Archive for March, 2004

March 30, 2004

No Ted Rall on Air America

As one of the few liberals to have worked as a host for AM talk radio for a major station (KFI AM 640, Los Angeles, from 1998 through 2000), I’m getting deluged with email asking whether I’ll be part of the new Air America leftie radio syndicate that debuts tomorrow.

I haven’t been asked.

As I describe in my upcoming book WAKE UP, YOU’RE LIBERAL, I had discussions with the predecessor to Air America, AnShell Media, but the new Air America has decided to take a less partisan, less overtly liberal political stance than the “left wing Rush Limbaugh/Clear Channel Communications” approach originally conceived by AnShell. That may be why they’ve excluded progressive voices.

Their roster includes some brilliant comedians–I’m a fan of both Al Franken and Janeane Garafalo–and it seems that that’s the direction Air America management wants to go: the leftism goes down easier with a dose of humor. While my KFI show did include a lot of humor, including Dave Eggers’ “Brooklyn Traffic”, “Dial a Dump” and the infamous “Stan Trek 2000” reality tour of Central Asia, my approach really was to attempt to be the left-wing Rush–aggressive, unfair to the Republican right, and unabashedly unashamed about promoting a liberal agenda. If Air America ever heard my aircheck tapes, they probably thought I was a little too strident for their tastes.

I wish them well, but to be honest, I believe that Air America is doomed.

First and foremost, political talk radio is a difficult medium, very personal and different than televised and stand-up comedy. Listeners to AM talk radio crave honesty, straightforwardness, the ability to think on your feet when dealing with callers. You also have to know your shit, backwards and forward. It took me a year to find my legs on the air; the Air America hosts won’t have that much time. If I’d been a member of the management, I would have eschewed the big/expensive names in favor of lesser-known liberal hosts with on-air experience in the medium.

Second, moderation is death. Like many Democrats, I listen to Rush and Hannity because they piss me off. It looks like Air America wants to convince Republicans by becoming their friends. That won’t work. Democrats want to hear a strident voice echoing their opinions; Republicans want to throw something at those Goddamn commies. Putting soft liberals on the air–Franken, I read somewhere, favored the war in Afghanistan–doesn’t accomplish that.

Third, the distribution model doesn’t make sense. Air America is only on six small stations. Here in New York, their WLIB is currently the home of obscure Carribean hits (yes, really). If you’re going to buy a station outright or take over its programming, you need to make a big splash. Here in New York, that would have required buying a big 50,000-watt talker like WABC or WOR, where an audience already exists for talk radio. Granted, that would have been prohibitively expensive. A far more intelligent approach would have been the slow build model. Right-wing talk radio, after all, didn’t spring up overnight. It started in the late 1970s. If Air America were serious, it would have begun acquiring stations in smaller markets, using their airwaves as a farm system to develop on-air talent for future national syndication. Buying small stations in big markets is an attempt to make a big political splash during an election year, not build a radio network.

Lastly, what happens if Kerry wins? The real test for leftie talk radio, as I can attest from my experience during the Clinton era, is whether it can attack a Democratic president from the left. Right-wing talk radio hosts like Rush often attack Bush from the right; they lose credibility when they suck up to authority. One suspects that Air America’s milquetoast approach won’t allow for that sort of thing.

Air America was a good idea, but its execution sucks.

March 30, 2004

No Ted Rall on Air America

As one of the few liberals to have worked as a host for AM talk radio for a major station (KFI AM 640, Los Angeles, from 1998 through 2000), I’m getting deluged with email asking whether I’ll be part of the new Air America leftie radio syndicate that debuts tomorrow.

I haven’t been asked.

As I describe in my upcoming book WAKE UP, YOU’RE LIBERAL, I had discussions with the predecessor to Air America, AnShell Media, but the new Air America has decided to take a less partisan, less overtly liberal political stance than the “left wing Rush Limbaugh/Clear Channel Communications” approach originally conceived by AnShell. That may be why they’ve excluded progressive voices.

Their roster includes some brilliant comedians–I’m a fan of both Al Franken and Janeane Garafalo–and it seems that that’s the direction Air America management wants to go: the leftism goes down easier with a dose of humor. While my KFI show did include a lot of humor, including Dave Eggers’ “Brooklyn Traffic”, “Dial a Dump” and the infamous “Stan Trek 2000” reality tour of Central Asia, my approach really was to attempt to be the left-wing Rush–aggressive, unfair to the Republican right, and unabashedly unashamed about promoting a liberal agenda. If Air America ever heard my aircheck tapes, they probably thought I was a little too strident for their tastes.

I wish them well, but to be honest, I believe that Air America is doomed.

First and foremost, political talk radio is a difficult medium, very personal and different than televised and stand-up comedy. Listeners to AM talk radio crave honesty, straightforwardness, the ability to think on your feet when dealing with callers. You also have to know your shit, backwards and forward. It took me a year to find my legs on the air; the Air America hosts won’t have that much time. If I’d been a member of the management, I would have eschewed the big/expensive names in favor of lesser-known liberal hosts with on-air experience in the medium.

Second, moderation is death. Like many Democrats, I listen to Rush and Hannity because they piss me off. It looks like Air America wants to convince Republicans by becoming their friends. That won’t work. Democrats want to hear a strident voice echoing their opinions; Republicans want to throw something at those Goddamn commies. Putting soft liberals on the air–Franken, I read somewhere, favored the war in Afghanistan–doesn’t accomplish that.

Third, the distribution model doesn’t make sense. Air America is only on six small stations. Here in New York, their WLIB is currently the home of obscure Carribean hits (yes, really). If you’re going to buy a station outright or take over its programming, you need to make a big splash. Here in New York, that would have required buying a big 50,000-watt talker like WABC or WOR, where an audience already exists for talk radio. Granted, that would have been prohibitively expensive. A far more intelligent approach would have been the slow build model. Right-wing talk radio, after all, didn’t spring up overnight. It started in the late 1970s. If Air America were serious, it would have begun acquiring stations in smaller markets, using their airwaves as a farm system to develop on-air talent for future national syndication. Buying small stations in big markets is an attempt to make a big political splash during an election year, not build a radio network.

Lastly, what happens if Kerry wins? The real test for leftie talk radio, as I can attest from my experience during the Clinton era, is whether it can attack a Democratic president from the left. Right-wing talk radio hosts like Rush often attack Bush from the right; they lose credibility when they suck up to authority. One suspects that Air America’s milquetoast approach won’t allow for that sort of thing.

Air America was a good idea, but its execution sucks.

March 30, 2004

They’re Socialists

When the French Socialist Party swept elections a few days ago, one of the notable aspects of American media coverage was a reluctance to call them what they are: socialists. Fox News called them “the opposition party.” The New York Times called them “the left.”

This is what it’s come to: Now that the political pendulum is swinging left in Brazil, Venezuela, Spain, France and elsewhere, corporate/state-controlled media outlets hope the trend will starve due to lack of coverage. It’s a strange tactic, unlikely to succeed, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.

March 30, 2004

They’re Socialists

When the French Socialist Party swept elections a few days ago, one of the notable aspects of American media coverage was a reluctance to call them what they are: socialists. Fox News called them “the opposition party.” The New York Times called them “the left.”

This is what it’s come to: Now that the political pendulum is swinging left in Brazil, Venezuela, Spain, France and elsewhere, corporate/state-controlled media outlets hope the trend will starve due to lack of coverage. It’s a strange tactic, unlikely to succeed, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.

March 29, 2004

Save the Date: Huge NYC ATTITUDE Book Signing Party

More than a dozen cartoonists—David Rees (“Get Your War On”)(, Mickey Siporin, Tom Tomorrow (“This Modern World”), Mikhaela Reid (“The Boiling Point”), Neil Swaab (“Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles”), Ruben Bolling (“Tom the Dancing Bug”), Emily Flake (“Lulu Eightball”), Jason Yungbluth (“Deep Fried”), Peter Kuper (“Eye of the Beholder”), Scott Bateman, Ward Sutton (“Schlock ‘N’ Roll”), Jen Sorensen (“Slowpoke”), Tim Krieder (“The Pain—When Will It End?”) and yours truly (“Search and Destroy”)—from the ATTITUDE 1 and 2 compilations will be on hand on Thursday, April 29, 2004 at New York City’s “Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art” to celebrate the release of ATTITUDE 2: THE NEW SUBVERSIVE ALTERNATIVE CARTOONISTS.

There will be food, drinks, milling around, gossiping, cartoons on the wall and, of course, your chance to get copies of ATTITUDE 1 and 2 signed by the cartoonists, who will also have their own books on hand.

Time will be either 6 or 7 pm, more details to be posted here as they become known.

P.S. Actually both books are the same size. Why they aren’t in the above images, I don’t know. I blame the Clinton Administration.

March 29, 2004

Save the Date: Huge NYC ATTITUDE Book Signing Party



More than a dozen cartoonists—David Rees (“Get Your War On”)(, Mickey Siporin, Tom Tomorrow (“This Modern World”), Mikhaela Reid (“The Boiling Point”), Neil Swaab (“Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles”), Ruben Bolling (“Tom the Dancing Bug”), Emily Flake (“Lulu Eightball”), Jason Yungbluth (“Deep Fried”), Peter Kuper (“Eye of the Beholder”), Scott Bateman, Ward Sutton (“Schlock ‘N’ Roll”), Jen Sorensen (“Slowpoke”), Tim Krieder (“The Pain—When Will It End?”) and yours truly (“Search and Destroy”)—from the ATTITUDE 1 and 2 compilations will be on hand on Thursday, April 29, 2004 at New York City’s “Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art” to celebrate the release of ATTITUDE 2: THE NEW SUBVERSIVE ALTERNATIVE CARTOONISTS.

There will be food, drinks, milling around, gossiping, cartoons on the wall and, of course, your chance to get copies of ATTITUDE 1 and 2 signed by the cartoonists, who will also have their own books on hand.

Time will be either 6 or 7 pm, more details to be posted here as they become known.

P.S. Actually both books are the same size. Why they aren’t in the above images, I don’t know. I blame the Clinton Administration.

March 28, 2004

To Declassify or Not to Declassify

Republican Congessmen are threatening to declassify Richard Clarke’s closed-door testimony from 2002 in a bid to show inconsistencies between his analysis of the events leading up to 9/11 then and the story he tells now. Of course, Washington insiders say, there are no such inconsistencies–it’s merely a Republican smear campaign to discredit Clarke in retaliation for telling the truth as he sees it.

As the debate over Clarke’s book rages, why aren’t Democrats focusing on the obvious retort? Namely, that declassifying classified information solely for partisan politicans is unpatriotic and potentially, since it would jeopardize national security, treasonous. Then, if Republicans say that the information isn’t really all that secret, Democrats could fault them for using classification to keep secrets from the American people. It would really be quite beautiful; too bad no one in Washington has any imagination.

Like everyone with a brain, I can’t help rubbing my hands with glee at the sight of Clarke’s revelations. The fact that he’s a loyal Republican, extremely hawkish and articulate helps sell his story (and his book). But I would caution progressives not to fall in love with the guy.

First of all, he’s still a hawk. In his book “Against All Enemies,” Clarke boasts that providing the Afghan mujahedeen with Stinger missiles was his (good) idea–even though the Soviet defeat it created led to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia. And he continues to spread the all too widely accepted lie that, while Iraq was an illegitimate war based on lies about WMDs and imminent dangers therefrom, Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan was a logical and justifiable response to 9/11. Nothing, as I and others have written to the point of exhaustion elsewhere, could be further from the truth. Afghanistan, like Iraq, was a distraction from the real threat (in Pakistan). Like Iraq, it made things worse rather than better from the standpoint of eliminating terrorism–Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan is greater now than before the war. And like Iraq, Afghanistan was motivated by access to energy resources. So Clarke isn’t exactly a wise man, but rather a disgruntled Republican operative with a book and a story to tell that, with luck, will contribute to Bush’s defeat this November.

March 28, 2004

To Declassify or Not to Declassify

Republican Congessmen are threatening to declassify Richard Clarke’s closed-door testimony from 2002 in a bid to show inconsistencies between his analysis of the events leading up to 9/11 then and the story he tells now. Of course, Washington insiders say, there are no such inconsistencies–it’s merely a Republican smear campaign to discredit Clarke in retaliation for telling the truth as he sees it.

As the debate over Clarke’s book rages, why aren’t Democrats focusing on the obvious retort? Namely, that declassifying classified information solely for partisan politicans is unpatriotic and potentially, since it would jeopardize national security, treasonous. Then, if Republicans say that the information isn’t really all that secret, Democrats could fault them for using classification to keep secrets from the American people. It would really be quite beautiful; too bad no one in Washington has any imagination.

Like everyone with a brain, I can’t help rubbing my hands with glee at the sight of Clarke’s revelations. The fact that he’s a loyal Republican, extremely hawkish and articulate helps sell his story (and his book). But I would caution progressives not to fall in love with the guy.

First of all, he’s still a hawk. In his book “Against All Enemies,” Clarke boasts that providing the Afghan mujahedeen with Stinger missiles was his (good) idea–even though the Soviet defeat it created led to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia. And he continues to spread the all too widely accepted lie that, while Iraq was an illegitimate war based on lies about WMDs and imminent dangers therefrom, Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan was a logical and justifiable response to 9/11. Nothing, as I and others have written to the point of exhaustion elsewhere, could be further from the truth. Afghanistan, like Iraq, was a distraction from the real threat (in Pakistan). Like Iraq, it made things worse rather than better from the standpoint of eliminating terrorism–Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan is greater now than before the war. And like Iraq, Afghanistan was motivated by access to energy resources. So Clarke isn’t exactly a wise man, but rather a disgruntled Republican operative with a book and a story to tell that, with luck, will contribute to Bush’s defeat this November.

March 24, 2004

Gone to Bed in America

All of the copies of WAKING UP IN AMERICA are gone. This also means the end of the Bourgeois Offer concerning the two books and original artwork.

I still have some copies of ALL THE RULES HAVE CHANGED left, so if you want one now’s the time to pipe up.

COMING SOON: The moving sale continues! I’ll be auctioning off some Ted Rall-related rarities.

P.S. For those who’ve asked, “Terror Widows” is still on tour, and it goes to whoever offers the most cash upon its return. High bid so far is (gasp) $4,000.

March 24, 2004

Gone to Bed in America

All of the copies of WAKING UP IN AMERICA are gone. This also means the end of the Bourgeois Offer concerning the two books and original artwork.

I still have some copies of ALL THE RULES HAVE CHANGED left, so if you want one now’s the time to pipe up.

COMING SOON: The moving sale continues! I’ll be auctioning off some Ted Rall-related rarities.

P.S. For those who’ve asked, “Terror Widows” is still on tour, and it goes to whoever offers the most cash upon its return. High bid so far is (gasp) $4,000.