David Kirkpatrick

December 10, 2008

Tweaking Kim Jong iL

Filed under: et.al., Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:30 am

Found this LA Times while checking out the Volokh Conspiracy. Very cool way to spread some truth and outside news to an imprisoned land.

From the link:

Lee, a compact man with thick black eyebrows and a baseball cap pulled low on his head, consults a compass for the precise launch direction, then double-checks his calculations on a map.

He attaches a plastic satchel packed with thousands of vinyl fliers. He sets the timer, and waits for the right wind gust.

The first balloon floats up silently, joining the plodding gray clouds on their easy drift toward North Korea. Lee takes pictures and says a few prayers aloud.

“No one can stop this,” he says. “These balloons fly under the radar. No one sees them. They’re perfect messengers.”

Lee is equal parts meteorologist, tinkering inventor and political dissident, a man obsessed by a singular goal: to spirit messages to those left behind in his native North Korea — 23 million countrymen living under the ironfisted rule of Kim Jong Il.

To reach the isolated society devoid of outside newspapers, radio and television, the 52-year-old defector uses a simple yet elegant method to fly under the radar of North Korean intelligence watchdogs: He sends millions of leaflets northward by way of his towering helium balloons.

In this high-tech age, the balloons have struck a nerve with Pyongyang and landed Lee and other launchers center-stage in the Korean peninsula’s high-wire political standoff.

Last week, North Korea cited Seoul’s inability to control the launches — by defectors and a handful of civic groups — as a major reason to again close its border, banning tourists and reducing trade.

Tensions between the two Koreas have risen in the last year, especially after the February election of conservative Lee Myung-bak as South Korean president. The administration of Lee, who is a hard-liner on Pyongyang, says it is helpless to stop the launches.

Analysts say the leaflets are written in simple language by former North Koreans who intimately know the North’s culture and which political buttons to press.

December 9, 2008

Tribune Co. files Chapter 11

I’ve blogged on the new troubles facing the newspaper industry (and post itself is on the ailing NYT) here, and left this bit of news out of the post — Tribune Co., publisher of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times has filed for bankruptcy protection.

Blame this problem on Sam Zell being a real estate guy (read: asshole until proven otherwise) and not a media guy. He was buying assets and not intellect. That might be the key to old media’s malaise right there.

That problem can even be traced back to the failed AOL/Time Warner merger. Everyone wanted to get into assets and not intellect. Time Warner lost its way and AOL brought hot air to the table.

Zell bought what he thought was an asset to leverage, but the reality was he bought brands and smarts. Real estate investors getting into new fields almost always blow the deal and lose money. Just look at Virgin Entertainment right now and REIT Richard Branson sold out to. That whole process is a slow-moving train wreck.

Big names in trouble here: Tribune in Chapter 11 and the New York Times has mortgaged its building for cash. I’m a huge fan of business and no fan of regulation, but something is quite rotten in Denmark, so to speak.

You’ll get no argument from me that this financial crisis is the result of something being majorly broken in our system. My money’s on high finance being a delicately balanced house of cards that became too tall and too greedy. Something of a modern-day tower of Babel in numbers.

From the second link:

Tribune Co, which owns eight major daily newspapers and several television stations, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after collapsing under a heavy debt load just a year after real estate mogul Sam Zell took it private.

Like other big U.S. newspapers, Tribune is under pressure from declining advertising revenue and circulation as more people get news online and as companies cut their marketing budgets because of the economy.

The Tribune Co‘s financial condition is symptomatic of the ills that plague the newspaper industry,” said Jerome Reisman, a bankruptcy attorney with Reisman, Pierez & Reisman.

Tribune’s bankruptcy filing is the latest chapter in the unraveling of the leveraged buyout boom which saw many companies bought by private equity firms and other investors ending up with massive debt loads.

Zell loaded up the privately held publisher with about $8 billion in additional debt when he took the company private in a transaction largely financed by company contributions to an employee stock option plan.

April 4, 2008

The supers make a break for Obama

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:53 pm

The superdelegagte attrition has been ongoing in terms of supers openly endorsing Obama over Clinton, and in some cases switching to Obama’s camp. With the Pennsylvania vote looming, and Obama gaining in those polls, it looks like the supers are ready to join his team in larger numbers.

From the second link:

WASHINGTON — Nearly three weeks remain before the next Democratic primary, but the results are rolling in from another part of the presidential contest — and they signify trouble for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Democratic Party officials and insiders known as superdelegates are jumping to Barack Obama’s camp or signaling that’s where they are headed, including such prominent figures as former President Jimmy Carter. Some superdelegates who back Clinton have begun laying out scenarios under which they would abandon her for Obama.

“My children and their spouses are pro-Obama. My grandchildren are also pro-Obama,” Carter told a Nigerian newspaper during a visit to Africa. “As a superdelegate, I would not disclose who I am rooting for, but I leave you to make that guess.”

Clinton trails Obama in fundraising and in the total number of delegates awarded in state primaries and caucuses. One bright spot for her campaign had been the quest for superdelegates — the nearly 800 elected officials and Democratic activists who are not bound by election results and are free to vote at the party’s nominating convention for the candidate of their choice.

Because neither Clinton nor Obama may emerge from the primary season with enough elected delegates to lock down the nomination, the endorsements by superdelegates could be the key to victory.

And recently, more superdelegate support has been going Obama’s way.