Friday, January 2, 2015

Entering the last lap?

I had predicted that 2014 would be WBAI's last year as a failed Pacifica radio station. I was wrong, it has stepped, though not too resolutely, into 2015 and is still on the air, still broadcasting a largely mediocre, insignificant blend of deceptive infomercials, mindless chatter, bland pop music, news not so neatly twisted into propaganda, hums, coughs, grunts, dead air (often welcomed), and a heap of hypocrisy.

Sound like an assault on the ears? Well, it is that, but it also continues to be an insult to intelligence, not to mention the principles upon which Lewis Hill founded Pacifica to give postwar era listeners in the Bay Area an unfettered reflection of the world around them. WWII had been the wakeup call WWI failed to deliver and Mr. Hill placed much of the blame for both conflicts on ignorance. Americans were being fed pap and gilded, shallow impressions of life, and nothing delivered the message as widely and effectively as radio.

Pacifica got off to a rough start, but perseverance paid off and the original station, KPFA in Berkley, was soon joined by KPFK in Los Angeles. What was happening on these stations, inspired Louis Schweitzer, a philanthropic New Yorker with a passion for freedom of speech, to donate his little station, WBAI, to the Pacifica Foundation. Now, New York area residents could also tune in to honest news reportage, public affairs programs, and cultural life, as many generations had developed and experienced it and as visionaries foresaw it. In short, WBAI presented an all-encompassing time capsule as well as a look at and beyond the present. New York City attracts the greatest, most creative minds in the world, so one can hardly imagine a more suitable location for an outlet as diversified and accessible as WBAI.

It would also have been difficult to imagine that a powerful radio station, transmitting from this hub of happenings could ever grow stagnant, close its microphones to fresh expression of political and cultural ideas, and, indeed, to all but a small-minded segment of  one ethnic group. Perhaps that is easier to imagine after considering the colossal ineptitude of current manager Berthold Reimers and his cronies, who maintain the most damaging of of their predecessors' mistakes and make them even worse. Not even the loss of WBAI's listenership, now the lowest in the station's 54-year history, has given these people a clue, so let's see in which direction their narrow minds appear to be taking the station. 

Here are three examples of the reigning dead-end mindset. Let me be fair to the handful of producer/hosts who know the value of WBAI and continue to broadcast on a creative, intelligent and honest level. They count among them James Irsay, Prairie Miller, Simon Loekle, Chris Whent, Michio Koku, Max Schmid and the Off the Hook crew. Not among the people who get it is Kathy Davis, who has never understood the Pacifica concept. She was an enthusiastic pitcher of Double Helix Water, the most notorious of the several phony medical "cures" offered as "premiums, but that hasn't stopped her—now she has her own homespun spirituality going on the air (for promotion) and off the air (for profit). She talks nonsense, sufficiently cloaked in gibberish to pass as profundity among the light-minded. Here are examples of both, taken from this week's show. You will hear Davis bare her incredibly shallow solutions and fantasies, and you will hear an extraordinary call that exemplifies the lunacy this nonsense attracts. Note that the caller, too, is out to sell products and services. WBAI is now established as a free marketplace for hucksters who carry on the snake oil tradition.

Remember Z. (it stands for Zakkee) Starman? He was the early morning scam artist brought in by Tony Bates to give numerology readings to the unsuspecting. Of course, his hour was just a come-on for the gullible, who received cursory crystal ball assessments and a phone number to call for an "appointment." As one might have expected, several complaints were submitted and Zakkee was sacked (zakked?), but that did not stop Kathy Davis from finding another one and allowing him to recruit clients on her show. He did not last long, so astro-numerology was off the program schedule.

Last night, it returned in the form of Lloyd Strayhorn, a  prognosticator making his second visit to Education at the Crossroads, with talk of more. The program's host/producer, Basir Mchawi, and his wife are admirers, the latter being particularly impressed with Strayhorn's correct prediction that Mr. Obama would occupy the White House. Shucks, says the numbers man, it all simply added up, but he didn't name the eventual successor. He took some calls and readily gave his phone number and url, as Mchawi encouraged him to do. I leave it to you to figure out what this weekly show and a numerologist have to do with education. 

Then there is this. As you may recall, Berthold Reimers brought Daulton Anderson in from the station next door to present a program of black gospel music. Visions of this  grating disc jockey taking WBAI's microphone to area churches and capturing glorious voices were conjured up, confirmed by Reimers and eagerly anticipated by Mitchel Cohen. Well, it turned out that Anderson, who is from England, hasn't the foggiest knowledge of this rich branch of American music, so his shows were a crudely thrown together mishmash of truly awful recordings, with an occasional Mahalia tossed in to soften the assault on the ears. Bad music, unfunny standup "comedy," and no taste. This was WBAI with a loosely fitting plastic cover.

Anderson took calls, but soon abandoned the practice when listeners dared to criticize his choice of music. At one point, he became extremely rude, cut off the caller, and exhibited rather un-churchlike behavior. It wasn't long before it became clear that he was pushing certain recordings, playing the same ones on each show and praising lackluster performances beyond reason. The repeatedly asserted focus of High Praize was "inspirational music," but it became painfully clear that WBAI had opened its microphone to a commercial venture whose main product was a glorification of a bastardized form of christianity.

Last month, Anderson joined a commercial promoter to produce a "spectacular" gospel benefit concert for WBAI. He expected over 2,000 people, but, so far, all we have heard is that about 300 showed up, and there has not been any mention of how the evening went nor of the amount it brought the station. Hmmm.

This week, the following announcement of a new regular High Praize feature appeared on the WBAI site. What, one wonders, are they thinking of? 

Numerology, spiritual mumbo jumbo, religion... you see where this is going...

How do you think 2015 will go for WBAI? How much longer will it take for the abusers to kill what's left?

UPDATE ON PASTOR'S CORNER: Sunday morning, after playing the same assemblyline records and tasteless "comedy" that he pushes on every christmess show, Daulton Anderson introduced this new feature and, yes, my instinct was right, he said it was the brainchild (not the exact word, of course) of Berthold Reimers. So here is the overpaid, mousy Haitian Mitty, still wanting to get his sticky little fingers into the area's church collection boxes. The show was a horror, as usual, with the English wannabe DJ shouting louder than ever. By the way, if you wish to tune in to real black gospel music, WKCR (at 89.9) has plays it Sunday mornings at 8 on a program called "Amazing Grace.". 


  1. Will they interview Pastor James David Manning, chief pastor at the ATLAH World Missionary Church in Harlem?


  2. “Schizophrenia…” Yeah… It’s a common affliction amongst New Age cultists…

    “When Napoleon went through China…” Yeah… La Grande Armee loved General Tso’s Chicken…

    “You’re a genius in your own way…” Yeah… Reimers sure is…

    Pure lunacy… Fuckin’ A!!!

    Yeah… Napoleon XIV was a prognosticator in writing a little ditty for WBAI….

    And they're coming to take me away ha-haaa
    They're coming to take me away ho ho hee hee ha haaa
    To the funny farm
    Where life is beautiful all the time

    SDL… Yeah…

  3. How familiar are you with the old Mexican "border blasters?" Well, WBAI is getting to be that way, except they don't have the brains to lease the time for money. However, as anyone who listened to Brady's callers can tell, there are a lot of whack jobs who listen to WBAI, and they are the fools most easily parted from their money. I think the word that defines the situation best is DESPERATION.

    Yes, WBAI is so desperate that it has even instituted Christian programming, without the brains to lease the time to some huckster of a professional preacher. Maybe their superstitious sides are coming out in hoping the paranormal, New Age and religion can save them now?

    (stomping about, bible in hand)
    Comrades-uh! Send WBAI-uh all your money-uh! Praise be-uh! Believe in the Lord-uh for license salvation-uh! The Lord shall save-uh! Repent your capitalist sins-uh!

    I joked on the BB about making Anderson the station chaplain. Now I wonder if I was really joking or prognosticating…

    Gary Null should really make his power play now and threaten to pull out of the station if they don’t give him full control and the GM position. Without him it’s bye-bye BAI…


    1. Has Reimers painted himself into the pastors' corner?

    2. Seems so. I just don't understand keeping Anderson around. The guy just doesn't do anything for the station nor gospel music. Just a waste of two hours.

      As I said during my now famous call to him, I have nothing against a gospel music show on WBAI, as long as it isn't turned into preaching and religion. After the fact, I would like to add, and is hosted by someone who knows the genre.


    3. Reimers must be keeping Anderson around in hopes of getting his grubby hands on some of that church money. Remember, as obnoxious as Daulton Anderson is on the air, I can hear him smooth talk a desperate Reimers into giving him a chance to rein in the reverends. Last month's church concert must have brought in some money, although not the amount expected, but Daulton may well have used the concurrent protest march to rationalize that. What we have is two conmen in need of justifying their association with WBAI. Selling out is par for this course.