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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Top Ten: Maverick Reader Favorites

Here are the most-read articles published on this site since 2008, based on pageview statistics from blogspot.com. Most of them were also published on other websites, including Global Research, TF, ZNet, Truthout, AlterNet, and Common Dreams. 

    The top two lead significantly, with staying power for several years. "Remembering MLK" is an unusual take on the Civil Rights leader's death and a woman from his "secret" life, while "Do Psychopaths..." is a wide-ranging "rant" originally developed for radio.
     Several posts on this site have focused on the relationship between Lockheed Martin, Vermont and its Progressive Senator Bernie Sanders, but one went viral last year. Also in the top five is "Fear Factors," a chapter from a series on counter-terrorism and disinformation in the late 1970s, and "The Oil Spill," which speculates about the 2010 Gulf disaster.
      "Truth Decay" is another radio rant that was re-written and sparked debate on various websites. It's especially satisfying to see the next three on the list, all from "Prisoners of the Real." The final spot goes to an article on Africa originally written for Toward Freedom in 1987, my first cover story for that publication.   

Deconstructing Archetypes (from Prisoners of the Real)
Prisoners of the Real (Cover/Content Page)

VERMONT FOCUS
Burlington Mayor James Burke’s allies considered him honest and fearless, driven by civic pride and a sense of duty. His political enemies questioned his motives and called him a demagogue. He sometimes called them “corporate interests” or “foreign capitalists.” This series of essays about the Queen City's early progressive era is excerpted from The Vermont Way, a multi-platform history of Vermont. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Rewriting History with Noble Lies

Attempting to explain why governments so often pursue policies contrary to their own interests, historian Barbara Tuchman provided four basic reasons, often acting in combination: tyranny, excessive ambition, incompetence, and folly.

Looking specifically at the Vietnam War, she noted that although those who designed and implemented that debacle understood the obstacles and dangers, they insisted on "staying the course" due to a combination of overreaction, illusions of omnipotence, and a shortage of reflective thought -- the inability to balance the possible gain against the harm being done both in Vietnam and at home. She categorized these as forms of folly, an explanation more generous than many people apply to most US administrations.

Although the ingredients are largely the same - exaggerating the "national security" imperatives at work, assuming that the world's "only remaining Superpower" can't possibly lose, and refusing to consider that an invasion could spark resistance, potentially on a scale that is impossible to contain -- describing the Iraq War as pure folly is far too simple.

The first alternative explanation, advanced largely by elected accomplices eager to save face, was incompetence. The war began due to a "massive intelligence failure," they argued, pointing to years of so-called evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime posed a serious, although perhaps not imminent, threat to Iraq's neighbors and the West. But even such semi-critics, both liberal and conservative, endorsed the idea that the United States should pursue "regime change." In other words, they assumed the right and the power to transform a country, to replace its power structure and "democratize" it. Clearly, a delusion of grandeur.

As the decade wound down, most people in the United States began to see through the re-writing on the wall and appeared to think their leaders had been deluded, somewhat incompetent, or both. Others claim what could be defined as folly.

What remains is a heated debate over whether this actually explains the situation, or if darker forces are at work. In short, was it just a terrible mistake, or did the Bush administration consciously mislead the country? If the latter, the issue becomes whether its actions meet the definition of tyranny.

Sensitive to the danger, Pres. George Bush used a Veterans Day speech in 2005 to respond to his critics, charging that it is "deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began." His version, at that point, was that removing Hussein from power had "strong bipartisan support" and that no one pressured the intelligence community to alter its apparently erroneous judgments. But this is already an historical rewrite.

What Congress authorized was the use of force, if necessary, to ensure that Iraq either give up its weapons of mass destruction, or prove it didn't have any. Although it is disingenuous for Democrats like Hillary Clinton to claim that they didn't know Bush's true aim, the fact is that their votes voiced a potentially different outcome. It is also clear that the information Congress received was not complete, but rather scrubbed of doubts, warnings, and qualifications.

So, what is the real history of that war? It begins long before Congress voted, even before the 9/11 attacks so often used since then to justify an open-ended "war on terror." In September 2000, prior to Bush's installation in the White House, Dick Cheney commissioned a strategy paper by the Project for a New American Century. This telling document asserted that "the need for a substantial American force presence in the Persian Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." It also pointed out that the public would not agree to a war unless there were a "catastrophic and catalyzing event -like a new Pearl Harbor."

During the 2000 campaign, Bush and Cheney presented a very different agenda, criticizing the idea of nation-building and, in Cheney's word, any moves suggesting that "we were an imperialist power." As soon as the new Pearl Harbor presented itself, however, the entire administration united behind a series of arguments favoring war, all of which were eventually proven false. By the way, things like bringing democracy to Iraq, transforming the Middle East, and permanently installing U.S. forces were not on that list.

Were lies told? Frankly, the Bush administration cared not, since many of the war's architects were admirers of philosopher Leo Strauss, a great believer in the usefulness of lies in politics. Secrecy and deception, a veritable culture of lies, are necessary, he argued, to protect "the wise" -- those with a natural right to rule -- from the vulgar masses, who would otherwise be ungovernable and rise up against them. He calls such tactics "noble lies," the grease of aggressively nationalistic politics.

"Because mankind is intrinsically wicked, he has to be governed," Strauss once wrote. "Such governance can only be established, however, when men are united -- and they can only be united against other people."

This neatly explains not only why and how the nation was misled into war, but also why the administration continues to aggressively attack its critics and defend the war. Lying is more than an occasional option for such leaders, it is essential, as is an endless supply of enemies, both abroad and at home.

Originally written in 2005 for Vermont Guardian, Toward Freedom,The Baltimore Chronicle and other outlets.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Legend That Lost Its Way: How Pacifica Split

In January 1960, Harold Winkler, Pacifica Radio’s president and KPFA station manager, received an unusual phone call from New York. A former political science professor at the University of California, Winkler had resigned in protest over a required loyalty oath for faculty members. He was also independently wealthy. On the other end of the line was Louis Schweitzer, a Russian-born millionaire, radio station owner, and also a president – in his case president of the Peter Schweitzer Division of Kimberly-Clark. He knew about Pacifica and had a radical proposition.
     A few years before, the eccentric radio enthusiast had bought a station for $34,000, subsequently offering New York City the latest music and some intelligent programs. But he found the choice between losing money on quality and making a profit by going more commercial personally frustrating and philosophically untenable. To his dismay, the station’s greatest success had come during a New York newspaper strike. “That was not what I wanted at all,” he told Winkler. “I saw that if the station ever succeeded, it would be a failure."
     So, he asked, did Pacifica want it?
     For a decade, KPFA in Berkeley had been the only listener-sponsored radio station in the country. But after planning for four years and raising $200,000, the Pacifica Foundation had recently launched a second station – KPFK in Los Angeles – an independent operation with its own board, station manager, and local base of supporters. Now, without paying anything, it could own a completely equipped FM station in the Big Apple, smack dab in the middle of the FM dial. It was a no-brainer.
     The station that ultimately became WBAI began lower on the dial in 1941 as WABF, a commercial station, but moved to the 99.5 frequency in 1948. In the early 1950s it was off the air for two years, but came back in 1955 with call letters that reflected the name of its current owner, Broadcast Associates, Inc. By the time Schweitzer made his donation, it was worth about $200,000.
      With KPFK and WBAI, Pacifica expanded from a single station into a network reaching three major metropolitan areas with a potential audience of sixty million people. But along with growth came challenges for which the organization was largely unprepared.
     Driving into New York City in February 2006, on the first leg of my orientation tour as Pacifica Executive Director, I thought about WBAI’s past. It was once one of the most innovative stations in broadcast history, winning awards for its civil rights coverage and helping to define the counterculture. In 1965, it sent the first American reporter, Chris Koch, to cover the war from North Vietnam. Combining resources with the other Pacifica stations, it broadcast live anti-war teach-ins. At a time when even the underground press wasn’t receptive to feminism, it put Nanette Rainone’s groundbreaking show “CR” on the air. When Columbia students seized the campus in 1968, it covered the occupation uninterrupted.
     There was also Bob Fass’s “Radio Unnameable,” a weekend collage of music, poetry and talk, radio’s version of the underground press. Identifying with the counterculture and anti-war movement, Fass took his mike out to demonstrations and invited movement leaders into the studio to discuss their plans. He ran the show like a telephone switchboard, connecting people and getting them involved. He broke the mold and invented something new – freeform radio.
With a transmitter at the Empire State Building, a signal that reached far beyond the city limits and a roster of on-air voices second to none, the station’s influence was profound in its day. But now it was at war with itself. It was like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said programmer Ibrahim Gonzales, “complete with endless debates over the right of return, over who held the rights to a time slot.” As managers and hosts came at one another with lawsuits, purges, and fights over race and ideology, its audience was drifting away.
    In 2005, amidst charges of mismanagement, favoritism, and partisan games, Station Manager Don Rojas had resigned. Business manager Indra Hardat was placed temporarily in charge as the local board searched for a permanent replacement. Nine months later, when I started my cross-country trip, she was still on the job. But the real power was in the hands of Program Director Bernard White.
    Like many key players, Bernard had been with Pacifica for decades, Raised in Harlem, he studied at Queens College and held a variety of jobs, including New York school teacher, before turning to radio journalism in 1978. For several years he shared the mike weekday mornings with Amy Goodman on “Wake Up Call,” then became WBAI’s Interim Program Director in 1999 after the untimely death of Samori Marksman, a beloved and cosmopolitan Pan-Africanist. The following year, in a controversial move, General Manager Valerie Van Isler chose him for permanent PD over Utrice Lead, a flamboyant Trinidad native. By year’s end, however, Bernard was fired, a casualty of Pacifica’s “Christmas Coup.” Central management and the National Board had taken over the station, changed the locks, fired Van Isler, installed Leid as interim GM, and given a list of “banned” employees to the security guards.
     Bernard and two dozen others who were fired during the “hijack” period, as it was labeled by those organizing against the people in charge, returned to WBAI in 2002. But his tenure as program director since then had been stormy. Bernard had solid backing from the Justice and Unity Coalition, the strongest faction on the local board, which considered him a determined anti-racist who put “activist” voices on the air. Amy Goodman thought of him as a comrade and friend. To his opponents, however, he was a Tammany Hall-style demagogue who abused his position, dismissed popular hosts like investigative journalist Robert Knight and health guru Gary Null, commandeered the airwaves to criticize his opponents, and frequently played the “race card” himself. Basically, they blamed him for the station’s listener and financial decline.
     Whatever the reasons, station membership had dropped by 20 percent since the previous year, according to industry and management figures. On-air fund drives ran longer and longer, and brought in less money per day.

Part One of Pacifica Radio: A Listening Tour

  • Next: Facing the Factions

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Pacifica Radio’s Progressive Meltdown Continues

The Pacifica Foundation, a community radio network that includes WBAI-FM in New York, has dismissed its executive director, the latest tumultuous step for an organization that has been plagued by financial problems and acrimonious turnover among its management.

Summer Reese, who was named executive director in November after doing the job on an interim basis for more than a year, was fired by Pacifica’s national board on Thursday. In a brief statement on Friday, the board confirmed the move and thanked Ms. Reese “for her service to date,” but gave no explanation.

Ms. Reese’s dismissal is the latest in a series of changes in recent years that have destabilized Pacifica and its five stations. In August, WBAI, which operates a powerful signal at 99.5 FM but is millions of dollars in debt, laid off 19 of its 29 employees, including the entire news staff. The station, which is supported almost entirely by listener donations, has since been through two program directors and struggled publicly with its fund-raising.
- New York Times, March 18

"According to a media release Monday morning, Reese and a small group of supporters removed a padlock installed at Pacifica’s offices the previous day and “informed staffers that business would continue as usual.” (Tracy) Rosenberg claims the firing was illegal because of the three-year contract held by Reese, adding that she has “no doubt” that the board was planning to fire Reese for political reasons.
- Paul DeRienzo
The forces currently aligned with Summer Reese, including Gary Null, and with Bernard White, Lydia Brazon and Dan Siegel were already engaged in a long-term struggle by the time I arrived in January 2006. Many of the players still remain the same, and "takeover" rumors are currently being circulated by both factions. 

Contract issues were also involved in my departure, although I ultimately chose to leave rather than extend what was becoming a stalemate. Essentially the same leadership that retook control of the PNB and dismissed Reese urged my early departure and the selection of Nicole Sawaya (without interviewing any other candidates). Not a great transition, as it turned out, and entirely avoidable.

That said, no one faction is exclusively responsible for the network's decline. But snap dismissals are no better than bolt cutters in solving Pacifica's real problem - a crippling deficit of trust. In light of recent developments, I thought these 2010 reflections might be relevant...

A lot has happened since I left my job as Pacifica Radio’s Executive Director at the end of 2007. Almost a decade after she was abruptly fired former KPFA General Manager Nicole Sawaya returned as my replacement with enthusiastic support from the Board and community – but resigned twice over the next year. As the network approached its 60th anniversary it faced the most serious organizational and financial crisis in years. On-air fund drives, which bring in over 80 percent of the network’s income, weren’t meeting their goals, most stations had meager cash reserves, and WBAI was a half a million behind its target and mired in an internal power struggle that had been building for several years.

According to Casey Peters, Pacifica’s National Election Supervisor in 2007, a “vacuum of power” developed after my departure. “With obvious instability at the top,” he wrote in his final report, “the election campaigns descended into chaos.” When he tried to meet with Sawaya to discuss the process, she declined and told him “she opposed Pacifica Bylaws provisions for elected boards.”

The problems intensified further when Sawaya resigned and corporate counsel Dan Siegel stepped in. “He applied intimidation regarding the still-pending certification of KPFA results,” Peters claimed, “telling me that I would be fired if I did not do so promptly. The problem was that criteria for certification had not been met due to irregularities in the campaign.” Peters came to believe that Siegel was attempting to control the outcome of the vote. On March 13, 2008, as Peters was about to fly to New York for the WBAI vote count he received a message from Chief Financial Officer Lonnie Hicks. The word was that Siegel didn’t want him counting votes in New York. Furthermore, he was being fired.

A few days later, according to Peters’ account, Siegel entered his home without notice and startled his wife. “His intent was to confiscate election equipment and materials,” Peters wrote. “Siegel had apparently been drinking, and sat in a rented SUV flashing his headlights into our bedroom. Marilyn called the police to stop the harassment. We seriously considered pressing trespass and assault charges, but felt any publicity about the incident would not look good for the Pacifica Foundation.” Nevertheless, after the elections a lawsuit was filed by one faction at WBAI against the network and its representatives.

In Spring 2008, a fight over financial control between Hicks and Sawaya, who had been wooed back after her first resignation, resulted in a Board decision to give her the right to directly supervise the national financial staff, something I’d sought without success. Unfortunately, after a three month absence she faced a rapidly worsening picture. Frustrated by a costly organizational structure that often blocked change, she openly called it “unsustainable.”

One of her first big decisions, made with Hicks’ agreement, was to cut the budget for Free Speech Radio News by 25 percent. What seemed to shock some people wasn’t so much the cutback (about $11,000 per month) but the fact that it was done without prior discussion. Sawaya explained that the financial crunch required strong and immediate action. The Board decided to let it stand.

The next surprises came in July, just as budgets for the next fiscal year were being developed. The National Board had voted to convene in person that month, but the national office didn’t follow up and the meeting had to be cancelled. Afterward, without explanation, Hicks disappeared from work. No announcement was issued, but news leaked out that he was on “paid leave to deal with family matters.” Later, rumors circulated that an investigation of his activities was being pursued – and also that he might sue. Sawaya meanwhile assumed responsibility for budget development, pushing for staff reductions and other budget cuts.

In the end, she left first, while Hicks returned to work in late 2008. He was ultimately terminated in early 2009, and replaced by an old nemesis, former National Finance Committee Chair LaVarn Williams. As predicted, he filed a lawsuit, alleging that he was dismissed because he was African American and a whistleblower. Clearly, Hicks had a sense of irony, considering his frequent warnings about escalating legal costs, the fact that a majority of Pacifica's National Board and staff – including his replacement – were people of color, and that he fought as hard as anyone to hold back information from the board and membership when he was in control.

Sawaya announced her second resignation in early August 2008, but asked those who knew not to say anything for a month. At meetings, she meanwhile tried to convince the Board and National Finance Committee that Pacifica should act like a network and “centralize” various functions, especially accounting and reporting. Directors listened but nothing changed.

As the national political conventions approached she turned her attention to Pacifica’s coverage. A radio journalist, Sawaya considered it a high priority. Still, people were surprised by her decision to leave the national office and personally cover the presidential race at a time when the main management issue was resolving its financial crisis. What they didn’t know was that she had already resigned.

Before she left for Denver, another confrontation intensified the situation. A volunteer programmer, allegedly “banned” from KPFA in Berkeley, showed up unexpectedly. The General Manager wasn’t around, but the Business Manager felt that something needed to be done. Calling the National Office next door, she asked for advice from the new Human Resources Director, Dominga Estrada, who advised her to call the police. According to witnesses, when the cops arrived excessive force was used. Sawaya was there and attempted to block videotaping of the event.

This deepened the existing divide at the station. Management defended its decision but said it wasn’t responsible for the overreaction of the police. Dozens of volunteers, and some on the staff, saw it as another example of a management out of step with Pacifica’s values and mission. A letter of no confidence in GM Lemlem Rijio was signed by dozens of people.

Soon afterward HR director Estrada left for a new job elsewhere and the National Board began to openly discuss what was called a “national office collapse.” The term actually referred to one of several options for how to address the overall problems. One alternative was to struggle on as is, a decision that would create a large budget deficit. Another was to cut some national positions and the salaries of others. The third and most radical option was to lay off almost everyone, retaining only enough staff to pay the bills and keep governance and the national office functioning.

The Board also had to decide what to do about the leadership vacuum. Some hoped to quickly recruit a new Executive Director. But the process would take months, and proposals to re-expand the CFO’s authority and apply strict performance standards to managers were likely to get in the way.

Even if a new chief executive could be found – and the Board overcame its divisions – there were elephants in the room. Pacifica’s leaders were far from agreement on how to resolve its financial crisis, and, even more difficult, restructure its programming and management to reverse the long-term decline in listenership and income.

By early 2009, as blogs and discussion forums speculated about receivership, bankruptcy, and breaking up the network, the balance of power shifted again. In New York and on the national board, the controversial Justice and Unity Coalition lost control. A new national chair, Grace Aaron of Los Angeles, stepped in as Interim ED. As the crisis deepened, she took dramatic action.

WBAI was facing eviction. It was $128,000 behind on the rent for its Wall Street office and studio space by April, and owed another $75,000 in back payments for its coveted transmitter atop the Empire State Building. It was losing at least $500,000 a year, required repeated short-term bailouts, and owed the national office almost $1 million in back payments for central services. WBAI had weathered storms and struggles before. But this time the troubles not only could bring down the station but also threaten the future of Pacifica itself.

To reduce the rent, Tony Riddle, the station’s fifth General Manager in seven years, renegotiated a long-term lease with Silverstein Properties – without getting Aaron’s approval. Under the new terms, WBAI had to pay $60,000 in May, another $75,000 in June, and $45,000 by July 25. If the station or Pacifica missed a payment, the consequence would be immediate eviction. It turned out to be one of Riddle’s last acts as GM.

In early May, Aaron removed him, but created a new “at home” job for Riddle as National Development Director. It was apparently a consolation prize for not making a stink. The new CFO, LaVarn Williams, was appointed Acting GM of the station. Almost immediately, Program Director Bernard White was removed. Aaron had already ordered the locks changed on the transmitter site. While some WBAI boosters cheered the changes as long overdue, others took to the streets, decrying a racist world view among opportunistic liberals.

In June, Aaron removed another GM, Ron Pinchback of WPFW in Washington, DC. The station had also lost listeners and fallen short on fundraising in recent years. Yet critics saw racial motives: like White and Hicks, Pinchback was African-American, suggesting to some that the changes were really a purge of top Black managers. The fact that most replacements were also Black was overlooked.

“WBAI was predominantly white in the 1960s and 1970s,” noted JUC leader Lederer. “And there has always been a rear guard of white listeners and programmers who want to go back.” JUC members and other Bernard White backers threatened to boycott and possibly sue unless this latest “national coup” was reversed. The station’s “race” war wasn’t over yet.

When Amy Goodman expressed “dismay” about White’s removal in a letter to Pacifica management, Williams replied that he and previous GMs were responsible for a “failure model” that jeopardized both “your program and the whole foundation.” Despite the popularity of Democracy Now!, Amy’s influence had become limited over the years, mainly governed by a mutually lucrative contract to air the show and assist with fundraising. Thus, barring a successful lawsuit, which could take years to resolve, or an LSB election that returned the JUC to power, Bernard White had seen his final days at Pacifica.

By 2010, Pacifica finally settled on a new Executive Director, Florida feminist radio host Arlene Engelhardt. The intensity of conflict was down a bit, but revenues from on-air fundraising continued to decline. KPFA’s GM Rijio was forced out and only KPFT in Houston had permanent management.

Upset about staff cutbacks, Kellia Ramares, long-time journalist and board operator at KPFA, delivered her own swan song at a Pacifica National Board meeting in July. After more than a decade with the network, including an arrest in the newsroom during the bad old “hijack” days, she announced that she was leaving. “Pacifica hires an election supervisor while they cannot keep a news tech at quarter-time hours?” she asked rhetorically. “Is this the business of elections or radio? To those who say that I should not criticize this expenditure, because ‘we must democratize Pacifica,’ I quote Confucius: “You cannot teach philosophy to a hungry man.”

The critique went deeper still. In an article for the Atlantic Free Press, Ramares added, “I now question the entire alleged movement that calls itself progressive.” She urged others similarly disillusioned to ask whether “progressivism is a philosophy that helps its adherents live healthy, secure, decent lives in the material world of today, or is it just pie-in-the-sky propaganda that institutions such as Pacifica use to get well-meaning people to give it money.”

Acknowledging that all media were taking an economic hit, she nevertheless had concluded that “citizen journalism, available across the political spectrum, but a special darling of the left because of its free speech nature and alleged purity of purpose, is destroying the ability of journalists to make a living. Paid journalists can’t compete with free. Is it progressive to expect, or even to demand, to receive free work in a society that demands that we pay for our food, clothing, housing and health care? Is it progressive to give donations to an institution for its infrastructure, but not to care about whether the workers in that institution can pay their bills?”

“Can we do well while we do good,” she concluded, “or is progressivism just a fancy name we give our struggle and poverty in order to make our marginalization seem noble?”

When rumors fly through Planet Pacifica or attacks get especially nasty, people often blame provocateurs and charge that the government is out to get radio’s voice of the people. There is some basis for this suspicion. The FBI had Pacifica in its sights as early as 1958, and took a special interest in 1962 when former Special Agent Jack Levine gave KPFA an interview. Levine exposed the Bureau as a threat to democracy and a tool of J. Edgar Hoover, its vain and obsessed director. According to Mathew Lasar, who reviewed Freedom of Information Act files, the Bureau poked, prodded, and harassed the organization for years, even planting agents disguised as private citizens.

In recent times, however, charges of counter-intelligence operations directed against the organization have been speculative at best, and occasionally excursions into free-range paranoia. As Executive Director, I was frequently asked to investigate such suspicions but found no solid evidence of a government operation. And even if a disinformation campaign was being pursued, it would be overkill. The Pacifica community is capable of destabilizing itself without a federal assist. Outside forces aren’t responsible for the bylaws or listener activist distrust of staff, the slow response to the digital age, disputes about the mission, programming gridlock, financial decline, or misbehavior by board members and volunteers.

Part of the problem is the version of democracy put in place in 2002. At this point, the five stations had about a million regular listeners (declining since then). Of this total, about 10 percent make financial or volunteer contributions, qualifying them to participate in local elections. Of that total, little more than 10 percent actually return ballots in the elections. In recent years it has sometimes been difficult to reach that bylaw-mandated threshold.

Due to instant runoff voting, it takes at most about 300 votes for someone to be elected to a station board. In other words, Local Station Board members draw their right to govern from less than one percent of the listeners. And in order to win, candidates often resort to negative appeals, especially charges that the process is corrupt and Pacifica isn’t democratic enough. In general, the elections have tended to perpetuate an atmosphere of confrontation and suspicion.

Board meetings also pose problems. They frequently feature rude outbursts and other disrespectful behavior. Roberts Rules are often abused, becoming weapons of obstruction rather than tools to promote rational discussion. Members use e-mails to spread rumors and promote debates of marginal relevance. In many cases, factional alliances manipulate the rules. Productivity suffers and questionable behavior opens the organization to legal liability. All this has had the effect of alienating potential supporters or future board members.

Touring the stations back in 2006, I repeatedly asked whether Pacifica was trying to operate a radio network or create a government. The reason was that it looked like the latter. Some even wanted quasi-judicial bodies – like the Committee to Investigate Allegations of Racism and Sexism formed in 2006 – and the equivalent of a Freedom of Information Act, as if Pacific was a National Security State. Anyone who questioned the “bold experiment” was considered out of step, possibly even a reactionary.

More than three years after I left, despite financial crisis, major staff turnover and a forceful exercise of executive power, progress remains elusive. Change is in the air, but the outcome is uncertain. Another round of contentious Board elections is underway, and whatever the results, they will likely either slow down the pace or again alter the direction.