Friday, February 23, 2024

Merry Morash's "In a Box"

Merry Morash is Professor of Criminal Justice and University Distinguished Professor at Michigan State University. She is the author of Women on Probation and Parole: A Feminist Critique of Community Programs and Services.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, In a Box: Gender-Responsive Reform, Mass Community Supervision, and Neoliberal Policies, and reported the following:
Page 99 presents the words of three women whose probation or parole agents referred them to mental health counseling. Two of the women described a connection between counseling and stopping illegal activity and one did not. This page, like most other pages, gives a good indication of what is contained in In a Box, because it cites what 3 of the 118 women who told their life stories said about themselves. It is also a good indication of the book’s contents because it focuses on some helpful actions that probation and parole agents take, and it is therefore consistent with a theme that runs through the book, which is that the Michigan Department of Corrections gender responsive reforms, and more generally reforms in supervision for everyone, “worked.” This is very different than the many books and articles that show harm after harm perpetuated by correctional actions and interventions. It is also consistent with the book’s recognition that some women in the criminal legal system continue breaking the law despite seemingly helpful interventions.

It is important to recognize that page 99 only gives a glimpse into the book’s contents. That page does not show deviations from the reforms and how they have harmful effects. Even more important, this page does not show how juvenile courts, neoliberal housing and welfare policies, and time limitations and other reasons for unavailability of mental health and substance abuse services undermine reforms. This page does not capture the flow of the book which entices the reader to get on to the next chapter after reading about Starting Points in life and moving towards Endpoints for 6 of the women. Finally, this page is 67 pages away from the last chapter, which highlights policy reforms including but much more encompassing than correctional change that the women on probation and parole recommend and that I back up with empirical evidence of success.
Learn more about In a Box at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Michael Sierra-Arévalo's "The Danger Imperative"

Michael Sierra-Arévalo is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Associate Director of the Liberal Arts Honors Program at the University of Texas at Austin.

His new book, The Danger Imperative: Violence, Death, and the Soul of Policing, shows how policing’s preoccupation with danger shapes police culture and violence in the United States.

Sierra-Arévalo applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Danger Imperative and reported the following:
Half of page 99 is taken up by the image of a Dallas police car swathed in stuffed animals, flowers, balloons, and signs supporting police. The shrine was erected in the days following the July 7, 2016, ambush on Dallas police which killed 5 officers and injured an additional 9. One of those signs reads, “#BackTheBlue Because Someone I Call Dad Is on the Force!” The photograph was sent to me by an officer from West River who flew to Dallas with other WPD officers to pay their respects to the fallen officers. The remainder of the page begins to describe the days following the ambush, during which nearly a thousand officers from across the country rushed to Dallas to attend fallen officers’ memorial services. During one such service, President Barack Obama reminded every officer present of the unique danger of their work.

The Page 99 Test captures a core element of The Danger Imperative — the rare but no less real violence that claims the lives of officers. But it does not articulate my broader argument about how such violence is core to the recreation of police culture and inequalities in police violence.

Ironically enough, though, that the one page a potential reader turns to is about a tragic incident of violence and its use as proof of policing’s profound danger is an eerily concise reflection of The Danger Imperative’s argument. As I describe in the book, though deadly violence is exceedingly rare in the scope of officers’ work, the preoccupation with violence and the provision of officer safety are emphasized at all levels of the police institution. Incidents like the Dallas ambush serve as dramatic proof not only for officers in Dallas, but for any officer, no matter where they work, that any shift might be one in which they are confronted with a fight for their very lives.

Through academy training, unquestioned rituals, powerful symbols, and the daily task of making sure they go home at the end of their shift, officers reconstruct their world and work as one defined by the possibility of violence and death. As I continually reiterate throughout The Danger Imperative, police face very real violence. But the intense emphasis on such violence within police culture encourages behaviors that undermine police legitimacy, harm public wellbeing, and even lead to the injury and death of officers themselves.
Visit Michael Sierra-Arévalo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

David L. Weimer and Aidan R. Vining's "Dog Economics"

David L. Weimer is Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. His contributions to public policy scholarship have been widely recognized as he has received the Policy Field Distinguished Contribution Award from the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management and the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis. Aidan R. Vining is Emeritus CNABS Professor of Business and Government Relations, Simon Fraser University. He is a winner of the John Vanderkamp Prize (Canadian Economics Association) and the J.E. Hodgetts Award (Institute of Public Administration of Canada). He has published widely.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Dog Economics: Perspectives on Our Canine Relationships, and reported the following:
Page 99 falls in a chapter reporting on original empirical research by one of the authors showing how economists ask people about their willingness to make tradeoffs between money and mortality risk­––in this case for their dog! More generally, Dog Economics draws on economic theory and evidence to organize a synthesis of the relationship between dogs and humans. It might (incorrectly, we think) imply a book aimed primarily at professional economists rather than general readers interested in dogs. However, the page 99 chapter provides an accessible explanation of how economists estimate the implicit value people place on their lives and especially the lives of their pet dogs.

Economists use a variety of methods to measure the value of statistical life (VSL). The VSL estimates the implicit value an average person places on his or her own life in making decisions that affect his or her own mortality. The VSL is used by regulators to place a monetary value on avoided deaths that are predicted to occur from proposed rules aimed at reducing mortality risk. Rules, such as those that set standards for pet food quality, aim to reduce the mortality risk for dogs: the value of a statistical dog life (VSDL). To value these reductions, however, regulators need a plausible estimate of the VSDL, which is the implicit value that people on average place on the lives of their dog when making decisions relevant to changes in the mortality risk faced by their dogs. The page 99 chapter carefully explains how a survey experiment was used to estimate the VSDL. Interestingly, the VSDL has a number of potential uses related to a dog’s life, such as in determining compensation in cases of the wrongful death of a dog and the allocation of dog custody in divorce cases.
Learn more about Dog Economics at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 19, 2024

George Fisher's "Beware Euphoria"

George Fisher is the Judge John Crown Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, where he has been teaching evidence, prosecution practice, and criminal legal history since 1995. He began practice as a Massachusetts prosecutor and later taught at Boston College Law School, Harvard Law School, and Yale Law School.

Fisher applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Beware Euphoria: The Moral Roots and Racial Myths of America's War on Drugs, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Beware Euphoria recounts a singular episode in the history of American attitudes toward alcohol prohibition. Set in Philadelphia in 1788, this vignette concerns an address by Dr. Benjamin Rush, widely thought the leading physician of his day, to a congress of American Methodists. Rush counseled the congress to tighten the faith's rule governing distilled alcohol. That rule traced to Methodism's founders, John and Charles Wesley, who enjoined followers in 1743 to shun "[d]runkenness, buying or selling spirituous liquors, or drinking them, unless in cases of extreme necessity." Speaking from a medical standpoint, Rush declared spirits necessary only when "a person was chilled with cold, or wet, or was ready to faint with fatigue." After Rush's address the congress struck out the last six words of the Wesleys' original injunction -- "unless in cases of extreme necessity" -- rendering the rule an absolute ban against "buying or selling spirituous liquors, or drinking them." This new rigidity, however, proved a bridge too far. It staked out an extreme moral position, one that outstripped mainstream morality. Only two years later the Methodists reversed the change.

From this episode the reader can discern four themes of my book. The first is that this study of the moral roots of America's war on drugs takes a long look backward at the regulation of alcohol and, even earlier, of nonprocreative sex. The second is that all three moral regimes -- those governing sex, alcohol, and recreational drugs -- reflect a moral revulsion to appetitive pleasures that blot out reason. Third, all three moral regimes extended an indulgence in cases of necessity, especially medical necessity. Hence no moral teacher ever rejected all sex, for humans must procreate. Anti-alcohol regimes, likewise, always made provision for medicinal use. And dangerous addictive drugs, even fentanyl, are perfectly legal when prescribed or employed by physicians. A fourth theme, finally, is that legal regimes governing euphoric substances or activities that outstrip mainstream morality typically cannot hold. Hence almost no Western prohibition of even nonintoxicating drinking has survived much longer than a dozen years.

These four themes define the first half of the book and explain the first half of my subtitle: "The Moral Roots and Racial Myths of America's War on Drugs." The book's latter half considers those "racial myths." If moral impulses largely motivated our earliest anti-drug laws, racial hatred did not. Hence the book documents overwhelming historical evidence disproving commonly uttered claims that racial prejudice prompted early lawmaking against opium, cocaine, and cannabis. Such claims prove not merely mistaken -- they are exactly wrong. For these were laws about whites, written by white lawmakers anxious to protect the moral purity of white women and youth. White cops enforced these laws primarily against white users and those who sold to them. So a very different form of racism was at work, one that exposed indifference to the moral welfare of nonwhites.
Learn more about Beware Euphoria at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Alexa Bankert's "When Politics Becomes Personal"

Alexa Bankert is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Georgia. Her work has appeared in peer-reviewed journals such as the Journal of Politics, Political Psychology, and Political Behavior. She is the recipient of several awards, including the Distinguished Junior Scholars Award, given by the Political Psychology Section of the American Political Science Association.

Bankert applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, When Politics Becomes Personal: The Effect of Partisan Identity on Anti-Democratic Behavior, and reported the following:
Page 99 provides a detailed description of party affiliations among Dutch respondents in one of the many data samples I analyze in the book to show the distinction between negative and positive partisanship. While page 99 is necessary to assess the extent to which these two types of partisanship exist among Dutch voters, it does not provide any insights into their relationship or their differential effects on political behavior. It also focuses exclusively on the Netherlands - which presents only one of the five countries I investigate in the book. Yet, page 99 reiterates two interesting findings: First, negative partisanship is stronger than positive partisanship in many European multi-party system – which means that negativity in politics is not an exclusively American phenomenon. Second, right-wing parties tend to evoke the strongest levels of negative partisanship in many European multi-party systems. Ultimately, the book argues that partisan animus is not inevitable: We can be strong partisans without demonizing our political opponents.
Visit Alexa Bankert's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Jane Ohlmeyer's "Making Empire"

Jane Ohlmeyer is Erasmus Smith Professor of Modern History at Trinity College Dublin, where she served as Trinity's first Vice-President for Global Relations (2011-14). She was a driving force behind the 1641 Depositions Project and the development of the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute which she directed (2015-20). She is a passionate teacher and has held appointments and fellowships at institutions in Brazil, England, France, India, Scotland, South Africa, and the US. She chaired the Irish Research Council (2015-21) and has served on numerous editorial and other boards. She is the author or editor of numerous articles and 13 books. She is the executive producer of a 6-part documentary called From that Small Island: the story of the Irish.

Ohlmeyer applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Making Empire: Ireland, Imperialism, and the Early Modern World, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Making Empire is the opening page of Chapter 4, entitled ‘Agents of Empire’, which I quote from fulsomely here.

The chapter begins with a heated exchange taken from Brian Friel’s play, Making History (1988), between Hugh O’Neill, earl of Tyrone, and his wife, Mabel, about her brother, Henry. Hugh roared:
It’s always the Henrys, the menials in the middle, who get the kicks, isn’t it? … Our Henry? Nobody better. London couldn’t have a more dutiful servant than Our Henry. As you and I know well – but as London keeps forgetting – it’s the plodding Henrys of this world who are the real empire-makers (Brian Friel, Making History (London, 1989), p. 27)
Sir Henry Bagenal, like his father Sir Nicholas, had served as the marshal of the army in Ulster and as a member of the Irish privy council. Chapter 2 of Making Empire had focussed on anglicisation and drew on the life and experiences of Hugh O’Neill, earl of Tyrone, and Chapter 3 had looked to his wife, Mabel, and her sister Mary, as it explored assimilation and the particular significance of marriage. This chapter uses the careers of their brother, Henry Bagenal, and O’Neill’s close ally, Red Hugh O’Donnell, as points of departure from which to discuss empire and enterprise. Bagenal and O’Donnell, one a member of the Protestant ‘New English’ community and the other a Catholic Gael, came from very different cultures and beg the question of what it meant to be ‘Irish’ at the turn of the seventeenth century? Strictly speaking only the Gaelic-speaking Catholic natives regarded themselves as being ‘Irish’. The ‘Old English’ (or those of Anglo Norman ancestry), many of whom were Catholic, consistently stressed their ‘Englishness’ often at the expense of their ‘Irishness’. The ‘New English’ settlers, the majority of whom were Protestant, who colonized Ireland from the 1530s, flaunted their ‘Englishness’.

Serendipitously page 99 does provide a number of insights into a book which is about how empire shaped Ireland and how people from Ireland then made – and unmade – empires.

First, on page 99 we return to Friel’s play, Making History, which I use to interrogate four interconnected themes which underpin Making Empire: first, that Ireland formed an integral part of the English imperial system with its land and labour fuelling English expansionism; second, that people from Ireland operated as agents of empire(s); third, Ireland served as laboratory in and for the English empire; and, finally, the impact of empire(s) on people living in early modern Ireland.

Second, the mention of O’Neill and O’Donnell on page 99 serves as a reminder of Irish opposition to English imperialism both during the Nine Years War (1594-1603) and over the centuries, as Ireland served as an exemplar for resistance to imperial rule. Resistance ranged from aristocratic revolts to major rebellions (after 1594, 1641 and 1688) and from agrarian, political, and intellectual protest to a continued commitment to Catholicism, to speaking the Irish language, and following Irish ways.

Third, issues of identity touched on page 99 – and so central to Friel’s play - permeate Making Empire. What did it mean to be ‘Irish’, ‘English’, and even ‘British’ in an era of intense colonisation and mobility? What becomes clear is that ‘Irishness’ meant a variety of things to different people and that events that occurred in the early modern period continue to shape identity in Ireland today.

Fourth, there is much truth in Friel’s assertion on page 99 that ‘the plodding Henrys of this world’ were ‘the real empire-makers’. However, they were male and female and came from diverse faiths, ethnic groups, and social backgrounds as they traversed – as migrants, merchants, mercenaries, and menials - the empires of the early modern world. By the 1660s men and women from Ireland were to be found in the Spanish, French, and Dutch Caribbean, the Portuguese and later Dutch Amazon, across New Spain, and in English settlements from Newfoundland to the Chesapeake in North America, the Caribbean, India and the Mediterranean, at Tangier in North Africa. By the 1680s Irishmen, involved in the trade of enslaved people, were also based in West Africa. In short, the Irish were trans-imperial, creating an ‘Irish global empire’ built on the back of other European powers.

What is less clearly stated on page 99 but is central to Making Empire, are two things. First, how, during the early modern period, Ireland served as laboratory for imperial rule as men from Ireland established structures and formulated policies that were first implemented in colonial Ireland and later transferred to other parts of the English/British empire. Ethnocentric ideas and ‘tools of empire’ were trialled in Ireland and then adopted, albeit having been adapted to suit local circumstances, throughout the early modern Anglophone world. They included plantation and modes and structures of governance; policies and practices associated with Anglicization, especially the promotion of English culture, language, religion, education and law; and, finally, knowledge gathering and the need to map and survey land, people, and natural resources. Second, how empires shaped the lives, the landscapes, and the mindsets of those living in early modern Ireland and how early modern events and experiences of empire were remembered (or not), represented, and mis-represented.
Visit Jane Ohlmeyer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 16, 2024

Troy Tassier's "The Rich Flee and the Poor Take the Bus"

Troy Tassier is a professor of economics at Fordham University with additional affiliations in the Urban Studies Program and the International Political Economy and Development Program. He is a world expert in the fields of economic epidemiology and social network analysis whose comments on the Covid-19 pandemic appeared in major media outlets such as the Associated Press, Reuters, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post, ABCnews.com, Crain’s New York Business, and many others.

Tassier applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Rich Flee and the Poor Take the Bus: How Our Unequal Society Fails Us during Outbreaks, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Rich Flee and the Poor Take the Bus contains a transition between two sections of Chapter 4, “Bridges of Disease.” The top of the page, concludes a description of a 17th century Black death quarantine in Eyam, a small English village. The quarantine successfully prevented a plague outbreak from spreading outside of Eyam and into other nearby villages. The bottom of the page begins to describe a clever experiment by social psychologist Stanley Milgrom from the 1960s. Milgrom chose a group of random people out of two phone books – one from Wichita, Kansas and the other from Omaha, Nebraska. He then mailed individual postcards to the selected people and asked them to attempt to contact a specific banker in Boston, Massachusetts. The recipients were asked to mail their postcard to a personal friend whom they believed to be socially closer to the Boston banker. These second recipients were asked to do the same, and onward, until someone received the postcard that knew the banker personally. This person then mailed the postcard directly to the banker. Milgrom counted the number of mailings that it took to reach the Boston banker from the original recipients. On average the postcards arrived to the banker in five to six mailings. Milgrom’s experiment helped to create the “six-degrees of separation” and “it’s a small world” memes that are familiar today. The paths connecting people from the American heartland to Boston are then used in later pages to describe similar paths that allow epidemics to spread throughout society.

In some ways the Page 99 Test works well despite there being different ideas at the top and bottom of the page. The Rich Flee and the Poor Take the Bus, alternates between historical examples of real-world epidemic outbreaks, like the one in Eyam, and descriptions of behavior and patterns of social connections (friends, relatives, co-workers, and others) that determine how epidemic outbreaks spread in today’s world. Ultimately, however, the Page 99 Test fails to get to the heart of the book. Our day-to-day interactions often lead to impoverished and socially marginalized people being harmed most frequently during epidemic outbreaks. The reader will not be able to connect the Eyam quarantine or Milgrom’s experiment to the book’s central topics of social and economic inequality by reading only page 99.

However, the material on page 98, when combined with page 99, offers an example that is closer to the book’s more general theme. The Black death quarantine in Eyam only succeeded because of the financial support of the Earl of Devonshire. He provided the Eyam villagers with food and other goods that allowed them to survive their quarantine. Without this support the quarantine would have failed and this Black death outbreak would have spread more widely. Interactions like these between epidemics and economics help to determine epidemic outcomes in the past as well as today.

While there is an element of chance in epidemic outcomes, there is also a great regularity that exists across time. Marginalized and disadvantaged groups of people most often bear the brunt of physical and financial turmoil during epidemic outbreaks. The Rich Flee and the Poor Take the Bus describes the many entangled ways that our social world and our financial circumstances intermix with biology and medicine to determine who is most effected by epidemic outbreaks and why. It also offers suggestions for how to better protect all of society when future epidemic outbreaks occur by thinking about epidemics in social and economic terms in addition to more conventional ideas from biology and medicine.
Visit Troy Tassier's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Andre Schmid's "North Korea’s Mundane Revolution"

Andre Schmid is Associate Professor in the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, North Korea’s Mundane Revolution: Socialist Living and the Rise of Kim Il Sung, 1953–1965, and reported the following:
Could Ford Maddox Ford have ever imagined that his Page 99 Test would apply to a book on a place like North Korea? Not likely, but it does – if only barely.

North Korea’s Mundane Revolution raises questions about the cartoon-like visions of North Korea – the military parades, the mass games, and the leaders with curious coiffures – so prominent in the media. The book argues North Korea has its own complex history, one which has enabled this one-time aspiring socialist country to survive longer than the Soviet Union. The book centers not on the Kim family and their personality cult but on how the population actively engaged in rebuilding their cities after the Korean War as part of a state and popular project to create what was called the “New Living” – a socialist-style living, in short.

Much of the book deals with the postwar turn to the family. It explores tension between how the consolidation of the Party-state came with the re-establishment of male social power – even as the regime celebrated passing the first gender equality laws in all of Asia. For many women, the gender equality laws eased the path into a wide array of wage work in realms previously dominated almost exclusively by men, everything from biologists to factory workers, architects to construction workers. And by the end of the Korean War in 1953, in which mass deaths and defections led to a 12 per cent population decline, the wage work of women was desperately needed in the centrally planned economy.

Yet participation rates of women, in the eyes of economists, remained stubbornly low, contributing to a dire labor shortage that interfered with economic growth – the key, it was believed, for transitioning to full socialism. While neither officials nor economists quite came out to say it explicitly, they blamed women who stayed at home – “playing and eating,” they accused – for holding the country back.

My page 99 deals with a number of top-down state initiatives to heighten participation rates. Model stories of the likes of Yi Poksil who, responding to the call, took up work in a tobacco plant, stand side by side with letters-to-the-editors from readers who took it upon themselves to complain about women and officials who did not do their part. So, too, does my page 99 recount the resistance of factory managers, who did not want to invest in daycare facilities to enable wider participation. The page gives a sense of the social richness of urban life and how for a state often seen as totalitarian, even the implementation of the simplest priority was not so straightforward. The story doesn’t stop there, however, and the rest of the book picks up on themes such as the growth of non-routinized women’s labor, which often enabled local officials to meet their goals and get the central plan to “work”; the lionization of mother-workers; and the various ways the Women’s Federation carefully within the authoritarian environment to legitimate domestic work under a regime that could not quite come around to see their efforts in the home as ‘labor.’ Page 99, in short, brings up one aspect of a bigger theme, while giving a good sense of the book’s methodology.
Learn more about North Korea’s Mundane Revolution at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Richard Holden's "Money in the Twenty-First Century"

Richard Holden is Professor of Economics at UNSW Business School, Director of the Economics of Education Knowledge Hub @UNSWBusiness, co-director of the New Economic Policy Initiative, and President of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.

Prior to that he was on the faculty at the University of Chicago and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Holden received an AM and a PhD in economics from Harvard University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Money in the Twenty-First Century: Cheap, Mobile, and Digital, and reported the following:
From page 99:
There is an intellectual history to the idea that what it is known as “fractional reserve banking” could be done away with and that there could be a full separation of credit and money creation. The so-called “Chicago Plan” was a banking-reform plan proposed by a number of University of Chicago economists in the aftermath of the Great Depression. The plan proposed a complete separation of the monetary and credit functions of the banking system. To achieve this, the plan had two limbs. First, deposits would need to have 100% backing by government-issued money. Second, financing of new (bank) credit could only occur through borrowing of government-issued money, or from retained earnings. That is, there could be no credit provision through the creation of money by commercial banks.

Perhaps ironically, this would return the way the Fed influences interest rates to the way it was done during the term of Paul Volcker as Fed chair in the late 1970s and early 1980s. When Volcker took over as Fed chair the Federal Funds Rate was managed by increasing or decreasing the amount of reserves in the banking system. The Fed would create a shortage of reserves when they wanted to push official rates up and would create a surplus of reserves when they want to push the rate down. Volcker changed this in a meeting on October 6, 1979 that also ushered in his era of inflation-conquering high interest rates. Volcker instituted a change where the quantity of growth in money supply (in reality, bank reserves) would be set and the interest rate would adjust to equilibrate supply and demand. This was consistent with conservative economist Milton Friedman’s doctrine of monetarism which held that inflation was very closely linked to growth of the money supply—captured in Friedman’s aphorism “inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.”

There is one important way in which Fedcoin would expand the toolkit of central bankers. And that concerns what happens when they want to set interest rates really low. Recall from earlier that, since the early 1990s, many central banks in advanced economies—the Fed included—have made explicit an inflation target. That is, they try to adjust interest rates to keep inflation within some kind of low (but not zero) level. In the U.S. that’s 2%. In Australia it’s a band between 2 and 3 percent. But the idea is the same—low, stable inflation. Remember that on of Raghu Rajan’s key accomplishments at the RBI was to chart a path to RBI credibility on inflation. As he put it “the best way for the central bank to generate growth in the long run is for it to keep inflation low and steady…in order to generate sustainable growth, we have to fight inflation first.”
This page of Money in the 21st Century goes to the heart of the book’s core argument—which is that the United States Federal Reserve should create a Central Bank Digitial Currency (CBDC) that I dub “Fedcoin.” This is an essential step to ward off the creation of a potentially dominant private digital currency, like the one Facebook attempted with Libra/Diem. It is also necessary to ensure that China’s eCNY digital Yuan does not leapfrog the US Dollar as the world’s global reserve currency.

Creating a Fedcoin involves a number of important design choices, and page 99 speaks to perhaps the most important of those choices. One option is to allow everyone to have a (digital) account at the Fed, thereby removing the need for the current commercial banking system altogether. A second option—one which I argue is better—is for the current commercial banking system to operate along side Fedcoin. But this would still change commercial banking. At present, commercial banks essentially create money when they make loans. When a loan is made banks put the loan amount in an account for the borrower (a liability for the bank), and create a corresponding obligation for the borrower to repay the loan (an asset for the bank).

Fedcoin would change this. The Fed would control the amount of Fedcoins in circulation, and therefore perform all credit creation. Commercial banks would be mere intermediaries—deciding to whom to make loans. This would change the current roles of the Fed and commercial banks in a way that I argue has many benefits.
Visit Richard Holden's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Agata Łuksza's "Polish Theatre Revisited"

Agata Łuksza is assistant professor at the Institute of Polish Culture, University of Warsaw. She is author of Glamour, Femininity, Performance: Actress as an Object of Desire. Łuksza lives in Warsaw, Poland.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Polish Theatre Revisited: Theatre Fans in the Nineteenth Century, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Epithets crucial to Czaki’s image as an ingenue appeared also in descriptions of her performances. Even at the early stage of Wisnowska’s career, “natural charm” and “sincere feeling” intertwined with “intelligence,” “sophistication,” and “flirtatiousness.”
If you open my book, Polish Theatre Revisited: Theatre Fans in the Nineteenth Century, on page 99, you may find it difficult to follow the narrative without knowing the context. In this part of the book I juxtapose public images of two Polish actresses performing in Warsaw in the 1880s: Jadwiga Czaki and Maria Wisnowska. Nowadays, even readers familiar with the history of Polish theatre most probably do not recognize these names, but back in the late nineteenth century they were local celebrities among Polish audiences. This page can also give you a false impression that my book is primarily about these two actresses, or about theatre performers in the late-nineteenth-century Warsaw, while in fact, it focuses on theatre fans, not their idols. Moreover, while I do pay attention to local context, my aim is to transcend “national” theatre histories by presenting local theatrical life against the globalization of theatre culture, and by inscribing experiences and practices of Polish theatre fans into a larger story about the early fan cultures emerging within the nascent consumer society.

That being said, there is something uncanny about page 99, considering that my research on theatre fan cultures of the past started with the analysis of an early Warsaw example of a “fandom war” – between fans of Jadwiga Czaki and Maria Wisnowska.
Learn more about Polish Theatre Revisited at the University of Iowa Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 12, 2024

Francesca Sobande's "Big Brands Are Watching You"

Francesca Sobande is Senior Lecturer in Digital Media Studies at Cardiff University, author of The Digital Lives of Black Women in Britain and Consuming Crisis: Commodifying Care and COVID-19, and coauthor of Black Oot Here: Black Lives in Scotland. She researches the power and politics of media and the marketplace. Her work focuses on digital remix culture, Black diaspora, archives, feminism, nostalgia, creative and cultural work, pop culture, branding, and devolved nations.

Sobande applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Big Brands Are Watching You: Marketing Social Justice and Digital Culture, and reported the following:
Big Brands Are Watching You addresses conversations, collisions, and contrasts between advertising, activism, and digital culture. Focusing on the US and the UK, I examine various marketing, advertising, and popular culture examples as part of my analysis of current claims, contestations, and commodified concepts of morality. In addition to examining narratives in TV shows such as Succession, I reflect on insights yielded from research interviews, a survey, and archived collections on the cultural memory of advertising and its role in the branding of nations and their history.

Building on prior studies of the fraught dynamic between consumer culture, countercultures, and community organizing, I outline the concepts of “single-use social justice” and “brands’ disposable duties” to describe the ephemeral and digitally mediated ways that brands gesture towards social justice without undertaking substantial actions. Accounting for the impacts of structural power relations and forms of oppression, this book contends with when, why, and how brands comment on certain issues of injustice and disregard others. This involves me discussing related questions regarding the monetization of antagonism online and the commercialization of concepts connected to contemporary social and political movements.

Page 99 falls in Chapter 2, which follows a detailed introductory chapter, titled “Setting the Scene: Social Justice for Sale”. Turning my attention to “Nation-branding, The Monarchy, and Celebrity Culture”, page 99 focuses on social media messaging and digital content that promoted the Platinum Pudding – a competition-winning recipe that was part of many activities and events marking the UK’s Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Discussing the highly publicized Platinum Jubilee, page 99 reflects on the extravagance of such celebrations and extensive media coverage of the monarch’s death in the months that followed. Here, I emphasize that such well-resourced celebrations and high-profile media coverage of Britain’s monarchy jarringly contrasts with the UK government overlooking ordinary people’s calls for more meaningful forms of memorializing loved ones during the COVID-19 crisis.

In other words: “Witnessing brands—commercial and otherwise—declaring their condolences and quickly offering up products to memorialize the queen, I reflected on the marketing of mourning and the commodification of grief”, including how race, class, imperialism, and other systems of oppression impact who a nation’s public officials do (and do not) frame as worthy of national mourning.

While page 99 provides a glimpse of some of the ways that I critically discuss dimensions of power, politics, and marketing throughout my work, the book is far from being an account of the relationship between media, marketing, and the British monarchy. Rather, page 99 presents one of many examples that I discuss as part of a broader and in-depth account of the ways that morality and its mediated nature manifest in the marketplace.
Visit Francesca Sobande's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Jennifer Saul's "Dogwhistles and Figleaves"

Jennifer Saul works in social and political philosophy of language, with particular interests in deceptive, sexist, and racist language. She has also worked in feminist philosophy and philosophy of psychology. In addition, she served as Director of the Society for Women in Philosophy UK 2009-2019, and President of the Mind Association in 2019. In 2011 she was named Distinguished Woman Philosopher by the US Society for Women in Philosophy. She taught at the University of Sheffield 1995-2019, and has been at the University of Waterloo since 2019.

Saul applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Dogwhistles and Figleaves: How Manipulative Language Spreads Racism and Falsehood, and reported the following:
Page 99 discusses how dogwhistles and figleaves can work together. Since these are the two major topics of my book, this does a lot to represent the breadth of the work. However, it comes after a lot of explanation of what these are, so it may not be very accessible to the reader on its own! Dogwhistles and figleaves are linguistic devices that help speakers get away with norm-violating utterances, and in the first half of the book I talk about how they help speakers get away with racist speech. Dogwhistles hide the racist speech from much of the audience, through code words like ‘inner city’, or—for Neo-Nazis—‘88’. (‘88’ is number code for ‘Heil Hitler’ because ‘H’ is the 8th letter of the alphabet.) Figleaves are different. They take racist speech that is openly on display, and add just a bit of cover—a phrase that raises some doubt about whether there really is racism present. Think here of people who say something very racist then tell you about their black friend. Or of Trump calling Mexicans rapists then saying that he’s sure some of them are good people. These won’t work on everyone but they can shift the views of people who want to not be racist but who can be caused to shift their standards of what counts as racist. And this ability to shift our standards, I argue, is what makes them so dangerous. On page 99 I turn to the ways these can work together—for example, how once a dogwhistle is discovered a speaker may produce a figleaf.
Learn more about Dogwhistles and Figleaves at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Lying, Misleading, and What is Said.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 9, 2024

Kirsten E. Wood's "Accommodating the Republic"

Kirsten E. Wood is associate professor of history at Florida International University and the author of Masterful Women: Slaveholding Widows from the American Revolution through the Civil War.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Accommodating the Republic: Taverns in the Early United States, and reported the following:
Page 99 falls in the middle of chapter 3, where I delve into tavern accounts to reconstruct the economic and social tapestry of tavern-keeping and tavern-going in the early United States. Here, we meet Martin Browne, the proprietor of a tavern in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley at the dawn of the nineteenth century. Browne’s alcohol transactions primarily involved moderate quantities for the era, such as half-pints of whiskey. While our imaginations might boggle at the idea of an eight-ounce pour, some tavern goers brought “pocket bottles” suitable for carrying at least some of their liquor away with them, and many customers bought by the quart or gallon because whiskey represented a basic staple in numerous early American households. Even so, patrons varied greatly in their alcohol purchases: some drank much more whiskey than average, some much less, and some bought low-alcohol beverages or none at all. Indeed, Browne’s and other tavern ledgers show that many patrons visited taverns for reasons beyond alcohol. Over 40 percent of Browne’s patrons also bought other household essentials such as vinegar and potatoes. A substantial fraction found themselves indebted to Browne for textiles or clothing, like William Dalloway’s red waistcoat and footed stockings, probably the work of Martin’s wife Molly, a weaver, or another woman in the household. For their pleasures and necessities, Browne and his neighbors rarely paid cash in full. Consider, for instance, Browne’s dealings with Betsy Duty, a servant in his household. Browne paid her wages in money, shoes, snuff, stockings, and two Linsey petticoats, assigning each a monetary value in his ledger. Like Browne himself, most tavern customers at the turn of the nineteenth century bought on credit and paid in goods and labor as well as money, weaving webs of debt that bound keepers and customers together, sometimes for years.

A reader who turned to page 99 could deduce my specific arguments about the economic ties between keepers and patrons and the longer arc of historical continuity, for many economic patterns in the infant nation’s village taverns had colonial origins. But this hypothetical reader would, I think, be hard-pressed to predict the simultaneous, contrary evidence for economic, social, and political change, which makes taverns in this period so complex and so rewarding to study. Page 99 also provides no hint of the diverse sources and historical actors found elsewhere in the book. Whether page 99 is a good proxy for the book depends partly on whether you like your history with or without spoilers.

While the patterns of exchange that linked Browne and his neighbors had pre-revolutionary corollaries, many small town and village taverns in the early republic took on new roles, encouraging infrastructural development, westward expansion, the proliferation of republican institutions, and the fervor for improving oneself, one’s property, and society. Taverns also became hubs for commercial and political innovation. For some Americans, tavern-going represented adult white men’s right to govern themselves, their families, and their republic as they chose. Yet hard-drinking adult white men did not have taverns to themselves. Temperate white men, middle-class white women, and free people of color all staked claims upon tavern spaces in the early republic, whether in the name of public good or personal satisfaction. Those striving for temperate or genteel taverns never overawed the advocates of rowdy masculinity. Nevertheless, they made more headway than many historians have realized, ensuring that age-old and novel tavern interactions posed enduring questions about who belonged in the republic and for what purposes.
Learn more about Accommodating the Republic at The University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Ryan Moran's "Selling the Future"

Ryan Moran is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Utah.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Selling the Future: Community, Hope, and Crisis in the Early History of Japanese Life Insurance, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Selling the Future explains why two supporters of the Japanese post office’s life insurance system valued life insurance. Both writers (one a former general who had fought in the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars and the other a professor at Kyoto University) argued that postal life insurance would bring unity and discipline into the lives of Japanese people. According to these supporters, the post office’s life insurance system, which mainly targeted poor laborers, would solve the problem of labor alienation by giving workers security and uniting them, through the commodity of insurance, into the community of the nation.

This page highlights the relationship between insurance and community, a key concept explored in this book. In that sense, the page does do a good job of highlighting how figures in the insurance industry conceptualized insurance as a form of mutual aid. Of course, this was a commodified form of mutuality that further reified capitalist social relations. While this page does highlight a key concept of the text, the chapter it comes from is focused squarely on the post office’s life insurance system. The rest of the book is more expansive, however, and examines how private companies as well as the state-run system worked to transform life into an object of governance and socially constituted commodity. The first chapter focuses on private companies and how they commodified the concept of mutuality. The second chapter also looks at private companies, focusing on their marketing strategies centered on a vision of responsible masculinity for white collar consumers in interwar Japan. The fourth chapter also deals with the post office and its insurance system, but focuses on how the system tried to inculcate health promotion as a moral obligation of members of the national community. This chapter also includes a discussion of radio calisthenics (rajiō taisō) and its transnational origin. Chapter 5 continues with a discussion of the post office’s life insurance system, but shifts the discussion to how this worked in colonial Korea. The book ends with a discussion of how the wartime Japanese state used insurance to mobilize the populace amid Allied bombing runs. Insurance, with its promise of a secure future, functioned to instill what Lauren Berlant has called “cruel optimism” into the everyday lives of Japanese people. These different aspects of the book all explore the industry’s co-optation of the concept of mutuality in different ways. Page 99 thus does give readers a decent sense of a central theme of the book, but would leave out some of the important issues addressed in the rest of the manuscript.
Learn more about Selling the Future at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Miriam Piilonen's "Theorizing Music Evolution"

Miriam Piilonen is a music theorist, composer, and multi-instrumentalist based in Western Massachusetts. She teaches music theory and aural musicianship at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Piilonen applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Theorizing Music Evolution: Darwin, Spencer, and the Limits of the Human, and reported the following:
Theorizing Music Evolution explores historical ideas about music's origins, with emphasis on a nineteenth-century debate between Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer. A reader turning to page 99 may not immediately recognize the central themes of the book.

Page 99 reproduces an image from the book The Sexes Through Nature (1875) by Antoinette Brown Blackwell, an American scientist, abolitionist, and advocate for women’s rights. By including texts like Blackwell’s, my goal was to add detail to the history of music-evolutionary ideas and to decentralize Charles Darwin. Blackwell challenged Darwin’s and Spencer’s theories of evolution for their sexist views of human nature. For instance, she criticized Darwin’s theory of sexual selection for its suggestion that the male is the normal type of the species, and that advantageous traits pass strictly between males. The image reproduced on page 99 is Blackwell’s “table of equations,” where she depicts an “organic equilibrium” of the sexes. She further suggests that every creature, sexed or not, contains elements of both sexes: “the feminine and masculine, with their opposed tensions and polarities of forces, are combined in every organism,” Blackwell 1875, 43.

The chapter of my book from which this is drawn—“The Darwinian Musical Hypothesis”—historicizes Darwin’s evolutionary theory of music and critiques its recent revitalization among some music scientists. Darwin’s theory of sexual selection—the one that Blackwell was criticizing for its sexism—was central to his theory of music. At first, Darwin suggested that music evolved as a courtship display among animals. Later, he abandoned his theory of music, leaving the matter to more musically-inclined thinkers such as Spencer, whose competing account of music evolution was published two years before Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859).

As I show in the book, this is a debate without a winner. Still, it is worth studying afresh, in order to better understand the contexts in which these ideas were written down, and to avoid reproducing the mistakes of early evolutionists. The goal should not be to arrive at a unified evolutionary theory of music, but rather to historicize these ideas and to recognize that such evolutionary theories of music are ontologizing by design—they construct as they explain.
Visit Miriam Piilonen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Andrew S. Jacobs's "Gospel Thrillers"

Andrew S. Jacobs is a historian of early Christianity and religious cultures of late antiquity. He has taught at the University of California, Riverside; Scripps College; Harvard Divinity School; and Boston University. He is a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School.

Jacobs applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Gospel Thrillers: Conspiracy, Fiction, and the Vulnerable Bible, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Gospel Thrillers: Conspiracy, Fiction, and the Vulnerable Bible I am starting to describe Israeli “women soldier-scholar” characters who appear in several “gospel thrillers” novels focused on lost gospels discovered in the same area as the Dead Sea Scrolls. I note my interest in these characters at the top of page 99: “these novels struggle to reconcile the desire for new (white, Protestant) biblical truths with the foreign otherness of modern Israel, westernized, but not western. These women soldier-scholars are not the central protagonists of the novels, but rather adjuncts and love interests to the non-Israeli male main characters.” I analyze two characters on page 99: “Lieutenant Sarah Arad” from The Masada Scroll and police investigator “Lela Raul” from The Second Messiah. I note in the conclusion of this section on page 101: “These women embody for readers the desirable otherness of the new biblical find — and, by extension, that of the canonical Bible that also once emerged from these hot sands.”

As it happens, this section of Chapter 3 of Gospel Thrillers is one of the most vivid illustrations of the cultural fantasies about the Bible that I argue play out in this little-noticed fictional genre: a vindication of the Page 99 Test! “Gospel Thrillers” is my name for dozens of novels published from the 1960s to the present in which a “lost gospel” plot allows readers to imagine and confront exaggerated conspiratorial fears about the Bible in U.S. culture. Chapter 3 looks at novels that invent a new “Dead Sea Scroll” that would reveal shocking truths about Jesus, Christian origins, and the western Bible; it amplifies “real-world” political concerns about Israel, theological fears about the Jewishness of Jesus, and anxieties about the way religious identities have shaped what we know about the Bible.

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s is one of the inciting historical events that prompted conspiratorial thinking about the Bible in the U.S. and its fictional exaggeration in “Gospel Thriller” novels: not only the possibility of new texts coming to light from the time of (or even the hand of!) Jesus himself, but the shadowy forces that could allow or impede new discoveries from coming to light: the newly fashioned State of Israel, allied with but not quite identical with western interests; and the Catholic church, an arm of which exerted official control over publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls and which has, in much modern U.S. popular culture, embodied the intricate spider’s web of institutional religious conspiracy on a global scale.

In Gospel Thrillers I dig into other conspiratorial pathways floating through U.S. culture that find vivid, technicolor representation in these novels: their Cold War origin, their obsession with heresy and orthodoxy, their desire for biblical secrets coupled with a longing for biblical status quo. But these stereotyped bits of exotic and erotic color that first appear on page 99 encapsulate quite nicely the tangle of fears and desires that my new book explores.
Visit Andrew S. Jacobs's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 5, 2024

Stephanie Bonnes's "Hardship Duty"

Stephanie Bonnes is an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven. She holds a PhD in sociology from the University of Colorado Boulder. As a teacher and a scholar she explores the ways in which gender and racial inequalities are created and sustained in organizations at the interactional and institutional levels.

Bonnes applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Hardship Duty: Women's Experiences with Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, and Discrimination in the U.S. Military, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Not only did Penelope experience sexual violence, but she was disappointed that the military failed to address and respond to her assault in a satisfactory way. The move also affected her case, as she told me that she did not want to travel across the country for trial proceedings when:
All they’re trying to do is slander and try and make you out to be the bad person ... So, we sent a letter over to the legal counsel over at [military base] saying that I was not willing to participate in that, and requesting a non- judicial punishment for him, and I’m pretty sure that he ended up getting a letter of reprimand for providing alcohol to a minor and that was it... I, like, slept in late for work one day and had to do fourteen days of extra duty, and he got less than that. Yeah, I slept through my alarm, and I had more of a punishment than he did. It’s definitely an interesting system, I guess.
Offering a transfer to victims of sexual assault is a military policy often touted as victim- friendly. Yet the way it was used was not to support Penelope’s wishes, but rather to move her far from the base where she was assaulted and far from the base where she desired to go. The way this “victim-friendly” policy was implemented resulted in Penelope declining participation in the legal process against her attacker as she would be required to fly back and forth to her former base. Therefore, the military’s bureaucracy can be mobilized against victims even in cases that are eligible to proceed to court-martial. Further, even policies designed to help victims can be used against them in harmful ways.
Page 99 places readers in the fourth chapter: “Administrative Tools of Harm: The Bureaucratic Harassment of U.S. Servicewomen” which highlights the centrality of bureaucracy in servicewomen’s harassment experiences. This chapter explains how military policies addressing harassment and assault are not sufficient to combat these issues. I argue that the military has some of the most comprehensive polices and education programs designed to address sexual violence, but these policies can be rendered ineffective and can become tools of harm when they are situated in a hyper-masculinity context where women are denigrated. I define ‘bureaucratic harassment’ as the purposeful manipulation of legitimate administrative policies and procedures, perpetrated by individuals who hold institutional power over others, to undermine colleagues’ professional experiences and careers. I then discuss the tactics used to accomplish bureaucratic harassment and demonstrate how it is used to achieve harassment or to prevent reporting of sexual violence.

Page 98 describes Penelope’s assault as well as her being offered an expedited transfer where she was promised her location choice would be prioritized. Rather than being moved to the Southeast as requested, she was moved to the Northwest. On page 99, I highlight the effects of this policy misuse including isolating Penelope from support networks as well as far from the base where the assault occurred, which made returning for legal proceedings difficult. What the reader would miss about my book by only reading page 99 is why the military’s bureaucracy works in this way and can be mobilized to discourage reporting or legal action in sexual assault cases.

In earlier chapters of the book, I highlight how the military is a gendered organization that denigrates femininity and prioritizes aggressive warrior masculinity. Throughout the book I use in-depth interviews with servicewomen to show how this femmephobic culture seeps into all aspects of military life such as: military trainings, military values, the military’s family narrative, how military spaces are organized, how power dynamics are structured in the organization, and how bureaucratic policies and discretion are implemented. I argue that the military’s femmephobic value system and culture explain why despite almost 20 years of prevention efforts, estimated sexual assaults are increasing, reporting is decreasing, and the problem persists across all branches of the military.
Visit Stephanie Bonnes's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware's "God, Guns, and Sedition"

Bruce Hoffman is the Shelby Cullom and Kathryn W. Davis Senior Fellow for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also a professor at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service; professor emeritus of terrorism studies at the University of St Andrews; and the George H. Gilmore Senior Fellow at the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. His books include Inside Terrorism (third edition, 2017).

Jacob Ware is a research fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service and at DeSales University. He serves on the editorial boards for the academic journal Studies in Conflict & Terrorism and the Irregular Warfare Initiative at the Modern War Institute at West Point.

Hoffman and Ware applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, God, Guns, and Sedition: Far-Right Terrorism in America, and reported the following:
From page 99:
“Right-wing groups reached their zenith in the mid-1980s,” the report stated, before explaining that they had been in a free-fall since. The continuation of this decline was cited in the FBI’s annual report on domestic terrorism for 1994 as well. That year was noteworthy for the complete absence of any reported domestic terrorist incidents. Indeed, the only mention of any kind of threat from the far right were two nonlethal bombings of the NAACP office in Tacoma, Washington, perpetrated by an otherwise inconsequential skinhead gang.

The attention of the FBI—and indeed all other law enforcement and national intelligence agencies for that matter—was thus fixated on organized groups and not lone individuals or two- or three-person cells operating independently of any existing or identifiable terrorist organization or command-and-control structure. The intense concern about threats from so-called lone wolves or lone actors was still a couple decades away and would emerge mostly in the context of the terrorist strategies pursued by al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Accordingly, the lethally destructive potential of a real-life Earl Turner did not appear in any official domestic terrorism assessment of that era. A twenty-seven-year-old decorated combat veteran of the 1991 Gulf War named Timothy McVeigh would change all that in April 1995.
•••
“It is impossible to overstate the significance of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City—to America and Americans,” begins the introduction to April 19, 1995, 9:02 a.m.: The Historical Record of the Oklahoma City Bombing, compiled by Oklahoma Today magazine. It claimed the lives of 168 people—including nineteen children—and injured 850 others. The FBI has described the incident as “the worst act of homegrown terrorism in the nation’s history,” with a death toll eclipsed only by that of the attacks on September 11, 2001. A Ryder rental truck packed with 5,400 pounds of ammonium nitrate, mixed with racing fuel (nitromethane) and ignited by Tovex high-explosive gelatin “sausages,” was, in the words of an engineering assessment, “hurled broadside into three of four two-story exposed columns,” thus ini- tiating the successive collapse of half of the nine-story structure. It took two more weeks to recover the last of the bodies from beneath the rubble
Page 99 of our book, God, Guns, & Sedition, is actually a very accurate snapshot of what the book is about. The page begins by highlighting an issue that has always been a problem in addressing the threat of far-right terrorism in the United States: underestimating the potential for violence and bloodshed from this movement. Page 99 quotes an FBI report from 1993 which asserted that not only did this movement no longer merit serious concern, but that it in fact had peaked around the middle of the previous decade and was therefore in a state of continued decrepitude. Page 99 thus goes on to describe how this dismissive assessment re-surfaced in the FBI's annual assessment of domestic terrorism for 1994. What the FBI had failed to detect, however, was a change in the movement's strategy that was deliberately adopted to frustrate law enforcement detection and interdiction. In 1992, violent, far-right extremists had shifted to a leaderless resistance or "lone wolf" model of terrorism of individuals either acting on their own or in concert with two or three like-minded co-conspirators . Page 99 goes on to introduce the reader to the foremost exemplar of this change: a twenty-seven-year-old U.S. Army veteran named TImothy McVeigh who, only a year later, would perpetrate the most lethal terrorist incident in the history of the United States—the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, that killed 168 persons. It was surpassed only by the attacks on September 11, 2001. With the Oklahoma City attack, McVeigh proved the viability of the leaderless strategy—which the movement continues to embrace today.
Learn more about God, Guns, and Sedition at the Columbia University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Bruce Hoffman's Anonymous Soldiers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Jason A. Staples's "Paul and the Resurrection of Israel"

Jason A. Staples is an author, historian, speaker, journalist, voice actor, and former American football coach. He is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at NC State University.

Staples applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Paul and the Resurrection of Israel: Jews, Former Gentiles, Israelites, and reported the following:
Page 99 begins with the statement, “The close relationship between death and exile established in these passages warrants further clarification”; that paragraph then proceeds to explain how the sentence of exile amounted to a death sentence from the perspective of the community, as the banished person could be killed with impunity if found in the boundaries controlled by that community. The next paragraph continues:
Along the same lines, Hosea not only proclaims the impending exile but declares the death of Ephraim/northern Israel. “Through Baal,” the prophet declares, “Ephraim was guilty and died” (Hos 13:1). Israel has consequently been “swallowed up” (8:8; cf. Deut 7:16), “slain by the words of my [YHWH’s] mouth” (6:5), and stands in need of “resurrection” (LXX: ἀνίστημι) so that they “may live before him” (Hos 6:2). Similarly, 2 Kgs 17:15 laments the destruction of the northern kingdom, saying that Israel “became empty/ephemeral” (הבל; LXX: ἐματαιώθησαν) because they pursued emptiness/nothingness (הבל).

Ezekiel likewise portrays “the whole house of Israel” as not only dead in exile but as having been dead so long that their bones have become desiccated (Ezek 37:1–4, 11). The problem in this passage is not that the people have been exiled; the problem is that the exile has resulted in Israel’s death. Exile is not the ultimate curse—exile has been the means…
The sentence cuts off there, and thus ends page 99. This test does surprisingly well in connecting the reader with one of the foundational ideas of the book—indeed the very idea and passage underlying the book’s title and choice of cover art—though it only sets up the problem to be solved in the remainder of the book, which is about how the apostle Paul understands this problem of Israel’s death as being solved through the death and resurrection of Israel’s messiah and subsequent outpouring of the spirit on not only Jews but gentiles.

Paul’s solution takes the problem of Israel’s death through exile and assimilation seriously, concluding that the only way for much of Israel to be “resurrected” as the Torah and biblical prophets promised is for people from the nations—non-Jews among whom the people of Israel had been scattered and assimilated—to be incorporated in the people of God by receiving the spirit of God, being both ethically and ethnically transformed. Since Israel had been assimilated among them, the only way for Israel to be restored is for those people to be included through this transformative divine action, resulting not only in a restored Israel but eternal life for those included in this restored people.

Page 99 turns out to be a pretty good starting point for the reader to know the basic launching point for the book’s explanation of Paul’s gospel, though it doesn’t give much of a hint about the solution.
Visit Jason A. Staples's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 2, 2024

Howard Steven Friedman and Akshay Swaminathan's "Winning with Data Science"

Howard Steven Friedman, an adjunct professor at Columbia University, is a data scientist with decades of experience leading analytics projects in the private and public sectors. His previous books, including Ultimate Price (2020) and Measure of a Nation (2012), have been translated into many languages and featured on national media.

Akshay Swaminathan is a data scientist who works on strengthening health systems. He has more than forty peer-reviewed publications, and his work has been featured in the New York Times and STAT. Previously at Flatiron Health, he currently leads the data science team at Cerebral and is a Knight-Hennessy scholar at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Friedman and Swaminathan applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Winning with Data Science: A Handbook for Business Leaders, and reported the following:
Winning with Data Science is a unique contribution to the data science field. It takes a narrative approach with fictitious characters and dialog to help us understand the trajectories of Kamala and Steve as they work with data science teams in their respective health care and finance companies to help deliver their projects. It focuses on the customer and specifically on guiding the customer to ask good questions and be armed with frameworks that help ensure that they get the most value out of their data science investments.

The process we used to write the book is also unique. We each wrote one character’s experience. We then worked together to finalize the manuscript and make sure all aspects of data science projects are covered.

Page 99 of Winning with Data Science drops us in the middle of a discussion between Kyra, a data scientist, and Kamala who is the data science customer and business expert. From the dialog, the reader immediately understands that they are working on a problem for a healthcare company where they are trying to understand whether the results of a study for a new cancer medication called ClaroMax can be applied to their company.

The coworkers focus on potential weaknesses in the methodology of the study, how patients were recruited, and other factors that might contribute to patient outcomes.
Kyra continued. “Once the inclusion and exclusion criteria are defined, it’s important to consider how participants will be recruited. One of the most important considerations is generalizability. To what extent will the recruitment methodology allow you to extend the conclusions of this study beyond this specific population? Let’s suppose that BioFarm chooses to recruit participants who are being treated at the top cancer institute in the United States. Can you think of any reasons why this recruitment mechanism may affect the generalizability of the results?”
Kamala responds by drawing on her insight into patient care and challenges the generalizability of the study.
Kamala thought for a few seconds. “I can think of a few reasons. For one, patients who are treated at this cancer institute may receive a higher level of care than patients who are treated elsewhere in the country. Second, the patients who are treated at this top cancer center may be different from patients treated elsewhere: they may have better insurance coverage, they may be more well-off, they may have more advanced cancer, etc. The recruitment mechanism would cast doubt on whether the results of the study could generalize to patients who are treated elsewhere in the country. Sure, ClaroMax may work if it’s administered in the top cancer center in the United States, but what about when it’s administered in an underresourced cancer clinic in the rural Midwest? BioFarm should consider recruiting participants from diverse clinical settings to improve the generalizability of its findings.”
Kyra then suggests how they can implement a randomized study to test the impact of the product on some markets.
Kyra was impressed. “You’re sounding like a causal inference expert already! Once a recruitment strategy is in place, the next thing to think about is how to operationalize randomization.
The Page 99 Test works reasonably well in that readers would immediately understand that this is not a traditional data science textbook but rather uses characters and dialog to communicate some fairly complex ideas. It also succeeds because it introduces one of our main characters, Kamala, and shows her modeling what we call a customer mindset toward a real-world example of a data science project. That said, page 99 would not help the reader understand the overall scope of the book, so I would give it a B-.

The main shortcoming is that Kamala is one of the two main characters in the book, and this section does not mention Steve who works at a consumer finance company. It is also limited to a discussion about a single aspect of data evaluation. With only this one page, readers would fail to understand that another industry is discussed in the book, nor could they grasp that the book covers a large assortment of topics from project management to tool selection to supervised machine learning to unsupervised machine learning to ethics.

Winning with Data Science makes data science approachable by allowing the reader to follow the adventures of Kamala and Steve and experience real world scenarios of how data is used by different companies. This approach is unusual, but we are hearing from readers that it is highly effective. The book has generated substantial interest from companies looking to maximize their investments in data science and the authors have been invited to give numerous company presentations on the topics.
Visit Howard Steven Friedman's website.

The Page 99 Test: Ultimate Price.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Julie Candler Hayes's "Women Moralists in Early Modern France"

Julie Candler Hayes is Professor Emerita of French at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she served first as department chair and later as dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts from 2010 to 2020. Her research interests include early modern philosophy and literature, theories of language, literary theory, and translation studies. A Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques since 2010, she is past president of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies and has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Humanities Center, the Huntington Library, and the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library.

Hayes applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Women Moralists in Early Modern France, and reported the following:
Women Moralists in Early Modern France examines observations on the human condition by seventeenth and eighteenth-century women writers. At a time when women intellectuals were largely barred from French institutions of knowledge, moralist writing—an approach to social and psychological analysis not to be confused with “moralizing”—provided a platform for engaging questions that had exercised predecessors from Aristotle to Montaigne. Each chapter discusses a separate topic: Self-Knowledge, Friendship, Happiness and the Passions, Marriage, Age and Experience, and Women’s Nature and Capabilities. The book has two overarching goals: to demonstrate the relevance of early modern moralist writing to the field of philosophy, which has often dismissed it as “literary,” and to make visible the contributions of women to the genre, which has traditionally been defined in terms of male writers.

Page 99 falls about three-quarters of the way through the chapter on friendship; it begins and ends with quotations from Geneviève Thiroux d’Arconville (1720-1805) one of the key figures in the book. This page focuses on one aspect of her book-length treatise on friendship, De l’amitié (1761), the question of whether women and men can be friends. Opening the book to this page, the reader will quickly understand that d’Arconville takes a dim view of women’s “weakness of character,” but lays the fault for their failings on poor education and a society that rewards vanity and frivolity. It is therefore symptomatic of a broad societal failing that many women lack the strength of character required for true friendship. Like many of her predecessors, d’Arconville finds that mutual attraction between the sexes derails the possibility of friendship between men and women. But whereas the philosophers of antiquity had excluded women from friendship altogether, arguing that true friendship could only exist between virtuous men, d’Arconville takes a different turn. First, women’s weakness of character is cultural, not natural. Second, she rejects same-sex friendship between either women or men as fraught with competition and mistrust. To quote page 99, “Her rare depictions of sincere friendship are thus between men and women who are no longer susceptible to passionate feelings, either because of age or because, as physical desire cools, as it inevitably must, ‘they have had the time to know one another and to learn to love one another before ceasing to desire one another.’ The friendship that comes after love is the rarest and most precious of all in d’Arconville’s lexicon, based as it is not simply on virtue, but on virtue regained.” D'Arconville’s treatise looks at the possibility of friendship in a wide range of life circumstances and relationships and finds most of them wanting, so the chapter on friendship after love stands out. To found friendship on difference, rather than sameness, marks a radical departure from the classical tradition.

There are some obvious ways in which the Page 99 Test does not give an accurate idea of the book. The question of sameness and difference is only one of the issues taken up in the chapter on friendship, and friendship is only one of the topics addressed in the book. Also, page 99 discusses the views of a single figure, whereas the book examines works by over two dozen women writers.

On the other hand, page 99 is a useful microcosm of the book. Here, d’Arconville takes on the standard view of the impossibility of true friendship between the sexes—found in Aristotle, Cicero, and Montaigne—and turns it on its head. For Aristotle, friendship between virtuous men formed the basis of the polis; the exclusion of women from friendship is also an exclusion from citizenship. Rather than simply replacing male friendship with female friendship, d’Arconville (and other figures discussed in the chapter) replaces a politics of sameness with a politics of difference. We see similar intellectual moves in the other chapters. Women moralists were keenly aware of the gaps in the classical tradition; they turn to age-old topics and reimagine them in terms of their own lifeworld.

Page 99 is also representative of the book through its focus on an understudied writer, Geneviève Thiroux d’Arconville, whose extensive published work and unpublished manuscripts have a major role in the book. While I discuss several well-known figures, such as Émilie Du Châtelet and Germaine de Staël, my goal is to broaden the canon of women philosophers and intellectuals by incorporating lesser-known figures as well.
Learn more about Women Moralists in Early Modern France at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue