Archive for August, 2005

Getting Afghanistan Wrong

Sunday, August 28th, 2005


I Is For Infidel
By Kathy Gannon
PublicAffairs, 224 pages, $25

RICHARD Posner’s recent New York Times Book Review essay on media bias and the blogosphere was published as I finished Kathy Gannon’s book on Afghanistan.

The usually razor-sharp Posner is condescending about blogs. What he calls unfiltered media “get 12 million people to write rather than just stare passively at a screen… They allow people to blow off steam who might otherwise adopt more dangerous forms of self-expression.”

What, like writing books?

Posner ought to know better by now, and a book like “I is for Infidel” is a good reminder of the failings of the established press. (more…)

Where Are the WASP’s? Ethnic N.Y.’ers Uphold Old Blue-Blood Values

Sunday, August 14th, 2005


“Is that spelled A-N?”

“No, it’s spelled A-N-N. Like the standard spelling of the English woman’s name Ann.”

“And your last name, M -A- R- L-O?”

“W-E. Like Christopher.”
“Or Philip—you know, the detective?”



“Thanks, I’ll give her the message that you called.”

I have gone through some version of this exchange at least once a month in the last few years. Leaving my name with a secretary, which used to be a routine exchange involving only the question of whether my first and last names ended with an “e,” has become much more complex in the last few years. Some of it is creeping illiteracy, as the silences following the reference to well-known Marlowes suggest. But some of it is also creeping diversity. We now live in a city where it’s likely that I would be a half-Vietnamese, half-Italian named An Marlo. (more…)

A Reporter’s Death

Thursday, August 4th, 2005


WHEN I emailed Steve Vincent congratulations on his major oped in Sunday’s Times about police corruption in Basra, I never dreamed I’d be writing his obit three days later, when Steve became the first American journalist to be killed for his work in Iraq.

Steve began his piece by talking about the progress of the Iraqi police in Basra, a good many of whom were “switched on” — British slang for gung ho — about supporting their country’s fledgling democracy. But Steve went on to describe the disturbing infiltration of Basra’s police by extremists loyal to Shiite thug Muqtada al Sadr, and the recent string of murders committed in Basra by an unmarked white “death car” filled with off duty police. Now it appears that the death car came for him.

The body of the 49-year old American art critic and political writer was found riddled with bullets, and some members of the Basra police have been courageous enough to charge renegade cops with his murder.

Steve was a complex person and a quintessential New Yorker. “A natural contrarian” in the words of his friend gallerist Becky Smith, he was a political conservative in the left-leaning art world and a former East Village squatter who dressed in suits.

As his friend Steve Mumford put it, “He was an amateur in the 19th century sense of someone who followed his passions, and he became an art critic because he wanted to be yanked off his feet by a work of art. He became disenchanted as the New York art world he knew from the ’80s became increasingly professionalized, and after 9/11 he felt that he had a cause he had to follow. He wasn’t an ideologue, but he believed that the Islamic world had to look within itself. And the possibility of dying in Iraq didn’t deter him one bit.” (more…)