Thursday, May 31, 2012
In case you missed this post from April, or even if you didn't, I wish to bring to your attention a comment received today, May 31, 2012, because it underscores my own expressed theory as to what precipitated the move of WBAI from its original principles.
This link will take you there and, once you arrive, you should scroll down to the most recent comment.
This link will take you there and, once you arrive, you should scroll down to the most recent comment.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
If you have true concern for the restoration and future of WBAI, the following piece by Mitchel Cohen will outrage you. I greatly respect Mitchel for all his efforts and wonder if there isn't something the rest of us can do to back him up. As anyone who reads the so-called BlueBoard forum, I have spent many posts expressing my concern for what is and what is not being done for WBAI. Foremost among my concerns is the ineptitude and detrimental attitude of many who work there—both in and out of the front office—and at Pacifica. I do not know much about people who currently reign on the Foundation level, except for Arlene Engelhardt, who brought Reimers and Bates to WBAI and whom I have heard speak with alarming lack of understanding and reason. I wish more people would make serious comment on these things. The most vocal ones are inevitably those who feel threatened by positive change. —Chris Albertson
Mitchel Cohen writes:On another list, Susan Lee asked about WBAI's contingency plan.
There've been a large number of suggestions made on how to change the model at WBAI, whole plans presented and developed, etc. But WBAI and Pacifica management refuses to listen to them.
My estimation is that this fund drive, like the last 2, will indeed meet goal if extended 2 or 3 days.
One problem is that non-budgeted expenses have increased, so the goals -- which are established on the basis of the actual budget -- are not high enough to meet the added non-budgeted expenses.
Another problem remains the cost of the rent, both on the studio and the antenna. These are now up around $750,000 per year (off the top of my memory). When Harold Chambers first came on as Operations Director, I asked him for a report on alternatives to using the Empire State Building and how much they would cost. I didn't say that we would switch from the current set-up, I just wanted to know what our options may be as circumstances change. He talked with me for a few minutes privately, but never composed an actual report. A few months later he got sick and has not been at the station in many months.
As for the studio rent, there is a significant amount owed. Unlike the previous management, the GM has kept the LSB informed of the situation, and I expect that the backlog will be paid from income from this fund drive.
For years we have been saying that WBAI has to reduce its rent or move if we could not work out a rent reduction with the landlord. I talked with Tony Riddle when he was GM about putting together a team to begin the search for suitable spaces for WBAI to move to 3+ YEARS AGO! He told me that listeners were calling in with possible spaces, and thanks for your offer but no thanks, he was on top of it. (He wasn't, obviously.) The past two years I've called several Executive Sessions of the LSB to get reports on this and to discuss the fact that WBAI's lease runs out at 120 Wall St. on Dec. 31 of this year (2012). I can't go into all the details here, but let's just say that the LSB was very strong and non-factionally united about certain key matters, including issues around negotiations with the current landlord.
Interim GM Muriel Tillinghast had begun to work on putting together a kick-ass NY-savvy team to negotiate with the current landlord or find a new space, but Pacifica, through its attorney, had (unbeknownst to me and to others on the LSB) signed a contract with a milquetoast company that gave them exclusive rights to negotiate with ANY landlord concerning relocation of the studios or changes to the current one. This completely frustrated Muriel, as it did Berthold when he became iGM and learned of it. They were told that they couldn't move on this except via the company that held the exclusive contract! That secret contract termed out almost a year ago. The Pacifica attorney who signed the contract on behalf of Pacifica is no longer with the network.
(That whole episode seems very strange. I mean, SOMEONE must have authorized him to sign that contract, no? That person should basically be shot (metaphorically speaking). More likely, knowing Pacifica, he or she was rewarded for their stupidity.)
More recently, the GM and Development director demanded that our offices stay in Manhattan despite the very high rents. They set their hopes on renting a place with an option to buy, and presented their plan to the National Board in public session. They basically stifled any other initiative even though the place they were considering would have cost us some $5 to $6 million, and would have come to even more than we're paying now, although we would own it after 20 years or somesuch -- if we lasted that long. I was amazed that the National Board did not have any serious disagreements or detailed questions over the proposal, in the public session I heard via podcast.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, one person (Marsha) -- a member of the finance committee -- looked at a place in the Bronx that would have been much less costly; it was great that she undertook such initiative on her own. Management did look at it, but rightly or wrongly felt it would not suit our purposes. (I make no judgment here about that, not having seen the place myself.)
I worked with a member of WBAI who is involved in real estate who offered to find suitable places in Brooklyn at no fee. But there was great resistance by management to move WBAI's offices outside of Manhattan, and this attitude simply discouraged those of us from feeling that our work (for which neither I nor Marsha is paid, by the way) would just be a waste of time. WBAI's good at squandering people's efforts.
The broker and I went forward anyway, hoping that things would change. We reviewed a number of places and picked one that we thought might be the most promising. He and I discussed various financial options, and I kept the GM and the ED apprised of this at all times, although I never heard back from the ED at anywhere along the line until the very end (see below).
The real estate fellow and I went to look the place we thought to be promising and decided that it would be worth sending a team from WBAI to take a second look, immediately (a word that doesn't exist in WBAI's vocabulary). We were sure that we'd need to put in at least a letter if not a down payment within a few days or it would be snapped up by someone else, it was that surprisingly good an offer. It would have DOUBLED the amount of usable space available to us, at 1/4 the cost -- AND, we would own it outright after a few years! The down payment alone could be paid-off in 1/2 a year, from money saved in being freed of the current rent!
I immediately contacted (again) Berthold and Arlene. Berthold made tentative plans to take a look at it 2 days later (not quick enough in my book, but at least it was something). But Arlene emailed me, saying NO, STOP, Pacifica could not afford to put down a payment on any property. I was floored. This was the first thing she'd said to me about any part of the lease situation for at least 1/2-a-year. I'd been keeping her apprised, but had received no feedback from her at all until that moment. She apparently didn't understand NY real estate, I thought, and that if WBAI deemed the place suitable this would be a great deal financially. Furthermore, the value was sure to increase given how the neighborhood would be changing, with the introduction of several major film, TV and sound studios.
The real estate guy -- who loves WBAI and was working on this out of the goodness of his heart (seriously! He even came to an LSB meeting to answer questions, but we never got to that point on the agenda) -- then came up with a deal that would cost WBAI NOTHING for a while: He would put up the down payment himself as a no-interest loan! (He said that that was not his preferred option, but he understood the situation WBAI and Pacifica are in.)
But Pacifica -- it apparently was Arlene's call, though Berthold could have had more say had he fought for it! -- wouldn't say anything more. And Arlene never explained her directive to me. Very very poor judgment.
It was only inadvertently that I found out why the ED of Pacifica was blocking efforts to find WBAI space in which to move. When I mentioned that I'd been searching for spaces so that WBAI could move, several members of the LSB subjected me to withering denunciation for daring to undermine the negotiations that, they said, Arlene was having from afar with the current landlord!
What?!!! That was news to me.
Furthermore, how did THEY know? Why hadn't they told me and the rest of the Board?
The ED simply should not conceal information from Local Station Board members on matters pertaining to their station.
And so the questions: Has Arlene signed a several-year extension of the current lease with the existing landlord at no reduction? If so, what's the point? If this is true, WBAI is up shit's creek without a paddle -- we're basically screwed -- and the PNB should deal with this extremely poor judgment at once!
Sunday, May 27, 2012
The following exchange was posted on the PacificaRadiowaves list serv by Mitchel Cohen. I have posted it here in order to give it as much exposure as I can, because this is a very serious matter. It is what I have been trying to hammer into the heads of that groups of Blue Board posters whose mission in life seems to be acting as apologists for people like Reimers and Bates. Unfortunately, that includes board members like Jim Dingeman and Frank LeFevre. They understand the fact that WBAI is repeatedly deceiving its listeners and helping people who pose as doctors and health experts to sell phony cures such as the one mentioned below. It is outrageous that they know what is going on, and even complain over it on the Blue Board, yet do nothing to stop it. We can all be thankful to people like Mitchel Cohen (whom I don't always agree with) for taking action.
At least here, the usual trolls that frequent the Blue Board cannot come in and disrupt. These people do not have WBAI's interest at heart. They can try to ridicule those of us who speak up, but it is not going to preserve the sad status quo. Your comments are welcomed here—Blue Board nonsense is not.
There has been an interchange among several people about the persistence of WBAI in promoting the DNA-Water premium. For example, Larry Romsted -- a scientist whose research involves examining water molecules -- writes:
I was driving to my office and turned on WBAI and there was Tony Bates pushing double helix water, cream and book along with Hufnagel touting a "discovery" called double helix water of questionable scientific support and medical validity.
Should not be happening. Why is it happening? Bad science should not provide the justification for premiums of little value (and large cost) to listener/members.
Why do Tony and Berthold persist? I think the LSB has lodged a formal complaint, right?
Again, I am offering to help.
What is to be done?
What is to be done, in my view, is for the LSB to censure the iPD, the GM, and anyone else calling the shots on this premium, for ignoring the LSB's criticism and recommendation on this matter.
This is (thankfully) not a factional issue, it's a disgraceful lying-to-listeners management issue.
Ignoring the recommendation of the LSB and bulling ahead full-steam is the kind of arrogance and mismanagement that we'd hoped to have done away with, but I see we have failed to have done so.
I will make a motion to censure at the next LSB meeting. I'm sick of the utter lack of judgment on the part of WBAI's management here.
Here's also an exchange printed here on April 5, 2012, that I'm reposting about this issue:
Here's an exchange of letters with former member of the CAB, Nora Freeman.
3/19/2012, Nora Freeman wrote:
Hello Mitchel. I'm writing about the so-called "Double Helix" water premium that was offered during the last drive. Rather than go into all the details here, I'll send you a copy of the letter I sent about it to Berthold and Tony about 3 weeks ago. I never heard back from either one so I wrote to Arlene Engelhardt about 10 days ago. Haven't heard from her either. The letter's below.
120 Wall St.
New York, NY 10005
Dear Berthold and Tony,
I was at the station today and spoke to both of you about the "double helix water" premium we were offering, and the caller who pledged for it, hoping that it will help his autistic son. I let you both know how disturbing this was especially in view of the fact that I know where this man lives since I grew up just a couple of blocks away. I am familiar with his neighborhood and it is not a very good one. It's hard to believe he would have asked about this if they had not said it on the air. Tony, you told me that he's an adult and no one forced him to do this, but my position is that by offering such questionable premiums we are taking advantage of desperate people, and it's wrong. WBAI should support maintaining scientific integrity in all areas, not only with regard to the environment. So Berthold, I'm glad you are going to let him have it at cost; that way WBAI is not making any money off of him, even though we are still enabling those who are selling it to do so, and that is still not a good thing.
Speaking of those who are selling it, I also learned a bit about them. Dr. Lo and Mr. Gann were previously associated with a company called American Technologies Group [ATG] which sold another form of "structured water" which was said to have something called "IE crystals" in it. ATG was investigated for fraud by the Oregon Department of Justice. It paid a fine and was shut down. The Oregon DOJ relied on affidavits from an independent analytical lab specializing in the application of electron microscopy to problem solving for industry, government, academia, and the law, which found the "IE water" indistinguishable from tap water; and a chemistry professor at the University of Oregon, who stated that one of Dr. Lo's calculations violates both a fundamental law of thermodynamics and a fundamental equation of electromagnetic theory. He also said that Dr. Lo's experiments lacked appropriate controls, and that ATG's board of directors did not include anyone who worked in the relevant field, which was physical chemistry. So these two already have a history of making fraudulent health claims about tap water.
Tony, you suggested that I look up "double helix water" to learn more about it. That's fair, and I did. What I found was lots of testimonials; interviews with Dr. Lo and Mr. Gann; a link to a page that almost crashed my computer; a video that purportedly showed "temperature changes" in the brains of autistic children after drinking this water, but no explanation of how this might affect the subjects' development or behavior, and no comparison to how their brains looked after drinking non-"double helix water"; and an article in a journal that does not require researchers to explain their methodologies and is minimally peer-reviewed. The interviews were a sales opportunity for Dr. Lo and Mr. Gann. Testimonials are basically just feel-good reading. The people who provide them are desperately hoping against hope to see some, any, improvement in their kids. They have made the investment of time, money, and trust, probably not for the first time. The incentives are high for them to see improvement whether or not it is there. If it is there it is as likely as not caused by the placebo effect, which is temporary. These testimonials are strictly anecdotal evidence, which proves exactly nothing. I certainly didn't see anything about randomized clinical trials, which could have proved a lot.
Berthold, you asked me what I think causes autism. I don't know, which is not surprising because even the most prominent researchers in the field are in disagreement about it. But my understanding of what seems to be the best research is that it is a complex interplay of genetic disposition arising from multiple genes with the environment, which could also include the pre-natal environment. So, like most vexing problems, it is not simple, and probably not amenable to being "cured" by drinking water. As someone who has worked with autistic children and others who present with highly challenging behaviors, I can say that there are effective interventions, which usually target communication and sensory issues. Again, anyone who is hoping for a "cure" resulting from these interventions is almost certainly going to be disappointed, but their proponents do not make such a claim, and they can lead to significant improvements in the children's ability to learn, to self-regulate, and to communicate with others.
Finally, I would just say that even the name Doube Helix Water sounds to me like a hint that something is not quite right. "Double helix" is a phrase commonly used throughout the mass media to refer to DNA, a high-tech sciency concept that is poorly understood by lots of laypeople, including probably myself and maybe both of you. But I understand enough about it to realize that it is a biological phenomenon, whereas the claims for this water are that it contains charged particles which supposedly cause it to have a phase that no one has ever before observed So there is nothing biological in their claims. Why then invoke DNA, if not to impress desperate people who may have a limited understanding of science but know that DNA has been a major scientific advance? The whole thing just smells bad to me, and it's reminiscent of the Kevin Trudeau fiasco a couple of years ago. Can't somebody look into these things before we offer them? Just my humble opinion.
Mon, Mar 19, 2012
Mitchel Cohen < email@example.com> wrote:
Thank you, Nora.
The double helix water is total bullshit, and the entire Board raised this issue with management. We will continue to do so at the March 29th LSB meeting.
How to address this and similar problems systemically, and not just when each comes up? That's the problem.
I'll forward your letter again to management and elsewhere and ask why they didn't get back to you. Can I also forward it to the LSB?
By the way, I disagree with you that anecdotal testimonies are meaningless. They are very important. They describe an effect or a confluence that something is having, but they do not explain the reasons why that effect is taking place. Let's not fall for reductionist pseudo-science as the solution when countering other forms of bullshit.
That said, my own speculation -- and it is only that -- is that there's a relationship in the spiking of autism with infant vaccinations. Beyond that, I don't know.
Your letter is great, even though I disagree with small parts of it.
From: Nora Freeman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Hey Mitchel. Thank you so much. Unlike so many others at WBAI you at least appear to have the ability to reply to a communication from a listener! Wow. Yes, please forward it to the LSB and anyone else that you think should get it.
You're right that we need to find a way to systemically address the larger problem of which this is only a symptom. And I have to say that I'm not proud of the fact that it took me taking that phone call, from that man who happened to live in my old neighborhood so I felt a kind of connection to him, before I did anything about this. Oh well, we are but poor vessels etc.
I take your point about anecdotes, and agree that the proposed vaccine-autism connection is probably better left for another time.
Friday, May 25, 2012
I hope you will indulge me as I briefly take a side step to my main scene, the jazz and blues world. I was pleasantly surprised when The National Blues Foundation informed me that they would be inducting into their Hall of Fame a book I wrote forty years ago. It is a biography of the great blues singer, Bessie Smith. The awards ceremony was held in Memphis on May 9, 2012.
Monday, May 7, 2012
Several posts, including many of mine, have contained suggestions in that regard. These recommendations (the serious ones) generally spring from disgust with the ones that dominate recent fund drives, some of which border on or cross into fraud. Others, such as the MLK musicals, are just in poor taste, and still more are inapposite.
As many of us know and some have observed here, there has been a gradual dumbing down of the audience. This has allowed program producers and hosts to air pap with impunity. I may seem to be drifting off topic, but these factors are closely related. The old WBAI audience was, by default, intellectually discriminating. Most listeners had been attracted to the station by the high caliber and diversity of its programs—they would have found the nature of today's premiums and pitches offensive, even if an intelligent program level had been maintained.
The fiscal reality that currently confronts WBAI has—in large measure— roots in the gradual deterioration of its program offerings. We are not talking about the current regime's fumbles and mis-judgements, for this is a problem that has festered for decades. That it would eventually lead to the situation WBAI faces today is a no-brainer. So much for cause and effect—as you indicate, positive steps need to be taken now.
With regard to the objectionable premiums and pitches, there is an immediate solution: put an end to them. All the phony "cures" and nuthouse conspiracy "documentaries" need to be banned from the air and allowed back only in cases where they are being discussed objectively. WBAI needs to get back to producing real documentaries, and some of the scams it has been airing would make great subjects for balanced examination. If that casts a shadow on the station for having aired them approvingly, all the better. Listeners need to hear that WBAI is getting its groove back and being honest again.
As I mentioned, there is a correlation between these premiums and many of the programs in the station's schedule. Such shows as Geoff Brady's In Other News are as unprincipled and dishonest as the Thrive and Zeitgeist conspiracy "exposés" WBAI has been pushing with gusto. The Double Helix cure-all miracle water—which some of us have ridiculed here—is an extension of several "healing" programs carried by the station. That includes Kathy Davis' programs, the ones where she feels those special healing vibes, and even Gary Null with his multi-colored "stuff" and theories. Kathy's sweet tone and Null's slick, NBC-ready spiel are the sort of thing that attracts the "new" audience. I bring this up, because such programs need to follow the outrageous premiums to the exit.
So, step one should, in my opinion, be to clear the WBAI air of these dishonest, image-tarnishing programs and premiums. This move ought to include the issuance of fund raising guidelines and a clear reminder of WBAI/Pacifica's original purpose. It is obvious that many current producer/hosts think anything goes and concentrate their efforts on gaining popularity for themselves and their shows. They can be critiqued but not blamed for that, because there is no real direction and, indeed, we have seen current management participate in these misguided efforts. The system is set up to create polarization. There is no longer a common cause called WBAI, for that has been reduced to serve as a platform for individual ambitions.
A vital part of the first step should be promotion. People like Knight and Haskins like to proclaim a new era for WBAI, but what they shout has a very hollow ring to it. A new era requires the kind of change people can hear in the programming, not in stagey, impassioned plugs. Money spent on positive promotion is money well spent, and if WBAI shows real signs of getting its act together again, the media will take note of and publicize it. You have to give people incentives for caring whether the station survives, or not. Finally, step one needs to include the materialization of a General Manager. Reimers has neglected one of his most important duties: communicating with WBAI's listeners. From what I understand, he is barely reachable by staff and volunteers. THere is a very good reason why the weekly Report to the Listeners program was initiated, it put the listener in direct contact with the one person whose decisions counted. Whether they wrote in or called during the program, they had an opportunity to exercise their rights as a member/sponsor. Their complaints were listened to and acted upon, their praise was gratefully accepted. These reports were aired live once a week, with a rebroadcast at another day and time.
I frankly tune out of those discussions because having been involved with them for nearly twenty years I find they miss the KEY KEY point...How the structure,content and character of PROGRAMMING in general and the actual demographics and culture of the audience interact to effect the way a station that depends on 80% of its revenue from listeners can sustain itself.
That is what I am talking about, but every time I speak up, I see someone like "Cricket," Knight or Somers pop up to ridicule my sincere efforts. I have been accused of harboring jealousy, wanting a job at WBAI, being a senile old man stricken with dreaded nostalgia, etc. Critique is interpreted as assault and strenuous, efforts are made to discredit me. My concern over such tactics is not that they might be personally injurious, for they are transparent and insignificant, but they do reflect an unhealthy, self-serving attitude that prevails among the cling-ons. These are morally bankrupt people who use the station for their own good and feel threatened whenever someone points that out. Not long after this back and forth was posted on the BlueBoard, two of these people popped up and began their trolling nonsense. They routinely and unreasonably defend WBAI's ills to protect their vested interest in preserving the status quo, so they, too, are an obstacle to progress. To me, that underscores the unhealthy stance that years of mismanagement has fostered at WBAI.
Everything else descends into personal innuendo and vituperativeness. Now, I am the last one to get high and mighty on that score. But I do believe that a discussion on how to get out of this mess is the key one.
The aforemention disruptive element are the reason why I concluded that a meaningful discussion—which, I agree, is sorely needed—cannot be held in the Blue forum, That's the main reason why I started this WBAI-focused blog, a place where the frivolous disruptions can be filtered out. Unfortunately, Google's Blogger software, which I am using, is ill-suited for running exchanges, so I am looking into a better solution. In the meantime, I wish people who are serious about restoring WBAI would comment. It amazes me that so many people who post on the subject of WBAI feel a need to do so under a pseudonym, but that seems to be the case. If they have something important to say, I really don't mind as much if they say it as Minnie Mouse, although some personal IDs might lend weight to the post. The important thing is—as you say—to get a real discussion started and to bring it to the attention of people who are in a position to do something about the problem.
In the meantime, we have to be realists and consider—as you also point out—the cold fact that funds are desperately needed, even as corrective measures are being taken. I gather from what you say that you—albeit reluctantly—feel it necessary to continue, at least for awhile, the shameful practice of pitching fraudulent products. I understand your thinking, but thoroughly disagree with that but feel that it is tantamount to agreeing with the status quo-ers. I believe there must be an immediate change, even if that means creating a hole in the cash flow. I realize that some bills cannot wait, but belts can be tightened—there is probably a reason why detailed accounting is not made public, so I'm sure that corners can be cut. A real effort should also be made to solicit sizable donations from people who have the means and understand the need for WBAI to once again feed intellectual hunger and reflect the cultural and political activity that keeps New York buzzing. The right person, armed with a well-crafted, professionally prepared presentation (narrative and supporting documents) should be hired to not only solicit contributions from well-connected and financially endowed individuals, but also work towards the possibility of forming a group of super sponsors.
In closing, I should note that I have but peripheral knowledge of Pacifica's current inner workings, the boards, the so-called democratic approach, the debts, the union agreements, the lawsuits, etc. It all sounds like a nightmarish tangle of past misdirection, fed off avarice, animosity and questionable personal agendas. For all I know, some or all of that may render my suggestions useless.
A commentary on Robert Knight
I don't know if they archive his stuff, but if they do, go there and listen to Knight's fund-raising effort from Wednesday afternoon, May 23. It is quite amazing to hear him foaming at the mouth as he rapid-speak and does his poor man's Glenn Beck number. He is on his Obama-wants-to-nuke-us-all kick, playing excerpts from recordings he assembled as a "premium". The sound quality is of the typical low-fidelity Knight variety and I doubt if it brings in much in the way of money. Oh, they have the phone sound-effects going, but we all know that old trick by now.
At least he is not trying to sell the listener drops of cure-all tap water, but WBAI's Queen of Scam joins him at one point. They really maker a lovely pair of con artists.
Knight's con is nowhere more obvious than when he goes into his breathless fear-mongering tirade. Most of us are fully aware of the way in which modern technology offers individuals, corporations and government agencies an opportunity to invade our privacy, but Knight,
at his drama queen best, really lays it on thick. To listen to him, the holes
in your Swiss cheese are probably eyes watching your every refrigerator
move and that pesky house fly is very likely a micro drone dispatched by
Oh, yes, the President is clearly behind all this surveillance and it is
becoming as common as dirt in a Murdoch publication. So bad, if we are
to believe the make-believe "anchorman," that life just might not be
worth living unless we isolate ourselves on some uncharted Pacific Island.
But wait! There's more! There's hope!
Yes, boys and girls, there is one way to overcome all this! Stay tuned to WBAI and you will be saved, because 99.5 is a radio frequency, and Ogre Obama cannot tell who is tuned in!!! Isn't that wonderful? Knight thinks so. Why WBAI, when there are so many radio stations throughout the world? The answer is elementary, my dear witless listener. Only on WBAI can you hear the truth! You heard him....the TRUTH!!!
Check out the hysteria on today's archive for around 4:30 to 6 PM.
When will the powers that be at WBAI and Pacifica wake up to the fact that Robert Knight is as stuffed with poppycock as any of the charlatans and hoax hucksters who surround him and whom he pretends not to have anything in common with?
Finally, don't miss Knight's thank yous to the gang: Kathy, Tony, Berthold, all the behinds he licked to gain access to the microphone! Note, too, that he includes Haskins, who has truly become one of them. —Chris Albertson