Lean in and be beheaded.

I’ve been reading the Jill Abramson story. That’s the New York Times editor who was abruptly cashiered today, or so the story is shaping up. I read the first news-alert piece today from the NYT, which called the transition “unexpected.” My first thought was, someone has cancer. But now it appears, via Ken Auletta at the link above, that it was a more prosaic reason:

As with any such upheaval, there’s a history behind it. Several weeks ago, I’m told, Abramson discovered that her pay and her pension benefits as both executive editor and, before that, as managing editor were considerably less than the pay and pension benefits of Bill Keller, the male editor whom she replaced in both jobs. “She confronted the top brass,” one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was “pushy,” a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect. Sulzberger is known to believe that the Times, as a financially beleaguered newspaper, needed to retreat on some of its generous pay and pension benefits; Abramson had also been at the Times for far fewer years than Keller, having spent much of her career at the Wall Street Journal, accounting for some of the pension disparity. Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times, said that Jill Abramson’s total compensation as executive editor “was directly comparable to Bill Keller’s”—though it was not actually the same. I was also told by another friend of Abramson’s that the pay gap with Keller was only closed after she complained. But, to women at an institution that was once sued by its female employees for discriminatory practices, the question brings up ugly memories.

Pushy. Well, that’s what leaning in will get you.

Abramson is a big supporter of the Knight-Wallace Fellows, and visited Ann Arbor when I was there. She’s smart and personable and has a truly distinctive voice, this sort of nasal New York drawl, if that makes sense. (You’ve heard of people who have “a face for radio?” Well, she has a voice for print, but she made a joke about it, so she gets points.) She answered every question directly and seemed truly comfortable in her skin. The Times had recently taken some flack about publishing photos from the horrible ambush of American contractors in Iraq in 2004, where the bodies were dragged and burned and hoisted up for public view like charred barbecue. She explained why they made the call they did. Beyond that, I don’t what to say other than she was right to point out the pay discrepancy.

You could make the argument that the NYT had been overpaying for a while, and it was just bad timing that Abramson took the editor’s job when the publisher decided the salary had to return to earth. But she was also underpaid when she was managing editor, and apparently there’s a deputy m.e. who earned more than she did. I have a feeling this is a more-will-be-revealed thing.

So. Many years ago, I made a dismissive remark about cats in a column. I’m not a cat hater, but I’ve never had one of my own, and I guess I fell for the cruel cat stereotype that they’re aloof and would happily watch their masters writhe on the ground in pain, asking only that the hoomin please leave some food out before heading to the hospital. I got a note for a woman who claimed her cat had awakened her — by jumping on her chest and meowing loudly — during a break-in at her house. I forget the cat’s name, but I did a hooray-for-Mr.-Jinxy column and that was that.

Evidently heroism runs in the gene pool. I had no idea.

Not much more to add today, but there’s this: The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad has three songs on Bandcamp, which you may listen to and download, if you’re so inclined. They were produced by my friend Jim Diamond, who did them gratis because he’s a mensch. He said they added some percussion in post, and Kate played the cowbell. “Move closer to the mic, Kate, I need more cowbell,” he said, noting that’s the first time he’s ever spoken those words in his career. It got a big laugh. I expect the DVAS won’t be to everybody’s liking, but I hope Borden digs ’em, because he knows his girl groups.

As for the lyrics, I have only this to say: Johnny Cash didn’t really shoot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.

Happy Thursday, all.

Posted at 12:31 am in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' |

25 responses to “Lean in and be beheaded.”

  1. Dexter said on May 15, 2014 at 1:57 am

    My cat Friendo chose us, four years ago. He began by walking with me and P-Dogg (Labbie) and Noelle (JR Terrier) on our midnight neighborhood pee-walk. Friendo would lean right into Noelle … Carla Lee (me mate) said “he thinks she’s his mom.”
    He came to the door and I’d not do anything with him at first, but he seemed hungry, a pack of food, then admission to the house, then a cat box ASAP, now he’s a special loving lap cat and I adore him. He’s neutered, he gets his shots, he’s well fed on fresh cooked chicken breast and a choice of several cat foods from the store. Once in a while he escapes out the door, but always comes back shortly after. His name? Thanks go to Joel and Ethan Coen; “Friendo” was what Anton Chigurh called the gas station guy who won the quarter-flip and so doing saved his own life in “No Country for Old Men”.

    And for MichaelG, if you feel up to it…a pictorial http://www.sfgate.com/sports/slideshow/Tour-of-California-rides-through-Bay-Area-85719.php

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  2. alex said on May 15, 2014 at 6:46 am

    Yay DVAS! I’m acquainted with quite a few young musicians who are a decade older than these ladies and aren’t nearly as polished or listenable. Chalk it up to good classical training, I suppose. You’ve gotta know the rules before you can break them to good effect.

    Obama’s presidency hasn’t forced the sort of healthy dialogue about race that some of us might have expected, and so I’m not optimistic that Hillary’s presidency is going to force the rabble to consider the existence of the sexual double standard so much as exercise it reflexively and thoughtlessly. The NYT just lost quite a bit more of its already fading luster and I’m probably never going to pay for a subscription again at this point.

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  3. beb said on May 15, 2014 at 8:27 am

    I wonder if Jill Abramson was sent an email notifying her that she was fired and given one box to fill with her personal possessions before being escorted out of the building? That seems to be the way people get fired these days. One minute you’re the King (or Queen) of the world and the next you’re a potential terrorist.

    “More cowbell!” Nancy for the thread win!

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  4. Deborah said on May 15, 2014 at 9:04 am

    The DVAS sound pretty darn good to me.

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  5. coozledad said on May 15, 2014 at 9:27 am

    “Cold feet” reminds me of XTC’s “Radios in Motion”. They’re very good. Lots of energy.

    I can see them making a steady club income off of their work. They’ll just have to hire some payment collection specialists.

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  6. Peter said on May 15, 2014 at 9:41 am

    ” a financially beleaguered newspaper..” Isn’t that being redundant?

    You know, I can relate to Ms. Abramson. Yes, print newspapers are looking more like they’re going the way of clay tablets, but being the editor of one of the top papers in the country ought to be worth something. AND:

    The article notes that she had far fewer years at the NYT, having come over from the WSJ – isn’t one of the mantras of the free enterprise crackpots that you need to switch jobs to get a big increase, that people who have long tenure are schmucks? WTF?

    Isn’t she the main force behind the NYT website, which is the moneymaker for the outfit? And isn’t another mantra of the Ayn Rand crowd that people who create wealth should be rewarded with wealth? And she gets – fired?

    I think before this is all out that this will be Lee Iococca vs. Henry Ford round 2

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  7. LAMary said on May 15, 2014 at 10:02 am

    I’ve had two cats who would fearlessly jump in to protect a friend, either human or animal. Amelia, the calico who is part of the feline trio in the house, has on more than one occasion jumped in between the dogs if Max decides he wants what Smokey has. Amelia weighs maybe six pounds. Max weighs about 140. He backs off immediately. I used to have a female Siamese who was very protective of me. She held stood her ground snarling at some Jehovah’s Witnesses once. I was on crutches at the door and they wouldn’t take a polite buzz off request so the cat had to step in.

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  8. Bob (not Greene) said on May 15, 2014 at 10:27 am

    They’ll just have to hire some payment collection specialists. <—– THIS

    Liked the third tune the best; Kate's bass line was up front, which is always nice for the bass player, and the wah-wah guitar was fun. Also, the song title sent me back. There was a band in Cleveland back in the mid-1980s called Oroboros. Actually, they were more of a Grateful Dead jam-type band. Where did they come up with that name? Anyway, good for Kate and the grrrrrls. Rawk on!

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  9. Bitter Scribe said on May 15, 2014 at 10:30 am

    As long as I’ve been aware of it, “pushy” was always an anti-Jewish stereotype. Now it’s apparently anti-woman as well. I guess slurs make progress along with everything else.

    I will never get tired of watching that cat body-slam that dog. One site, the LA Times I think, has it as a gif.

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  10. Dorothy said on May 15, 2014 at 11:12 am

    I loved seeing what the cat did, but I can’t stand seeing what the dog does to the little boy. It’s not bloody but just very disturbing to me, so seeing it a couple of times was plenty for me. The TODAY show had the family on this morning and the little boy slept soundly on his mom’s lap. It was, after all, 4:40 AM in Bakersfield when they were live from New York! Hope the family can capitalize on the cat’s notoriety and make some $$ from some endorsements.

    Dex I loved your story about how your cat came to live with you. It’s similar to our Lucy’s story. We don’t have a cool story to explain her name like you do, though. She just seemed like a Lucy to us. She’s a good conversationalist. Almost five years later Mike and I are still sometimes a little bit amazed that we became cat owners after 30+ years of having dogs.

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  11. Kirk said on May 15, 2014 at 11:14 am

    Bob(NG)@8: “The Worm Ouroboros” was the name of the first book of a fantasy trilogy that purported to be like “The Lord of the Rings.” I read it; it wasn’t in the same league.

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  12. Connie said on May 15, 2014 at 11:24 am

    The Ouroboros or Uroboros (/jʊərɵˈbɒrəs/; /ɔːˈrɒbɔrəs/, from the Greek οὐροβόρος ὄφις tail-devouring snake) is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail.

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  13. Bob (not Greene) said on May 15, 2014 at 11:34 am

    Kirk, Connie: Thanks! I was guessing it didn’t have anything to do with a bunch of old hippy dudes from Cleveland. I guess it’s part of the viper deal.

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  14. Deborah said on May 15, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    An Abramson piece from a few days ago, something I always think about since I walk so much.

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  15. Kath said on May 15, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Dorothy – did they say why they had two surveillance cameras trained on their yard? I’m assuming they’d had issues with this dog before or perhaps with its owners? The dog’s behavior reminded me more of a hyena than a household pet.

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  16. Joe Kobiela said on May 15, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    I checked out the tunes, impressive for highschool age, kinda a cross between the Detroit Cobras, and Joan Jets first band the Runaways.
    The gals should be proud.
    Pilot Joe

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  17. Dorothy said on May 15, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    I don’t believe they did, Kath, say anything about the reason for their having surveillance cameras. Maybe they were robbed once or something, and felt it would be to their benefit to have cameras. If they did say it, I wasn’t paying that close of attention to know why.

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  18. brian stouder said on May 15, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    So here’s a headline that caught my eye, especially given all the fire in San Diego –

    10,000 Gallons Of Oil Coat Los Angeles

    The lead:

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — Crews sopped up the remains of about 10,000 gallons of crude oil that sprayed into Los Angeles streets and onto buildings early Thursday after a high-pressure pipe burst. A geyser of crude spewed 20 feet high over approximately half a mile at about 12:15 a.m. and was knee-high in some parts of the industrial area of Atwater Village before the oil line was remotely shut off, said Fire Capt. Jaime Moore. A handful of commercial businesses near the border of Glendale was affected, as well as a strip club that was evacuated.

    Gotta love that evocative last sentence! Imagine the shank-of-the-evening buzz-kill that spraying-oil evacuation caused at the strip club.

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  19. Jenine said on May 15, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Page on the ouroboros myth: http://mythologian.net/ouroboros-symbol-of-infinity/. I think of it as part of the Norse myths with the snake biting its tail in a circle around the world, rather than a figure 8 infinity sign.

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  20. Dexter said on May 15, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    brian stouder: Did you see Rachel Maddow’s show last night? It was a primer and update on the horrible railroad spills of bad chemicals over the last 36 years.

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  21. brian stouder said on May 15, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    Dex – I did! Gotta love ol’ Rachel, really; she’s been on the “bomb train” story for the past month or more.

    And still – I’d take the trains over the massive pipelines, because one pipeline catastrophe will dwarf all of the train calamities combined, at once

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  22. beb said on May 15, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    “The Worm Ouroboros” is a challengingly written story but one I found worth reading. The title refers to how, at the end of the war, the winners feel empty and unfulfilled having nothing to do, so they wish for all the pieces to be set back up and the war begun again. So it becomes a neverending story.

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  23. paddyo' said on May 15, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Kath @15 and Dorothy @17:
    Maybe it’s the background buzz that Bakersfield, as part of California’s Central Valley axis of methamphetamine, has issues with all sorts of crime. I suppose it’s possible this homeowner is all camera’d up against that . . . or else maybe just all-around paranoid. Bakersfield, part of the Golden State terrain settled by Dust Bowl Okies, did have a big meth reputation some years back — a 2007 story in DC’s City Paper was nicely headlined, The Grapes of Meth . Maybe the city of Merl Haggard, Buck Owens and hard-country’s “Bakersfield Sound” still does . . . .

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  24. Deborah said on May 15, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    A good piece (I thought) about Abramson https://medium.com/theli-st-medium/fab78d0ef87d

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  25. Sherri said on May 15, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    You’d think, in today’s world, that it would make more sense to increase funding for the Fulbright program; it’s got to be cheaper in the long run than sending drones to blow up people.


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