Chris Albertson died one year ago

Chris Albertson, WBAI studios, 1965 (photographer: Sam Falk, New York Times)

Chris died a year ago today.

Respect.

His blogs, that are still maintained:

http://wbai-nowthen.blogspot.com/

Two of his obituaries:

https://jazztimes.com/features/tributes-and-obituaries/jazz-and-blues-historian-chris-albertson-dies-at-87/ (written by Michael West)

Pacifica Financial Recovery Plan – 28Feb2012, not today

This is the first of a series of documents, drawing attention to the sort of work that Pacifica’s national decision-makers not only used to produce but were also happy to share with all members, staff, & the listening public more generally. As these documents show, the current decision-makers fail both tests.

Some Pacifica officials have ideas, as shown by the public sessions of PNB sub-cttees, but there are hardly any arguments, certainly not evidence-based, & certainly nothing that shows that either individual or collective research has taken place – not even the first necessary step, a perfunctory literature review, showing some awareness of the sciences of both programme production & delivery, & how to relate to, ‘to serve’, one’s audience, the famed ‘community’. Saying that the PNB keeps trying to re-invent the wheel is overstating even their intent: they’re idling, not even re-creating. The desperate question persists, one never asked by any Pacifica decision-maker: why?

This first document is the Pacifica Financial Recovery Plan of 28Feb2012. It was written by the Financial Recovery & Audit Taskforce. Headings used: the problem; increasing revenue; maintaining subscribers; increasing audience; digital distribution/mobile device access; e-commerce; controlling expenses; conclusion. The range of relevant areas, this alone, displays an adequacy of conceptualisation missing from any PNB public discussion occurring since the 2Apr2018 signing for the $3.7m loan, now reduced to $3.265m, from the Foundation for the Jewish Community, FJC. The document is 10 pages long.

https://mega.nz/#!emgXjaYA!JrZeD6CTN26XyDWSc-ZoNoTWAiD__dGef6buW5uYTpM (click the magnifying glass to read online, without having to download)

Two excerpts: the causes, the expectation.

The causes, second line of the summary:

The deficits were a product of many factors, among them declining listener support, failure to make programming changes to retain and grow listenership, and poor management of our budgets and financial reserves, both on the national and local station levels.

Yea, the sun riseth each morn.

The expectation, first line of the conclusion:

With the above strategies in place to increase revenue and control expenses Pacifica expects to pay off debts and become financially stable within 5 years, 2012 – 2016.

Pious wish.

This plan is dated Feb2012. Seven-and-a-half years ago. At the time, a run of five years of successive losses. Instead of ‘the expectation’ there was this realisation: five more years of successive audited losses, thru FY2016; then the 2017 audit that demonstrated that those year’s financial statements, in not being supported by adequate documentation, are in effect worthless (& so can’t be relied upon by potential donors); & there’s every chance that the FY2018 auditors will come to the same conclusion whenever it is this year, now that NETA, in the person of the iCFO, announced to the latest PNB, Th1Aug, that they’ve ditched the pretence of a timeline. The FY2019 audit, the first of financial statements for which NETA have also done the bookkeeping, will presumably be a ‘clean’ audit, that is, the auditors issue an unmodified opinion. Which is progress.

(The latest, vaguest of vague, public iCFO report on the FY2018 accounts, by Tamra Swiderski, in effect recognises the hopelessness of the state of the financial records & supporting evidence, as NETA try to develop the trial balance into the two principal financial statements for evaluation by the auditors – please see the quote, & the Audit Cttee Chair’s unjustified silence, at https://pacificaradiowatch.home.blog/2019/07/18/pacifica-annual-auditor-s-reports/.)

With all five Spring Fund-drives failing this year, & with no PNB-approved budgets guiding station financial decision-making, despite any sizeable bequests it’s only prudent, & so rational, to expect another loss this year. So, given the evidence, no-one doubts that thru FY2019, on top of the situation detailed in the Feb2012 report, this will be eight more years of successive losses, making the run 13 years, from 1Oct2006 to 30Sep2019.

And the response at the top, the directors supposedly directing? The PNB has proved unwilling to ‘bite the bullet’, to be rational about Pacifica’s financial crisis – so much so that it proved unable to accept that technique, as personified by ED Maxie Jackson, has any place in the work that has to be done. The PNB majority demands a supplicant, not a radio professional.

When a decision-making body has consistently proven both unwilling & unable to respond adequately to an obdurate chronic financial crisis, acute except when meliorated by a golden corpse, its members don’t deserve to be there.

Pacifica = the necro-economics of the golden corpses

But will the current LSB pseudo-elections, voting starting next Thursday, results due F1Nov (sic), usher in the necessary change? Hold your breath, then expire – but only after writing in that bequest. Forget those joke write-in votes, this is a serious matter, deadly serious: Pacifica’s life depends on you, Pacifica’s life depends on your death.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

(Nagasaki Remembrance Day . . . 11.02am local time, mass murder from 5½ miles up)

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]

~~~

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’.)