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Talk Radio for Lefties

To fully understand the reasoning behind Air America, the new, avowedly left-of-Bush radio network, it helps to drive through South Carolina while turning the AM radio dial. You’ve got gospel stations all over, of course — they almost take over the spectrum on Sunday. But otherwise, there’s almost nothing but conservative jocks, national and local, round the clock. Even the DJs who mainly spin CDs frequently bash liberals between tunes. And don’t forget that the gospel stations, too, are not shy about defending “family values” and the Republicans who so loudly proclaim their version of them. The only relief comes when you find that lone, flailing signal from the station that offers a little National Public Radio, or when you stumble on a talk show from the black folks’ radio station.

It’s no wonder, then, that 52-year-old insurance agent Joey Zglinicki, a registered Democrat in Seneca, South Carolina, has not voted Democrat since Jimmy Carter. “I really just like the way that President Bush has been more honest on the country, on the economy,” said Zglinicki in an interview. “I felt that the Clinton years were some of the most lying years we ever suffered through.” Rush Limbaugh could hardly have said it better.

Al Franken — the author/comedian/Bush basher — hopes to rock Joey’s world with his The O’Franken Factor, which will hold down noon to 3 p.m. and is intended to compete head-to-head with Limbaugh. The show’s name jabs at conservative windbag Bill O’Reilly’s The O’Reilly Factor. Air America vows to make money, hoping that corporate America will warm to rhetoric that just might bash it, provided that the new network also delivers an audience.

Zglinicki isn’t likely to receive Air America enlightenment before the November presidential election. The March 31 start date applies to stations in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco — preaching to the choir, as it were. The L.A. outlet is KBLA (1580 AM), necessitating a far-right spin of the dial to reach this new left. (Go to http://www.centralairmedia.com for full schedule.)

The most immediate competition may not be Rush, but greater L.A.’s two strong NPR stations and Pacifica’s clumsy but true-blue radical KPFK (90.7 FM). Air America CEO Mark Walsh, in a radio interview this week, asserted that his product, in contrast to more intellectual or radical alternatives, would be “entertaining” as well as “informative.”