"Hearst for President" buttons now began appearing in St. Louis. Along with his picture, they bore the legend, "100% American—No Foreign Entanglements—Independent in Everything—Temperance, not Prohibition."
William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal promised "celestial tidings of the election results, sending up twenty balloons which would emit 'great showers of green stars' for a Bryan victory and golden stars if McKinley won. ... Later, the twenty balloons sent up from the Journal building rained golden stars. Bryan went down to stunning defeat, losing even his own state of Nebraska."
Edwin Godkin of the New York Evening Post on the behavior of William Randolph Hearst's Morning Journal in the run up to the Spanish-American war.
"When one of [the yellow journals] offers a yacht voyage with free wine, rum and cigars, and a good bed, under the guise of philanthropy, or gets up a committee for Holy purposes, and promises to puff it, it can get almost anyone it pleases to go on the yacht voyage and serve on the committee—senators, lawyers, divines, scholars, poets, presidents and what not . . . Every one who knows anything about 'yellow journals' knows that everything they do and say is intended to promote sales . . . No one—absolutely no one—supposes a yellow journal cares five cents about the Cubans, the Maine victims, or any one else. A yellow journal is probably the nearest approach to hell, existing in any Christian state."
"Shortly after he walked into Tribune Tower, Zell created a 'Talk to Sam' e-mail box for employees to 'challenge authority' and speak out about the company's weaknesses ... Of course, most of the correspondents didn't realize Zell was passing on their remarks to their bosses and they penned long rants complaining about career setbacks or rejection of their ideas by 'arrogant newsroom leaders,' ratting out their colleagues in an atmosphere that soon turned crude and ugly, particularly once they started steep layoffs."
"It may have been nutty. But at least he had a vision. He really believed in the newspaper. He said our future was squarely in print. He ignored the Internet, thought it was just a fad. You had this great feeling that here was a guy who really believed in us." - Former Los Angeles Times editor Leo Wolinsky on former Times-Mirror CEO Mark Willes
The argument is clearly written and easy to follow. The main point is this: scientists need to do a better job engaging the public. That means dumbing things down for reporters, drumming up story ideas for Hollywood and grinding out talking points for lobbyists.
It's a good book, but I've got a couple complaints.
First, the title is misleading. The book isn't about scientific illiteracy. It's about how scientists have done a poor job representing science, primarily by failing to understand how popular culture works. In fact, the book argues against people who focus on scientific illiteracy. Why they titled it this way, I don't know.
Second, the authors are critical of Richard Dawkins and his confrontational approach. They say that polemical books like [The God Delusion](http://readernaut.com/books/0618918248/) do more harm than good by polarizing the debate and pushing away moderates who might be persuaded to take on a more scientific worldview. Instead, they argue that scientists should be more friendly and accommodate opinions they disagree with, particularly religious ones.
I'm sympathetic to their point, but I didn't see much evidence in the text to support the claim that confrontation is, as a rule, self-defeating. Public opinion polls have shown [a decrease in the number of Americans who ally themselves with an organized religion](http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/wayoflife/03/09/us.religion.less.christian/index.html). And, in recent years, nothing has drawn more invective from Dawkins than intelligent design, [a failed creationist push](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_design#Kitzmiller_trial) to get religion in the classroom. Who's to say that the stridency of the Dawkins camp didn't play a role in either event?
An argument of the book is that scientists need to be better writers. The authors suggest using narrative, metaphor and analogy to engage readers. If that's the ideal, who has crafted more incisive passages about genetics than Dawkins? From the rowing metaphor in [The Selfish Gene](http://readernaut.com/books/preview/0199291152/) to the crime scene comparison in his most recent book, he's consistently shown himself to be a lucid writer.
Furthermore, a hardliner like Dawkins can inspire others to create art that's more palatable for mass media. Look no further than Douglas Adams, author of [The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy](http://readernaut.com/books/preview/1400052920/), who [professed to being personally transformed](http://www.atheists.org/Interview:__Douglas_Adams) by reading The Selfish Gene and [The Blind Watchmaker](http://readernaut.com/books/preview/0393315703/). If the goal is to maximize the amount of middlebrow entertainment with a scientific flavor, shouldn't converting Adams score Dawkins some big points?
I listened to the book tape, read by the author. It was clearly spoken and easy to follow.
What you get are a series of lengthy spy stories from Baer's time as a CIA agent in the Middle East. Episodes include the Beirut-Tehran connection Baer argues was behind the bombings of the early and mid-1980s, and the conspiracies to unseat Saddam Hussein hatched from the American-protected areas of Iraq during the Clinton administration.
Baer's stories are meant to serve as illustrations of his main point: that America is best served by an intelligence agency that aggressively cultivates agents within anti-American organizations. He is critical of surveillance technology and a backstabbing government bureaucracy in Washington, which he portrays as obstacles to the important on-the-ground work he tried to pursue.
Baer makes a convincing case that the status quo stinks. But, then again, it's not hard to argue that the CIA is bad at its job. It failed to get out ahead 9/11, blew WMD big time in Iraq, couldn't stop North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons and humiliated our country with cruel interrogation practices of dubious value. And that's just in the last 10 years--not counting the agency's shoddy record infiltrating the Soviet Union, the Bay of Pigs, Operation Phoenix, and countless other examples documented in fine books like Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes.
So, if you already know all that, you probably can skip this one. But if you're unconvinced, or you just like a good spy story, I'd recommend it. Close followers of the recent Iranian election will also probably be interested in how Baer's ties many of today's reformers, such as the cleric Ayatollah Rafsanjani, to violent action against the United States.
You can skip this one. I spent a three hours skimming through it this afternoon and came away with the impression that it's little more than a half-baked attempt to cash on the interest surrounding the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth.
Once you get past the ridiculous title and cover image, what you'll find is a condensed textbook that skips through the fundamentals of evolution and the history of the theory's development.
That's all good stuff, but the book stumbles early and often.
First, there's the lame clip art and canned photos. Then, there's the tedious insistence on forcing every concept through the lens of Darwin's writings, which lionizes him as a god-like authority, rather than highlight the scientific principles of experimentation that actually, you know, figured this stuff out. Worse yet, many of the passages of explanation are littered with fancy words that are sure to scare away lay readers. Here's a sentence lifted from an early chapter: "Darwin himself never ceased to consider the effects of habitual use and disuse as one source of heritable variation."
A fun book with tons of great detail about the anarchist underworld of Paris and London in the _fin de siècle_ times. You get a great flavor for what animated the people of the era, how and why they were throwing bombs.
That said, the narrative couldn't really hold me, and after 150 pages I felt I had gotten a good sense of the era and didn't feel the need to finishing reading the story of the protagonist, Emile Henry.
The cover and dust jacket summary are, to put it kindly, misleading. It looks like an airport book for businessmen. But this is not an economics book. And it isn't really about entrepreneurship either.
It's a book about autism, which you can only really find out by reading it. But that's okay because it's still pretty good!
Cowen's main point is that the stigma placed on people with autism is just plain wrong on the facts. He argues that every person, because of their unique brain, thinks a little differently. And we need to better appreciate the "neurodiversity" that leads to different types of people, including autistics.
In Cowen's reckoning, many autistics are exceptionally adept at certain skills--like ordering bits of information, developing expertise in very refined areas, and working with numbers--that are increasingly important on the Internet and in an information economy. And in fact many very successful people fall somewhere on "the autism spectrum." So, he says, don't make such a big deal about people who are different from you. Chill out and appreciate their upside.
I listened to the book on tape a couple weeks ago and found it an excellent listen.
Ricks tells the improbable story of how a gang of geeks, eccentrics and pessimists managed to take over the U.S. war effort in Iraq, and make it considerably less stupid. Not that he's all that optimistic about Iraq's future, but, as we learn from the book, nether are the people in charge.
Recommended reading for anybody who's still open to new information about Iraq.
This one is almost two books in one.
Half of it is potted history, brief backgrounds on the extremists strands of religion on each side of the so-called clash of civilizations.
The other half is Aslan's argument that the clash of civilizations is a counterproductive frame, a strategic view that feeds into the monolithic "cosmic war" that the extremists want to fight. We'd be better off, he argues, if we got real about the legitimate grievances of rational Muslim social movements, like the Palestinians, and quit playing into the hands of extremists by approaching the game on their terms.
I find his position pretty persuasive, but mostly because I've read before from convincing writers like David Kilcullen and Lawrence Wright. It's mainly a matter of taste, but I find Aslan's writing puffy and tiring. My preference is for a more direct, reportorial style. I can only hear so many academic phrases like "the deterritorialization of Europe" before I start zoning out. And his taste for stringing together repetitive phrases with four or five 10-cent words in a sentence can put me out of breath.
He's also a couple years late on this one. McCain lost. People with his point of view just won a presidential election. Tell me what's next.