Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Joseph O. Chapa's "Is Remote Warfare Moral?"

Joseph O. Chapa is a US Air Force officer and holds a PhD in philosophy from the University of Oxford. He has served as a Predator pilot and instructor of philosophy at the Air Force Academy. Chapa has published on military ethics in academic journals including Social Theory and Practice and The Journal of Military Ethics, and in online venues such as War on the Rocks and The Strategy Bridge. He currently leads the Artificial Intelligence Cross-Functional Team in Air Force Futures and serves as the Department of the Air Force's chief responsible AI ethics officer.

Chapa applied the Page 99 Test to his new book, Is Remote Warfare Moral?: Weighing Issues of Life and Death from 7,000 Miles, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Just because moral injury is separate from, and often lacks the acute trauma of, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it is no small thing. Long before the term moral injury was coined, [J. Glenn] Gray described it—and the way a soldier might respond to it—in combat:

It is a crucial moment in a soldier’s life when he is ordered to perform a deed that he finds completely at variance with his own notions of right and good. … he discovers that an act someone else thinks to be necessary is for him criminal. … He feels himself caught in a situation that he is powerless to change yet cannot himself be part of. The past cannot be undone and th present is inescapable. His only choice is to alter himself, since all external features are unchangeable. (Gray, The Warriors, 184)

Moral injury, of course, falls on a spectrum. Perhaps not all examples will be as life-changing as those Gray describes. He seems to suggest here that a soldier must “alter himself” only if the task he is required to perform is, in some sense, beyond the pale—so far outside what he believes to be morally justifiable that he knows that committing the act will injure him. And moral injury is often characterized by feelings of guilt and shame. The counterintuitive revelation from a number of recent studies, however, is that combatants can experience moral injury even when the acts they commit are morally justified and even when they commit no wrong. This finding is a surprising phenomenon. Taking a human life can be a traumatic thing, even when doing so is morally justified, as it often is in war.
There is one sense in which the book fails the Page 99 Test, and another in which it performs exceptionally well. The book fails the test in that page 99 invites the reader to wade deeply into subject matter that might seem out of place given the book’s topic. There is no mention here of remote warfare, of “drones,” of the US’s post-9/11 wars, or of the Predator and Reaper aircraft and their crews. Page 99 is about the distinction between post-traumatic stress disorder and moral injury—two terms that might fit more naturally in a book about psychology than one about morality. One could read page 99 and yet have no idea that this book is about the morality of remote warfare.

And yet, there is another sense in which the Page 99 Test points readers to a thread that is woven throughout the book’s other pages: if we are to understand remote warfare, we must look, not just to modern military technology and not just to the post-9/11 “global war on terror,” but to the broader context: to the long history of airpower, to two millennia of just war thinking, and to enduring features of human nature, to include moral psychology.

Even if, as Ford Madox Ford suggests, the quality of this book should be revealed on page 99 (and I’ll leave that determination to readers), the scope of the book, in this case, will not be. To engage with (notice, I do not say “to answer”) the question, is remote warfare moral, I have looked closely at the warrior ethos, at moral justifications for killing in war, at military virtue, at the history of war, and yes, of course, at moral psychology. My own view is that these questions are not simple, and their answers are not obvious. But as the age of “drones” quickly ushers us into the age of military artificial intelligence and lethal autonomous weapons systems, it is crucial that we ask them.
Visit Joseph O. Chapa's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones's "A Question of Standing"

Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones is an Emeritus Professor of American history at the University of Edinburgh. He studied at the Universities of Wales, Michigan, Harvard, and Cambridge, and is the honorary president of the Scottish Association for the Study of America. He has held visiting fellowships and professorships in Harvard, Berlin, and Toronto. He is the author of a prize-winning book on the American left, and of sixteen other books published in eleven languages, mainly on US intelligence history, including The CIA and American Democracy (1989), The FBI: A History (2007), In Spies We Trust: The Story of Western Intelligence (2012), and We Know All About You (2017).

Jeffreys-Jones applied the Page 99 Test to his new book, A Question of Standing: The History of the CIA, and reported the following:
The page discusses how President Gerald Ford responded to the great CIA scandal of the mid-1970s. It explains how he reacted to the revelation that the agency had plotted a number of assassinations. He issued an executive ban on this practice. But his motive was to prevent Congress from passing a more enduring legislative ban on assassination. Future presidents would be able to reverse his order, and he warned that the United States should never tie its own hands in a hostile world. Ford was interested in keeping certain CIA secrets from leaking. Page 99 goes on to give the example of how stories began to leak about the agency’s plan to lift a sunken Soviet submarine in order to retrieve the secret data that its equipment would reveal. The CIA commissioned the Glomar Explorer, a specialist vessel, to do the job. Ford went to some lengths to prevent the story from leaking into the public domain. All this, the paragraph explains, was part of a Ford administration counter-reformation against reforms being pressed for in Congress.

The page gives a good idea of the theme of Chapter 8 in the book, which is titled ‘From Reformation to Counter-reformation in the 1970s’. It illustrates one facet, but one facet only, of the overall theme expressed in the book’s title, A Question of Standing. The book argues that the CIA must be in good standing to do its job properly, analysing foreign threats and giving the nation’s leaders an opportunity to respond to them effectively. The CIA was the world’s first democratically approved secret intelligence service and continued to depend on the respect and support of the US public. The 1970’s revelations wrecked such confidence and reform was needed to restore trust. President Ford was a reluctant contributor to that process.

The Page 99 Test thus works up to a point in the case of A Question of Standing. It does not – and could not -- summarise the other points made in a book that covers a long period and is by definition about world history. It does not tell you about the Bay of Pigs, about the CIA’s contribution to President Reagan’s effort to end the arms race and European communism in the 1980s, and does not foretell future problems with Al Qaeda and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But surely the appeal of any book should not be monochromatic. Every page, when turned, should present you with a different little surprise. Also, while lengthy deviation can be annoying, there is room for little asides and anecdotes that enliven the story and keep the reader’s attention. Page 99 should succeed because it relates to other pages, but also because it is different from them.
Learn about Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones's top ten classic spy novels.

The Page 99 Test: In Spies We Trust.

The Page 99 Test: We Know All About You.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 29, 2022

Holly Lawford-Smith's "Gender-Critical Feminism"

Holly Lawford-Smith is an Associate Professor in Political Philosophy in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne. She works in social, moral, and political philosophy and has focused on climate ethics, collective action, and feminism. Her last book was Not In Their Name (2019), on citizens' culpability for states' actions. Before the University of Melbourne, she worked at the University of Sheffield, the Australian National University, and Charles Sturt University. Her PhD is from the Australian National University and her undergraduate, Honours, and Masters degrees are from the University of Otago.

Lawford-Smith applied the Page 99 Test to her new book, Gender-Critical Feminism, and reported the following:
"More gays, fewer gays, it doesn't matter. No one is harmed by being gay... But the idea doesn't apply to trans people as straightforwardly as Law seems to assume".

This is how page 99 starts. On the previous page, I had explained that Benjamin Law, a well-known gay Australian writer who today has nearly 150K Twitter followers, had alleged that worries about increasing numbers of trans people could only come from 'aversion to--and hatred of--the existence of transgender people'. I was explaining that this idea gets its plausibility from the comparison to gay rights movement, and conservative worries about a gay 'social contagion'. I argue that the worries are in fact very different, because no one is harmed by being gay, so it genuinely doesn't matter if there are more or fewer gays; but people arguably are harmed by identifying as trans, because of the link from trans identification to medical and surgical transition, combined with the fact that demographic changes in who is identifying as trans create a strong possibility that many people currently identifying as trans are not really trans. If we care about harm reduction, then under these circumstances we should care if there are more or fewer people identifying as trans. Most of the rest of page 99 is taken up with empirical description of the potential harms of affirming children as trans, including that they don't get support for co-morbidities that are actually playing a more significant explanatory role in their unwellness, that they are at risk of the unknown long-term effects of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, and that had they been left alone they would have been most likely to desist in trans identification, avoiding the pain of surgical transition and the dependency of medical transition.

There's a sense in which the Page 99 Test applies extremely well to this book, because it singles out one of the two most controversial issues in the book, namely the 'affirmation-only' approach to children who identify as trans. (The other controversial issue, starting just a few pages later, is the sexual nature of the trans identification of one cohort of adult trans-identifying males.) It also gets right to the heart of that issue, which is the disagreement with gender identity activists like Benjamin Law over whether there's really "nothing to see here" when it comes to the huge demographic changes to the cohort who identify as transgender today. But there's another sense in which the Test doesn't apply well to this book, or at least is unhelpful to what I intended for the book. That is, the chapter on trans issues, which is Chapter 5 and titled 'Trans/Gender', is just one chapter of a ten-chapter book about gender-critical feminism, the emerging feminist theory and movement. One of the things I was at great pains to argue in the book is that while there is a current preoccupation with trans issues among gender-critical feminists, this is only because of the conflict of interest with women's rights created by the way that trans rights activists are currently pursuing their political goals. What explains why there's such a conflict is more fundamental feminist commitments: women are indignant about the loss of female-only spaces, female-specific rights and protections under the law, and female-centred language. They're realizing more and more that feminism itself has lost sight of its original constituency, and the reasons that justified having a feminist movement in the first place. So it was important to me that trans issues not take up too much space in the book. The Page 99 Test, counterproductively, takes us right into the heart of that conflict, and might misleadingly suggest that the book is 'about' trans issues. It isn't - most of the book is about the connection between gender-critical feminism and radical feminism, and about arguing for a particular version of feminism, one that is narrowly focused on the interests of 'women qua women', meaning, females, and the way that they have been constructed to be feminine across the several thousands of years of male-dominated history.
Visit Holly Lawford-Smith's website.

The Page 99 Test: Not In Their Name.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Johanna Drucker's "Inventing the Alphabet"

Johanna Drucker is the Breslauer Professor of Bibliographical Studies and a distinguished professor in the Department of Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. She has been the recipient of Fulbright, Mellon, and Getty Fellowships and in 2019 was the inaugural Distinguished Senior Humanities Fellow at the Beinecke Library, Yale University. Her artist books are included in museums and libraries in North America and Europe, and her creative work was the subject of a traveling retrospective, Druckworks 1972-2012: 40 Years of Books and Projects. Her publications include Visualizing Interpretation, Iliazd: Meta-biography of a Modernist, and The Digital Humanities Coursebook.

Drucker applied the Page 99 Test to her new book, Inventing the Alphabet: The Origins of Letters from Antiquity to the Present, and reported the following:
The text on page 99 falls in Chapter 4 of Inventing the Alphabet, “The Confusion of Tongues and Compendia of Scripts.” The section focuses on the 16th-century French linguist, Cabalist, and scholar, Guillaume Postel and describes the contents of Postel’s 1538 publication, Linguarum Duodecim Characteribus Differentium Alphabetum (Diverse Alphabetic Characters from Twelve Languages). In this book, Postel presented samples of twelve scripts he had collected during his travels from Paris through the regions of the Levant and Near East. The section summarizes the introduction to the twelve languages Postel’s book provided, including pronunciation guides as well as settings of the Lord’s Prayer in each of the scripts. The book was a breakthrough for several reasons. Postel had copies made of Hasmonean coins (from the 1st century of the Common Era) and also presented a specimen of Samaritan, an alphabet that was competing with Hebrew to be considered the “first” human writing. Postel’s convictions about a coming religious war and return of the Messiah guided his work. But as the text notes, he participated in major debates of the period suggesting the “oldest” of human tongues was Hebrew. He traced the differences in existing languages to the dispersal of the sons of Noah after the Flood and subsequent Confusion of Tongues at Babel.

Page 99 contains crucial elements of Inventing the Alphabet. Though an obscure reference to some, Guillaume Postel’s work exerted considerable influence in the 16th and 17th centuries when Biblical narratives served as historical explanations and mystical letterforms found their place among samples of living scripts. Postel’s efforts to assemble historical knowledge of the alphabet from evidence available to him at the time exemplifies the appreciation of living and lost intellectual traditions that inform the book as a long overview.

Inventing the Alphabet is concerned with intellectual history and with tracking the shifting frameworks of scholarship according to which the origins of the alphabet have been understood. For Postel, the Cabalist, the notion of a divine origin of the letters from the stars was fully justified. Other early scholars, notably the Greek historian Herodotus, had only textual means to describe their understanding. Lacking any visual record, we can only speculate on what Herodotus had been seeing when he described the earliest inscriptions in letters brought from the East. The book traces the relations between knowledge technologies—texts, images, compendia, tables, epigraphy, and archaeology—and the shifting concept of alphabet origins and development. For instance, while biblical timelines are no longer used to define historical understanding of the geological and archaeological record, the work of Herodotus continues to be useful for assessing the age and variety of archaic Greek scripts. Likewise, the discoveries of ancient inscriptions in the Near East, lands featured in biblical accounts, have provided some evidence of the historical accuracy (however qualified) of events narrated in the Old Testament.

Page 99 touches on all of these issues. While some intellectual positions have fallen out of favor—such as Postel’s Cabalistic belief in the celestial origin of the alphabet—they were fully legitimate within their own historical moment. As new evidence and empirical models of studying the past have emerged, we need to remember that they, too, are shaped on assumptions that may be subject to change. We can now map the development of all alphabetic scripts in use today (Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Berber, Tamil etc.) emerged from a single proto-Canaanite tap root between about 1800-1500 BCE in the ancient Levant. Most remarkably, that set of alphabetic signs invented by nomadic Semitic speakers in the deserts of Canaan and Sinai undergirds our current international Internet communication systems.
Visit Johanna Drucker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Mahmood Monshipouri's "In the Shadow of Mistrust"

Mahmood Monshipouri is Professor and Chair of International Relations at San Francisco State University; he also teaches at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include the edited volume Inside the Islamic Republic: Social Change in Post-Khomeini Iran.

Monshipouri applied the Page 99 Test to his new book, In the Shadow of Mistrust: The Geopolitics and Diplomacy of US-Iran Relations, and reported the following:
Yes, the book’s page 99 has an appropriate title for this book’s central gist. Iran has continuously navigated between ideological and geopolitical spheres. The following quotation from page 99 is appropriate:
The 1980s saw the formation of an elite revolutionary military force. Iraq’s invasion of Iran on September 22, 1980, not only failed to dissuade the Iranians from pursuing their revolutionary goals but also led them to double down on these efforts. Ironically, it was in the midst of that war that the Iranian revolutionaries came up with the idea of forming the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and tasking it with “liberating” Palestine and exporting the revolution beyond Iran’s borders.
Although page 99 is one of the book’s most relevant pages, signifying to some extent the essence of the book, other pages, such as 189 and 247, also best reflect the book’s main thrust.

The test works somewhat (not entirely) accurately for the book’s central theme. But focusing largely on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and its support of proxies in the region (such as Hezbollah) might not provide the most accurate picture of Iran’s foreign policy toward such regions as the South Caucasus or the so-called “Look to the East” foreign policy that relates to Iran’s long-term investment in its relations with China.
Learn more about In the Shadow of Mistrust at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 26, 2022

Karen B. Graubart's "Republics of Difference"

Karen Graubart is Co-Director of the Tepoztlán Institute for the Transnational History of the Americas and Associate Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. She is the author of the award-winning With Our Labor and Sweat: Indigenous Women and the Formation of Colonial Society in Peru, 1550-1700.

Graubart applied the Page 99 Test to her new book, Republics of Difference: Religious and Racial Self-Governance in the Spanish Atlantic World, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Republics of Difference puts the reader in a chapter that deals with the crux of my argument: that Spanish monarchs used the "republic" as a way to manage subordinate peoples (here, Muslims in Spain), and that those peoples deployed the republic to preserve what was important to them. That is, self-governance might not have been autonomy, but it mattered. This page explores the situation of Muslims who, contrary to the usual practice, had Christian judges thrust upon them to deal with their civil conflicts. The result was that in that community, Muslim leaders stepped back from official power, while in other locations they acted as qadis or judges. I note here a recurring problem: that the absence of Jewish or Muslim or Indigenous or Black leadership contributed to the erasure of those communities as active participants in Castilian or Spanish rule, enabling historians to believe that their self-governance did not exist or did not matter.
Visit Karen B. Graubart's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Victor Stater's "Hoax: The Popish Plot that Never Was"

Victor Stater is Jane De Grummond Professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He is the author of Duke Hamilton is Dead!, Noble Government, and A Political History of Tudor and Stuart England.

Stater applied the Page 99 Test to his new book, Hoax: The Popish Plot that Never Was, and reported the following:
Hoax: The Popish Plot That Never Was recounts the story of the so-called 'Popish Plot:' a confection of perjuries and conspiracy theories that upended English politics in the late 1670s. According to a disgraced Church of England minister, Titus Oates, English Catholics conspired to murder King Charles II and impose his Catholic brother James, on the throne in the aftermath of a bloody Catholic uprising. Joined by a number of other shady informers, the 'Plot' generated a national hysteria in which over two dozen innocent Catholics were convicted and executed as traitors. The charges laid by the informers were seized upon by ambitious and unscrupulous politicians like the earl of Shaftesbury, who intended to advance their own agendas. Ironically, for all of the injustices created one important benefit for the long term: the birth of two-party politics. Believers in the Plot formed the nucleus of the Whig Party, and their opponents evolved into Tories. These parties would dominate British politics into the 19th century and beyond.

Page 99 of Hoax describes the (false) charges levied by Oates against Charles II's Queen, Catherine of Braganza. Oates accused her of plotting her husband's death by poison:
Replacing the Queen was not a new idea, but this gambit threatened to remove Catherine not just from court, but from the living world. Henry VIII had executed to wives who fell afoul of faction, and there was no reason to think that a third royal queen might not follow the same path. Certain Shaftesbury would have no compunction about sacrificing Queen Catherine if it would allow Charles to remarry and father a legitimate heir. The diarist john Evelyn thought that Oates acted "to gratifie some, who would have been glad His majestie should have married a more fruitfull lady." King Charles had different ideas. "They think I have a mind to a new wife, but for all that, I will not see an innocent woman abused." He also told Bishop Burnet that Catherine "was a weak woman, and had some disagreeable humours, but was not capable of a wicked thing, and considering his faultiness towards her in other things, he thought it was a horrid thing to abandon her."

Catherine of Braganza had already been abused, by her faithless husband, whose affairs he flaunted before her, completely unconcerned about her feelings. Yet the royal couple had come to a satisfactory arrangement. The queen knew that she could not compete with her husband's favourite mistresses—she was short, had a prominent overbite and as Pepys wrote when he met her for the first time, "she be not very charming." Unfortunately , she also proved unable to provide an heir. She conceived two, or possibly three times, but none of her pregnancies went to term. The last was in 1669, nearly a decade earlier, when she miscarried after being frightened by one of the king's pets—a fox that apparently leapt on her and ran across her face.

But Charles bore with the disappointment of a childless marriage (after all there were plenty of other children, by his mistresses, upon whom he could dote). Catherine, in turn reconciled herself to Charles's infidelities. Despite his affairs, he was kind to his wife, allowed her to live more or less as she pleased and by 1678 the couple had a companionable, if not uxorious relationship. It was strong enough to survive the attack orchestrated by Shaftesbury. But the earl pressed forward: he never abandoned the belief that Charles II was at heart too weak to resist pressure if it was great enough."
Page 99 of Hoax does indeed offer an accurate view of the work as a whole: the accusations directed at Queen Catherine, and the reaction they provoked, illustrate the essence of the book. Lies, dishonest politicians, and scandal were at the heart of the Popish Plot—but this page also shows that there were some, like Charles II and Queen Catherine, who defended the truth. Ultimately the truth emerged—painfully and at the cost of too many innocent lives, but in the end the liars and rogues came to grief, branded as perjurers and criminals.
Learn more about Hoax: The Popish Plot that Never Was at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Alfred R. Mele's "Free Will"

Alfred R. Mele is the William H. and Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University. He is the author of twelve previous books and over 200 articles and editor of seven books. He is past director of two multi-million dollar, interdisciplinary projects: the Big Questions in Free Will project (2010-13) and the Philosophy and Science of Self-Control project (2014-17).

Mele applied the Page 99 Test to his new book, Free Will: An Opinionated Guide, and reported the following:
From page 99:
I’ll repeat, from chapter 5, my description of one way of thinking about the problem of present luck as it arises in the story I told there:
If there is nothing about Joe’s abilities, capacities, state of mind, moral character, reasoning, efforts at self-control, and the like in either universe that accounts for the difference in what he decides, then the difference seems to be just a matter of luck. And given that neither universe differs from the other in any respect at all before he makes his decision, there is no difference at all in Joe in these two universes to account for the difference in his decisions.
This statement applies just as well to the present story in which Joe agent-causes his decision. In one universe he agent-causes his decision to rob the store, and in another universe in which everything is the same right up to the time of decision, he agent-causes a decision not to rob the store.

It’s difficult to see how agent causation, understood simply as a causal relation between an agent and an event, even makes a dent in the problem of present luck. Perhaps that is why some philosophers have wanted to build it into the very notion of agent causation that agent-causing an event is sufficient for freely causing it. We’ll return to this issue later.

The stage is now set for one of the skeptical arguments about free will that we’ll be examining in this chapter.
Would browsers who open my book to this page get a good idea of the whole book? Well, they would get the idea that the book is at least partly about free will and arguments for skepticism about it and that connections between free will and luck are examined. In a way, this amounts to a decent idea of what about forty-five percent of the book is about. What I do in much of the book is to develop two different ways of conceiving of free will and to explore the pros and cons of those two conceptions – both of which I regard as serious contenders. What I refer to as “the problem of present luck” is a deep and interesting problem that proponents of one of those conceptions have to deal with. One thing I do in the book is to offer a solution to that problem, one that takes us back to what might be our earliest free actions as children and then gradually moves forward in time, paying special attention to character development in a universe like Joe’s. The other conception isn’t directly threatened by the problem of present luck, but it has problems – and advantages – of its own. I explain why many philosophers find the latter conception attractive and try to give readers a good feel for its attractions. The final chapter rebuts some highly touted neuroscience-based arguments for the claim that free will is an illusion. So why did I say forty-five percent? If we were to subtract that last chapter, each of the two conceptions of free will featured in the book would have accounted for about half of the total page count, and the final chapter is roughly ten percent of the book. There you have it. Incidentally, I thought for a while about whether including this calculation was a good or a bad idea. As you can tell, I decided to include it. Maybe in another possible universe that is exactly the same as ours up to the moment I made that decision, I decided otherwise.
Learn more about Free Will at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Catherine Musemeche's "Lethal Tides"

Catherine “Kate” Musemeche trained at one of the elite children’s hospitals in the country, Children’s Memorial Hospital of Northwestern University in Chicago and has been a pediatric surgeon for more than three decades. Musemeche also has an MBA from the Anderson School of Management at the University of New Mexico and a JD from the University of Texas School of Law. Musemeche’s first book, Small, was longlisted for the E.O. Wilson/Pen American Literary Science Award and was awarded the Texas Writer’s League Discovery Prize for Nonfiction in 2015. She has also contributed to the New York Times’s “Motherlode” blog, and EMS World. She lives in Austin, Texas.

Musemeche applied the Page 99 Test to her new book, Lethal Tides: Mary Sears and the Marine Scientists Who Helped Win World War II, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Lethal Tides: Mary Sears and the Marine Scientists Who Helped Win World War II, illustrates Mary Sears’ talent for researching even the most mundane questions, a skill that would later serve her well in her role as naval oceanographer. At Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution she became “the go-to person for answering queries from every direction...” On page 99 I describe how Sears answered a simple query from a thirteen-year-old girl looking for information on the “different kinds of salmon.” Sears instructed the child to start with the Encylopedia Britannica and from there to go to the public library and onto the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Sears further directs the young student to visit the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard and to seek out the index of the Journal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada because the Canadians had done more research on salmon than anyone else. She concluded by writing “if you read Russian, you would find quite a lot scattered in their scientific periodicals...” Mary Sears was an inveterate researcher. Over her career she filled out about 250,00 index cards to help her keep track of references. Her collection was later published as a fifteen-volume oversized set of oceanographic indices, a remarkable feat in the pre-computer era. When asked, Sears used her encyclopedic knowledge of the oceanographic literature to produce the most complete answer imaginable, even for a thirteen year old.

Browsers opening Lethal Tides to page 99 would no doubt come away with the impression that Mary Sears was a very studious person and an exacting researcher. While they would have no idea of the essential role she played during World War II churning out oceanographic intelligence for the Pacific Campaign, they would understand that she was the perfect person to be tasked with such a grave responsibility. In this sense the “quality of the whole” stipulated by Ford Madox Ford would be met, but not the finer details. To find out exactly how Sears applied her gift for research a reader would need to delve further into Lethal Tides. They would discover that she lead a top-secret team of marine scientists in scouring libraries, government agencies and oceanographic survey data to provide the Joint Chiefs with information about tides, currents, waves, barrier reefs, bioluminescence and bottom sediments that could affect amphibious combat operations. Sears herself was asked to calculate tidal data for last minute, top secret invasion targets in the middle of the night.

Mary Sears was just one of the vast network of unsung women whose hidden talents supported our fighting forces during World War II. They ranged from scientists to mathematicians to nurses to counterintelligence operatives. Many women, like nurses serving in combat zones and spies serving behind enemy lines, risked and lost their lives but for decades little was known about them. The history of war was mostly written by men and women’s stories went untold. I spent four years researching and writing Lethal Tides so that the world would know what Mary Sears and the scientists she worked with did for the Navy and our troops fighting overseas and finally take their rightful place in history.
Visit Catherine Musemeche's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 22, 2022

Linda Kinstler's "Come to This Court and Cry"

Linda Kinstler is a writer and Ph.D candidate in the Rhetoric Department at U.C. Berkeley. She was previously a Marshall Scholar in the UK, where she covered British politics for The Atlantic. She is also a contributing writer for a contributing writer for The Economist’s 1843 magazine, was managing editor of The New Republic, where she covered the war in Ukraine, and has written for the New York Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, Columbia Journalism Review, and many others.

Kinstler applied the Page 99 Test to her new book, Come to This Court and Cry: How the Holocaust Ends, and reported the following:
Page 99 is the beginning of my account of the assassination that is at the center of my narrative, the 1965 killing of the "Latvian Lindbergh" and former Nazi accomplice Herberts Cukurs. I detail how Cukurs, having fled Europe and settled in Brazil, made no secret of his identity and history: unlike other Nazis who took refuge under false names in South America in the early post-war years, he did not believe that he had anything to hide. His bravado made him an easy target for the Israeli security services: Jewish survivors living in the same neighborhood started surveilling Cukurs and sending photographs of his activities onward to Jewish organizations--they hoped he would be prosecuted and punished for his complicity in perpetrating genocide. (One such surveillance photograph adorns the cover of my book.) Page 99 begins to convey the strange and still unresolved facts of this assassination: We still do not have a clear sense of why Mossad chose to go after Cukurs, in particular, for the records of this particular mission have never been released. The best account we have of the mission comes in the form of a pseudonymous memoir written by the lead assassin, titled The Execution of the Hangman of Riga: The Only Execution of a Nazi War Criminal by the Mossad. The memoir is a strange and fascinating document: on page 99 I start to describe the explanations it provides for how and why the mission began, and then go on to poke a few holes in this version of the story.

Does my book pass the Page 99 Test? I'd like to think so: the page details an episode that is absolutely integral to the detective story that drives the book. It's part of my description of the "scene of the crime," so to speak, the site of the assaassination that was meant to deliver a kind of justice in the absence of a formal legal proceeding. Page 99 establishes some critical facts that are absolutely necessary to understanding why this story carries such immense legal, historical, and moral weight: One of the curious things about this assassination is that it the lead agent, Yaakov Meidad, also participated in the mission to kidnap Adolf Eichmann from Buenos Aires. A few years after Eichmann's famous trial and hanging, Meidad was sent back to South America with a new target: Cukurs. These two cases are linked in so many ways, not only by the figure of Meidad but also by the questions that surround them. Why was Cukurs killed instead of kidnapped and brought to trial? Does an assassination avenge the deaths of his victims in ways that a trial would not? What is lost when survivors are denied the opportunity to confront a perpetrator with the full force of his crimes? In some ways the assassination accomplished its goals--it ended the life of a man who had been complicit in mass murder--while in another sense, it undid the justice that it hoped to achieve by making Cukurs a martyr and opening the door to conspiracy theories that would, eventually, glorify him as something of a lost national hero. I would encourage readers who open the book to page 99 to look at page 98 as well--this is one of my favorite narrative moments, and perhaps the one that captures the overall tenor most fully. There, I voice my own reluctance at recapitulating other people's versions of the story, at rehashing the details of the assassination, but of course I have to do so in order to show the reader how these explanations don't quite make sense, how there is something conspicuously "off" here. I write there that Cukurs was a dead man from the moment he started cooperating with occupying German forces in Riga. "Mossad called him 'The Deceased,' well before he was murdered. And yet his death gave him life." Those two lines are a kind of summation of the underlying tension that hums beneath the whole book--I hope that readers find this strange story as compelling and maddening as I did.
Visit Linda Kinstler's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Johan Fourie's "Our Long Walk to Economic Freedom"

Johan Fourie is professor of Economics and History at Stellenbosch University.

He applied the Page 99 Test to his new book, Our Long Walk to Economic Freedom: Lessons from 100,000 Years of Human History, and reported the following:
From page 99:
At the Cape, however, not everyone benefited from the coming of the railways. The missionary Germond’s report quoted at the start of this chapter suggests that Basotho farmers certainly did not. This was because, for political reasons, the railway lines circumvented the grain-producing districts of Basutoland. Once the trunk line between Cape Town and Kimberley was completed, it was cheapter to transport wheat produced in the region around Cape Town by rail to the mines – a distance of 1000 kliometres – than over the 330 kliometres from Lesotho to Kimberley with transport riders and their carts. Inn fact, as Germond further notes, it was cheaper to import Australian and American wheat and send it to Kimberley than purchase Basutoland grain. Transport costs matter, a lot.
Page 99 is a surprisingly accurate peek into Our Long Walk to Economic Freedom, my accessible introduction to global economic history written from an African perspective. It explains why railroads were a blessing and a curse for South Africa: a blessing, because it propelled the economy forward. But a curse, too, because it only benefited some, notably those with political power.

This story of South Africa’s nineteenth century industrial development is one of 35 chapters, covering everything from humanity’s Out-of-Africa migration 100,000 years ago to the Covid-19 pandemic. Although the focus is on global economic history, I write from an African perspective: at least a third of the chapters either deal with Africa or South Africa. Why? I’ve always been frustrated with how global economic history texts often pay little more than lip-service to the continent I call home, usually with a chapter about ‘why things fell apart’ at the end. Such texts, in short, do not do justice both to Africans’ participation in the march of human progress and the breadth of (recent) scholarship that investigate Africa’s own economic past.

Our Long Walk to Economic Freedom was written during South Africa’s Covid lockdown and based on a second-year course in global economic history I teach at Stellenbosch University. It was initially published in 2021 by a South African publisher and was a commercial success; it is currently being translated into other South African languages. I’ve now updated and expanded the book substantially. (It includes, for example, a new chapter on the causes and consequences of the Second World War.) Cambridge University Press was kind enough to republish it, now to an international audience. Although the book is already prescribed at several universities (and I provide extensive slides and explainer videos at, my hope is that the book reaches an audience beyond the classroom.

That the world has become wealthier beyond belief over the last two centuries would not surprise economic historians. By reviewing the latest research – on precolonial African economic systems, the Protestant Reformation, the Atlantic slave trade, Russia’s turn to communism, the Asian miracle, and much, much more – I distil why it is that some regions have become remarkably rich and others not (yet). There are many lessons. One of them, as the German missionary to Basutoland already surmised more than a century ago, is that economic freedoms ultimately also require political freedoms. Another is that technologies, like the railways, can benefit some and hurt others. Page 99 of Our Long Walk to Economic Freedom illustrates both lessons well.
Visit Johan Fourie's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Alessandro Iandolo's "Arrested Development"

Alessandro Iandolo is Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University.

He applied the Page 99 Test to his new book, Arrested Development: The Soviet Union in Ghana, Guinea, and Mali, 1955–1968, and reported the following:
Page 99 in Arrested Development is an interesting, but partial, snapshot of the book. On page 99, Kwame Nkrumah—the Prime Minister of newly independent Ghana—is having an argument with one of his key advisers: W. Arthur Lewis, a prominent economist and future Nobel prize winner. It was the summer of 1958, a little over a year after Ghana had gained independence, and Nkrumah and Lewis disagreed about the future of the country. Both thought Ghana needed economic development, but they had a different idea of development in mind. Lewis, an economics professor and experienced consultant for multiple governments in Asia and Africa, recommended taking a gradual approach. He believed Ghana should have relied on foreign private investors to acquire capital for development. Nkrumah, a charismatic leader, dreamed of making Ghana a beacon for all Africa. He aspired to create a strong national economy, based on state investment and public ownership. The rift between what Nkrumah wanted and what Lewis suggested was too large. Something had got to give.

This is where page 99 ends, but Arrested Development goes much further. In Ghana, Nkrumah ended up firing Lewis. To fulfil his dream of making Ghana an economic powerhouse in record time, Nkrumah turned to the Soviet Union. And so did two more West African leaders with radical politics and big dreams: Ahmed Sékou Tourè in Guinea and Modibo Keïta in Mali. They found an enthusiastic partner in Nikita Khrushchev, the boisterous new Soviet leader who had replaced Iosif Stalin. Khrushchev was keen to show the world what the USSR could do—not only with nuclear bombs, but also with cranes, tractors, and chemical fertilizers. The Soviet Union offered Ghana, Guinea, and Mali loans with low interest rates, tractors to mechanize agriculture, and machines to develop industry. Soviet engineers travelled to West Africa to build dams and power plants; Soviet agronomists introduced high-yield crops in Ghana, Guinea, and Mali; and Soviet economists helped Nkrumah, Sékou Tourè, and Keïta draw up ambitious development plans for their countries. Meanwhile, hundreds of West Africans journeyed to the USSR to go to college, attend training workshops, and explore the world’s first socialist society.

Unfortunately, there is no happy ending in Arrested Development. The Soviet Union and Ghana, Guinea, and Mali were engaged in a whirlwind romance, complete with mutual suspicions, petty quarrels, and threats to quit. Eventually, a sense of ennui overcame everyone involved. Development proved more expensive, complex, and elusive than anyone in the USSR or West Africa had anticipated. In the end, governments in West Africa changed, Soviet tractors and cranes turned into rusty relics, and the IMF and the World Bank came to privatize what had been nationalized. Not all was lost, though. The ideas that drove the Soviet Union’s encounter with Ghana, Guinea, and Mali continue to shape the world we live in. Then as today, what economic development is, and how to achieve it, is a matter of debate. Proponents of the state clash with believers in the market, just like Nkrumah and Lewis did in that fateful summer of 1958, evoked on page 99.
Learn more about Arrested Development at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 19, 2022

Kathryn Abrams's "Open Hand, Closed Fist"

Kathryn Abrams is Herma Hill Kay Distinguished Professor of Law at University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

She applied the Page 99 Test to her new book, Open Hand, Closed Fist: Practices of Undocumented Organizing in a Hostile State, and reported the following:
Open Hand, Closed Fist explores the emergence and trajectory of a surprising political movement: a movement populated and led by undocumented immigrants, organizing against Arizona’s fierce campaign of anti-immigrant legislation and enforcement. Based on five years of observation and interviews with activists, the book asks how it was possible to organize and empower a group of participants who lacked any form of legal status, in the face of such concerted state hostility. It identifies three practices used by organizations to achieve these results: experiential storytelling; organizational “emotion cultures,”; and “performative citizenship” (mobilizing undocumented participants through actions or roles culturally associated with citizenship). The book shows how these practices allowed undocumented immigrants to become confident, effective public participants, and enabled the movement to adapt and persist in the face of changing governmental policies.

Page 99 is located in a transitional passage: it comes at the beginning of chapter 4, which moves from the explication of the three practices, to the larger story of change and adaptation. It introduces two campaigns that connected Arizona activists to a national movement and inaugurated new patterns in undocumented organizing. One of these campaigns, the campaign of undocumented youth for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is more familiar; the other, the “Undocubus” – a six-week, cross-country “freedom ride” by a multi-generational group of undocumented activists -- is less well-known. Page 99 describes the national movement-building organizations that helped to connect Arizona activists with the national movement, and introduces a central theme of these campaigns: the increasingly oppositional stance of participants toward the federal government.

Taken at face value, page 99 is not an ideal window on the book: it is a stage-setting passage, awash in logistical detail, that lacks the activist voices that set the tone and carry the narrative for most of the book. But viewed conceptually, this page introduces a pivotal moment for the movement. In this moment, undocumented organizing shifted form and focus, from the cheerful, institutional activism of highly accomplished youth, to a more adversarial, extra-institutional activism that amplified the less familiar voices of undocumented adults, and embraced a posture of frank demand toward a government that had failed in its promises to immigrants.
Learn more about Open Hand, Closed Fist at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Benjamin Parris's "Vital Strife"

Benjamin Parris is Visiting Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.

He applied the Page 99 Test to his new book, Vital Strife: Sleep, Insomnia, and the Early Modern Ethics of Care, and reported the following:
Page 99 features some of the central claims animating my book’s third chapter, which discusses the status of sovereign sleep in William Shakespeare’s tragedies of Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear. In all three of these plays, Shakespeare imagines the sleep of the king as a moment of psychic and physiological vulnerability, when the majestic aura of the King’s Two Bodies retreats into a cocoon of slumbering life. Both King Hamlet and King Duncan fall victim to a kind of pestilent nocturnal influence associated with the death-like condition of sleep, while King Lear suffers from a corrosive form of monarchical insomnia that induces a cosmological rage modeled on Seneca’s depiction of the tragic hero, Hercules. In all three of these plays, Shakespeare suggests that sovereign sleep and insomnia are inevitable conditions that not only impinge upon the sovereign’s ability to maintain vigilance and constant care for the kingdom, but also alter the metaphysical bond between body natural and body politic that defines the mystical union of the King’s Two Bodies.

The Page 99 Test seems to work fairly well as a means of getting at some of my book’s core argumentative claims. Vital Strife shows that despite the Renaissance humanist and political-theological suspicion of sleep and related states of careless inattention, early modern writers value sleep’s transformative and restorative powers over mind and body. In doing so, the writers whose works I discuss reveal their indebtedness to cosmological principles associated with ancient Stoic thought and in particular the Stoic literary hero of Seneca’s tragedy, Hercules Furens. These writers envision sleep as a necessary therapy and form of restorative care for the self that attunes the soul to the cosmic motions of life, rebalancing mind and body alike. In this way, the works of literature and philosophy at the heart of my book investigate a uniquely early modern, biopolitical paradox involving the concept of care in relation to self and others: to sleep is the care for the bodily life that sustains waking attention, but only insofar as sleep abandons the forms of wakefulness that promote ethical and spiritual care. The page 99 test reveals how Shakespeare’s tragic drama uses sleep and insomnia in a similar way to reveal the contradictory demands of sovereign care.
Learn more about Vital Strife at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Paul Oyer's "An Economist Goes to the Game"

Paul Oyer is the Mary and Rankine Van Anda Entrepreneurial Professor, professor of economics, and senior associate dean for academic affairs at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Labor Economics.

He applied the Page 99 Test to his new book, An Economist Goes to the Game: How to Throw Away $580 Million and Other Surprising Insights from the Economics of Sports, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book gets into the fine detail of pitch selection in baseball, focusing on who should “call pitches” during a baseball game. For those who are not baseball experts, good pitchers will throw several pitches and part of their success is keeping hitters off balance by changing the speed, placement, and curvature of pitches. A successful pitcher will keep batters off balance so they are more likely to miss when swinging (or to watch a pitch go by altogether). The text leading up to page 99 lays that out, noting that the choice of pitch can get very complicated. In page 99, I address whether a pitcher or someone with more expertise (the catcher, the manager, or an analyst watching from elsewhere) should call pitches because, in order to maximize unpredictability (and batter discomfort), it’s critical to properly select the pitch.

I would argue that page 99 is not representative because it is very “in the weeds”. In general, I tried to keep the book light and focus on concepts like “Why do Korean women dominate professional golf?” and “Should you invest in your child’s sports career?” Page 99 gets into specifics related to the broader concept of the strategy and game theory of pitch selection. I think it fits nicely into the analysis of the book but I hope you will read it in its place after enjoying the broader conceptual material in the 98 pages that lead up to it. And, for the record, the basic economics of pitch selection just require remembering two things: how often to throw each pitch and randomizing so the batter cannot detect any pattern.
Follow Paul Oyer on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Camilla Hawthorne's "Contesting Race and Citizenship"

Camilla Hawthorne is Associate Professor of Sociology and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is coeditor of The Black Mediterranean.

Hawthorne applied the Page 99 Test to her new book, Contesting Race and Citizenship: Youth Politics in the Black Mediterranean, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Contesting Race & Citizenship lays out my claim that contemporary debates about access to Italian citizenship for the children of African immigrants who were born in Italy is closely tied to a much longer history of contestation over the boundaries of Italianness in relation to Africa and the Mediterranean. While discussions about race and nation in Italy are often temporally bounded to either the Fascist period or to Italy’s transformation into a country of immigration in the 1980s and 1990s, I argue instead that the entanglements of race, nation, and citizenship go back even further, to the unification of the Italian nation-state itself at the end of the nineteenth century. I write:
A closer look at the archives suggests that the entanglement of race and citizenship was in fact constitutive of Italian nation-state formation, in ways that remain deeply consequential to this day. As a matter of fact, debates about race in Liberal Italy were characterized less by anti-Semitism and more by an overwhelming preoccupation with Italy’s trans-Mediterranean relationship to the African continent. So, to understand the relationship between Italianness and Blackness (and how this relationship figures in contestations over the boundaries of Italian citizenship), it is necessary to begin with postunification Italy and efforts to consolidate the new nation’s racial identity.
Page 99 does give the author a sense of some of the broader themes and arguments that run through the book—histories and genealogies of Mediterranean racial formation; the centrality of the Mediterranean Sea (as a symbolic and material space) as a point of reference in debates over race, citizenship, and national belonging in Italy; the reproduction of racisms through ideas about geography and practices of spatial differentiation. At the same time, this page does not provide an accurate representation of the full methodological scope of Contesting Race and Citizenship. Page 99 is located within Chapter 3 (“Mediterraneanism, Africa, and the Racial Borders of Italianness”), which is the most historical and archivally-based chapter in the book. In that sense, it does not give the reader a sense that this book is, actually, primarily based on ethnographic research conducted with Black Italian antiracism activists during the last decade. Chapter 3 was written as a history of the present, but this “present” is perhaps less visible on page 99.

That being said, I still think that page 99 is important. Although I am a geographer trained in ethnographic methods, I was compelled to turn to historical research because I needed tools to help me challenge the “common sense” that racism is somehow exogenous to Italy. On this page, I write about finding a portrait of Sarah Baartman (the so-called “Hottentot Venus”) in the archives of Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso, even though she was never brought to Italy:
Rearticulating these lineages of pre-Fascist racial thought requires reading archives against the grain—in the University of Turin’s Archivio Storico del Museo di Antropologia Criminale Cesare Lombroso (Historical Archive of the Cesare Lombroso Museum of Criminal Anthropology), for instance, there is no dedicated file for Lombroso’s work on racial science. This points both to the evasion of race in the standard historiography of Liberal Italy and also to the way that racism suffused most aspects of Lombroso’s scientific research such that it could never truly be separated out from the rest of his scientific oeuvre. The archivists and I instead had to follow an elusive trail of bread crumbs through Lombroso’s notes, editorials, letters, and maps, as well as secondary commentary on his re- search. At one point, for instance, an archivist pulled out a large illustration of Sarah Baartman (the so-called Hottentot Venus) from a filing cabinet and turned to me hopefully: “Maybe this will be helpful for you?” Although Baartman herself was never taken to Italy, her spectral presence in the archive suggests the centrality of Blackness in efforts to ascertain the racial parameters of Italianness at the turn of the twentieth century.
Baartman’s spectral presence in the archive provided one powerful example of the way that Italianness has been suffused with ideas of racial difference since the formation of the Italian nation-state—a process that was in turn bound up the transnational and trans-Mediterranean circulation of racist knowledge-production undergirding European colonialism and imperialism.
Visit Camilla Hawthorne's website and follow her on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 15, 2022

R. V. Gundur's "Trying to Make It"

R. V. Gundur is a Senior Lecturer of Criminology at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.

Gundur applied the Page 99 Test to his book, Trying to Make It: The Enterprises, Gangs, and People of the American Drug Trade, and reported the following:
Page 99 wraps up a discussion where I canvass the operations of Barrio Azteca, a prison gang, in a chapter entitled “Violence.” In “Violence” I write about some of the most visible issues the public associates with the drug trade, the very things that are hot button topics on talk shows and political platforms. In the public’s eye, the drug trade is violent and destructive. That narrative peddles a threat narrative that drug-related violence is going to spill over into the US and ruin America. With that in mind, the discussion of Barrio Azteca ends with the following paragraph:
Despite the turmoil in Juárez, Barrio Azteca’s power struggles have not manifested in El Paso. The calm that Barrio Azteca maintains in its US operations reflects how the organization understands that the violence it uses in Juárez cannot be used north of the border, where violence could easily destroy its steady and profitable business activities. It’s a business sense that most drug trafficking organizations appear to share. In Mexico, clear hot spots of violence have appeared in mid- to large-size cities on or near the US-Mexican border. However, on the US side of the border, port cities and transportation hubs that import drugs or the precursor products used to synthesize them from South America and Asia are not hot at all; in fact, most of the time they aren’t even lukewarm.
This paragraph challenges the threat narrative by emphasizing two core themes of the book. First, the drug trade is a business, run by illicit businesspeople who, like licit businesspeople, make decisions to maximize their earnings. Second, high-level actors in the drug trade perpetuate little violence on US soil.

Trying to Make It is inherently about the business and banalities of the drug trade, and in this case, the Page 99 Test offers readers a core understanding of the former. The book aims, among other things, to demystify the drug trade; this page foreshadows that goal. Because Trying to Make It looks at various levels of the drug trade as it occurs at three different sites, there are several other themes and geographies that are canvassed in the book that don’t make an explicit appearance on page 99. These include the everyday lives of people who are or have been involved in the drug trade, the realities of various levels of business within the drug trade, and how the drug trade unfolds in the Phoenix and Chicago areas.
Visit R. V. Gundur's website and follow him on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Lesley-Ann Jones's "The Stone Age"

Lesley-Ann Jones is a bestselling biographer and broadcaster. She is the author of The Search for John Lennon; Bohemian Rhapsody: The Definitive Biography of Freddie Mercury; and Hero: David Bowie. A childhood friend of David Bowie, Jones has interviewed many of the world's most-loved artists, including Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Madonna, and Prince, often forming lifelong friendships with her subjects. Jones lives in England.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her latest book, The Stone Age: Sixty Years of The Rolling Stones, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Stone Age drops us in on a dilemma of Marianne Faithfull’s. It is April 1965. Mick Jagger’s teenage future beloved is pregnant again. Her fiancé, undergraduate John Dunbar, has returned to the University of Cambridge. Bob Dylan has landed in London. Marianne, who worships him, contrives to get to him and offer sex as a symbol of her adoration. Bob writes a poem for her. She tells him she is pregnant, and he throws her out: possibly fearful that she might be planning to pin the deed on him. She marries Dunbar, they honeymoon in Paris, and she gives birth to their baby Nicholas just before her nineteenth birthday.

Brian Jones, meanwhile, is with Anita Pallenberg. Who lures Marianne under her wing. Bored and trapped by young motherhood, Marianne leaves her baby at home with the nanny and spends more and more time round at Brian’s and Anita’s place. Keith Richards comes too. When Anita is away, Brian and Marianne get together. But he is too spilled out on Mandrax to perform. Marianne then falls for Keith Richards. They will go on to have what she will later describe as ‘the best night’ of Marianne’s life. Then Mick starts finding his way round to Brian’s place too. It doesn’t say so on the page, but over it: we know already that Mick too will soon find his way into Marianne. The only Stone she never had was Charlie. Didn’t make her one of the band, though, did it.

‘How fucked up was all this, how drugged, how detached, how dismally sixties,’ I write.

Yes, this page is coolly representative of the content and tone of the whole book. Debauched, decadent, self-serving, careless of the feelings of others, the Stones proceed to wench and wassail their way through the next five decades, using and abusing folk (not ‘just’ women) willy nilly. There are many casualties, some of them fatal.

But: there is a comprehensive musical dimension to the book that is not touched on here on page 99. Otherwise, in a nutshell, here you have it. Ladies and gentlemen, the contradictory, disturbing, granitic and unstoppable Rolling Stones.

The test works.

But the book is no mere dish-fest. I have gone to considerable lengths to see the Rolling Stones in the round; to present them in context at every stage of their existence. What they were, at the beginning, was a bunch of tykes from nowhere who copied musicians they admired, and who got lucky. Success, fame and money honed them into creatures worthy of global adulation. They have kept on keeping on because they are incapable of doing anything else. The Stone Age delivers the scandal and the gossip, all under one roof, as it were. But I also strive to capture the essence of what makes a working rock 'n' roll band tick. I conjure a primal image of the group, ‘captured in mono and preserved for all time, to remind the reader that Ground Zero for any musical fusion is the groove. ‘From such innocence and hope are legends made,’ I write. In the end, when they are dead and the Stones are long buried, we will still have, and we will always have, the music.
Visit Lesley-Ann Jones's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Jon Lewis's "Road Trip to Nowhere"

Jon Lewis is the University Distinguished Professor of Film Studies at Oregon State University. He has published a number of books, including The Road to Romance and Ruin: Teen Films and Youth Culture, Whom God Wishes to Destroy … Francis Coppola and the New Hollywood, Hollywood v. Hard Core: How the Struggle over Censorship Saved the Modern Film Industry, Hard-Boiled Hollywood: Crime and Punishment in Postwar Los Angeles, and for the British Film Institute’s Film Classics series, The Godfather and forthcoming in October 2022, The Godfather, Part II. Lewis has appeared in two theatrically released documentaries on film censorship: Inside Deep Throat and This Film is Not Yet Rated. Between 2002 and 2007, Lewis edited Cinema Journal and had a seat on the Executive Council of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Road Trip to Nowhere: Hollywood Encounters the Counterculture, and reported the following:
Page 99 [inset, below left; click to enlarge] is quite crucial and central to the story (more like, stories) I tell in Road Trip to Nowhere: Hollywood Encounters the Counterculture. We are at the start of the second chapter, which is about Christopher Jones, a movie star who in 1970 walked away from Hollywood stardom at the very moment he achieved it. Jones’ story—and I will only hint at the particulars here—involved James Dean at the start and, as so many of counterculture Hollywood stories do, Charles Manson at its climax. Along the way Jones met and worked with movieland royalty: Bette Davis, Shelley Winters, Ralph Richardson, Anthony Hopkins, and Robert Mitchum. He hung out with rock stars (including his neighbor at the Chateau Marmont, Jim Morrison) and dated some of Hollywood’s most talked-about, most sought-after women (including Olivia Hussey, the star of Franco Zeffirelli’s sexy 1968 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet). Jones did some of his best work with some of the best young talent in Hollywood at American International Pictures (AIP) at a time when the B-movie studio employed a counterculture ensemble that included Karen Black, Ellen Burstyn, Bruce Dern, and Jack Nicholson. Among even such a talented troupe, Jones seemed at the time the actor most likely to succeed. He did, succeed. Briefly. And then he vanished—off the screen and off the grid.

Jones’s story proved to be a challenge to research and recount. It is more complicated and a lot sadder than I expected, a road trip to nowhere, to be sure. Just not the trip I expected or really wanted to find. A reminder, then: to understand Hollywood we need to get past the bright lights and big pictures—the best and the brightest. We need to focus as well on the things that go wrong, the people who get lost or abandoned, kicked to the side of the road, out of town, out of the business, out of this world. Jones fits this darker historical process, this darker Hollywood history. His story is profoundly revealing about the complexity of counterculture celebrity: its fundamental ambivalences (Hollywood opulence on the one hand, counterculture anti-materialism on the other; the aspirational core of celebrity countered by sixties-era anti-conventionalism) and its fundamental rifts (between an ensconced studio establishment and a very new breed of movie star).
Learn more about Road Trip to Nowhere at the University of California Press.

The Page 99 Test: Hard-Boiled Hollywood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 12, 2022

Elisabeth Griffith's "Formidable: American Women and the Fight for Equality"

Elisabeth Griffith has earned a reputation as a respected authority on women’s lives, past and present. She has marched for women’s rights, worked to elect women candidates, supported women’s causes as a leader in the National Women’s Political Caucus and the Women’s Campaign Fund, educated students, and motivated audiences to take up the banner.

Griffith's biography of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, In Her Own Right (1984), was named “one of the 15 best books of 1984” and “one of the best books of the century” by the editors of The New York Times Book Review and “one of the five best books on women’s history” by the Wall Street Journal in 2009. In March 2020, Oprah magazine recommended it for women’s history month reading. It inspired Ken Burns’ PBS documentary, Not for Ourselves Alone, on which she served as a consultant.

Griffith applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Formidable: American Women and the Fight for Equality: 1920-2020, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Formidable appears four pages into chapter four, “From Rosie to Rosa Parks, 1945-1959,” which covers the forced retirement of women working in war industries to make room for returning veterans, who were eager to start families. It introduces the baby boom and the voluntary isolation of white women into segregated suburbs, while Black women continued to fight racial discrimination in education, housing, jobs, and juries. While page 99 mentions Christian Dior’s “New Look,” crinolines, long-line bras, cinched waists, charm bracelets, and French bikinis (named for a Pacific atoll which was an atomic bomb test site; women brave enough to wear them were called “bombshells”), its theme is not fashion. It’s about the physical and psychological containment of women. The first line on page 99 recalls Wonder Woman having a nightmare, dreaming of becoming Steve Trevor’s “docile little wife.” The pressure on white women to conform to a new cult of domesticity wa part of the country’s effort to contain communism, curb racial conflict, condemn homosexuality, and defend the “American way of life.”

While page 99 is not the ideal introduction to the subject of my book, the century-long fight for equal and civil rights, by a diverse cast of female change agents following passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, it illustrates the variety of elements that contributed to that struggle, including comic book heroines and girdles. Women were historically confined to a female sphere of activity and criticized whenever they moved beyond their traditional maternal and domestic roles. To win the vote, even single suffragists relied on the moral authority of motherhood to make the case that the country needed good housekeepers. In the 1920s, many states had laws barring married women from working without their husband’s permission. In the 1930s, the federal government forbade the employment of the wives (but not the children) of its male employees. Those restrictions were removed when World War II required more factory workers, pilots and code breakers, but they returned in peacetime. In contrast, while Black women confronted racial violence and daily discrimination, the men in their communities respected and encouraged their political engagement. As teachers, housekeepers, public health nurses, agricultural agents, and church deacons, they kept working, quietly, in church basements and behind the scenes, to advance civil rights and end segregation. By the end of the 1950s, the work of Constance Baker Motley, Rosa Parks, Ella Baker, and Daisy Bates would inspire many white women to reignite their struggle for equal rights, as Black and white abolitionists had spurred the suffrage movement.

Patriarchy, the root of sexism and racism, remains powerful. No matter how far all American women have advanced in the past century, they remain victims of rape and violence, at risk of maternal death, underpaid in the workforce, undervalued in their caregiving roles, under represented politically, and without reproductive rights and agency. Formidable describes the strides women have made, the tensions and issues that have divided them, and the challenges and opposition that remain. It also offers models of courage and resilience, to inspire readers to keep up the fight.
Visit Elisabeth Griffith's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Abdulaziz Sachedina's "Islamic Ethics"

Abdulaziz Sachedina is Professor and Endowed IIIT Chair in Islamic Studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. He has been conducting research and writing in the field of Islamic Law, Ethics, and Theology (Sunni and Shiite) for more than four decades. In the last twenty years he has concentrated on social and political ethics, including Interfaith and Intrafaith Relations, Islamic Biomedical Ethics and Islam and Human Rights. He is the author of numerous books, including Islam and the Challenge of Human Rights (2009).

Sachedina applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Islamic Ethics: Fundamental Aspects of Human Conduct, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book does reveal the quality of the whole book.

From page 99:
Scriptural Sources of Ethical Methodology 99

humankind with “upright nature” to achieve a balance between the “known” (the convictions determined through the process of reflection) and the “unknown” moral judgments by placing the known in history and culture at the same time. Consequently, the Qur’an anchors moral norms in the reflective process and invites human beings to ponder the consequences of their actions and learn to avoid any behavior that leads to perilous ends. Moreover, it appeals to the human capability for learning from past destructiveness preserved in historical accounts in order to avoid it in future. The assumption in the Qur’an is that there is something concrete about human conditions that cannot be denied by any reasonable persons endowed with “hearts to understand,” that is, a conscience to judge its consequences (Q. 22:46).

The concept of a known pre-revelatory moral language in the Qur’an does not fall short of acknowledging the concrete historical and social conditioning of moral concepts. But it stipulates that people living in different cultures must seek to elicit the universal ideal out of the diversity of concrete human conditions—a common foundation upon which to construct an ethical language that can be shared cross-culturally in the project of creating a just public order. Both the clearly stated and the implicit moral values in the Qur’an point to concrete ways of life in different cultural idioms that must be understood in order to extricate the universal values and to apply them in other contexts. The moral and spiritual awareness that ennobles human existence and leads it to carry out duties to God and other humans functions as a torch of the divinely created innate human nature, enabling it to discover the universals that can build bridges of understanding across cultures.

With the weakening of the critical emphasis on ethical reasoning in Muslim cultures, although Muslim societies are traditionally religious-minded, the importance attached to past juridical formulations without understanding their generalizable moral justifications has led to the neglect of undergirding moral norms as the most fundamental aspect of the overall scriptural guidance. This means that a religious worldview comprised of exclusionary Islamic beliefs about the supernatural and orthopraxy has continued to shape social and political attitudes and interpersonal relationships and to provide existential meaning as well as security in the ever-changing human relations in modern life. Nonetheless, the major source for the secular skepticism of the religious world-view and scriptural reason in general, and Islamic tradition in particular, is the historically disruptive character of religious politics, and the endless religiously inspired violence in many parts of the world that disrupts normalcy beyond repair.

Historically, religion in the public domain has been disruptive of necessary social cooperation and cohesion based on some consensus about the equality of all citizens in a modern nation-state. The classical interpretive jurisprudence
Page 99 is the key page in telling the readers the following:

Historically, the critical question for Muslim religious thought has been to establish a logical epistemological connection between the two fields of law and ethics to demonstrate a cognitively undeniable correlation between reason and revelation in derivation of authoritative orthopraxy. The debatable aspect of this attempt to affiliate law and ethics was whether such a relationship could be shown to be solely the product of a religious worldview firmly founded upon scriptural authority of the Qur’an and the Sunna, or whether it was possible to guide human moral conduct with minimal reference to revelatory sources. The idea about the correlation between the findings of reason and those of revelation was the result of the logical necessity connected with continuation of reliable guidance for the post-prophetic developing and culturally diverse Muslim societies.

The present study on Islamic ethics comes at almost the end of my career in academia. From all that I had studied in my history, philosophy, and Islamic studies courses I was confident that there existed a far-reaching connection between religion and ethics in Islamic tradition. My graduate work in Islamic studies further confirmed the contours of the debate among Muslim scholars who often deliberated about the priority of locating ethics as a fundamental source for deriving epistemic guidelines about human conduct. Historically, the critical question for Muslim religious thinkers has been to establish a logical epistemological relation between the two fields of law and ethics to validate a cognitively undeniable correlation between reason and revelation in derivation of authoritative orthopraxy. The controversial aspect of this attempt to affiliate law and ethics was whether such a relationship could be shown to be solely the product of a religious worldview firmly founded upon scriptural authority, or whether it was possible to guide human moral conduct without reference to any revelatory sources. The emerging idea was about the relationship between reason and revelation to provide continuous guidance for the developing and culturally diverse Muslim societies, principally by taking into consideration historical circumstances that determined the contemporary social and political practice. The main thrust of the classical Muslim intellectual development was to anchor moral epistemology reliably within the primarily religious sources to underscore its inseparable and logical relationship to interpretive jurisprudence that provided time-specific responsa in general to resolve pressing issues related to everyday practice. The universal moral truth that was endowed by God’s nature (fitrat allah) in humankind and was acquired rationally did not require religious affiliation or scriptural justificatory reasoning. The more immediate religious inquiry was not to explore the sources of human conduct; rather, it was to comprehend divine will as it related to human life in this and the next world. God’s will, as declared by the revelation, was embodied in the divinely ordained system that would define and formulate the boundaries of orthopraxy. This was the scope of the emerging field of interpretive jurisprudence (al-fiqh) in the classical period.
Learn more about Islamic Ethics at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue