Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Doomsday?


If King Kong wishes to grab Pacifica's assets and effectively lead WBAI to market, it can proceed with such a move in less than two weeks. November 13th, to be exact. We don't yet know what the secret society known as the Pacifica National Board will do, but it is clear that gross mismanagement of this body and the stations it owns has hastened this day of reckoning.




Some of you may have noticed that yesterday, the judge's decision in the Empire State Realty Trust vs. Pacifica case (that he read in court on Oct. 3) was posted on the NY courts web site, at:


That's where all the filings are for this case. New ones are at the bottom.

However, the clerk for the court had sent the transcript to the wrong judge, who signed it, and there were a few other errors in it. It has since been taken down from the web page above.  So we have a little longer before it is corrected and signed by the correct judge, and re-posted.

While it's possible that starting 2 weeks after it's re-posted, that ESRT could begin the process to start seizing Pacifica assets, Sam Himmelstein, our attorney in the case, has told us repeatedly that he believes ESRT wants to work out an arrangement with us that will work for both parties, without disrupting things for us.

We are still getting information on possible options and hope we can have something specific that the PNB can agree on soon, and which we can present to ESRT as part of a plan to pay the judgement.

We need a plan to deal with more than the judgement, though, as the tower lease runs until 2020, and everyone knows we have found it impossible to keep up with the lease payments. So we need a plan that addresses those. Pacifica also has other very significant financial issues, including unfunded pension liabilities, the FY2016 and FY2017 audits still to do (with some additional funds needed to complete them), and other debt. There's a lot we need to catch up on.  We need a plan to handle the cash flow of all that plus our ongoing activities, as we have no extra revenue that can pay for the remaining years of the ever-increasing tower lease, or interest on a bridge loan.

Good news includes that KPFT, KFPK, and WPFW just concluded successful fund drives. KPFA concluded their fall fund drive a day early, last month. WBAI had to add a fifth week to theirs, though, and it's still continuing.

I want to assure everyone that we will not allow ESRT to seize Pacifica's assets and clean out our bank accounts. I realize that's what people are afraid of, but that's not going to happen. Chapter 11 bankruptcy (which would stop collection efforts while we continue to operate, until we can develop a plan to pay creditors) remains a possibility, but we want to avoid that because there are significant costs to the bankruptcy itself, plus some other issues, even though there are some advantages.  A bridge loan is also being considered, but both Sam Agarwal (our CFO) and I feel it should be part of a bigger plan, that includes how to pay off the loan itself as well as other 
obligations as noted above, such as the remaining tower lease. The PNB will be reviewing what information we have so far, this Thursday evening, and I think they soon will have enough info so they can make a decision about how to move forward on all of this.

Bill Crosier
Pacifica interim Executive Director
713-641-4941 (home), 713-305-5346 (mobile)
KPFT - 90.1 FM Houston - Radio for Peace  http://kpft.org
Pacifica Foundation http://pacifica.org

The following letter was posted today, November 1, 2017, by Steve Brown, who recently has kept a low profile.

Dear Pacifica Supporter:
To bring you up to date, in case you missed my prior emails: 
On Oct. 6, the Empire State Building corporation (a $3 billion realty trust) won a claim against the Pacifica Foundation for $1.8 million. It claimed that it was owed this amount for unpaid rent on WBAI’s broadcasting transmitter. The judge ruled—as irrelevant— Pacifica’s argument that it was being gouged by Empire State, which had been charging the foundation four times the current market rent, and that the “elevator clause” of the lease – raising Pacifica’s rent by 9% every year -- was “unconscionable.”
On Oct. 31 (yesterday), the judge posted his official order, setting Nov. 13 as the date on which Empire State could begin seizing Pacifica’s bank accounts and other assets. This would leave the foundation without any cash to pay for phones, electricity, salaries, etc., possibly shutting it down and forcing it off the air for the first time in its 68-year history.
Is there a solution? Of course there is. It’s just that management refuses to act on it. In fact, management seems not to be acting responsibly at all, as the “doomsday clock” ticks down for Pacifica. I have held back from publicly criticizing management until now, because of the good work it has done since taking over from the prior “rogue” management and board of directors, which had destroyed Pacifica’s finances. But I must criticize them now for not applying the correct solution to Pacifica’s debt crisis before it is too late.
What is that solution? It is simply to mortgage or sell some of Pacifica’s unused and underutilized real estate. (Our business is radio, not real estate.) This would bring in more than enough to pay the $1.8 million judgment and prevent Empire State from seizing Pacifica’s bank accounts and forcing it off the air. Pacifica would then have two to three years in which to recover and move forward. 
Unfortunately, management and a number of board members – without any real knowledge or experience in such matters – mistakenly believe that the foundation should declare bankruptcy. But it is clear, from the advice of five eminent bankruptcy attorneys, that this would be disastrous and, ironically, would ultimately force Pacifica to pay – not just $1.8 million – but more than $8 million. And Pacifica would have to sell its real estate anyway.
So why isn’t Pacifica doing the sensible thing? Because, in addition to poor judgment by management, there is self-serving factionalism among board members, some of whom seem to have private agendas that violate their fiduciary duty to the foundation. So unless their minds (or attitudes) are changed, this account of the problem that I have just sent you -- is worthless. It merely alerts you to an impending train wreck, which you must stand by and watch in horror, but are powerless to prevent. 
Since the advice of leading debt and bankruptcy authorities is being ignored by management, perhaps an outpouring from Pacifica’s thousands of supporters might be more effective. So if you have the time and the will – that is, if you haven’t yet given up on Pacifica – you might send an email urging immediate mortgage and/or sale of Pacifica’s unused or underutilized real estate to pay off the Empire State judgment before the Nov. 13 deadline date.
Here are the addresses of the Executive Director, Bill Crosier; the Chief Financial Officer, Sam Agarwal; and the Pacifica National Board. You can send one email to all three. kpft@crosierbiomed.com; sagarwal@pacifica.org; pnb@pacifica.org
I wish I had better news to share with you.
Stephen M Brown

72 comments:

  1. Chris,

    I like this statement by Steve Brown:

    "Is there a solution? Of course there is. It’s just that management refuses to act on it. In fact, management seems not to be acting responsibly at all, as the “doomsday clock” ticks down for Pacifica. I have held back from publicly criticizing management until now, because of the good work it has done since taking over from the prior “rogue” management and board of directors, which had destroyed Pacifica’s finances. But I must criticize them now for not applying the correct solution to Pacifica’s debt crisis before it is too late."

    The "rogue management" has been in control of WBAI for several years.

    Ed Manfredonia

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    Replies
    1. I share your feelings regarding present management. Good start, followed by a disappointing fizzle—I should have seen the continued acceptance of Reimers as a very large red flag. In a way, I did, but optimism—faint though it was—got the best of me.

      Delete
  2. Excerpt from court transcript:

    'Mr. Reimers who said that he was at this meeting where supposedly some sort of inchoate (rudimentary) agreement, by his own admission, a not fully-formed agreement was entered into by the parties under which ESRT agreed to accept a lesser amount of fixed rent and fees.
    Again, there is not one iota of corroboration.And also even his statements are it was his understanding and they had subsequent meetings. I mean, he doesn't even really say that there was an agreement breached. I don't know if the Court wants to hear about the fact that they say that we agreed to this because they are in dire financial situation. We don't believe that that's the case but it's irrelevant again to this commercial dispute.'

    For three years, they just paid $12,000 a month based on an 'inchoate agreement'. In other words, there was no deal, no understanding, no negotiations and no plan to catch up. All there was a lot of wishful thinking and stubborn denial to face reality.

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  3. "possibly shutting it down and forcing it off the air for the first time in its 68-year history." Brown doesn't know about the 1977 Guzman/Kosoff fiasco, I see.

    Reimers is like John Gotti, The Teflon Don. However, even Gotti eventually fell.

    SDL

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    Replies
    1. Yes, he kinda skipped that shut down. Actually, WBAI's history as a Pacifica station only goes back 57 years (almost 58), not 68.

      Reimers was a loser when that amateur committee so stupidly recommended him him, but he will soon be a loser.in another sense, a victim of his own lies and deceits.

      Delete
  4. Gary Null is supposed to be rich. How about his lending the necessary money. Yeah, right...

    SDL

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    1. Given his inherent tendency to exaggerate, I wouldn't think his piggybanks are full—his friend, Steve, on the other hand....

      Then, too, Null boasts of being extremely well connected... smooth talker that he is, that might be just as helpful.

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    2. These asshats aren't giving any large sums of money to WBAI because they know it would be a waste. No well to do person is giving large sums of money to WBAI, no matter how hard Reimers may wish.

      SDL

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    3. Yes, WBAI gives them the "want not" so they repay with "waste not". A perfect setup.

      Did you read Bill Crosier's report (added above)?

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    4. Yes, I read it. Selling property would be the best option if they had the time. The problem is they don't have the time.

      The best thing for Pacifica is to sell off the WBAI license and be done with it, since no one is going to do anything to improve the station.

      SDL

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    5. I wish I could disagree with your last sentence.

      Delete
  5. Chris,
    Direct Mail is not as big as it was; ergo, I do not believe that it is as big as it was.

    My father was a supplier to Nat Wartels, who made a mail order empire out of Crown Publishers. I do not believe that Crown and Outlet would be as profitable in the current economic environment.

    Also, Steve Brown has been sanctioned in several states.

    Ed Manfredonia

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  6. According to the following, which is posted on the WBAI website, the WBAI Finance Committee is supposed to have a meeting tomorrow. In light of recent developments, that should be fun.
    From the WBAI website:
    "WBAI Finance Committee. Open to the public, Thursday, November 2, 2017, 7:00 PM ET at WBAI 388 Atlantic Ave. 3rd floor Brooklyn, NY 11210"

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    Replies
    1. It should run the gamut of emotions... I hope someone records it, a nice little CD for the fat lady to hand out as people gather around for her swan song.

      Delete
  7. Chris,

    Suppose that WBAI does a signal swap and the audience decreases by 25%. WBAI has an audience of 600 instead of 800.

    Big Deal.

    Ed

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  8. Himmelstein's convinced that ESB wants to negotiate a "fair deal". Really? What evidence up to this point does he base this on? The cynical view of this would be he's covering his ass to maximize the legal fees due him as long as possible. Now, how do you legally prove this "intent to profit" w/out taking depositions and going thru discovery? I'm not sure.

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    1. I have heard Himmelstein speak on the subject of this case and he leaves me without a smidgeon of respect for him as a lawyer. I think you are absolutely right—just consider his failure to challenge the Reimers gang's ridiculous claim to have been "victims."

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    2. To be fair, or at least semi-fair, he reportedly works this case pro bono – and is worth every penny.

      ~ 'indigo'

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    3. To give Himmelstein the benefit of the doubt, he could be talking about negotiating a payment plan, rather than negotiating the amount of the judgment.

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    4. True, but he does not seem to have discouraged the conspiracy approach aired by WBAI.

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    5. With respect: A payment plan based on what…?

      Wishes? Hopes? Dreams? A Noble Progressive Commitment to World Peace and Prosperity for All, Everywhere, Every Moment?

      A Martian Magical Bequest?

      Their obligation to ESRT is ~$55k/mo through 2020.

      That’s simple cold, hard, legal fact – and they have assets ESRT can go after to satisfy their contractual obligation.

      ~ ‘indigopirate’

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  9. So… at this point WBAI/Pacifica appears to be placing its hopes on two possible paths.

    The first is that, as Crosier quotes their ace attorney, Himmelstein, the belief that ‘ESRT wants to work out an arrangement with us that will work for both parties, without disrupting things for us.’

    This is of course precisely the belief and expectation that guided all previous dealings with ESRT to date.

    Which belief seems to be founded on WBAI/Pacifica Magical Progressive Belief that the world exists in part to aid, assist, support and accommodate them in all ways possible and whenever possible.

    The second ‘plan’ is that Ch11 can and will save them from not only themselves but the situation in which they’ve placed themselves.

    In so placing their hopes on this ‘plan’ they appear to neglect the requirement that the onus is on them to present a credible plan for emerging from Ch11, which plan must not include any hoped-for improvement in contributions or donations, and which plan must be a plan, not an expression of ‘goals’, hopes, and wistful dreams of the world’s warm embrace and support for their endangered existence.

    Perhaps they might also pray to Out Blessed Lady of Perpetual Hope and Mercy?

    ~ ‘indigopirate’

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When you think about it, what kind of a plan can Pacifica really come up with for Ch11?

      Sure, a little property to sell, but that's a one time cash flow on any transaction. Reinstating CPB funding by promising to do audits on time. Maybe changing bylaws to streamline Pacifica (and their stations) governance.

      What remains is programming, which is instituted and conducted by ideologues. Obviously, Pacifica would have to do something about it, but "reaching out to even more communities oppressed by white privilege" won't be a plan.

      No matter what, Pacifica's main asset is what goes over the air, and that won't be changed, so no chance of a plan.

      SDL

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    2. I fully agree.

      ~ 'indigo'

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  10. Himmelstein isn't the problem Chris. He's just doing his job trying to find a way to get ESRT to the table. The problem is his client and especially a GM who relies on 'inchoate agreements' and fundraisers which never seem to end.

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    1. I see no reason for ESRT to ‘come to the table’. They have a valid contract. The court has just ruled, in summary judgement no less, that they have a valid contract.

      They are legally and morally entitled to their money, in full, and WBAI/Pacifica has assets sufficient to satisfy contractual terms.

      I’m not aware of WBAI/Pacifica having offered them anything other than less than full payment.

      Why should or would they accept that?

      Out of love for WBAI/Pacifica?

      ~ ‘indigopirate’

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    2. I do agree that Berthold Reimers' problem with the truth and cowardly deception has been instrumental in the piling up of ESB bills, but that does not alter how I feel about Himmelstein. Why, for example, did he not tell his client that WBAI has been its own "victim" and is not his apparent acceptance of Reimers' fantasy regarding having made a handshake deal with the ESP a reflection of unprofessional behavior?

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    3. To be fair, Himmelstein is not the first, and won't be the last, attorney who presented an argument he knew would be rejected, at the insistence of a stubborn client.

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    4. Who knows what Himmelstein has said to Pacifica and WBAI in private. I think they hav been "playing poker" (as they say) with any nonsense they can throw and hope sticks. it obviously failed.

      Anyway, Himmelstein has an interest in keeping WBAI alive, as they get some business indirectly via the Met Council Housing show's website.

      SDL

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    5. Where was Himmelstein's advice when the station, claiming victimization. repeatedly painted the ESB people as monsters?

      Delete
    6. I have no idea, Chris. Maybe the WBAItes ignored good advice because they know better? I'm only surprised we didn't hear Linda Perry telling us how the ESRT people commited genocide against black slaves in the old days, or some such propaganda.

      Once again, who knows what was said behind closed doors, and what WBAItes actually listened to.

      SDL

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    7. Maybe slaves in white face erected that building.

      Delete
  11. I think that WBAI and The Remnants should move to the jungles of Guyana, call themselves The Peoples Station, start a colony named Robeson and drink lots of Kool Aid...

    SDL

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  12. tuning into this at this point , is literally painful.

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  13. (JustAListener)

    It is fascinating how despite his recent desperate tone, Reimers magic shield still functions.
    If Summer Reese had succeeded in firing Reimers and not being kicked out herself, there might have been a chance to negotiate a better deal with the ESRT.
    If Reese hadn't succeeded in laying off all those personnel WBAI/Pacifica would have sunk years ago, so flaky as she was, her dose of fiscal sanity and willingness to act had an effect.
    But the past is past, and the present?
    Apparently all fiscal sanity left with Reese.
    KPFT,KPFA, KPFK even WPFW had successful fund drives and WBAI is extending another (unsurprisingly) disastrous drive.
    WBAI is now an anchor sending the rest of the mess to the bottom.
    Any plan that doesn't cut that anchor chain is doomed to fail.

    A signal swap would be great - money to pay debts, a way out of the ESRT contract and still have an FM station in NYC. I don't see this mentioned by Crosier, did he see if such a deal can be done?
    "we will not allow ESRT to seize Pacifica's assets"
    Since that "we" must include the PNB, I predict nothing will be done until the sheriff is knocking on the door with the seizure papers.

    BTW Reimers isn't a loser/victim. Where else could he have been paid over $100k/yr to do what he does? He's made out like a bandit, and is just sad that the gravy train may be nearing the last stop.

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    1. I have a good idea. How about WBAI refusing to air any black nationalist, hocus pocus or snake oil programming until they raise $2.4 million? That will teach those cheapo listeners!

      Delete
    2. Anchor huh? What happened to the whole solidarity bit? How they're better than all those crass commercial stations? They're all just looking out for themselves. KPFA is doing relatively well but that is not a real achievement. They are just one Siegel s**t storm away from another crisis. KPFK is still in a river of red ink after Hurricane Radford. KPFT's infighting will be paused only until they can celebrate the Astros World Series win. WPFW and its dozens of listeners need a place. They may wind up in Charlotte by the time they're done.

      Delete
    3. All that gloom, it sounds like a WBAI scammer's leitmotif.

      Delete
  14. Update on KPFT. Yes, the Astros won the Series. Most reputable betting sites (not the side sites being pushed on-air by Ferrell on CBS or Mad Dog Radio on XM) were saying the Dodgers in 7. What are the odds of winning Game 7 away? Not that good. But they pulled it off.

    That being said, there's really nothing original programming wise there. When I've dealt with various people there, the attitude's always been the same. Much of the time they just blow you off. On the rare occasions when someone can actually be bothered to respond, it's always network problems? Fuck that shit. I don't know anything about that. How could you not know? You work for Pacifica. Stay the fuck away from me. The only reason Duane Bradley is still on air there for 5 hours a week is that he made a big deal about retiring. No more +200 hours a week weeks. Then he suddenly realized, oh shit! How am I gonna pay for my surgery? Their LSB meetings are just as bad as BAI's. Do BAI's meetings still have people threatening others with a sledgehammer or sitting in the corner screaming IT'S AN ILLEGAL MEETING! IT'S AN ILLEGAL MEETING!?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No. In fact, WBAI LSB meetings seem to be lucky to get eight listeners to attend. Nobody gives a shit.

      Anyway, Adriana Casenave should have a show on the air, if she doesn't. The way she howls, she could be the next Prescod.

      SDL

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    2. Isn't it enough to be the truck driver from hell?

      Delete
    3. No, sorry. As a capitalist, I believe that Prescod needs a competitor in her field of screaming deception... and The Remnants need more punishment.

      SDL

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  15. Obviously none of these great africans that they talk so highly about never found their way to wbai
    Gotta be Hidden racism and white supremacy.
    When they say Ivan Van sertima it always reminds me of eric von zipper . From them motorcycle gang/beach party movies from the sixties. The only difference is, von zipper seemed much smarter . haha

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    Replies
    1. This totally ridiculous Africa fantasy, which has Bates' imprimatur, goes far when it comes to reducing WBAI to an audio version of the old supermarket tabloid. It is as insulting to the intelligence as WBAI has become to the broadcasting industry—from what I hear on the air, the rest of Pacifica is equally embarracing.

      "Dr." Imhotep Whatever is an out and out fraud who follows in the footsteps of the now deceased con men Henrik-Clarke and "Dr. Ben." They have a different angle, but they are as loony as Brady and none of them should be fed to WBAI's listenership. When that listenership was tangible, these racist clowns would not have been foisted on them.

      How ironic it is that we have to turn to other stations if we wish to hear about real and meaningful accomplishments by people of African descent.

      Delete
  16. Another PNB meeting and another display of Cerene and company trying to derail the meeting. Its like they have a checklist and just run through it at every meeting.
    There was a new wrinkle when they added the lawyer but he couldn't say much in open session.

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  17. Chris,
    What is the MNN offer for WBAI?
    Ed

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    Replies
    1. Have my hands full woking n a couple of new.posts, but I’ll check it out if a more knowledgable soul does not beat me to it.

      Delete
  18. Chris - for your review -IMO, WBAI has become an almost exclusively Afrocentric radio station--especially for the past two years.
    Literally EVERY time we tune in, we get lectured on "white supremacy" or "white privilege" or slavery or something about Africa. Or some other injustice specific to Blacks.
    All these issues are important and need to be discussed, but 24/7 all year? I've been a listener/subscriber since 1972 when we were all revolutionaries, blacks, white, Latin, asians, all stood together against this oppressive government. We were AND ARE ALL still victims of the ruling elite--not just blacks.
    So, I'll keep donating, but I'm not too happy about it.
    I wonder if management realizes there are 12 million people in the listening area, but BAI as a pathetic 20,000 subscribers. Maybe that's because the programming isn't relevant for the majority of progressive wealthy white people? I may be all wrong about this, but I know something about business and revenues.
    And it wouldn't take much to attract the kind of listeners that could put the station in much better financial health.
    Sorry if this sounds offensive to some, it's how I feel and what I think.

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    Replies
    1. WBAI/Pacifica is effectively a closed system. They are what they want to be, and are highly resistant to any serious suggestion of change – it’s the only issue on which there’s anything approaching consensus or unity.

      They would rather die than change, and that’s been the case, really, for decades, it’s simply that that stance, that self-definition has led over the years to this extreme place.

      If you want to support this, that’s your choice.

      ~ ‘indigopirate’

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    2. Thank you. You’re not in the least being offensive, this is what I have been saying for a long time and it is a very important reason why the listeners have tuned out (black listeners, too). I’m sorry to hear that you will continue contributing to the station, I think all listener support should stop until they get rid of these racists—they are opportunistic self-centered faux radicals who have caused irreparable damage WBAI

      When I first began to notice this and mentioned it on my blog people did not take me seriously they thought I was overreacting but look what’s happened. You’re absolutely right, you can tune in almost in anytime and you will hear something racist being promoted an/or endorsed.

      Delete
    3. Thanks to Mario Murillo for ramping up the hate.

      SDL

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    4. Ah, yes - Mario Murillo. For 30 years, he has helped to destroy WBAI. He is the Kevin Spacey of WBAI.

      Delete
  19. And now one of the biggest offenders , Howard Jordan .
    This man is pretty much incapable of talking about anything but race.

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  20. Indigopirate put it very well. In fact, I have heard one or two people say explicitly they would rather fold than change. The platform is the most important thing. All the other stuff about fundraising, premiums, etc. is not their concern.

    The MNN offer from what I heard is basically $4 million for an LMA. WBAI would be run from their studios with whatever programming ties in to their other projects. I thinks its like 7-8 years.

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    1. Thank you. There was also talk about LMA’s being oneway streets.

      Delete
  21. an LMA (or PSOA for a non-commercial) A PSOA can not be for more than the operating expenses of the station, i.e rent, utilities,or required management presence costs etc. It can not be used for past due debt, or to make "a profit" And with the FCC eliminating the main studio/required management presence rules, it would be for even less.

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    1. does that include theft?

      SDL

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    2. Offhand then, quick take, considering their situation, that strikes me as a non-viable path, financially.

      What's your take, in purely financial terms?

      ~ 'indigo'



      Delete
  22. Tim Wise... Another one who thinks he's gonna fix the world's racism problem. Dream on !
    No doubt making a nice buck off this useless crap , though .
    Telling people how the black man got shafted by the white man throughout history
    isn't gonna do shit to change anybody's mind . Never did , never will.

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    Replies
    1. For most of human history only slaves thought there was anything wrong with slavery.

      It was seen as natural and inevitable.

      This was true in Africa, just as it was everywhere else.

      It’s only for the last few centuries that anyone ever thought it otherwise.

      It’s a recent development, historically speaking.

      People are still adjusting.

      Sort of.

      ~ 'indigopirate'

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    2. Not only regarding slavery but genuinely liberal principles are two or three hundred years old in any sort of practice. Unfortunately, I think we are in social retrograde at this point, with the "left" being the mob at the witch trial calling "burn witch, burn."

      The old saying "follow the money" applies very well to this professional victimization stuff. It's a profitable business.

      SDL

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    3. Agreed.

      In any event all indications are that China will have none of it, and we'll quite possibly be looking at a new dominant model.

      Whether liberals like it or not.

      ~ 'indigo'

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    4. Agreed. China is establishing itself in the Pacific, most noticeably, as well as other countries, particularly in Africa. I don't even have to talk about their economy.

      If China does what I think it will, getting rid of Kimchi, they will toss the USA into a tizzy.

      SDL

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    5. Oh, and WBAI will sit there hawking a premium that Africans were the first Chinese...

      SDL

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    6. They are to their credit everywhere.

      In the world and at home, moving swiftly.

      As the US is consumed in squabbles and largely ignores a worthy challenge as to social and economic organization…

      Wonders why they seem to be failing to follow the western liberal model…

      So it goes…

      So the tide turns…

      ~ ‘indigopirate’

      Delete
  23. Ideas for Pacifica moving forward - An alternative sense of community from www.journalism.co.uk



    'The word community could not be interpreted in the singular'
    Posted: 2 November 2017 By: Catalina Albeanu
    diverse community
    Credit: Image from Pixabay

    Many media organisations now focus on engaging their community, and a great number of them have staff members with roles such as community manager, or community coordinator.

    But exactly what does ‘community’ mean and how does one organisation identify these groups, reach out to them and understand their varied interests?

    At the News Impact Summit in Manchester today (2 November), the topics of conversation revolve around the phrase “the future of news is community”.

    The opening panel highlighted organisations that create or enable journalism produced in closer relationship with the readers than you might see in larger, more established media outlets.

    Rachel Hamada, journalist director at The Ferret, Emma Meese, manager of the Centre for Community Journalism, and Alec Saelens, media and operations coordinator at The Bristol Cable, answered questions on what they consider to be the community their organisations serve and what value their teams can bring.

    No “one community”

    “We define ourselves as ‘investigative journalism’ but that can put people off, so we also call ourselves ‘public interest journalism'," said Hamada of the work The Ferret does, partly financed through crowdfunding and reader contributions.

    “There isn’t just ‘one’ community that we work with,” she added, explaining that there are several types:

    communities of skills, for example those with journalistic background who might want to work with The Ferret;
    communities of interest, around politics or new media;
    and communities of concern, comprised of people who are engaged with what is happening in their local area.

    “It’s a very extensive picture. We serve our communities definitely, but I think the word collaboration is quite important,” she said.

    The Ferret, a media co-operative focused on Scotland, involves its readers and contributors into the story selection process, and keeps them updated with developments about stories as well as general information about the organisations through an online forum.

    “It’s still important that there is a sense of professionalism – not with a capital 'p' where everyone is a trained journalist, but high standards.”

    Saelens also pointed out that the media should be sensitive to the class, gender, and ethnicity of their readers and understand how journalism can affect people on many levels.

    “The word community could not be interpreted in the singular,” he said.

    Stories from The Bristol Cable, which also operates as a media co-operative, are not aimed at a particular audience, but rather answer particular demands around content in the local area.

    “Community as related to The Bristol Cable, it’s people who have a shared interest and see the value of having an independent media outlet that acts as a public asset, a public service,” he added.

    Identifying needs

    The Centre for Community Journalism has set up the Independent Community News Network, a representative body for hyperlocal journalism organisations operating in the UK. Meese explained that one of the biggest misconceptions about this community is that they are “just bloggers”, while many of them are actually professional journalists who have lost their jobs in traditional media.

    “We look for ways of serving our community – where are the gaps, where are people struggling, how can we help?”

    Saelens highlighted professionalism as an important characteristic of The Bristol Cable team – where the founders do not have a traditional journalistic background.

    “The word community has been categorised as a byword for 'a bit crap' – community does not have to be that at all. There is a real sense of professionalism that we want to bring.”

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  24. The point of this list is what? While these are in theory nice ideas that people should practice, in reality these will never happen. In the UK, almost all of corporate media is right wing. Which means that actually community radio and some pirate stations are performing more of a public service. Now if you could just convince Ofcom (the UK FCC) of that.

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    1. Is someone asking about the British press? The following is all you need to know from
      the show Yes Prime Minister:

      Sir Humphrey: The only way to understand the Press is to remember that they pander to their readers' prejudices.

      Jim Hacker: Don't tell me about the Press. I know *exactly* who reads the papers. The Daily Mirror is read by the people who think they run the country. The Guardian is read by people who think they *ought* to run the country. The Times is read by the people who actually *do* run the country. The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country. The Financial Times is read by people who *own* the country. The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by *another* country. The Daily Telegraph is read by the people who think it is.

      Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?
      Bernard Woolley: Sun readers don't care *who* runs the country - as long as she's got big t*s.

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    2. And what is wrong with providing public service? Especially when giving insight into politics and culture? Better than the current "community" public service.

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  25. Seveeral years ago, David Ickes (yes the Royals are really lizard people in disguise) got several other people together to start their own TV network. The idea was screw corporate power and influence. This will finally be a real media outlet for the people. They got startup money and lasted for about six months. Now all of the original people have gone back to havng their own websites/podcasts/online stores and all the rest of it.

    Pacifica will disappear because of massive ego clashes, money and power.

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    1. Pacifica will morph into a 21st century media operation. An event most stake holders want to avoid. They rather see it fade away than change, Après moi, le déluge.

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