Tom Livingston pops up again – as interim CEO of The Real News after Paul Jay & Sharmini Peries are disappeared

. . . with Abigail & Gregory . . .

Our old friend Tom Livingston has made a dramatic return to so-called progressive media: new chief executive officer, interim apparently, at The Real News Network. Tom even brushed up for a new photo – after all, this isn’t radio: https://therealnews.com/about/staff (penultimate line of our heroes).

Unlike the Pacifica network, TRNN has typically been socialist in its outlook, rather than solely meliorative of capitalist society, as limped on by either its social democratic or its liberal variant: the first in its post-1914 form, practised today by Sanders, Maduro, Corbyn, & SYRIZA; the second, lacking the honesty & clarity of J S Mill, simply exalted & glorified as progressive.

My most memorable moment in TRNN reports – apart from the many excellent ones from Shir Hever on Palestine – was when Peries showed the dead-end meaning of Leo Panitch’s politics, revealed when it’s stripped of all the talk of ‘[working-class] capacities’ & ‘transforming the [capitalist] state’. The occasion was the SYRIZA Greek government, in July2015, not only rejecting the 61% referendum result but agreeing to administer the austerity insisted on by the Eurozone states, so principally Germany. Part one of the interview was soon deleted from their YouTube ‘channel’ (more precisely, made private, unlisted, in the jargon), but it remains on their own website:

at TRNN, each of the three vids has a transcript – not always accurate; they’re linked from https://therealnews.com/?s=SYRIZA%27s+Stability+Rocked+by+New+Memorandum.

There’s an obvious Baltimore link in all these shenanigans (nod to McNulty): it’s TRNN’s home (its ‘base’, to use the military term loved by today’s youff & ‘hipsters’), & also where both Tom Livingston & Maxie Jackson live. Small world.

In passing, note that on the 11-person TRNN Board, sitting next to Danny Glover, is former KPFA Local Station Board delegate, T M Scruggs: https://therealnews.com/about/board-of-directors.

For this important info on our Tom, many thanks are due to Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism. Below are excerpts from her article, published three weeks ago, F8Nov, that no doubt sound familiar. The whole piece is well-worth a read (link at end), as is Naked Capitalism itself.

~~~

Yves Smith started off writing to TRNN – and guess who replied?

I could not help but notice that Paul Jay’s name was not on the current fundraising letter. I went to the site, and I find that Paul and Sharmini Peries have been removed from the staff list. Nor have they hosted any recent videos.

What has happened to Jay and Peries? They were central to TRNN. Why should I continue to support TRNN when the people who built it and were central to its sensibility and coverage choices have disappeared, and without any explanation?

The TRNN reply:

Thank you for your note and request for information about the whereabouts of Paul Jay and Sharmini Peries.

Paul and Sharmini were on leave over the summer and subsequently left the organization, and are in conversations with the TRNN Board about finalizing the terms of their departure. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to comment while that process is underway.

The Board is in the process of launching a search for their successors.

All the best, and thank you for your support

Tom Livingston

Interim CEO

The Real News Network

Yves continues:

This is an utter disgrace:

Paul and Sharmini built The Real News Network from nothing. I remember meeting them in NYC in the early years, when Paul, Sharmini, and a staffer were hauling large and awkward bags of lighting, booms, and cameras to be able to set up on a remote location. This was not just a job for them but a mission which they pursued with intensity and intellectual courage, as well as their available funds.

The Real News Network has been and continues to misrepresent the ouster of Paul and Sharmini while in the midst of a $200,000 fundraiser. Paul’s bio page listing [sic] him as ‘CEO and senior editor‘ and Sharmini as ‘a journalist and executive producer for the National and International News Bureaus at The Real News Network.’

Similarly, the existence [of] Livingston as ‘interim CEO’ is well hidden. He is on the Staff page with a photo in a white starched shirt. But even if you thought to click through, the listing is obfuscatory. It gives an idea of what he’s done, but does not give a clue as to what exactly he is doing for The Real News Network.

A teeny bit of additional digging reveals that in addition to serving at Pacifica, which his The Real News Network bio mentions[,] Livingston has also been an interim CEO at a host of radio networks, such as AIR, WKSU, KRCC, WWNO and Capital Public Radio.

Yet The Real News has not been successful in keeping the status of Paul and Sharmini a state secret up to now.

(original emphases)

Yves also refers to Tom’s unforgettable time as Pacifica’s IED:

The Real News Network looks to have gone from the frying pan into the fire. Aside from the traffic decline, the involvement of the interim CEO Tom Livingston is another cause for pause. A former board member of Pacifica Foundation [our Kim?] was gobsmacked that he listed his work there as an accomplishment.

Livingston was hired to be Pacifica’s interim executive director for nine months in 2018. After losing the court case when the Empire State Realty Trust sued Pacifica over non-payment of WBAI’s tower rent, the board was bitterly split over whether to take out a loan or go into voluntary bankruptcy. Livingston was recommended to some of the pro-loan board members by the loan broker [our friend Marc Hand: https://pacificaradiowatch.home.blog/2019/07/31/fjc-getting-award-from-marc-hand-one-year-ago/ ]. Unsurprisingly, Livingston signed the $3+ million loan less than two months after being hired. His friend’s fee was estimated at $50,000 [it was $55 500, the 1.5% origination fee re the $3.7m loan (page 6 of the FJC loan agreement): https://mega.nz/#!LnACzIyI!icvjmazfC2TnXJOEpu_JPO3oBIUw7orPcOVzLAdDGRQ (loan closing statement, duly signed by our Tom, undated)].

Livingston was also instrumental in getting the Pacifica CFO to resign.

From the former board member:

‘He took on the title of iCFO but displayed zero interest or competence in this area and did some damage, including signing a 990 he apparently never even looked at because it was full of obvious mistakes. He also recommended Pacifica outsource their accounting to a small firm [NETA] he had worked with. They have performed poorly for Pacifica.’

Livingston was also contracted to do a search for a new Executive Director for a fee above his generous salary. His candidate [Maxie Jackson] lasted only nine months, and Livingston will do a replacement search [still searching], although raising the question of why Pacifica would ask him to double down on a record of failure. Livingston will apparently conduct the search during his Real News Network gig. Has he informed the Real News Network board of this competing demand on for [sic] his time?

Livingston’s comment ‘The Board is in the process of launching a search for their successors’ leaves open the question of whether they’ve yet engaged a headhunter. You can be sure that Livingston pitched the business hard; you can also imagine not-savvy board members being persuaded by Livingston allies that they shouldn’t demotivate him as interim CEO by giving the search business to someone else … as if his fee isn’t enough of a motivator. But there’s no evidence that Livingston has deep enough contacts in TV or online. And it’s not like he did a bang-up job of recruiting at Pacifica, which is in his bailiwick.

And is Livingston hiring cronies as he did at Pacifica [NETA?]?

https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2019/11/paul-jay-and-sharmini-peries-ousted-from-the-real-news-network-in-june-current-fundraiser-hides-that-fact-falling-viewership-and-liberal-turn-result.html (original emphases)

The wheels, the wheels, they just keep a-turnin’ . . . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4w-PdZLgDRc (another Paul who’s a real ‘our’, Paul R).

The main Facebook group, ‘Pacifica Radiowaves – past, present and future of Pacifica Radio’

[UPDATE: I was mistaken in calling this the main FB group on Pacifica: as of 11Sep, it has c. 390 members, whereas Pacifica Radio Supporters has c. 840.] Below is my inaugural post, made today, at [one of] the main Pacifica group on Facebook, Pacifica Radiowaves – past, present and future of Pacifica Radio. For readers here the post is banal, merely a repetition, but the FB group seems to be a noticeboard, a lil sleepy, undisturbed by discussion: even so, last month, Don Davis, warmed by a pleasant, minor disagreement, was moved to say, “I for one am glad to see threads of substance on this page at long last”.

Somewhat surprisingly, the FB group, on W26June, had leaked Pacifica documents, notably the loan agreement borrowing $3.7m from the Foundation for the Jewish Community, FJC, signed by iED Tom Livingston & President Lorin Silverman on M2Apr2018. At the time of the leak, the group was co-administered by Nalini Lasiewicz & Chair of the Pacifica board, Grace Aaron. The latter left her FB post a week or so after becoming iED during the evening of F5July, after successfully engineering, over many, many weeks, the ousting of ED Maxie Jackson – please see https://pacificaradiowatch.home.blog/2019/08/01/administrative-measures-not-open-discussion-the-pacifica-way/.

I obviously wanted to thank the poster of the documents, & make substantive comments on what, unbelievably, has even been kept from the many non-directors on the PNB Finance Cttee, these including all five station treasurers! Yes, the PNB majority has chosen for 16 months now to prevent the Finance Cttee making fully informed rational decisions concerning Pacifica’s future, to prevent all the Cttee members discharging their fiduciary duty, as required by California corporation law. One can’t be a dutiful trustee, a diligent servant, when kept in wilful ignorance by the information gatekeepers, one’s ostensible colleagues.

However, in order to comment in this FB group one needs to be a member, & so I applied the same day, W26June. After a long silence, then more silence after two FB messages, finally last Monday, on 12Aug, after almost seven weeks, Comrade Nalini finally welcomed me – speaking as if I’d asked the same day. Gracias, caudillo. Who couldn’t love ‘the Pacifica family’?

P.S. My open letter referred iED Vernile to the deficiencies of the public Pacifica financial reports archive, noting to him that this blog had all the missing material, bar a single page. Even 15 days later, Pacifica’s archive lacks three auditor’s reports – FY2006, 2009, 2010 – & FY2011 is sneakily hiding behind the FY2009 ‘button’. C’est la vie.

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Hi, all. By way of intro, here’s an open letter to Pacifica’s new executive director, John Carlo Vernile. Haven’t had a reply yet, nor even an acknowledgement – so much for the Pacifica ‘fam’. https://pacificaradiowatch.home.blog/2019/08/04/open-letter-to-pacifica-executive-director-john-vernile-what-s-your-plan-why-s-maxie-gone/

We’re lucky to finally have a music corporate careerist with us, who can devise a comprehensive strategic plan to bring stability to our failing network. It’s what we need after the ousting of that experienced radio professional, Maxie Jackson. After all, he’d only been making progress in laying a sound foundation.

With Vernile, will our decision-makers systematically allow technique to flourish at Pacifica? They certainly crushed Maxie as soon as they could.

Rationally, intent & action should spring from evidence- & argument-based communications science, not from tradition, prejudice, & hearsay. Pacifica needs to transform from a broadcaster focused on radios to an audio content provider focused on digital devices [emphases added].

Nevertheless, Pacifica is likely to muddle thru, sustained by the necro-economics of the golden corpses, the bequests. Yes, appropriately distasteful – & true in both senses.

How did Maxie miss this talent?

There was me, being a lil sceptical about Ms Aaron’s abilities. She really does have an eye for talent. Talent, along with best practices, watchwords of the dearly departed Maxie Jackson. Ms Aaron, with no history of radio management, radio achievement, radio network success, really does know how to surround herself with the right people.

Here, on audio, is captured Ms Aaron’s first appointment. In full flow. The interim General Manager of KPFT, Houston. On his first day. Mr Jack Valinski. This evening, Jack was the first guest on ‘his’ show, Queer Voices, where until a week ago he’d been exec producer, for over 17 years.

But tonight Jack showed why he’s stepped up. And now Jack says he’s trying to prove himself as station manager, as at the mo he only has the ‘interim’ label, you understand. Don’t worry, Jack, the way you lay it on the line here, you’ve clearly got all the talent, all the technique, all the best practices needed to succeed in today’s Pacifica.

When Jack was vetted by Ms Aaron it was obviously his ideas on ‘the vision thing’ that clinched the job (2:10, 11:17). Here is Jack’s big interview, 4:30 – 25:51. Too many highlights even to list, so please enjoy the full KPFT experience:

https://mega.nz/#!DrIHBY5Z!o8j-mUPSgJz-thJwPPI0eYgiXnsuTArg1iH-Ngv6g-c (26:13, 12 MB, the archive’s original 64 KBps); temporarily, with same timestamps, in these station archives: https://archive.kpft.org & https://kpft.org/programming/newstalk/queer-voices/

Another intern – sorry, interim – is the executive director, Mr John Vernile. His job’s been made a lot easier with Ms Aaron’s judicious elevation of Jack. Texas is all sown up now. John won’t have to get his hands around the Houston issues, & take a deep dive into the options. (I know John’s from the music industry, but in the age of #MeToo he’d better be careful with his catchphrases.)

All this leaves Jack hardly able to contain himself, like Willy Wonka on meth, as he’s left alone to devise his multi-dimensional integrated plan for the station. That vision thing, again.

The surrealness of it all was unintentionally captured with the outgoing music, The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy. Pure genius. Enjoy these 20 minutes of Jack at his most impressive.

Thank Allah we’ve got Ms Aaron, Pacifica’s living, breathing deity.

Remind me, what was all that fuss about, some Maxie guy or someone, right?

Open letter to Pacifica Executive Director John Vernile: what’s your plan? why’s Maxie gone?

4 August 2019

Subject: The intensifying Pacifica crisis; & the financials archive at pacifica.org

Dear Mr Vernile,

You arrive at a momentous time for Pacifica. The majority of the directors has chosen to reject rationality, in this case, to reject technique. It has chosen to halt the initiative that was underway to create the multi-dimensional necessary & sufficient conditions that can arrest Pacifica’s decline, thereby bringing stability, this as preparation for allowing the network to improve & grow. This initiative was designed, monitored, & managed by Executive Director Maxie Jackson.

Not surprisingly, a public discussion of Pacifica’s irrationality is underway. For example, Ken Mills, a well-known radio professional, published three posts in the space of eight days. One of these posts was visited over 3 000 times within four days. This is public news amongst radio professionals. This is not Pacifica gossip. (For your convenience, one of the posts, that even refers to you, with photo: http://acrnewsfeed.blogspot.com/2019/07/what-its-like-to-work-for-grace-aaron.html.)

When you are better acquainted with the evidence, I’m sure you’ll agree that it was a serious mistake to oust Executive Director Maxie Jackson. And, unfortunately, not least for your own tenure, the consequences are not going away any time soon.

This is the situation you have become part of, & irretrievably so. But mitigation can be made. 

You are currently touring the stations, gathering information, hopefully knowledge. When you have devised your own evidence-based initiative, stated as your plan, the one to be implemented during your six-month tenure, I would very much appreciate you sending me a copy. As you know, being transparent helps make it possible for decision-makers, such as yourself, to be judged in an informed way by Pacifica members, staff, listeners, & others. It also helps generate confidence in your tenure.

The Pacifica Foundation has, bafflingly, chosen not to explain why Executive Director Maxie Jackson is no longer at his post. No-one believes he simply resigned, that he simply gave up. The air needs to be cleared. Honesty needs to be nailed to the Pacifica mission statement, in furtherance of its “educational purposes”. Confidence in your tenure, at this crucial early stage, will be raised if you are able to bring openness here. Pacifica members, staff, & listeners deserve to know the truth. I beseech you to do your best endeavours, if only for your own sake, making your job easier, earning respect through your action.

Finally, I want to raise a National Office matter. I do so with you because an email page or address for ‘National Office’ isn’t at pacifica.org, & you are the principal administrator of the Foundation.

I’m glad that, at last, the financials webpages of pacifica.org are being improved. However, there are a number of deficiencies, currently displayed, that may inadvertently be left there: they include the absence of auditor’s reports; & a crucial page missing from another of these reports, the auditor’s narrative. The deficiencies are listed in a post at PacificaWatch: https://pacificaradiowatch.home.blog/2019/07/18/pacifica-annual-auditor-s-reports/.

All users of these webpages will look forward to the completion of this improvement. Not an immediate priority, but a review should be made of the utility of all Pacifica websites. And wider still, an evaluation of Pacifica’s attempt to communicate using the internet. Yes, the Pacifica radio network needs an evidence-based communications strategy.

Yours sincerely,

Jara Handala

Administrative measures, not open discussion – the Pacifica way

[This is a comment, sent in four parts, to Ken Mills’ blog, Spark News, on Th1Aug, published the next day. It remarked upon his F26July post, ‘What its like to work for Grace Aaron, Chair of the Pacifica National Board’ (yes, there’s a sic in there) http://acrnewsfeed.blogspot.com/2019/07/what-its-like-to-work-for-grace-aaron.html. I’d made a few comments there recently, & I was waiting for others to join in. A few did. As I had three points to make, I decided to send it to Mr Mills. The post here carries a few alterations, importantly correcting the declaration date of the nominal 2018 pseudo-election results: it happened M18Mar2019. For convenience, at the end of the piece, is a list, with links, of Mr Mills’ three posts on the Maxie Jackson disaster.]

Unfortunately there was little discussion here, so I don’t think I’ll be hogging things if I make three points: the Drew Precedent; choosing not a rational course, but administrative measures; & fermenting instability.

1) The Drew Precedent The end of Maxie Jackson’s first month delivered a stark warning of what he had let himself in for. He witnessed a considered, evidenced judgment, by an experienced & knowledgeable professional, being trampled into the dust by the Pacifica National Board (PNB). Why? It was simply politically inconvenient.

Pacifica were due for local station board elections (LSB’s) in late 2018, so iED Tom Livingston had hired Drew North Consulting to act as the National Elections Supervisor (NES). A company. Professional. “Our election teams are led by Graeme Drew, Certified Electoral Officer[,] whose experience includes general elections, by-elections, special elections, and membership ratification processes involving referendum votes to adopt Custom Election Codes, Land Codes, De-Annexation Agreements, Impact Benefit Agreements, and Constitutional Frameworks.” For Pacifica, this was a high-risk choice. http://www.drewnorth.com/ (‘Elections’ tab)

Sure enough, it soon ended in tears.

Mr Drew & his team started work, in the Pacifica National Office & the five stations. They soon found what the reality was, & it halted them in their tracks: on M29Oct, he found himself with no alternative but to terminate the election. Why?

The 10 elector rolls, listener & staff for each of the five stations, are principally derived from the c. 46k membership records – and these had proved inadequate. (Station staff rolls are largely derived from employment records.) The membership records weren’t materially accurate: lapsed members included; current members excluded; out-of-date contact details; & inadequate supporting evidence, of donations made, & of volunteer timesheets. Through a lack of maintenance, the records had become corrupted. The membership list was, in a word, corrupt. Damningly, this meant that the eligibility of not one candidate could be verified: “I am unable to reliably verify any of the applicants for candidacy due to the poor quality of elector lists” (his final, leaked, report to the PNB, Tu30Oct, page 2, my emphasis). He also determined that there was no prospect of this being remedied any time soon – as I’m sure we can all imagine. http://www.mediafire.com/file/s8eu60d26b3ame9/Pacifica_2018_NES_Final_Report.pdf/file

The most basic building block was absent. The process had self-destructed. Logically, he terminated the election process. After all, if a NES is empowered to declare a certification of the election results, just as logically they are empowered to declare a self-destruction of the election process. And this he was about to do.

He told the PNB in his Tu30Oct report that, “I plan to announce the end of the 2018 election on Wednesday, October 31, 2018” (p. 3). PNB Chair Nancy Sorden (WPFW, in DC) called an emergency private PNB meeting for that evening. The PNB majority chose to ignore the considered, evidenced judgment of the elections professional: they wanted voting to happen – any voting.

For the defenders of the Pacifica secrecy culture, trying to end something, that’s one thing; telling the public, quite another.

That meeting instructed Maxie to hire a new NES. The next day Mr Drew resigned. A pseudo-election took place, results declared 18Mar2019. Currently underway is another pseudo-election, for the other half of the seats of the five LSB’s. Sham elections because no evidence has ever been publicly presented showing that the membership list, & the derived electoral rolls, are no longer corrupt. The PNB majority feel they don’t have to reassure anyone, least of all the members.

So, unbeknown at the time, the Drew treatment set a precedent for Maxie. He had seen, in his first month, how professional judgment gets the Pacifica treatment. But he wasn’t cowered. He consistently defended professional standards. And so, over the subsequent months, hearing the wrong news, the core of the PNB majority planned, then engineered, the ousting of ED Maxie Jackson. If Pacifica is really good at one thing, this is it.

2) Choosing not a rational course, but administrative measures The Aaron Machine spent a lot of time & effort ousting Maxie. People working unpaid. Giving up their spring & summer evenings. Plus all those Skype preparation calls. Week after week . . . after week. Committed. Motivated. Determined. True dedication.

The proximate context is captured well by Ken’s audio compilation above, of excerpts from the exchange between Maxie & Grace, at the Tu19Mar2019 PNB Programming Cttee. Probably not a defining moment, but illustrative. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cw4asLVnet4

So what did they do?

Within a month, the wheels were in motion, ready to grind. The five-person PNB Personnel Cttee hadn’t met in Feb & Mar. But it was awoken from its slumber. And put to work. Starting Tu16Apr, it met each & every week, for 12 weeks. The last five meetings, from M3June, were all in private. M1July everything was ready, agreeing its ED evaluation report for the PNB. The next evening, the PNB ousted Maxie. Friday, he left his job. Sorted.

If Pacifica’s good at anything, this is it. (Yes, it bears repeating. Pacifica rarely gets complimented these days. Have a heart.)

[I should have included this in the original comment, now added here, F2Aug: Note, whilst doing the important business, nine FCC violations were committed: a written explanation to the public hadn’t been given as to why nine deliberative sessions had been private (this had only been done for those on 3June & 1July). Law requires that this occur “within a reasonable period of time”; the CPB’s own requirement is “within 10 days after each closed meeting”. Too late to be remedied, then. Par for the course, really. (Communications Act of 1934, §396(k)(4); page 216 https://transition.fcc.gov/Reports/1934new.pdf, & https://www.cpb.org/stations/certification/closed-meetings)]

Much politics is not so much conflict resolution as it is conflict pacification. Suppressing the unacceptable. The Pacifica way is not evidence, but belief. Not open discussion, but secret manoeuvre. Not persuasion, but brute force. Not rational argument, but administrative practice.

This is the Pacifica set-up. And the final element used in deciding the fate of this radio professional, a technician, knowledgeable & experienced, is a bedrock of Pacifica governance, the silent hands, the cttee members who say nothing, & prevent someone else occupying their seat, but who, crucially, vote with The Dear Leader. Pyongyang has captured Pacifica. One may as well call it the Pyongyang Foundation, Inc.

All this was too much for a woman of honour, Maskeelah Washington (WPFW). She had protested, in the public sessions, about the lengths being gone to by ‘the evaluation’. She resigned from the Personnel Cttee, & also as a director of Pacifica. Her last public attendance as a director was at the Th27June PNB, as it was for Maxie. Neither appeared at the next public PNB meeting, Th11July. As is normal in a secret society, Maskeelah’s resignations have not been announced publicly by Pacifica, not in writing, not orally. This means Maskeelah has never been thanked publicly for her service to the members & listeners. Her name was simply removed, without explanation, from lists. Name . . . delete. People just disappear in PacificaWorld.

Given this, is there any surprise that a blog like PacificaWatch, rooted in evidence, was started the evening Maxie’s ousting was announced by Grace, at the Th18July PNB? https://pacificaradiowatch.home.blog/

3) Fermenting instability The email to the PNB from the KPFK station manager, Anyel Zuberi Fields, that Ken kindly published, rightly focused on the further creation of instability. That has been exacerbated by two appointments, announced on M22 & M29July: John Vernile as Pacifica’s iED, & Jack Valinski as iGM of KPFT in Houston. 2 (JV), with the hyperbolic intent of (JV)².

Vernile has been a corporate careerist, in music, with Sony & EMI: Pacifica has presented no evidence that he’s ever headed a failed & failing organisation, let alone a radio network, nor that he’s succeeded in ever stabilising one. I say that, rather than turning one around, because he’s on a six-month contract – according to Jan Goodman, still Chair of the PNB Personnel Cttee, the one that delivered Maxie to the slab (Su21July KPFK LSB, 3:40, https://kpftx.org/archives/pnb/kpfk/190721/kpfk190721b.mp3).

As I said in another comment, the swiftness of his appointment shows that he’d already been lined up. And, politically, he would have been carefully chosen: Grace, having waited for over a decade to have the chance to become executive director, won’t be dislodged that easily. In fact, there’s every chance she pushed through Vernile’s temporary appointment because he’s happy to be a silent partner, relying on her knowledge of Pacifica, & she’ll be more than happy to do the work, poking her nose into each & every station. She’ll rope in her confidants, as subordinates, functioning as a collective shadow ED, call it Pacifica’s de facto executive cttee – pushing the PNB further away from where the decisions are actually made. In fact, surprise, surprise, when they can’t find a permanent ED, maybe Vernile extends, or Grace becomes iED again. Either way, there’s going to be no regime change any time soon. Just like with the son of the real Dear Leader.

But stability at the top won’t trickle down, because performance is not determined by agreement amongst friends but by the quality of radio output: do people want to listen, & then donate? Deteriorating performance is the fundamental cause of the instability that GM Fields wants to end. And in this, sadly, the PNB majority is an obdurate obstacle.

Turning to this Monday’s communique, the KPFT iGM hiring, its content is revealing – in what it left out. No mention of the LSB. They’re mandated to draw up a shortlist for the ED, who chooses the lucky one (by-law 7.3B). https://pacifica.org/indexed_bylaws/art7sec3.html So, had they done this? The silence poses four questions concerning her well-known dispositions: another example of Aaron’s authoritarianism?; of her willingness to steamroller by-laws when they get in the way?; of her disposition to misjudge politically?; &, dangerously, an example of her willingness to knowingly create more turbulence, this time in a locality? https://pacifica.org/documents/kpft_jack_valinski_190729.pdf

KPFT has no recent series of Nielsen ratings. But internally there is longitudinal evidence. Recently, membership has fallen precipitously: 25% in less than 2½ years, from 5 736 to 4 294 (the election record dates of 30June2016 & 19Nov2018 – National Elections Supervisor’s final report, 18Mar2019, pp. 19 & 17). And the LSB, highly factionalised for many years, split into two in early Jan this year. They met separately – and had never been happier. But now they’re back in the same room, &, perversely, keeping radio silence, with none of the last four meetings recorded & put in the Pacifica meetings archive. They can’t be happy bunnies, can they? So Pacifica’s default secrecy mode kicks in. http://elections.pacifica.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Pacifica-Election-Final-Report-2018-by-RAP-1-1.pdf

Into this Valinski has been thrown. But actually he’s part of the furniture: exec producer of ‘his’ show for 20 years. So he’ll have made lots of friends – and enemies. In a highly factionalised station, when ‘national’ recruits from within it sends the strongest signal of intent: war will be waged in the localities. Such as this, GM Fields was warning against. Maybe his own days are numbered.

To sum up Pacifica, fuelled by bequests, & with the iCFO skilfully judging which creditor to pay next, not least the $3.265m owed to the Foundation for the Jewish Community (FJC), the current structure is plain for all to see:

Pacifica = zombie radio + necro-economics

4) What does all this mean for any radio professional thinking of working for Grace Aaron? This isn’t personalising the matter because this is the substantive reality, a pigheaded authoritarianism that is based on belief, not upon radio knowledge, least of all upon radio success. Maxie was trying to create the conditions allowing Pacifica to turn itself around. The Board stopped him. What is any new ED at Pacifica supposed to do? What sort of radio professional will take the job? Does it really have to be someone who doesn’t really care, content to do whatever it takes to keep their job? Seems so. Rationally, that’s all that’s possible.

The ousting of Maxie proves that under this Pacifica Board there is no place for technique, no place for rationality.

Inverting what’s just been said leads to a highly disturbing question, one that any radio professional taking the ED job will have to live with: why does the Board majority, by its actions, let alone its inactions, not want Pacifica to improve?

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[For convenience, here are Ken Mills’ three posts on the Maxie Jackson disaster. They were provoked by iED Chair Grace Aaron publicly announcing, for the first time, that Maxie had “resigned”. No: he was ousted. She was addressing the Th18July PNB (13:18, https://kpftx.org/archives/pnb/pnb190718/pnb190718a.mp3).

[As an insight into how Pacifica works, it’s worth saying that even the writing up of a draft agenda can betray how crafty the praetorian guard can be. Presumably so as not to draw attention to the livestream, ‘iED report’ didn’t appear in the draft agenda published on the meetings website, https://kpftx.org/archives/pnb/pnb190718/pnb190718_6125_agenda.pdf. But the draft would have struck one as odd because Maxie isn’t listed as an expected attendee, & there’s no mention of an ED report. Yes, Kremlinology, Pyongyangology, they’ve now transmuted into Pacificaology. (Apologies to the cacao.)]

Mr Mills’ posts:

F19July ‘Maxie Jackson out as Pacifica executive director’ http://acrnewsfeed.blogspot.com/2019/07/maxie-jackson-out-as-pacifica-executive.html (as of F2Aug, two comments – a two-parter of mine, the points made being incorporated in this blog’s inaugural ‘Welcome!’ post, https://pacificaradiowatch.home.blog/2019/07/18/welcome/)

M22July ‘Pacifica alert: Maxie Jackson is out & Grace Aaron has taken over’ http://acrnewsfeed.blogspot.com/2019/07/pacifica-alert-maxie-jackson-is-out.html (five comments – including a two-parter of mine, posted here as https://pacificaradiowatch.home.blog/2019/07/24/maxie-jackson-pacifica-the-politics-of-technique-a-tragedy-for-both/)

F26July ‘What its like to work for Grace Aaron, Chair of the Pacifica National Board’ http://acrnewsfeed.blogspot.com/2019/07/what-its-like-to-work-for-grace-aaron.html (five comments – including my above four-parter. Mr Mills re-posted his piece later that day; as of F2Aug that has no comments.)

Maxie Jackson, Pacifica, & the politics of technique – a tragedy for both

[This is a comment of mine published by Ken Mills at his blog, Spark News, on Tu23July, remarking upon his post the day before, ‘Pacifica alert: Maxie Jackson is out & Grace Aaron has taken over’ https://acrnewsfeed.blogspot.com/2019/07/pacifica-alert-maxie-jackson-is-out.html. Mr Mills also published a two-part comment I made F19July, the same length as this one, & mostly included in the ‘Welcome!’ post starting this blog; it was a response to his report that Maxie had left. https://acrnewsfeed.blogspot.com/2019/07/maxie-jackson-out-as-pacifica-executive.html]

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Most of the Th18July Grace Aaron statement that you carry at the top of your article, & published in your Friday piece, re-appeared on Pacifica’s homepage, in a statement dated Sa20July. https://pacifica.org/

‘Most’ because there was crucial new info: “[t]he PNB has agreed to hire a media professional as interim Executive Director. His name will be made public when the contract between him and the Pacifica Foundation has been fully executed.” Executed. Ms Aaron just couldn’t stop the non-conscious word association, the effervescence, here spilling out as ink onto the page – red ink.

The speed of this new appointment process shows two things. First, the successor was already chosen. Second, the Pacifica National Board is much more politically homogeneous than a year ago: nothing has replaced the largely timed-out group spearheaded by Casenave-Diaz-Heerwagen-Lark. For quite a few months, ED Tom Livingston had used his recruitment firm to do an ED search, placing Maxie on a shortlist. Why bother to replicate that when it’s obvious who’s best for the job? 

The Saturday statement was another missed opportunity to explain why Maxie Jackson left. The PNB majority, even with upcoming elections, feel so impregnable that they act as unaccountable to no-one, least of all to Pacifica listeners & Pacifica staff, least of all to Pacifica members. Their arrogance & contempt seems to know no bounds. In their view, all that listeners are good for is to be milked for cash.

Crucially, what Maxie Jackson stumbled into wasn’t just a vipers’ nest but the politics of technique. In the case of Pacifica there were two main expressions, one ordinary, the other extraordinary: how to diffuse technical competence within an organisation; how to tailor technique to valued peculiarities of Pacifica. Maxie came across far too often, abstractly, as a management consultant, &, concretely, as an agent of NPR-lite. That’s what happens when a technician speaks to those who fundamentally fear what they’re hearing. Even in a communications industry, communication is less about what one says than how one is heard.

For far too many Pacificans the messenger was an interloper, a foreign body, an ideologue of the ‘soft’ MSM, the mainstream media of NPR, of MSNBC, of CNN on a pinko day. Morning Maxie would have brought in strip programming, kicking the quiltpatch programming out of the Pacifica playpen. That cherished one hour a week would have been liquidised into a predictable thematic schedule, perhaps even standardised across the five-station network, promoting the Pacifica brand, not the station. This was revolution – & Maxie is no Sanderista Bernie Bro. The messenger had to go.

Technique. Technical competence is the basis of substantively rational human organisation, of the attempt to satisfy needs & perceived wants. Ends are one thing, but the means have to be not just compatible but efficacious. It means that what one wants to achieve politically can only spring rationally from sound foundations. Maxie was fully aware of this, as illustrated by the final words of his presentation to the KPFK Local Station Board, in LA, Su23June, his very last LSB recording. Remember, nine days later he supposedly resigned: bunkum. No, he was ousted:

“[b]est practices need not keep you from your mission, OK. Just because we employ best practices does not mean we can’t be the most radical, progressive, liberal, whatever you want to call yourself, content creators in the system. It just means that we’re applying proven methods to attract audience & keep ’em.” (2:34:56, https://kpftx.org/archives/pnb/kpfk/190623/kpfk190623a.mp3)

By contrast, far too many in Pacifica, & throughout the so-called left, fail to understand this. They fail to understand not just the utility but the necessity for competence, even expertise – and that this requires a great deal of learning, of effort, of dedication. A requirement is that one is aware of one’s lack, of one’s ignorance. It requires humility.

Maxie had been misunderstood. There is a fundamental difference between a technocratic approach & a technical one: the first is a mode of ruling, the second is competent performance & its enabling conditions. Unfortunately, all too often it is those who haven’t mastered an organised set of skills, a competence, who fail to recognise what is lacking in current endeavours. Ignorance is bliss. Pervasive wishful thinking only helps those who have brought us all to this place, it protects them from justifiable criticism of their irresponsibility.

But far too many incumbents resent the suggestion that they need to improve, to change their ways. And as the tensions intensify within the organisation, rather than face reality, rather than engage with the pain of change, it’s always much easier to get rid of the irritant, to get rid of the messenger.

The ousting of Maxie is a tragedy for Pacifica, a tragedy very few are aware of.

Finally, note that ‘interim’ – interim ED, interim CFO – is meaningless in PacificaWorld. As Eugen Leviné said in a different context, at his final trial in Munich, “wir Kommunisten sind alle Tote auf Urlaub”, ‘dead men walking’. (‘Auf Urlaub’, ‘on holiday’ as the martial ‘on leave’.)

The Maxie Jackson Mystery

Maxie Jackson came. Then he was gone. No-one said a word. No-one raised an eyebrow. Most of all, no-one asked questions. Loose talk is more than dangerous. It’s terminal. And when the Head Honcho is disappeared, who wants to join him? So everyone plays along. Waiting for The Dear Leader to make it all official. To make the unsayable sayable. To know how to phrase things, with the right intensity. The Dear Leader sets the tone. The rest follow obediently. Everyone knows their place. The best of all possible worlds. Pangloss in Pacifica.

The end began with the Personnel Cttee being awoken from its slumber. In PacificaWorld it’s known as Madame. Madame Guillotine. An oft-used device to provide an invaluable service on behalf of the praetorian guard of the organisation: to terminate with extreme prejudice, as the CIA say.

This time it conducted a delayed six-month evaluation of the executive director, Maxie Jackson. It identified 79 parties to offer their opinion on Mr Jackson. Yes. So I repeat: 79. Only nine replied, but that was no problem, in fact it saved a lot of work. All that was needed was the right evidence to support the right conclusion (Robin Collier, Tu28May Personnel Cttee, 2:23 https://kpftx.org/archives/pnb/personnel/190528/personnel190528a.mp3).

Ken Mills reported the appointment of Maxie. Now that of his departure. On M22July he gives his own view: http://acrnewsfeed.blogspot.com/2018/10/maxie-jackson-is-pacificas-new.html & http://acrnewsfeed.blogspot.com/2019/07/maxie-jackson-out-as-pacifica-executive.html [His view: https://acrnewsfeed.blogspot.com/2019/07/pacifica-alert-maxie-jackson-is-out.html ]