Saturday, April 08, 2006

NYT: Mel's Diner is back in business

So here's how it starts. Alice is seen in evening dress and fur. People to turn to look. Then she steps forward in the non-graceful manner that was a hallmark of Alice. Then she speaks in the decidedly non-smooth voice. People giggle. You hear a bell ring and Mel yell, "Pick up!"

What does the above mean? Only that the New York Times' own Linda Lavin is back in print and elicting howls. The difference between Scott Shane and Linda Lavin appears to be that Lavin was trying to make you laugh as she played a character while Shane's own misteps aren't intended for laughs. But as Janis once sang, "Get It While You Can."

And what you get in "For President, First a Leak; Now, a Jam" are the type of howlers that haven't been seen in the paper the 2004 version of Jodi Wilgoren. Would even she (then) have opened with the following:

That President Bush authorized an aide to disclose classified intelligence on Iraqi weapons, as asserted in court papers, comes as no shock to official Washington.

Shane does. It's as laughable as Lavin's Alice in an evening dress. Apparently all those Saturdays of working the big mop increased Shane's forearms but decreased his brain size. "Official Washington" (which has no use for Shane) is where we open the story? It appears so and it's already been noted (by PJ) that this "official Washington" is twice as laughable when one remembers how many times Scotty's gone snotty and cried 'conspiracy theory' while trashing "Hollywood" in print. ("Official Washington"? "Hollywood"? Are we reading Shane or Louella?) (As members know PJ works for a competing paper. I don't believe that influences his judgement on this matter.)

So while attempting to suck up to "official Washington" (but failing to get in their good graces), he runs to Rick Shenkman who offers a bland judgement which may result from the fact that it's hard for Shenkman (who's gotten props from John Tierney) to provide soundbytes endlessly. This may be the closest to "official Washington" that Shane will ever get; however, someone should clue him in that people eager to publicly interject themselves into every story of the day aren't usually "official Washington."

In his stock boys days, handling the big mop and cleaning up for the Elite Fluff Patrol, he apparently harbored a secret desire to enlist. He's now almost fully on board with the Elite Fluff Patrol and Elisabeth Bumiller should watch her back (that's David D. Kirkpatrick and now Shane challenging her on her own turf for leadership of the Elite Fluff Patrol).

Shane confuses leaks (intentionally?) and offers examples of JKF and LBJ. That's to prove it's "bipartisan" -- this non-surprising leaking. Of course, the leaking of classified information and outing of a CIA agent is something quite different than a president deciding to share some anecdotes about a conversation he recently had. Somehow Scotty misses that basic, that very basic, difference. No one's ever maintained that Bully Boy didn't speak to the press on background for his own benefit (in fact that Times is currently refusing to participate in meet & greets that Bully Boy's holding). There's a world of difference between flattering anecdotes and leaking a classified report or the name of a CIA agent. Another Scotty -- McClellan -- is dancing around when the information was declassified which Shane doesn't note or the disbelief which the DC press corps greeted his remarks yesterday.

There's no news in Shane's "reporting." There's a great deal of padding. Possibly, with Todd S. Purdum sliding over to Vanity Fair, Shane inherited Purudm's old cup and found that he couldn't fill it? Maybe that's why he pads? Whatever the reason, his story, shaped by Shenkman (who couldn't get more press ink without hiring a press agent), offers no news. Here's the only bit of news (and it's not noted directly in Shane's report): Judith Miller continues to refuse to speak to the paper of record. A smart move (and one that was even applauded when a Bully Boy appointee refused to go on the record for Bumiller). The "nicer" reason for that is that Miller will be a witness in Scooter's case. The less "nice" reason is that Miller was screwed over by the paper.

That is what happened. Miller's reporting was bad. (People can debate whether that was out of zeal for scoops or a desire to misinform the public.) Dexter Filkins' "reporting" was even more ficition based. He remains. As do the people above Miller who were more than happy to run with those stories. Miller was cut loose when the paper wanted to act as though they had a rogue reporter on their hands -- ' a bad apple.' But just as Abu Ghraib was blamed on indivuals and not higher ups or policy, so Miller got blamed for all the problems with the paper of record.

Set it in the forties and the official version makes a hilarious comedy. Picture Miller setting her own type, pulling front page stories by others while she cackles and brushes her bangs thereby smearing ink on her face. The Times wants to talk consiparcy theories? How about the conspiracy theory that Miller wrote, edited and published the paper? That's one for the 'tin-foil hat' crowd.

Originally, this entry (which was done much earlier) noted three issues with regards to the Times. Two have been pulled. One will go up at The Third Estate Sunday Review. The other will go up here at a later date. We'll keep the following in it, however, in a "wrap up" kind of way. E-mails trickle in on Todd S. Purdum (one of the other topics is a stream of e-mails, not a trickle, we'll address it at a later date).

Visitors wonder in their e-mails about Purdum, chiefly: Does Todd S. Purdum really smell? No. That was a joke. And that's been noted here before. But there's not been a week that's gone by in the last three months that this hasn't come up. Those visitors who continue to ask about it, if they receive any reply, will receive this entry e-mailed to them.

Elisabeth Bumiller earned the ridicule she's been the target of. She's brought it on herself. Her free floating op-ed really shouldn't be written by a reporter. (So actually, the paper's aided in the ridicule that's been heaped upon her.) I have no problem with the ridicule and think people should speak/critique in any manner that's consistent with their own way of speaking.

The problem Ava and I had was when we did a joint entry on a Sunday morning and she noted another floating op-ed. I don't read the op-eds (floating or otherwise) or the editorials in the morning. I may (though not often) go back and read them later in the day. But I explained that the "memo" was like Bumiller's "letter." Reading it, Ava remarked on how it was opinion based and written by a reporter or reporters -- male (whether it was one or two). Why was it that they weren't derided all over the place?

If people are comfortable tossing out "knee pads" next to Bumiller's name, they should. Everyone needs to speak in their own voices. But were males who fluffed getting the same treatment? No, they weren't. Even Adam Nagourney didn't get held to the same standards Wilgoren was held to in 2004.

So it was decided that Sunday that the next male who pulled a Bumiller would get the full Bumiller treatment. Todd S. Purdum was the next male at bat and, as has been noted, he's a big boy and he could take it. I don't know that a smelly jock strap is on par with knee pads, but the Times does strive for a very masculine, very locker room type office feel. (Do they kid themselves? I think they do, which is why the joke worked for me.) The smelly jock (which may now be attached here to Scott Shane based on his recent "reporting" -- though the Linda Lavin comparison is popular with members -- no disrespect to Lavin, members get that she was playing a character) was an attempt to level the criticism field which, as noted many times here, should be people speaking in their own voices, with whatever terms they desire but should be applied equally. Too often, it's seemed that there was a standard (and this has been noted here many times as well) where a male makes a glaring howler and it's ignored, treated as a one time thing or something for which "redemption" can be found. When some males are still carrying on, at this late date, about a statement Jane Mayer made in an interview six years ago (about how sexism could come into play with criticism -- which it can), but turning their eyes on very real howlers or rushing to redeem the males they criticized while there's no "out" for women once ridiculed, this was something we were going to address here.

Purdum's a nice person whom I don't know but have met (and no, he doesn't stink) (I do know his wife from her Clinton days). His contributions for the paper of record are now of the opinion nature so we won't be noting those and his journalism will be at Vanity Fair which offers several levels of conflict of interest for me so we won't be noting that either. Michael Wolff is someone I do not know. He's been noted here in commentary by me -- about the attacks on him for making some very pertinent statements about Matt Cooper that enraged many of Cooper's friends who, while attacking Wolff or covering up for Cooper didn't reveal themselves as friends of Cooper. In that entry, I noted that I do not know Wolff. I also made a comment on the article about Judith Miller, et al and said that talk appears to suggest . . . That was a huge mistake on my part. Factually, the talk wasn't accurate. I corrected that as soon as a friend from Vanity Fair (who was waiting for that entry to go up -- the one about how the Times was trying to justify their misidentification with the false claim that Vanity Fair had done so as well -- Van Fair did not falsely identify the "man in the photo" -- they noted repeatedly in their article, one the Times didn't note when they were acting like they had an exclusive -- that the man's claims couldn't be proven and that he may not be the man in the hood from the photos of Abu Ghraib) phoned me about it. (I think that was four to five hours after it went up.) Talk did "appear to suggest." The mistake was in commenting on that article even in an aside. I was wrong to have done so. (Miller's story did not change and the article and the public record should be read more closely. She's added to it, she hasn't changed it.)

Will Shane be the new whipping boy? His work of late certainly indicates that he has "the goods" for it. We'll note his theme song of late:

Early to rise, early to bed.
And in between I mopped and cleaned and went out of my head.
Going through life my truth on, was tough, you see
I had to get up, get out from under and look for me.
There's a new fluffer in town and he's looking good.
There's a fresh freckled fluffer, in the neighborhoood.
There's a new fluffer in town, with a brand new style.
He was just passing through, but if things fluff out he's gonna stay awhile ....
Ba ba bum bum bummmm

(Based upon "There's a New Girl in Town," by Alan and Marilyn Bergman & David Shire which was the theme song to Alice.)

The e-mail address for this site is (And except for a break from The Third Estate Sunday Edition later tonight, I probably won't check that account so members should use the private e-mail account and I'll also try to check the backup e-mail account.)