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Posts Tagged ‘Laura Ling’



Press Clips: Reporting the Good, the Bad and da Ugly

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

megcarlyCalbuzz is happy to see the “national media” weigh in on California politics, and we’re always pleased to chat with our colleagues from DC and NYC when they’re gathering string and trying to figure out the lay of the land. But when they screw it up – especially after they’ve spoken with us – we find it annoying.

Thus it was with the Wall Street Journal’s  “California GOP Pins Hopes on Ex-CEOs” — which was thrown together mid-week, on-the-fly and then, we’re told, slashed before making print.

By writing that “many in the party are pegging their hopes on two former corporate chief executives: Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina,” reporter Jim Carlton gave the WSJ headline writers free rein to suggest Meg and Carly are the great hopes for the future of the California GOP. This is exactly the story eMeg and Hurricane Carly wanted to spin and — in our humble opinion — puts the cart way before the horse. Maybe that’s the story Carlton’s editors wanted, but we’re not convinced that it reflects what we sometimes refer to as “actual reality.”

What’s the evidence, for example, for the assertion that “The star power of both CEOs is likely to give them some momentum.”? Clearly the WSJ didn’t check the clips for the March Field Poll in which 17% of Republicans had a favorable view of Whitman, 11% unfavorable and 72% no opinion. Fiorina’s standing was 24% favorable, 17% unfavorable and 59% no opinion — also among Republicans. That’s not momentum or star power. To suggest otherwise is to swallow the swill peddled by Whitman and Fiorina spinners.

And here’s a neat writing trick: the piece posed “political observers” who say Meg and Carly’s business credentials could be helpful to them (on one side) versus (on the other side) “Democratic strategists” who say they come from a reviled class of CEOs. That’s a loaded match-up — positing neutral observers against partisans.

Especially since at least one neutral “political observer” the WSJ talked to (we name no names) made the point that being a business leader in this economic and political climate is a tremendous deficit for any candidate, Republican or Democrat. Also, eMeg and Hurricane Carly are from the same party as the governor whose approval rating is about 30% at a time when about 80% of voters say the state is on the wrong track.

And what, exactly, did this add to the conversation that it would qualify as a kicker quote?
“Whoever our candidates are,” says Mike Villines, former Republican leader in the Democrat-dominated state Assembly, “the key for Republicans in the state is definitely focused on winning.”

Why does any of this matter? Because unless reporters get it right, their clips create a body of “information” upon which more stories are built, getting it more and more wrong. There is no big flashing red light that pops up when the next reporter from out of town does a Google search on the California governor’s race. Up pops the WSJ story, with all its misstatements and misjudgments. This in turn can affect fundraising and momentum in the race itself. Thus, the spin works even if it doesn’t reflect “actual reality.” And this pisses off Calbuzz.

Late breaking P.S. (8:53 a.m.) The Journal this morning published this correction of the Carlton piece:  “Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard Co. chairman and chief executive who is exploring a run for the U.S. Senate in California, is pro-life on the abortion issue. A Saturday U.S. News article misstated her position as pro-choice.”

Back on the home front: Debra Saunders, our old pal who spins her own view at the Chron, would normally lean toward eMeg and Hurricane Carly, but you gotta give her big credit for taking them to task for being lousy citizens in her piece asking:  ”How do you run for California’s top political offices when you often have failed to vote yourself and have no political experience?”

conrad

He really IS a twit: Sam Stein and Ryan Grin have a first-rate takedown on Kent Conrad, Calbuzz’s least favorite U.S. Senator and the guy whose winning total in his last re-election wouldn’t be enough to get a seat on the L.A. Community College Board.

While Conrad loves to portray himself as some kind of deficit hawk hero on government spending, the Huffbloggers nail him for 1) opposing fiercely Obama’s bid to cut $10 billion in wasteful agriculture subsidies whose beneficiaries include constituents of Conrad’s, who get paid for not growing crops and; 2) enjoying nearly two million other reasons to fight against a public option and on behalf of private insurers to keep the health care status quo:

“Beyond ideology or pragmatism, however, the North Dakota Democrat has a pocketful of other reasons to oppose a public option. Despite being from a state where campaigns cost a relative pittance, Conrad has found himself the recipient of largess from a host of private actors with interests in the health care debate. Over the course of his career he has received more than $828,000 from insurance companies, $610,000 from health professionals, and $255,000 from pharmaceutical and health product companies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.”

This is the guy who is one-sixth of the Senate Finance Committee that’s holding health care reform hostage. Hailing from such politically important places as North Dakota, Montana and Maine, the six-pack deciding the future of America’s medical treatment collectively represent 2.77 percent of the U.S.population. Sheesh.

Prince Gavigavinmicrophonen gets good ink: It was a good media week for wannabe governor Gavin Newsom, who got a whole bushel of huzzahs from a trio of UC Berkeley eggheads, who’ve studied San Francisco’s universal health care program and gave it high marks in a NYT op-ed.

While it’s always nice to have the chrome domes on your side, we expect Newsom and chief henchman Garry South were even more thrilled at the major props thrown his way on health care by our blogging colleagues at the AFL-CIO.

On the other hand, those polls by Jim Moore and David Binder, reported in the Chronicle, where Newsom is losing within San Francisco to Crusty the General Jerry Brown: OY! At least former SF Mayor Dianne Feinstein had a base in her home town when she set out to win the Democratic nomination for governor back in 1990.

Big picture guy: Nice work by New America Foundation scholar and sometime Calbuzzer Mark Paul, who has a first-rate, big picture takeout on the collapse of California in the new issue of The American Interest. Paul covers a lot of familiar ground with clarity and punch, and adds an intriguing new element to the debate about the awful woes of the Golden State:

omarlittle

“California is no longer a state of arrival. Population growth by natural increase now outpaces migration by three to one. Californians, especially the native born and the young, are less likely to migrate than the residents of all but three other states. By the time today’s California youth reach middle age, native-born Californians will make up the state’s majority for the first time in its history…Middle Americans who once thought of ‘California’ as a byword for ‘opportunity’ now see it as a signal of dysfunction.”

As the late great Omar Devone Little would say, “In-deed.”

Hold the parade: While Laura Ling and Euna Lee have been celebrated in the U.S. as journalistic heroes since their release from North Korea, there’s a group of human rights advocates, bloggers and Christian pastors in South Korea who aren’t exactly feeling the same way.

The Times reports that a number of human rights and religious workers trying to help North Korean refugees, the story Ling and Lee were trying to cover when they were arrested, say the pair “needlessly endangered the very people they tried to cover, North Korean refugees and the activists who help them.”

South Korean blogger Joo Sung-ha, a North Korean defector who works in Seoul as a newspaper  reporter,  “berated the American reporters, urging them to ‘shed their martyrdom image.’ In a separate interview, Mr. Joo said he was also ‘disgusted’ by the way ‘some American media are giving them some kind of hero’s welcome home.’”

Since their return,” he added, ‘they haven’t said a peep about the fate of the people they have endangered, though unintentionally.’” So much for happy endings.

Expert: How Lee-Ling Saga Affects US-Korea Affairs

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

KimBy Evan Wagstaff
Special to Calbuzz

Kim Jong-Il got “100 percent” of what he wanted from the imprisonment and release of California journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who were held merely as “bargaining chips,” according to the author of a new book on North Korean labor camp conditions.

But the United States also benefited by sending former President Bill Clinton to bring home Lee and Ling, said Associate Professor Suk-Young Kim, of U.C. Santa Barbara, author of Long Road Home: Testimony of a North Korean Camp Survivor. The U.S.  gain was an improvement in relations,  she said.  “There’s something to be gained for North Korea and the U.S.”

Professor Kim said it is unlikely the North Korean government ever meant to imprison the two, who were released last week to Clinton, followed by a joyous homecoming at Burbank airport.

“I think North Korea’s plan was not to keep them, but use them as part of a bargain to ease the tense relationship between North Korea and the US,” she said. “North Korea tried to use them as bargaining chips, and I think they got 100% out of that bargain. They wanted to say, ‘We’re not that crazy, we’re reasonable people; if you listen to our Kim-Jong-Il101voice we’re willing to cooperate with you.’”

Dr. Kim’s book, released in June, is based on her interviews and conversations with Kim Yong, the first known survivor of a North Korean labor camp, which she describes as a “death camp.” The book recounts Kim Yong’s experience as a dedicated lieutenant colonel in the North Korean military until he was accused of treason and sentenced to Camps 14 and 18, where he spent six years.

Lee and Ling were both sentenced on June 4 to 12 years’ hard labor at such a camp for purported “hostile acts,” after being captured in March for allegedly entering North Korean territory while researching a story on political refugees for the cable network Current TV. They were released shortly after Clinton’s arrival in North Korea.

Professor Kim said that beyond its intention to reach a global audience with the dramatic release of the journalists, the government also used Clinton’s visit for internal political purposes, as a self-glorifying rallying call, trumpeted by the North Korean media, to bolster its image as an international power player.

“When there is a foreign dignitary that visits, North Koreans conduct political education sessions,” she said. “Clinton would have shown the political clout of Kim Jong-Il to the North Korean people, who would’ve likely been told that even a great leader of imperial America like Clinton has come to pay respect to the dear general.”

She also said that the American media greatly oversimplifies issues relating to North Korea. For example, she said, Kim Yong has expressed a desire to return to his home country, even though he was severely punished by the government he spent his life serving. Professor Kim said that while the former prisoner would like to see the North Korean government collapse, he still feels an an important connection to the North Korean people.

“If you talk to people who lived in North Korea, it opens up your view beyond what you hear on Fox News or CNN,” she said. “It’s a human society just as complex and twisted as the US or South Korea or elsewhere. The American media for the most part only shows one story consistently, and it’s a story of failure. That’s the way America is portrayed in North Korea and I don’t think Americans would like that.”

Relations between the U.S. and North Korea have long been strained. In April, North Korea attempted to launch a three-stage long range rocket; this was followed by a successful nuclear test in May. Both actions came in defiance of international warnings and past agreements. Also, North Korea has insisted that it would reprocess nuclear fuel rods for the purpose of creating a nuclear arsenal.

Dr. Kim said that the recognition on the international stage the North Korea gained from the Lee-Ling saga could prove very important in repairing the broken relations with the U.S.

“This was a way to ease up that tension, to sit down with Clinton face to face and jump start those relations that have deteriorated,” Kim said.

“Although I understand it is a harsh and terrible regime, if we want to improve our relations with North Korea, we should talk to them and deal with them with patience. It doesn’t mean I endorse what they do, but there is no other way than to engage with them and Clinton’s visit is a good example. It yielded positive results.”evan

Calbuzz intern Evan Wagstaff is Opinion Editor of The Daily Nexus at UCSB.

Press Clips: Why Is NPR in Thrall to Prince Gavin?

Friday, August 7th, 2009

newsom_2_JPGWe were floored to listen to Madeleine Brand’s nine-minute story on the California governor’s race on NPR on Tuesday. Not because that’s a huge amount of time to spend on the race — which it is — but because half the damn thing consisted of an interview with Gavin Newsom (she didn’t interview any other candidates).

The piece also included an interview with the Chron’s Carla Marinucci, whose comments were edited so her money quote cast the race exactly the way  Newsom and his strategist, Garry “Svengali” South, want to define it: as a “generational contest.” Whether Prince of Prides Newsom can succeed in cubbyholing Crusty the General Jerry Brown as a drooling geezer seems to Calbuzz a dubious proposition, at best.

What we found most interesting in the NPR piece was Newsom’s decision to underline strongly his claim to fame as the No. 1 advocate for gay marriage, after  downplaying it in recent months; when Calbuzz asked him about it in March, for example, he said, “People, from my perspective, have really moved on . . . The new realities of the economy are much more pressing in people’s minds.”

But on NPR, he not only embraced his role on the issue, but reveled in it. For the record, he said: “There are certain fundamental values that I hold dear and there are principles that I’ll fight for. I believe in equality. It’s not just a slogan; it’s not just rhetoric. Actually, I want to champion it, I want to fight for it. I’m someone who just doesn’t believe separate is equal . . . I won’t equivocate.”

burningpapersThe decline and fall of practically everything: Thanks to our friend Alan Mutter over at Reflections of a Newsosaur for pointing us to an excellent post at Content Bridges that provides the first quantitative analysis of the journalistic impact of all the financial cuts in the newspaper industry.

The site is operated by former Knight-Ridder guru Ken Doctor, who put together stats on the number of journalism jobs slashed by daily newspapers – 8,500 in the last two years alone – and reductions in pages devoted to news – an estimated half of the 40 percent decline in newsprint usage – to calculate a loss of 828,000 news stories a year, “neither written nor read,” as Doctor put it.

It’s easy enough to trash newspapers and those who run them, and Lord knows Calbuzz does our share, for being arrogant, out of touch and slow off the mark to adjust to the wacky world of the web. But 828,000 fewer stories means that people across the nation know a helluva’ lot less about what’s going on in city halls, cop shops, courtrooms, school boards and state capitals than they did just a few years ago. And that ain’t good for the public interest, no matter how clueless some newspaper editors may be.

P.S. The big buzz in the news industry this week was Aussie press baron Rupert Murdoch’s announcement that he intends to start charging readers for content on all web sites of his far-flung News Corp. empire.

difipencilNext up – podcasting with Dianne: Check your thesaurus for an antonym for “blogger,” and you’ll find a big picture of Dianne Feinstein; California’s straight-laced Senator is just about the purest antithesis imaginable of the pajamadin.

So Calbuzz was shocked the other day to find Difi joining the likes of Alec Baldwin, John Waters and Nora Ephron in Arianna’s lineup of celebrity bloggers over at the Huffington Post.

No doubt, Herself’s piece on warrantless wiretaps was Really Important but still: She managed in a single post to  a) put everyone to sleep from the start by employing the dreaded historical lede –- 2 ½ paragraphs worth of it; b) leave us scratching our heads about her central point by omitting the crucial nut graf, and c) churn out a thicket of verbiage as impenetrable as a Brillo pad, laced with bureaucratic Beltway-speak like this:

“Initially, the OLC based its opinion on the president’s inherent constitutional authorities as Commander-in-Chief. Subsequently, the OLC shifted its rationale to rely upon the Authorization for the Use of Military Force…”

Memo to Dianne: Don’t quit your day job.

mouthpiece

Not exactly “Frontline”: Class act kudos to Chris Cillizza of “The Fix,” for graciously extracting himself from “Mouthpiece Theatre,” the WashPost’s dreadful experiment in multi-media infotainment.

For the past several months, Cillizza served as sidekick to the spectacularly unfunny Post humor writer Dana Milbank in an online video schtick called “Mouthpiece Theatre” in which the two donned smoking jackets, wielded pipes and parodied political pundits, playing it for yuks, which were few and far between.

Last week, they keyed off Obama’s “beer summit” with Harvard Professor Henry Lewis Gates and the Cambridge cop who arrested him, assigning several dozen obscure brands of beers to various politicians; the creaky episode collapsed completely when they put up a photo of Hillary Clinton and Milbank suggested she should drink “Mad Bitch” beer, a crack that earned the players and their paper widespread condemnation in media, political and feminist circles.

Over at the Columbia Journalism Review’s site, Megan Barber wrote:

“One wonders how much of the Post staff’s time and resources were devoted to researching, writing, staging, shooting, and editing such an extraordinarily value-free contribution to the annals of political commentary. Milbank and Cillizza are no Stewart/Colbert—they’re not even Letterman/O’Brien—not only because they’re simply not as funny, but because their status as (ostensibly) reporters means that they owe us more than lame-puns-for-the-sake-of-lame-puns, as per the typical humor of late-night TV.”

In a substantially lighter vein, comic Andy Cobb did a terrific You Tube send-up of the show

On Wednesday, media writer Howard Kurtz broke the news that the suits at the Post had pulled the plug on “Mouthpiece Theatre.” Cillizza, to his credit, made a clean breast of things on his blog.

The smug,  self-absorbed, fratboy Milbank also apologized in Kurtz’s piece, kinda, sorta but did so in a predictably self-serving way:

“It’s clear there was an audience for it out there, but not large enough to justify all the grief. My strength is in observational, in-the-field stuff, and that’s what I should do. I’m sorry about the reaction it’s caused but I think it’s important to experiment. The real risk to newspapers is not that they take too many risks, but that they don’t take enough risks.”

Calbuzz decoder ring translation: The little people just aren’t smart enough to appreciate my genius.

lingand leeLee and Ling and One Limp Neo-Con: Like all journalists, Calbuzz felt great concern about Euna Lee and Laura Ling and, back in June, offered space to Betty Medsger to advocate on their behalf. So we were delighted when former president Bill Clinton was able to bring them home from North Korea the other day. It was a wonderful exercise of personal diplomacy with the nutcase Kim Jong Il, who was most likely confused about whether he was posing for snaps with Clinton or Elvis, his one true hero.bolton Anyway, we were jazzed by the release of the two journos.

So when former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton immediately declared that the successful mission actually was “a classic case of rewarding bad behavior,” we just had to make a note — of what a complete dick this guy is.

Fishwrap: eMeg Spends, Steve Spins, Sarah Pales

Friday, July 17th, 2009

megauctionThe road to Damascus: While the Capitol Knucklehead Patrol keeps flailing in their efforts to pass a new budget, Calbuzz — issue oriented and solution driven, as always –- experienced an epiphany about how to stem the tide of red ink: Let’s let eMeg do it.

The campaign of Republican wannabe governor Whitman –- aka The Political Consultant Relief Act of 2010 –- announced this week that the candidate had kicked another $15 million of her own dough into the race, bringing her self-contributions to $19 Large to date.

This works out to $123,376.62 per day (or $5,140.69 an hour) since announcing her candidacy in February, according to sources in the Calbuzz CFO’s office; at this rate, she can pay off the deficit in a jiffy * and save all of us a lot of trouble.

Whitman’s early embrace of the famed Governor Al Checchi strategy seems designed with two basic purposes: 1) to intimidate and demoralize the opposition and 2) to bypass the media, old and new, in controlling the message and introducing herself to voters through a no-doubt stirring set of TV spots, a movie that Californians have seen before but never really warmed to.

For Whitman, the first problem with her Checchi strategy is that one of her primary rivals is Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who made his own pile in Silicon Valley and who keeps assuring us that his campaign will be “fully funded”; in other words, even though he’s currently throwing around nickels like manhole covers, when the deal goes down, he’ll spend whatever it takes.

“This election isn’t an eBay auction and you can’t win by out-bidding your opponent,” cracked recently arrived Poizner flack Jarron Agen. “With the economy in a recession, our message to Meg is: don’t stop at $15 million, spend it all and do it locally.”

Meg’s second problem is that while she seems intent on running a saccharine, Morning in America campaign – “Young voters find inspiration, common ground at San Diego MEGa WOMEN event,” her treacly website proclaims this week – both Poizner and the earnest Tom Campbell seem determined to talk about issues that actually matter to GOP voters.

Poizner noticeably stepped up his substance quotient in recent days, picking a fight with Nancy Pelosi in a speech about water delivered in Firebaugh, which was aimed straight at the heart of the conservative base in the drought-stricken Central Valley, where he also picked up another half-dozen ham and egg endorsements from local mayors, supervisors and tax assessors.

Next he showed up at Thursday’s big meeting of the tax reform Commission on the 21st Century Economy in San Francisco to ally himself with Republican true believers of the Arthur Laffer jihadist brigade: “As Governor, I will cut taxes for Californians,” he said after testifying to the commission.

While his woefully unspecific blanket statement at first glance seems kinda silly, Poizner’s red-meat-and-potatoes pitch is less designed for subtlety and weed whackers than for seizing hearts and minds among the true-believing anti-tax Republican base.

*(Calbuzz truth squad: Actually, if eMeg keeps giving her campaign money at the current rate, she’ll spend about $57 million of her fortune by next November’s election. Our Green Eyeshade Division advises that paying off California’s $27 billion deficit would take her slightly longer – until July 17, 2606. And we’re pretty sure she doesn’t have that much.)

palin winkStop the presses: Sacramento is not the worst state capital in America. In fact, according to the National Journal’s analysis of “The Six Most Dysfunctional State Governments” in the nation, California comes in a sorry sixth, scoring only 6.25 points out of a possible 10, and trailing South Carolina, Alaska, Illinois, Nevada and New York.

The magazine rated states according to four critieria, and while we scored big in “Policy Challenges” (10) and “Leadership Problems (8),” we lagged far behind in “Criminality” (1) and “Media Circus” atmosphere (6). Calbuzz notes that four of the five states finishing in front have had recent sex scandals while Alaska has Sarah Palin’s ongoing snowbilly soap opera saga. Memo to Arnold and Co. — Let’s get busy up there.

Calbuzz gets results: The worst idea of the year , Sen. Leland Yee’s effort to take control of the University of California away from the Regents and give it to the Legislature has died a quiet death at least for this legislative session.  “I guess the Regents have pretty powerful friends, that’s all I can say,” said Yee, D-S.F. Or rational ones, anyway.lorettacycle

Inquiring minds want to know: If Loretta Sanchez — she of the wacky Christmas cards – were to give up her seat in Congress and get herself  elected to succeed Arnold, would she forego the Governor’s Mansion for the Playboy Mansion?

Follow that story: Latest on the effort to free San Francisco journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, imprisoned in North Korea, is here , here and here.

Blue Plate Special: The Parsky Commission — you know, the bi-partisan panel charged by the governor with coming up with a unified proposal to restructure California’s tax system — on Thursday decided to accept for study the proposals from liberals to be thrown into the mix along with proposals from conservatives already in the hopper.

This is a smart move by the commission, which will now ask the governor for an extension of its term for at least another 45 days or so. The current leaders of the Legislature have pledged that whatever single proposal comes out of this group will get a straight up or down vote in both houses — an unparalleled  opportunity for a group of politically  and economically savvy outsides to affect fundamental change in California. If they don’t blow it by failing to find a compromise set of ideas.

Help Free Euna Lee and Laura Ling

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

lingand leeCalbuzz is not given to campaigning or advocating.  But we got a letter the other day we want to pass along from our friend Betty Medsger, a writer and journalism education consultant based in New York, who is a former Washington Post reporter and founder of the Center for the Integration and Improvement of Journalism at San Francisco State University. Here’s what Betty wrote:

Until now, journalists, politicians and human rights activists – people who could have been expected to strongly plead for justice for Euna Lee and Laura Ling, the two American journalists who were imprisoned March 17 by the North Korean government and who have just been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor – have been rather silent.

Given the unpredictable qualities of North Korea leaders, it was assumed by many that silence was the preferred strategy in dealing with this humanitarian crisis. Even their employer – Current TV of San Francisco, which is partly owned by Al Gore – has been silent about the terrible plight of these journalists.

Silence didn’t work. It is clear now that voices are needed on behalf of  Euna and Laura.
Please get in touch with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and tell her the 3 a.m. phone call is ringing in her State Department office and that she needs to answer it with her strong will and determination.

Get in touch with your senator and congressional representative. Urge them to convince the Obama administration to engage in direct negotiations with North Korea for the release and return of these two young women. If you agree, please urge them to disengage this humanitarian case from other serious disputes our government has with North Korea. Urge them to demand that the Secretary of State or an emissary go to North Korea and conduct direct negotiations on behalf of Laura and Euna.

Get in touch with Al Gore. If you know anyone related to the Swedish government, encourage them – as a nation that already engages directly with North Korea – to be a more forceful advocate on behalf of Laura and Euna.

Much time has passed. Silence seldom is helpful, even – perhaps especially – when dealing with strange dictators. Please help break the silence and let North Korea know, through your representatives and anyone else you may know in a position of influence, that the injustice perpetrated against these journalists should end.

Many thanks,

Betty
Links with more information about this case are here and here.