Monday, July 23, 2012

Interview with Greg Metcalf, Author of The DVD Novel: How the Way We Watch Television Changed the Television We Watch

What prompted you to write The DVD Novel?

While I didn’t realize it at the time, the book probably started when Homicide: Life on the Street (1993-1999) and NYPD Blue (1993-2005) were on the air. Both were great shows but NYPD Blue was great television. Homicide was great “something else.” At the time I settled for Homicide being filmmaking on television, but I knew that wasn’t the answer.

Then The Wire came along in 2002, and everyone was saying it was the greatest show on television, but it didn’t act like a television show. Almost everyone I knew who was watching it was watching it on DVD. And that reminded me of when the seven-hour British television show The Singing Detective showed up in the United States because critics tried to explain that it was great but it wasn’t really television.

So it became a question of television that wasn’t “television.” And I looked around and couldn’t find anything being written about that.

What was the highlight of your research. What discovery surprised you the most?

It was a constant stream of surprises. Once I started looking into it, I was continually finding clear examples of how drastically television had changed that no one seemed to notice. Realizing how DVD sets had changed our relationship with television. Seeing how different a show actually was if you watched it once a week versus binge-viewing it all in one day. Noticing how the changes in television repeated the changes comic books had gone through in becoming graphic novels. Recognizing the different network tactics to balance episodic stories with a season-long arc, like mixing genres and using comedy. Noticing how that changed comedy and how the cable situation comedies had moved beyond dramedy to become something else: attitudinal comedies.

The most surprising discovery—which happened repeatedly—was just seeing how much television changes when a show exists forever in series on DVD sets. Suddenly an ephemeral, unchanging narrative form has the longform range to be able to create what we think of as literature.

The DVD Novel
 How the Way We Watch Television Changed the Television We Watch

How have people reacted to your book/the ideas you set forth?

The most common response has been “Why didn’t this book already exist?” which I try not to take as “Why couldn’t somebody else have written this?” There’s been surprise that no one had put all of this together before and made these connections because, once you see them, they seem pretty obvious. Along with that, there has been appreciation for the wide range of examples, ideas, and references along the way. Apparently, it is the first book to connect the different pieces and explain how we got to the sort of television we have today.

Most readers have also ended up with a list of television series they now want to find on DVD, or want to go back and watch shows again now that they have a new way of thinking about them.

Academics have been surprised that I was able to get the ideas and theoretical issues across while still writing it in my conversational, occassionally snarky, voice rather than having to force it into a drier academic sort of writing.

How did your research change your outlook on this subject?

It made me appreciate just how much is possible in longform television, from the deceptively lightweight entertainments of House and Gilmore Girls or the Marlovian detective novels of Veronica Mars and Terriers, the Shakespearean Breaking Bad or Slings & Arrows, to the Chekovian Sopranos, the Greek Tragedy of The Wire, or a magical realist philosophical novel like John from Cincinnati. In a strange way it also led me to a new appreciation of series that do a single, freestanding episode, like the sick humor of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or Louis CK’s Louie which is completely remodelling that traditional form.

What’s next for you?

I’m most interested in areas where what we “know” about something keeps us from seeing what is actually there. The next long writing project will be whichever of three longterm projects seems ready when I sit down:

One is a continuation of The DVD Novel, working from about a hundred pages that had to be cut from the book for length that deal with how the relationship between film and television has changed because of DVDs, but also specifically how the idea of film has changed because of DVDs and the influence graphic novels and video games.

The second is a continuing project on popular fictional characters that take on a life of their own outside of the stories that spawned them through adaptation, translation, sequelization, fan fiction, and critical analysis. I’ve spent years wallowing in  the existence of characters in folklore and religion and that ends up providing an interesting angle of approach to the legal, commercial, literary, and technological issues of contemporary fictional characters.

And the third is a rereading of the work of the Mary Cassatt, a 19th century unmarried Impressionist who painted a lot of babies and their mothers. I continue to be intigued by the paradox in how people view her work: different groups at different times have heroicized her for what she symbolized, but this has kept people from actually seeing the depth of meaning in her art. I’ve been told I analyze her prints and paintings as if they were films. I’ve never been able to tell if that was a compliment or a criticism.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Comic-Con International 2012

Comic-Con International: San Diego was held this past week on Wednesday, July 12 through Sunday, July 15. While originally devoted largely to comic-books, the San Diego Comic-Con has grown into one of the largest multigenre pop culture conventions in the world. Roughly 130,000 attendees visited the convention this year, and tickets sold out within 90 minutes when they were made available in March. Long lines and crowded rooms are a common sight at Comic-Con.
The Comic-Con exhibition hall includes elaborate displays from movie studios, television networks, video game companies, print and electronic publishers, comic-book and collectibles merchants, and much more. An Artists' Alley gives attendees the chance to meet the creative individuals behind the scenes of many familiar pop culture phenomena. As the convention has continued to grow year after year, it has expanded to include events and panels in neighboring hotels and the adjacent Petco Park baseball stadium.
Here are some pictures from my visit to this year's convention:

With this year's biggest movies including The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, and (likely) the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises, there is no sign of any decline in the ongoing popular interest in comic book characters and stories. Just as familiar stories from film and television often find their way into print products, popular print stories (such as The Hunger Games and The Living Dead) frequently move very successfully into film and television. The San Diego Comic-Con continues to be a striking example of the convergence of different genres of pop culture across all forms of media, including print, electronic, film, and television.
-David Tipton 
Manager, Editorial Development: World History and Religion

Here are a few recently published ABC-CLIO titles that can help teachers and librarians connect comics and pop culture with the curriculum in exciting and engaging ways:

Encyclopedia of Comic Books and Graphic Novels
M. Keith Booker, Editor
The most comprehensive reference ever compiled about the rich and enduring genre of comic books and graphic novels, from their emergence in the 1930s to their late-century breakout into the mainstream.
At a time when graphic novels have expanded beyond their fan cults to become mainstream bestsellers and sources for Hollywood entertainment, Encyclopedia of Comic Books and Graphic Novels serves as an exhaustive exploration of the genre’s history, its landmark creators and creations, and its profound influence on American life and culture.

Female Action Heroes: A Guide to Women in Comics, Video Games, Film, and Television brings to the forefront the historical representation of women and girls in film, television, comic books, and video games. The book includes profiles of 25 of the most popular female action heroes, arranged in alphabetical order for easy reference. Each chapter includes sections on the hero's origins, her power suit, weapons, abilities, and the villains with whom she grapples. Most significantly, each profile offers an analysis of the hero's story—and her impact on popular culture.

Connecting Comics to Curriculum
Strategies for Grades 6–12
Libraries Unlimited
Karen W. Gavigan and Mindy Tomasevich
Connecting Comics to Curriculum: Strategies for Grades 6–12 provides an introduction to graphic novels and the research that supports their use in schools. The book examines best curriculum practices for using graphic novels with students in grades 6–12, showing teachers and school librarians how they can work together to incorporate these materials across the secondary curriculum.

The Comic Book Curriculum: Using Comics to Enhance Learning and Life shows teachers how to use these ever-popular stories to enliven any classroom. The book does not suggest replacing classic works with comics. What it does offer is ideas and techniques for using comics to generate interest in a topic and for transferring that enthusiasm to more-traditional classroom lessons.

Comic Book Collections for Libraries
Libraries Unlimited
Bryan D. Fagan and Jody Condit Fagan
This book will help librarians extend literary graphic novel collections to attract a large, untapped group of comic book readers with a sure-to-be-popular comic book collection.
Do comic books belong in libraries? Absolutely—as Comic Book Collections for Libraries makes very clear. This illustrated guide defines the role of comic books in the modern library, provides a thorough grounding in the subject for beginners, and suggests new ideas for those already familiar with these perennial reader favorites.

This text examines comics, graphic novels, and manga with a broad, international scope that reveals their conceptual origins in antiquity.
It examines broader conceptual developments that preceded the origins of comics and graphic novels; how those ideas have evolved over the last century and a half; how literacy, print technology, and developments in narrative art are interrelated; and the way graphic narratives communicate culturally significant stories.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Interview with Leonard A. Valverde, Editor and Contributing Author of The Latino Student Guide to College Success, 2nd Edition

What prompted you to write The Latino Student Guide to College Success?
Since we are speaking about the second edition of this book, I have to say that the need for this updated copy is even more than the first edition. The purpose of the book is to help Latinos to access higher education much more than they have in the past and to graduate from college. By examining the social condition Latinos in general face and in higher education specifically, we find two major demand issues. The social condition can be narrowed for discussion by examining the demographics of 2010 census. The lack of access to higher education by Latinos is the second negative issues, i.e., their underrepresentation is seen when compared to white student access or to its own increasing population numbers. Let me briefly justify both points.

The fastest growing population and youngest population as reported by the 2010 Census data states that these two features apply to the Latino population. The greatest growth was provided by Latinos, 43 percent of U.S. population growth. Latinos now make up 16.3% of the population or 51 million. Additionally, the Census bureau, based on 2000 and 2010 numbers, projects that Latinos will continue to increase and estimate that by 2050 they will be XX% of the total population. Secondly, the Latino population is younger in age than other subpopulations in the United States. Average age for Latinos is 37.2 versus whites over 41 years. Furthermore, the largest portion of the Latino population is school age, 74.2%! In fact, Latino students in public schools are now the majority in public schools districts in major metropolitan cities across the country, e.g., New York, New Jersey, Miami-Dade, Dallas, San Antonio, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, etc. Lastly, what needs to be pointed out, these demographic numbers do not fully demonstrate the impact Latinos will have in higher education and across the country. What do I mean? The Census Bureau states that when it comes to Latinos, they know their recorded numbers are under-counted! Why? Typically in poor neighborhoods, more than one family will live in one dwelling. However, Latinos will not state the actual number in fear of some type of negative consequence. Also, there are many Latinos that are not counted because of their immigrant status, i.e., picking seasonal crops across the country. Third, there are many Latinos who do not participate in census counts because of their legal status, i.e., entered the United States, by not going through the lengthy standard process of getting a “green card” to work in the U.S. (The latest estimate of undocumented Latinos is 11+ million.) Associated with their undocumented status, while their children may have been born in the Unites States, they do not report them because of fear of being found out, deported and being separated from their children. In short, the largest future enrollment or student body for higher education institutions will be Latinos!

The second point is typically referred to as the education gap. Latino students are still not graduating from high school at the same rate like their white student counterparts. And those Latino students with a high school diploma are not going on to college. Public schools, where the majority of the Latino students are attending, still have high drop-out rates (in some high schools over 50%), don’t prepare Latino students adequately for a college curriculum, don’t advise Latino students about how to apply to college, or worse, discourage Latino students to even consider going on to a community college. Furthermore, those disproportional numbers of Latino students who do qualify for college admittance now face an ever greater financial burden than previous generations, i.e., the cost of attendance is exponentially increasing with state funds for higher education now less than 50% and publically supported colleges have to increase the price of tuition. More and more students have to expect (1) graduating from college with a large debt, (2) applying for financial aid and (3) still needing to split their time while in college, that is, working part time or even full time.

What “message” do you want to communicate?
“Si Se Puede!” This Spanish phrase was joined by the great labor organizer, Cesar Chavez. It is the Farm Workers Union mantra. It provides hope and inspiration. It basically states that against what appears to be overwhelming odds,” it can be done”. The contributing authors, many other educators and I believe a critical component for getting Latinos to go to college in much greater numbers than before must start with instilling a positive can-do-attitude within them. This critical belief in themselves both in their own ability and their own capacity is not only needed for them to apply and get into college but to be successful in earning their college degree. The book addresses directly and indirectly this aspect of forming the proper mindset. As stated in answer one above, we know too many Latinos are either discouraged or not encouraged to think about applying to college. As a result many who are capable of a college education self select out. This unnecessary drain is not good for the individual, Latinos as a group, and society in general. The general public keeps reading in newspapers that the future workforce of the U.S. will have to be college educated. A high school diploma is no longer adequate. The U.S. and the world is a high tech industry, information society and a global economy. While in the past, the U.S. was able to be a world power without a Latino or African American educated population, this lack of education will put North America into a second class power, leaving countries like China, Japan, and soon South America to be in the top tier of powerful countries.

Secondly, the book’s contributing authors know that higher education has become more complicated, i.e., the maze to matriculate is more difficult to travel. Also the typically path into and through college for Latinos is different (more convoluted and more pitfalls) than for white students. So the book speaks to the Latino path. Specifically, just over half the Latino college-going students entered a local two year college, have to take non-credit remedial courses and transferred to a four institution. Hence it is just lengthier in time and more complicated than the traditional from high school to four year. Instead we are finding that Latino students are entering the work force or the military right out of higher school. Entering the workforce to help support their family/ parents and other siblings or joining the military because armed forces recruiters go to high Latino enrollment high schools, more so than the college recruiters. Given this Latino pattern, in the book, we write to a student who have this background, i.e., provide information to Latino veterans (benefits), sons and daughters who have to work to support their families and need to apply for financial aid, transferring from a two year institution to a four university, warnings about pitfalls (taking too many remedial courses that don’t and won’t count toward degree completion).

In short we are providing them with a road map of how to traverse the college admission, admittance, and completion of a college education. The term “road map” is the laymen’s term, a guide is the more academic terminology.

What was the highlight of your research?
The future of the youthful Latino population is interdependent with higher education and visa versa. The highlights were two-fold: Demographic findings by the Census Bureau starting with the 1990 count continued on in the 2000 count and the 2010 reporting. Even better, the projections for future growth accelerated at a faster pace than predicted in the 1990 and 2000 counts. So many others and I believe their 2010 projections for 2025 and 2050 will come sooner than these dates. Secondly, Latina (Hispanic women) enrollment in college took over the Latino (Hispanic men) numbers. Latinas are the majority enrollment and Latinos are less than Latinas. The significance of this more female Hispanics than male Hispanics in college is there is now a dual stream that recruiters and universities will have to respond to.

Conversely, the low-lights did not change or the pre-college data did not improve. Specifically, high school drop-out rates for Latinos remained high, high school graduate rates did not increase proportional to Latino high school age, achievement gap between Hispanics and whites remained the same. In fact, reported in the New York Times (S. Tavernise, Feb. 9, 2012), it appears achievement gap between poor communities and high income schools were getting wider.

In the course of your research, what discovery surprised you the most?
In two words, technology utilization. The dependence and use of computers, smart phones, and the internet is astounding. In addition to universities providing computers on the desks of administrators, faculty offices, support staff, and student labs/commons, classrooms are being fitted with electronic panels for use by faculty, and faculty are being trained to use these audio visual instruments.  Students are bringing in their own lap tops and ipods to campus. Faculty and students are in contact 24/7 by use of e-mail and smart phones. (No more dependence on faculty limited office hours during the day). On-line classes are springing up everywhere. Access to information is no longer limited to text books; the latest research is now available on web pages. No more limitation to college library collections. Presentation of information in the classroom is now done via internet links and displayed on classroom screens. Students can record classroom presentation via ipads; download assignments and upload their work via blackboard. While this is a great improvement in teaching and learning, it must be remembered that Latino high school students are coming from schools that don’t have these hi tech equipment in use. So another strange new way of teaching and learning.

What surprises readers/others the most about your research?
Reading the short stories by successful Latinas and Latinos that are placed in the book. The general myth about Latino/a college graduates is they are the cream of the crop, smarter than their high school cohorts, over-achievers, etc. In the first printing as with the second edition, I asked prominent Latinos and Latinas who became successful after graduating from college to write their story as to how they made it into and through college. These are persons who are elected congressional members, ranking officers in the military, lawyers, medical doctors, university administrators, etc. The theme that runs through each of their writings is they faced the typical difficulties, not encouraged to go to college, discouraged in high school, coming from families with limited educational background and economic means, having to concern themselves with fulfilling other responsibilities than just going to college. In short, these successful Hispanics were not the exception, instead they were the norm. Thus the readers (Latinos/as) were surprised to learn that their role models were truly representative of them. So these highly successful Latino college graduates through their stories said very realistically, if I did it, so can you. Proving what the basic premise of the book is: Si Se Puede.

How did your research change your outlook on Latino/Latinas accessing a college education and graduating?
It absolutely re-enforced the need for an updated and revised second edition, basically for two main reasons. One, more Latinos definitely need a step by step guide that starts with getting them to believe in themselves (empowerment), provides them with concrete information and insight as to how to overcome the many confusing and convoluted processes and procedures.  And a college education is the floor needed to get them into a high paying career in an ever global economy. Add to this new reality that college is now a must, just to be in the middle class in society. The twenty first century promises to change the workforce and societal landscapes such that college educate professionals will have to go back to college to retool and keep apace with new knowledge or to re-educate themselves for a yet to be defined set of jobs. Two, my examination of the current status of Latinos strengthened my belief that each new Latino generation can and has overcome barriers despite of a more demanding universe, i.e., higher cost of a higher education and a shrinking ability by colleges to respond to a growing and diverse enrollment.

How have people reacted to your book and/or the ideas you set forth?
It has been positive across the board. By this I mean, the first edition was formally reviewed well. Students commented favorable regarding the short stories as being inspirational. The second edition kept what was expressed as useful in the first edition: information provided was clear, direct and comprehensive. It was well organized and easy to follow, i.e., step by step in sequential order. The second edition focused on adding the dimension of building a positive attitude, and added the all encompassing technology element.

Is it what you hoped for, or is there more work to be done?
It met my expectations. The contributing authors did an excellent job of sharing the most important variables that are somewhat complicated (like applying for financial aid and admission) without sacrificing simplicity and comprehensiveness. The work yet to be done with this edition is to make its existence known to the proper folks. The guide book targets Latino students, but as with most students, they need someone of import to bring it to their attention, specifically, middle and senior high school teachers, counselors, and principals. Also the book is a rich resource for college recruiters and admission personnel, community college faculty and staff, as well as lower division instructors, faculty and academic support staffs at the university level. A strong marketing effort to get in the hands of all of the above is necessary.

Leonard A. Valverde started as a math teacher in the Los Angeles City Unified School District, taught to English as a Second Language (ESL) students, then directed a California specially funded bilingual program. As a professor he has directed a federally funded Office for Advanced Research in Hispanic Education while at the University of Texas at Austin. Most recently, at  Arizona State University, he was the executive director of the Hispanic Border Leadership Institute, a four state consortium of public school districts, community colleges and universities, funded primarily by the Kellogg Foundation to promote systemic change and improvement of Latino education.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Interview with David Hudson, Author of "Boxing in America"

What prompted you to write Boxing in America: An Autopsy? What "message" do you want to communicate?

I love the sport of boxing.  I am similar to Jack Newfield who once famously wrote that “boxing is my guilty pleasure.” I’ve loved the sport since I was five years old. Additionally, ABC-CLIO is a top-notch publisher so when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at the chance.

Topically, the sport of boxing is fascinating. It has a colorful history that provided me with hours of fun researching various angles. 

What was the highlight of your research? In the course of your research, what discovery surprised you the most? What surprises readers/others the most about your research?

One highlight of my research was probably learning more about the journeymen who ply their craft. In boxing, we often (rightly) focus on champions and contenders—the world-class fighters who make history in well-publicized bouts. But, I enjoyed writing a chapter on the lesser-known fighters—the ones who lost more than they won. I actually would love to do a full-scale book on that in the future. 

Another highlight was learning about the color barrier erected during the late 19th and part of the 20th century. There were some truly excellent fighters who were denied a shot at the title because of the color of their skin. I found that research to be rewarding as well. 

How did your research change your outlook on boxing?

I gained a greater appreciation for how rich a history the sport of boxing has. I thought I know much about boxing history, but in researching this book, I learned a lot more – that’s for sure. I think readers will learn more from reading the book too, at least I hope so. 

How have people reacted to your book and/or the ideas you set forth? Is it what you hoped for, or is there more work to be done?

I have had several people say that they are looking forward to reading it. I hope it generates a positive reaction, but for me, just researching and writing the book was a positive experience; anything else is just gravy, so to speak. I do think there is more work to be done on the subject. I felt like I scratched the surface.

What's next for you?

I would love to write a book on journeymen boxers or perhaps on prison boxing programs. Another two areas, which I didn’t cover this time around, are amateur boxing and women’s boxing.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Supreme Court and the Affordable Care Act

In the recent landmark ACA case, five Supreme Court Justices held that Congress is not allowed to regulate as “commerce” a trillion dollar industry that affects every states and represents one-sixth of the nation’s economy. These Justices also argued that, even if Congress is regulating commerce, they can’t do so through a mandate even though the Constitution says absolutely nothing about mandates. These are the Justices who normally say constitutional text is important, but in this case they ignored clear text (the commerce clause) in favor of their own political perspectives on the proper allocation of power between the states and federal government.

The Chief Justice was one of the five Justices who believed Congress lacked the power to regulate the health care industry with mandates but he joined the four moderates to find the mandate was a valid tax even though both the Congress and the President flatly denied the mandate was a tax when it was enacted. No one knows why the Chief joined with the moderates but the best speculation is that he was concerned with both the Court’s and his personal legacy.

Seven Justices also held that, even though the federal government gives the states the choice to participate in Medicaid or not, the federal government had no right to condition Medicaid money on the states agreeing to comply with the ACA in the future. This was the first time since the New Deal that the Court held unconstitutional a law passed under Congress’ Spending Power.

All three of the Court’s holdings were unsupported by law or fact, though the relegation of health care issues to the political process was the right result. The Court could have achieved the same result, however, by simply following prior law rather than sowing the seeds for future limitations on federal power and trying to preserve the legacy of the Court. Those desires were fueled by non-legal concerns proving once again that the Supreme Court does not act like a court and its Justices do not decide cases like judges.

Eric J. Segall is professor of law at Georgia State University College of Law in Atlanta, where he has been faculty since 1991. His published work includes over 20 law review articles on constitutional law. Segall’s work has appeared in journals such as UCLA Law Review, Washington University Law Review, The George Washington Law Review, and Northwestern University Law Review.

His latest book, Supreme Myths: Why the Supreme Court Is Not a Court and Its Justices Are Not Judges explores some of the most glaring misunderstandings about the U.S. Supreme Court—and makes a strong case for why our Supreme Court Justices should not be entrusted with decisions that affect every American citizen.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Bicentennial of the War of 1812

June 18, 2012, marked the 200th anniversary of the start of the War of 1812 (1812–1815). Although largely unpopular at the time and virtually forgotten today, this conflict, which pitted Great Britain against the newly independent United States, was in fact a critical turning point in American history. This excerpt from the preface of Dr. Spencer C. Tucker's The Encyclopedia of The War of 1812: A Political, Social, and Military History discusses the impact this conflict had on the future of the United States.

The War of 1812 is an often overlooked conflict in American history. Sometimes called the Second American Revolution, it was in fact noteworthy for that which did not happen. The United States was not defeated by Great Britain or forced to cede territory but did not realize its primary war aim of the conquest of Canada. Indeed, the War of 1812 was probably the most important factor preventing the absorption of Canada by the United States, for the war fostered Canadian nationalism while simultaneously heightening nationalism in the United States. Fortunately for both sides, it was a small war in human cost, paling in comparison to the vast losses of the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleononic Wars, and the American Civil War. 
In addition to its impact on Canadian and American nationalism, the war is important from a number of other standpoints. The U.S. Navy firmly established its reputation from the very beginning of the war, and this led to substantial increases in the size of the navy afterward. The U.S. Army, on the other hand, began the war poorly trained and saddled by inept leadership, but by war’s end professionalism had taken hold, and the U.S. Army was able to compete with the British Army on an equal basis. The experience of war also demonstrated the importance of the nascent United States Military Academy at West Point, which had been established only a decade earlier and whose graduates greatly distinguished themselves in combat. With the cutoff in British manufactured goods and military demands, the war also hastened the Industrial Revolution in the United States. 
Politically, the conflict advanced the fortunes and reputations of individuals such as Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison, both future presidents. It also contributed directly to the demise of the Federalist Party, the end of the first two-party system, and the inauguration of the so-called Era of Good Feelings.

A Senior Fellow in Military History for ABC-Clio Publishing since 2003,  Dr. Spencer C. Tucker has been instrumental in establishing ABC-CLIO as the premier military history reference publisher in the country. Spence's interest in military history began while he was a student at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and was enhanced by a Fulbright Fellowship in France and while serving as a captain in military intelligence in the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. Although he concentrated on Modern European History in his graduate studies, he became interested in all periods of military history. Spence taught at the university and college level for 36 years, 30 of these at Texas Christian University and the last 6 as holder of the John Biggs Chair of Military History at VMI. Spence is particularly excited to be the editor of ABC-CLIO's award-winning series of war encyclopedias, which includes The Encyclopedia of the War of 1812: A Political, Social, and Military History.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Health Care Reform, Disparities, and the Supreme Court Decision

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a consumer-focused, market-based law. The Supreme Court's decision on June 28 affirmed that market–based solutions are a legitimate constitutional approach to U.S. health care policy. The Roberts-led majority supported the concept of choice, which is central to our society. This concept shaped the writing of the ACA and the solutions it offers to private individuals and the states.

Under the ACA, an individual is free to reject purchasing health insurance, and a state is free to reject participation in Medicaid. Freedom, however, comes with responsibility—but the "price" is often a matter of debate. The United States is still a young country learning to balance individual freedom and social responsibility.

Will a choice-based approach diminish health disparities?  I predict that the answer to this question is yes. But the ACA does not have explicit race- or ethnic-focused language, so how can the ACA decrease these and other disparities? By linking payment to the voice of the consumer, the ACA opens the pathway for all Americans to identify the barriers they encounter.  Furthermore, it does this with an emphasis on improving the quality of health care. There is overwhelming evidence that poor quality health care leads to health disparities. These disparities are not race-based; they are market-based. Low-quality health insurance plans for young workers in entry-level jobs create barriers to health care for these workers and their families, who may not receive the treatments they need. Insufficient or nonexistent insurance for near-retirement adults leads to delayed treatment and excess spending in the first few years of Medicare eligibility. People with chronic disease but inadequate plans may face insurmountable financial barriers to the care they need.

Title III of the ACA directly confronts these barriers to health care. By preserving freedom of choice, the Roberts-led decision preserves a pathway to quality health care in the United States and gives us hope that we can conquer health disparities. 

Click here to read more from Miles in her piece for the New American Media.

Toni P. Miles, MD, PhD, is director of the Institute of Gerontology and professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in the College of Public Health, both at the University of Georgia, Athens. She has served previously as Health and Aging Policy Fellow on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and is the founding director of the Pennsylvania State University Center for Special Populations and Health. 

Her latest book, Health Care Reform and Disparities: History, Hype, and Hope (Praeger 2012), is available now!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Praeger Security International makes the list of Top 150 Books on Terrorism and Counterterrorism

The academic journal Perspectives on Terrorism has recently released its list of "Top 150 Books on Terrorism and Counterterrorism".  Reviewer Joshua Sinai states: “This listing is intended to provide an overview of many of the discipline’s pre-eminent books.” 

ABC-CLIO is proud to announce the inclusion of the following titles from Praeger Security International

Edward E. Mickolus and Susan I. Simmons, The Terrorist List (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International, 2011), 1333 pages, $464.95.  [Hardcover]  This five-volume set is an authoritatively-produced encyclopedic compilation of biographical information about individuals who were involved in terrorist activities, whether domestic or international, dating back 35 years. The terrorist biographies are arranged by their continent of origin, and provide detailed information regarding the incidents they were involved in, including their outcomes. As explained by the authors, “The list is designed to serve as a directory of leaders, perpetrators, financiers, defendants, detainees, persons of interest, conspirators, and aliases in the regions” in which they are listed. Each volume includes a separate index of the terrorists listed in that particular geographical volume.

Robert W. Schaefer, The Insurgency in Chechnya and the North Caucasus: From Gazavat to Jihad (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International, 2011), 303 pages, $59.95.  [Hardcover] An insightful overview by a U.S. military expert on the Chechen and North Caucasus insurgencies against Russia and its government’s primarily military response to such terrorist threats. Thematically organized, it examines the origins of the conflict in the North Caucasus, including the influences of different strains of Islamism and al Qaida. It also features a detailed critique of Russia’s counterterrorism campaigns over years. Especially noteworthy is the author’s use of information from the North Caucasus Incident Database (NCID), including terrorist incidents, as well as informative charts that outline aspects of Russia’s counterterrorism campaigns.

Daniel Baracskay, The Palestine Liberation Organization: Terrorism and Prospects for Peace in the Holy Land (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International, 2011), 225 pages, $44.95. [Hardcover] This book provides a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the historical events which culminated in the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964 and leadership of the Palestinian people for the next three decades. The author’s discussion of the organization’s key leaders, ideology, support base, financial structure, and recruitment strategies, is especially noteworthy. Also discussed are the PLO's activities in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, and its evolution from a primarily terrorist organization into a ruling political regime in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, although in recent years its historical rival, Hamas, has succeeded in overtaking it in Gaza.

J. Todd Reed and Diana Raschke, The ETIM: China’s Islamic Militants and the Global Terrorist Threat (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International, 2010), 244 pages, $49.95.  [Hardcover]  This volume is an authoritative and comprehensive account of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the most significant Muslim terrorist group in China, which demands an independent Muslim state for the Uyghur ethnic minority in northwest China.  In what is one of the few books on this subject, the authors discuss the group's origins, objectives, ideology, leadership, tactics, and ties to international terrorist networks.  They conclude with an assessment of how other governments view ETIM’s activities and how this has affected their relations with China.

Anna Geifman, Death Orders: The Vanguard of Modern Terrorism in Revolutionary Russia (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2010), 229 pages, $34.95. [Hardcover] With 19th century Russia considered the birthplace of modern terrorism, the author views it as a precursor to the psycho-historical patterns of worldwide terrorist activity that evolved over the next century. Especially noteworthy is the author’s analysis of how terrorists' objectives have degenerated from punishment of individual adversaries and attempts to intimidate political elites to carrying out indiscriminate acts of political violence. Moreover, as the author explains, a group’s stated ideology and rhetoric will invariably be transformed in practice into brutal violence. The author’s examination of such Russian precedents in political violence helps illuminate many of the brutal aspects of current terrorism. 

Kumar Ramakrishna, Radical Pathways: Understanding Muslim Radicalization in Indonesia (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International, 2009), 292 pages, $75.00.  [Hardcover]  An important and insightful case study on the pathways to extremism and violent jihad in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, which experienced one of the worst terrorist bombings in Bali in 2002. Specifically, the book explores the factors driving a minority of the country’s Muslim population to turn to violent jihad, and the continuing danger they pose to the country’s political stability. The author, based in Singapore, is one of Southeast Asia’s leading counterterrorism experts. 

James J.F. Forest, editor, Influence Warfare: How Terrorists and Governments Fight to Shape Perceptions in a War of Ideas (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International, 2009), 392 pages, $59.95.  [Hardcover] This edited volume focuses on the components involved in the competition for strategic influence between governments and their terrorist adversaries, including ways to neutralize terrorists’ use of the Internet in spreading their propaganda. These issues are further discussed in the volume’s case studies. 

James J.F. Forest, editor, Countering Terrorism and Insurgency in the 21st Century: International Perspectives [Three Volumes] (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International, 2007), 2016 pages, $400.00.  [Hardcover] The three volumes bring together contributions by dozens of experts (including this reviewer) to discuss terrorist threats around the world and the components required for governments to defeat them. Volume I covers “Strategic and Tactical Considerations”, Volume II examines “Sources and Facilitators”, and Volume III discusses “Lessons Learned from Combating Terrorism and Insurgency”. 

James J.F. Forest, editor, The Making of a Terrorist: Recruitment, Training, and Root Causes [Three Volumes] (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International, 2006), 1280 pages, $315.  [Hardcover] The three volumes bring together contributions by dozens of experts to discuss the central question of how individuals are transformed into becoming a terrorist. The first volume’s chapters cover the recruitment of terrorists, with emphasis on the psychological and religious appeals of joining a terrorist organization. The second volume focuses on how and where terrorists are trained by their groups. The third volume addresses the political, social, and economic root causes that contribute to terrorism globally and within specific countries and regions.

Ronald V. Clarke and Graeme R. Newman, Outsmarting the Terrorists (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2006), 316 pages, $49.95.  [Hardcover]  The authors contend that effective counterterrorism should strive to stop terrorists before they can attack by reducing opportunities for such attacks by protecting likely targets, controlling the weapons likely to be used by terrorists, and removing any vulnerable conditions that might make such attacks possible. The authors believe that such countermeasures are essential because response agencies need to prepare for what the terrorists are likely to do: identify vulnerable targets, analyze their specific weaknesses, consider the weapons needed to be used in an attack, and assess access to the targets. Once these countermeasures are implemented, counterterrorism agencies will then be able to provide appropriate protection, limit accessibility to potential targets, anticipate the response forces that might be required to prevent a potential attack, and be prepared to mitigate the consequences of an attack if it does occur. By employing such a methodology, terrorists can be ‘outsmarted’ and effectively defeated before they strike.   

Donald R. Liddick, Eco-Terrorism: Radical Environmental and Animal Liberation Movements (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2006), 200 pages, $39.95.  [Hardcover]  With eco-terrorism one of the outcomes of radical environmentalism, this is one of the few books published on these violent groups.  The author’s authoritative account discusses how such eco-terrorists engage in arson, such as property destruction, and other types of violence. He discusses the major groups, such as ALF/ELF, as well as less well-known ones, focusing on their history, who they are, their motivations, ideologies, rhetoric, and tactics, and how to respond to their acts of violence. 

For the full list of the Top 150 books on Terrorism and Counterterrorism visit: 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Interview with Dr. Ebony Utley, author of Rap and Religion

I always say that rap and religion called to me; I didn’t go looking for it. I tell a story in the preface about the first time I heard secular rap music in the church parking lot after Sunday service. The unspoken rule was no rap music on Sunday, but when I heard Snoop Dogg that Sunday, it felt rebellious, and it felt right. I realized that rap and religion serve the same purpose—self-expression, inspiration, resistance to oppression. That’s when I started writing the book in my head. Throughout school I was interested in how people acquired power, and rap and religion were two key strategies. When I realized I could combine the two I knew I had a powerful story to tell.

What was the highlight of your research?

The highlight of my research was surveying undergraduates about their interpretations of rap and religion. Chapter 6 - “The Rap on Rap and Religion” asks 175 students about their personal religious beliefs and their interpretations of rappers’ beliefs about Jesus, the devil, and God. Their responses are refreshing, interesting, entertaining. It’s certainly my favorite part of the book.

How did your research change your outlook on rap and religion?

The research gave me a greater appreciation for rap music. So many critics claim that hip hop is inauthentic, that it isn’t as sophisticated as it used to be, that it’s morphing into pop music. All of that is true. There are elements in hip hop that meet all of those negative criteria, but the research gave me an appreciation for the artistry of simplicity. Yes, hip hop is different today than it was 10, 20, and 30 years ago, but I learned to embrace its diversity. The same goes for religion. I learned to appreciate the diversity of religious manifestations. Ideas about God are fluid and dynamic. Even if you think of God in one way, there is someone else with access to the same information who thinks of God in a different way.

How have people reacted to your book and/or the ideas you set forth? Is it what you hoped for, or is there more work to be done?

There’s always more work to be done, but I am really, really proud to be one of the first scholars to publish a comprehensive, single-author book about rap and religion. My favorite review described the book as an “often encyclopedic journey.” I read that and thought, if only he had seen the resources that didn’t make it into the book! I hope Rap and Religion will always be a resource because it honestly is a compendium of rap and religion throughout hip hop history. Twenty years from now I expect the categories I’ve outlined to expand, but I don’t anticipate that they’ll be eliminated. If I were in the studio laying down a track, my book is just the bass line. There are so many more layers to add to this signature song.

What's next for you?

I’m interested in the pursuit of power. Rap and Religion was about how rappers use God to empower themselves. In my next book I’m interested in sex and how women use sex to empower themselves. I am collecting interviews, so if women out there want to talk to me about sex and power, hit me up on Twitter @u_experience or send a message through