Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Charlotte Roberts's "Edward Gibbon and the Shape of History"

Charlotte Roberts completed her B.A. in English at Cambridge University in 2006, and, following a year as a Henry Fellow at Harvard University, returned to Cambridge for her graduate study as a Benefactors’ Scholar at St. John’s College. She earned her PhD in 2012. Between 2011 and 2013, Roberts held a Junior Research Fellowship at Clare College, Cambridge. She joined University College London as a lecturer in 2013.

Roberts applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Edward Gibbon and the Shape of History, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Edward Gibbon and the Shape of History examines a duality that lies at the heart of Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. This work of eighteenth-century historiography, composed over two decades and six volumes, is a work of outstanding scholarship: Gibbon was the first historian to bring together painstaking research with narrative history on such a grand scale. At the same time, the Decline and Fall is exceptionally literary: rhetorically powerful and tonally sensitive, with moods ranging from the wittily acerbic to the elegiac. It is the relationship, and sometimes tension, between these two aspects of Gibbon’s work that informs my own reading of the Decline and Fall.

The duality is particularly well illustrated by Gibbon’s use of footnotes. Their volume and detail demonstrate how important it was to Gibbon to document his sources and authorities. Yet Gibbon’s footnotes also serve another purpose: providing an ironic commentary on his main narrative, and making insinuations that are all the more piquant for being concealed in the scholarly apparatus of his work.

Page 99 of my book discusses an example of these techniques. Describing the unearthing of the True Cross at Jerusalem in the reign of the Emperor Constantine, Gibbon refers in a footnote to two Catholic commentators, Baronius and Tillemont, as ‘historians and champions of the miraculous invention of the cross’. Gibbon’s use of the word ‘invention’ is impeccably scholarly. It is almost a direct quotation from Baronius, who, writing in Latin, uses the word ‘inventio’ to signify a discovery. However, in eighteenth-century and modern English an invention can also be a fabrication or a contrivance. With one word Gibbon thus fulfils two purposes: accurately quoting from an established scholarly authority but also undermining its validity. The discovery of the True Cross, Gibbon implies, is a deception promoted by greedy priests and an emperor anxious for symbols of power.

Gibbon was a religious sceptic, and his history of the early Christian Church deplores the persecutions prompted by seemingly purely verbal differences of creed. Nevertheless, he continues to exploit the expressive power of the linguistic surface in his own work. Gibbon derides those who create a ‘furious contest’ from the difference of a ‘single diphthong’ but he also understands how the addition of a single letter (from ‘inventio’ to ‘invention’) can transform ingenuous quotation into ironic critique.
Learn more about Edward Gibbon and the Shape of History at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 29, 2014

Meredith J. Gill's "Angels and the Order of Heaven in Medieval and Renaissance Italy"

Meredith J. Gill is Professor of Italian Renaissance Art in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is the author of Augustine in the Italian Renaissance: Art and Philosophy from Petrarch to Michelangelo (Cambridge University Press, 2005) and co-editor, with Karla Pollmann, of Augustine Beyond the Book: Intermediality, Transmediality and Reception. Among her other publications are articles in Renaissance Quarterly, Storia dell'Arte, and Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, and essays in Rethinking the High Renaissance: The Culture of the Visual Arts in Early Sixteenth-Century Rome; The Possessions of a Cardinal: Politics, Piety, and Art, 1450–1700; The Renaissance World; and Rome (Cambridge University Press, 2005).

Gill applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Angels and the Order of Heaven in Medieval and Renaissance Italy, and reported the following:
Why is it that angels, as the most insubstantial of beings, are worthy of our attention? My answer has something to do with the fact that they hide in plain sight. Persons of faith share their world with the spirits, and they furnish that world with myriad images of them: on vaults and walls, in paintings, books, sculptures, and on stage; in colorful, light-filled compositions of miraculous visitations, shimmering hierarchies, and even musical ensembles. Angels can be earthly companions or fearsome, celestial agents of retribution. In thinking about angels, however, we are also thinking about the big questions: about the nature of existence, and the constituents of language; about the character of the senses, of metaphors, and of love. How, ultimately, do we represent this supernal and invisible reality? I’m fascinated by the imaginative answers of writers, artists, and patrons in medieval and Renaissance Italy.

Page 99 holds just a few lines at the end of a chapter, so I tried the test with page 199.

On page 199, I discuss Raphael’s famous fresco in the Vatican of the Disputa (Theology), by way of thinking about how this artist re-invented angels. Angelology had been taught as part of the curriculum of the medieval university. Students at the University of Paris might have debated, for example, whether angels were nothing but a condensation of air, as Thomas Aquinas, the “Angelic Doctor,” had taught. The existence of angels remains an article of the Catholic faith today. Through the early sixteenth century, when Raphael was in the employ of the pope, theologians and artists continued to be drawn to early Christian teachings about the nine orders of angels, beginning with the two highest orders: the Seraphim (often red) and the Cherubim (often blue). In my book, I trace the iconography of the nine orders -- their colors, symbols, and attributes -- as well as its transformations. Raphael follows these traditions more in the spirit than the letter, for his angels above all engage the very stuff of his materials, his plaster and paint, seeming to emit light just as they are a part of it:
In the Disputa, at the lowest level of the celestial superstructure, the heads and wings of cherubs, who are related here to the elevated Cherubim, are embedded in the ledge of cloud, behind four, full-bodied putti who hold the books of the Gospels. Above these, at the level of the feet and heads of Christ, the Virgin, and St. John, are their cloud-formed brothers, and these include gold-cloud putti behind God the Father. Raphael is only one among many artists to intermingle his angelic types, bringing about a juxtaposition of the putto, as a classical or classical-style cousin of the angel, with a diverse range of angels. While we see the head and wings of the Cherubim and Seraphim fixed in their mandorla, we also see similar cherubic heads and wings within the architecture of the lowest cloud, as well as winged and full-bodied putti or spiritelli performing other actions. These are the bearers of the Gospels, and they also populate the two banks of the upper clouds. Above the lower, blue-grey bank, at the highest reaches of the fresco, the golden putti appear in front of gold stippling that resembles myriad falling stars. These putti form behind ray-like lines, ranked around the incised plaster. All of this gives an impression of depth and height beyond the picture surface.
Learn more about Angels and the Order of Heaven in Medieval and Renaissance Italy at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Jonathan Darman's "Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America"

Jonathan Darman is a journalist and author who writes about American politics and history. His first book, Landslide: Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America, tells the story of a thousand days in the mid-1960s when two iconic presidents transformed the nation’s politics.

Darman is a former political correspondent for Newsweek. He has profiled leading figures in contemporary politics including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Eliot Spitzer and many others.

Darman applied the “Page 99 Test” to Landslide and reported the following:
From page 99:
Shortly after purchasing it for $160,000, the Johnsons rechristened it “The Elms.” “Every time somebody calls it a chateau,” Lyndon growled, “I lose fifty thousand seats back in Texas.”

The press smirked at the Johnsons’ ostentatious ambitions. (“Ormes and the Man” read the headline in Time.) But for Lady Bird, The Elms was a paradise. Free at last to take her time in decorating, she’d added Western accents to Mesta’s French décor, covering the downstairs in satin and filing the foyer with paintings of Texas landscapes and drawings of Texas birds. In the living room, she placed a cherry-red chair “that seems to say ‘Come in.’”

Her great pleasure was her garden. All her life, she had found special peace in the delicate beauty of flowers and trees. She lined the walkway to the pool with boxed English hollies. She planted zinnias, marigolds, and red, white, and pink petunias in her cutting garden. In the rich soil of Spring Valley, she had finally found a home she could love.

Now the great need of Lyndon and the nation – moving on – would require her to leave that beloved home behind.
On page 99 of  Landslide, we find Lady Bird Johnson standing in The Elms, her grand Washington home, a place that she loves and a place the she must soon leave. The Johnsons moved into the Elms shortly after LBJ became John F. Kennedy’s vice president. For Lady Bird, The Elms, a staggering Norman mansion on a large lot in the Spring Valley section of Washington, is a haven. Over twenty-five years in Washington, she and Lyndon had lived in many places. The Elms was the first one she could truly make into a home of her own. But when Lyndon is thrown into the presidency following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Lady Bird has to abandon that place of special serenity for good.

One of the great pleasures of researching  Landslide was discovering the true complexity of Lady Bird Johnson. Belittled in her own time as provincial and dowdy in comparison with her glamorous predecessor, Jackie Kennedy, she can be easily dismissed today as a pre-feminist, stand-by-your man political wife, a woman who lived to serve her husband. We see a glimpse of that woman here. Lady Bird loved the Elms, she hated to leave it, but she would never think of complaining or second-guessing the necessity of leaving. For Lady Bird, Lyndon’s needs always came first.

But to view Lady Bird as simply a victim is to miss a key point about her. From a young age, Lady Bird wanted a full, exciting and challenging life and she knew that she would sometimes have to sacrifice comfort and safety to get it. Lyndon’s world of politics, a world of upheaval and risk and excitement, was the world she wanted too. On this page, we see Lady Bird feeling the demands of that life in the most painful form as she contemplates giving up a place she loves in favor of a future that will be difficult and uncertain. But it’s worth it. For Lady Bird, it always was.
Visit Jonathan Darman's website and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 26, 2014

Yong Zhao's "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon?"

Yong Zhao holds the first presidential chair at the University of Oregon, where he also serves as associate dean for global education and professor in the Department of Educational Measurement, Policy, and Leadership. Zhao is a popular keynote presenter and has been featured in media ranging from the New York Times and USA Today to NPR and ABC. The winner of numerous awards in research, leadership, and innovation, Zhao is the author of more than 100 articles and 20 books.

Zhao applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon?: Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World, and reported the following:
Schizophrenia best characterizes Western (American) understanding of China today. On the one hand, Western observers marvel at the country’s miraculous economic growth; admire its skyrocketing patent applications and scientific research output; envy its rapidly expanding international profile; and praise its efficient and wise government. On the other hand, they question the sustainability of its economy; doubt its capacity for innovation and creativity; fear its growing profile; and condemn its authoritarian government. The Schizophrenic understanding of China is a result of the lack of understanding of the most fundamental driving force in Chinese culture and society: the authoritarian spirit.

This book discusses how the authoritarian spirit affects all aspects of China, particularly education. Chinese education has been praised by many as world’s best as evidenced by the stunning performance in international tests such as the Programme for International Student Assessment, better known as PISA. It has been suggested as the model for Western countries. The stereotypical Chinese-style parenting has also been recommended for parents in the West. At the same time, some point out that Chinese education is the worst in the world because it stifles creativity, causes excessive anxiety in children, and imposes unbearable academic burdens on students.

Both views are right. Chinese education is both the best and worst, depending on the purpose. It is the best in instilling in children pre-determined knowledge and skills, fostering discipline and obedience, and homogenizing talents. It is the worst for supporting individual passion and interest, cultivating creativity, and nurturing entrepreneurial thinking. What makes it the best is also what makes it the worst: the deeply entrenched authoritarian spirit.

Page 99 very well reflects the entire book. It is about how the authoritarian spirit affects the production of scientific papers in China. It is responsible for producing millions of research publications and patent applications a year, making China the fastest growing place for scientific research and innovations. It is also responsible for the widespread fraudulent and corruptive practices among researchers.

From page 99:
Publish or Perish

The billion-dollar industry of fraudulent publication points to one of the major reasons for China’s achievement: competition. The central government—the modern equivalent of the emperor—dictates career pathways for virtually all professionals, from college professors to professional researchers. There is a national career ladder that puts professionals into different ranks of positions, with corresponding salaries, social status, and other benefits. Traditionally these ranks are aligned with the ranks of government officials. For example, an associate professor is the equivalent of a deputy director in a government department, or fu chu ji. A full professor is about the same rank as a department director. Although in the U.S., professionals have different ranks and fall into some sort of a salary schedule, what a particular rank signifies varies with the institution. The Chinese system, on the other hand, is highly centralized, and the same criteria apply to everyone. The central government also controls the distribution of such positions in each institution, allocating a certain number of slots for each level. In other words, one institution may have many qualified candidates for promotion to the next level, but the number of positions at the next level is limited. As a result, only a certain number can advance, creating an intense mechanism for competition.

Moreover, the Chinese government dictates the criteria for career advancement. And one of its primary criteria is publication. In a fiercely competitive situation in which publication has become a professional necessity—both to keep your job and to move ahead—the motivation to publish is naturally high. China has more than 17 million K-12 teachers, one million college teachers, over five million engineers and scientists in state enterprises, 300,000 professional researchers, 700,000 scientists, engineers, and technicians in agriculture, and 3.6 million medical professionals, all of whom need to show publications in order to keep their jobs or seek promotion. Most of these individuals are not engaged in research or are trained to be researchers. Publication is not their passion, and it does not lie at the core of what they do. Yet if they want to survive professionally, they have to publish.
What do you do when you don’t care about something but have to deal with it? Spending a few hundred dollars to buy a publication strikes many Chinese professionals as a reasonable, albeit unethical choice.
Visit Yong Zhao's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Harry Brighouse and Adam Swift's "Family Values"

Harry Brighouse is professor of philosophy and affiliate professor of educational policy studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His books include On Education and School Choice and Social Justice. Adam Swift is professor of political theory at the University of Warwick. His books include Political Philosophy: A Beginners’ Guide for Students and Politicians and How Not to Be a Hypocrite: School Choice for the Morally Perplexed Parent.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Family Values: The Ethics of Parent-Child Relationships, and reported the following:
We wrote Family Values because we had both worked on justice in education and argued for strict limits on what parents could legitimately do to purchase advantages for their children (e.g. paying for elite schooling). But we did not object to parents reading bedtime stories or spending time with their children, even though that also creates unfair inequalities. To explain the difference, we needed a general account of parents’ rights, of what parents should and shouldn’t be free to do to, with and for their children. That led us to the fundamental question of why children should be raised in families at all. Why not in communes or state-run childrearing institutions?

The basic answer is that children have an overwhelming interest in being raised in families – in being parented – because that is the best way to meet their needs. Bedtime stories matter because – unlike elite schools – they are a necessary part of the kind of parent-child relationship that is valuable for children. But, we add, adults also have an interest in that kind of relationship: there is, for many, something very special – distinctive and important – about an intimate-but-authoritative relationship in which parents serve their children’s interests. Bedtime stories are different from elite schools for adults too.

We conceive family values in terms of ‘familial relationship goods’ – the good things that parent-child relationships contribute to human lives. For us, governments should be concerned about how those goods are distributed, which has implications for various areas of public policy. While many invoke ‘family values’ to resist egalitarian redistribution, we argue that those who really care about family life should support it.

Page 99 is in the chapter explaining why it’s good for many adults that they get to parent children. Because parents have duties to attend to their children’s interests, it’s tempting to see parenting as an all-consuming task. We offer two reasons why not. The previous paragraph has said that parents are not only parents: as long as they do well enough for their children they can also pursue their own goals. This one makes the more interesting point that children themselves tend to be better served by parents who don’t devote themselves exclusively to promoting their children’s interests.
Further, it is in children’s interests for their parents to have their own, independent, interests and pursuits, and in children’s interests for their relationship with their parents to be one in which their parents are not required always to act with their children’s best interests in mind. Someone who was only a parent—someone for whom “parent” was the entire content of his identity—would not be providing the kind of experience that children need, and the parent-child relationship would surely implode in a kind of self-referential black hole. (Of course, that can happen even when the parent does have other identities and interests—if he fails to get the balance right—but it looks inevitable if he doesn’t.) It is important for children to experience their parents as independent people, with their own lives to lead, not as people whose sole purpose in life is to serve them. So the task of parenting, although indeed extremely demanding, by its very nature allows parents discretionary time and energy: having a life of one’s own is, in fact, part of the job description. The point here is not simply that it’s good for children if parents get some time off for themselves, or good for children that they have a sense of their parent as having independent interests. The parent’s nonparental interests will, and indeed should, manifest themselves, at least sometimes, in the interactions between parent and child. Parents must allow themselves some space, free of self-monitoring, to experience and express to the child their authentic emotions and attitudes. A parent who never said or did anything to or with his child without first asking himself whether it would be in his child’s interests would not be spontaneously sharing himself with his child, there would be a lack of genuine intimacy, and he would thus be failing to provide the kind of relationship that was in his child’s interests. Paradoxically, the kind of parent-child relationship that is good for children is one in which the parent cares about things other than his children, and doesn’t spend all his time thinking about, and then trying to deliver, what would be good for his children.
Learn more about Family Values at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Colin Adams's "Zombies & Calculus"

Colin Adams is the Thomas T. Read Professor of Mathematics at Williams College. He is the author of the collection of humorous math stories Riot at the Calc Exam and other Mathematically Bent Stories, the comic book Why Knot? and a variety of textbooks and articles on knot theory, topology and calculus.

Adams applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Zombies and Calculus, and reported the following:
Zombies & Calculus is the story, as told by math professor Craig Williams, of how he used calculus to help him and his band survive the zombie hordes when they descend on Roberts College in western Massachusetts. The book opens when a late student arrives to class, hungering for something other than knowledge. From there on, things deteriorate quickly. As civilization crumbles, Craig applies calculus in various ways, including the fact that zombies always head straight for you (their tangent vector is pointed at you) and how you can use that to your advantage, the epidemiology of the zombie virus, the mechanics of the virus spread in the body and the physics of combat.

On page 99, we find Craig and a biology professor named Jessie trapped in a port-a-potty surrounded by zombies banging on the outside. Jessie is in the midst of explaining how the zombie virus might invade the brain, much as rabies, West Nile and HIV do. She explains the mechanics of the damage to the brain, which, in the case of the zombie virus, involves the liquification of those areas supporting higher functions of the brain, returning the unfortunate individual to what is really an earlier state of evolution, when all that mattered was food.
Learn more about the book and author at Colin Adams's website and the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Adrienne Mayor's "The Amazons"

Adrienne Mayor is a research scholar in Classics and History of Science at Stanford University; her book The Poison King, a biography of Mithradates, was National Book Award nonfiction finalist in 2009.

Mayor applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World, and reported the following:
The Amazons is the first comprehensive account of warrior women in antiquity, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Great Wall of China. For this Encyclopedia Amazonica, I combed through classical myth, literature, art, the nomadic traditions of Eurasia, and archaeological evidence to uncover intimate details and new insights about the imagined and actual lives of the women of the steppes, known to the Greeks as "Amazons." Sifting fact from fiction, I wanted to show how real, flesh-and-blood women were mythologized as Amazons.

The Greeks first encountered the warlike barbarian women of Thrace and Scythia, the vast territory from the Black Sea to Mongolia, in the seventh century BC. As they learned more about these peoples through trade and travelers' reports, artistic depictions of Amazons' clothing, weapons, and other features took on myriad realistic details.

Page 99 falls in Chapter 6, "Skin: Tattooed Amazons," which tells how Greek travelers described the tattoo customs of many individual tribes and how Athenian vase painters lovingly detailed exuberant patterns and deer designs on fierce warrior women. This is one of the most lavishly illustrated chapters; fittingly page 99 has a picture of an exquisite vase painting of 480 BC. A red-haired Thracian woman is running with a sword and scabbard; her outstretched arms and legs are tattooed with deer, zigzags, and wavy lines, calling to mind some "tribal" tattoos popular today.

Page 99's text continues a discussion of the tattoos illustrated in Greek vase paintings:

Another fine vase of the fourth century BC "depicts a gang of ferocious barefoot and booted women dressed in Thracian-Scythian-Amazon-style patterns. Their arms and legs are completely covered with sunbursts, geometric lines, and snake and deer figures. Another elegant example of tattooed Thracian women appears on an engraved silver drinking cup discovered in 2007 in a fifth-century BC royal Thracian tomb in southeastern Bulgaria. The cup was made around the same time as the Athenian vase paintings of tattooed Thracian women."

We now know that Greek knowledge of Scythian tattoo designs was surprisingly accurate. The chapter concludes with photographs of actual tattoos engraved on the skin of Scythian women whose frozen bodies were preserved in permafrost for 2,500 years.
Learn more about The Amazons at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 19, 2014

James Grehan's "Twilight of the Saints"

James Grehan is Associate Professor of History at Portland State University. He received his doctoral degree in history from the University of Texas at Austin.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Twilight of the Saints: Everyday Religion in Ottoman Syria and Palestine, and reported the following:
If you open my book to page 99, you will stumble across peasants in Ottoman Palestine who are invoking "Abraham's Law"--i.e., their own customary law, which was the true law of the land throughout the countryside--or meeting at saint's tombs to settle disputes or swear oaths. Readers in our time will have certainly heard a lot about Islamic law and its Christian and Jewish counterparts. When they think of Muslims, Christians, and Jews, they will reflexively place them--very neatly and separately--in mosques, churches, and synagogues. So what were these peasants doing at tombs? And why did they bother with "Abraham's Law" instead of using their own religious law? These scenes, among many others in my book, draw our attention to religion as it was actually practiced in the not-so-distant past, not as we would like to imagine it today. My book takes us back to the Middle East before the onset of modern mentalities, exploring religious habits and customs from the late seventeenth through the nineteenth century. Readers will find themselves in cultural territory which is exotic, unfamiliar, and largely forgotten today. They will step back into a society where few people could read or write, and most communities had no official house of worship or trained religious experts to guide them. As a consequence, institutional religion tended to give way to more folkloric forms of belief and observance. My book opens the door onto this older religious culture, which, until its final disappearance in the twentieth century, transcended the formal doctrinal divisions of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. If you would like to go beyond standards accounts of religion in the Middle East--which really tell us more about our own obsessions and expectations than about people who lived several generations ago--you might very well enjoy taking a look at my book.
Learn more about Twilight of the Saints at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Joseph E. Uscinski & Joseph M. Parent's "American Conspiracy Theories"

Joseph E. Uscinski is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Miami. Joseph M. Parent is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Miami.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, American Conspiracy Theories, and reported the following:
As political scientists, we'd be a lot more comfortable with people getting a more representative impression of our work – say a larger or truly random sample – but as over-scheduled regular people like everyone else, page 99 is probably fair enough. On that page, we're addressing the most incendiary issue of the work: how conspiracy theorists view violence. One of the major reasons we went into the topic was out of concern with the damage that conspiracy theorists do, and there's no doubt that proponents of conspiracy theories have killed millions (e.g. Hitler, Stalin).

Yet we hope one of the major qualities of the work is that it's careful social science. It's easy to tar people with the Hitler brush but much harder to determine whether conspiracy theories are a cause of behavior or a cover story to justify what violent people would do anyway. To try to shed some light on the issue, we surveyed Americans for their thoughts on gun control, using violence against the government, and using violence to stop politically extreme groups. On p. 99, we report the findings and try to put them in context. The bottom line is that people most prone to believing in conspiracy theories, which may or may not turn out to be true (we take no position in the book), are significantly more inclined toward violence. Yet almost none of them act on it, and conspiracy theories may only be a weak predictor, sort of like depression, for those who later act violently.

From page 99:
The good news is that massive majorities object to violence, and the kind of violence we are concerned with here, politically motivated violence, is a miniscule fraction of all violence.

Still, those with stronger conspiratorial predispositions are more likely to be inclined toward violent action. Sixteen percent of those high on the conspiracy dimension agree with the statement: “violence is sometimes an acceptable way to express disagreement with the government.” This is in contrast to 11 percent and 6 percent of lows and mediums, respectively (see Figure 4.20). Eighty percent of those low on the conspiracy dimension disagree with the statement than violence is sometimes an acceptable way to express disagreement with the government while only 59 percent of those high on the conspiracy dimension do.

The same pattern holds when respondents are asked to express agreement with the use of “violence as an acceptable way to stop politically extreme groups in our country from doing harm.” Twenty-one percent of the highly predisposed agree compared to 15 percent of the medium and low. And 56 percent of those low on the conspiracy dimension disagree with the statement while 42 percent of those high on the conspiracy dimension disagree. But it is the extremists we should be most worried about. To inspect them more closely, we isolated the fifty people at the top and fifty people at the bottom of the conspiracy dimension.

Almost 20 percent of the high group says violence is an acceptable way to express disagreement with the government. This is more than double the less than 8 percent of the low group that does. Only 53 percent of the high group disagrees with the use of violence for this reason while 82 percent of the low group does.

It might sound reassuring that not even 20 percent of the fifty most predisposed respondents say violence is an acceptable way to express disagreement with the government. But regard these results warily; there are a number of limitations to the data. Surveys are suggestive, and they cannot reveal who will actually resort to violence. The most eager to utilize force are the least likely to submit to a survey or answer honestly on this score. There are so few people who view violence as acceptable in our sample that we cannot glean much about them as a group. The survey is designed to measure preferences, not preference intensity, and intensity is important when talking about violent proclivities. So is the permissiveness of the domestic context. If only one percent of the population agreed with the statement strongly enough to take forceful action, there would be blood in the street daily.
Learn more about American Conspiracy Theories at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Stefan K. Stantchev's "Spiritual Rationality"

Stefan Stantchev earned his Ph.D. in history at The University of Michigan in 2009 and joined the faculty of the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University shortly thereafter. Previously, he had completed an MA in Medieval Studies from the Central European University, Budapest, Hungary, and an MA in History from the University of Sofia, Bulgaria.

Stantchev applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Spiritual Rationality: Papal Embargo as Cultural Practice, and reported the following:
Spiritual Rationality: Papal Embargo as Cultural Practice offers the first book-length study of embargo in a pre-modern period and provides a unique exploration into the domestic implications of this tool of foreign policy. Perhaps surprisingly, the primary employer of embargoes was not a commercial powerhouse or a kingdom on the rise, but rather the papacy. On a basic level, there were multiple trade bans that pursued clearly identifiable goals: to facilitate papally endorsed warfare against external enemies (Muslims, “pagans,” “schismatics”) and to discipline internal ones (“heretics,” disobedient Christian communities, and individual Jews). All the various trade bans were originally promulgated as individual responses to perceived dangers to the decorum of the faith and/or to Christendom. They were shaped by the premise of papal intervention into the lives of the laity by reason of sin and by the text-based approach of popes and canonists. Papal embargo was thus not only a policy tool, but also a legal and moral discourse. Operative upon the Christians themselves, it classified exchanges into legitimate and illegitimate ones, compelled merchants to distinguish clearly between themselves as (Roman) Christians and a multitude of others as non-Christians, and helped order symbolically both the relationships between the two groups and those between church and laity.

Page 99 is part of Chapter 3. While Chapter 2 offers an in-depth analysis of the most notable papal embargo, that against Muslims, Chapter 3 adds breadth by briefly outlining the multiple targets of trade restrictions. The first of two paragraphs found on page 99, which concludes a brief section on embargoes aimed at Christian cities, relates directly to some of the book’s central themes:
Embargoes against interdicted Christian cities may have been primarily an Italian phenomenon. They all have their own immediate contexts, which relate, one way or another, to perceived injuries to the church (sheltering the robbers of a legate, taxing clergymen, and so on). We will see in Chapter 4 that it was in the context of defending the papal state that fourteenth-century ecclesiastical documents clearly articulated the kind of reflections of political economy with which we are familiar from the work of Marin Sanudo. Richard Trexler, however, has already exposed the mechanics of an embargo deployed as one part of an interdict. A meaningful statistical study that would help us determine an approximate “success rate” of early papal embargoes requires types and quantities of evidence that are not available. What matters here, then, is that sanctions, whether total or “smart,” became a systematically deployed papal response to broadly similar situations within Christendom, and that this development was contemporaneous with the emergence of embargo as a policy tool aimed at supporting crusades against “Saracens.”
This paragraph acknowledges the “real” premises of papal embargoes while directing the attention to the contemporaneity of the initial applications of the various restrictions and questioning our ability to analyze them statistically. It thus helps build the case for re-focusing from political and economic matters to cultural ones. The subsequent paragraph, with which a section on heretics begins, alludes to the centralization of the Roman Church in the High Middle Ages--the key background to the emergence of embargo as a papal policy and a moral discourse alike.
We can now turn to “heretics,” an early target of papal embargo. One of the main areas of intervention of the reform papacy from the mid-twelfth century had to do with the two-edged process of the homogenization of correct belief (orthodoxy) and the corresponding definition and eradication of belief considered to be erroneous (heresy). By heretics the Decretum understood people who held “perverted dogma”; heretics followed “new or false” beliefs, and obstinately defended them. In his influential work on penance, as in the Liber extra he edited, Raymond of Peñafort reminds us that who is doubtful in the faith is an infidel. While a list of heresies figures prominently in the Decretum, Gratian had relatively little to say on measures against heretics. These could not testify against Christians, or pronounce excommunication; clerics were not to enter their company. Just as it did not restrict trade with Muslims, so the Decretum featured no bans on trade with heretics.
Even the footnotes found on page 99 are fairly representative of the book as a whole. While they do not showcase the full spectrum of sources employed, they point out the use of canon law and of the full text of papal letters (as opposed to their published summaries). Note 41 well-represents the book’s approach to scholarship: Spiritual Rationality finds useful, at least in part, a variety of methodological approaches to the study of the past:
C24.q3.c26, 28, 31 (CIC, I, 997–8). On heresy, see both Malcom Lambert, Medieval Heresy: Popular Movements from the Gregorian Reform to the Reformation (Malden, MA, 2002 [1992]) and Mark Pegg, The Corruption of Angels, The Great Inquisition of 1245–1246 (Princeton, 2001). Whether one agrees with the “persecution thesis” itself or not, Robert I. Moore, The Formation of a Persecuting Society (Malden, MA, 2007 [1987]) is especially valuable for exposing the interconnectedness of seemingly disparate developments.
Learn more about Spiritual Rationality at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 15, 2014

Jack Kelly's "Band of Giants"

Jack Kelly is a journalist, historian and author of five acclaimed novels. Critics praised his history, Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards & Pyrotechnics as “evocative, brilliantly succinct and excruciatingly powerful.” He lives in New York’s Hudson Valley, not far from the scene of much of the Revolutionary War action.

Kelly applied the “Page 99 Test” to his book Band of Giants: The Amateur Soldiers Who Won America’s Independence, and reported the following:
The American Revolutionary War was no costume drama, and the men who fought it were among the most diverse and interesting characters of an era crowded with historical giants.

Page 99 very much illustrates what I was trying to achieve in Band of Giants: to turn the conflict into a gripping tale of suspense, and to give each of the American war leaders a human dimension.

The situation is desperate: Washington’s Continental Army has been defeated by a superior British force at Long Island, pushed out of New York City, and roughed up at White Plains. They’ve just lost Fort Washington, their last toehold on Manhattan.

Now the enemy threaten Fort Lee, on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. In the midst of the crisis, personalities make the situation even more complicated. Washington faces a challenge to his command at one of the most perilous moments in the war. Here’s the story as related on page 99:
Fort Lee, more of an armed camp than a fortification, was doomed. All Greene could do was to order an instant retreat. The British marched into the fort to find fires burning, cooking pots bubbling. They found hundreds of tents, cases of entrenching tools, and scores of cannon. When a German officer recommended a spirited attack against the fleeing Americans, Cornwallis replied, “Let them go.” The beaten, disintegrating army of rebels was not even worth pursuing.
Now came the great retreat that Washington had feared. First to Newark. Then to Brunswick, near the southern tip of Staten Island. Then across the narrow waist of New Jersey toward Trenton. Washington's iron determination became the army's backbone. “A deportment so firm, so dignified, but yet so modest and composed,” wrote eighteen-year-old James Monroe, “I have never seen in any other person.”

Cornwallis, under orders from Howe, followed Washington across the state without trying to crush his force. Washington called upon General Lee, still camped near White Plains, to bring his troops and help defend Philadelphia. Lee, who claimed, “I foresaw, predicted, all that has happened,” failed to respond. In the midst of the army's worst catastrophe, Washington now faced a crisis of leadership. His second in command, who led more troops than Washington himself, was heeding his own notions about the proper way to execute the war.

Lee's resistance to Washington was based on more than mere vanity. He was concerned about his troops, many of whom lacked shoes. Politically more radical than most of the other military leaders, Lee believed in a war fought by militia drawn from an “active vigorous yeomanry.” He was sure that “a plan of Defense, harrassing and impeding can alone Succeed.” The army, he thought, should keep a presence in New Jersey to rally local militia and reinforce their efforts. If Washington abandoned the state, loyalists would reign.

Others were hinting that Lee, not Washington, should be in charge. On November 21, Washington's secretary and aide Joseph Reed wrote to Lee, “I do not mean to flatter nor praise you at the Expense of any other, but I confess I do think that it is entirely owing to you that this Army & the Liberties of America . . . are not totally cut off. You have Decision, a Quality often wanting in Minds otherwise valuable.”
Learn more about the book and author at Jack Kelly's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Susan Starr Sered and Maureen Norton-Hawk's "Can’t Catch a Break"

Susan Starr Sered is Professor of Sociology and Senior Researcher at the Center for Women's Health and Human Rights at Suffolk University in Boston. She is the author of Uninsured in America: Life and Death in the Land of Opportunity.

Maureen Norton-Hawk is Professor of Sociology and Codirector of the Center for Crime and Justice Policy Research at Suffolk University in Boston. She has published widely in the field of women and prostitution.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Can't Catch a Break: Gender, Jail, Drugs, and the Limits of Personal Responsibility, and reported the following:
Can’t Catch a Break: Gender, Jail, Drugs, and the Limits of Personal Responsibility documents five years of fieldwork with forty-seven women who had been incarcerated in Massachusetts. Like for most criminalized women throughout the country, prison was one station on an institutional circuit made up of juvenile treatment and correctional programs, battered women’s and homeless shelters, rehabilitation and mental health facilities, and hospitals and clinics of various sorts. The women we came to know tended to be locked up for violating the conditions of parole or probation, possession of small amounts of controlled substances, sex work, shoplifting or public intoxication. None of the women see themselves as “criminals.” Rather, they see themselves as unfortunates who suffered sexual and other abuses, turned to drugs to “self-medicate,” and were drawn into lives of escalating misery.

Page 99 is located smack in the middle chapter of the book: “’It’s All in My Head’: Suffering, PTSD, and the Triumph of the Therapeutic.” That chapter introduces readers to Gloria (not her real name), an African American woman in her early fifties. Gloria came of age during the years in which economic recession, decline in the manufacturing sector, job flight from urban neighborhoods, sky-rocketing rental prices, the rapid introduction of low-cost crack-cocaine, and “tough on crime” policies set the stage for a generation of young African Americans who found it increasingly difficult to work towards lives of stable employment and housing.

Abused and homeless throughout most of her adult life, Gloria typically attributes her suffering to a repertoire of personal flaws including “my PTSD,” “paranoia,” “crazy thoughts,” “bad memory”, “making bad choices in men,” and her foolish failure to stop using crack. These are not ideas that she came up with on her own. Rather, like most of the women, Gloria echoes the messages she has been taught in countless twelve step, correctional, psychotherapeutic and rehabilitative programs. That message goes something like this: Your problems lie within you, blaming the outside world for your misery is “denial,” all you can change is your own perspective, and you need to lose the “victim mentality”.

On page 99 we wrote: “In an odd sleight of hand, psychotherapeutic diagnoses both take away certain aspects of individual experience and individualize the collective suffering of racism, sexism, and poverty. … The focus is now the diagnostic category rather than the unique individual or the social reality.”

Over the past year or so the wheel finally seems to be turning away from ideologies and policies of mass incarceration in the United States. Unfortunately, however, the discourse and the funding that are emerging seem to substitute “disease” for “criminal” and “treatment” for “punishment.” While “treatment” certainly sounds more benevolent than punishment, both serve to obscure the structural conditions of economic, gender and racial inequality that create(d) what has essentially become a new American caste of the poor, ill and hopeless. (See “Incarceration by Any Other Name?: A Return to the Cuckoo’s Nest.”)
Learn more about Can't Catch a Break at the University of California Press website, and read more about the women in Can't Catch a Break and Susan Sered's research on her blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Philip Freeman's "The World of Saint Patrick"

Philip Freeman is Qualley Professor of Classics at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and a former professor of classics at Washington University in St. Louis. He earned the first joint Ph.D. in classics and Celtic studies from Harvard University, and has been a visiting scholar at the Harvard Divinity School, the American Academy in Rome, and the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C. His books include St. Patrick of Ireland, Julius Caesar, and Alexander the Great.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The World of Saint Patrick, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The World of Saint Patrick begins the prologue of The Life of Saint Brigid by the Irish churchman Cogitosus. My little book, The World of Saint Patrick, is a collection and translation of the best writings of early Irish Christianity—and The Life of Saint Brigid is certainly one of my favorite texts in the anthology. It's the earliest story we have of an Irish saint, male or female, apart from the two letters of Saint Patrick himself. Brigid was a remarkable woman who founded a monastery in the generation after Patrick at Kildare to the west of Dublin. She was a historical figure, but her Life is a wonderful mixture of stories inspired by the gospels and legends from pre-Christian Celtic mythology. She heals the sick, turns water into beer, and always has a special interest in the lives of oppressed women.

Brigid’s stories are very different from the legends that grew up around Patrick. The patron saint of Ireland is presented in tales written two centuries after his death like an Old Testament prophet or Moses taking on the evil forces of the pagan world and slaying those who dare to stand against his God. Brigid is much more subtle. When a young nun who has fallen from the path of chastity comes to her and confesses she is pregnant, Brigid doesn’t cast her out, but instead prays with her and causes the pregnancy to vanish as if it had never happened. When a beautiful girl pleads with her to help her escape the clutches of a lecherous man who would turn her into his private sex slave, Brigid exposes the man as a liar and fraud to liberate the young woman from his service.

The story of Brigid shows a different vision for the early Irish church, one in which men and women, young and old rich and poor are equals in the eyes of God and each other.
Learn more about the book and author at Philip Freeman's website.

The Page 99 Test: Alexander the Great.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Jeff Wilson's "Mindful America"

Jeff Wilson is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and East Asian Studies at Renison University College (University of Waterloo). He is the author of Mourning the Unborn Dead: A Buddhist Ritual Comes to America (2009) and Dixie Dharma: Inside a Buddhist Temple in the American South (2012).

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Mindful America: The Mutual Transformation of Buddhist Meditation and American Culture, and reported the following:
Mindfulness is everywhere in America these days: from yoga studios to couple counseling to the military. When I set out to examine this enormous, multi-faceted phenomenon (and industry), I intended to look at various case studies, such as mindful eating, mindful parenting, and mindful work. But as I explored further, I found that certain patterns in the American transformation of Buddhist meditation were of greatest interest to me.

One of the most important of those is the medicalization of mindfulness, whereby this practice is extracted from its original ascetic, monastic, religious context and re-conceptualized in a therapeutic, scientific, and practical mode. So it’s fitting that page 99 of Mindful America falls squarely in the midst of my discussion of this redefinition. On this page I’m walking the reader through several of the important outgrowths of mindfulness, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, and I’m noting the input from both Asian monastic teachers and medical researchers of mindfulness.

Much of the page is taken by a quote from a book that advocates mindfulness practice for therapists so that they will be more effective in their responses with their clients. As I sum up the matter:
What we see here is that the therapist has become so mindful that she is in complete synch with the client. These seemingly Buddha-like powers of mindfulness enable her to discern the inner reaches of the body and mind via total attention, greatly assisting the process of healing sought through therapy.
I should hasten to add that I’m not actually confirming the assertion that mindfulness really does enhance the therapist’s effectiveness-- I’m just describing my subject’s viewpoint. This chapter is important, but it doesn’t necessarily contain the most interesting aspects of my project. There’s arguably more spark to chapter five, which talks about mindful sex, or chapter five, which delves into the marketing of mindfulness, for instance.
Learn more about Mindful America at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Dixie Dharma.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 8, 2014

John D. Turner's "Banking in Crisis"

John Turner has been a Professor of Finance and Financial History at Queen's University Belfast since 2005. At the time of his appointment to his chair, he was one of the youngest full professors in Queen's University. He is the founder and director of the Queen's University Centre for Economic History. Turner has held several distinguished visiting positions during his career – he has been a Houblon–Norman Fellow at the Bank of England and an Alfred D. Chandler Fellow at Harvard Business School.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Banking in Crisis: The Rise and Fall of British Banking Stability, 1800 to the Present, and reported the following:
Can the lessons of the past help us to prevent another banking collapse in the future? Banking in Crisis is the first book to tell the story of the rise and fall of British banking stability in the past two centuries, and it sheds new light on why banking systems crash and the factors underpinning banking stability. On page 99 of Banking in Crisis, the reasons behind the collapse of the Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS (Halifax-Bank of Scotland) during the 2008 Global Financial Crisis are discussed. These banks were bailed out by the British taxpayer and they rank as the two largest British bank failures ever. The proximate cause for their failure was their reckless lending to the residential and commercial real-estate sectors in the UK. But the aim of Banking in Crisis is to get at the ultimate reason for their demise.

Until 2008, the UK had not experienced a major banking crisis since 1825. Why was the British banking system so stable for such a long period? From 1825 until around World War II, shareholders of British banks faced calls on their personal wealth because UK banks were not pure limited liability banks – they had unlimited liability until the 1880s and extended liability thereafter. This meant that whenever banks made lending decisions, they had ‘skin in the game’, which curtailed them from taking excessive risk. From the beginning of World War II through to the early 1980s, British banks faced stringent government controls which gave them little room for manoeuvre and prevented them from making reckless loans. Starting in the 1970s, these controls were removed, but bank shareholders no longer had ‘skin in the game’ as banks had become pure limited liability and they had relatively little capital relative to their assets. This deregulation was a recipe for disaster. Over time, banks starting increasing their lending, particularly to the risky real-estate sector, which resulted in a property bubble. The collapse of this bubble resulted in huge losses for British banks, particularly those mentioned on page 99.

How can banking become stable again? The lessons of the past suggest that banking can only be stable if bank shareholders have ‘skin in the game’ or if banks face stringent government controls on their assets and lending.
Learn more about Banking in Crisis at the Cambridge University Press website.

Follow John Turner on Twitter and visit his "Finance: Past, Present and Future" blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Andrew Arsan's "Interlopers of Empire"

Andrew Arsan is University Lecturer in Modern Middle Eastern History in the Faculty of History, University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of St John's College.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Interlopers of Empire: The Lebanese Diaspora in Colonial French West Africa, and reported the following:
Interlopers of Empire charts the lives of Lebanese migrants to colonial French West Africa in the first half of the twentieth century, retracing the genealogy of these enduring communities, which continue to play such an important – if understated – role in the economies of countries from Senegal to Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is not just interested, though, in explaining the roots of their contemporary economic prominence, but also in the ways these men and women sought to make do in changed circumstances. Seeking to understand how they came to terms with displacement, it suggests that, far from lapsing into a disconsolate state of detachment from their homeland, they found a home in the world. Accommodation, not nostalgia, defined this particular diasporic community – a mode of dwelling in the world which, I argue, was easier before the rise of the nation-state to its present status as the dominant political form across the globe.

But enough of all that, and on to page 99 – which, fortuitously, marks the beginning of a new chapter, something which makes my task much easier, and much harder, than it might otherwise be. Much easier, because this is a story which we don’t pick up in media res. But also much more difficult, because this chapter asks a deceptively simple question, and one which gets to the heart of the matter: why were the Lebanese migrants who chose colonial French West Africa as their destination never subject to the stringent controls on entry which had become so common in the early twentieth-century world, from Australia to Canada and France to the United States? This is a question with much wider implications, of course. For these are checks and requirements – passports, visas, questions about our financial state, family circumstances, and intentions – which remain with us, forming the architecture of international travel. And while some of us treat these rituals as mere inconveniences – a few minutes lost in a passport queue or at a security check, on our way to the coffee shops and duty free stores on the other side of the barrier – for others, borders remain not a nuisance, but seemingly impassable ramparts, blocking off the way to the destinations they yearn for. As I write these words, I am travelling to Hong Kong, via Mumbai, my British passport, that valuable passe-partout, safely stashed in my pocket. As essential as our travel documents are, we hardly give them – or the entitlements they provide – much thought. But such an insouciant acceptance of these procedures is difficult to square with that other reality of our global age – the continuing flow of undocumented migration, which brings Central American children into the United States or African and Asian migrants to the holding pens built on the fringes of fortress Europe – in Ceuta and Melilla, in Lampedusa, Calais, or Thessaloniki. Only yesterday came reports of the discovery of thirty-five Afghan migrants, hidden away in the shipping container in which they had travelled to the United Kingdom. The press images of men, women and children, some as young as one, tired, cowed figures, taking their hesitant first steps on British soil huddled under the blankets provided by British immigration officials, are but another reminder of the waves of migrants who come crashing upon Europe’s borders, have-nots who lack the wherewithal necessary to gain access. In the end, this is why the Lebanese were able to keep coming and going, more or less as they pleased, between the Middle East and West Africa over six decades of French imperial rule, despite the constant grumbling of colonial bureaucrats who despaired of their presence – because they were fortunate to hail from a place with longstanding ties to France, and whose inhabitants, the French foreign ministry decreed, should be granted concessions as valuable clients and allies of their country. This forgotten history, then, is a reminder of the often invisible forces that structure international migration in our global age – not just the brute facts of economic capital, but also the diplomatic considerations of alliance and enmity, and the difficult calculations of political and social capital. Who one is, and where one comes from – these are things that continue to matter as much as what one owns, or what one does, or could do, in determining whether one is allowed to enter, or deemed to possess the potential to belong. This is a fact all too easily forgotten in an age dominated by the discourse of economic utility, but one we would do well to recall.
Learn more about Interlopers of Empire at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Steven Conn's "Americans Against the City"

Steven Conn is Professor and Director of the Public History Program at the Ohio State University. He is the author or editor of To Promote the General Welfare: The Case for Big Government; Metropolitan Philadelphia: Living in the Presence of the Past; History's Shadow: Native Americans and Historical Consciousness in the 19th Century; among other works; he is the co-editor of Building the Nation: Americans Write about Their Architecture, Their Cities, and Their Landscape.

Conn applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Americans Against the City: Anti-Urbanism in the Twentieth Century, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Americans Against the City begins my discussion of the new towns program created under Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. Though there were initially two dozen such towns planned, only three were eventually built and the chapter goes on to examine the creation of one of them: Greenhills, OH. The New Deal new towns were emblematic of the larger anti-urban impulse in American life that I explore from the late 19th century up to the early 21st. It is a basic paradox: we are an urbanized nation filled with people who don't like cities very much. Across the 20th century, a varied collection of writers, critics, designers, politicians and policy makers imagined that the solution to urban problems was to leave cities altogether. During the urban crisis of the 1930s Franklin Roosevelt, who loathed cities personally, was enthusiastic at the idea that we could "decentralize" the nation buy moving back to the country or into new small towns. Americans Against the City analyzes the relationship between policy and place. It is an exploration of the way in which our anti-urban impulse has formed the landscape of our politics and of the places we live, and a study of how ideas shape the built environment.
Learn more about Americans Against the City at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: History's Shadow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Frank L. Smith III's "American Biodefense"

Frank L. Smith III is a lecturer with the Centre for International Security Studies and the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, American Biodefense: How Dangerous Ideas about Biological Weapons Shape National Security, and reported the following:
American Biodefense explains how dangerous ideas about science and technology hurt U.S. national security, particularly for defense against biological warfare and bioterrorism. Page 99 of this book finds the story’s main character – the U.S. military – struggling to provide vaccinations against anthrax in the 1990s, despite the longstanding threat of biological weapons and medical countermeasures that had been around for decades.
The initial plan to vaccinate the entire force was first restricted to service members deployed in the Persian Gulf and Korea, and then only those in the Persian Gulf…. Similar supply problems limited the military’s use of other vaccines for biodefense, including botulinum vaccine, during the invasion of Iraq.
Unfortunately, vaccines were not the only problem; the armed forces neglected almost every aspect of biodefense from World War II through the 2003 Iraq War. These problems are caused by a particular set of ideas. The military’s dominant frame of reference (i.e., the stock of ideas used to solve problems) is focused on kinetic warfare. From precision guided munitions to interlocking fields of fire, the armed forces are very good at solving kinetic problems involving projectile weapons and explosives. However, biological weapons are a different form of firepower. They cause damage through disease that is delayed and thus not immediately apparent like a blast injury or gunshot wound.

Rather than solve the nonkinetic problems involved with biodefense, the military instead relied on inaccurate stereotypes. These are overgeneralized ideas about groups. For example, the stereotype of “weapons of mass destruction” or WMD lumps radically different weapons together under the same label. Because of this and similar stereotypes (CBW, NBC, CBR, etc.), the military assumed that biological weapons were like chemical weapons, even though they are very different, and it mistook chemical experience for biological expertise. Military biodefense was neglected as a result. In contrast, different ideas were at work inside civilian organizations and so civilian biodefense has enjoyed more support.

Stereotypes are dangerous. In effect, these ideas are one downside to what Thomas Kuhn called scientific paradigms, since stereotypes are what organizations use to acknowledge and simultaneously dismiss the anomalies or outliers that do not fit inside their dominant frame or pattern for problem solving. The U.S. military is not unique in this regard. Therefore, the lessons learned in American Biodefense have important implications for a wide variety of military and civilian organizations that are involved with national security and other complex challenges.
Learn more about the book and author at Frank L. Smith III's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 1, 2014

Sandeep Jauhar's "Doctored"

Sandeep Jauhar was a Ph.D. student in physics at Berkeley when a girlfriend’s incurable illness made him yearn for a profession where he could affect people’s lives directly. Once situated at a New York teaching hospital, Jauhar wrestled with his decision to go into medicine and discovered a gradual but deepening disillusionment with his induction into the profession. Jauhar’s conception of doctoring and medicine changed during those first eighteen months as he asked all the hard questions about medicine today that laypeople are asking—and reached satisfying and often surprising conclusions about the human side of modern medicine. Today he is a thriving cardiologist and the director of the Heart Failure Program at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. He writes regularly for The New York Times. He lives with his wife and their son and daughter on Long Island.

Jauhar applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician is actually quite representative of my book, which is about the blatant cronyism, corporate ties, and unnecessary testing that have become routine in American medicine.

An elderly woman I’ve been taking care of in the hospital is about to be taken to the operating room for surgery to replace a damaged heart valve. The woman, Mildred Harris, is 74 years old, frail, and virtually bedbound. I’d previously decided that surgery would be too risky for her and that I was going to send her home. But the evening before she is to be discharged, I receive a call at home from a colleague asking me if I know that my patient is scheduled to go to the operating room the following morning. Stunned, I immediately phone the surgeon, who explains that he is being pushed to operate by Ms. Harris’ outpatient cardiologist, Richard Adelman. “It’s a very political situation,” the surgeon tells me apologetically. “Adelman is a big referrer.”

I tell the surgeon that I am the only cardiologist leaving notes on Ms. Harris, and that I have been recommending no surgery for days. The surgeon explains that Dr. Adelman called him directly. “Adelman sends me a lot of business,” he says. “I don’t want to lose it.”

The story continues on pg 99:
A group of us had an urgent meeting in Rajiv’s office the following morning before the operation. “Just let them do it,” a colleague told me. “Medically, it may or may not be the right thing, but politically— well, if she goes back to Adelman with shortness of breath, he’s going to say, ‘What the fuck, we sent her over there for an operation, and those guys didn’t do anything.’”

Rajiv agreed. “You did what you thought was right,” he said. He reminded me that there were differences of opinion over whether mitral valve surgery was warranted in elderly patients like Mildred Harris. How could I be so sure that my judgment was correct? I told him that at the very least there should be another opinion in the chart. How could I agree to send my patient for surgery now when I had dismissed the idea in all my previous notes?

“No one is going to blame you,” Rajiv said coolly. “If they take the patient to surgery without your permission, the burden is on them.” He smiled slyly. “If anything, you may be subpoenaed to testify, but that’s all.”

When I went upstairs to talk to my patient, transporters were already there with a stretcher to take her to the OR. I asked Ms. Harris how she was feeling. “I couldn’t sleep all night,” she said, as the orderlies transferred her to the narrow transport gurney. “I thought you told me I could go home.” I told her the decision had been changed.
Learn more about the author and his work at Sandeep Jauhar's website.

The Page 69 Test: Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation.

--Marshal Zeringue