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Posts Tagged ‘North Korea’



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.

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.