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Sunday: Lori, Noam, Libya and Paywalls


Lorenda Starfelt passed away last Tuesday.  She was 56.  Her death was announced by her husband Brad Mays yesterday on Correntewire where Lori posted under the name Basement Angel.  Long time readers of this blog will remember Brad and Lori as the filmmakers who documented the dispossessed of the 2008 primary elections.  I met them on several occasions.  Brad was a loose cannon and Lori was his voice of moderation.  She was beautiful with a dazzling smile and captivating eyes.  Brad says she died of uterine cancer that had spread to her liver.  I never knew she was sick.  I am very sorry to hear that she has died.  Her voice will be missed.

Lori intuitively understood the people who defected the Democratic party for the Tea Party.  She knew that racism had very little to do with it.  She knew that the Tea Party is rallying its supporters with false messages but at least it gives them answers.  The Democrats have abandoned its base, liberals and working class and the well educated unemployed.  We shouldn’t be surprised that the movement conservatives behind the Tea Party are picking some of them up.  In one of her last posts at Corrente, she posted this clip from an interview that the Commonwealth Club did with Noam Chomsky:

I have mixed feelings about Noam.  I can’t argue with the points he made in this segment.  He understands the way the powerful elite has used language to pit the working people of the world against each other while they make off with the loot.  And he’s right to criticize those of us on the left for failing to get our act together to deliver a different message.  But in an ironic way, he’s part of the problem.  For all of his justifiable criticism of the failures of the Obama administration, which he must known were coming if he was paying attention to the language of Obama’s 2008 campaign, he was willfully blinded to considering any of the other Democratic candidates as better options.  He didn’t like any of them, he says.  Noam reminds me of the people back in 2000 who thought there was no difference between Republicans and Democrats.  Well, there isn’t much difference now but back then there was.  Maybe Bill Clinton didn’t turn out to be the uber liberal that Chomsky and others like him were hoping for but there was a world of difference between him and the Republicans.  In the same manner, there was a world of difference between the top two Democrats who ran.  One lead from deeply held left of center principles; the other was just a brand who walked and talked like the finance industry that footed the bill for his campaign.  The difference between them had everything to do with who was backing them.  (Next time, pay attention.)

Noam’s weakness seems to be that he’s stuck in the 60’s, reliving the civil rights movement, Cold War and Vietnam.  Sometimes, I just want to smack him.  No one likes war and no one on welfare would prefer it to a well paying job.  The last thing we should do to help people on welfare is make it necessary for them to receive it.  Has he forgotten that poor people on welfare tend to live in the low rent parts of town, because that’s all they can afford?  That concentrations of poor people tend to perpetuate generational poverty, substandard educations and hopelessness?  No, Noam, we don’t want that.  We want government to help poor people by helping them get jobs.  There is a role for government but welfare isn’t a goal.  It’s a stop gap on the way to something better.

What would Noam think of the air strikes on Libya?  For the most part, he’s right about the unnecessary wars we’ve been saddled with.  Iraq was a sham that many Americans were tricked into pursuing.  But the war in Afghanistan?  I’m sorry, we needed to go into Afghanistan after 9/11.  The fact that the Bush administration screwed up the country after the invasion does not alter the necessity of going there.  A country can’t allow a ragtag group of terrorists to attack it and then turn the other cheek.  It sends a bad signal to the rest of the world, which despite our civilizing evolution of the past century is still barely holding itself in check from ripping itself to pieces for power and natural resources.

This morning, we  joined the French and other countries in attacking Libya as an impressive cultural shift continues to ripple across north Africa and the middle east.  Radio Free Europe sums it up:

The British and U.S. strikes came after French warplanes fired the first shots on March 19, destroying government tanks and armored vehicles in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

The campaign, called “Odyssey Dawn,” currently involves forces and equipment from the United States, Britain, France, Canada, Italy, and Denmark. It is the biggest Western military intervention in the Arab world since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

It followed a decision on March 19 in Paris by Western and Arab leaders to enforce a UN no-fly zone over Libya in order to prevent Gaddafi from carrying out attacks on civilians and opposition forces.

In an audio message broadcast on state TV, the 68-year-old Qaddafi remained defiant, saying he was prepared to defeat the Western forces in what he said would be a “long, glorious war.”

“You are unjust, you are the aggressors, you are beasts, you are criminals. Your countries are against you. There are protests everywhere in Europe, in America against the steps you’re taking against the innocent Libyan people,” Qaddafi said. “The people are with us, even your people are with us. All the people on Earth are against you. You will fail like how Hitler failed, Napoleon failed, Mussolini failed. All tyrants fall under the feet of the people. This is the era of the people and the great [Qaddafi] revolution.”

Uh-huh.  Maybe Qaddafi should cut back on the hot sweet tea.

If you are a person of principle, ideally, you want to allow the peoples of these countries to determine for themselves what their government should be and encourage them from the sidelines.  But the possibility that civil unrest threatens to destabilize the world’s economies might also make you want to act when a divided country starts to spiral out of control towards years of violence.  Better to pick a side, preferably the anti-dictatorship one, and aid it.  In this case, timing is everything.  Be swift and thorough.

I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to decide which American politician has been the driving force behind arguing for and assembling the allies for an air strike.  Hint: Ditherers don’t do it.  Unfortunately, unbiased reporting on foreign policy at the NYTimes is spotty, which brings me to the paywall issue announced last week.

While I admit to being a regular NYTimes reader, lately, I have been disappointed and a little shocked by what I read there.  Last week’s coverage of Japan’s struggle with their nuclear reactors was breathless and hyperbolic while reports of the dead, missing and displaced was muted.  For the “paper of record”, it was disgraceful.  Meanwhile, anti-government bias there is becoming obvious.  Maybe the editors aren’t aware of the degree to which they have conformed to the anti-government point of view.  But today, their blurb on the frontpage to their editorial on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget parrots the movement conservative line that “Governor Cuomo is right to argue for spending cuts” even while it laments that the wealthy in the state are not going to be compelled to cough up more in taxes. Who decided that the spending cuts are the right thing to argue?  Did we poll the residents of New York, consult with leading economists, call up some historians?  And this article on the sea walls of Japan that didn’t hold back the tsunamis is just downright bizarre.  Not only is the “government programs are wasteful; private industry initiatives are dazzlingly perfect!” messaging obvious, it’s worked into the piece in particularly awkward ways.  It’s almost like the editors took the original writing from the bureau in Japan and made it work for the Goldman Sachs readers.  Sometimes, I read an article and think *I* could have written it.  Recent writing in the NYTimes doesn’t have the same quality as it did even a couple of years ago.  The prose seems clumsy and amateur, even a little bit dumbed down.

So, while I love Paul Krugman and will find a way to get my fix, I’m not inclined to pony up more money for a paper that seems to be evolving towards the clueless “creative class” readers and Wall Street crowd.  For one thing, soon I won’t be getting a steady paycheck so wasteful government spending in my house is strictly forbidden by real budgetary constraints.  Besides, it’s not like the NYTimes has gone out of its way to cover those of us educated unemployed or working class stiffs.  The union busting moves in Wisconsin were definitely downplayed and even Krugman is puzzled over the way we, the degreed unemployed, are being ignored and forgotten.

The NYTimes is marginalizing itself.  It’s becoming a paper for Mike Bloomberg types and their minions.  The little people who still get the “dead tree” version will have access at no additional charge but if you have internet access, why the heck would you get a hard copy?  It just piles up in the recycling bin.  And if you’re not printing on as much paper, why charge $15.95/month for the electronic version?  Presumably, with the exception of the bandwidth, the costs of printing the paper have gone down.  Is the NYTimes just following the herd of other corporations that have given in to MBAs and consultants who don’t know the business they are asked to manage?  Cater to the money and tell them what they want to hear.  Screw the news, even if it is your core business.  By the time journalism is just a fleeting memory at the NYTimes, the business guys will have taken the money and run.

The NYTimes lost my subscription with the Judy Miller incident.  They’re not getting it back simply because they have international news bureaus, especially if those news bureaus can’t write what’s going on without passing through a political filter.  I’ll have to get my news from more international sources from now on.

Thank goodness Brooke is a budding polyglot.

50 Responses

  1. I am so sorry about Lori’s death. My family has been touched again and again by cancer and I have some idea about what Brad is going through now. Except that the stunning swiftness of her illness makes it much, much worse than anything I’ve experienced.

    My thoughts are with Brad and Lori today.


    I’m deeply skeptical about this intervention — at this point any intervention. I’m skeptical about the moral imperative (why there and now?) and skeptical of our ability to get out in a timely manner.

    At best, I’m ambivalent about US intervention, so maybe my opinion is questionable.

    • Yes, cancer is dismal. I’ve seen it up close as well. I was really hoping to put a dent in it before my job was eliminated.

      As for intervention, we’re not putting any troops on the ground. There’s no “getting out”. I think of it as tilting the scales in favor of the rebels. Why would you do that? To me it suggests that maintaining the momentum of the rebel group could tip things in their favor.

      Besides, the French, Canadians and Danes are in on this one. Hardly the militant types.

      On one of those links it says that Hillary may be motivated by what happened in Rwanda in the 90s when the Big Dawg didn’t step in.

      • Excellent post. People talk about the necessity of boots on the ground. Most never acknowledge that we already have boots on the ground in what was a strong rebel group. All boots are not US military boots.

        Perhaps we’re doing what GHW Bush should have done in ’91, when the Iraqi people rebelled at his suggestion. Instead of letting this dictator crush the rebellion, we seem to be helping this time.

        When the action is led by France, with Denmark, Canada, Spain, Italy, and 4 or 5 Arab countries signing on, it may be the right thing to do for a change.

      • Sorry but I don’t believe this has anything to do with saving civilian lives. If the French cared so much they would have done something about Yemen, Bahrain North Korea.
        Oil is the major difference. France imports 60% of its oil from Libya.

        • I didn’t say the French weren’t motivated.
          But this is a chance to help the libyans take out Qaddafi. Remember the Lockerbee bombing?
          Now, what if we got involved in Bahrain and Yemen and everywhere else? At what point would we be protesting that we should let these people work it out for themselves? You can’t always get what you want. And we don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors. I remember watching the brutal night at tahrir square in Cairo and thinking, how can we stand by and not interfere?
          The whole region is important. Bahrain and Yemen no less than Libya. Where oil is not produced, the oil passes by. I don’t like the oil economy any more than you do. But we can’t bring the world’s economies to a halt.

          • Libya shouldn’t be treated any different than Bahrain or Yemen but this is the case. All I see is double standards. Either apply the same rules to all countries or don’t. Don’t the people of Bahrain need help too? What about the Tibetans? There are also the Sudanese in Dafur. Control of Libya’s oil is the driving force nothing else. This won’t end well. Libya is a tribal state. Another Iraq in the future.

          • Like I said, we don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors. But where do you draw the line? How many countries do we need to police? FWIW, I think there are two reasons for air striking Libya that give it a temporary edge over Bahrain and Yemen, etc. They are oil and the pending humanitarian disaster. Personally, I would love to see the world move away from an oil based economic model. But that’s not going to happen this week. Instead, oil prices and the cost of everything that needs to be transported, are going to rise like they have recently. Financial speculators are going to milk this crisis for all that it’s worth knowing that if they get in over their heads, the governments will bail them out. I don’t like that idea, do you? For all we know, the people screaming loudest about the strikes are the ones who have the biggest stakes in the profits at the expense of everyone else in the world. The economy isn’t great now. Why make it worse with energy induced inflation?
            The humanitarian issue could be significant. While Sudan, as bad as it had been has been very bad indeed, it’s somewhat isolated. The protests in the north African and Arab countries has been described as a sort of Enlightenment period for this region’s peoples. They missed out on it during the 18th century. Now is their time. if The dictators win, we’ll still have to deal with these countries for oil but they’ll still be corrupt dictators, choking their peoples’ future and nursing hotbeds of fundamentalism and distrust of the west. Is that what we want?

          • Anti-American Extremists Among Libyan Rebels U.S. Has Vowed To Protect

            WASHINGTON — In 2007, when American combat casualties were spiking in the bloodbath of the Iraq War, an 18-year-old laborer traveled from his home in eastern Libya through Egypt and Syria to join an al Qaeda terrorist cell in Iraq. He gave his name to al Qaeda operatives as Ashraf Ahmad Abu-Bakr al-Hasri. Occupation, he wrote: “Martyr.’’

            Abu-Bakr was one of hundreds of foreign fighters who flocked into the killing zones of Iraq to wage war against the “infidels.” They came from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Oman, Algeria and other Islamic states. But on a per capita basis, no country sent more young fighters into Iraq to kill Americans than Libya — and almost all of them came from eastern Libya, the center of the anti-Gaddafi rebellion that the United States and others now have vowed to protect, according to internal al Qaeda documents uncovered by U.S. intelligence.


          • I guess that makes it ok to take no action and let the Libyans go it alone.
            In a way, that piece reinforces what I just said. If you have a brutal dictator that it looks like the west has been tolerating for the past 40 years, what can you expect but that the disadvantaged develop a very negative impression of the west and tuen to fundamentalism? What better way to turn that around than to give the rebels a fighting chance? Are we saying that the Egyptians were all well motivated democratically minded citizens fighting for freedom from oppression and poverty but that libyan rebels are all crazy radicals with no legitimate grievances? Because that would be very depressing.
            You know, I’m beginning to get a very weird feeling about all of the opposition from the left to these airstrikes. Something about it doesn’t feel right.

          • Well, I don’t know about the rest of the left but, my opposition/skepticism comes from a reluctance to get involved stemming from our experience of getting sucked into seemingly endless wars. We didn’t start out as involved in Vietnam as it ended.. our mission was expanded.

            Also, it feels rushed. Obama didn’t even take the time to come home to talk to Hillary (or anyone else) in person. Was Congressional Leadership consulted?

            Maybe something doesn’t feel right to you about my opposition. That’s fair enough. But, I know what I’m thinking. And I’m worried.

            Also, (to be honest) envious — that we can be pushed into a war overnight but, the stuff I worry about here at home is Just Too Much To Deal With.

          • That’s not what I’ve been reading. It looks like Hillary, Samantha Powers and Susan Rice worked this out and Obama had to be dragged into it. The scope is limited to airstrikes. We’ve done this before without getting dragged into war. This time, we’re not going it alone. I don’t think this is anything like our more recent involvements in other wars.
            One other thing is that this is the beginning of the Persian new year and the start of spring. There’s probably more than a bit of psychological symbolism going on here.
            When even Desmond Tutu supports this action, it makes me wonder why we’re having such a hard time with it.

      • No, we’re really not the militant type and personally I’m torn about this intervention and about my country participating. Yet I’m satisfied that my government, for quite some time, has pushed for helping out the Lybian people, and that at least it was an unanimous decision by my Parliament; every party from the far right to the far left of the aisle voted for going in. For different reasons I’m sure but definitely not for the oil.

  2. but why are they saying not to take him out??

    • Would you prefer to take him out or have his people do it? Didn’t Goebbels say that the best way to get a people to rally is to make them believe they are being attacked? It works every time?
      I think you can see from qaddafi’s comments that thats where he’s heading. Better to let the rebels think you’re on their side but not doing the heavy lifting for them.

      • Well, when we took out Saddam Hussein it didn’t make much of a difference in Iraq.

        • And I think we all agree that going into Iraq was a pretty fricking stupid idea.

          • Absolutely.

            I really hope we don’t get an expanded mission in Libya….

          • Nah Gah Happen. The Republicans would have a royal shit fit. They’ve never turned down an opportunity to turn hypocrisy into a winning campaign theme.
            And Americans are tired of war. We’re so burned out on it that we can’t even support an airstrike like this one against the guy that blew up a jet over Scotland and has brutally suppressed his people for several decades. Bush screwed up so badly that we are paralyzed with fear of taking any action at all.

  3. I am so sorry about Lori’s death. I read her comments on Corrente and Alegre’s Corner. May she RIP.

  4. I agree with most of this post (I have a somewhat lower opinion of Chomsky I think) but on Libya, I think we should have either gone in when the rebels were winning, or not gone in at all. Intervention once they were clearly losing strikes me as high risk (though since Obama dithered his way into that choice, I can only hope for the best).

    • We’re not *in* Libya. We are participating in coordinated airstrikes with other European nations in order to protect Benghazi.
      I too hope for the best.

  5. I am going to miss her posts on Corrente. I lurk there sometimes and whenever there was a negative comment on Hillary, Lori was always there to defend her. I think her last post I read was on Alegre’s Corner, when she said that she cried after Hillary’s statement about being done with politics after the SOS gig.
    RIP Lori

    • Never say never. Hillary has chosen her words very carefully. I wouldn’t count her out. And I believe she has been very important to American foreign policy. If she leaves politics for good, she will be going out on a high note with the respect of many around the world.

  6. >We’re not *in* Libya. We are participating in coordinated airstrikes with other European nations in order to protect Benghazi.

    Unfortunately, once you use force, you often can’t keep it limited. Even without ground troops, there are many ways this can escalate, or alternatively, many ways we can fail to prevent the rebels from being defeated. Going in when Libya’s leader was tottering made sense; going in when he appears to have regained his balance is a much bigger risk. We’ve chosen to take that risk, but there is no point in pretending the odds this could go wrong are considerably higher now than they were if we’d acted sooner.

    • I don’t see us getting into a ground war in Libya. Very unlikely. Besides, you never know what kind of effect the airstrikes will have on the events in Libya. Wait and see. It was looking pretty grim for the Egyptians at one point too.

  7. and they voting today..yipee!!!! 🙂

  8. Digging at the grieving widower less than a week after he loses his beloved wife is really atrocious. Shame on you.

    • And how atrocious to use Lori’s death as an excuse to come here and dig at RD. Shame on you!

      • pfft. Nonsense. Despite your kneejerk defense of RD, you show much better instinct in your entirely appropriate and feeling comment below.

        • As if I need you to grade my comments! Pfftt!

        • Pips, I don’t know what difference it makes, and I neither know nor care which gender you are, but your blithely false assertion about mine is a bit vexing. I am going to use it, though, unashamedly:

          I am entirely a she, and two weeks ago was operated on for uterine cancer myself. It was caught blessedly early, and I am fine now, and grateful to have the opportunity to tell you all that if you have ANY unexplained spotting, discharge, or bleeding between periods, SEE YOUR GYNECOLOGIST ASAP.

          Lori was a terrific lady. It’s a huge loss to Brad and the world in general. I think we can forget our differences enough to agree on that.

    • No insult to Brad. He is what he is. Perceptive one minute, maddening the next. Lori kept him on the sane end of the spectrum. It was really a compliment to her.

  9. So sad to read about Lori’s death. I always very much enjoyed her comments at Corrente. Both they and her Gravatar gave a picture of a very strong woman with integrity and a heart. My deepest condolences to Brad, her family and friends. Yes, her voice will be missed.

  10. this is my take on this whole libya we did not need this
    it was a bad move we have 2 wars right now one with no end in site . they can call it what ever they want.no fly zone whatever it was an act of war .

    • and this ones is OBAMAS war . in note sure how but im sure the O-sheep will find a way to blame it on bush .

      • way to go Mr Nobel peace prize. as far no boots on the ground .1 plane gets shot down and yull see plenty of boots on the ground. this is about to get bad really bad. i think in a year we will be stuck in 3rd war . we we wish we never got into.

  11. Lori was a beautiful and capitvatingly intelligent woman. And very kind. I’m so sorry to hear this news. Thank you for posting it RD.

  12. Thank-you for continuing the discussion from one of Lorenda’s blog posts on Correntewire. If she is watching, which I hope she is, I’m sure that she’s very please, as am I.

    • Brad, Lori and you haven’t been far from my thoughts since I heard of her shocking death. I am very, very sorry.

      • Thank-you, katiebird. Lorenda always spoke very well of you. I’ve cared pretty much nonstop for Lori since she was first diagnosed in September. And while our relationship has always been strong and fulfilling, these past months have been intensely enriching. She was the love of my life, and I’m grateful for every second. This site once meant a great deal to her, so I appreciate the affection and respect she’s being shown.

        • Brad,

          I was so saddened to hear that Lori has left us. She was a special person who touched many lives, mine included, far more than she ever realized.

          I will never forget meeting Lori and you in Denver during that fateful and heartbreaking convention and now, my heart breaks again to hear of the passing of a great lady who presence and voice will be sorely missed, but not forgotten.

          My sincere condolences to you and Lori’s family for your great loss.

        • Brad, having seen you two together, I don’t think anyone could have any doubt about your mutual affection. You were really good to each other.
          I will miss her.

  13. Pleased. Me and my typos.

  14. Longtime lurker coming out to say how very sorry I am to hear of Lori’s passing. My deepest sympathies to Brad and all who knew and loved her. May she truly rest in peace.

    F#ck cancer….no wait…DOUBLE f#ck cancer!

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