Thursday Reads: Gray Lady Down and Other News

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Good Morning!!

News broke late yesterday afternoon that New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson had suddenly been replaced by Managing Editor Dean Baquet. Here’s the New York Times’ own report: Times Ousts Its Executive Editor, Elevating Second in Command.

Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., the publisher of the paper and the chairman of The New York Times Company, told a stunned newsroom that had been quickly assembled that he had made the decision because of “an issue with management in the newsroom.”

Ms. Abramson, 60, had been in the job only since September 2011. But people in the company briefed on the situation described serious tension in her relationship with Mr. Sulzberger, who was concerned about complaints from employees that she was polarizing and mercurial. She had also had clashes with Mr. Baquet.

In recent weeks, these people said, Mr. Baquet had become angered over a decision by Ms. Abramson to make a job offer to a senior editor from The Guardian, Janine Gibson, and install her alongside him in a co-managing editor position without consulting him. It escalated the conflict between them and rose to the attention of Mr. Sulzberger.

Ms. Abramson did not attend the afternoon meeting at which her dismissal was announced.

2010 Matrix Awards

The Times won eight Pulitzer Prizes under Ms. Abramson, and she won praise for journalistic efforts both in print and on the web. She had previously served as the head of the Washington bureau, and before coming to The Times was an investigative reporter at The Wall Street Journal. She co-wrote, with Ms. [Jane ] Mayer [of the New Yorker], “Strange Justice,” a book about the confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas.

But as a leader of the newsroom, she was accused by some of divisiveness and criticized for several of her personnel choices, in particular the appointment of several major department heads who did not last long in their jobs.

With Mr. Sulzberger more closely monitoring her stewardship, tensions between Ms. Abramson and Mr. Baquet escalated. In one publicized incident, he angrily slammed his hand against a wall in the newsroom. He had been under consideration for the lead job when Ms. Abramson was selected and, according to people familiar with his thinking, he was growing frustrated working with her.

Let’s see . . . Abramson was “polarizing and mercurial,” “was accused by some of divisiveness,” and her male second in command didn’t like taking orders from her, have I got that right? Is it just me, or do those sound like code words?

Now let’s see what people who don’t work for Sulzberger are saying.

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From Ken Auletta at The New Yorker: WHY JILL ABRAMSON WAS FIRED.

At the annual City University Journalism School dinner, on Monday, Dean Baquet, the managing editor of the New York Times, was seated with Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., the paper’s publisher. At the time, I did not give a moment’s thought to why Jill Abramson, the paper’s executive editor, was not at their table. Then, at 2:36 P.M. on Wednesday, an announcement from the Times hit my e-mail, saying that Baquet would replace Abramson, less than three years after she was appointed the first woman in the top job. Baquet will be the first African-American to lead the Times.

Fellow-journalists and others scrambled to find out what had happened. Sulzberger had fired Abramson, and he did not try to hide that. In a speech to the newsroom on Wednesday afternoon, he said, “I chose to appoint a new leader of our newsroom because I believe that new leadership will improve some aspects …” Abramson chose not to attend the announcement, and not to pretend that she had volunteered to step down.

Apparently, the real problem Sultzberg had with Abramson was that she was an uppity woman.

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, who spent much of her career at the Wall Street Journal, had been at the Times for far fewer years than Keller, which accounted 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. Whether Abramson was right or wrong, both sides were left unhappy. A third associate told me, “She found out that a former deputy managing editor”—a man—“made more money than she did” while she was managing editor. “She had a lawyer make polite inquiries about the pay and pension disparities, which set them off.”

The other issues Auletta mentions are similar to those described in the NYT article: she had problems with Baquet and those who worked under her sometimes complained she was “brusque” (as opposed to Mr. Personality, Bill Keller?). Again, it sounds to me as if Abraham’s biggest “problem” was her gender. Mr. Baquet sounds pretty “pushy” too, but for him that was acceptable, I guess. Josh Marshall at TPM points out that:

The Times article notes in passing that Abramson reached a settlement with the Times, which makes pretty clear that whatever might have happened with disparate pay or a connection between her pressing the matter and her firing there will not be a lawsuit.

Hmmm . . . Sounds like Sultzberger thought Abramson might have grounds to sue if he didn’t settle with her.

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At Business Insider, Hunter Walker calls attention to the Times’ past problems with gender disparities in pay (also mentioned by Ken Auletta in The New Yorker piece linked above):

Auletta claimed other Times staffers were concerned about the pay disparity between Abramson and Keller. He said it brought up “ugly memories” of a 1974 lawsuit female employees made against the paper due to allegations of sex discrimination in hiring, pay, and promotion.

On Twitter, NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik subsequently confirmed Auletta’s report. Folkenflik also noted unspecified “figures at Times wonder what role gender ultimately played in (Abramson’s) ouster.”

Finally, Politico describes how the announcement impacted other New York Times employees: Invitation to a beheaading: How Times editors learned of Abramson’s ouster:

“Please come to a masthead/dept head meeting at 2:00 p.m. today in the page one conference room/3rd floor.”

That was the note top editors at The New York Times received this afternoon summoning them to an abrupt gathering in which publisher and Times Company chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. would inform them that executive editor Jill Abramson was being replaced in the No. 1 masthead spot by one of her deputies, managing editor Dean Baquet….

[T]he news…came as a shock to most of the assembled editors. There had been none of the drama or widespread discontent that led up to the famous firing of Howell Raines in 2003. In fact when they arrived in the room, their first inkling of what was about to transpire was the fact that Abramson was not present.

Sulzberger gave the same vague reasoning for the change that would be relayed in a company memo and at a full newsroom meeting shortly thereafter—that the decision had to do with Abramson’s newsroom management.

Not everyone was buying it. When Sulzberger said he was sure it doesn’t “come as a surprise to you,” video editor Bruce Headlam spoke up in Abramson’s defense, according to a person who was present. “It does come as a surprise to me,” the source recalls him saying.

Two other editors also voiced their concerns, sources with knowledge of the meeting told Capital. National editor Alison Mitchell suggested that Abramson’s firing wouldn’t sit well with a broad swath of female Timesjournalists who saw her as a role model. (Abramson became the Times‘ first female executive editor in 2011, after Bill Keller stepped down.) Assistant managing editor Susan Chira seconded that notion.

Read more at the link.

So . . . draw your own conclusions. My guess is we’ll be reading and hearing quite a bit more about the Times and its history of gender discrimination over the next few days.

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In other news . . . links to some stories that interested me:

The Hill: US using drones to find kidnapped Nigerian girls.

Yahoo News: Missouri lawmakers pass 3-day abortion wait period.

TPM: Christie Predicts BridgeGate Will Have Zero Effect On His Political Future.

NPR: Election-Year Politics Dooms Energy Bill, Averts Pipeline Vote.

Politico: Snowden Is The Kind of Guy I Used to Recruit—in Russia (by former CIA director of operations Jack Devine).

io9: The Ultimate Proof That Keeping Orca Whales in Captivity is Monstrous.

Digg: Gone Girls — The Female Sociopath.

CNN: 9 wildfires spring up around San Diego, more than 9,000 acres burned.

CBS News: Turkey mining accident toll nears 300 as anger at PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan boils over.

NYT: Captain and 3 Officers Charged With Murder in Korean Ferry Sinking.

What else is happening? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.


Monday Reads: GOTV (GET OUT THERE AND VOTE)

Good Morning!

It’s still hard for me to believe that adult women in the US could not vote less than 100 years ago.  This is something to think about as we approach election day tomorrow.  I can’t remember when an election was this important for women.  There are many women running for office while women’s rights have been under continual assault for two years now.  This is the first time in years–make that decades–that we’ve had one presidential candidate that refuses to go on record about equal pay for equal work and the Lily Ledbetter Act.  The choices couldn’t be clearer.

This issue is over 100 years old. Belva Ann Lockwood ran for president in 1884 and 1889 as the candidate of the National Equal Rights Party.  She had to petition to become the first woman to appear before the Supreme court in 1879. All of this was decades before women could even vote.  She was also a victim of systemic voter fraud.

It’s seems hard to believe that after so many years of fighting to get this far we have to fight candidate-after-candidate running for the Republican Party to stop the assault on the rights of women and the rights of minorities in this country.  This is what you get when religious fundamentalists are allowed to ramrod their beliefs in to law.  Religious fundamentalism is a threat to democracy all over the world.  The only way to secure the blessings of liberty for all of us is to vote them out and keep them out.  Theocracy Watch has an excellent history of how the Religious Right took over the Republican Party.  There are a lot of good reads there if you’d like to see exactly how it happened.

Here’s one dangerous state amendment in Florida which is billed as a “religious” freedom mandate but is really a way for churches to get their hands on state money and to project their values on every level of government. Florida’s Amendment 8 will likely show up in a state near year if it hasn’t already.  It mandates taxpayer support of religious institutions.

“Under Amendment 8,” observed Sha­piro, “religious groups would have not only the right to seek taxpayer funding but the power to demand it in certain cases. Religious schools and other ministries of any and all religions could tap the public purse – my tax dollars and yours – and use those funds to promote their faith.”

He added, “Don’t buy the line that Amendment 8 is about protecting ‘faith-based’ social services. Those programs are in no danger. Religious groups in Florida can get tax funds to provide services to those in need – so long as they don’t use public funds to preach or proselytize.”

Shapiro opined that Amendment 8’s supporters also want to gain a foothold for school vouchers in the state. Currently, two provisions of the Florida Constitution have been interpreted to ban voucher subsidies for religious schools. If Amendment 8 passes, one of them will be removed.

Said Shapiro, “Some politicians are trying to use ‘religious freedom,’ which most Floridians fully support, as a cover for their agenda. They’d like to force all of us to subsidize various religions, whether we believe in those faiths or not. They want to give religious institutions special privileges.”

Minnesota is voting on Same-Sex Marriage on Tuesday.   An amendment to the state’s constitution will ban same sex marriage in that state if passed.

For most gay Minnesotans, particularly those who would like to marry longtime partners, passage of the constitutional amendment would put that dream further out of reach. Defeat of the measure would by a welcome but largely symbolic victory for gay couples because the state’s current gay marriage ban would still be in effect, denying same-sex couples who consider themselves married in all but name the same protections and privileges as legally married couples.

That means worrying about things like being denied hospital visits to an ailing partner; being unable to honor a loved one’s wishes after death; or being excluded from parenting rights in cases where an unmarried person adopts the child of a partner. Gay rights supporters say those are just a few of the legal privileges they are denied or may have to fight to assert because of their inability to marry.

During the long campaign over the constitutional amendment, the group working to pass it has stressed that it’s not trying to hurt gay couples. “Everybody has a right to love who they choose,” says the narrator in a commercial from Minnesota for Marriage, a coalition of religious and socially conservative organizations.

The group contends that male-female marriage is a centuries-old societal building block that benefits children, and that redefining it in law could lead to intrusions on religious liberty and the right of parents to control influences on their children.

Further information on other state ballot initiatives can be found at this link.  California is voting on labeling of Genetically modified food.  Arizona has an initiative that tries to block federal access to state natural resources.   It’s important to read up on what might show up on your ballot given ALEC and the republican party’s need to decimate local governments, economies, and lives. Oregon and several states have marijuana initiatives.  Most states have ballot initiatives that impact natural resources and wildlife.

For many folks, the issue is going to be access to their right to vote.  Just think, Constitutional Amendments and the Voting Rights Act have secured our right to vote.  Many states are trying to suppress the popular vote among the elderly, women, and minorities.  Stories of rampant voter suppression are coming from all over the country.  The one thing I always bring to the polls with me is banned now in New Mexico.

From New Mexico, Community Journalist George Lujan writes in that the Secretary of State has banned the League of Women Voters’ voting guide at early voting locations. The League’s guide is nonpartisan, and has been used to educate voters for years. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the guide, on the pretext that it amounts to electioneering, is now banned.

George also writes in that voters received deceptive phone calls informing them that early voting had ended in Doña Ana County, despite the fact that early voting continues.

Follow that link above to the Nation to get a state by state account of state-level incidents that are either supported by Republican groups or Republican elected officials.  Here’s the latest offense.  Many polls in Florida have been closed early or shut down due to bomb threats.  It seems ONE southern Florida County will have its election times extended  and it’s a GOP stronghold.

Last night, voters in Miami-Dade County were forced to wait in line up to six hours to vote. In some precincts voters who arrived at 7PM were not able to cast their ballots until 1AM.

In response, Republican-affiliated election officials in Miami-Dade have effectively extended early voting from 1PM to 5PM today by allowing “in-person” absentee voting. But this accommodation will only be available in a single location in the most Republican area of the county.

Nearly every city within 5 to 10 miles of this location — including Hialeah, Miami Springs, Sweetwater and Miami Lakes — has a substantial Republican voter registration advantage.

The most populous city among those is Hialeah where Republicans, powered by a large Cuban community, have an overwhelming registration advantage of nearly 20,000 voters. There will not be an opportunity for in-person absentee voting in downtown Miami or South Dade, where there are heavy concentrations of Democratic voters.

The decision to make the accommodation available was presumably made by Miami-Dade Election Supervisor Penelope Townsley. She is registered with no party affiliation but was appointed to her position by Republican Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Mayor Gimenez did not request Gov. Rick Scott extend early voting throughout Miami-Dade county. Further, according to Jim DeFede, an investigative reporter for CBS News in Miami, the decision to have in-person absentee balloting was made last night but not announced publicly until 9:30AM this morning.

As the election season draws to a close, we’re beginning to see desperate campaigns do desperate things. Romney continues to harp on the President as an angry black man seeking revenge.  Romney has the misguided notion that he some how is entitle to do and say what ever he wants to on the way to his anointment.  That Romney sense of entitlement has never ceased to shock me.  Romney twists other’ people’s words worse than his own.

In the final stretch of the campaign, suddenly there is a new storyline, with Mitt Romney harshly criticizing President Obama for telling a crowd of supporters that voting would be their “best revenge.” It all began when a crowd in Springfield, Ohio responded to Obama’s mention of Romney and Republicans by booing. The president tried to quieten them down, essentially saying their jeers were pointless. “No, no, no—don’t boo, vote! Vote! Voting is the best revenge.” (Video after the jump.) Romney seized on the remark: “Let me tell you what I’d like to tell you: Vote for love of country,” he told a crowd of supporters. He also released an ad about the remarks (watch after the jump). The message? As the conservative site Daily Caller succinctly puts it: “Romney is finishing his 2012 race by calling for love, change and hope, while President Barack Obama’s deputies are struggling to explain his call for ‘revenge.’”

It was an adlibbed line that for conservatives insist highlighted the worst of the president. “He really does think that opposing him is somehow dirty pool, and that ‘revenge’ is the appropriate treatment for those who fail to bow to the mighty Barack,” writes John Hinderaker in Power Line. Yet for others, the way in which the Romney camp rushed to seize on what was obviously a play on the familiar saying “living well is the best revenge” is “one last sustained expression of that contempt for the electorate” Romney has displayed in the past, writes the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent. In the Atlantic, James Fallows wonders whether it’s even “conceivable that [Romney] actually believes Obama was talking about revenge-voting as if it were basically like ‘revenge sex?’”

Obama was merely encouraging people to go to the polls, yet Romney somehow twisted the words, even if he left a basic question unanswered: Revenge for what? “Suddenly, we are in the rhetorical space of class warfare,” points out The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson. Although talking of revenge may be a new twist, it’s merely another way in which Romney has accused those who oppose him of resenting his success.

Meanwhile, poll-after-poll shows a gender gap, a Hispanic Gap, a black gap, and an age gap in voting patterns.  It’s hard not to notice that every one recognizes what’s at stake.  The Romney way-back machine takes most of us back to places that most of us fought to get out of.  Be sure to hang on as we live blog the returns tomorrow and the latest in voter suppression efforts today.  This pretty well sums up the Romney future for all of us:  Romney staff refusing to let frostbitten children leave PA rally.

This is happening right now at Mitt Romney’s rally in Pennsylvania.  Apparently it’s freezing, and Romney’s staff is refusing to let rally-goers leave. People are begging reporters for help.

Absolutely incredible.

No, it’s quite credible.  This is a group of people that wants complete control of what goes on in every American Woman’s Uterus.  This is a group that will say anything–including scaring workers about their jobs–to score political points.  This is a group that sends its VP candidate to re-rinse clean pots over the protests of charity owners and pays for a few boxes of canned goods over the requests of the Red Cross just to provide photo ops.  This one man’s sense of entitlement and republican ideology will always leave all of us frostbitten in the cold.  Just VOTE for any one but a Republican this election.  It is important. I don’t want to see us all out there on the melting ice floes with endangered polar bears.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


We have NOT come a long way, baby

I’m the stereotypical PUMA.  I came of age in the 70s and joined the UWAG (University Women’s Action Group) while at the University of Nebraska working on the first of several degrees.  I remember fighting hard to get tougher rape laws in place including getting officers assigned to rape cases out of the Property Crimes Department and lobbying for laws that would let raped wives charge their husbands with rape.  This was not possible at that time.  We’ve made considerable progress on that front.  We now don’t need two to three people to witness rapes in order to get rapists prosecuted.  We also can charge our husbands with rape.  Violet crimes against women are no longer consider property crimes.

I also worked hard for the ERA.  That failed to pass although I travelled to both Missouri and Oklahoma to try to get the last few states to pass it.  I also was trying to fight Nebraska’s attempt to take back it’s pro-ERA vote sponsored by my local state senator who was also a neighbor and father to two of the least popular guys in my high school.  I always thought he’d sponsor the bill because neither of his sons had much luck getting dates back in the day.  He was mad that women could actually support themselves and therefor not have to marry the first thing that comes along to survive their adult lives.

I’m now an economist, and perhaps Equal Pay for Equal Work is the subject that is nearest and dearest too me.  We have another chance to right this problem.  What amazes me is that the current pay gap faced by my young daughters today –one being 25 and in her last year of med school and the other 18 and heading to university–is the same pay gap I faced at their age. This is one legacy I’d rather not leave to them. Women still earn 77 cents to men’s $1 for the same job with the same qualifications.  There is not one state in the country where women have gained traction on men’s pay.  There is an act now in Congress seeking to right this wrong once in for all,  it is called the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would “close loopholes that have allowed employers to avoid responsibility for discriminatory pay” and strengthen accountability in the workplace. The legislation increases penalties for sex discrimination in pay unless the company has a business-related reason for the inequality in wages. The PFA puts gender discrimination sanctions on equal footing with other forms of wage discrimination ­ such as those based on race, disability, or age, allowing women to file lawsuits for compensatory and punitive damages. The bill also prohibits employers retaliating against employees who share salary information with their co-workers. The legislation also strengthens opportunities for women. The Act requires that the Department of Labor “improve outreach and training efforts to work with employers in order to eliminate pay disparities” and “creates a new grant program to help strengthen the negotiation skills of girls and women.”

Source: From the Progress Reporthttp://pr.thinkprogress.org/

So think about which Senators would be most likely fighting for gender equality that would be the sponsors of the bill?   Yup, it’s our Hillary again. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) put this bill into play

The Institute of Women’s Policy Research found that this wage disparity will cost women anywhere from $400,000 to $2 million over a lifetime in lost wages. An April Senate report found that in contrast to previous slowdowns, the current economic downturn “is hitting women harder than men. They are suffering more job losses and larger reductions in wages than the general population.” 

I, like any parent, want to leave my children in a better position in life.  Just by having daughters instead of sons, I know they will suffer the same paycheck inequality that I have endured throughout my adult life.  This is yet another reason to thank Hillary and to write your Senators and Congress to support this Bill.

The senators that are sponsoring this bill:

The Paycheck Fairness Act is co-sponsored by Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Russell Feingold (D-WI), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), John Kerry (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Harry Reid (D-NV), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Bernard Sanders (I-VT).

Also, NOTICE who’s name is missing?  

For more information please go to Senator Clintons site:

http://clinton.senate.gov/news/statements/details.cfm?id=272301&&