Monday, May 7, 2012

The fraud factor...

I am hoping that this post and response from the so-called Blue Board can be the start of a serious discussion with suggestions for getting rid of the station's shameful and possibly illegal sale of fraudulent "premiums". Please add your comments at the bottom of this post. Something has to be done very quickly and I'm afraid this is not a discussion that can be had at battleground board meetings, but it might lead to proposals that can be presented to members.

Jim Dingeman writes: I must say that I would love to hear the dialogue here on this issue focus on what can work to get WBAI and Pacifica in general OUT of a reliance on questionable premiums than a constant harping on how terrible it is with this or that premium.

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.

Chris Albertson

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 
Barack Obama.

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


  1. Mr. Albertson:

    In response to some of the issues you raise in the May 7th incarnation of your WBAI blog, I’d like to offer two responses:

    1. On the issue of anonymity. I have two reasons for using a nom de plume. First, I have some friends among the producers. I often write letters to WBAI’s management in support of these producers. Current management at the station is very vindictive and might castigate my friends if they associated my letters to the station with the harsh criticisms of management and other producers I offer on your blog and on other sites.

    If this seems paranoiac, consider the recent treatment of Prairie Miller. After Tony Bates regaled her with boasts of his sexual conquests among the Occupy Movement, Ms. Miller complained to authorities at Pacifica. Bates retaliated by banning her and any rebroadcast of her programs. When announcer, Reggie Johnson, played one of her programs because the tape he had been asked to play was defective, Mr. Johnson was suspended for two weeks.
    When a friend who works at the station protested this injustice to the gutless GM, Berthold Reimers, Reimers reprimanded my friend and threatened him with consequences for interfering in a matter that was none of his business.

    In addition, I live, work, and function in an integrated world. Much of my criticism of the station revolves around the racism and cronyism at the station. For example, about 90% of the paid staff is black. Many people who have labored at the station for years and years are not paid, while upstarts like Ifé, Esther Arma, and Hugh Hamilton, Kathy Davis, Berthold Reimers, and Tony Bates get salaries that require hundreds of $100 pledges. Prime time programs in the morning and afternoon are black oriented programs. I could go on about the thuggery at LSB meeting where people are threatened, shoved, tripped, or have fingers stuck in their faces by goons from JUC, and the atmosphere at the station itself where Kathy Davis seems to lurk 24 hours a day.

    My criticisms of the racism and back chauvinism that reigns at the station are answered with counter accusations of racism. I am unwilling to risk having my professional and social life tainted with ad hominem attacks from WBAI apologists.

    2. In response to your question about what can we do, my current preference is to try to spread the word that the station should be starved. I attempted to place an ad in The Village Voice during the last marathon in which I requested that listeners boycott the fund drive, but The Voice never responded to my request to run the ad. I was prepared to spend as much as necessary to get the ad on the back page.

    Call the station and tie up the phones. Be polite to the volunteers, and explain to them why you cannot support the station at this time. If they are offering an especially offensive premium like double-helix water, call and protest vociferously, but politely. You may discover that many volunteers agree with you.

    If you receive a request for support from WBAI in the mail, submit a detailed response explaining why you cannot support the station at this time. Send copies to Pacifica and the LSB.

    There are alternatives to WBAI. I know you dislike Gary Null, Mr. Albertson, and I have reservations myself. But his Progressive Radio Network offers a lot of programming I would like to hear on WBAI; and he himself often has excellent guests on his show.

    WKCR, WFUV, and WFMU offer some terrific programs and a broad variety of wonderful music. NPR stations are even worse than WBAI.

    Thank you for providing a space for long time WBAI listeners who feel as if they’ve lost a close friend.

    The Pacifica Maven

  2. Thank you, PM, for another informed view of the current WBAI situation. I understand your need for anonymity and hope that you have not given out too much personal information. If you check the dreadful BlueBoard, you may have seen that its most dense habitué suggests that we are one and the same, or that my wife is the Pacifica Maven. She cannot imagine that more then one person finds serious fault with the people who currently have her support. I say, "currently," because she will switch allegiance at the mere suggestion that her idol, Knight, cannot walk on water or turn the double helix variety into rare Ripple.

    It's a shame how Prairie Miller and other good people are treated by the Bates/Reimers/Davis team. I don't have an inside contact, but I sensed much of what you are describing, just by listening and doing the math.

    I, too, function in an integrated world—well, at least I used to, but it has been mostly black for the past 30 years. Sad to say, many people take any criticism of blacks to be racism, just as a critique of Netanyahu easily earns one a label of anti-semitism. I inherited an all white WBAI when I became the manager and I immediately did my best to integrate the staff. As a starter, I hired Joanne Grant for the News Director position and recruited a black recording engineer from WNEW. The programming was predominantly white, but I think we had the best and most thorough coverage of the Civil Rights Movement around. Then there was Marcia Tompkins, who produced an extraordinary (and very personal) series about racism in her home town, Tuscaloosa, where her father was the Chief of Police. Anyway, suffice it to say that I am not a candidate for the "racist" label. I say that here, because I do agree with you regarding the imbalance at WBAI. The predominance of black host/producers would certainly not bother me if their work was not as parochial and if it was on a higher intellectual level. WBAI is sounding more and more like a run-of-the-mill black station. So much so that the occasional intelligent program can be startling. I think it says a lot about Reimers, Bates, Davis, et al that they apparently feel that they have to aim low, intellectually, to reach a black audience. It is insulting, actually.

    I have thought of financial boycotting as a signal, if not a solution. Money seems to be the only thing that talks to these people. Their inept programming and deadly tenure-like system has chased the listeners away and—over the years—compounded the financial crisis. Instead of pinpointing the problem and taking positive steps to improve the product, they resort to defrauding what's left of the audience with shameless Pacifica-sanctioned scams. Even board members sit back as they justify casting principles to the wind. Oh, yes, they will express their disapproval of the most outrageous fund-raising tactics, but its done with a wink and a nod—the important thing, the say by way of justification, is to keep the station running, even if that means into the ground.

    How odd that The Voice did not want your business. There never was a great bond between the publication and WBAI, but I guess the decision to ignore was made by an individual. Null? I find him to be uncomfortably slick and it is difficult for me to not be upset by his claims re HIV/AIDS, but he is a true professional and some of his political observations are good. You may have noticed that I do not bring him up often. He becomes quite acceptable to me when contrasted with the many quacks the stations abets.

    I share your opinion ofWFUV, WFMU, and WKCR, although endless talk by Phil Schaap, whom I have known for 30 or 40 years, always makes me cringe.

    Thank you, again.


  3. Thank you for your brave telling of real events at the station. Pacifica would do well to purge their institution of not only Bates but Davis also.

  4. For some reason, I cannot get this song on the forums at the blue board. Maybe someone else can:

    Song for Wakeup Call

    Esther Arma, Esther Arma,
    Spawn of the Ghanian elite,
    Lectures listeners ‘bout white privilege,
    So they be wiser in their own conceit.

    She floats amidst the morning airwaves,
    Pitching her panels and her plays,
    To her racist fans at ‘BAI,
    Where Black Apartheid Izzat these days.

    O Esther, please go back to Ghana,
    We don’t want you in New York;
    People here are multi-cultural,
    And we don’t need your racist talk.

    Take your snotty British accent,
    Take your plays and panels too,
    And take the bimbo Ifé with you,
    And Kathy, Tony, Bert, and Hugh.

    Word and music by The Pacifica Maven.

  5. WBAI Scuttlebutt

    1. The Maven is honored that some Blue Board cretins believe that he and Chris Albertson are the same person. Not so. Mr. Albertson’s curriculum vitae is much more impressive than the Maven’s.

    2. Ms. Esther Armah, muse of the Maven’s latest song, is an arrogant, sanctimonious, hypocritical, spoiled little rich girl playing advocate for the oppressed.

    However, Ms. Armah is far from a giraffe–as Bates and Reimers have called her behind her back. She is statuesque and quite beautiful. And her bona fides are more impressive than those of the GM and the PD together. As a member of the Ghanian elite, Armah does have education and culture. Her physical and intellectual stature may be intimidating to dwarves like Bates and Reimers.

    3. Kathy Davis tried hard to block revelations about the appalling behavior of Bates and Reimers in the Prairie Miller / Reggie Johnson scandel at an LSB meeting. She failed. Davis looks more like Java the Hutt every day.

    4. Word is that Bates is out as PD. Will be replaced before the end of June. Dirty Tony received no confidence vote by producers.

    5. Strong resistance is growing to premiums and programs pushing bogus cancer cures and double-helix water among LSB members.

    6. Slight rumblings about late afternoon “gatillazo”. Five O’Clock Shadow is now audible inside the station. Look up “gatillazo” in a good Spanish dictionary.

    7. Job opening has been posted for Wakeup Call Host. Who’s leaving? Gas-bag vulgarian and phony Felipe Luciano or Ghanian royalty? No loss if both go.

    The Pacifica Maven

  6. I just love people who, when they disagree with someone, want to simply shut them up. Don't discuss, don't debate... just wish those you disagree with would Shut Up, or that someone else would make them shut up.

    That's always a huge red flag in my eyes.

  7. I listen to WBAI on the way home from work and can not belive when they say we need a angle to pledge $1000.00.Give me a break what a scam. I wish I had that angel.


    1. I think you had it right the first time..."angle." :)