Archive for February, 2014

The Times Investigates Buddy Fletcher

Posted on February 25th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 19 Comments »

Somewhat late to the party, but still: Rachel Abrams in the Times does a nice job bringing the Buddy Fletcher train wreck story up to date.

Millions of dollars have been lost, that much is certain. The explanation of how that happened and who is responsible is still emerging, but the cast, in addition to Mr. Fletcher, includes “those we normally think of as creating a line of protection against such fraud,” as Mr. Davis put it in his report. Named in various lawsuits are the consultant, Mr. Meals; the administrator of the hedge fund, Citco; and its auditor, Grant Thornton, which resigned as auditor after overstating a related fund’s value by $80 million, according to court documents.

This will sound extremely arrogant, but after it does, let me explain and perhaps it won’t, or at least not so much: The most important part of Abram’s article is that she references something I reported for Boston magazine.

While at Kidder, Mr. Fletcher, then in his 20s, managed a portfolio that reported $25 million in profit. When the firm did not pay him his expected bonus, he sued, claiming discrimination.

An arbitration panel eventually awarded Mr. Fletcher $1.3 million but ruled that Kidder had not discriminated against him.

In 2012, Granville Bowie, Kidder’s human resources manager during the time Mr. Fletcher was there, told Boston Magazine that the firm declined to pay the bonus because Mr. Fletcher had refused to tell anyone how he was generating his profits.

Why is this so important? Because it disseminates in the paper of record a quote—and an idea—that I think is both crucial to Fletcher’s story and deeply damning: The idea that coworkers have been suspicious of Fletcher’s accounting since his very first second job on Wall Street. That fact shapes the way you interpret both Fletcher’s subsequent career and his time at Harvard; indeed, the entirety of his life.

I had that fact in the Boston mag piece, and was proud of it; no one had ever gotten someone from Kidder to talk on the record before. But with all due respect to Boston—a magazine I love—the Times has a much broader reach and impact. And when the TImes actually quotes someone else’s reporting, something the paper doesn’t generally like to do, it sends the message, Hey, we think this fact is so important that we’re going to do something that we’d rather not. So for a writer, getting props from the Times is a nice tip of the hat.

The truth, I believe, is that the true story of Buddy Fletcher’s life is so strange and macabre that it’s actually quite hard to tell it in a straight journalistic format; all these news stories about what’s going on in the various lawsuits only scratch the surface. Really, it would require a novel—one that most people, I think, wouldn’t want to read. There’s just nothing positive, nothing redeeming in this story whatsoever. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to report.

A New Song from Coldplay

Posted on February 25th, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

If you’re into that. I know a lot of people hate on ’em. But I’ve always liked the band.

This one, called Midnight, is a little bit different from their norm; it almost has a Sigur Ros feel….and then kind of a U2 quality, particularly in the bass line, in the last 1:45.

Janet Maslin Attacks Nick Kristof

Posted on February 21st, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

At an event last night in Pleasantville’s Jacob Burns Film Center—that’s my local art house joint—Times critic Janet Maslin, of whom I’m generally not a fan, lambasted fellow Timesian Nick Kristoff for publishing Dylan Farrow’s letter alleging sexual abuse by Woody Allen.

According to Gawker, Maslin disclosed that Farrow had sent her story to the paper as a letter and the Times rejected it, making it the second paper, after the LA Times, to do so.

the Times rejected, and then a columnist who is a friend of the family, decided to run it in his column, and those columnists have a lot of freedom in what they can put into columns, but I think that was a really questionable use of that space.

Maslin then charged that she thought Dylan was making these allegations because she was jealous of the attention that her brother, Ronan Farrow, was receiving, particularly through Maureen Orth’s terrible Vanity Fair profile of Mia Farrow.

One odd thing about that Vanity Fair piece, that one that ran a few months ago, was that the big news in the piece was supposed to be ‘Dylan Farrow Speaks Out’ and what happened, just purely by chance, was that the news became, ‘Ronan Farrow May Be Frank Sinatra’s Son.’ And Dylan Farrow, I happen to know this through a friend very close to the story, was very unhappy that this suddenly wasn’t about her. And I think that’s that part of why she decided to start calling attention to herself.

Deeeeeeeeeeee-licious. Things must be awkward in the corridors of the Old Gray Lady.

There’s one point about which a consensus seems to have formed (at least among reasonable people): It was poor judgment for Nick Kristof to print Farrow’s plea in its entirety, and poor judgment of the Times to let him.

Something Nice about Nick Kristof

Posted on February 20th, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

As you know, I wasn’t a fan of his courtship of Dylan Farrow.

But I do like this column of his about the nauseating treatment of farm animals. It’s not just a matter of public health, but of human decency—or lack thereof—and how the way we treat other species reflects on our own.

If I could afford it, I would buy all my meat from here.

And, while I’m passing out compliments to columnists I don’t generally like, Ross Douthat, the Times’ reasonable young conservative, wrote a nice column about parenting yesterday. (It’s fascinating how you couldn’t care less about parenting columns, and then you become a parent and you soak up every word of them.)

Ross and I agree: Too many parents whine too much. And also, Jennifer Senior’s new book, All Joy and No Fun, is very smart and insightful. I’m not surprised: Jennifer wrote for us at George probably 15 years ago, and even then it was clear that she was very talented.

National Treasure

Posted on February 19th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

What a lovely piece of writing by Roger Angell on life in his 90s.

Will our Internet culture—which, in fairness, is what allows me to read this story from a distance, and to share it with you—continue to produce writers of this caliber, and pieces of this insight? And will the children of it appreciate them?

Bill de Blasio’s 2nd Big Screw-Up

Posted on February 13th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

I have mixed feelings about this new mayor of New York, one of which is that we don’t really know him, another of which is that he comes across as arrogant and imperious. Which, you can sort of understand when someone’s a billionaire, but when you’re supposed to be a progressive…

Anyway: First big screw-up was not plowing the Upper East Side—not coincidentally, an area he wants to hit with tax hikes—during the season’s first big snowstorm.

Second big screw-up: Calling the cops after midnight to get a political supporter out of jail.

How stupid can you be? And I mean that: A newly elected mayor who makes a personal phone call to the police to spring a political ally who’s been arrested for repeatedly breaking the law?

That is asinine, and cause for worry….

Goodbye Mr. Jeter

Posted on February 13th, 2014 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Twenty years with one team. Consistently brilliant play. An unfailingly high standard of professionalism and sportsmanship. Model behavior in a clubhouse and a city which often seemed to entice and then fault the opposite. And never a hint of steroids.

Will there ever be another player like Derek Jeter?

It’s entirely possible that there won’t.

Woody Allen Responds

Posted on February 8th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 18 Comments »

Woody Allen has responded to charges that he molested his daughter, Dylan Farrow, by writing an op-ed in the New York Times.

People will disagree—some people don’t want to change their minds, because they are too invested in victim culture—but I find it convincing.

Here, Allen writes about how, when he first heard that Mia Farrow was accusing him of molesting Dylan, he found it so farcical that he didn’t even take it seriously.

I had been going out with Mia for 12 years and never in that time did she ever suggest to me anything resembling misconduct. Now, suddenly, when I had driven up to her house in Connecticut one afternoon to visit the kids for a few hours, when I would be on my raging adversary’s home turf, with half a dozen people present, when I was in the blissful early stages of a happy new relationship with the woman I’d go on to marry — that I would pick this moment in time to embark on a career as a child molester should seem to the most skeptical mind highly unlikely. The sheer illogic of such a crazy scenario seemed to me dispositive.

Mia Farrow has gotten a pretty easy ride from the press during all this, and that’s unfair; if we are to consider things like Allen’s relationship with Soon-Yi and the content of his films in judging the veracity of these allegations, shouldn’t we also consider the character of the person making them? Her threat to Allen’s sister that “he took my daughter, now I’m going to take his”; the bizarre voodoo Valentine’s Day card she sent him; her adulterous relationship with Frank Sinatra and the lies she has perpetuated about that for decades.

Yesterday I read Maureen Orth’s Vanity Fair piece about Mia Farrow in which the question of Ronan Farrow’s paternity was raised. It’s a bizarre and, I would say, disgraceful piece of journalism, clearly negotiated between Farrow and Orth to make Farrow look as saintly as possible while rejuvenating the abuse allegations against Woody Allen. Two-thirds of the article is about Farrow’s charity work in Africa, not normally a topic of interest to Vanity Fair.

Here’s the part about Ronan Farrow’s paternity:

I asked Mia point-blank if Ronan was the son of Frank Sinatra. “Possibly,” she answered. (No DNA tests have been done.)

That’s it. There’s no follow-up question, no discussion of why she let Allen believe for decades that the boy was his, nothing about how Farrow was both cheating on her husband and cuckolding Sinatra’s wife.

And what a bizarre answer: “Possibly.” About something so serious, you give a coy, one-word answer?

That is fucked up.

(Sorry, but it’s true.)

And this is what I mean by negotiated: That Orth simply lets that answer stand, without follow-up or commentary, shows that a deal has been cut between her and Farrow. Because no self-respecting journalist would put that out there with out further discussion, without balance, without context.

Well—maybe Nick Kristof.

Woody Allen can never prove his innocence, and many, many people will never believe it. The reasons for that are complicated, but as I’ve suggested elsewhere, I do believe that anti-Semitism has something to do with it, and ignorance—”well, if he dated Soon-Yi, he’s the type who would rape a child”—and a bogus notion of identifying with the victim as a means of making oneself feel like a better person.

But I hope that, for most of us, Allen’s passionate but reasoned argument will remind us that people who are accused of crimes should be considered innocent until they are proved guilty—especially if the legal process has already found them innocent—and that people who make those accusations aren’t always telling the truth. No matter how much we want to think so.

Nick Kristof’s Sloppy Seconds

Posted on February 7th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Now this is interesting: Hollywood-centric blog The Wrap reports that, before Dylan Farrow’s letter about her alleged abuse by Woody Allen was published by Nick Kristof on his New York Times blog, the Los Angeles Times was offered the letter—and declined to publish it.

The Wrap’s article is poorly written, so it’s impossible to figure out why the paper decided not to publish it.

But the knowledge that Farrow was shopping the letter for publication is interesting, as is the choice of the LA Times; to me, it adds weight to the suspicion that the timing of all this has something to do with the Oscar potential of Allen’s film Blue Jasmine. It casts the letter’s publication in the Times in a subtly different light; this wasn’t just something that Dylan and Mia Farrow gave to their friend Nick Kristof, but something they were actively looking for a high-profile outlet to publish. Why give it to the LA Times before the New York Times? Because you want it to have an impact on Hollywood.

To be fair, shopping the letter around for publication could be innocuous—Dylan and Mia decided to make a statement, they wanted to get the word out in a way that would give it the most credibility. But it could also mean that the whole thing is a little, well, more orchestrated than Kristof implied in his column.

On another note: The Times has stated that Woody Allen contacted the paper about writing a response, and that the paper may publish it. Two things must be said: Since when is it professional to make a public statement saying that a person smeared in your newspaper has asked to respond? Because in doing so, you raise questions if Allen doesn’t respond…and if he does, I think, you are basically compelled to run that response, because how could you not, since everyone knows that you’ve said he plans to respond?

The Times is so good so much of the time. But sometimes it is shockingly amateurish.

One Ad You Didn’t Get to See at the Super Bowl

Posted on February 6th, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

I find this argument—such a simple idea, really, it’s barely an argument—such a no-brainer. How does the NFL not feel the same?