Wednesday, April 28, 2004

AIR AMERICA'S GROWING PAINS. Ridiculous though it may be, it appears that the death watch has already begun for Air America Radio. The Chicago Tribune reported yesterday that two of the liberal network's top executives, Mark Walsh and Dave Logan, have left the building - Walsh under his own power, Logan possibly not. This comes on the heels of a legal and financial dispute that has left Air America without stable homes in Los Angeles and Chicago.

The New York Times follows up today. And Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine, tells the Washington Post the obvious: "Chaos is not a good sign." A nitwit named Corey Deitz goes so far as to argue that Air America hosts Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo should emulate Gordon Liddy. What, by going to prison?

Needless to say, Air America can't be heard in Boston, either, unless you're paying for satellite radio or listening to the live stream over the Web.

Obviously Air America is going through growing pains, or maybe something rather worse than that. But the network is still only a month old. The unanswered question - and the key to the whole operation - is how much money its backers are prepared to spend to get this thing off the ground. If they're willing to spend whatever it takes for a year or two, then the current chaos doesn't matter. If they were hoping to break even within months after launching, then one suspects they didn't know what they were getting into in the first place.

Air America continues to add affiliates, including WMTW Radio (AM 870) in Portland, Maine. The station is changing its call letters to WLVP, which veteran radio-watcher Scott Fybush guesses stands for "Liberal Voice of Portland."

One thing I wonder about is whether the liberal audience that Air America has targeted really understands how bad talk radio is most of the time. Everyone talks about how successful Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are, but they host dreadful, almost unlistenable shows - smug, boring, unentertaining agitprop that is nearly impossible to listen to unless you've been lobotomized. Air America wants to rise above that, but it's hard to do so hour after hour after hour. Conservatives may be willing to listen to such crap, but that's one of the reasons that they're conservatives.

Time will tell whether Air America is going to succeed, and money will determine how much time there is. Everything else is irrelevant.

THE SILENCE OF THE LEAKEE. There is a magical moment laying bare the media-political axis toward the end of today's James Risen New York Times story on Defense Department neocon conspiracy theorist Douglas Feith ("the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth," according to General Tommy Franks).

Risen writes this about Michael Maloof, one of several deep thinkers Feith brought in to concoct ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda:

Mr. Maloof's Pentagon career was damaged in December 2001, when his security clearances were revoked. He was accused of having unauthorized contact with a foreign national, a woman he had met while traveling in the Republic of Georgia and eventually married. Mr. Maloof said he complied with all requirements to disclose the relationship. Several intelligence professionals say he came under scrutiny because of suspicions that he had leaked classified information in the past to the news media, a charge that Mr. Maloof denies. His lawyer, Sam Abady says that Mr. Maloof was a target because of his controversial intelligence work and political ties to conservative Pentagon leaders.

Today's question: is there any chance whatsoever that Risen doesn't know whether or not Maloof had leaked classified information to the news media?

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