healthy ecosystems, and to imperiled butterflies.

One central theme of The Last Butterflies crystallizes on Page 99. Basic scientists and applied conservationists must interact closely to pull the rarest butterflies back from the precipice of extinction. Inevitably, given so many actors working in different professional roles on urgent issues, opposing opinions clash.

Page 99 summarizes a poignant case of tension between academics and government agencies. To a lesser degree this issue arises with every butterfly in the book. Agencies carry responsibility for endangered butterflies and invest great effort in conservation. At the same time, we have learned repeatedly that aspects of basic biology are missing for the rarest butterflies. Simple questions (what plants do caterpillars eat?) are later learned to have incomplete answers; discoveries (for example, of a second plant species caterpillars require) arrive nearly too late. Just as applied conservation requires advances in basic science, basic scientists need to take cues from conservationists who have identified barriers and pitfalls in restoration. Knowledge does not flow down a one-way street; an ongoing exchange of knowledge between scientists and conservationists is essential to conservation of the last butterflies.
Visit Nick Haddad's website and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Robin Wolfe Scheffler's "A Contagious Cause"

Robin Wolfe Scheffler is the Leo Marx Career Development Chair in the History and Culture of Science and Technology at the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Contagious Cause: The American Hunt for Cancer Viruses and the Rise of Molecular Medicine, and reported the following:
Opening a copy of A Contagious Cause: The American Hunt for Cancer Viruses and the Rise of Molecular Medicine to page 99 places a reader in the middle of an important episode at the beginning of chapter five, “Managing the Future at the Special Virus Leukemia Program.” On page 99, I discuss the clash of philosophies regarding the pace and urgency of cancer research as they stood at the beginning of the 1960s, just as interest in developing a human cancer vaccine started to peak. In 1958, Congress awarded an immense sum of money—one million dollars—to support the National Cancer Institute’s research into cancer vaccination. However, the leadership of the National Cancer Institute was not yet willing to let public enthusiasm for a cancer cure reshape how it pursued research. One of its administrators approvingly quoted a line from the novelist HG Wells, who wrote in 1929 that “The motive to conquer cancer will not be pity or horror, it will be curiosity to know how and why….Desire for service never made a discovery.” Against this view was the advocacy of anticancer advocates such as Mary Lasker, who had exercised political influence to increase the budget of the National Cancer Institute on the expectation that it would aggressively seek to cure—rather than understand—cancer. A confrontation was thus brewing between the respect for scientific autonomy written into the National Cancer Institute’s practices and the demands for a big science project to rapidly confront cancer.

Applying the page 99 test to A Contagious Cause works surprisingly well. One of the central political and historical questions which attended the rise of molecular medicine is how the study of disease relates to the cure of disease. As the challenges faced by the National Cancer Institute in the 1950s demonstrate, many of the researchers who were supported by the federal government on the expectation that their work would produce a cure for cancer did not embrace this as the goal of their research. Programs such as the Special Virus Leukemia Program and it successors sought to close the gap between biological research and medical advances by managing scientific research using models drawn from the defense industry to accelerate and direct these biomedical researchers. The critique of peer-reviewed research at the National Cancer Institute represented by these programs carried over into the demands for a “moonshot” to cure cancer during the War on Cancer of the 1970s. This created notable battles between molecular biologists, such as James Watson, and the federal government regarding the obligations and rights of scientists supported by public funds.

However, what a reader will miss from page 99 is a sense of why these debates mattered not only as a matter of politics but as a matter of how we have come to understand life at a molecular level. Although efforts to plan and direct biological research met with widespread opposition from biologists of many stripes, the resources funneled into fields such as cancer virus studies—over six billion dollars in contemporary terms—had a transformative effect on the kinds of work that molecular biology could do in the 1970s and 1980s. The infrastructure of these programs was not an incidental but an integral part of important discoveries in the migration of molecular biology from simple to complex organisms, and in the expansion of molecular biology from a niche discipline to a foundational part of the biological sciences as a whole. These are developments I cover in later chapters, but they were not envisioned consequences of the first discussions regarding the organization and accountability of research.

Placing these two stories together—the political and the experimental—is the most important contribution I think A Contagious Cause can make to our understanding of the history of cancer—enabling us to understand how our framing of cancer makes new research possible and in turn how that research presents new ways of understanding cancer possible—but not always in the ways we anticipate.
Learn more about A Contagious Cause at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 12, 2019

Jacquelyn Dowd Hall's "Sisters and Rebels"

Jacquelyn Dowd Hall is the founding director of the Southern Oral History Program and the Julia Cherry Spruill Professor of History Emerita at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of Sisters and Rebels: A Struggle for the Soul of America, Revolt Against Chivalry: Jessie Daniel Ames and the Women’s Campaign Against Lynching, and coauthor of the prize-winning Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World.

Hall applied the “Page 99 Test” to Sisters and Rebels and reported the following:
From page 99:
As head of her college YWCA, Katharine helped to redirect students toward doing “our bit” for the soldiers “over there” in pace with the nation’s unprecedented mobilization of resources, achieved in part through the blunt exercise of federal power and in part through an intense propaganda campaign.... Ninety-nine percent of the student body attended self-organized “world democracy classes,” which aimed to “train women for citizenship during and after the war.” Soon they were characteriz­ing themselves ... as “citizens of this great nation of ours.... A new world-order was being established,” explained the student yearbook, “and as we awakened to this fact we began to prepare ourselves for service.”
I definitely wouldn’t choose this page to introduce browsers to my book. It serves more as a bridge to than as an expression of the main points of the chapter in which it appears. Still, read in context, it does forward my story. That context is set on the previous page: “‘If the war didn’t happen to kill you,’ a char­acter in one of George Orwell’s novels observed, ‘it was bound to set you thinking.’ For the first time, many Southerners found themselves with money in their pockets, jobs in industry, or plans to set sail for distant shores.... Coming to adulthood during these world-changing years, Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin and her sister Grace Lumpkin joined a postwar generation of women who found new routes to self-making in the opportunities opened by the war.”

Born into a former slaveholding family at the end of the 19th century, the Lumpkin sisters had been drilled in the tenets of white supremacy, reverence for the Confederacy, and acceptance of male authority and women’s “secondary and supplementary” role. On page 99 Katharine is a student at a small, all-white college for women in North Georgia. She has already encountered the eye-opening message of the social gospel and thrown in her lot with the YWCA, the most influential progressive force on college campuses at the time. In the pages that follow, the war creates unprecedented opportunities for black women to participate in the organization, and Katharine finds herself called to work on a basis of equality with her black peers for the first time. Her assumptions about racial superiority and inferiority begin to fall away. But she is still vulnerable to the pull of a racist past. Similarly, while she and other student activists had opposed U.S. entry into the war, they, like many others, were swept away by Woodrow Wilson's promise that this war would end wars and make the world safe for democracy. Page 99 shows young women succumbing to nationalist propaganda, but it points forward to a fount of future peace and antiracist activism, as many come to see the war as a catastrophic con­flict driven by imperialist rivalries and war profiteering. It also anticipates the ways in which their involvement in war work, both at home and abroad, leads them to see themselves as full-fledged citizens in a way they never had before.
Visit Jacquelyn Dowd Hall's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Kajsa Norman's "Sweden's Dark Soul"

Kajsa Norman, a London-based investigative journalist and author, has previously published books on Cuba, Zimbabwe and Venezuela. She has also served as a press and information officer for the Swedish Armed Forces in Afghanistan and Mali. Her books include Bridge Over Blood River: The Rise and Fall of the Afrikaners, and A Hero's Curse: The Perpetual Liberation of Venezuela.

Norman applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Sweden's Dark Soul: The Unravelling of a Utopia, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Sweden’s Dark Soul – The Unraveling of a Utopia, the reader accompanies one of the book’s protagonists, Chang Frick, as he meets his father for the first time since he was a young boy:
Every so often, growing up, Chang catches a glimpse of his father. He sees him drive past, or turn a corner somewhere in the village, but he never stops.

Sometimes Chang bikes past his house. He can describe every white brick of the bottom floor with his eyes closed. The second floor is yellow and made of wood, as though it was added at a later stage. The yard is full of trucks, the odd excavator, and lots of old-school American cars parked on the grass. Most vehicles stay around for a week or two before being sold. By keeping track of the inventory parked outside the house, Chang has a pretty good idea of the state of business.

One day, Chang decides to stop and ring the doorbell. He has been told he is the spitting image of his father, but the man who opens the door is old and white-haired. There is an air of virility and authority about him that Chang did not expect. If Georg is surprised to see him, his face does not betray it. He simply steps aside, allowing Chang in, as though visits from his son are normal and expected.
Chang was born and raised in Sweden, but his dark hair and features, combined with his parents’ inability to adjust to the strict norms that govern life in rural Sweden, make him an outcast. In a country that claims to be open and accepting of all, Chang never feels welcome. Over time, the tendency of Swedes to emphatically maintain a moral position while at the same time actively participate in its violation becomes a thorn in Chang’s side. As an adult, he sets out to expose this hypocrisy. The reader will get to know him intimately as it is he who uncovers the heinous crime that forms the backdrop of the book – the mass sexual assaults of teenage and pre-teenage girls at a music festival in Stockholm. Hundreds of girls are assaulted in a public place, at a tax-financed event, under the supposed supervision of responsible adults, but for some, unspoken reason, there is no action, no justice, no story.
Visit Kajsa Norman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Sharon Marcus's "The Drama of Celebrity"

Sharon Marcus is the Orlando Harriman Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She is a founding editor of Public Books and the author of the award-winning Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England and Apartment Stories: City and Home in Nineteenth-Century Paris and London.

Marcus applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Drama of Celebrity, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Drama of Celebrity starts with a discussion of an image reproduced on page 98: a splendid color portrait of the actress Maude Adams, which a scrapbook compiler tore out of a magazine and glued into an album. I describe the act of placing a magazine page in an album as “resituation.” Media scholars often talk about remediation: examples of that include turning a record into a CD, or a piece of paper into a PDF. Resituation is even more bare bones: the medium doesn’t change, someone simply moves a piece of media – from a magazine to an album, or from one website to another.

Page 99 then shifts to discussing a typical page from a typical theater scrapbook compiled in 1892. In the 1890s, millions of people attended the theater every year, and the woman who compiled this 1892 scrapbook went to the theater a few times a week. Her album featured preprinted rubrics that prompted the compiler to list “Impressions of the Play,” “Criticisms of the Performance,” and “Criticism of Individual Actors.” Like many compilers, this one was as interested in describing her social experience as her theatrical one. She did comment on the actors, but under “Impressions of the Play,” she talked about where she went to dinner.

Page 99 is typical of my book in several ways. The page discusses theater, and my book argues that to understand celebrity culture, we need to understand its theatrical origins, to go back before the Internet and before Hollywood. Page 99 is about scrapbooks, and my book draws on hundreds of 19th- and early 20th-century scrapbooks to reconstruct how fans responded to celebrities before the Internet. Most tellingly, page 99 discusses how fans interact with media that represent celebrities, which exemplifies my book’s definition of celebrity: it results from the unpredictable interactions of publics, media, and celebrities themselves. Throughout, I try to focus on the most ordinary fans – not the stalkers, not the energetic, creative folks who write fan fiction, but the millions of people whose “brief acts of attention,” such as compiling scrapbooks, sustain celebrity culture. When it comes to twentieth-century stars, we usually have film or video footage that allows us to see them in action and witness how audiences responded to them. For nineteenth-century celebrities, we need to turn to neglected sources like these scrapbooks to understand how publics perceived them.
Learn more about The Drama of Celebrity at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Adia Harvey Wingfield's "Flatlining"

Adia Harvey Wingfield is Professor of Sociology at Washington University in St. Louis. She is a regular contributor to Slate, Harvard Business Review, and the Atlantic. She is the author of several books, including No More Invisible Man: Race and Gender in Men's Work.

Wingfield applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Flatlining: Race, Work, and Health Care in the New Economy, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Callie is a black woman who works as a patient care technician on a mother-baby floor in a university hospital on the East Coast. She describes it as a “very prestigious hospital,” and it is in fact affiliated with one of the best universities in the United States. Most of the patients she sees are white and well off, and though some patients of color are admitted to the hospital, they are in the minority. After working there for several years, Callie, like many other technicians in this study, came to view her work as a stepping-stone in her career progression. She really wanted to move into nursing and was taking classes that would go toward her nursing degree. She saw this as a way to have more of an impact and to focus more fully on patient care.
Page 99 is the beginning of a chapter about black technicians and the ways that changes to how we work affect them. Since it’s the beginning of a chapter, it only gets half a page, so the page 99 test is at a bit of a disadvantage! Callie’s narrative is the beginning of one segment of a much larger story.

What happens to black professionals in a new economy where the social contract between organizations and labor is increasingly frayed? In an era of technological advancement, diminishing protections for workers, and growing income inequality, organizations today prioritize shedding labor, cutting costs, and increasing shareholder returns. These changes mean that even in “good jobs,” workers have fewer protections from downsizing or termination, rely heavily on social networks when seeking employment, change jobs more frequently, and experience greater economic uncertainty. At the same time, many organizations also profess an interest in meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse population, and many express support for including workers of color in professional jobs. How does this tension between greater diversity and shrinking support for workers impact black professionals? How do they navigate professional jobs in an environment where organizations tout a commitment to diversity but labor power is weakened?

Flatlining focuses on black professionals in the health care industry to answer these questions. Using multiple methodological approaches, I show how broader economic and structural changes fundamentally reoriented professional jobs, impacting the work black professionals do within and outside of their places of employment. This labor varies by occupational status and gender, leaving black men and women with divergent responsibilities depending on their position in the organizational hierarchy. As a result, professional work today comes with a different set of challenges for black employees, revealing complicated issues for organizations and new mechanisms of racial inequality in the workplace.
Learn more about Flatlining at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 8, 2019

John White's "The Contemporary Western"

John White teaches film studies at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. He is co-editor of Fifty Key British Films (2008), Fifty Key American Films (2009) and The Routledge Encyclopedia of Films (2014). He recently contributed chapters to books on Budd Boetticher and Delmer Daves in the Edinburgh University Press ReFocus series, and is the author of Westerns (2011) and European Art Cinema (2017).

White applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Contemporary Western: An American Genre Post 9/11, and reported the following:
From page 99:
In acknowledging Glass’s story as one amongst many used in the formation of U.S. national identity, we are beginning to consider the concept of ‘American exceptionalism’. In order to understand America and Americans as in some ways ‘special’ and ‘exceptional’ when measured against other peoples of the world it is necessary to continually re-work and re-present the foundation myths of national identity to Americans (and to the world). Hilde Eliassen Restad suggests the idea of ‘American exceptionalism’ is ‘a real and significant phenomenon’ that has had a profound influence on U.S. foreign policy. ‘American exceptionalism entails viewing the United States as better than all other nations,’ says Restad. ‘This is different from patriotism… If one does not believe that American exceptionalism means better rather than different, one’s Americanness is open to questioning.’ While challenging the way the concept has been employed in recent decades, Godfrey Hodgson recognises the crucial importance of the idea. ‘Each phase of American history has strengthened the perception among many Americans that the United States is not just one nation among many but a nation marked by the finger of destiny,’ he says. In The Rhetoric of American Exceptionalism: Critical Essays, Jason A. Edwards and David Weiss recognise the importance of ‘American heroes’ as ‘embodiments of American exceptionalism’ representing ‘everything that the United States is and could be’ while also pointing out that ‘the images of these heroes are malleable.’ William V. Spanos suggests ‘the myth of American exceptionalism’ took its lead ‘from the exemplary self-reliant pioneering or westering spirit of the archetypal backwoodsman or frontiersman’ which is where Glass and others of his ilk would seem to come in.

Spanos says the idea of exceptionalism became ‘accepted as the essence or truth of the American national identity until it was rendered problematic during the Vietnam War (only to be recuperated in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001).’ After the Vietnam War, he suggests there was a ‘systematic forgetting’ of ‘historical actualities’ that was achieved ‘by way of the combined efforts of the American government, the media, and Hollywood… to recuperate the consensus, that is, the American identity.’ In his phrase, ‘the narcotics of the culture industry’ was part of the processing of the Vietnam War by American society that enabled the Gulf War of 1991 to be undertaken. Amnesia over Vietnam was then aided by the events of 9/11 to create a ‘fervor’ out of which it was possible to announce, ‘more or less unilaterally… and in defiance of international law,’ a ‘global “war on terrorism”.’
I didn’t think for a minute that this approach to a book could work but (in my mind, at least) it seems to in this case. Page 99 from The Contemporary Western: An American Genre Post-9/11 (as above) is part of a chapter in the book that considers The Revenant (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2016) with its focus on the brutal and brutalising experience of life faced by Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio). In its intense focus on the United States and its position as seen by itself (and others) on the world stage this page captures very nicely the central hub of the book.
Learn more about The Contemporary Western at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Mike Jay's "Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic"

Mike Jay has written extensively on scientific and medical history. His books on the history of drugs include High Society: Mind-Altering Drugs in History and Culture and The Atmosphere of Heaven. He lives in London.

Jay applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic, and reported the following:
Page 99 describes the isolation of mescaline from the peyote cactus in 1897 by the chemist Arthur Heffter in Leipzig, Germany. Heffter had discovered that peyote contained a large number of resins and alkaloids that might account for the hallucinations it produced. He made various extracts and tested them on himself. The resins produced nausea but no hallucinations. By a process of elimination, he came to suspect they were produced by one alkaloid compound that he had named ‘Meskalin’, after ‘mescal’, an alternative name for the peyote cactus.
On 23 November he took 150g [of mescaline]. The violet and green spots came first, then ‘images of carpet patterns, ribbed vaulting etc.’ Soon he was immersed in the visionary ‘landscapes, halls and architectural forms’ of peyote. ‘The results’, he concluded, ‘show that mescaline is exclusively responsible for the major symptoms of peyote (mescal) poisoning. This applies especially to the unique visions.’
Apart from a brief discussion in the prologue, page 99 is the first time that mescaline appears in the book in its pure chemical form. Up to this point I have followed the mescaline-containing cacti, the San Pedro and the peyote, from their ancient and traditional use in the Andes and Mexico, through their adoption by the Plains tribes of the Southwest USA, to peyote's discovery by western science in the 1890s.

This page is one of a the few places where I discuss the chemistry of mescaline in any detail, so in that sense it's not particularly representative of the book as a whole. But it is an important turning point in the story - the moment when mescaline crosses ‘a great divide into modernity: from plant spirit to chemical compound’. A central theme of the book is that mescaline has two distinct histories - one traditional and indigenous, the other western and modern - and this is one of the key moments of transition between them.

It also features another of the book's recurring themes: stories of scientists experimenting on themselves, an essential step in understanding the subjective effects of mind-altering drugs. Arthur Heffter was in a race with another chemist to isolate the vision-producing drug in the cactus. His rival, Louis Lewin, was far more prominent and distinguished, but was not prepared to test the resins and alkaloids on himself. Instead he fed them to dogs, but was unable to tell from observing them whether or not they weere hallucinating. As I conclude on page 100, ‘Heffter made the breakthrough in the laboratory of his own mind’.
Visit Mike Jay's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Radcliffe G. Edmonds III's "Drawing Down the Moon"

Radcliffe G. Edmonds III is the Paul Shorey Professor of Greek in the Department of Greek, Latin, and Classical Studies at Bryn Mawr College. His many books include Redefining Ancient Orphism and Myths of the Underworld Journey.

Edmonds applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Drawing Down the Moon: Magic in the Ancient Greco-Roman World, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Faraone points out the interesting way in which such philtra were imagined to work, increasing the benevolence of the target toward the agent by relaxing him and taming his aggressive impulses. Like the effects of wine, which in moderate quantities seems to enhance erotic feelings but in larger quantities can bring about incapacitation, such philtra at first made the target relaxed and happy, but further application or overdose could bring about sedation of the target or even, in certain cases, death. A prostitute in Alciphron seeks a potion that will not only keep her client from straying, but also tame his drunken bad temper and make him a more docile lover. In a speech from fourth-century Athens, a concubine anxious about being dismissed puts pharmaka in the wine; but, instead of making the man more affectionate, the philtron killed him. Later references to cases in which a man was poisoned by an attempt to secure his affections with a love charm show that the woman could either have been acquitted on the grounds that she did not mean to kill him or condemned on the grounds that she did in fact cause his death. Plutarch warns the young bride not to meddle with such philtra, since she is likely to end up with a husband whose sedated virility would leave the relationship crippled.

Faraone compares the effects of these philtra with a type of spell known as the thumokatoxon, the spell for restraining anger, for binding down the thumos, the seat of strong emotion. He suggests that the thumos can be understood almost as machismo, the impulse toward displays of masculine forcefulness, whether sexual or not. Just as modern people might loosely refer to an excess of testosterone as the cause of either violently aggressive or oversexed masculine behavior, so the ancient Greeks might have been concerned about an excess of thumos and sought to restrain it, either to prevent violence or to halt indulgence in sexual activity.
The discussion of “love potions” or philtra that appears on page 99 is only somewhat representative of the book as a whole. Those paragraphs provide a distillation of previous scholars’ work on the subject (specifically here the work of Christopher Faraone), rather than my own further developments, so it is not really the best sample to show what I am doing in the book. On the other hand, one of the aims of the book is to draw together the latest currents of scholarship on ancient magic and present them in a comprehensible form.

The page does provide a good example of the kind of material that I explore in Drawing Down the Moon, the evidence for the practices labeled as magic in Classical antiquity. All these love potions from across the centuries and all over the ancient Greco-Roman world create an extra-ordinary effect, altering the emotions and mental states of the target in ways that a normal substance would not. The label of magic is always applied by someone in a particular situation, so it is crucial to examine the evidence within its social context. In this sample, all of the potions are being used by a woman to manipulate the affections of a man in her life. Such a gendered pattern also fits the literary tropes of erotic magic used by women against men, but it also provides a contrast with other kinds of erotic magic, which I discuss elsewhere in the chapter, where gender figures in quite different ways.

The study of ancient magic provides insights into such social dynamics as the interactions gender and erotic relationships that the more canonical literary and historical sources fail to offer.. The evidence for what is labeled as magic often gives voice to the marginalized others in ancient society, the ones who are not writing the histories but who nevertheless leave witness (in, for example, the lead curse tablets) of their hopes and fears, their passions and their hatreds. The evidence for erotic magic in particular provides often disturbing glimpses of the way the ancient Greeks and Romans dealt with gender, passion, and violence in their relationships. The other chapters of the book likewise provide insights into aspects of the ancient world that are unavailable from other kinds of sources.
Learn more about Drawing Down the Moon at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Jay Wexler's "Our Non-Christian Nation"

A professor at Boston University School of Law, Jay Wexler is also a humorist, short story writer, and novelist. A one-time clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former lawyer at the US Department of Justice, he has written for National Geographic, The Boston Globe, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Salon, and many other outlets. His books include When God Isn't Green and Holy Hullabaloos.

Wexler applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Our Non-Christian Nation: How Atheists, Satanists, Pagans, and Others Are Demanding Their Rightful Place in Public Life, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book consists of a partial description of the relatively new religious group known as the Satanic Temple (TST), a fast-growing atheistic Satanic organization founded in 2012 and now counting tens of thousands of members across the world, maybe as high as a hundred thousand total. On this page I describe some of the lesser-known activities of TST, both political and non-political, including its opposition to corporal punishment of children in schools, its work aimed at fighting misconceptions about Satanism borne from the “Satanic Panic” era of the 1970s and 1980s, and the various rituals that TST members engage in around the country.

Page 99, and continuing on for a paragraph onto page 100, is a very important part of the book, but it is not representative of the book as a whole. The point of the book is to describe the various ways that minority religious groups and Atheists have attempted to take advantage of a series of Supreme Court decisions to partake in public life alongside the Christian majority (by, for instance, giving invocations before town boards and putting up displays or monuments on public property) and to argue that this movement is one that should be celebrated and continued. TST is probably the most important organization that has participated in this movement—because Satanism is so misunderstood and feared by mainstream groups, TSTs demands to participate in public life are often met with a horror that demonstrates quite clearly how the majority tends to only favor Christian participation in public life rather than pluralism and religious equality.

Many people believe that TST is a parody group rather than a genuine religious organization and that they therefore do not deserve the respect of either the religious majority or the judicial system (TST often sues for equal treatment in the courts). I firmly believe that TST is a genuine religious organization that is multifaceted and does not exist purely to troll Christians and seek attention from the media. What I’m doing on page 99 of the book is making this important point. By explaining that TST does so many things other than fighting for separation of church and state through demands for equal participation in public life, I’m trying to argue that TST is a legitimate religious organization that deserves the equal respect that it has demanded.

In effect, then, page 99 is a bit of a diversion from the main argument of the book. Someone reading just page 99 would probably not get a sense of what the book is about or why I wanted to write it. So I guess I have to say that the page 99 test doesn’t really work for this book. But that’s okay—someone just reading page 99 of the book would still learn something important about my subject matter, and when that person at some point confronts TST in the news or in person, they will undoubtedly know something quite important about this fascinating organization.
Visit Jay Wexler's faculty webpage.

The Page 99 Test: Holy Hullabaloos.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 1, 2019

Louise K. Comfort's "The Dynamics of Risk"

Louise K. Comfort is professor at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and former director of the Center for Disaster Management at the University of Pittsburgh. Her books include Shared Risk: Complex Systems in Seismic Response.

Comfort applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Dynamics of Risk: Changing Technologies and Collective Action in Seismic Events, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Dynamics of Risk describes the types of organizations participating in response operations for the November 12, 1999 Duzce Earthquake in Turkey and makes a brief comparison to response operations for the larger, more destructive 1999 Marmara Earthquake that occurred a scant three months earlier in Turkey. The reader would learn that the book is about response operations following earthquakes, but would not know which earthquakes, where they occurred, what time frame is being considered, or why the issue of seismic risk is important. The reader would learn that there is some disconnect with the humanitarian aid system of the United Nations in response to the Duzce Earthquake, but would not fully grasp the global responsibility of UN member-states to assist nations afflicted by disaster.

This page 99 test provides only a limited glimpse into the set of twelve earthquake response systems included in the book’s analysis and misses the escalating danger of seismic risk to an increasingly interdependent, global world. As populations move steadily into urban regions located in seismic zones, interconnected systems of communication, transportation, trade, and finance increase the potential size, scale, and cost of losses from major earthquakes that can shatter the existing built and organizational infrastructure in seconds.

Importantly, the reader would miss the book’s hopeful argument that innovation in information technologies now offers a means to anticipate risk more accurately, share basic information regarding mitigation of seismic risk more widely, and coordinate actions among multiple organizations, jurisdictions, and nations more effectively. People do learn from previous seismic events, but this knowledge needs to be shared, and adapted to changing conditions of technology, social organization, and culture. No single community or nation can manage seismic risk alone, and all nations will benefit when the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to reduce risk is shared collectively. The challenge is to design and implement a global commons for the continuing search and exchange of information, knowledge, and effective strategies for mitigating seismic risk.
Learn more about The Dynamics of Risk at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Clifford Bob's "Rights as Weapons"

Clifford Bob is professor and chair of political science at Duquesne University. His books include The Marketing of Rebellion, The Global Right Wing and the Clash of World Politics, and The International Struggle for New Human Rights.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Rights as Weapons: Instruments of Conflict, Tools of Power, and reported the following:
Rights are usually viewed as defensive concepts representing mankind’s highest aspirations to protect the vulnerable and uplift the downtrodden. But since the Enlightenment, political combatants have also used rights belligerently, to batter despised communities, demolish existing institutions, and smash opposing ideas. Rights as Weapons: Instruments of Conflict, Tools of Power focuses on such uses of rights, analyzing three main ways in which various actors deploy rights to achieve their goals. First, powerful political forces use rights claims as rallying cries to galvanize supporters into action, “naturalizing” novel claims as rights inherent in humanity, “universalizing” them as transcultural, and “depoliticizing” them as beyond debate and above politics. Second, proponents deploy rights as camouflage to cover ulterior motives, as wedges to break rival coalitions, and as spears to puncture discrete policies. Third and in response, targets of campaigns repulse the assault, using their own rights-like weapons: denying abuses, constructing rival rights, and portraying themselves as victims rather than violators.

Page 99 comes from one of several chapters showing ways that activists use rights in weaponlike ways. The chapter highlights how politically weak groups use rights claims in narrow attacks on critical laws--strategizing that this will spur broader political change not accomplishable through majoritarian institutions. The page concludes a section theorizing about rights’ use as “spears” and begins applying this theory to a lawsuit filed by a small group of Italian atheists demanding removal of crucifixes required in school classrooms (Lautsi case). Although using the rights of parents and children to attack only the crucifix, the plaintiffs’ goals were broader: creating strict church-state separation. In 2009, when the European Court of Human Rights ruled in their favor, threatening the role of religion across Europe, a coalition of religiously conservative governments and NGOs joined Italy to fight back. They too put human rights at the center of their claims—the rights of cultural majorities to maintain traditional policies on religion. With extensive political power behind it, Italy won on appeal. The larger point is that human rights are not the exclusive domain of left-wing groups but are equally available for use by majority groups promoting conservative goals—a point the Trump administration demonstrates with recent decisions.
Learn more about Rights as Weapons at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 28, 2019

Peter Houlahan's "Norco ’80"

Peter Houlahan is a freelance writer contributing to a wide range of publications. In his career as an emergency medical technician, he has written a number of articles related to his profession. He holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. A native Southern Californian, Houlahan now lives in Fairfield County, Connecticut.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Norco ’80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History, and reported the following:
Central to the story of Norco ‘80 is the scope and devastation of the bank robbery, pursuit and gun battles between five heavily-armed criminals and dozens of severely outgunned deputies. What turned into a 40 mile, one hour running gunbattle began with a ferocious firefight of almost unimaginable intensity in the middle of a crowded Southern California intersection in front of the bank. Over the course of just four minutes so much occurred involving so many people that I devoted over 10,000 words to describing the action and human drama that unfolded in that short period of time. Page 99 of Norco ‘80 is an inventorying of that devastation at the conclusion of that chapter.
There were bullet holes everywhere—forty-six having hit Bolasky’s car alone, several in each of Hille’s and Andy Delgado’s units, one in Darryel Tygart’s Thunderbird, another in Chris Evans’s El Camino, and more in civilian vehicles abandoned or parked in nearby lots. Six rounds had whistled through the walls of Murphy’s Hay & Grain and another through the radiator of an employee’s truck parked out front. Others went into houses, cars, sheds, and storefronts. In the row of apartments just behind the bank, John Leighton herded his family to a back room after a bullet smashed through a bedroom window, cutting a metal lamp in half.
At the heart of any story is the human drama contained within. The lives of many of the officers involved in Norco were devastated by post-traumatic stress disorder. Friendships were torn apart, marriages ended, careers ruined in the aftermath of the event in which three were killed, fifteen wounded including seven officers, and thirty-three law enforcement vehicles destroyed by gunfire and homemade fragmentation grenades thrown by the fleeing bank robbers. Out of this initial, short confrontation in front of the bank – one of five major conflicts between the two sides – arose one of the most volatile of those conflicts among the three officers who took part, one of whom accused the other two of leaving him alone in the gunfight to die.

It was important to communicate to the reader the terrifying nature of the event and the weapons involved – military grade, semi-automatic assault rifles – right from the first conflict in order for what later happens to those involved to make any sense. This summarization is critical to providing the reader with a perspective on the relentless action they have just spent 25 pages reading.
Visit Peter Houlahan's website.

Writers Read: Peter Houlahan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Travis Rieder's "In Pain"

Travis Rieder, PhD, wants to help find a solution to America’s opioid crisis—and if that sounds a bit too lofty, he’d settle for making clear, incremental progress in a responsible, evidence-based way. A philosopher by training, bioethicist by profession, and communicator by passion, Rieder writes and speaks on a variety of ethical and policy issues raised by both prescription and illicit opioid use.

This wasn’t always his beat, though. Both in his doctoral training at Georgetown University, and as faculty at Johns Hopkins University’s Berman Institute of Bioethics, Rieder published widely on a variety of topics in philosophy and ethics. His interest in opioids came about suddenly, after a motorcycle accident, when he took too many pills for too long and suddenly found himself with a profound dependency. In the wake of that experience, he became driven to discover why medicine is so bad at dealing with prescription opioids, and how that problem is related to the broader drug overdose epidemic.

Rieder’s first article on the topic, in the journal Health Affairs, was one of the most-read essays in 2017 and was excerpted by the Washington Post. Since then, Rieder has co-authored a Special Publication of the National Academy of Medicine on physician responsibility for the opioid epidemic, written several essays for the popular media, and spoken widely on the topic to physicians, medical students, and the general public.

Rieder applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, In Pain: A Bioethicist's Personal Struggle with Opioids, and reported the following:
This test may have been designed specifically for my book. At least, that’s how it felt when I received the prompt and opened In Pain to page 99. On this page, the reader finds herself right smack in the middle of the meatiest part of my story—my own little personal hell that eventually drove me to write a book. After a motorcycle accident and five surgeries, I had been sent home on high and escalating doses of opioids, which I had continued to take for several more weeks. It wasn’t until two months after the initial accident that my trauma surgeon saw how many pain meds I was taking, and urged me to get off them.

How? Well, that wasn’t his job. So he sent me to the plastic surgeon who had been writing my prescriptions. That surgeon had given me a much-too-aggressive tapering schedule, which launched me into opioid withdrawal. My description of that trauma—of a kind of physical and mental torment that can drive someone to start thinking about suicide—is what I’ve been describing in the pages just before page 99. At this point, I’ve become so desperate that my partner, Sadiye, and I began calling every clinician who cared for me at three different hospitals. And finally, one of them recommended that we contact the pain management team who instigated my opioid therapy after the last surgery.

It seemed like such a good idea; however…
We were never even able to speak with anyone from the pain team at our hospital. After calling around and begging to be put in contact with the doctor who had overseen my care, we finally reached a nurse who put us on hold for a long time while she tracked someone down. She did not, however, return with a physician; she returned with a message.

“Hello, Mrs. Rieder?” The nurse was on speakerphone, since we'd been waiting on hold. “I'm sorry to have kept you waiting. Unfortunately, no one from the team is able to see your husband.”

I was confused, and Sadiye was furious. “What do you mean ‘no one's able to see him'? Like—ever?” Her normally calm voice rose as she unfurled the incredulity we both felt. “I'm sure they're busy, but we just need to talk with someone. He just needs someone to help with the withdrawal process ... from the medication they prescribed. Can't you just put someone on the phone?” I sat quietly, hurt, abandoned, while she tried desperately to convince the nurse that this was not okay.

“I understand your frustration,” the woman softly replied. “But our pain management team provides an inpatient service. Their job is to get pain under control during a patient's hospitalization. Al-though they prescribe opioids to manage pain, they do not oversee opioid tapering or manage withdrawal.”
That last quote from the nurse echoed around my brain for months, raising one of the central questions that motivated the writing of In Pain: whose responsibility is it to manage opioid therapy? Every day, all around America, thousands of people are prescribed opioid pills. This medication is addictive and dangerous, and yet apparently—if my experience is any indication—clinicians don’t think they have any obligation to manage the medication long-term after prescribing.

As a bioethicist at Johns Hopkins University, I turned all of my intellectual energy to finding an answer to this question (and many others that I uncovered once I started digging). And what I found is incredibly distressing. So I decided to share it with the world. My hope is that In Pain starts a very loud, very public discussion of pain, opioids, and their relationship to America’s broader drug overdose crisis.
Visit Travis Rieder's website.

Writers Read: Travis Rieder.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Charlotte E. Blattner's "Protecting Animals Within and Across Borders"

Charlotte E. Blattner is an international scholar specializing in animal law and ethics, animal rights, international and comparative animal law, and its intersections with constitutional law, labor law, and human rights law. From 2018 until 2020, she will be working as a Visiting Researcher at Harvard Law School.

Blattner applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Protecting Animals Within and Across Borders: Extraterritorial Jurisdiction and the Challenges of Globalization, and reported the following:
From page 99:
As in article III:4 GATT, the question of whether products are alike for the purposes of article III:2 GATT hinges on “a determination about the nature and extent of a competitive relationship between and among products.” States could prima facie introduce differentiated taxes based on the level of animal law observed during production. For example, a lasagna that contains cow meat from CAFOs, where animals are inadequately fed and raised, where they cannot behave or interact in a normal fashion, and where they are barred from forming meaningful relationships, could be taxed differently than lasagna that contains meat from “organically raised” cows. To determine if the differentiated taxes are legal, the WTO DSB must first find out if two types of lasagna are alike. To make its determination, the DSB must, in line with the Border Tax Adjustments report, examine the properties, the nature and quality (i.e., the physical characteristics) of the lasagna, the end uses of the lasagna, tastes and habits (or perceptions and behavior) of consumers, and the tariff classification of the lasagna.

As seen with the likeness test of other GATT articles, the likeness test of article III:2 GATT depends on whether PPMs affect the competitiveness or substitutability of products. On the one hand, consumers might not treat products produced with high or low welfare interchangeably, so we might find that they are not directly competitive or substitutable. On the other hand, consumer choice is highly conditional on price—i.e., consumers tend to prefer low-cost products even if they wish for better animal welfare—so the two products might represent alternative ways of satisfying consumer demand. Current consumer preferences show that the latter assumption is correct, but latent and extant demand (criteria determining how products will be treated by consumers) might change this in the future. (footnotes omitted).
Page 99 of Protecting Animals Within and Across Borders talks about the nuts and bolts of the bigger endeavor this book aims to make – which is to find ways to protect animals globalization notwithstanding. This excerpt deals with the conundrums of trade law, answering whether and how states must design laws to protect animals when they affect trade so that they do not discriminate against foreign or domestic products through internal taxes or nonfiscal measures. While appearing technical and overly WTO-law-jargonistic, page 99 exemplifies that some of the most important questions cannot and should not be answered in a wholesale manner but must first be examined in detail and in isolation, and then put together to form a complete puzzle.

Global entanglements and challenges abound in animal law, as multinationals rise in number and power, production facilities move to other countries, and animals are shipped for use and slaughter across borders by the millions. In this environment, it has become increasingly difficult for states to gain legal certainty about whether or under what circumstances they can protect animals in cases involving a cross-border element. Even worse, many states do not even know whether it is worth protecting animals within their border, as they have a deep and abiding fear of outsourcing and consider industries that use animals reliable and valuable taxpayers, even as they probe the limits of the law. These developments paint a dystopian future for animals, one in which corporations reign law, the free market equates to exploitation, and globalization translates as “globalization of animal cruelty.”

In other fields of law, like human rights law, criminal law, antitrust law, securities law, and environmental law, extraterritorial jurisdiction is an established legal tool to fill gaps in transboundary governance, offer perspective-taking through legal pluralism, and encourage international treaty efforts. The main claim of this book is that the law of jurisdiction cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the struggles of animal law, in particular, because it carries potential to bring to a halt and prevent races to the bottom, which we owe animals on grounds of justice. The book leads readers through the what, the why, and the how questions of establishing jurisdiction in the complex and eclectic context of animal law. Using the avenues of trade law, general public international law, and animal law, pieces of a vast puzzle are brought together to weave a comprehensive net of knowledge that can be used for future advocacy and legislation. The topic invites readers to engage in broader discussions about global justice, interspecies ethics, and the ever-lingering struggle between economics and welfare, but it also aims to find closure and offers ways to resolve these controversies.
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--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Dorian Lynskey's "The Ministry of Truth"

Dorian Lynskey has been writing about music, film, and politics for more than twenty years for publications including The Guardian, The Observer, GQ, Q, Empire, Billboard, and The New Statesman. His first book, 33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs, was published in 2011.

Lynskey applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell's 1984, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Here, undeniably, are the moral and intellectual foundations of Nineteen Eighty-Four. Totalitarianism’s war on reality was more dangerous than the secret police, the constant surveillance or the boot in the face, because in “that shifting phantasmagoric world in which black may be white tomorrow and yesterday’s weather can be changed by decree” there is no solid ground from which to mount a rebellion—no corner of the mind that has not been infected and warped by the state. It is power that removes the possibility of challenging power. That’s why it is not enough for O’Brien to force Winston to say that two plus two equals five. He has only truly won when Winston believes that two plus two equals five.
Page 99 coincides with a turning point for both George Orwell and 1984. In the summer of 1943, Orwell was preparing to resign from the BBC, where he had spent the last two years broadcasting soft propaganda to India, and take a new job as literary editor and columnist for the socialist periodical Tribune. His more relaxed work schedule would allow him to start writing Animal Farm and to sketch the outline of his novel about the future, which he was then calling The Last Man in Europe.

The page focusses on ‘Looking Back on the Spanish War’, a crucial essay which joined the dots between Orwell’s disillusioning experience fighting for the Republic in the Spanish Civil War in 1937 (which is where my book begins) and the themes of 1984. In Spain, Orwell had been shocked by the extent to which Spanish communists and their Russian backers defamed and persecuted the POUM, the vulnerably small anti-Stalinist faction for which he fought, and by the willingness of the communist press outside of Spain to parrot those outrageous lies. Six years later, having become intimately familiar with the mechanics of propaganda at the BBC, he was able to develop this observation into a more sophisticated analysis of the relationship between power and untruth.

‘Looking Back on the Spanish War’ looks forward as well as back, demonstrating that Orwell had already hit upon some of 1984’s key ideas and phrases years before he started writing it. A totalitarian regime, he writes, “controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, ‘It never happened’—well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five—well, two and two are five.” This could easily be a passage from the novel. The “shifting phantasmagoric world” is a perfect description of 1984’s unstable, dream-like quality. Orwell believed that when tyrants had lied in the past, they had at least acknowledged that truth existed even as they defied it. In the totalitarian era, however, reality was pliable for the powerful and “the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world”.

That essay has been widely quoted over the last three years (I cite it again in the last chapter of my book) because it speaks to the way Trump and Putin, in their different ways, display contempt not just for specific inconvenient facts but for the existence of facts. I argue that 1984 is “prophetic” only because Orwell understood so keenly the psychology of tyranny in the 1940s, and because that mindset hasn’t fundamentally altered. That’s why his observations of his own time read like predictions of ours.
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--Marshal Zeringue