Sunday, December 10, 2006

The end?

It's guys like him who's the reason this network won't survive, if he has this attitude. You know, what he said to The Times. You know 'We can't go to far. We got to play it safe.' You know, playing it safe was what got us into this mess.
-- Michael Moore, Left of the Dial

On the first half-day the radio network Air America Radio began broadcasting, Michael Moore made the above observation. Mark Walsh is the person Moore was referring to. Walsh was a co-founder and the original CEO of Air America Radio. Here's the section of the piece from The Times Moore was speaking of:

He [Mark Walsh] draws a bell curve on a marker board, then makes lines dividing his curve into sections. The sections on the far left and far right are almost flat, but as you approach the middle, both sides grow. He draws an oval around the swollen area to the left of center. ''I think Al and voices like Al's really blend in here,'' he said. ''I think Michael Moore, for example, is a very talented writer and performer, but a lot of what he says starts to go out on the curve -- much like Michael Savage, who is pretty far out on the other side. Everybody is fighting over a very skinny slice of the independents, because those are the people who are persuadable.''
The chart is Walsh's way of characterizing the electorate/radio audience. Air America, he said, intends to tilt leftward, but not too far.

Air America Radio is not the left. (It's still "is" as we write.) And it never was set up to be. There are and have been left voices, as hosts and guests, on the network but the plan was never to provide a left radio network.

What was the big plan? Honestly? To elect the Democratic candidate president. It was never about issues, it was never about listeners, it was never some laughable notion of 'family,' it was always about election results. If that's not clear to anyone, watch Left of the Dial. In their first financial crisis, which began two weeks after they went on air, at a time when people are not being paid, when they have no insurance, when workers need to buy food and their rents are -- workers with bounced checks -- what's an executive whining about? "It's too bad, I hate to give this ground in an election year."

Yeah, that is too bad. People aren't getting paid, it's 2004 and that 2004 election is the be all end all, right?

The failure of the network has been, from the beginning, the lack of long range vision. It's why the commerical networks has had nonstop financial problems from the beginning and it's why, if they cease to exist, it's not great loss. They've built nothing, they've left nothing. There is no impact.

Does that seem overly harsh?

In today's Washington Post, Marc Fischer quotes WTNT's operations manager Bill Hess explaining why The Randi Rhodes Show will not be carried live, "She's got unbridled passion, which is good, but my ears are going to bleed after 15 minutes. Man, how about a laugh now and then?"

Now if you've ever listened to Rhodes, you know there are jokes mixed in. If you're like us, you think they're funny jokes and you know she provides an informed and entertaining program. But what you need to ask yourself is why, three months shy of its third year anniversary in March, Rhodes can be dismissed as loud ("ears are going to bleed" is saying "loud" and much more).

There's a reason for that, she's a woman. Women have not gained ground in radio for some time. Green Stone Media is attempting to address that. But with almost three years of airtime to show for it, a really liberal or even slightly liberal radio network would have attempted to address that.

Air America Radio? In the beginning, Sue Ellicott was on Morning Sedition, Lizz Winstead and Rachel Maddow were on Unfiltered, Katherine Lanpher co-hosted Baby Cries A Lot's show, Rhodes hosted The Randi Rhodes Show, and Janeane Garofalo carried Sam Seder's annoying ass on The Majority Report. By summer of 2004, The Mike Malloy Show would follow The Majority Report rounding out it's new content for the day.

Of those original weekday shows, Rhodes is the only woman who's still there. First to go was Sue Ellicott with a laughable excuse given as the show became the two Mark/cs. Then came the moment that should have alarmed everyone, when Lizz Winstead was vanished as the network approached the one year mark.

Winstead wasn't just 'on air' talent, though, due to the lawsuit, the party line these days is that's all she was. Winstead was behind the scenes talent as well, shaping the shows and the format. Rhodes was already a radio success story. As a woman she was an underreported radio succes, but she was a success. Rhodes brought her show, that she developed, to the network. The other shows? Winstead was the one arguing that it needed to be a conversation, that you couldn't just have someone talking into the mike (especially since very few on airs had any radio experience) and pushed the concept of teams.

Winstead saw the network as offering comedy, something she knows a great deal about having co-created The Daily Show for Comedy Central. Winstead's vanishing was the first public indication of serious problems with the network.

There are several threads running through the tale of the disappearence of Winstead. The most serious issue was the network allowing itself to be co-opted. That's what happened and anyone who tells you differently is kidding themselves. At least one investor believes that Clear Channel was a "trojan horse." Clear Channel, a right-wing, Bully Boy loving, freedom hating, no-free-speech zone began picking up programming and carrying it over their stations.

If you're asking why a 'liberal' network would get mixed up with Clear Channel to beging with, you haven't paid attention. In markets where the programming was airing pre-Clear Channel, the shows, all of them, were gaining audiences. Once Clear Channel began involved noises begin made. Unfiltered, with two women hosts and Chuck D rounding out the trio, was the "take down." Mumbles and grumbles. It was a 'little too left,' it was 'a little too soft,' 'it was a little too female.'

Which was why the network opted for 'star power' and began talks with Jerry Springer, talks of TV's trash merchant filling the spot that Unfiltered currently occupied. This wasn't discussed with the Unfiltered team and when Winstead found out, when they all found out, she was outraged. She should have been and we'll leave it at that due to the lawsuit.

What happens next is that Winstead is off the show. The show was still on, it would continue airing through March (the April Fool's prank AAR played on listners was debuting Springer on the Radio). But where was Lizz Winstead?

On air, Rachel Maddow originally said Lizz was out because she was sick. When one day became two became three, that lie wasn't flying. The lies continued. Rachel Maddow got very angry on air when the program's message board posters insisted to know where Lizz was. A caller slipped the question in on air and Maddow didn't want to talk about it. Chuck D wasn't there to hide behind and what you saw was a host lie and then evade listeners, day after day.

There was no "family." Not among the people working for the network, as Winstead's appearance made perfectly clear, and there was no "family" between the listener and the host as Maddow's evasions made perfectly clear.

During this period, people (not listeners) took to posting on the program's blog that Lizz Winstead was seriously ill. Readers of the show's blog were told they need to shut up about Winstead, that Winstead's health hung by the thread and that this wasn't helping her because she just wanted to be left alone.

No one bought Winstead as Garbo. It made Maddow a liar to listeners, someone as clumsy with the truth as Donald Rumsfeld. When it was finally decided that the listeners could know a tiny bit of the truth, that the show was being cancelled, listeners were also encouraged, by Maddow's father (who thought she was doing a great job) to bombard Air America Radio with e-mails so that Maddow would have a post-Unfiltered career with AAR.

On March 31st, the supposedly seriously ill, at death's door Winstead was on the show (as a call in) and, as anyone with a brain grasped, they'd been lied to. They'd been suckered. They'd been fooled. It's one of the lowest points in the network's history and even a court of law may not be able to untangle all that went down.

As Winstead vanished so did the thoughts of comedy. (Springer's not a comedian.) And the network was on a new direction (and Danny Goldberg was now at the helm of the network) where they'd be more 'newsy'.

Randi Rhodes does do comedy bits in her show, she always has. She does tell jokes. But, if you missed it, the problem now is that the network's just not funny enough.

So, yet again, it tries to do a personality transplant.

In the meantime, Baby Cries A Lot has lost his female co-host (but take heart, he brags that a woman brings in coffee and doughnuts on Mondays, just like a good little secretary of old). Mike Malloy was going to be back for another year, it was announced, and then it was announced he was gone. Janeane Garofalo's show became Sam Seder's show (while she was doing The West Wing) and began tanking in the ratings. Rachel Maddow did a "news" show with comedic bits that was buried in the early morning hours that no one heard (due to time, due to host) and now she bores listeners for two hours each night while Seder (talk about "ears going to bleed") sends them running from nine to noon each weekday.

On the weekdays you have Randi Rhodes and that's pretty much it. Randi Rhodes and a bunch of second bananas who got elevated to unearned star status. Should the network find a last minute cash infusion (some people are very stupid with their money though ones we spoke to who had turned the network down said there "no"s are "hard nos"), who knows what will be on air in six months? Radio is not the fall TV season, something that no one seems to have ever grasped.

Unfiltered wasn't tanking. It was doing well where it was aired. Clear Channel enjoyed another show and broadcast it instead of Unfiltered. AAR could have stood by the show but didn't. Their 'answer' was to go running to a trash TV male (whose show didn't garner ratings) and erase women from the lineup.

You can't do that with radio, you can't repeatedly muck up the schedule. It's not TV and the relationship between listener and program is very different from the relationship between viewer and TV program.

But they never understood radio. They still don't. They thought they were going to sweep the nation and do it immediately via radio stations carrying their programs. They never grasped how difficult it was to build a nation wide audience or grasped that they could have built a very successful model around online streaming.

Though it's largely forgotten now, Air America Radio set records for online streaming. In the early days, you could hear it live with Windows Media Player or Real Player. They had to muck that up too.

Their first attempt there was to reduce the amount of hours a listener could listen to. Now, in talk radio, getting people to listen for more than 15 minutes is a goal everyone shoots for. So the decision to limit the stream to three hours was a huge a mistake. That got dropped shortly after it began. But not before the damage was done.

Their next great idea (that is sarcasm) was to prevent Air America Place from archiving their shows. If you're new, you need all the help you can get. If someone might stumble onto a show because they can hear a past episode and be interested in hearing a new one, you don't muck that up. If someone can play an episode for a friend and possibly garner you a new listener who will listen to the live programs, you go with it.

More importantly, as the Napster nightmare can tell you, you don't screw with the new technology and techies without a backlash. But they did screw with it and Air America Place was no longer able to archive shows and then it was instructed to take down all the archives they did have up.


The commercial network was now going to be "listener supported" as well. The two don't mix. Not even NPR airs official commercials and also expects listeners to donate. We'll do this blind item style but it was really tacky the way someone was used to bring in name acts (including bands) and was then stabbed in the back by the network.

But if you donated money, you could watch and listen. You could hear old shows. You could see video feeds when a name band was on the show.

Now if any of that seems beside the point, it's because it was. It was a desperation measure and it looked desperate and it smelled desperate and that was when AAR shot itself in the foot with many would-be investors.

But they weren't done mucking up the online stream. As we noted last week, we got e-mails on Saturday from readers complaining that they couldn't listen to Laura Flanders. "Please tune back later." Over and over. This week, an e-mail confused the hell out of us. So we e-mailed back asking if we could call and figure out what was going on?

In the original days of streaming, when you could choose between Windows Media Player and Real Player, the player popped up. Now days the player is part of the AAR webpage. Now days, who knows what they're to sell, it's causing problems. No surprise.

The reader who'd e-mailed explained the problem over the phone. (We are not the Air America Radio Support team. We do enjoy Flanders' show and encourage people to listen to it.) She held the phone up to her computer speakers and she was caught in a loop. The same phrase was repeated over and over. She told us she could make it go away.

This was by clicking on "Security Alert" (either yes or no to the alert) or by closing that "Security Alert" window. The alert reads something like: "You are about to leave a secure connection." She wasn't leaving anything.

She was on the AAR page, to listen to Flanders, and missing most of the show. It's a three hour show and she doesn't sit in front of her computer during it. She turns up the speakers and takes care of things "like cleaning the bathroom while I listen." The first time it happened, she let it go on for a few minutes. It was a commercial and she figured it was a broadcast error and not the stream. But as she realized that Carolyn Ho (mother of Ehren Watada) should be speaking by now, she put down her sponge and went to her computer. She had the "Security Alert."

She got rid of it, went back to the bathroom to finish cleaning. Every two-and-a- half minutes that alert popped up (and every time it did, the stream went into a loop). She stated, "I love this show but I am not going to sit in front of my computer for three hours to click off a Security Alert every two-and-a-half minutes." We gave her a radio station website she could go to and hear the show away from the main AAR site and she had no other problems. Actually, she had bit of praise for the station and we'll get back to that in a minute.

Now they could have created an online model in this new century. They didn't want that. They wanted to be big-and-nation-wide. And there's actually a problem with that for the left as well though we're all supposed to hold our noses and pretend like it's not there.

What's the biggest beef with Clear Channel that doesn't revolve around politics? Canned programming, no on air talent, just broadcasting canned programming. That was actually a safety issue for the town of Minot in North Dakota. As Bill Moyer's NOW reported, a train deraliment led to a toxic hazard that citizens needed to be warned about but six of the seven commercial radio stations couldn't be reached because they aired canned programming so people of the town listening to those stations had no idea that an emergency situation was taking place.

The AAR network never wanted to grow naturally and apparently didn't give a damn about the need for local programming. Some detected, after the relationship between AAR and Clear Channel began, the same reluctance as NPR to address big oil and other issues due to their own financial relationships.

Well it was never really about serving listeners, just about elections.

Serving listeners doesn't allow for on air hosts to simply disappear with some mumbled, weak ass explanation. When Mike Malloy was dropped, the same pattern of denial and evasion surfaced again. (Possibly a reflection of the network's business model?)

The non-stop focus (electing candidates) has allowed stations airing the programs to begin substituting non-AAR programs that are even less left than many on AAR. (No, Matthew Rothschild, she's not talented.)

Early on, it should have been obvious how some didn't give a damn about whether or not listeners were being served. In fact, that very issue was aired publicly on The Majority Report early on. In an infamous show, the artist Peaches was on in a long interview that bombed. It bombed so bad the show's blog was saying to end the interview. It bombed so bad that "Peaches" would become Janeane Garofalo's sign off while/when she was on the show.

Listeners to the live program discovered the interview wasn't live when Garofalo put a halt to it.
Noting that the interview was taped ahead of time and that it wasn't working, Garofalo said they'd do something else. "No," replied Seder, we'll air the interview. A back and forth ensued and since Seder was not then the toast of the social climbing set, Garofalo and listeners won out.
But that's the issue. That's always been the issue.

Are listeners going to be served or not?

Sam Seder's attitude was the interview was taped, it was airing. Didn't matter how bad it was. (It was hideous say three participating who heard it.) You have to no respect for listeners to put them through an interview that's bombing, a taped interview, that you can easily pull.

Garofalo's no longer with the network, Seder still is. That tells you what 'model' is followed.

What went down on The Majority Report, over the history of the show, also tells the story of Air America Radio. In the early days and the high ratings days, Garofalo would have conversations with guests. Guests from the left, who might be women, might be people of color, might or might not be Democrats. And the second banana knew his place though he chafed in it (and frequently got off little barbs).

When Garofalo took her first vacation, there was an effort to pair Seder with guest hosts which included women (such as Naomi Klein for one broadcast -- Seder argued and interrupted a lot). That quickly went out the window. When Garofalo was on leave (not intended as such), Seder had the whole show to himself and you could listen in vain waiting for a woman.

He'd always been rude and dismissive on air to Garofalo before she started working on The West Wing. He would only become more so as the show went on.
Who the hell is Sam Seder? Someone who couldn't even get a call back for a sitcom. Someone who wrote a bad book that you can find at any store that stocks unsold remainders.

But he and his cheerleaders somehow convinced the network that he had an audience (he didn't then, he doesn't now). And suddenly, his chauvinism wasn't one line every half-hour, it was on display repeatedly. When Janeane Garofalo returned to hosting duties the self-dramatizing Seder had to take a long vacation (for which listeners across the country say "Thank you!"). When he returned an event took place on air that never should have. But so stoked was he by his new set (which can't elect candidates and couldn't make him a star) that he felt it was time to prove who the 'man' was. The on air bickering had long ago lost any playful quality but he'd never been so rude to Garofalo on air before. He stormed out of the studio on air (the sort of thing that at a real commercial network gets your ass fired) and that was really it for the show.

His social climbing was evident during the 2004 DNC convention when he all but begged his way onto Sean Hannity's TV program. (He wasn't invited, though he never seems to have grasped that fact. Hannity blew him off, on air on AAR, and was only interested in Janeane Garofalo. Garofalo didn't even want to do the program but ended up doing it because Seder whined and whined. It was an echo of their interview with Ed Koch who also treated Seder like the nobody he was and is.)

A little nobody gets his ego pumped up by would-be-players? That's also the story of Air America Radio.

The best current grapevine news is that Baby Cries A Lot may be out. The Senate run's the conventional wisdom, alternative speculation is that, were that the case, an exit would have been announced and the reality is he's hoping to go with the challenger to AAR (from the center) but all the details haven't been worked out yet and the big announcement comes after he returns to the country.

But they can't announce his departure (if he is leaving) even if they wanted to. Why?

They made him the face of the network.

They put him out there on billboards, put him out to the press, and he wasn't about to share the limelight. The little nobody who spent the seventies sending Saturday Night Live viewers running from their television sets was now a somebody. A media created somebody, but still.

And blame your left press for that crap. Blame The Progressive and The Nation for doing cover stories on him. (He's not that left, he confessed, in his Progressive cover story -- a shocker only for the willfully stupid or the brain dead.) It was all about Baby Cries A Lot. And The Nation managed to slam Garofalo, who was actually a reader of the magazine long before AAR and a supporter of it, in their piece that fawned over Franklin (they reduced her entire contributions to one joke she'd made on air -- not even a joke, they didn't tell the joke, they just repeated a few words in a tsk-tsk manner). That the center would focus on a man was hardly surprising, that the left's own media would do the same was appalling -- all the more so when you consider that to build up Baby Cries A Lot a lot of women had to be torn down and that, by his own self-disclosure, he's not that left.

Women were torn down and/or ignored. Such as Randi Rhodes who, let's repeat, had radio experience, had a successful radio program, before AAR was even in the early planning stages. Think how idiotic you have to be to make Baby Cries A Lot your public face before your network airs a single program when he's got no radio background and he may or may not be able to perform. That was a concern about all the weekday programs. All but one, The Randi Rhodes Show.

But Rhodes was rarely mentioned in publicity for the network, didn't get billboards, didn't get much of anything. In the end, it doesn't really matter. While the network's fate hangs by a thread, she's one of two who doesn't have to worry. The Randi Rhodes Show will continue regardless of what happens to Air America Radio.

Having pushed aside all women from their daytime lineup, only Rhodes remains and when some operations manager now wants to whine about Rhodes not telling jokes while he replaces her with a centrist moron (male, is that redundant?), let's not kid that it's not sexism and let's not pretend that AAR has made any impact on radio.

In terms of weekday lineup, Randi Rhodes is it. She's the only radio star they have. (That's true whether Baby Cries A Lot stays or goes.) After Flanders finished her show Saturday night, we checked back with the reader who'd had the "Security Alert" problems. The first thing she wanted to tell us was that it was such a relief (listening online to a station broadcasting AAR for a few weeks more) not to have to hear Baby Cries A Lot.

That's because the program manager of that station (and he's not alone) operates out of a station that 'loses' Baby Cries A Lot plugs. More than anything else, Baby Cries A Lot has harmed the network. He's done it by eating up promotion time that could have gone to others. (Since it didn't, should they manage six more months, if he leaves, many investors will see it as the end.) He's run off listeners with his I'm-not-really-left program which always has room at the mikes for an AEI drone but can't book females on the left as guests. That was obvious in the show's first three days when fourteen guests were paraded and only two were women (one of the two played a character, the other was Hillary Clinton -- insert joke here). (Only one was African-American but AAR's record with regards to race is so awful that to tackle that would make for an even longer article.) (Oh, but that wasn't a full week! It was full enough to offer up 14 guests. For the record, the third week had fourteen guests as well -- only four were women -- but there was time to bring on Neal Boortz because the implied sign at the door only said "NO WOMEN ALLOWED," it said nothing about right-wingers.)

So the program manager (a friend of C.I.'s) regularly makes sure that Baby Cries A Lot's plugs don't get airtime because "he runs off listeners, we get complaints, he's just too much trouble."
B-b-but, he's the network's star -- he's the media created star.

For listeners? Baby Cries A Lot cries on air that US troops can't be withdrawn. Not because the Bully Boy won't withdraw them but because Baby Cries A Lot thinks troops shouldn't be withdrawn. He cries on air about this and that. It plays out like his embarrassing moment with Bill O'Reilly that non-thinkers applauded as "brave."

He really showed O'Reilly! That's what we're all supposed to state from the script, right?

Only he didn't. He was on the verge of tears and looked close to a mental breakdown. Don't worry, he's not. According to those who have observed him over the years, the tears are just a ploy when he's losing on a point. That's why he trots out the tears when the reality that US troops must leave Iraq comes up.

It also needs to be noted that when the mainstream media went into hagiography mode on Ronald Reagan, Baby Cries A Lot was there to lead the way (thankfully, no on air hosts followed his lead) at Air America Radio. In fact, Greg Palast found himself hustled off air for daring to inject the realities of Reagan presidency into a discussion.

Which was a lot like when Jeremy Glick was a guest. Glick's father died on 9-11. In an 'interview' with Bill O'Reilly, O'Reilly tried to shout him down and then insisted on his trademark "Shut up!" repeatedly to prevent Glick from making a point.

Early on, Baby Cries A Lot booked Glick and couldn't stop back patting himself on air about how Glick could talk on his show. Only Glick couldn't. He could talk about O'Reilly. Baby Cries A Lot wanted that but when Glick attempted to discuss the very real issue of blowback being responsible for 9-11 (Mid East policies), Glick was cut off and the subject changed. Can't allow criticisms of US policies to air when you're really not left.

O'Reilly was flat out rude to Glick but we think the rudeness was more honest. Anyone watching could tell what was going on. With Baby Cries A Lot, Glick got silenced more covertly.

There was the time, on air, where Baby Cries A Lot wanted to make sex jokes to an elderly African-American woman (whose mother was probably raped) but that probably doesn't make any highlight real. Probably others have the sense he doesn't and won't include the 'jokes' about her (White) father nailing her mother in the garden (her mother was a maid). (Rape? The deep south, pre-Civil Rights era, the woman was a maid. If you really think she was thinking, "I love the young lord of the manor!" you're delusional.)

There was the time an entertainer smiled through gritted teeth while Baby Cries A Lot insulted entertainers who are political -- did this on air. ("Know your place!" is how the entertainer remembers that on air spiel.) (And now the network wants people in the entertainment industry to consider bailing them out? They're lucky they have any guests from the entertainment world at all after the backstabbing following the move to get listeners to pay for extras.) (And another point, one musical guest made was, "I didn't know I was doing a fundraiser.")

When the network was in clamp down mode on Iraq a piece ran at CounterPunch. It offended Laura Flanders, who is anti-war, because it seemed to say that everyone was pro-Iraq war. Flanders isn't but she's on weekends and the article was addressing the weekday shows. But to be clear, if Flanders wasn't wanting the troops brought home, we wouldn't give shout outs to her show here. Randi Rhodes? Rhodes is to the left of Franken. "Which isn't saying much!"

Joke made. Rhodes wasn't calling for withdrawal then. She has since and has consistently addressed it. While she can, and has been doing it for some time on air, we know it's over a year-and-a-half and we'd guess it's longer than that, Baby Cries A Lot has stuck the establishment script. It was annoying in 2004. It's appalling today.

And that's who the network elected to build their network around, to make the public face. He couldn't shut up about troops staying, that they had to stay. Rachel Maddow made the same argument (though we're aware that irks her when it is brought up, too bad). The writer of the article noted Janeane Garofalo and Sam Seder. We're not sure how Garofalo ever got lumped into that group. [Two of us heard that on air call in that was included in the article. Possibly it had to do with her being so frequently cut off (even in the early days) by Seder (because, after all, if a woman's speaking, no one can follow -- right? -- that was saracsm).] But her stance long before AAR was the US troops needed to leave. Early on that appeared to be Seder's stance, early on in the program, then he started waffling. When the caller called in Seder was ballistic. Too damn bad. Seder, Maddow and Baby Cries A Lot were not calling for the troops to be brought home.

(We believe the article says that Maddow was. That's not true. Maddow had used the false Pottery Barn analogy before the article appeared -- "You break it, you bought it" -- and would continue to do so after the article appeared -- during the last month of Unfiltered, she was still prone to making that argument on air -- while worshipping the likes of Mommy's Pantyhose.)

By putting all their weight behind Baby Cries A Lot, AAR made that the unofficial position of the network as well. The refusual of left publications (other than CounterPunch) to address that reality doesn't bode well for them. But with or without it being pointed out, listeners caught on.
And he's remained the biggest image problem for a network that's wanted to present itself as "liberal talk radio" and radio 'for the left' when the reality is they were never aiming for more than slightly left.

If the network announces it's going under in the next few days, don't write it up as a failure of the left. The left didn't get a commercial radio network. Not in terms of topics, not in terms of guests, not in terms of hosts. Some hosts and some guests could be labeled left.

Many couldn't be. AEI 'scholars' aren't left and no left network would toss them softballs and give them time to self-promote and demonstrate how 'likeable' they were. No left network would have aired a weekly segment entitled "Ask A Vet" that only presented the voices of veterans in favor of continuing the illegal war. No left network would present "Ask A Vet" as a weekly segment without also offering an "Ask An Activist" segment. No left network would feel the need to follow an interview with Tariq Ali by issuing a disclaimer on the views he expressed.

If it fails, it fails in the same climate it was supposed to provide an alternative to -- where "from the left" is a joke as centrists play 'left' to an audience. The sad thing is that beyond the face of the network, a lot of people have done and are doing strong work. But when you make the face of 'left' radio someone who's not left and publicly brags that he's not that left, you end up bearing the fallout.

They could have had a face to offer the left and instead they went with a dart board.

Randi Rhodes will go on and Laura Flanders will as well, regardless of what happens to the network. But as it again teeters let's hope that the point is made: it was not a left network. Let's also hope that we've all learned a little from it whatever happens.

Chief point that should be learned is that we don't stomach that crap again. Left magazines should never have played follow big media by making Baby Cries A Lot a cover. (The Nation article was about the network's weekday programs -- it could have gone with a group shot or highlighted someone who truly was left. But, if you haven't noticed, White male tends to be a repeated theme of The Nation covers. Don't get us started on the other issue we're tracking -- the lack of female writers.)

Don't stomach it tomorrow, don't stomach it today.

When many listeners still cared about the network, you'd often come across a brief debate at one of the show's blogs. The topic would be an issue. We'll use the war because it was the most frequently cited and the nation is at war. It would usually note the ones who were for troops staying and the ones who weren't, it might offer up opinions on the b.s. of the "Pottery Barn" defense. Then it would move towards addressing a real issue, the refusal to call the war out by many at AAR. At which point, when the elephant in the room had been pointed out and named, someone would immediately blog, "Guys, it's the best that we have. Don't criticize it."

You know what? Americans have been settling for too damn long. A little bit before, it was "Bill Press may not be left but he's the best we have!" Or any of his faux left ilk. Now if all the Nervous Nells weren't always shutting down the topic, we might be able to actually address the issue of "settle."

Why in the world do you have to settle for a radio station? Or a magazine, or anything else. How little have you been conditioned to think of yourself that you're going to go out of your way to listen or pay for something that you know is a "settle." It's not reflecting you, it's not reflecting your opinions (or the opinions of many) but we have to "settle" for it?

If the issue had been explored, at any blog, instead of being immediately shut down, maybe Air America Radio wouldn't once again find itself waiting to see if the plug was about to be pulled.

In earlier times, various movements have demanded representation. These days, we're supposed to roll over and settle?

No, nothing is perfect but to note that is one thing. To urge people to 'settle' for things that don't even attempt to address the issues, concerns and opinions of the left is insane. No wonder a third party has yet to emerge as a significant challenge, when we even "settle" on our listening and reading choices.

The issue of "settle" is addressed by Michael Moore's quote in the opening. Things won't get better for the left by pretending to be something they're not or by settling for faux left posers. For those who are genuinely left (in any degree other than 'slightly'), they need to know that 'settle' isn't an option. Maybe they aren't aware of some are failing to address? If so, then drawing attention to it would be doing them a favor. Maybe they just don't care? If so, then knowledge of that would inform a great many.

The history of AAR thus far has played out as many thought it would. In Left of the Dial, an AAR exec whines, "It's taken them 22 years to get to where we are now." Them is the Republicans. Who is "we"?

We're not seeing much "we" these days. We're seeing lectures, we're seeing puffery, we're seeing cheerleading. That's not cutting it. If AAR goes under, it's not because the left wasn't a large enough audience to support a left, commercial network, it's because the left wasn't given one.
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