Defending the caveman
In praise of wife-beaters. Plus, sucking up to the Bee Gees, leftward ho at
TNR, and more.
As Ronald Reagan once said, "Facts are stupid things." This week's example:
Boston Globe sports columnist Will McDonough, whose weird December 6
effort to exonerate former Red Sox outfielder Wil Cordero of wife-beating
charges (never mind that Cordero had already pleaded guilty) was undone within
days by Cordero's recidivist tendencies.
McDonough offered up an affidavit filed by the concierge in the Cambridge
apartment building where Cordero and his family were living last June, when
Cordero was arrested and charged with beating his wife, Ana Echevarria, and
threatening to kill her. The concierge said that he saw both principals several
times during the night in question, and reported that they seemed sober,
friendly, and uninjured.
"I will leave it to you to determine how this story became what it did in the
media and in the Middlesex County District Attorney's office," McDonough wrote,
satisfied that he'd made his case.
Of course, one explanation might be that the concierge's affidavit was
completely contradicted by Cambridge police officers, who said that when they
arrived on the scene they found Echevarria bruised, allegedly from being
whacked with a telephone, and bleeding from the nose.
"She was crying. She was hyperventilating. She could barely speak," officer
Sean Tierney reportedly said at the arraignment. He added that Cordero was
McDonough's defense, such as it was, held up for all of six days -- until last
Friday, when it was reported that authorities in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, had
granted Echevarria a restraining order after she complained that Cordero, from
whom she had separated, had threatened her.
One final observation. Last June 29 the Globe's Peter Gammons blamed
local officials, the media, and Red Sox management for Cordero's ordeal,
charging them with lacking "enough decency . . . to try to comprehend
the cultural differences between here and the projects of Mayaguez, Puerto
Last week, Mayaguez authorities sent a message that, cultural differences or
not, spousal abuse is taken as seriously there as it is in Cambridge.
Back in the 1950s, pioneering rock-and-roll disc jockey Alan Freed nearly went
to prison for accepting payola. Today, in the brave new world of corporate
radio, it's simply called synergy.
It might also be called the only way in hell those aging disco icons the Bee
Gees are going to get any airplay.
In what could be a chilling sign of things to come, the radio trade magazine
Hits reports that Chancellor Media, which owns 99 stations across the
country, recently struck a deal with Bee Gees manager Allen Kovac to get the
Gibb boys back in circulation whether listeners like it or not.
The deal requires 14 Chancellor stations -- including Boston's top-rated KISS
108 (WXKS, 107.9 FM) -- to play "Still Waters Run Deep," the single from the
new album Still Waters, 120 times over a two-month period. Chancellor,
in turn, gets exclusive rights to broadcast an upcoming Bee Gees concert -- a
notably unimpressive payoff, perhaps, but a quid pro quo nevertheless.
The song, instantly forgettable soft funk, needs all the help it can get --
although, on the bright side, Barry, Robin, and Maurice sound somewhat less
like Alvin and the Chipmunks than they did during their Saturday Night
According to the playlist posted on KISS's Web site
the Bee Gees haven't exactly been a threat to Chumbawamba. "Still
Waters Run Deep" debuted on November 16 at No. 27, and within two weeks had
staggered all the way up to No. 20. Pretty lame, given all those
front-office-mandated spins. (Fun fact: the playlist is emblazoned with the
slogan "It's Your Music, We Just Play It!!!")
KISS program director John Ivey defends the Chancellor deal as a way of
letting listeners decide on a group that individual radio stations, acting on
their own, might have believed was too unhip to be heard. He offers the example
of Fleetwood Mac, virtually banned from radio before their MTV-fueled comeback
proved the public still liked them.
Still, Ivey concedes the obvious when he says of the Bee Gees: "They've been a
good friend of KISS, and you try not to forget loyalty, even when a band may no
longer be at its peak."
Since the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which virtually
eliminated ownership restrictions, most of the country's 10,000 or so
commercial radio stations have fallen to a handful of media conglomerates
("Sound and Fury," News, November 14).
Boston-based radio consultant Donna
Halper believes the Chancellor-Bee Gees deal is an early example of what will
become a standard business practice in corporate radio.
"I'm afraid that we're going to see more of this," Halper says.
Since firing editor Michael Kelly this past September, New Republic
editor-in-chief/chairman Martin Peretz has been inching back toward the
magazine's liberal roots -- not so much in ideology, which remains eclectic,
but rather in tone. Under new editor Charles Lane, there seems to be a renewed
willingness to write about policy constructively instead of engaging in the ad
hominem attack that was a hallmark not just of Kelly's brief tenure, but of the
past dozen or so years. (For a sharp analysis of the magazine's descent from
liberalism to nihilism, check out TNR alumnus Richard Blow's critique in
the current Washington Monthly.)
Now TNR has returned to the scene of one of its worst crimes -- its
drive-by shooting of the Clinton health-care plan -- and has managed to remove
some chalk from the outline that still remains on the sidewalk.
In February 1994, then-editor Andrew Sullivan published a cover piece by
conservative-think-tank analyst (and future New York lieutenant governor) Betsy
McCaughey that played a big part in killing Clintoncare. But despite winning a
National Magazine Award, McCaughey's caricature of the 1342-page bill as an
oppressive, bureaucratic nightmare was loaded with the sort of errors that
could have come right out of the insurance industry's coyly dishonest "Harry
and Louise" ads -- as Michael Kinsley and Mickey Kaus, then both of TNR,
and James Fallows, then of the Atlantic Monthly, later pointed out.
By contrast, this week's cover package, titled "Unhealthy Profits," is a model
of progressive thinking. The lead piece, by Katherine Eban Finkelstein, a
journalist who specializes in health-care policy, argues that the rising
oligarchy of managed-care companies has created an uncaring, impersonal private
system that's a mirror image of the uncaring, impersonal public system
Clinton's critics warned of. (Although most of Finkelstein's case studies are
psychiatric patients, the one who makes the most visceral impression is an
80-year-old man with prostate cancer. His doctor insisted on castration rather
than hormone treatment because it's cheaper.) That piece is accompanied by a
report by Susan Reed on how women -- because of gender-specific needs related
to childbirth, gynecological care, and breast health -- are disproportionately
burdened by the cost-cutting practices of HMOs.
Neither piece contains specific regulatory proposals. In fact, Finkelstein
goes out of her way to beat the dead horse of the Clinton plan as "reminiscent
of the bureaucratic dystopia in the movie Brazil." Still, it's
encouraging to see TNR addressing the still-simmering health-care crisis
from a liberal perspective.
Peretz's ouster of Kelly caused enormous short-term damage for TNR,
since it was widely interpreted as a sign that Peretz would not abide any
bashing of his friend Al Gore in the coming presidential campaign. Indeed, the
Gore dilemma has yet to be addressed in a satisfactory way.
But if nothing else, the Kelly affair may have scared Peretz into moving
left. After announcing that he acted because of Kelly's "rancor and enmity to
the liberal idea"
("Don't Quote Me,"
News, September 12), Peretz can hardly
afford to be seen overindulging his neocon tendencies.
At least not for a while.
With the 1998 political season about to get under way, the Boston
Globe is making a few changes in some key positions.
The biggest change will take place at the State House. Congressional reporter
Jill Zuckman will be moving from Capitol Hill to Beacon Hill, where she'll join
veterans Scot Lehigh, Adrian Walker, and State House bureau chief Frank
Phillips in covering the governor's race. In addition, Geeta Anand, soon to
return from maternity leave, will switch from City Hall to the State House,
replacing Doris Wong, who returns to the newsroom. Judy Rakowsky has already
taken Anand's old slot at City Hall.
Zuckman's departure from Washington next month creates a vacancy that will be
filled by Mary Leonard, who'll be finishing up her yearlong stint as the Sunday
Focus writer. Leonard's previous position, that of deputy to Washington bureau
chief David Shribman, is likely to be filled by Rosalind Jackler, currently the
bureau's news editor.
Across town, Boston Herald political editor Joe Sciacca is getting
ready to hire a new reporter who'll be based at City Hall, but who'll be
available to help out Joe Battenfeld, Maggie Mulvihill, and State House bureau
chief Carolyn Ryan with state political coverage. The Herald also plans
to hire a new investigative reporter whose work will focus primarily on
The American Prospect, the wonky "Journal for the Liberal Imagination"
founded seven years ago by former Labor secretary Robert Reich, journalist
Robert Kuttner, and sociologist Paul Starr, is aiming for the mainstream.
According to executive editor Scott Stossel, within about six months the
magazine will unveil a new design and a shift in orientation aimed at expanding
readership beyond its loyal base of policy nerds. The editors are also taking a
serious look at publishing monthly rather than every other month. The goal:
boosting circulation from its current 23,000 to 50,000 and beyond.
Stossel sees the Prospect's niche as equidistant between the centrist
New Republic and the leftist Nation. "At this point there's a
void," he says. "There's no definitive liberal policy magazine."
Articles from July 24, 1997 & before can be accessed here