Monday, March 7, 2016

Defending the indefensible or misinterpreting Hill...

Yesterday, Mitch Cohen—on the defensive since his inclusion as a litigant in the current Gary Null lawsuit—reacted to  a series of posts by Steve Brown on the Pacifica Radiowaves list. Mitch's later is addressed to Dennis Goldstein, but posted publicly, so I decided to add my remarks (in orange text here). Alex Steinberg, a WBAI LSB member has since expressed his agreement with Mitch. He needs to step away and give that seat to a liberated mind. Actually, the whole Board and the Robert's Rule system has proven to be a curse upon Pacifica. here is Mitch's letter to Dennis:

I've been trying (and not fully succeeding) to stay out of your colloquy with Steve Brown, as Steve has taken a propagandists' position and everything he says with regard to WBAI and Pacifica these days needs to be understood in that context.
Mitchel, you should be among the last to take a dim view of what you refer to as Steve’s “propagandists’ position”.  That is the common stance at WBAI—one which you, yourself, took to a point only to be outdone by Knight shill Somers. You, at least, will slip in the occasional truth.
Note, for instance, that although Steve has responded to everything else you've said, the one comment of yours that he's ignored is your blaming of Kathy Davis alongside the others for the station's ills.

Why has Steve not commented there? Because he needs Kathy's vote as a WBAI delegate. The 12 Indies on the LSB are (rightly) contesting the seating of Vajra Kilgour instead of Kathy Davis, and the PNB has voted to accept Vajra and not Kathy. (Whether the PNB has the right and authority to arbitrate the dispute of who is and who is not legitimately elected as a delegate is itself in dispute, as the PNB is itself elected annually by the very delegates in question, and will be the subject of a lawsuit.)

So, Steve's views-of-the-moment are colored by political expediency.
I agree that Steve should not have spared Kathy Davis in his criticism, but I don’t know if that departure from reason was dictated by the need for a vote or the fact that his friend, Gary Null, inexplicably wastes a weekly online radio hour on her mindless delusions and the scam they nourish. 
My own view is that Jeannie Hopper is trying to improve the sound quality of the shows; political context is not her strong point. 
Neither is substantive programming. Hopper’s “Liquid Lounge” is a shallow foray into the blandest of music, sprinkled with inane chatter and petty promotions. Reimers’ appointment of her to the PD position, however “interim” it might be, underscored his lack of judgement and failure to grasp even the fundamentals of radio broadcasting.
Mario Murillo started off great, but then personal issues began piling up, and after the first couple of months on the job he lost his focus. (His wife was very sick. She died a few months ago. The commemoration held for her was truly beautiful and jam-packed with folks from the art world, who far outnumbered the numbers from WBAI.)
Murillo came back to WBAI laden with a personal agenda. Just as a dysfunctional group of ad hoc “activists”—advantaged by the lack of professional management—had sprouted and redefined “community” as comprising disaffected people of African ancestry, so Murillo poured his Nadinola upon the remnants of WBAI to lighten the hue… but only up to a point. No whitener, he.

If Murillo "started off great”, I would like to hear how you reach that conclusion. As I recall, he wrote the obligatory letter of good intent and only much later introduced that fast-dwindling listenership to a bag of individuals who share his political beliefs. What he put on the air often bore little or no relationship to New York or, for that matter, the U.S., thus packing even more listeners off to perdition.

Mrs. Murillo’s illness and hastened death was a tragedy for which he deserves our sympathy and understanding, but the attendance at her funeral is not relevant to the topic at hand.  
Jeannie was thrown into the mess temporarily. She has focused on technical issues (which are legion) at WBAI, and has made some headway.
Had she really had the station’s interest at heart or, for that matter, understood its purpose and current weaknesses, Ms. Hopper would have relinquished her dominance of Saturday evening air time and sought good advice, such as that which comes to WBAI regularly and, just as routinely gets ignored.
Also, I do not share your opinion of Kathy Davis, who has worked extremely hard to raise funds for the station and to keep it afloat, and who, along with Paulette Spencer, have been heroically keeping Robert Knight's flame alive on WBAI. (There's more to Kathy -- and to all of us, actually -- than a one-dimensional view of her perceived politics.) I see her spirituality show on WBAI in that context. 
Kathy Davis has never apologized for teaming up with Tony Bates for that scandalous Double Helix Water infomercial, which gave false hope to listeners with fatal diseases and robbed them of money that would have been more prudently spent on seeking professional advice. Kathy’s approach to fundraising is bereft of moral conscience and blatantly dishonest. She is an opportunist who so clearly puts her own need for attention and money ahead of any concern for WBAI or this who are truly devoted to its welfare.

There was nothing heroic about Kathy Davis taking over Robert Knight’s Thursday morning show. He had long since stagnated and made it insignificant, so his death left no gap in WBAI’s offerings. Kathy, however, rushed in to seize the time slot under the guise of keeping this man’s faux halo lit. To lend a modicum of believability to that takeover, Kathy brought Knight’s other half, Paulette Spencer, aboard, albeit in a very secondary role. It wasn’t long before Knight’s name ceased to be mentioned and the time slot became yet another weekly soap box for Kathy’s rambling pseudo-spiritual gibberish and the commercial ventures with which it is laced.

As for keeping Knight’s “flame” alive? Look how quickly his memory shrank into a rarely-used footnote.
Similarly, Tony Bates worked his ass off to raise funds for the station, which is what he was hired this go-'round to do. Berthold decided that we need instant cash (true enough) and that the main things to make money are health-related premiums and promotion of financial counseling. He's right about what makes the largest percentage of money for WBAI in our greatly shrunken audience. Of course the fact that so many have been driven away by this approach throws us into a vicious cycle, with no management plan to break out of it. Tony was doing the best he could these last two drives within that framework.
WBAI promoting financial counseling is a priceless absurdity! 

Tony Bates was kicked out of WBAI against the will of Berthold Reimers but at the insistence of over 100 staffers and volunteers who had seen him screw up the programming, and at least two people who claimed to have witnessed sexual harassment on his part.

Mitchel, you seem to have adopted the notion that money can be raised in good conscience by any means necessary. This, I believe, is a fundamental flaw in the desperate reasoning that the current management follows. If funds cannot be raised honestly and in keeping with the station’s principles, one must either seek a different source of income or declare Lew Hill’s grand experiment more of a failure than it now appears to be. Desperate need for funding should never adversely affect programming… WBAI’s on-air offerings are the products up for sale… years will change their nature as new needs are answered, but nothing should ever be allowed to downgrade their quality or intellectual content.

I know that you agree with that, but I wish you would not accept any downgrade as inevitable.  
The problem is the framework. I once again for the sixth or seventh time proposed that WBAI air a folk music show. There's a whole new wave of folk music happening, a new scene emerging, in New York ... And Eli Smith -- one of the leading (and young-ish!) folks afficianados who has put together festivals and performs as well has submitted a proposal to host a folk show, which is so missing from WBAI and would do a lot to stabilize and expand our audience (not by itself, but in conjunction with other shows, such as the great Arts show that has been added at 5 pm on Fridays). But Berthold is clueless here, and so is Tony Bates when it comes to the importance of folk music. (As an aside, I met Eric Anderson a few weeks ago, and asked if he'd be willing to call into a folk show from his home in France, I think (not sure). Eric is the writer of my favorite song (if I can pull one out of that wonderful hat) -- "Thirsty Boots" -- which has been my anthem for decades. He said he would LOVE TO call in to WBAI, maybe provide commentaries as well as original material.
Bringing back folk music, real or ersatz, is not even remotely a solution, for today’s generation has moved on; that which appealed to the love-beaded young of the Sixties is, for all intents and purposes, as passé as the Bob Fass show. It may see a trendy revival one day, but not today and WBAI’s programming should never rely on one or two spheres of interest or ethnic origin. The “community” people like Haskins should be aiming at has no color—it is a community of the curious and forward thinking, a community of demanding intellectual needs. 

That community is global and without ethnic prejudice.
I am so very depressed at what is happening in and around WBAI, with Steve and Gary's lawsuit topping off the nasty insanity (as opposed to the good kind that we need!), when there is SOOOO much potential and, in my view, not too difficult to set right, with proper leadership. The great Sandy Boyer died a few weeks ago (I owe my meeting with another of my heroes, Bernadette Devlin, to Sandy Boyer's bringing her to the U.S.); Simon Loekle is gone (and WBAI management was nowhere to be found at his memorial). Same with the killing of Dani Lamar, who was the young man responsible for working his ass off to mail out WBAI's premiums, and who was indeed affected emotionally by Gary's lawsuit (even though Dani isn't named in it) because it obliquely sought to address (and pressure) his work. Steve and Gary really either have no idea or just don't care about the effects of what they've wrought (Steve had the stupidity and immorality to call it, in one of his letters, "collateral damage", for shame!)
WBAI management’s absence at Simon Loekle’s memorial reflects its warped priorities. Reimers not only showed up for a screening of the Radio Unnameable documentary, he sought ways in which to use the film for fundraising. 
I wish I could end on a more cheery note, but when Berthold leaves for his other job, I have no hope at all that the ED will appoint someone competent as GM, and that it will fall to EVEN WORSE hands than we have now.
Berthold Reimers is leaving for “his other job”? If that’s not a cheery note on which to end, well...


  1. There are many flaws in the governance system and it should be simplified but it can work if the people involved are of good will. The one thing that can undermine any group the most is lack of consistency with its own rules. When the rules are ignored or broken, members lose faith in the group and start doing whatever they want.

    Robert's Rules is a guide for meetings. It ensures all sides are heard and helps structure meetings. It works well in most groups and has been used for over a century.
    At the WBAI LSB, members don't seem to know it despite it being part of their bylaws
    and even worse don't seem to care. They demonize their opposition, stomp over their bleeping rules and then blame the governance system because they didn't get their way. I have seen Mitch make basic mistakes with rules of order as LSB chair and his successor openly disdains it. In fact, I understand they once had a meeting in Newark which had no quorum which went on for hours and passed resolutions on matters having nothing to do with Pacifica. It doesn't matter what system you have as long as you have members acting in this manner.

    1. Thank you for the clarification. As you point out, the fault does not lie with Robert's Rules, it lies with the corrupt and/or ignorant members of the board.

      I am reminded of the cab driver who took me, a fresh immigrant, into the city from Idlewild (JFK). Detecting an accent, he asked me where I had just come from. When I told him "Denmark and Iceland", he asked me how it feels to live in a democracy. "Do you mean Denmark or the U.S.?, I asked.

      That response almost angered him, for he "knew" that this is the only democracy in the world.

      I often wonder if some of Pacifica's national and local board members are any wiser.

    2. First, Murillo has NEVER cared for the US. His ONLY interest is Columbia, the country, not the university. Second, who is Dami Lamar?? He was killed?? By whom??

    3. Dami Lamar was, according to Mitch Cohen and Alex Steinberg, a saintly WBAI volunteer. However, according to Janet Coleman, he was neither saintly nor a volunteer. Here's what she posted in response to Steinberg's gilded recollection of Mr. Lamar.

      "Dani Lamar was not a volunteer. He was a paid staff member, appointed by the GM (without a search process) to Richie Arkelian's mail position when Richie died. Dani was getting $1400 a month for his services.

      It should also be noted that Dani had been banned from WHCR -- the Harlem station from which WBAI broadcast for two years -- by Angela Hardin, WHCR's GM, for violent physical behavior towards others. He took a swing at our Production Engineer and LSB member Reggie Johnson who was thereafter anxious in Dani's company at 388 Atlantic Avenue where Dani was NOT banned, although there is still a hole in a wall to commemorate where Dani had punched through it.

      It's unfortunate for someone with such strong moral opinions as yours that your knowledge of WBAI is so much less than you think."

    4. Predictably, Mitchel Cohen tried to contradict Janet's correction. Note the uncertainty in his first line. As you may have noticed, Mitchel does not get along with real facts:

      "I believe Dani got paid only when there was work to do.

      The hole in the wall upstairs was from 3 years ago, and was aimed for my head (Reggie wasn't there during that situaton) when Dani thought better of it and punched the wall instead. (Quite a thin wall. You've been complaining about the lack of soundproofing for years!) A couple of days later he patched it up, we had some long talks (and so did Berthold and Dani), and he used the opportunity to sublimate his anger and frustration into creativity, putting together comedy and variety shows for WBAI and working with younger people.

      Like all of us, Dani had issues, but he was young and working on them. The volunteers from Brooklyn Day-Hab LOVED Dani, who was always very gentle and funny with those he worked with. And unlike many, Dani loved WBAI. To Berthold's great credit, he gave Dani the opportunity to rebuild his life amidst tragedy after tragedy.

      I liked Dani a lot, and he knew it. So did Jim S., Melissa, and the other volunteers. And, unlike some, he was worth every penny that WBAI paid him. He did the job, and then some."

  2. Well, good riddance to a noted thug - part of a LONG list of thugs that have roamed WBAI halls FOR YEARS!!! He met his match in Motown!

  3. "Berthold decided that we need instant cash (true enough) and that the main things to make money are health-related premiums and promotion of financial counseling. He's right about what makes the largest percentage of money for WBAI in our greatly shrunken audience. Of course the fact that so many have been driven away by this approach throws us into a vicious cycle, with no management plan to break out of it."

    Lucid observation on the surface, but he lays it all on Reimers, while lauding people like Bates and Davis who are two of the most responsible people for this "vicious cycle." You can't have it both ways Mitch. Just because they are your buddies doesn't get them off the hook.

    I have said there should be a folk music show on WBAI, also, but purely for artistic reasons. How many listeners would it get? I don't know.

    Berthold leaving? I'll believe it when I see it.


  4. Sorry, this is off-topic, but I finally figured out Loyan Mensa's business model - he helps people qualify for mortgages to buy homes.

    1. If he's the financial guru Kathy Davis has been pushing on the fund drive, your comment is not at all off topic. That he is involved in mortgage makes a lot of sense. Kathy—undoubtedly exhausted by all her attempts to levitate—may not grasp the significance of the mortgage game (if that's what this amounts to), but, if she does, there is no conscience to trigger. It's all about getting money from the listeners, by hook or by crook.

      Did I identify Mr. Mensa correctly?

    2. Just thinking: Is it possible to short sell WBAI and make a killing when it really tanks?


  5. Berthold Reimer is going to his "other job"? Might it involve making license plates?

    1. Vert funny, Justine. That hadn't occurred to me, but it certainly is a reasonable assumption! :)