Friday, April 29, 2022

David L. Sloss's "Tyrants on Twitter"

David L. Sloss is the John A. and Elizabeth H. Sutro Professor of Law at Santa Clara University. He is the author of The Death of Treaty Supremacy: An Invisible Constitutional Change (2016). Before entering academia, he worked for the U.S. government on drafting and negotiating arms control treaties.

Sloss applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Tyrants on Twitter: Protecting Democracies from Information Warfare, and reported the following:
Proponents of the Page 99 Test claim that if a reader opens the book to page ninety-nine, “the quality of the whole will be revealed to you."

That claim is partly true for my book, but not entirely true. Page ninety-nine is included in a chapter on China. The chapter analyzes China’s information warfare strategy and tactics. The first part of page ninety-nine includes the final paragraph of a section examining how China exploited its worldwide media empire to spread propaganda about Covid-19 to a global audience. The second part of the page includes the opening paragraph of a section that analyzes China’s use of information warfare tactics to meddle in established democracies.

Page ninety-nine presents some data on death rates from Covid-19, showing that—as of November 2020—China had far fewer deaths per 100,000 population than most western democracies. Page ninety-nine says:
To some extent, the published data may simply indicate that China’s dictatorship is better able to suppress truthful information than Western democracies. However, even if the actual numbers from China are ten times higher than the reported numbers, it would still be true that China has done a better job protecting its people from Covid-19 than many Western democracies. Thus, the data about Covid-19 illustrates a basic point about information competition. If the United States and like-minded countries want to win the battle of ideas between democracy and authoritarianism, liberal democratic governments need to do a better job promoting the welfare of their citizens, not just in terms of individual liberty, but also in terms of health, safety, and economic security.
The book as a whole presents a deep dive into Chinese and Russian information warfare tactics. Page ninety-nine provides a nice illustration of that deep dive. However, the book also has two other key elements that the reader will not see on page ninety-nine. First, the book situates information warfare in a broader strategic context, explaining how Chinese and Russian information warfare relates to the ongoing geopolitical competition between democracies and autocracies. Second, the book presents a detailed policy proposal for cooperation among liberal democracies; it recommends a new system for transnational regulation of social media to protect democracies from Chinese and Russian information warfare.
Follow David L. Sloss on Twitter and learn more about Tyrants on Twitter at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Stephen C. Angle's "Growing Moral"

Stephen C. Angle received his B.A. from Yale University in East Asian Studies and his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Michigan. Since 1994 he has taught at Wesleyan University, where he is now Director of the Fries Center for Global Studies, Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, and Professor of Philosophy. The author of several previous books on Confucianism, Angle has co-directed two NEH Summer Institutes and is a recipient of two Fulbright grants, a Berggruen Fellowship, a Millicent C. McIntosh Fellowship, and a Chiang Ching-Kuo Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. In 2006 he was awarded Wesleyan's Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

Angle applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book Growing Moral: A Confucian Guide to Life, and reported the following:
The Page 99 Test works. A reader starting Growing Moral on page 99 might flounder initially, since the first line uses unfamiliar terms like “Neo-Confucian” and “heartmind.” But bear with it for a moment, and things fall into place:
…later Neo-Confucian explains it, the heartmind’s having a master is like when the master of the house is at home. When the master is at home things are naturally in order and chaotic outsiders are prevented from entering the house—even without the master’s actively warding them away. Similarly, when one is attuned to the broad significance of any given affair, then “chaos”—that is, selfish concerns—cannot enter one’s heartmind.
Readers will note that page 99 is part of a chapter called “Pay Attention,” and here we see that when you’re paying attention in such a way as to be “attuned” to something’s “broad significance,” the result is that selfishness is barred from affecting you.

The rest of the page puts this in terms of “reverential attention”:
Reverential attention, then, means to attend to all that one encounters in daily life and to do so from a stance of reverence for interconnected life. We all know people who pay careful attention to their surroundings, but for some reason do so in order to seek out flaws, to nitpick, to undermine. To pay reverential attention is instead to notice and look to reinforce care for life, care for others, and care for the self. We can think of this as looking for harmony. This does not mean that one is actively steering what one sees. Rather, one is looking for harmony in the sense that one is primed to see and react favorably to opportunities for harmony—ways that things fit together well—because even as one is attending single-mindedly to a particular person or thing, in all their distinctness, this will simultaneously include being aware of their interdependence with the entire context.
Reverence, harmony, caring, interdependence: these are easy values to grasp, even if one had no idea that they were central to Confucianism, nor that they could be combined in quite this way. The rest of the page makes the relevance of this ideas to our modern lives even more explicit:
Skilled managers of any kind of team do this all the time, taking seriously their interactions with each team member while simultaneously noting possible ways in which members can work together even better. Perhaps there’s a way to adjust roles so that each finds their responsibilities even more satisfying, or perhaps there’s some misunderstanding the manager notices that, when cleared up, will help colleagues work together more fluidly.
By the end of page 99, we’ve not only made sense of initially unfamiliar ideas, but done so in a way that might have a lesson to teach us in our lives today.

Read in this way, page 99 turns out to be a microcosm of the whole book. It’s meant to feel at least a little strange, at least for those not already familiar with the 3000-year tradition of Confucianism. After all, if all the values and ideas fit perfectly into mental categories you already have, what would there be to gain from considering a Confucian way of life? At the same time, Confucius and his heirs were writing for people who experienced their world and its challenges in fundamentally the same way as other people do, so it should be no shock to discover that their writings resonate with us. Growing Moral tells its readers what to do, if they want to try out a Confucian life, and why such a life is valuable.
Learn more about Growing Moral at the Oxford University Press website, and visit the Warp, Weft, and Way website for information about Chinese and Comparative philosophy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Avram Alpert's "The Good-Enough Life"

Avram Alpert is a writer, educator, and organizer working to understand what values we can live by in a world as connected, chaotic, and potentially catastrophic as the present. He is currently researching for a new book about what it might mean to be wise in such a world, as well working on several related creative writing projects. Beginning in May 2022, he will be a Fellow at The New Institute in Hamburg. Alpert's first book, Global Origins of the Modern Self, from Montaigne to Suzuki was published in 2019. A second book, A Partial Enlightenment: What Modern Literature and Buddhism Can Teach Us About Living Well without Perfection was published in 2021. His third book, The Good-Enough Life, is out this month.

Alpert applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Good-Enough Life and reported the following:
On page 99 of my book, I am discussing what a “good-enough” relationship looks like. For me being good enough in a relationship does not mean just doing the bare minimum, but rather requires us to provide both goodness and enoughness (sufficient emotional support) to our friends, family, and others. Moreover, it requires us to embrace our inevitable limitations in attempting to do so. It thus requires us to abandon the allure of what I call “greatness,” or being the best at something in a competitive system. I write:
We can reimagine the types of people we want to be for each other. We can realize that being the good-enough parent or friend or lover is difficult and unparalleled in its offering. If I have been a good-enough friend or lover or son in my life, it is when I have managed to resist the various temptations of greatness. I have given what I can of myself without doing so much that I burn out. I have accepted the failings of my loved ones and been open and honest about my own limitations. I have recognized those moments when more than ordinary care is called for, and I have been able to ask for or offer extra attention without expectation of incessant increase. I have not imagined that I alone have the perfect solution to every problem we confront, but a humble position that will only be meaningful if it speaks to every one’s needs and concerns. I have encouraged those around me to find meaning and purpose in creating a good-enough world for all, not seeking to get a piece of greatness for themselves.
In terms of communicating the overall message of the book, this page does, well, good-enough! It hardly captures the entirety of the argument, but it does offer a decent overview of the book’s major themes and concerns. It lays out my argument that a good-enough life is one that is rich with nuance and complexity, while avoiding the false allures of perfectionism. A reader just picking up the book here would likely be a little confused by the terminology: many of the preceding pages explain what precisely I mean by “good enough,” “a good-enough world for all,” and “greatness.” But they could probably surmise the basic themes and concerns.

The book is structured as a series of concentric circles as it passes through what a good-enough life means for individuals, relationships, society, and nature. A reader just looking at this passage might think the book only focused on relationships and was perhaps even autobiographical. While I do tell stories about myself throughout the chapters, I am certainly not the focus of the book, which offers a wide-ranging analysis of psychology, philosophy, popular culture, and evolution, among other themes.

Across its pages, The Good-Enough Life argues that we would be healthier, happier, and more relaxed if we embraced imperfection (only ever good enough) without giving up on decency (goodness) and sufficiency (enoughness) for everyone, including the natural world. I argue that this is an inspiring goal that would lead many more people to be involved in society and feel respected and rewarded for their various endeavors. Perhaps like with the Page 99 Test itself, in the good-enough life not everything works out, but it still offers us insights and pleasures that cannot be found if we are only satisfied with perfection.
Visit Avram Alpert's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Neil Levy's "Bad Beliefs"

Neil Levy is Professor of Philosophy at Macquarie University, Sydney, and a Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics. He was previously a Research Council Future Fellow at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health. He works on the philosophy of agency and ethical issues in neuroscience, as well as related areas, and has published extensively on these topics. He is the author of Consciousness and Moral Responsibility (2014) and Hard Luck (2011), among other books.

Levy applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Bad Beliefs: Why They Happen to Good People, and reported the following:
I think it would be pretty hard to get a good idea of what the book's up to from page 99. Bad Beliefs as a whole argues that these kinds of beliefs - say, the belief that vaccinations cause autism - actually have the same kind of source as good beliefs. I believe climate change is real and serious because people I trust tell me so, and those who deny the reality of anthropogenic climate change do so because people they trust tell them so. The book argues that we should focus on these kinds of trust relations, and on making sure that they're justified, to bring people to believe better. Page 99 mentions none of that.

Instead, page 99 is in the middle of addressing a common alternative view: don't trust anyone (scientists or talking heads on Fox); instead, assess the evidence for yourself. I'm in the middle of arguing that that's a lot harder to do than people usually realize. Without genuine expertise in climate science (I argue), it's a hopeless task. It goes on to argue that when we take ourselves to doing this kind of thinking for ourselves, we're still actually following the lead of those we trust. At best, 'doing your own research' isn't an alternative to trusting well; at worst, it does a lot worse than trusting well would.

So page 99 doesn't help tell the browser what the book's about. Maybe it reveals "the quality of the whole" as Ford Madox Ford said, but it doesn't reveal its subject. It's too far in the weeds. But hey! It's a philosophy book. Expect weeds.
Learn more about Bad Beliefs at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 25, 2022

Cécile Fabre's "Spying Through a Glass Darkly"

Cécile Fabre is Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Oxford, and Senior Research Fellow in Politics at All Souls College. Previously she taught at the London School of Economics and the University of Edinburgh. She holds degrees from the Sorbonne University, the University of York, and the University of Oxford. Her research interests include theories of distributive justice, issues relating to the rights we have over our own body and, more recently, just war theory and the ethics of foreign policy.

Fabre applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Spying Through a Glass Darkly: The Ethics of Espionage and Counter-Intelligence, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book Spying Through a Glass Darkly begins with a description of Operation Bodyguard, ‘thanks to which the Allies deceived Germany’s leadership as to the timing and location of their planned invasion of Western Europe.’ It argues that deception, not merely in war but in foreign policy in general, is sometimes morally permissible. The argument relies both on the case of Operation Overlord and on a hypothetical example in which the intelligence services of an imaginary country ask one of their operatives to infiltrate a transnational terrorist network.

The book defends an ethics of espionage and counterintelligence activities. This page is both a bad and a good snapshot of the book. It does not give a sense of the range of the methods used by intelligence agencies, and of the moral dilemmas which those methods raise. The book tackles topics as diverse as treason; various modes for recruiting agents such as manipulation, exploitation, and entrapment; economic espionage; cyberespionage; and mass surveillance. It argues that those activities are morally justified, indeed sometimes morally mandatory, but only to protect individuals’ fundamental moral rights from wrongful threats – not just in the context of war, but also in the context of foreign policy in general. To give but one, and depressingly relevant example, suppose that a country justifiably imposes economic sanctions on a foreign regime and that regime’s associates, on grounds of rights-protection albeit in peace time. On my account, it is also justified in resorting to espionage to check that the targets of the sanctions are compliant. Someone who would read only page 99 would not be able to guess as much.

That said, in some ways, page 99 is a good snapshot, because it gives examples of both espionage and counterintelligence. Operation Bodyguard was an extraordinarily successful piece of deceptive counterintelligence; and infiltrating someone into enemy networks is of course a good way of spying on the latter. Moreover, and more importantly, this page illustrates the way the book weaves philosophical arguments, historical examples and hypothetical scenarios – the latter being a trademark of the philosophical tradition in which I write. Whilst the Page 99 Test fares poorly regarding the content of the book, it fares very well regarding its philosophical flavour.
Visit Cécile Fabre's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Christopher T. Burris's "Evil in Mind"

Christopher T. Burris is a Professor of Psychology at St. Jerome's University, in the University of Waterloo, Canada. In addition to creating and teaching a course on the psychology of evil for over two decades, Dr. Burris contributes to courses in the psychologies of good, religion, and death and dying. His published research has spanned the breadth of human experience--from the self, consciousness, afterlife beliefs, atheism, and from sadism, hate, and evil to empathy. The sum of these efforts, he hopes, is to contribute to a greater understanding of some of life's big issues.

Burris applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Evil in Mind: The Psychology of Harming Others, and reported the following:
The big word at the top of page 99 of Evil in Mind is “Sadism”: the title and topic of Chapter 6. I begin by asking my readers (and, now, you): “What comes to mind when you read the word ‘sadist’?” For most of us, “sadist” and “evil” go (gloved) hand-in-hand – so much so that being sadistic is practically a job requirement for those seen as embodying “pure evil.” Consequently, it’s only very recently that psychologists have begun challenging the assumption that sadism is only likely to show itself amongst perversely vicious criminal types. If we can move beyond the queasy feelings that this stereotype often provokes toward a clearer understanding of what sadism actually is… well, sadism suddenly appears to be not nearly as rare as we might hope. And what is sadism? It’s a form of hate. You’d have to read Chapter 5 (“Hate”) for the nuts-and-bolts of my reasoning but, basically, sadism is a motivational state, a desire for harm to befall some other being (i.e., hate) because that is seen as a means of securing some sort of positive emotional payoff (pleasure, satisfaction, and the like). So it’s not about what a person does or the impact that it has, it’s about what the person wants, and why they want it.

Honestly, page 99 of Evil in Mind is a pretty lucky strike. “Sadism” got a whole chapter for a reason: Along with hate, serial killers, and group-based “evil” such as genocide and corporate corruption, sadism is part of what I call the “Pantheon of Evil” – because people would probably be stunned if a book about evil didn’t address those things.

But beyond the attention grab, page 99 offers another variation on a theme present throughout the book: Despite its VIP reservation beneath evil’s big, dark umbrella, sadism is probably not what you think – or, at least, not only what you think. Yes, many serial killers are fueled by sadistic motivation (as I argue in Chapter 7, “Serial Killers”), but so are many pranksters. The motivational structure is the same: “If X suffers, I’ll feel good.” But most people don’t want to see themselves, or be seen by others, as “evil,” so they’ll tell stories to make that suffering seem okay. Like “it wasn’t a big deal.” Or “that person had it coming to them.”

This taps into themes that I deal with in the first four chapters of the book: when and why we think we “know ‘evil’ when we see it,” why we’re quietly terrified of being seen as “evil” and the lengths to which we’ll go to deflect that label, and why we’ll sometimes do things that harm others anyway despite our quiet terror.

You’ll note – probably with a sense of unease or maybe indignation – that I keep saying “we.” That’s because I don’t think “evil” is ever always about “The Other.” We’re all subject to the same pushes and pulls. We can be nice or naughty. We can be noble or nasty. Ultimately, my hope is that Evil in Mind gives readers more insight into how they themselves are pushed and pulled so they can make better – that is, less “evil” – choices.
Learn more about Evil in Mind at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Eve Darian-Smith's "Global Burning"

Eve Darian-Smith is Professor and Chair of the Department of Global and International Studies at the University of California, Irvine. Her books include The Global Turn: Theories, Research Designs, and Methods for Global Studies, with Philip McCarty.

Darian-Smith applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Global Burning: Rising Antidemocracy and the Climate Crisis, and reported the following:
From page 99:
In the United States, the practice of deploying militarized police against citizens on behalf of corporations is also evident in the numerous protests against the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline which pump enormous quantities of crude oil from Canada into the United States. Beginning in 2011, protests erupted over the laying of pipeline over small farming properties and Native American reservation lands, threatening numerous tribes’ clean water and natural resources. The protestors, known as “protectors” of water and sacred lands, fought for years against possible oil spillage and toxic runoffs, and mobilized a global social movement against the projects. Former president Barack Obama halted both pipelines because of the negative impacts on Indigenous sovereign rights and the environment in 2015. But the Trump administration revived the projects, and protests continued at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota involving hundreds of tribes and green activists. In 2017 Trump deployed the National Guard, who, wearing riot gear and wielding batons, dispersed crowds in what protestors called “a military style operation.”
The Page 99 Test works well for my book. It appears near the start of Chapter 4 on the state-backed violence of environmental racism. The discussion on Page 99 of protests at Standing Rock comes just after a description of India’s extreme-right Prime Minister Modi using violence against people protesting his introduction of Farm Bills that favored industrial-scale agribusiness over small farmers. And it is followed by a discussion of how the conservative government in Australia made up a story about Australian Aboriginal child abuse so it could send military and police forces into their remote townships, and then occupy and lease their lands to mining corporations.

My book connects the global rise of antidemocracy and extreme-right politics with the destruction of the environment. Unfortunately, such destruction disproportionately impacts marginalized peoples and communities of color, be they living in the global south or within wealthy northern nations. I argue that what makes today’s environmental racism different from earlier historical periods is that far-right leaders are now blatantly using military force against their own citizens to secure land grabs and defend the toxic practices of extractive industries. As multinational companies seize lands to build dams, lay pipelines, dig mines, and log forests, local small communities, farmers, and Indigenous groups are often driven from their lands and livelihoods by state troops. The book focuses on out-of-control wildfires in Brazil, Australia, and California in recent years as emblematic of an escalating climate emergency. The catastrophic wildfires share striking similarities in terms of why they occurred, who they impact most, and what they suggest about a global pattern of extreme weather events and the far-right political conditions that foster them.
Learn more about Global Burning at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 22, 2022

Daniel Lee's "The Right of Sovereignty"

Daniel Lee is Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of Graduate Studies in Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He specializes in political theory, the history of political thought, and jurisprudence. He is the author of Popular Sovereignty in Early Modern Constitutional Thought (2016) and the forthcoming A Division of the Whole Law.

Lee applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Right of Sovereignty: Jean Bodin on the Sovereign State and the Law of Nations, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Right of Sovereignty touches upon a central interpretive point concerning the function of sovereignty in Jean Bodin’s theory of the sovereign state. There are some who think sovereignty should be understood in terms of lawlessness, being above the law. Roman lawyers had a phrase for this that they recorded in the Digest of Justinian: ‘legibus solutus’ - roughly translating into something like being exempt from legal duties that are obligatory for everyone else. In the Middle Ages, jurists pushed this notion of lawlessness to its extreme, so that whoever is sovereign is free from any legal obligation - even, in principle, the bond of natural law. That was the extreme twist added by medieval canonists in describing the sovereignty of the Pope over all of Christendom. He becomes legally invincible.

But note that exemption doesn’t actually empower a sovereign to do anything. Suppose the State of California grants me all kinds of tax exemptions for 2022 so I don’t have to pay any taxes while everyone else does. I would technically be ‘legibus solutus’ with respect to those tax laws. That doesn’t mean I’m actually empowered to do anything to the tax laws. It’s one thing to be a beneficiary of a tax exemption. It’s another to be an author of tax legislation. How could I be sovereign if my tax exemption depends on someone else - say, a judge or a legislator - carving out that exemption for my benefit?

Sovereignty, thus, must be more than simply the exempt status of being 'legibus solutus.’ It involves something more, an active, creative power to make and unmake the laws themselves. This is perhaps one of Bodin’s most important and lasting interventions into the theory of sovereignty, and what I begin to explore on page 99 and for much of the rest of the book. Commentators on sovereignty sometimes fail to distinguish these two aspects of sovereignty - being free from the laws and having a power over the laws. But it makes the biggest difference in understanding what sovereign states - and only states - can do.
Learn more about The Right of Sovereignty at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Terence Dooley's "Burning the Big House"

Terence Dooley is professor of history at Maynooth University and Director at the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates. He is the author of numerous books including The Decline of the Big House in Ireland.

Dooley applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Burning the Big House: The Story of the Irish Country House in a Time of War and Revolution, and reported the following:
From page 99:
It was also the case that the desire for revenge, particularly in the spiral of violence that characterised the War of Independence where IRA ambushes led to reprisals from the British armed forces, served to spotlight country houses as legitimate targets for retaliatory counter-reprisals. Once again, this is typical in independence struggles. Pashman tells us that when the rebels in the American Revolution ‘saw an occupying army burn towns and turn families out of their homes, New Yorkers came to share a desire to strike back at those responsible for such calamities.’ In 1914–18, architectural destruction on an industrial scale had become an everyday occurrence across Europe, familiar to people in Ireland from newspaper photographs, cinema footage, and even from postcards sent by soldiers from the Western Front. Irish people had also witnessed the centre of their own capital city razed by British artillery in 1916. When, during the War of Independence, the Black and Tans burned villages and towns such as Balbriggan, Trim, Knockcroghery, and Cork, it reminded people of the worst excesses in Europe. Retaliation in the form of dismantling symbols of imperialism in Ireland was inevitable. Thus, Ireland in the 1920s was no different to New York in the 1770s where, in both cases, the lust for recrimination was enough to regularly unleash an orgy of arson.

For instance, Tom Barry led the most successful IRA ambush of the War of Independence at Kilmichael in Cork on 28 November 1920, in which eighteen Auxiliaries were killed. This gave rise to retribution by the crown forces in the south-western counties, including the introduction of an official reprisal policy that allowed for the burning of houses of suspected Sinn Féin or IRA sympathisers. Barry later reflected that when the British authorities agreed this policy, they ‘forgot to take into consideration [that] Ireland was studded with the castles, mansions and residences of the British ascendancy who had made their homes here.’31 He triumphantly recalled the burning of several mansions including Cor Castle, Mayfield, Bandon, Dunboy and the Earl of Bandon’s Castlebernard that ‘blazed half a day before it crumbled in ruins.’ He went on to boast in a passage that unveiled several possible motivations:
Castles, mansions and residences were sent up in flames by the IRA immediately after the British fire gangs had razed the homes of Irish Republicans. Our people were suffering in this competition of terror, but the British Loyalists were paying dearly, the demesne walls were tumbling and the British ascendancy was being destroyed. Our only fear was that, as time went on, there would be no more Loyalist’s homes to destroy, for we intended to go on to the bitter end. If the Republicans of West Cork were to be homeless and without shelter, then so too would be the British supporters. West Cork might become a barren land of desolation and misery, but at least the Britishers would have more than their full share of the sufferings.
When Marshal Zerinque approached me to write a piece to test whether Ford Madox Ford’s attributed maxim - ‘Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you’ - might apply to my most recent book, I was rather sceptical. How could the random selection of page ninety-nine possibly provide a casual browser with a strong sense of what the book was about? That is, until I read page ninety-nine and to my surprise found that it very much encapsulated the central theme of the book – the reasons for the burning of the Irish aristocracy’s country mansions.

Around 300 houses were maliciously destroyed by Irish revolutionaries, both political and agrarian, between 1920 and 1923. On page ninety-nine, it is evident that one of the reasons is that such mansions were regarded by republicans as symbols of British imperialism and so were detested by IRA leaders such as Tom Barry who rejoiced in burning them in reprisal for atrocities carried out by the British forces during the War of Independence. But there were many more reasons other than ancestral grievance and counter-reprisal and from this page onwards they are explained, in the process debunking existing myths and providing an additional dimension to the scholarly understanding of the Irish revolution it in all its complexities and often murkiness.

Moreover, on page ninety-nine the reader’s attention is drawn to the similar experiences of New York loyalists during the American revolution in the 1770s. 184 pages later, one of the main conclusions points to the need for further comparative studies. Thus, while Ford’s assertion may not always apply, in this case it is not overly far-fetched.
Learn more about Burning the Big House at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

David Silkenat's "Scars on the Land"

David Silkenat is a Senior Lecturer in American History at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of several books, including Raising the White Flag: How Surrender Defined the American Civil War, a finalist for the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Scars on the Land: An Environmental History of Slavery in the American South, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Scars on the Land is in the middle of chapter on how enslaved labor transformed waterways in the South. Here is one paragraph:
The flooding along the Mississippi became progressively worse in the 1850s. In the decade prior the Civil War, the levees broke nearly twenty times in the stretch between the Red River and New Orleans, inundating in the neighboring cotton and sugar fields. Unfortunate riverside planters often went bankrupt when they lost a year’s crop, but enslaved families paid a much higher price. In 1851, floodwaters destroyed a year’s sugar crop on Judah P. Benjamin’s Bellechase Plantation, sixteen miles south of New Orleans. Burdened by debts, Benjamin decided to abandon sugar planting for law and politics. He hired a well-known slave auction house to liquidate his holdings. At noon on January 12, 1852, interested parties gathered in the St. Louis Hotel’s ornate rotunda, which had hosted slave auctions for more than a decade and had become notorious among abolitionists for its juxtaposition of luxury and human degradation: published later that year, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin featured a New Orleans slave auction modeled on the site. For sale that day was not only the land, buildings, agricultural equipment, and livestock but also 129 enslaved men, women, and children, each listed by name, age, and occupation on an advertising broadside. Auctioned individually and in small lots, Bellechase’s enslaved community fragmented, dispersed to plantations up and down the Mississippi. The historical record remains silent on the eventual fate of Syphax, a thirty-five-year-old bricklayer; Armstead, a forty-year-old stable hand; fifty-five-year-old Maria Cooper and her twenty-three-year-old daughter Harriet; and the 125 other enslaved people auctioned that day. It does reveal, however, that Judah Benjamin was elected to the US Senate later that year. He would go on to serve the Confederacy as Jefferson Davis’s attorney general, secretary of war, and secretary of state.
To my surprise, this excerpt is actually a really good sample of book's contents. It highlights how environmental factors like flooding had a significant impact on the lives of enslaved Southerners. Scars on the Land tries to address two main themes: how the environment shaped the lives of the enslaved and how slavery shaped the environment. This paragraph from page 99 suggests both of these themes, but really emphasizes the former. Readers will discover that the levees that collapsed in this paragraph were the product of more than a century of enslaved labor all along the Mississippi, brutal work that transformed the river and the surrounding environment in profound ways.
Follow David Silkenat on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Lee Alan Dugatkin's "Power in the Wild"

Lee Alan Dugatkin is an animal behaviorist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science in the Department of Biology at the University of Louisville. He is the author of more than one hundred and fifty papers and the author or coauthor of many books, including The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness.

Dugatkin applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Power in the Wild: The Subtle and Not-So-Subtle Ways Animals Strive for Control over Others, and reported the following:
Hat’s off to Ford Madox Ford, inspiration for the Page 99 Test. As far, as my book, Power in the Wild: The Subtle and Not-So-Subtle Ways Animals Strive for Control over Others, I’d give the Page 99 Test a B+. Page 99 captures one important aspect of power dynamics in nonhumans. It takes us to the cliffsides of Gilgil, Kenya, with researcher Stephen Emlen, as he peers into the private lives, and power struggles of the white-fronted bee-eater (Merops bullockoides). Why, oh why, Emlen wondered, were white-fronted bee-eater fathers exerting their power over their sons and suppressing their lads’ reproductive success? And why weren’t sons mounting a more vigorous attempt to stop them? Emlen knew, indeed, he had been a pioneer in showing that, natural selection favors helping genetic relatives, particularly close relatives like offspring, not impeding their reproductive success. But on those cliffsides, white-fronted bee-eater fathers repeatedly chased their sons, interfered with their courtship, blocked access to their nests and more, and their sons mounted little resistance. After a deeper dive into the data, Emlen pieced together an answer. In the end, fathers who use their power thusly end up with more grandoffspring. For the sons, the victims of this power play, calculations are different: dad is bigger and more experienced, and so if a son fights back, he might get injured. But even putting that aside, if a son stays at his own nest and breeds, he may produce offspring; if he returns to help his father, his help will almost certainly result in the survival of his siblings that would not have survived otherwise. A bit of genetic accounting shows sons lose little by staying home a bit longer should their fathers use their power to press that point.

Page 99 captures this aspect of power, but it misses many others that pepper the pages of Power in the Wild. Watching power play out in nonhumans is like watching an opera replete with spying, deception, manipulation, alliances, and so much more. Page 99 just hints at that…
Visit Lee Alan Dugatkin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 18, 2022

Kevin Maurer's "Damn Lucky"

Kevin Maurer is the author of several books, including No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden. No Easy Day spent several weeks at #1 on the New York Times best seller list, and it was the top-selling hardcover book in the industry in 2012. The book is being translated in more than a dozen countries and also debuted at #1 in the U.K. and Canada.

Maurer has covered the military for more than ten years. In 2003, he followed the 82nd Airborne Division during the initial invasion of Iraq. He returned to cover the soldiers more than a dozen times, most recently in 2010 where he spent ten weeks with a Special Forces team in Afghanistan. He has also embedded with American soldiers in east Africa and Haiti.

Maurer applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Damn Lucky: One Man's Courage During the Bloodiest Military Campaign in Aviation History, and reported the following:
Page 99 is the start of Chapter 8 – Five Miles Above. It describes climbing to altitude and begins an important part of the book because it provides a detailed account of how treacherous it was to fight at high altitude.

It ends with:
Almost five miles up. It was like being on top of Mount Everest.
I was surprised that the Page 99 Test worked. I try and focus on first lines and last lines of every chapter, so I wasn’t sure what landed on page 99. It’s interesting, because I’ll read the first 100 pages of any book, but if I’m not hooked by then, I put it down and start a new one.

I think page 99 provides a sense of the book because the passage is centered around Lucky’s actions, which is at the soul of the book, as he and his crew climb to altitude. It allows the reader a glimpse of what it was like to deal with high altitude and cold temperatures – if the reader continues to read. To my chagrin, I noticed an edit that I wish I’d made, which is why I hate going back and reading my books after they publish. But, yes, the test works, for Damn Lucky. Now I’m going to have to check my other titles.
Visit Kevin Maurer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Theresa Kaminski's "Queen of the West"

Theresa Kaminski is a historian of scrappy women. After twenty-five years as a university professor, she now writes full time.

Kaminski applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Queen of the West: The Life and Times of Dale Evans, and reported the following:
Any human reader or electronic browser opening up Queen of the West to page 99 would find Dale Evans living through the spring and summer of 1945. As World War II drew to a close, she experienced big changes in her personal and professional lives. Dale’s home life was breaking up. Her marriage to musician/composer R. Dale Butts was on the rocks. Her son, Tom, graduated from high school that spring, and he would move out in the fall to begin college. She was pleased and proud about her son’s accomplishments.

But Dale Evans was less pleased with her career. She had left Republic Pictures, where she had been on contract since 1943, because Herbert Yates, the studio head, refused to cast her in anything but Roy Rogers westerns. She appreciated how those movies helped boost her star power but remained convinced she could never achieve the leading lady status she sought by appearing in “horse pictures.” Dale intended to become a leading lady, and she was planning a move to a different studio where she believed that could happen. But it was happening too slowly.

A passage from page 99:
To underscore her determination to break away from westerns, Dale gave an in-depth interview to Maxine Garrison, a feature writer for the Pittsburgh Press. Dale knew she risked making waves with Republic and with her fans, but she wanted to clarify her feelings about her career. The story included a photo of the ‘Queen of the Westerns’ clad in a two-piece swimsuit and a pair of high heels. It ran on August 9, the day the atomic bombing of Nagasaki dominated American headlines.
Queen of the West brilliantly passes the Page 99 Test. It illuminates a central struggle Dale Evans faced, one many women still confront today: How to blend a happy family life with a fulfilling career. This is a theme I explore throughout the biography. In the spring and summer of 1945, Dale knew she was at a crossroads both personally and professionally. Her marriage was not going to last, and she always envisioned herself in a happy marriage with a loving husband. Her only child was about to leave home, and she wasn’t quite sure how she felt about no longer having someone to mother.

Dale took a big step with her movie career that summer and declined to sign a new annual contract with Republic Pictures. RKO wanted her to star with comedian/dancer Eddie Cantor in Show Business Out West, a “sophisticated” musical comedy. She believed this would result in a long-term contract with RKO. Until the details were finalized, Dale signed single-picture deals to appear in a few Roy Rogers movies. She needed to keep working, to keep her face up on the silver screen. But the longer RKO kept her waiting, the more uneasy she became.

Another of the book’s themes also surfaces on page 99. Dale Evans exercised as much control as she could over her image and her path to celebrity. The interview she gave with Maxine Garrison was likely well-planned, with both the choice of journalist and the carefully considered responses. (Several years later, Garrison would be hired as assistant public relations director for Roy Rogers/Dale Evans Enterprises.) Dale appreciated her “Queen of the Westerns” (later changed to “Queen of the West”) nickname, but she didn’t want it to become the dominant image of her career. The remainder of the book traces how she handled that challenge.
Visit Theresa Kaminski's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Theresa Kaminski & Hugo.

The Page 99 Test: Angels of the Underground.

The Page 99 Test: Dr. Mary Walker's Civil War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Alex J. Kay's "Empire of Destruction"

Alex J. Kay is Senior Lecturer (Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter) in History at the University of Potsdam and lifetime Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He has published five acclaimed books on Nazi Germany, including The Making of an SS Killer.

Kay applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Empire of Destruction: A History of Nazi Mass Killing, and reported the following:
For the first time, Empire of Destruction: A History of Nazi Mass Killing offers readers an account of German war crimes against all major victim groups in a single volume. Page 99 is the opening page of Chapter 4 on the "Murder of Psychiatric Patients and Roma in the Soviet Union". It thus introduces the reader to two perhaps lesser-known demographic groups among the Nazis’ many victims. The opening sentences of the chapter inform the reader:
Soviet Jews were the principal victims of the mass-murder campaign waged in the USSR between summer 1941 and spring 1942 by SS and police forces with the active support of the Wehrmacht, but they were not the only population groups murdered there for racial-biological reasons. Soviet psychiatric patients and Roma – both regarded by the Nazis as racially inferior and thus as posing a biological threat, and both targeted in an attempt to ‘purify’ the newly occupied territories – were also murdered in large numbers during this period.
Page 99 is no more or less crucial to my book than any other page. What it does do, however, is bring together on a single page the three victim groups of Nazi mass-killing policies that – of all seven groups addressed in the book – perhaps had most in common in terms of the systematic nature of their persecution, the extent of its geographic coverage and the methods used to murder the victims: Jews, psychiatric patients and Roma.

Between 1939 and 1941, the Nazi regime intended to deport Jews and Roma together as part of the same vast programme of ethnic cleansing and demographic engineering. Both deportation programmes, with notable exceptions, went unrealised. The discriminatory measures of concentration and deprivation of freedom of movement, forced-labour exploitation, isolation and humiliation were often identical. The programme for the systematic murder of psychiatric patients in the German Reich exhibits remarkable parallels to the murder of Europe’s Jews from 1941 onwards. Not only were a large number of people murdered using gas in special killing centres, but a complex process based on a division of labour was developed, by means of which the victims were to be deceived until the last moment, the perpetrators seemingly freed from all responsibility and the secrecy of the entire programme ensured. The repeated transfer of the victims, the deployment of medical doctors for performing examinations or selections and the introduction of the criterion of "unfitness for work" are all elements that illustrate the direct links between the two murder programmes.

Wherever in occupied Europe German forces went, they murdered Jews, psychiatric patients and Roma. Many of the killing operations worked on parallel lines. The perpetrators of Nazi mass killing were spread across a number of state and party institutions. Some of these organisations were involved in several programmes of annihilation, often simultaneously. The SS and police, for instance, played a central role in the mass murder of Roma, psychiatric patients and Jews in the occupied territories. Nazi Germany intentionally killed 5.8 million European Jews, 300,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 200,000 European Roma. Substantial numbers of disabled people, Jews and Roma fell victim to the perpetrators’ three principal killing methods: starvation, shooting and gassing, in that order.
Learn more about Empire of Destruction at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Making of an SS Killer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 15, 2022

David N. Gellman's "Liberty's Chain"

David N. Gellman is Professor of History at DePauw University. He is the author of Emancipating New York, coauthor of American Odysseys, and coeditor of Jim Crow New York.

Gellman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Liberty's Chain: Slavery, Abolition, and the Jay Family of New York, and reported the following:
Page 99 features a portrait of John Jay by Rembrandt and Raphaelle Peale, c. 1795. The page also summarizes key features of the controversial treaty Jay negotiated with Britain in 1794 to stave off war and to address long-simmering conflict between the US and the former mother country. Opponents viewed the Jay Treaty as a sell-out of US interests which failed to extract respect for US neutrality.

If you can judge a book by its cover, then page 99 fits the bill. The cover of my book strikingly incorporates this very image. And to the degree that John Jay is the Founding Father patriarch whose complicated relationship to slavery sets in motion the national and family drama that the rest of the book narrates, the page works. The text on the rest of the page, however, does not speak directly to the book’s themes. There is no mention of slavery or specific enslaved people on page 99. Nonetheless, what the page does demonstrate is that context is crucial. Among the objections that agitated Jay Treaty opponents was the lack of any compensation for enslaved people who departed with the British at the end of the Revolutionary War, in alleged violation of the very peace treaty that Jay himself negotiated with the British in Paris more than a decade before. Notably, Jay brought enslaved people, Abbe and Benoit to France, and Peet to England to attend to his household during both sets of diplomatic negotiations. The ways in which the lives of the enslaved interweaved with the Jays’ public work, sometimes quite tragically, is a central theme of the book.

Liberty’s Chain is a multi-generational biography. Readers get the opportunity to meet some extraordinary figures—in particular John Jay’s son William Jay and his grandson John Jay II—in the fight for emancipation. The cause these two Jays embraced threatened to tear apart the nation whose founding provided the basis of their famous last name. Their alliances and antagonisms allow me to tell a family story that spans from the colonial period to the early 20th century to think anew about some of the most important events and themes in all of American history.
Learn more about Liberty's Chain at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Trenton Merricks's "Self and Identity"

Trenton Merricks is Commonwealth Professor of Philosophy at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Objects and Persons (2001), Truth and Ontology (2007), Propositions (2015), and many articles in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and philosophy of religion.

Merricks applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Self and Identity, and reported the following:
Here is page 99 of Self and Identity in its entirety:
what it would be like to be a vampire because you cannot know what it would be like to have a different self, or at least not a significantly different self. (Paul (2014; 2015a) goes so far as to claim that an adult woman who is not yet a mother cannot know what it would be like for her to have the values, desires, and projects she will have as a mother.)

Suppose that you are now a vampire. Back when you were a normal human, you could not know what it would be like to have your current vampiric values, desires, and projects. But you—a vampire—remember what it was like to have the values, desires, and projects of a normal human. So you know what it would be like to have those values, desires, and projects. So I need to qualify my remark that you cannot know what it would be like to have a different self. Let me say instead that you cannot know what it would be like to have a different self unless you had that self in the past and remember what it was like.

You have first-personal access to a person’s point of view at a future time only if you can know what it would be like to be that person at that future time. You cannot know what it would be like to have a different self (unless you had that self in the past). So if a person at a future time will have a different self than you have now (or have ever had), then you do not have first-personal access to that person’s point of view at that future time. So—according to Velleman—that person will not have, at that future time, what matters in survival for you. Thus Velleman’s views imply that you cannot survive a change in self (unless that change results in your reacquiring values, desires, and projects that you once had). So Velleman is (nearly) a Selfer.

I shall take my objections to the Selfer view to be objections to what Velleman (1996) says. So it is important that my objections to the Selfer view are not just objections to the view that you cannot survive any change in self, but are also objections to the thesis that you cannot survive those changes in self that involve your acquiring values, desires,
So that was page 99.

I think the test does not work very well for my book. This is for two reasons.

First, this is not really a book about vampires, but page 99 makes it seem like it is.

Second, page 99 is making a point that is important to the book’s overall argument. But that point all by itself—when not put in the context of the book’s overall argument—leaves the reader in the dark about the main topics of the book.

The book is about this question: what way of being related to a person at a future time explains why it is appropriate for you to first-personally anticipate the experiences that that person will have at that time, and to have self-interested concern with regard to those experiences?

I defend this answer to the above question: your being identical with that person at that future time. The first three chapters of the book defend this answer.

The next three chapters object to competing answers to the above question, answers that all involve some sort of psychological connectedness and/or psychological continuity. The answer Chapter Four focuses on is the “Selfer view,” which answers this question in terms of having “the same self,” that is, in terms of having the same values, desires, and projects. But this chapter also considers another answer in terms of “first-personal access.” Page 99 occurs in Chapter Four, and is part of my argument for the claim that this other answer implies (something really close to) the Selfer view.
Visit Trenton Merricks's website.

The Page 99 Test: Propositions.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

M. Chris Fabricant's "Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System"

M. Chris Fabricant is the Innocence Project’s Director of Strategic Litigation and one of the nation’s leading experts on forensic sciences and the criminal justice system. Fabricant is featured in the Netflix documentary The Innocence Files and his public commentary has been published in virtually every major media outlet.

Fabricant applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System, and reported the following:
In Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System on page 99 (the sentence begins on page 98):
By the time I began working as a public defender in the South Bronx in 2006 (at the Bronx Defenders), the DNA revolution sparked by the Innocence Project had changed the landscape of the American criminal justice system. Doubt had been introduced; the threat of wrongful conviction was no longer theoretical. My generation of defense attorneys was pushing back on the introduction of unreliable evidence against our clients. Nearly always, we lost. And men like Keith Harward and Steven Chaney—innocent prisoners who later became my clients—continued to be convicted on junk science. Most courts refused to seriously entertain arguments that forensic sciences were unreliable, wrongful convictions notwithstanding. But the same year I started in the Bronx, the National Academy of Sciences began another—much more comprehensive—investigation into forensics, this time focused on the many forms of poor people science.
The Page 99 Test works well for my book. It concludes the first chapter of Part II, which begins to bring my personal experiences more directly into the narrative, concludes the discussion of the DNA revolution, the founding of the Innocence Project and surfaces a theme, “poor people science,” that I explore throughout Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System. Poor people science is the difference between the scientific evidence used in civil litigation, where money is at stake and less likely to be unreliable, and the “scientific” evidence used in the American criminal justice system, where life and liberty are at stake, and junk science is pervasive. The difference speaks to our values as a society.
Follow M. Chris Fabricant on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Nicole Howard's "Loath to Print"

Nicole Howard is a professor of history at Eastern Oregon University. She is the author of The Book: The Life Story of a Technology.

Howard applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Loath to Print: The Reluctant Scientific Author, 1500–1750, and reported the following:
The ninety-ninth page recounts a moment when Christian Huygens, the Dutch astronomer and mathematician, shared copies of his 1656 treatise on Saturn with colleagues in France. This small publication proposed that Saturn had moons, but it also contained an anagram (unsolvable code) which posited Huygens’ theory that Saturn had a ring around it. He wanted to publish this secret to secure credit for it without actually divulging the idea. When, three years later, he had enough data to support this theory of a ring, he published a full book on it, System of Saturn. Copies of this work were strategically sent to astronomers whom Huygens determined were the most useful for assessing and verifying his theory.

Page 99 does not shine a light on the totality of the book’s argument, but it does illuminate one aspect of that thesis: the idea that scientists like Huygens worked to carefully create their own “custom” audiences for a work.

What the Page 99 Test does here is provide the reader with a key point of entry to the larger argument of the book, which is that scientists in the period we often call “the scientific revolution” were not nearly as enamored with the printing press as historians have imagined. Rather, they viewed the press as a liability, a tool that threatened their ideas by making them available to readers who lacked the training or skill to assess them fairly. The introduction describes an array of complaints about printing that early modern scientists expressed. Subsequent chapters explore the ways that authors dealt with these lamentations. Some circumvented the press altogether or manipulated the publication process in order to target readers of their choosing. Page 99 hits on this, as Huygens tried to secure his reputation in astronomy by sending fifty-three copies of his Saturn treatise to specific individuals, each of whom could strategically help him. Other chapters look at scientists who explicitly tried to discourage certain “ignorant” readers, or who developed their own private printing methods in order to reach a narrow audience of their choosing. Ultimately, this is a book about how scientists in this rich period looked at the democratizing tool of the printing press, saw little advantage in it, and worked out various alternative ways to disseminate their ideas.
Learn more about Loath to Print at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Katie Gaddini's "The Struggle to Stay"

Katie Gaddini is a sociologist at the Social Research Institute, University College London (UCL) and a research associate at the University of Johannesburg, Department of Sociology. In 2021-2022 she is a Religion, Spirituality, and Democratic Renewal Fellow of the Social Science Research Council. Gaddini holds master’s degrees from Boston College and the London School of Economics, and a PhD in Sociology from the University of Cambridge.

Her debut book, The Struggle to Stay: Why Single Evangelical Women Are Leaving the Church, is a book based on over four years of in-depth ethnographic research with single evangelical women in the US and the UK. Her current research investigates Christianity and politics in the US.

Gaddini applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Struggle to Stay and reported the following:
Page 99 is in the middle of the chapter ‘Purity Culture,’ which details white evangelicalism’s approach to dating, sex, and sexuality. I meet Jo, a single evangelical woman in my study, at a bar in New York City, and she tells me, in her characteristic directness, her thoughts on the matter. Here is an excerpt:
Soon after we sat down, I bluntly asked if she ever felt an imposed muteness around sex. She nodded her head and swallowed her juice, clearing her throat before speaking. A few months prior, she recounted, she was talking to a friend and had casually inserted the topic of masturbation into the conversation. Her friend had interrupted Jo midsentence.

“Wait, what? A Christian girl who masturbates?”

“Um, what Christian girl doesn’t?”

“Um, most of them,” her friend answered, her certainty starting to wither as she spoke.

“And so I told her, well, they are either lying or they are fucking dumb!” Jo roared with laughter after this final pronouncement and emptied her glass.

Jo’s friend’s assumption that evangelical women did not masturbate was understandable. As Linda Kay Klein notes in her book about the evangelical movement, “The purity movement teaches that every sexual activity—from masturbation to kissing if it elicits that special feeling—can make one less pure.” Although I had never heard a pastor at Wellspring speak about masturbation, leaders at Bethel Church, in California, certainly did. On day 11 of the “Purity Plan” on YouTube, Caitlin Zick and Jason Vallotton explain, in separate sexual purity messages, that masturbation is a “painkiller” that people use when they feel disconnected from others. They articulate the standard evangelical stance clearly: masturbation violates God’s plan for purity and connection.
Readers who open to Page 99 might think that my book is all about sex. It isn’t. Although my research originally started as an investigation into evangelical women’s approach to sex and sexuality, it quickly bloomed into a larger inquiry into what it means to be a single evangelical woman in the US and UK today – including various struggles, joys, and complexities. Even though the book covers a range of topics, sex and sexuality are a major issue that devout women must contend with, and as a result, ‘Purity Culture’ is the longest chapter in the book. I had so much material to cover! So, I would say all in all that the Page 99 Test works for my book, and at the very least introduces the reader to Jo, a spirited and very likeable character.
Visit Katie Gaddini's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Mark Wilson's "Imitation of Rigor"

Mark Wilson is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, and the author of Physics Avoidance (2017) and Wandering Significance (2006). He has written widely on how our categories for describing the large-scale world around us have progressively evolved, within both science and our ordinary ways of speaking. He also supervises The North American Traditions Collection of Folk Music.

Wilson applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Imitation of Rigor: An Alternative History of Analytic Philosophy, and reported the following:
The Page 99 Test lands us in the middle of a somewhat technical example that nonetheless encapsulates the central morals of the book. To sidestep unnecessary details, I will take the liberty of appropriating a simpler example from another book of mine (the most efficient means of explicating page 99 of The Good Soldier may refer to Ford Madox Ford's collaborations with Conrad). A real-life material such as a steel beam is comprised of a hierarchy of smaller substructures [image left], which progressively emerge into view as we descend to smaller scale lengths. Metaphysical orthodoxy claims that our thinking about such arrangements needs to be governed by an all-inclusive “logic of large and small.” But every practical engineer realizes that this naïve approach leads to an intractable descriptive overload. Recent successes in treating complicated materials have suggested a more flexible approach called “multiscalar modeling” in which the task of dealing with large and small becomes allocated to a hierarchy of simpler submodels that treat the dominant behaviors that normally prevail upon their correlated scale lengths. So, we begin by modeling the beam’s normal stretching behavior on a macroscopic level according to simple Hookean rules. But these standard expectations sometimes fail due to events that originate upon a more minute level (e.g., the dislocation lines visible in our third picture may shift position and render the steel brittle). A multiscalar modeling architecture only attends to these lower scale disruptions when necessary, following a general policy of “don’t scratch where it don’t itch.” This simple division of descriptive labor (which usually requires a long sequence of successive corrections) can reduce a complex problem to a set of manageable tasks.

I then argue that our ordinary thinking is frequently structured by similar expedients without much conscious recognition on our parts that we are doing so. Left undiagnosed, these otherwise beneficial intellectual adjustments frequently serve as significant sources of conceptional confusion due to the fact that seemingly identical terminologies (in our example, the words “force” and “cause”) commonly reappear with subtly altered meanings within the component submodels. Much of my book traces our current misconceptions of “what rigorous methodology in philosophy demands" to a historical misdiagnosis of exactly this kind, in which surface “logic” and axiomatics became unwisely prized as universal conceptual correctives when more supple forms of diagnosis in the spirit of multiscalar modeling are actually wanted.
Learn more about Imitation of Rigor at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 8, 2022

Justin Murphy's "Your Children Are Very Greatly in Danger"

Justin Murphy is the education reporter at the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, New York.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Your Children Are Very Greatly in Danger: School Segregation in Rochester, New York, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book happens to be the first page of a chapter, focusing on a pair of near-simultaneous events at the local and state level that ended up being very important to the story of desegregation in Rochester in different ways.
In late May 1963, the Rochester City School District superintendent, Robert Springer, flew to Dallas for his brother in-law’s funeral. While staying at his sister’s home, the fifty-one-year-old suffered a heart attack in his sleep and was rushed to the Baylor University Hospital. He died on June 19, a gallstone apparently having blocked his bile ducts and caused an infection. Herman Goldberg, the district’s special education director, was appointed as interim superintendent after the school board’s first choice turned down the assignment.

The day before Springer’s death, the state education commissioner, James Allen, had issued a directive that would come to define Herman Goldberg’s legacy in Rochester. Specifically addressing Malverne, a small, segregated Long Island school district, Allen said that the district needed to redraw the attendance boundaries to create some approximate racial balance among its three schools. More generally, he wrote in an open letter to New York school leaders:

The position of the department . . . is that the racial imbalance existing in a school in which the enrollment is wholly or predominantly Negro interferes with the achievement of equality of educational opportunity and therefore must be eliminated from the schools of New York State.
Does this page give a good sense of the entire premise of the book? One could do worse, I suppose. It captures the way that local and state or national factors have combined, for good or for ill.

In this case, both Herman Goldberg, the Rochester superintendent, and James Allen, the state education commissioner, were considered admirable white liberals who staked their careers on desegregating schools. Both could make a case that they did everything within their power to make that vision reality - and yet their vision did not, in fact, become reality. One can point to crucial moments where each of these white liberal leaders failed to intervene due to political or pragmatic calculations. Could they have made a difference if they’d acted differently? It’s hard to say. I think they could have.

What I’d really like to do is turn to the next page of the book and share a little about Herman Goldberg’s remarkable background. He was born in Brooklyn in 1915 and played baseball at Brooklyn College. From there he was chosen for the baseball demonstration team for the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, making him one of the very few Jewish athletes to participate in the games in Nazi Germany. He later recalled sitting just a few feet away from Adolf Hitler in the stands watching swimming or wrestling matches.

I tried but did not succeed in contacting some of Goldberg’s descendants as I was writing the book. Remarkably, just a few weeks before publication, his son emailed me from out of state on an entirely different topic. I was able to direct him to the book and was gratified that he found it to be a fair assessment of his father and the work he did in very trying circumstances.
Visit Justin Murphy's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Judith A. Green's "The Normans"

Judith A. Green is professor emeritus of history at the University of Edinburgh. Her many distinguished works include Henry I and The Aristocracy of Norman England.

Green applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Normans: Power, Conquest and Culture in 11th Century Europe, and reported the following:
Page 99 gives a very good idea of two of the main themes of the book, power and conquest. Its subject is a man named Robert of Rhuddlan, who came from Normandy to England as a lad. He spent fifteen years fighting in North Wales, carving out a territory for himself at the expense of the Welsh whom he killed, imprisoned or enslaved. He finally met his end by attacking the Welsh king whose ships were stranded on the beach near the Great Orme, even though his men were hopelessly outnumbered. He was a warrior who came to death, we are told, through pride and greed. His story is reflected in those of other Norman leaders, such as William the Conqueror, Robert Guiscard and his brothers who conquered southern Italy and Sicily, and Bohemond and Tancred, commanders on the First Crusade.

What is the reality which lay behind their conquests, and the myth that they were terrific warriors, the ‘stormin’ Normans’? The first part of this book explores various possible explanations, arguing that a great deal of their success was due to timing, luck, and opportunism rather than any qualities unique to Normans. The second considers the effects of their conquests in terms of state building and lordship, power experienced at its most direct, and then looks at the wider context. ‘Cultural encounters’ deals with the impact of newcomers on natives in different parts of Europe and the near East, and ranges from dress and diet to music and medicine. The issue of identity comes up when looking at Norman emigration, and the extent to which they continued to identify with a Norman ‘homeland’. Then the visible legacy of their presence in terms of castles and cathedrals is highlighted. If England was to be studded with far more castles than before 1066, the Normans’ arrival made much less change in southern Italy, for instance, where there were already Byzantine towers. Almost all major churches in England after 1066 were destroyed and rebuilt on a huge scale but in a form that did not simply replicate those in Normandy. In other words, the Normans were catalysts of change, but the old certainties of the nature and extent of change have been swept aside in recent years.
Learn more about The Normans at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Elizabeth Popp Berman's "Thinking like an Economist"

Elizabeth Popp Berman is associate professor of organizational studies at the University of Michigan and the author of Creating the Market University: How Academic Science Became an Economic Engine.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Thinking like an Economist: How Efficiency Replaced Equality in U.S. Public Policy, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Thinking Like an Economist is part of the introduction of chapter 5, which looks at how what I call the "economic style of reasoning" spread into social policy -- in antipoverty efforts and healthcare, among other domains. Page 99 describes how the economic style of reasoning -- a loose way of thinking about policy that centers "efficiency, incentives, and choice" -- came into conflict with the arguments that underpinned the legislation launching the Great Society. As I write, some of those arguments were
grounded in the logic of social insurance -- that is, the idea that universal government programs could be used to protect people against risks associated with old ago, unemployment, and sickness or disability. Others, more recent in origin, emphasized democratic participation or the establishment of new rights, including the right to income, to housing, and to medical care. Still others, emerging from the civil rights movement, sought to ensure racial and gender equality. These values imbued the laws that established a wide range of Great Society programs, even as they ran into resistance from politicians who subscribed to competing American political ideals.
The page goes on to describe how the Great Society facilitated expansion of the economic style of reasoning, despite those conflicts, and discusses how the new experts who came to administer and control the Great Society had effects:
Their influence would prove uneven -- significant in antipoverty policy, expanding in health and housing policy, and initially stymied in education policy. Where they became influential, though, they changed the terms of policy debate. Proposals to politically empower poor Americans, to provide a family allowance to all households with children (as did the U.K. and Canada), or to establish national health insurance started to seem inefficient or irrelevant, while proposals that emphasized cost-sharing, means-testing, and 'institution-building for competition' increasingly seemed natural. The commitments to universality, rights, and equality had been sidelined by an emphasis on efficiency, incentives, and choice.
Page 99 does sum up the core themes of the book quite well -- while the book as a whole covers policy domains from antitrust to transportation regulation, the story it tells is fundamentally about a tension between a new, superficially neutral way of thinking about policy problems, the values embedded within it, and how they conflicted with -- and often squeezed out -- competing values -- in ways that had lasting consequences for policy, and especially for Democrats.
Visit Elizabeth Popp Berman's website.

The Page 99 Test: Creating the Market University.

--Marshal Zeringue