Topic: The Worst Topic Ever?

Managed to get the last flight out of Reagan National last night, joined by a packed plane full of relieved passengers, many of whom had rebooked flights to beat the blizzard and avoid an entire weekend of already-cancelled flights.

These flights are fun, by the way, if you’re into hack-watching, because they often feature members of our embarrassing congressional delegation and their aides. Sometimes, you might end up sitting next to one of them.

Upon arrival at Logan, I hopped into the car after paying Massport’s confiscatory parking rates, started the engine and turned on the radio, which was set to WTKK.

The local host’s topic? A question for callers: what’s the oddest musical duet pairing you’ve ever heard?

Say what you want about Michael Savage, the syndicated competition on WRKO, but he was all over the key issues that hour: ObamaCare, Iran’s provocation with Iraq and a number of other major news headlines.

I’ve always been a major advocate of live and local programming, but it only makes sense when the product is compelling.

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A Frustrated Boston Talk Fan Writes

We’ll leave this person’s name out of it, but here’s an interesting note I received today. I thought you’d do the best job answering these questions:

Hi Brian,

I’m a loyal follower of your SaveWRKO website because of the “inside scoop” I get from it, as well as a survey of local talk from WTKK. That’s why I’m writing.

You’ve probably gotten messages like this before, but I feel like I need to say this to someone like you who’s been in the radio business. What in heck is up with WTKK?

Jay Severin is one of the most transparently apathetic hosts I’ve ever heard on radio. His smooth talking and expansive vocabulary impressed me sometimes, but I often got the sense that he was in a local station with absolutely no knowledge– and no interest– in discussing local issues.

I’ve been listening to him not exactly all the time, but fairly regularly since late 2007, and I can’t remember a discussion where he ran with Massachusetts/ Boston issues.

He even admits sometimes that he “doesn’t know much” about area politics. After being around here for years, how the heck can he miss this stuff? Is he trying? Is he looking to go to a bigger station?

On yesterday’s show, I was particularly appalled when Jay’s cell phone rang during the broadcast. I can’t remember the exact time, but he actually leaned away from the microphone and took care of the phone. He didn’t answer the call, but he had to muffle the ringing. If he’s been doing radio for so long, as he says “10 wonderful years” or whatever, how on earth does he make these mistakes? That seems like a pretty rookie blunder.

Also, while I like Michael Graham because of his conservatism, he also seems pretty weak on the local stuff. He knows Deval Patrick’s shenanigans, but he really can’t talk with confidence about towns and cities around Massachusetts because he has no idea where they are.

Why does WTKK hire these people?

Also, as for WRKO, I’m increasingly turned off by Howie Carr’s defeatism, which you pointed up before. If he thinks no conservative has a chance, why does he yap about it? And when is Tom Finneran going to be let go by WRKO?

Even The Globies Aren’t Fooled By Martha’s Cheap Ploy

When you’re a Massachusetts Democratic Party nominee for the US Senate, it’s not easy to run afoul of the Boston Globe, a partisan newspaper of the first order. Glowing tributes, followed by the inevitable endorsement, can be expected without fail.

That’s why today’s editorial is especially damning: did Martha Coakley really believe her childish ploy wouldn’t be seen as transparent? Her sudden concern for including “all candidates” in upcoming debates means a phony “Kennedy” on the ballot would participate and shield cowardly Coakley from a real one-on-one showdown.

From the Globie editorial:

Yet a one-on-one debate would be a microcosm of the political environment awaiting the next US senator – an intensely partisan climate in which Democrats and Republicans are forever jockeying for advantage – and give voters a look at how Coakley and Brown would hold up in it.

Kennedy, a libertarian who isn’t related to the most famous family in Massachusetts politics, deserves a spot in some debates. It’s easy to see, though, why the third-party candidate’s presence at all debates would be so helpful to Coakley. For one thing, it would pit Brown against another candidate who might appeal to conservative voters.

Furthermore, multicandidate debates helped the attorney general in the Democratic primary race. As rivals Michael Capuano and Steve Pagliuca duked it out, Coakley stayed serenely above the fray – a posture that’s much harder to maintain with only one other opponent on the stage.

But WRKO’s Howie Carr believes Coakley’s making a strategic error for a different reason: it’s not wise to promote the fact that a “Kennedy” is on the ballot. From his column:

But Martha’s problem is, with a Kennedy on the ballot – any Kennedy – any damned thing can happen. Back in the 1950s, three times Massachusetts elected a treasurer named John F. Kennedy, the F being for Francis, not Fitzgerald. The other JFK probably could have gone on having it made, except he decided to run for governor in 1960, the same year the real guy was running for president.

The other JFK finished fifth. Two other John Kennedys ran for treasurer. They lost too. Three other John Kennedys ran for office that year too – two for state rep and one for Norfolk County treasurer. I think they lost too.

Back in 1986, Joe Kennedy – Joe P., not Joe L. – was running for Tip O’Neill’s seat. I knew a guy working the polls on primary day in Medford – Ed Markey’s congressional district. All day, the guy said, old ladies would go into the voting booths and then come out, waving their ballots.

“I came down here to vote for Kennedy,” they’d yell. “Why isn’t Joe Kennedy’s name on the ballot?”

In those days the electorate was befuddled by beer. Now, I would venture to guess, most of Martha Coakley’s potential voters are addled by powerful prescription meds. Does anyone seriously think the electorate is shrewder than it used to be?

The Massachusetts Fodder Machine Keeps Plugging Along

As a Taunton public school’s compulsory psychiatric evaluation of an 8-year-old enrages the public, nutty Bay State antics are once again fueling talkers, bloggers and others.

The boy’s crime? Drawing a picture of Jesus on the cross.

Imagine: deranged public officials in Massachusetts questioning the sanity of an 8-year-old? Talk about having it backwards.

While the Taunton Daily Gazette and Boston Herald are all over this, between Golden Globe nominations and Bostonian Of The Year silliness, The Globies haven’t yet found room to cover the controversy.

From the Gazette:

The student drew the picture shortly after taking a family trip to see the Christmas display at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette, a Christian retreat site in Attleboro. He made the drawing in class after his teacher asked the children to sketch something that reminded them of Christmas, the father said.

“I think what happened is that because he put Xs in the eyes of Jesus, the teacher was alarmed and they told the parents they thought it was violent,” said Toni Saunders, an educational consultant with the Associated Advocacy Center.

Saunders is working with the boy’s parents after a mutual acquaintance referred them to her.

“When I got that call, I was so appalled that I had to do something,” Saunders said.

“They weren’t looking at the fact that this is an 8-year-old child with special needs,” she added.

“They made him leave school, and they recommended that a psychiatrist do an evaluation.”

The school, in fact, required the evaluation before the boy could return, the father said.

Maxham School principal Rebecca Couet referred all questions on the matter to the superintendent’s office.

Superintendent Julie Hackett said district policy prevents her from discussing a “confidential matter regarding a student.”

“Generally speaking, we have safety protocols in place,” Hackett said. “If a situation warrants it, we ask for outside safety evaluations if we have particular concerns about a child’s safety. We followed all the protocols in our system.”

Hackett refused to specifically discuss the student’s drawing or the school’s reaction to it.

The father was flabbergasted when he learned his son had to undergo an evaluation.

“When she told me he needed to be psychologically evaluated, I thought she was playing,” he said.

The man said his son, who gets specialized reading and speech instruction at school, has never shown any tendency toward violence.

“He’s never been suspended,” he said. “He’s 8 years old. They overreacted.”

The boy made the drawing and was sent home from school on Dec. 2. He went for the psychological evaluation — at his parents’ expense — the next day and was cleared to return to school the following Monday after the psychological evaluation found nothing to indicate that he posed a threat to himself or others.

UPDATE: The Globies are working overtime to pour cold water on the incident, but it’s a he-said, she-said situation at this point.

UPDATE: The Globies were a bit too eager to shoot this story down, the Herald has a new report on the dispute.

Mass Judicial System Once Again Damages Children

Any local talk host worth his or her salt is all over today’s horrifying development from Kingston, where cockroach Joseph Gardner was somehow (allegedly) able to get his hands on another child.

Why any mother would allow her children to sleep over at his apartment is quite a mystery indeed, but the bigger issue is why he was allowed to go free on bail (just $10,000) while facing an earlier child rape charge.

This time, it’s a three-year-old who has been victimized by the Bay State’s disgusting (and amazingly primitive) court system.

Howie’s all over it, as is just about every local media outlet.

Think this won’t become a political issue? Guess again.

Image: Boston Herald

Martha Coakley: One Lousy Poker Player

After convincing most of us she wasn’t worried about coasting to victory in January’s special US Senate election, Martha Coakley’s actions tell a different story. The Democratic Party nominee’s cynical move to include phony candidate Joseph L Kennedy in upcoming debates is designed to eliminate the unpleasant prospect of directly facing Republican Scott Brown on camera.

As Coakley has a reputation for weak campaigning skills (due to a lack of opponents over the years) and a cold, distant public speaking style, adding fraudulent faker Kennedy (who is attempting to capitalize on surname confusion, he is unrelated to the family) is a ploy to undermine Brown.

If the general election was truly a cakewalk, Coakley wouldn’t waste the energy making a silly move like this, as it wouldn’t matter. Clearly, her internal polling shows this to be a tighter race than the public would believe (especially due to incredibly low expected turnout). She’s a lousy poker player.

So that begs the question: WHY is there cause for worry from the Coakley camp?

I think it’s directly tied to the last comparable open seat free-for-all in Massachusetts: the 2007 race between Democrat Niki Tsongas and Republican Jim Ogonowski in the Fifth Congressional District. In that one, Tsongas should have won by 20 points, given warm feelings toward her late husband, Paul.

Instead, she won in a relative squeaker, slightly more than five percentage points ahead of Ogonowski, a badly underfunded Republican whose claim to fame was based on his brother’s heroic role as a pilot during the 9-11 attacks.

Here’s the kicker: the national political climate two years ago heavily favored Democrats, as Bush’s popularity faded and the GOP lost control of Congress. It never should have been a competitive race, yet just a bit of attention from the increasingly inept national party could have put the Republican over the top.

In 2009, we’ve got the opposite environment, with Obama’s popularity fading fast and Republicans now leading Democrats on the generic congressional ballot (historically rare).

If Scott Brown were to run a more effective (aggressive) campaign than Ogonowski in 2007, Martha’s cakewalk vanishes and this becomes a truly tight race.

Coakley’s also got an even bigger problem: many of her voters may wrongly assume the race ended on primary day. Or, if they’re aware of the general election, they assume Coakley will sail to victory, so there’s no need to vote.

By contrast, the opposition is chomping at the bit to get a chance to go to the polls and express their disgust. It’s up to Scott Brown to channel that energy and get his own side fired up as much as possible.

Graham Not Going To Afghanistan

Michael Graham’s planned trip to Afghanistan is a no-go, according to the Herald this evening.

The WTKK midmorning talker had planned to visit for a week, during which time there would be some phone-in interview segments. But I found the trip odd for one reason: he seemed to be going primarily for reasons not related to talk radio, such as performing stand-up comedy.

An earlier Herald report indicated that liberal lifestyle talker Mel Robbins was to fill in while he was away, leading me to wonder whether there were logistical difficulties in hosting entire programs from Afghanistan.

Earlier today, however, I learned that one of Air America’s hosts has just returned from a full week of broadcasting from the war zone, so it must be possible, if difficult.

Nonetheless, WTKK’s use of a liberal lifestyle talker to fill in for a conservative is akin to a jazz DJ spinning Miles Davis and John Coltrane discs while one of WKLB-FM’s jocks is away for the holidays. How does that go over with the audience?

Liberal and conservative talk are separate formats. How hard is it to figure out this basic concept?