To all involved in this topic:

Despite Michio Kaku's program, I don't believe this relates enough to SftP to be continued on this list. In the light of that, I will keep my own complex views on Pacifica to myself. But I again urge everyone to try to be civil, no matter what the topic.  Remarks about the nature of a person's specific comments can be stated civilly, but negative comments about someone on this list as a person I think are not helpful. Please monitor yourselves in this matter. 



On Aug 11, 2010, at 11:41 AM, Phil Gasper wrote:

No, that's precisely the direction that Mary Frances Berry—chair of the Pacifica Board until she was ousted in 1999—took the network, supported by the likes of Marc Cooper. Under her leadership, local oversight by community advisory boards was eliminated and the five-person national board made itself self-selecting. Board meetings were held behind closed doors and policy and financial documents were no longer made public. Local stations had gag orders placed on them forbidding them from reporting on these changes and the stations were also told to tone down criticisms of the Clinton administration. There was a lot more, but this gives an idea of what was happening. The breaking point—which led to massive demonstrations in New York and the Bay Area—came when word leaked out that the Board was seriously considering selling one or both of WBAI and KPFA.

For anyone interested in the history, I recommend two books by Matthew Lasar:

Uneasy Listening: Pacifica Radio's Civil War, London: Black Apollo Press, 2005.

Pacifica Radio: The Rise of an Alternative Network Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999; Robert Dawidoff, series editor; updated edition in paperback, 2005.

Figuring out how to sort out the current mess is tricky, but it isn't helped by falsifying the past.


On Wed, Aug 11, 2010 at 11:54 AM, Michael Balter <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
The statement that Cooper et al. advocated a corporate NPR-lite was a lie when it was made during the original struggles and it's a lie when it's repeated today. But it is a good way of obfuscating the real issues, and the real causes of the decline and fall of Pacifica.


On Wed, Aug 11, 2010 at 5:35 PM, Larry Romsted <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Well said.

The struggles at WBAI, I will avoid characterizing them because that can lead to more disagreements, have not helped.  Some way is needed to get the various people involved collaborating to stabilize and grow the station.  How best to do this is difficult because the animosities, which have been in place for at least a decade, run soooooo deep.  At the same time, the politics of the people involved in terms of the kinds of social change they care about are not so very different.  They need to see that in each other—somehow, let the personal and smaller issue stuff drop, and focus on strengthening and rebuilding the station.  For example, were I on one side in the WBAI struggle (which I am not), I might (probably would actually) take offense at some of the characterizations that Mitchel makes below.  Things are that bad.


On 8/11/10 11:47 AM, "Phil Gasper" <[log in to unmask]" target="_blank">[log in to unmask]> wrote:

It would be a shame if we had to choose between the corporatized NPR-lite version of Pacifica advocated by Marc Cooper and others in the late 1990s (which is precisely why Amy Goodman opposed it, and why she worked to establish Democracy Now! on an independent footing) and the shambles that currently exists at WBAI and (to a slightly lesser extent) the four other Pacifica stations. MIchio Kaku does an excellent program on science for WBAI: --PG

On Wed, Aug 11, 2010 at 9:37 AM, Mitchel Cohen <[log in to unmask]" target="_blank">[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Hi Larry,

Yes, the rent at WBAI is a major problem.

HOWEVER, WBAI's gone through 7 General Managers in the last 7 years and only the one that our INDEPENDENTS fired had taken the very first steps to renegotiate the lease with Larry Silverstein (you wanna talk conspiracies here, Michael?), the building's owner.

The lease should have been renegotiated at least 5 or 6 years ago. Real Estate people I've spoken with tell me that WBAI is paying almost DOUBLE what we could and should be paying these days, which is upwards of $37 thousand A MONTH. It's insane. That that has not been made a priority despite my own and others' attempts to get management to do what they're supposed to be doing is extremely troubling.


-----Original Message-----
From: Larry Romsted
Sent: Aug 11, 2010 9:20 AM
To: [log in to unmask]" target="_blank">[log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Doug Henwood on the state of WBAI

Good to read that you are still your same ignorant and arrogant self Michael.

I suspect that you have little if any idea of what has been and is going on at WBAI and that you don’t give a crap.  This is clear when you bring up Marc Cooper who was at KPFK a long time ago and had little to do with WBAI then or now and write as tho’ everyone should have listened to him because he is so obviously wise and WBAI would not be in its current problems if everyone had only listened to him.  We know of course the Marc always expresses himself in a caring fashion that does not alienate others.

I appreciate Henwood speaking out and Mitchel circulating his letter.  In some ways the situation is worse at WBAI than Henwood indicates because he not fully characterized some of the struggles at the station and within the station board.  At the same time a whole variety of people are working to improve the situation.  One insane and difficult problem is that over 10 years ago the station was moved to offices on Wall street (Wall street????) and WBAI has a huge rent every month and a contract that runs to 2012.  WBAI’s rent is much higher than at other stations.  This is an enormous problem that has nothing to do with premiums, food fights (personnel issues), or politics.  Bad move made BEFORE the “coup” in 2000.  A terrible legacy.  Would have been nice if the great and wise Marc Cooper had helped prevent that bad move, which was not done by anyone currently on the station board or is part of the staff or management at the station as far as I know.

So, get off your high horse and figure out what you can do to help in some small way instead of just preaching.

WBAI member

On 8/11/10 5:28 AM, "Michael Balter" <[log in to unmask]" target="_blank">[log in to unmask]> wrote:

When, several years ago, Marc Cooper and other sane minds tried to reform Pacifica and its stations into something other than an umbrella over every ridiculous fringe tendency, they were accused of being CIA agents, capitalist roaders, and hounded out of the organization. Mitchel was on the other side of this debate; so was Amy Goodman. Today, as Doug so rightly points out, we see the results of those great "victories" for the masses: A bunch of stations very few people want to listen to. Democracy Now is one of the few exceptions, a generally excellent program, but its example needs to be followed across the board if Pacifica is to survive. And that means discriminating between progressives and nut cases.


On Wed, Aug 11, 2010 at 5:20 AM, Phil Gasper <[log in to unmask]" target="_blank">[log in to unmask]> wrote:
The state of WBAI (dire)

Posted by: Doug Henwood | August 10, 2010

[I just sent this to Mitch Cohen, chair of the WBAI local station board, to be read at tomorrow night’s board meeting.]

To Mitch Cohen and the WBAI local station board:

I’ve been around WBAI for more than two decades. I started as a frequent interviewee on Samori Marksman’s show in 1987, moved on to regular commentaries on his show a few years later, and then began doing the Thursday editions of his Behind the News in 1995. I’ve watched the station go through considerable turmoil over the years, but the current situation has me more worried than ever. I was very relieved and hopeful when Bernard White and Co. were removed from office. But I’ve lost that feeling completely.

Our financial situation remains dire. Indeed, it’s hard to see how we can go on like this much longer. Not only are we not paying our bills, we’re dragging the whole Pacifica network deeper into the red. In this context, it’s easy to understand the temptation to offer sensational fundraising premiums to raise a lot of money quickly. But this strategy is proving disastrous.

A few words about those premiums. During the last few drives, WBAI has offered a variety of rather embarrassing videos and publications. We’ve now moved well beyond the familiar 9/11 conspiracies. Now we also have miracle cures (which, it wouldn’t surprise me, could put us at legal risk for offering, since they make claims about curing disease that, to put it gently, would be very difficult to prove), stories about chemtrails (the theory that the government, for some mysterious reason, is poisoning us by spraying chemicals from the sky), and most recently, a series of videos explaining how the Illuminati are about 90% of the way to taking everything over (it’s only a matter of time until they plant microchips in our heads and solidify a regime of total control). (Tastes of that stuff here <>  and here <> .) I’m told, though I haven’t heard this stuff myself, that we’re also hawking the work of Kevin Trudeau <> , who’s been convicted <>  of credit card fraud and has been fined for making false and misleading claims – and who’s been frequently sued by disgruntled customers. Of professional interest to me are stories about financiers and the Federal Reserve which have no basis in historical fact – and I say this as someone who knows more about Wall Street and central banks than anyone involved with Pacifica. Many of these narratives have deep roots in far-right politics – the Wall Street/Federal Reserve stuff has long been associated with crypto-fascist organizations like Willis Carto’s Liberty Lobby (e.g. the works of Eustace Mullins <> ). Trudeau is a big fan of Matt Drudge and the odious Michael Savage.

None of this stuff can be taken seriously by anyone with an ongoing relationship with Planet Earth. For that reason alone, it’s a disgrace that we give it such prominence. The health claims expose us to prosecution and litigation – a legal risk we can’t possibly afford. But, that aside, airing this sort of stuff drives away sane and solvent listeners. Given the recent drop in our fulfillment rate, it seems reasonable to surmise that people who pledge on this stuff are more likely than most not to come through. So this strategy fails even on purely monetary grounds. But by driving away the audience, we’re undermining the station’s future. Do we really want to be known as the nonprofit telemarketing arm for lunatics and convicted criminals?

I’ve shared these concerns with interim program director Tony Bates and he dismisses my concerns as mere “outrage.”

We urgently need to figure out why we’ve lost listeners and how we can build the audience back up. This is not the way to go about it. It’s a guaranteed route to insolvency and ridicule.

Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
New York University

Email:  [log in to unmask]

"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist." -- Hélder Pessoa Câmara