California

West Wing Week 07/25/14 or, "The Irrefutable Rightness of Your Cause"

7/25/14

This week, the President introduced a historic Executive Action for LGBT rights, continued to address the ongoing conflicts in the Ukraine and Gaza, hosted a town hall in support of his My Brother's Keeper Initiative, and traveled to California to deliver his response to some very striking letters he'd received ... in person. 

Watch on YouTube

Jews Say: End the War on Gaza — No Aid to Apartheid Israel!

7/24/14

JFPROR Logo - Face_Keys 556x313

Statement of Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, July 22, 2014 (200 initial signers, endorsing allies forthcoming)

On July 12, 2014, Gaza civil society issued an urgent appeal for solidarity, asking: “How many of our lives are dispensable enough until the world takes action? How much of our blood is sufficient?”

As Jews of conscience, we answer by unequivocally condemning Israel’s ongoing massacre in Gaza, whose victims include hundreds of civilians, children, entire families, the elderly, and the disabled. This latest toll adds to the thousands Israel has killed and maimed since its supposed withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

In response to this crisis, we urgently reaffirm our support for a ban on all military and other aid to Israel.

In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. opposed the Vietnam War with his famous declaration: “For the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.”

Today, *we* cannot be silent as the “Jewish state” — armed to the teeth by the U.S. and its allies — wages yet another brutal war on the Palestinian people. Apartheid Israel does not speak for us, and we stand with Gaza as we stand with all of Palestine.

In the face of incessant pro-Israel propaganda, we heed Malcolm X’s warning: “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

For Israel’s relentless war on Gaza is no more an act of “self-defense” than such infamous massacres as Wounded Knee (1890), Guernica (1937), the Warsaw Ghetto (1942), Deir Yassin (1948), My Lai (1968), Soweto (1976), Sabra and Shatila (1982), or Lebanon (2006).

Rather, it is but the latest chapter in more than a century of Zionist colonialism, dispossession, ethnic cleaning, racism, and genocide — including Israel’s very establishment through the uprooting and displacement of over 750,000 Palestinians during the 1947-1948 Nakba. Indeed, eighty percent of the 1.8 million people sealed into Gaza are refugees.

Like any colonial regime, Israel uses resistance to such policies as an excuse to terrorize and collectively punish the indigenous population for its very existence. But scattered rockets, fired from Gaza into land stolen from Palestinians in the first place, are merely a response to this systemic injustice.

To confront the root cause of this violence, we call for the complete dismantling of Israel’s apartheid regime, throughout historic Palestine — from the River to the Sea. With that in mind, we embrace the 2005 Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which demands:

* An end to Israeli military occupation of the 1967 territories

* Full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel

* Right of return for Palestinian refugees, as affirmed by UN resolution 194

Sign petition at http://chn.ge/1o76rOC

Initial Signers (list in formation; organizations, schools and other affiliations shown for identification only; *Co-founder, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return)

  1. Avigail Abarbanel, Psychotherapist; editor, Beyond Tribal Loyalties: Personal Stories of Jewish Peace Activists (2012, Cambridge Scholars), Inverness, Scotland
  2. Noa Abend, Boycott From Within
  3. Stephen Aberle, Independent Jewish Voices; Vancouver, BC
  4. Lisa Albrecht, Ph.D. Social Justice Program, University of Minnesota
  5. Anya Achtenberg, novelist and poet; teacher; activist; International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
  6. Mike Alewitz, Associate Professor, Central CT State Unversity; Artistic Director, Labor Art & Mural Project
  7. Zalman Amit, Distinguished Professor Emeritus; Author, Israeli Rejectionism
  8. Anthony Arnove, International Socialist Organization
  9. Gabriel Ash, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Switzerland
  10. Ted Auerbach, Brooklyn for Peace
  11. Anna Baltzer, author and organizer
  12. Ronnie Barkan, Co-founder, Boycott from Within, Tel-Aviv
  13. Judith Bello, Administrative Committee, United National Antiwar Coalition
  14. Lawrence Boxall, Independent Jewish Voices, Canada; Vancouver Ecosocialist Group
  15. Linda Benedikt, writer Munich, Germany
  16. Nora Barrows-Friedman, journalist; Oakland
  17. Prof. Jonathan Beller, Humanities and Media Studies Graduate Program in Media Studies, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn
  18. Medea Benjamin, co-founder, CODEPINK
  19. Rica Bird, Joint Founder, Merseyside Jews for Peace and Justice
  20. Audrey Bomse, Co-chair, National Lawyers Guild Palestine Subcommittee
  21. Prof. Daniel Boyarin, Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture, UC Berkeley
  22. Lenni Brenner, Author, Zionism In The Age Of The Dictators
  23. Elizabeth Block, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto ON
  24. Max Blumenthal, Author, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel; and Senior Writer for Alternet.org
  25. Mary P. Buchwald, Jewish Voice for Peace-New York
  26. Monique Buckner, BDS South Africa
  27. Maia Brown, Health and Human Rights Project-Seattle & Stop Veolia Seattle
  28. Estee Chandler, Jewish Voice for Peace, Los Angeles
  29. Rick Chertoff, L..A. Jews for Peace
  30. Prof. Marjorie Cohn, Thomas Jefferson School of Law; past president, National Lawyers Guild
  31. Ally Cohen, Ramallah, Palestine; International Solidarity Movement media coordinator
  32. Ruben Rosenberg Colorni, Youth for Palestine, Netherlands
  33. Mike Cushman, Convenor, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (UK)
  34. Margaretta D’arcy, Irish actress, writer, playwright, and peace-activist
  35. Natalie Zemon Davis, Historian
  36. Warren Davis, labor and political activist, Philadelphia, PA
  37. Eron Davidson, film maker
  38. Judith Deutsch, Independent Jewish Voices Canada; Science for Peace
  39. Roger Dittmann, Professor of Physics, Emeritus California State University, Fullerton; President, Scholars and Scientists without Borders Executive Council, World Federation of Scientific Workers
  40. Gordon Doctorow, Ed.D., Canada
  41. Mark Elf, Jews Sans Frontieres, London, UK
  42. Hedy Epstein, Nazi Holocaust survivor and human rights activist; St. Louis, MO
  43. Marla Erlien, New York NY
  44. Shelley Ettinger, writer/activist, New York, NY
  45. Inge Etzbach, Human Rights Activist, Café Palestina NY
  46. Richard Falk, Professor of International Law, Emeritus, Princeton University; Former UN Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine, 2008-2014
  47. Malkah B. Feldman, Jewish Voice for Peace and recent delegate to Palestine with American Jews For A Just Peace
  48. Deborah Fink, Co-Founder, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods UK
  49. Joel Finkel, Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago
  50. Sylvia Finzi, JfjfP; Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost, EJJP. Germany)
  51. Maxine Fookson, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner; Jewish Voice for Peace, Portland OR-
  52. Richard Forer, Author, Breakthrough: Transforming Fear Into Compassion – A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine
  53. Sid Frankel, Associate Professor, University of Manitoba
  54. Prof. Cynthia Franklin, Co-Editor, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, University of Hawai’i
  55. Racheli Gai, Jewish Voice for Peace
  56. Herb Gamberg, Independent Jewish Voices, Canada
  57. Ruth Gamberg, Independent Jewish Voices, Canada
  58. Lee Gargagliano, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
  59. Cheryl Gaster, social justice activist and human right lawyer, Toronto ON
  60. Alisa Gayle-Deutsch, American/Canadian Musician and Anti-Israeli Apartheid Activist
  61. Jack Gegenberg, Professor of Mathematics, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton NB
  62. Prof. Terri Ginsberg, film and media scholar, New York
  63. David Glick, psychotherapist; Jewish Voice for Peace
  64. Sherna Berger Gluck, Emerita Professor, CSULB; Israel Divestment Campaign
  65. Neta Golan, Ramallah, Palestine; Jews Against Genocide; Co-founder, International Solidarity Movement.
  66. Tsilli Goldenberg, teacher, Jerusalem, Israel
  67. Steve Goldfield, Ph.D.
  68. Sue Goldstein, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Canada
  69. Marty Goodman, former Executive Board member, Transport Workers Union Local 100; Socialist Action
  70. Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Freeman Fellow, Fellowship of Reconciliation
  71. Hector Grad, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Spain
  72. Prof. Jesse Greener, University of Laval
  73. Cathy Gulkin, Filmmaker, Toronto ON
  74. Ira Grupper, Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY
  75. Jeff Halper, The Israeli Committee Against House demolitions (ICAHD)
  76. Larry Haiven, Independent Jewish Voices Canada, Halifax
  77. Evelyn Hecht-Galinski, publisher, Germany
  78. Stanley Heller, The Struggle Video News TSVN
  79. Shir Hever, Jewish Voice for Just Peace, Germany
  80. Deborah Hrbek, media and civil rights lawyer, NLG-NYC
  81. Dr. Tikva Honig-Parass, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return
  82. Adam Horowitz, Co-Editor, Mondoweiss
  83. Gilad Isaacs, Economist, Wits University.
  84. Selma James, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
  85. Jake Javanshir, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto
  86. Riva Joffe, Jews Against Zionism
  87. Val Jonas, attorney, Miami Beach
  88. Sima Kahn, MD; President of the board, Kadima Reconstructionist Community
  89. Yael Kahn, Israeli anti-apartheid activist
  90. Michael Kalmanovitz, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (UK)
  91. Dan Kaplan, AFT Local 1493
  92. Susan Kaplan, J.D. National Lawyers Guild
  93. Danny Katch, activist and author
  94. Bruce Katz, President, Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU), Montreal, Canada
  95. Lynn Kessler, Ph.D., MPH, psychologist/social justice activist
  96. Janet Klecker, Sonomans for Justice & Peace for Palestine, Sonoma CA
  97. Prof. David Klein, California State University, Northridge; USACBI
  98. Emma Klein, Jewish Voice for Peace, Seattle WA
  99. Sara Kershnar, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
  100. Harry Kopyto, Legal activist Toronto ON
  101. Richard Koritz, veteran postal trade unionist and former member of North Carolina Human Relations Commission
  102. Yael Korin, PhD., Scientist at UCLA; Campaign to End IsraelI Apartheid, Southern California
  103. Dennis Kortheuer, CSULB, Israel Divestment Campaign
  104. Steve Kowit, Professor Emeritus, Jewish Voice for Peace
  105. Toby Kramer, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
  106. Jason Kunin, Independent Jewish Voices Canada
  107. Dr. David Landy, Trinity College, Dublin
  108. Jean Léger, Coalition pour la Justice et la Paix en Palestine, membre de la Coalition BDS Québec et de Palestiniens et Juifs Unis
  109. Lynda Lemberg, Educators for Peace and Justice, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto ON
  110. David Letwin,* activist and teacher, Al-Awda NY
  111. Michael Letwin,* former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325; USACBI; Al-Awda NY
  112. Les Levidow, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG), UK
  113. Corey Levine, Human Rights Activist, Writer; National Steering Committee, Independent Jewish Voices Canada
  114. Joseph Levine, Professor of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  115. Lesley Levy, Independent Jewish Voices, Montreal
  116. Mich Levy, teacher, Oakland CA
  117. Abby Lippman, Professor Emerita; activist; Montreal
  118. Brooke Lober, PhD candidate, University of Arizona, Gender and Women’s Studies Department
  119. Antony Loewenstein, journalist, author and Guardian columnist
  120. Jennifer Loewenstein, Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  121. Alex Lubin, Professor of American Studies, University of New Meixco
  122. Andrew Lugg, Professor Emeritus, University of Ottawa, Canada
  123. David Makofsky, Jewish Voice for Peace, Research Anthropologist
  124. Harriet Malinowitz, Professor of English, Long Island University, Brooklyn
  125. Mike Marqusee, Author, If I Am Not for Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew
  126. Miriam Marton, JD
  127. Dr. Richard Matthews. independent scholar, London ON
  128. Daniel L. Meyers, Former President National Lawyers Guild-NYC
  129. Linda Milazzo, Writer/Activist/Educator, Los Angeles
  130. Eva Steiner Moseley, Holocaust refugee, Massachusetts Peace Action board member and Palestine/Israel Working Group
  131. Dr. Dorothy Naor, retired teacher, Herzliah, Israel
  132. Marcy Newman, independent scholar; Author; The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans
  133. Alex Nissen, Women in Black
  134. Dr. Judith Norman, San Antonio, TX
  135. Henry Norr, retired journalist, Berkeley CA
  136. Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action-Los Angeles/People Against Racist Terror
  137. Prof. Bertell Ollman, NYU
  138. Karin Pally, Santa Monica, CA
  139. Prof. Ilan Pappé, Israeli historian and socialist activist
  140. Karen Platt, Jewish Voice for Peace, Albany CA
  141. Dr. Susan Pashkoff, Jews Against Zionism, London UK
  142. Miko Peled, writer, activist; Author, The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine
  143. Prof. Gabriel Piterberg, UCLA
  144. Mitch Podolak, Founder, Winnipeg Folk Festival and Vancouver Folk Music Festival
  145. Karen Pomer,* granddaughter of Henri B. van Leeuwen, Dutch anti-Zionist leader and Bergen-Belsen survivor
  146. Lenny Potash, Los Angeles CA
  147. Fabienne Presentey, Independent Jewish Voices, Montréal
  148. Diana Ralph, Independent Jewish Voices Canada
  149. Roland Rance, Jews Against Zionism, London
  150. Karen Ranucci, Independent Journalist, Democracy Now!
  151. Ana Ratner, Artist, Puppeteer, Activist.
  152. Michael Ratner, President Emeritus, Center for Constitutional Rights
  153. Prof. Dr. Fanny-Michaela Reisin, Jewish Voice Germany
  154. Diana M.A. Relke, Professor Emerita, University of Saskatchewan
  155. Prof. Bruce Robbins, Columbia University
  156. Stewart M. Robinson, retired Prof of Mathematics
  157. Professor Lisa Rofel, University of California, Santa Cruz
  158. Mimi Rosenberg, Producer & Host, Building Bridges and Wednesday Edition, WBAI 99.5 FM; Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325
  159. Lillian Rosengarten, Author, From The Shadows Of Nazi Germany To The Jewish Boat To Gaza
  160. Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead, British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)
  161. Yehoahua Rosin, Israel
  162. Ilana Rossoff, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
  163. Martha Roth, Independent Jewish Voices; Vancouver BC
  164. Marty Roth, Emeritus professor of English, University of Minnesota
  165. Ruben Roth, Assistant Professor, Labour Studies, Laurentian University; Independent Jewish Voices Canada
  166. Emma Rubin, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
  167. Cheryl A. Rubenberg, Middle East Scholar; Editor, Encyclopedia of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict; Author, The Palestinians in Search of a Just Peace
  168. Josh Ruebner, Author, Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace
  169. Mark Rudd, retired teacher, Albuquerque NM
  170. Ben Saifer, Independent Jewish Voices Canada
  171. Evalyn Segal, Rossmoor Senior Community
  172. Sylvia Schwarz, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
  173. Yossi Schwartz, Internationalist Socialist League; Haifa
  174. Carole Seligman, co-editor, Socialist Viewpoint magazine
  175. Yom Shamash, Independent Jewish Voices, Vancouver, Canada
  176. Tali Shapiro, Boycott from Within; Israel
  177. Karen Shenfeld, Poet, Toronto ON
  178. Sid Shniad, National Steering Committee, Independent Jewish Voices Canada
  179. William Shookhoff, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto ON
  180. Melinda Smith, Jewish Voice for Peace, Albuquerque NM
  181. Kobi Snitz, Tel Aviv
  182. Marsha Steinberg, BDS-LA for Justice in Palestine, Los Angeles
  183. Lotta Strandberg, Visiting Scholar, NYU
  184. Carol Stone, Independent Jewish Voices, Vancouver BC
  185. Miriam (Cherkes-Julkowski) Swenson, Ph.D.
  186. Matthew Taylor, author
  187. Laura Tillem, Peace and Social Justice Center of South Central Kansas
  188. Peter Trainor, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto
  189. Rebecca Tumposky, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
  190. Darlene Wallach, Justice for Palestinians, San Jose CA
  191. Dr. Abraham Weizfeld, JPLO
  192. Bonnie Weinstein, Co-Editor of Socialist Viewpoint magazine; Publisher, Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
  193. Sam Weinstein, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network-Labor; former President, UWUA Local 132
  194. Judith Weisman, Independent Jewish Voices; Not in Our Name (NION); Toronto ON
  195. Paul Werner, PhD, DSFS Editor, WOID, a journal of visual language
  196. Noga Wizansky, Ph.D., artist, instructor, and researcher; Administrator, Institute of European Studies, UC Berkeley
  197. Marcy Winograd, public school teacher, former congressional peace candidate
  198. Bekah Wolf, UC Hastings College of Law Student; Co-founder, Palestine Solidarity Project
  199. Sherry Wolf, International Socialist Organization
  200. Dave Zirin, Author, Game Over: How Politics Have Turned the Sports World Upside Down

Where Restaurant Reservations Come From

7/24/14
Image

Here's a crucial piece of social infrastructure that almost no one considers: the restaurant reservation.

That is, until a service like ReservationHop comes along. ReservationHop was a small project to book tables under bogus names and then sell them. When the service came to the attention of San Francisco residents this month, many people were outraged. This startup had broken the reservation social contract, they said: first-come, first-served. 

Which got me wondering: Where did the reservation come from? When did they begin? Where? How? I asked my network of scholars and journalists on Twitter, and despite their best efforts, and some fascinating links, we could only come up with some plausible stories. I looked in Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York and all the many other food books my food-history-obsessed wife has lying around the house. More hints, but nothing definitive. Clearly by the middle of the 20th century, the idea of making dinner reservations was common, as writer Evan Fleischer demonstrated with this chart (made using the words in all the books Google has scanned).

When 'Dinner Reservation' Appeared in English

How frequently the phrase "dinner reservation" appears in the corpus of Google Books.

But maybe that was just a change of terms. Historian Yoni Appelbaum and writer Tim Carmody argued that the practice of table-reserving predated the modern term for it. Appelbaum suggested that the old term was "engage a table," and indeed, we can see that was an earlier term. (Although in context, to "engage a table" sometimes just meant "to sit at a table," not to reserve it ahead of time.)

Dinner Reservation vs. Engage a Table

How frequently the phrases "dinner reservation" and "engage a table" appear in the corpus of Google Books.

Blogger Burrito Justice found references to West Coast restaurants that asked for reservations, even by telephone. 

"Make reservation by phone for the greatest dinner of your life" (California Digital Newspaper Collection)

But I still wasn't satisfied.

So, I went to Rebecca Spang, a Cornell Ph.D whose first book was The Invention of the Restaurant,* published by Harvard University Press. She's now an assistant professor of history at Indiana University, where her research focuses on food, money, and consumption. If anyone was going to know where the idea of the reservation came from, it was Spang. Her book traces the narrative of the restaurant back to 18th-century France, and given what Carmody and Appelbaum had said, I put the question to her like this: "Does the practice trace back to the 18th-century development of the restaurant? Or is it a bolt-on of the industrial age and widespread diffusion of the telephone?"

Fascinatingly, she told me that the question had never come up before. (Certainly it had never occurred to me, but once it had, it seemed like a gap in my knowledge that I had to fill.) But when she thought about it, she was able to come up with the definitive answer I'd been looking for.

Reserving a table is not so much an "industrial age bolt-on" as it's a slippage from the older custom of reserving a ROOM in a restaurant. As my book explains, 18th-cy "caterers" [traiteurs] either served clients in their homes or in rooms at the traiteur's, the first self-styled restaurateurs borrowed from cafes in having lots of small tables in one big room. Throughout the nineteenth century, many big city restaurants continued to have both a (very) large public eating room with numerous, small (private) tables AND a number of smaller rooms that could be reserved for more private meals. (Much as some restaurants have special "banquet facilities" or "special occasion" rooms today.) So, for instance, in Elisabeth Marbury, Manners: A Handbook of Social Customs (Chicago, 1888) we find: "When a dinner is given at a public restaurant, a table can be reserved in the public dining room or a private room can be engaged. It is usual to order the dinner beforehand, so that there will be no needless delay in serving it when the guests arrive."

Why did the practice develop? In the startup terms of our day, what problem did the institution of restaurant reservations solve? Well, the answer boils down to ... sex and propriety.

I only have an impressionistic sense of this (no quantitative data!) but I have the strong feeling that restaurant reservations of the sort described above are also the product of gender imbalance in American cities at the end of the nineteenth century--comparatively lots of single, affluent men who could not decently invite single women into their homes. They therefore entertained in restaurants, treating the restaurant as a public extension of home. See, for instance, Walter Germain, The Complete Bachelor: Manners for Men (NY: 1897): "The public restaurant or dining room is the place for a bachelor supper when ladies are guests. A private room is not proper, and your guests want to see and be seen." The same text asserts "All meals in a restaurant, unless organized on the spur of a moment, are ordered beforehand and everything, including the waiter's tip, arranged and settled for. If you have not an account at the restaurant, pay the bill at the time you arrange the menu and reserve the table."

So, what we have in the nineteenth century is restaurant reservations as a way of hiring a caterer or being able to throw a dinner party in the absence of all the necessary physical and social accoutrements (from wife and maidservants to a cook, fingerbowls and fishknives for 16, etc. etc.)

What about the telephone? I've grown up in an era where technology has forced lots of changes in the envelope of social possibility. So I assumed that the telephone must have been an important force. If there is one thing that telephones are good at, it is making reservations at restaurants. 

But, contra my instinct, Spang said, her gut was the the phone wasn't all that important. Rather, reservations, such as we know them, were driven by a series of social changes that made dining out progressively more important for more people. 

First, more people came to depend on restaurants.

As for the telephone: my gut-level feeling is that it, per se, didn't change much *but that* its widespread use coincided with a number of pretty important social transformations such as the post-WWI "servant problem" (too many new industrial jobs available, so it was harder to get people to work as servants) and some small, but significant, shifts in gender relations (flappers and career women). And with lots of men and women working in retail and clerical jobs, there were many more people (in cities) who depended on restaurants (of a sort, e.g., the sandwich counter in a cheap department store; a diner; etc) for at least one meal/day. So there is a real change in the culture of eating out in the 1920s and 1930s, but it isn't driven by the telephone.

Then, a culture of increasing consumerism took hold of the country after World War II, leading to an entirely different set of practices around finding places to eat. 

It's my intuition, as I briefly said in my last message, that what you're really looking at is the emergence of widespread daily, competitive consumption in the 1950s (and then its metastasizing in the 1980s). Such social phenomena don't start after WW2, Veblen diagnosed them in the 1890s, but they become part of mass culture in the 1950s--and with mass consumption comes, also, mass guidebooks, ratings, rankings and reviews (so you don't consume the "wrong" thing). I would be inclined to say the most important technological change in terms of restaurant reservations has been how restaurant REVIEWS are written and disseminated--without those, 95% of diners (at least) would have little idea of where they wanted to go. And one good review of course steers *every*body who reads it to a particular restaurant, where it then becomes very difficult to get a reservation, hence boosting its status (at least for a bit). The logic is that of "it must be good, everybody else wants to go there"--but some huge percentage of "everybody else" wants to go there because they read the same review you did.

And it's not too many more social jumps before we get to ReservationHop—where, for a few bucks, you can cut in front of everybody else. 

* This post originally misstated the title of Rebecca Spang's book. We regret the error.

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.






Where Restaurant Reservations Come From

7/24/14
Image

Here's a crucial piece of social infrastructure that almost no one considers: the restaurant reservation.

That is, until a service like ReservationHop comes along. ReservationHop was a small project to book tables under bogus names and then sell them. When the service came to the attention of San Francisco residents this month, many people were outraged. This startup had broken the reservation social contract, they said: first-come, first-served. 

Which got me wondering: Where did the reservation come from? When did they begin? Where? How? I asked my network of scholars and journalists on Twitter, and despite their best efforts, and some fascinating links, we could only come up with some plausible stories. I looked in Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York and all the many other food books my food-history-obsessed wife has lying around the house. More hints, but nothing definitive. Clearly by the middle of the 20th century, the idea of making dinner reservations was common, as writer Evan Fleischer demonstrated with this chart (made using the words in all the books Google has scanned).

When 'Dinner Reservation' Appeared in English

How frequently the phrase "dinner reservation" appears in the corpus of Google Books.

But maybe that was just a change of terms. Historian Yoni Appelbaum and writer Tim Carmody argued that the practice of table-reserving predated the modern term for it. Appelbaum suggested that the old term was "engage a table," and indeed, we can see that was an earlier term. (Although in context, to "engage a table" sometimes just meant "to sit at a table," not to reserve it ahead of time.)

Dinner Reservation vs. Engage a Table

How frequently the phrases "dinner reservation" and "engage a table" appear in the corpus of Google Books.

Blogger Burrito Justice found references to West Coast restaurants that asked for reservations, even by telephone. 

"Make reservation by phone for the greatest dinner of your life" (California Digital Newspaper Collection)

But I still wasn't satisfied.

So, I went to Rebecca Spang, a Cornell Ph.D whose first book was The Invention of the Restaurant,* published by Harvard University Press. She's now an assistant professor of history at Indiana University, where her research focuses on food, money, and consumption. If anyone was going to know where the idea of the reservation came from, it was Spang. Her book traces the narrative of the restaurant back to 18th-century France, and given what Carmody and Appelbaum had said, I put the question to her like this: "Does the practice trace back to the 18th-century development of the restaurant? Or is it a bolt-on of the industrial age and widespread diffusion of the telephone?"

Fascinatingly, she told me that the question had never come up before. (Certainly it had never occurred to me, but once it had, it seemed like a gap in my knowledge that I had to fill.) But when she thought about it, she was able to come up with the definitive answer I'd been looking for.

Reserving a table is not so much an "industrial age bolt-on" as it's a slippage from the older custom of reserving a ROOM in a restaurant. As my book explains, 18th-cy "caterers" [traiteurs] either served clients in their homes or in rooms at the traiteur's, the first self-styled restaurateurs borrowed from cafes in having lots of small tables in one big room. Throughout the nineteenth century, many big city restaurants continued to have both a (very) large public eating room with numerous, small (private) tables AND a number of smaller rooms that could be reserved for more private meals. (Much as some restaurants have special "banquet facilities" or "special occasion" rooms today.) So, for instance, in Elisabeth Marbury, Manners: A Handbook of Social Customs (Chicago, 1888) we find: "When a dinner is given at a public restaurant, a table can be reserved in the public dining room or a private room can be engaged. It is usual to order the dinner beforehand, so that there will be no needless delay in serving it when the guests arrive."

Why did the practice develop? In the startup terms of our day, what problem did the institution of restaurant reservations solve? Well, the answer boils down to ... sex and propriety.

I only have an impressionistic sense of this (no quantitative data!) but I have the strong feeling that restaurant reservations of the sort described above are also the product of gender imbalance in American cities at the end of the nineteenth century--comparatively lots of single, affluent men who could not decently invite single women into their homes. They therefore entertained in restaurants, treating the restaurant as a public extension of home. See, for instance, Walter Germain, The Complete Bachelor: Manners for Men (NY: 1897): "The public restaurant or dining room is the place for a bachelor supper when ladies are guests. A private room is not proper, and your guests want to see and be seen." The same text asserts "All meals in a restaurant, unless organized on the spur of a moment, are ordered beforehand and everything, including the waiter's tip, arranged and settled for. If you have not an account at the restaurant, pay the bill at the time you arrange the menu and reserve the table."

So, what we have in the nineteenth century is restaurant reservations as a way of hiring a caterer or being able to throw a dinner party in the absence of all the necessary physical and social accoutrements (from wife and maidservants to a cook, fingerbowls and fishknives for 16, etc. etc.)

What about the telephone? I've grown up in an era where technology has forced lots of changes in the envelope of social possibility. So I assumed that the telephone must have been an important force. If there is one thing that telephones are good at, it is making reservations at restaurants. 

But, contra my instinct, Spang said, her gut was the the phone wasn't all that important. Rather, reservations, such as we know them, were driven by a series of social changes that made dining out progressively more important for more people. 

First, more people came to depend on restaurants.

As for the telephone: my gut-level feeling is that it, per se, didn't change much *but that* its widespread use coincided with a number of pretty important social transformations such as the post-WWI "servant problem" (too many new industrial jobs available, so it was harder to get people to work as servants) and some small, but significant, shifts in gender relations (flappers and career women). And with lots of men and women working in retail and clerical jobs, there were many more people (in cities) who depended on restaurants (of a sort, e.g., the sandwich counter in a cheap department store; a diner; etc) for at least one meal/day. So there is a real change in the culture of eating out in the 1920s and 1930s, but it isn't driven by the telephone.

Then, a culture of increasing consumerism took hold of the country after World War II, leading to an entirely different set of practices around finding places to eat. 

It's my intuition, as I briefly said in my last message, that what you're really looking at is the emergence of widespread daily, competitive consumption in the 1950s (and then its metastasizing in the 1980s). Such social phenomena don't start after WW2, Veblen diagnosed them in the 1890s, but they become part of mass culture in the 1950s--and with mass consumption comes, also, mass guidebooks, ratings, rankings and reviews (so you don't consume the "wrong" thing). I would be inclined to say the most important technological change in terms of restaurant reservations has been how restaurant REVIEWS are written and disseminated--without those, 95% of diners (at least) would have little idea of where they wanted to go. And one good review of course steers *every*body who reads it to a particular restaurant, where it then becomes very difficult to get a reservation, hence boosting its status (at least for a bit). The logic is that of "it must be good, everybody else wants to go there"--but some huge percentage of "everybody else" wants to go there because they read the same review you did.

And it's not too many more social jumps before we get to ReservationHop—where, for a few bucks, you can cut in front of everybody else. 

* This post originally misstated the title of Rebecca Spang's book. We regret the error.

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.






Critical Ethnic Studies Association and the African Literature Association endorse the academic boycott of Israel

7/23/14

bds

The US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) congratulates both the Critical Ethnic Studies Association (CESA) and theAfrican Literature Association (ALA) following their recent, respective announcements to heed the call from Palestinian civil society and endorse the academic boycott of Israel.

As Palestinians residing in Gaza are faced with yet another brutal Israeli war that has killed than 500 Palestinians dead, and amidst the ongoing dispossession and erasure of the Palestinian people within historic Palestine and the Shatat, the international community must raise their voices and take action to pressure Israel.

We thank the membership of the African Literature Association, who passed a resolution endorsing the boycott at their 2014 meeting in Johannesburg. Their eloquent statement extends the spirit of the past boycott of Apartheid South Africa to highlight the many ways in which Palestinians and Palestinian students and academics are impacted by ongoing dispossession, racism and colonial violence.

We thank the ongoing engagement of the Critical Ethnic Studies Association, which produced this resolution in support of academic boycott. The robust CESA statement lifts up various questions at the core of  Ethnic Studies scholarship about decolonization and liberation.

In response to the Palestinian call for the international community to engage in and utilize the tactics of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, US-based academics and student organizers have brought critical discussions on Palestine, Israel and US complicity to campuses across the country through boycott and divestment resolutions.

These historic motions follow other associations -

As well as

We encourage others to continue to organize within their academic institutions at this critical moment and to join more than one thousand academics in endorsing the academic boycott of Israel by signing on to USACBI.

Cost of Living Is Really All About Housing

7/21/14
Image
Reuters/Robert Galbraith

No question about it: how much money it takes to make ends meet varies dramatically across the country. It takes a whole lot more money to get by in New York, San Francisco, Boston, or D.C. than, say, Pittsburgh or even Portland.

These differences boil down to gaps in what economists call the “cost of living,” a figure that takes into account how much you need to do everything from pay rent to buy a gallon of milk, and which is a function of both national and local economic trends.

But what actually drives these big regional differences in living costs?

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) collects data on the various components of living costs for every metro in the country based on measured called Regional Price Parities (RPP). RPP tracks the different price levels of categories like food, transportation, housing, and education, as compared to the national level, which is set at 100.  My colleague José Lobo of Arizona State University calculated average RPPs for 2008-2012 for four different categories: overall cost of living, cost of living for rent, cost of living for goods, and other. RPP is a weighted statistic, but Lobo was able to isolate the different effects of housing costs and the costs of goods on overall cost of living, or RPP.

The first map below charts the overall cost of living across U.S. metros.

(Zara Matheson)

Honolulu, Hawaii has the highest cost of living, with an RPP of 122.9. This is not surprising, as it is on an isolated island where shipping costs effectively drive up the price of everything from goods to housing.

New York (122.2) is second, followed by San Jose, the hub of Silicon Valley (122.0), and Bridgeport, Connecticut (121.5)—which includes many high-end commuter suburbs of New York, as well as the finance center around Stamford. Next are Santa Cruz, California (121.4), San Francisco (121.3), and Washington, D.C. (120.4). The map appears blue and dark blue, indicating high cost of living, along the Northeast corridor and in Miami, parts of Texas, Chicago and Minneapolis in the Midwest, and California and Seattle along the West Coast. In contrast, many Midwestern Rustbelt metros and older, smaller places in the Deep South had RPPs below 90.

But take a look at the second map, below, which isolates just the cost of living for the goods and services part of the RPP calculation. Now the differences among metros shrink considerably, and the map looks far, far less varied. 

(Zara Matheson)

Sure, it’s still more expensive in the Northeast corridor and the West Coast, while parts of the old South and upstate New York are now relatively more expensive than they were in the overall cost of living metric. These are places where high prices of goods contribute more to cost of living disparities. But, overall, the range is far smaller.

The places with the highest RPPs for goods are just over 110, a mark-up that is substantially less than for the overall cost of living, which reached well over 120 for places like Honolulu, San Francisco, and New York. When looking at overall cost of living, less than a third of all metros fall within five percent of the national average of 100, with scores of 95 to 105. In contrast, more than 300—over 80 percent of all metros—fall within five percent of the national average for goods.

The third map shows the cost of living difference based just on housing or rents. The quick takeaway is that differences in living costs across metros seem to be driven almost entirely by the huge differences in housing costs. 

(Zara Matheson)

The range is enormous. The prices in places with the highest overall living costs are roughly 20 percent above the national average, and the prices in places with the highest costs for just goods and services are roughly 10 percent above the national average. But when it comes to housing costs, the priciest metros are a whopping 50 to 70 percent more expensive than the national average.

The places where housing costs are super high are generally where you would expect: the East Coast corridor, from Maine through the Boston-Washington corridor, and in Southern Florida. New Orleans, Dallas, Austin, Denver, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, and many of the West Coast metros also have housing costs that are considerably above the national average.

The San Jose metro area, the heart of Silicon Valley, has the highest RPP for housing of any metro—170.4. Its overall RPP, however, is only 119.8, and its RPP for goods only is an even more modest 109.7. In nearby San Francisco, the overall cost of living RPP is 119.7, and its RPP for goods is just 109.9; but its RPP for rents is 167.5. The center part of the Honolulu metro—the one with the highest overall RPP in the nation—comes in second in terms of housing costs, with an RPP of 167.5.

The same pattern holds for the nation’s two largest metros. Los Angeles has an RPP of 154.6 for housing and just 103.4 for goods, giving it a total cost-of-living score of 115.2. New York has an RPP for housing of 153.9, compared to a cost of living for goods only of 107.7, for an an overall cost of living score of 121.3.

In several cases, high housing costs offset even below average costs of living for goods. In Oxnard-Thousand Oaks, California; Trenton, New Jersey; and Boston-Cambridge, Massachusetts, RPPs for goods only are slightly below 100. But housing prices between 30 and 60 percent higher than the national average contributed to an overall cost-of-living-score of 11 or 12 percent higher than average.

This means that housing costs are even more of a contributor to cost-of-living differentials than you might expect. The variation in RPP when we isolate just housing costs is a range of nearly 100—the highest is 170, while the lowest is just 57. There are about 25 metros whose RPPs for housing are over 120, while 10 have housing RPPs over 150. 

•       •       •       •       •

I wanted to look a bit more systematically at what might be behind the huge gap in the housing component of cost of living across metros. My MPI colleague Charlotta Mellander ran a basic correlation analysis of the key economic and demographic factors that might be associated with this. I give my usual warning that correlation does not imply causation but merely points to associations between variables.

The housing components of cost of living track the size and density of metros, being closely associated with population size (.46) and even more so with high population density (.64).

It also tracks closely with key dimensions of the high-tech knowledge economy. The housing cost of living is positively associated with the share of creative class workers (.46), the share of college grads (.58), and concentration of high tech industry (.54). Conversely, the housing component of cost of living is negatively associated with the share of workers in blue collar jobs (-.50). Of course, this says nothing about the direction of causation. These are the key factors that contribute to higher regional productivity, and  thus to higher wages and incomes and, ultimately, housing prices.

The housing component of cost of living is also associated with key markers of artistic amenities and openness to diversity, a point I have made before. The housing component of cost of living is correlated with the Bohemian Index, which tracks artists (.42) and even more so with the concentration of gay couples (.69).

Most of all, our statistical analysis suggests that, when we talk about differences in costs of living we are mainly talking about differences in housing costs. The RPP for housing is much more closely correlated to this overall RPP metric (.94) than the correlation between overall living costs for goods and services is (.78). And the correlation between the cost of living for housing and for goods is weaker still (.58).

In essence, what it all comes down to is that housing—which makes up one of the largest single expenditures for most American families—is the big driver of variation in costs of living. 








Cost of Living Is Really All About Housing

7/21/14
Image
Reuters/Robert Galbraith

No question about it: how much money it takes to make ends meet varies dramatically across the country. It takes a whole lot more money to get by in New York, San Francisco, Boston, or D.C. than, say, Pittsburgh or even Portland.

These differences boil down to gaps in what economists call the “cost of living,” a figure that takes into account how much you need to do everything from pay rent to buy a gallon of milk, and which is a function of both national and local economic trends.

But what actually drives these big regional differences in living costs?

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) collects data on the various components of living costs for every metro in the country based on measured called Regional Price Parities (RPP). RPP tracks the different price levels of categories like food, transportation, housing, and education, as compared to the national level, which is set at 100.  My colleague José Lobo of Arizona State University calculated average RPPs for 2008-2012 for four different categories: overall cost of living, cost of living for rent, cost of living for goods, and other. RPP is a weighted statistic, but Lobo was able to isolate the different effects of housing costs and the costs of goods on overall cost of living, or RPP.

The first map below charts the overall cost of living across U.S. metros.

(Zara Matheson)

Honolulu, Hawaii has the highest cost of living, with an RPP of 122.9. This is not surprising, as it is on an isolated island where shipping costs effectively drive up the price of everything from goods to housing.

New York (122.2) is second, followed by San Jose, the hub of Silicon Valley (122.0), and Bridgeport, Connecticut (121.5)—which includes many high-end commuter suburbs of New York, as well as the finance center around Stamford. Next are Santa Cruz, California (121.4), San Francisco (121.3), and Washington, D.C. (120.4). The map appears blue and dark blue, indicating high cost of living, along the Northeast corridor and in Miami, parts of Texas, Chicago and Minneapolis in the Midwest, and California and Seattle along the West Coast. In contrast, many Midwestern Rustbelt metros and older, smaller places in the Deep South had RPPs below 90.

But take a look at the second map, below, which isolates just the cost of living for the goods and services part of the RPP calculation. Now the differences among metros shrink considerably, and the map looks far, far less varied. 

(Zara Matheson)

Sure, it’s still more expensive in the Northeast corridor and the West Coast, while parts of the old South and upstate New York are now relatively more expensive than they were in the overall cost of living metric. These are places where high prices of goods contribute more to cost of living disparities. But, overall, the range is far smaller.

The places with the highest RPPs for goods are just over 110, a mark-up that is substantially less than for the overall cost of living, which reached well over 120 for places like Honolulu, San Francisco, and New York. When looking at overall cost of living, less than a third of all metros fall within five percent of the national average of 100, with scores of 95 to 105. In contrast, more than 300—over 80 percent of all metros—fall within five percent of the national average for goods.

The third map shows the cost of living difference based just on housing or rents. The quick takeaway is that differences in living costs across metros seem to be driven almost entirely by the huge differences in housing costs. 

(Zara Matheson)

The range is enormous. The prices in places with the highest overall living costs are roughly 20 percent above the national average, and the prices in places with the highest costs for just goods and services are roughly 10 percent above the national average. But when it comes to housing costs, the priciest metros are a whopping 50 to 70 percent more expensive than the national average.

The places where housing costs are super high are generally where you would expect: the East Coast corridor, from Maine through the Boston-Washington corridor, and in Southern Florida. New Orleans, Dallas, Austin, Denver, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, and many of the West Coast metros also have housing costs that are considerably above the national average.

The San Jose metro area, the heart of Silicon Valley, has the highest RPP for housing of any metro—170.4. Its overall RPP, however, is only 119.8, and its RPP for goods only is an even more modest 109.7. In nearby San Francisco, the overall cost of living RPP is 119.7, and its RPP for goods is just 109.9; but its RPP for rents is 167.5. The center part of the Honolulu metro—the one with the highest overall RPP in the nation—comes in second in terms of housing costs, with an RPP of 167.5.

The same pattern holds for the nation’s two largest metros. Los Angeles has an RPP of 154.6 for housing and just 103.4 for goods, giving it a total cost-of-living score of 115.2. New York has an RPP for housing of 153.9, compared to a cost of living for goods only of 107.7, for an an overall cost of living score of 121.3.

In several cases, high housing costs offset even below average costs of living for goods. In Oxnard-Thousand Oaks, California; Trenton, New Jersey; and Boston-Cambridge, Massachusetts, RPPs for goods only are slightly below 100. But housing prices between 30 and 60 percent higher than the national average contributed to an overall cost-of-living-score of 11 or 12 percent higher than average.

This means that housing costs are even more of a contributor to cost-of-living differentials than you might expect. The variation in RPP when we isolate just housing costs is a range of nearly 100—the highest is 170, while the lowest is just 57. There are about 25 metros whose RPPs for housing are over 120, while 10 have housing RPPs over 150. 

•       •       •       •       •

I wanted to look a bit more systematically at what might be behind the huge gap in the housing component of cost of living across metros. My MPI colleague Charlotta Mellander ran a basic correlation analysis of the key economic and demographic factors that might be associated with this. I give my usual warning that correlation does not imply causation but merely points to associations between variables.

The housing components of cost of living track the size and density of metros, being closely associated with population size (.46) and even more so with high population density (.64).

It also tracks closely with key dimensions of the high-tech knowledge economy. The housing cost of living is positively associated with the share of creative class workers (.46), the share of college grads (.58), and concentration of high tech industry (.54). Conversely, the housing component of cost of living is negatively associated with the share of workers in blue collar jobs (-.50). Of course, this says nothing about the direction of causation. These are the key factors that contribute to higher regional productivity, and  thus to higher wages and incomes and, ultimately, housing prices.

The housing component of cost of living is also associated with key markers of artistic amenities and openness to diversity, a point I have made before. The housing component of cost of living is correlated with the Bohemian Index, which tracks artists (.42) and even more so with the concentration of gay couples (.69).

Most of all, our statistical analysis suggests that, when we talk about differences in costs of living we are mainly talking about differences in housing costs. The RPP for housing is much more closely correlated to this overall RPP metric (.94) than the correlation between overall living costs for goods and services is (.78). And the correlation between the cost of living for housing and for goods is weaker still (.58).

In essence, what it all comes down to is that housing—which makes up one of the largest single expenditures for most American families—is the big driver of variation in costs of living.