Roving thoughts and provocations

The Tender Art of David Park

Sanford Schwartz

David Park (1911–1960) is one of those artists who isn’t widely known but whose work inspires a special loyalty and warmth of feeling among his admirers. The partisan flavor his very name can arouse is partly dependent, of course, on his not being a household name to begin with. But Park, who was based in Berkeley, California, and was, along with Richard Diebenkorn and Elmer Bischoff, one of the leading lights of what has been called “Bay Area” painting in the 1950s, makes some of us always eager to see more of his work and learn more about him because his best pictures have a particular tenderness and sense of gravity—a note that sets him apart from near-contemporaries of his such as Alice Neel, Fairfield Porter, or Alex Katz.

Why Health Care Reform is Going to the Dogs

Michael Tomasky

So what did the House Blue Dogs do on the health care vote last Saturday? They were more supportive than one might think: Of the fifty-two-member coalition, twenty-eight voted yea and twenty-four nay. Jim Cooper of Tennessee, the Blue Dog whom I identified in my piece in The New York Review as being among the most knowledgeable legislators in the House on the issue, told The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein: “This was one of the best votes I ever cast.”

The Micro Miracle?

Sue Halpern and Nicholas D. Kristof

In the November 19 issue of The New York Review, Sue Halpern wrote about Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s new book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Her piece describes the systematic abuse of women documented by Kristof and WuDunn throughout the world, and the considerable success of microfinance programs—pioneered by the Nobel-prize winning economist Muhammad Yunus, whose book is also included in Halpern’s review—in countering this problem by helping poor women gain economic power. Following is an exchange between Halpern and Kristof about the spread of microfinance and some of the criticisms that have emerged about it.

Presidential Appointments

Martin Filler

Presidents of the United States have enough to worry about, but an ill-timed makeover of the White House can readily become a political liability. After the Panic of 1837, an opposition-party Congressman accused President Martin van Buren of transforming his official home into “a PALACE as splendid as that of the Caesars,” and thereby doomed the incumbent’s re-election. A century and a half later, while the Reagan administration slashed school-lunch subsidies and declared ketchup a vegetable, Nancy Reagan provoked outrage when she bought a $209,000 china service embellished in gold and ketchup red.

A Public Bailout for News?

Michael Massing

It was with much curiosity that I opened The Reconstruction of American Journalism, the latest entrant in the great race to save the news in America. Commissioned by Nicholas Lemann, the dean of Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, the report was written by Leonard Downie Jr., the highly respected former executive editor of The Washington Post, and Michael Schudson, a leading historian of American journalism who is also at the Columbia J-School. The two spent months crisscrossing the country and interviewing scores of editors, reporters, bloggers, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and citizens. In the end, the 21,000 words they produced can be boiled down to this: Columbia, the leading journalism school in the country, has placed its imprimatur on the idea of government funding of the news. What sort of impact might that have?

From Egypt to Paris: An Artist Prized for His Travel Sketches

Peter Brooks

Dominique-Vivant Denon, the subject of my piece in the November 19, 2009 issue of the New York Review of Books, is known above all as the first Director of the Louvre—which, under his guidance, became the first encyclopedic public museum. But he was also an artist prized for his travel sketches and engravings. Since I could only touch on this aspect of his career briefly in my piece, I offer here some further notes and selections from his work.

Dairy Queen and Barbed Wire: The New Reality of US Occupation

Charles Simic

Back in September, I read an article in The New York Times about an American base in Iraq that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind. It describes a U.S. military installation in the Sunni Triangle north of Baghdad that houses 28,000 American troops and has a busy airport, two power plants, two sewage plants, and two water treatment plants that can purify 1.9 million gallons of water a day for showers, swimming pools and golf courses, and eighty to hundred buses any given moment crisscrossing the area on fifteen bus routes.

Al-Qaeda: The Uzbek Branch in Pakistan

Christian Caryl

Most of the reports about the Pakistani Army’s offensive in Waziristan have mentioned the Islamist extremists from Uzbekistan hiding out there—but they’ve often done so without really explaining what’s up. If you follow the coverage closely enough, you might learn that the Uzbek militants are tough fighters much feared by the Pakistani military, that they’re loyal auxiliaries of al-Qaeda who have displayed little inclination to negotiate, and that they’re being targeted by both the US and the government in Islamabad for these same reasons. The Uzbek Islamist leader, Tahir Yuldashev, was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Waziristan in August of this year—which says a lot about how seriously the Uzbeks are taken both by the US and the Pakistanis (who probably supplied the CIA with the information needed for the hit).