"[This book] embodies the Buddhist wisdom about change, life, and the
world more than anything written after the events of that day."
Robert Stone

March 2010 Archives

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March 29, 2010


Nikki Stern is a marketing executive, writer, blogger (who has developed a distinctive voice on her blog 1 Woman’s Vu), and activist (the widow of Jim Portorti -- who perished on 9/11 -- Stern was the first executive director of the organization Familes of September 11). Stern was generous, forthcoming, and engagingly opinionated when agreeing to be interviewed for Watching the World Change (see pages 71-73).


This June, Stern is coming out with a new book, Because I Say So: The Dangerous Appeal of Moral Authority (Bascom Hill Books). She has kindly sent along galleys and I highly recommend it. The book is part cultural criticism, part psychological memoir, part collection of cogent essays (the chapter questioning the notion of “The Nobility of Suffering” is particularly notable).

Stern is always perceptive and frank and, quite often, boundary-breaking, as in this much-talked-about 2006 essay for The New York Times, “Dust to Dust: An Affair Post 9/11.”

March 21, 2010


In an emotional reversal this week, a federal judge tossed out a financial package that was meant to compensate rescue, relief, and reclamation workers for health problems related to their efforts at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

According to Alison Gendar and Corky Siemaszko, writing in the New York Daily News, “A judge Friday tore up a $575 million deal for Ground Zero workers - and ordered lawyers to come up with a settlement that matches the sacrifice of the sick. Stunned 9/11 heroes applauded and city officials grimaced after Judge Alvin Hellerstein scuttled the agreement struck by lawyers just last week.

“‘In my judgment, this settlement is not enough,’ Hellerstein said after hearing tearful rescue and cleanup workers vent frustration in Manhattan Federal Court. ‘From the beginning I felt ... that the people who responded on 9/11 were our heroes,’ he said, speaking from ‘the heart’ without any notes for 25 minutes. ‘They cushioned the blow. ... They brought us back from that blow.’

“But now, he said, they were being shortchanged and pushed into signing on to an incomprehensible deal before they even knew how much they would get. In the end, they would probably receive too little, while lawyers who stood to make $200 million would get too much, he said.”

March 6, 2010


It appears that the trials of five accused 9/11 plotters may ultimately be held under the auspices of military tribunals, not in criminal court. This is precisely the avenue that many people advocated – including yours truly -- when Attorney General Eric Holder, last November, laid out the administration’s original plan to hold criminal trials in Manhattan.

Here was my take on November 21 of last year (“Guantanamo on the Hudson”), when the initial, ill-conceived announcement was made:

“Some of the Guantanamo internees will be coming to New York for trial, chief among them, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. While many have lambasted the decision to allow the perpetrators back into this city - let alone a courthouse or prison a stone’s throw from Ground Zero - what I find most perplexing is the fallacy that justice will be served here.

“How is it possible to convene a judicial proceeding in these circumstances and in this venue? How on earth can KSM and his compatriots get what would be considered ‘a fair trial’ within the jurisdiction of Manhattan? And where, in America, would they ever find a ‘jury of their peers’? While I found Guantanamo to be a pure travesty, one that ran counter to every notion of civil behavior in a time of war, I find the current scenario to be an invitation for a kangaroo court.

“We are in a time of war. These are combatants, some of whom have already admitted war crimes. If there is a trial, the trial should be held before a military tribunal.”

LITERARY ALERT. The latest Vanity Fair book comes out next week. It’s called The Great Hangover: 21 Tales of the New Recession, from the Pages of Vanity Fair. Now available at better bookstores everywhere.


YENTABYTES AND SHIKSABYTES. For comic relief, check out my blog post from yesterday on VanityFair.com.

AFGHAN E-MAIL. This e-mail comes from photographer Ed Grazda, who has been to Afghanistan 20 times as a working journalist and cultural observer: "i was just rereading [Jack Kerouac's] On the Road and came across this passage: 'When daybreak came we were zooming through New Jersey with the great cloud of Metropolitan New York rising before us in the snowy distance. Dean had a sweater around his ears to keep warm. He said we were a band of Arabs coming in to blow up New York......' "