Friday, September 27, 2013. Chaos and violence continue, protests continue, Moqtada calls for his followers to take to the street (and they do), Tim Arango reports Nouri’s support of Shi’ite militias (that would be death squads), Iraq may make history in one province next year, Barack still wants war on Syria, we look at how WBAI threatens Pacifica Radio’s survival, and more.
We start with independent media and how it is at risk of going under in the United States. This morning, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) announced, “The independent, daily half-hour news program Free Speech Radio News is airing its last edition today due to funding shortfalls. According to its website, FSRN is looking into the possibility of restructuring its organization in the future.” That’s dishonest.
FSRN explained in a public statement on their website, “FSRN is currently carrying just over $200,000 in accounts receivable. For much of the year, our major funder Pacifica has not been able to pay us and its past-due balance to FSRN is about $198,000. ”
Amy Goodman doesn’t have to worry about these things because she found a way to leverage an attempted takeover of Pacifica Radio into riches. This led to the 2002 deal in which Amy got ownership of the program (which had been owned by Pacifica) and hundreds and thousands in funding.
So maybe it’s guilt that made Amy lied this morning. I don’t know, I don’t give a damn.
She’s just one of many WBAI thieves in the ’00s who’ve destroyed Pacifica.
WBAI in the ’00s aired one substandard, embarrassing program after another. This really isn’t a story about a Saturday schedule without news, with tired old records or the programs of a dead man that were rarely topical when he was alive (Al Lewis), or wasting the airwaves with a program about “your PC” at a time when laptops and tablets were the new norm.
Pacifica Radio started with KPFA. In 1949, KPFA began broadcasting in the Bay Area. Pacifica was KPFA, KPFA was Pacifica. It was the first listener-supported radio. Long before NPR, there was Pacifica. It had a commitment to diversity and to peace. When Amy Goodman pimps Samantha Power and the UN resolution on Syria this morning, she’s betraying the roots of Pacifica, so it’s actually good in many ways that Democracy Now! is not a Pacifica program anymore.
A decade later, 1959, Los Angeles’ KPFK started. No problem there, like KPFA, KPFK pulled its own weight. Then came WBAI in 1960 and the troubles emerge. No group worked to put together WBAI and that’s why it’s been trash on the airwaves for decades. They arrived with a feeling of entitlement. In the Bay Area and in Los Angeles, work had to be done to create KPFA and KPFK. In Washington DC, work had to be done to create WPFW (1977) and in Houston, Texas, work had to be done to create KPFT (1970). Those four stations contributed and never had a sense of entitlement.
But unlike the other four, WBAI was a donation. It’s officially donated to Pacifica in January 1960 (it had been a commercial radio station) and broadcasting in the first week of the month.
It has always pulled stunts that have risked the work of the entire network. They knew, for example, that broadcasting the George Carlin ‘naughty words’ routine was risky but they did it. Fortunately, the Supreme Court sided with Pacifica but it could have gone the other way and risked the entire network.
You do not get that cavalier F**K YOU WE DO WHAT WE WANT from the other four stations. They have a history of work, not of entitlement. That is not to claim that life is perfect and wonderful at the other four. It is to note that if they take a stand, it’s on a real issue — a news issue, a broadcast issue — whereas WBAI does stunts.
And that’s created the culture at WBAI that has been so destructive. Greed and incompetence has been the hallmark of those who chose to stay with the station (as opposed to the many who elected to move on). I’m not going to embarrass a ’00 on air here. But she was a woman of color, she was a very talented broadcaster and she was ousted from her job by the little junta which controlled WBAI in the ’00s. This same group — a mixture African-Americans and Anglo Jews — are the first to scream racism, but their own actions targeting people of color were racist.
Charges of “racism” were lobbed constantly. A succession of managerial mediocrities drove the station into the ground. Excruciating stupidity was embraced in the name of populist programming. For several years in the mid-2000s, the station was run by a cabal of black nationalists of an antique and alienating sort. They were forced out by Pacifica central, only to be replaced by an even less distinguished (though not black nationalist) set of sub-mediocrities.
That probably includes the people who caused Henwood to leave. In 2010, major changes were implemented and leadership forced on to WBAI. Bernard White felt the need to whine publicly. Strangely enough, White felt it was okay to use WBAI’s airwaves in 2008 to promote and endorse Barack Obama for president. In his role as program manager of WBAI, that endorsement was both questionable and potentially harmful. As the daytime voice, he did bumpers between the morning programs, stupid musings without merit that would be embarrassing in any city but especially in New York City where so much media was present to catch the stupidity.
It was in one such ‘bumper,’ that he mused on the violence that would arrive should Barack not become president. Pacifica has a certain tax status and has that because it’s non-partisan. To have the daily announcer — who is also the program manager and was the voice of WBAI at that time — make such a stupid statement was appalling to the Pacifica board. It was unprofessional and it could have resulted in the network losing its tax status.
WBAI was not pulling its own financial weight and had not been for some time. White’s stunt set in motion his 2009 dismissal (which he claimed publicly was a COINTEL plot and “non-progressive, what I consider to be racist people”). What followed was the usual stupidity of ‘poor Bernard was fired because he was Black!’ It’s interesting how color ‘matters’ when White’s cabal screams racism. It didn’t matter when White fired Robert Knight (who is African-American — Knight would go on to do Flashpoints on KPFA with Dennis Bernstein and Nora Barrows-Friedman before returning on air at WBAI after White left), it didn’t matter when they got rid of the woman of color I wrote of earlier. But when White loses his job, it’s ‘racism.’
No, it was about not paying the bills. It was about draining Pacifica’s cash with your station no one listened to. In 2010, serious measures were taken. It was necessary to get money and listeners immediately. Pacifica was in danger of going under — that was chiefly due to monies WBAI owed. All stations suffered and had to make concessions. KPFA, for example, had to do away with The Morning Show. (A blessing in disguise. It allowed for diversity in programming and thought to replace an increasingly soft pseudo news show.) For WBAI, it meant experimenting with new programs — a long overdue need. That meant moving some programs currently airing and how the hosts did howl.
Mya Shone and Ralph Schoenman provided a real service with Taking Aim. (Doug Henwood would disagree, he despises shows that question the 9-11 narrative.) They did a first-rate program. But when they learned their Tuesday show was moving from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm, they had a hissy fit. They dubbed ten p.m. “the bedtime hour.” Excuse me? 10 pm is bedtime in NYC? WBAI was attempting, through the efforts of interim director Tony Bates, to bring in listeners. They had to shake up the schedule. They were not burying Taking Aim at midnight or later, they were airing it during the last hour of prime time. (Don’t ask Mya or Ralph what happens on ABC’s Scandal — which returns this coming Thursday at 10:00 pm EST, 9 central — because they’re already in bed and can’t watch.) The anger of Mya and Ralph was misplaced but quickly adopted by the Bernard White crowd with calls of ‘take back WBAI!’ Under Bates, the station was actually listenable. (Law and Disorder is the only WBAI show the station had that was consistently listenable in the ’00s.)
They never succeeded and they won’t. Goodman’s gotten what she wants (she got it immediately — two airings daily of Democracy Now! on WBAI). They have no real leaders (in the past, people stood behind White, real leaders, pulling the strings). And they’re in a position of weakness. August 13th, I filled in for Stan at his site and wrote “WBAI troubles.”
Oh, how the deluded don’t like reality. I got a real taste of the hatred the Bernard White crowd has heaped on Robert Knight (he had dared to call out Barack’s Drone War, war on Libya and more). To suggest that WBAI should be sold!!!! Gasp!!!! How dare I?
Here’s some of what I wrote:
It has been a worthless radio station. I don’t slam the shows about “conspiracy theories” the way Henwood does. I think they gave WBAI some diversity in thought.
But the garbage, I call that crap out and have for some time. We wrote about a lot of this in real time.
For example, Saturdays and Sundays on WBAI was crap with one dee jay oldies music show after another.
After Grandpa Munster passed away his Saturday time slot should have gone to needed news programming. Instead Al Lewis was kept on the air (via old programs) for a year after he died.
Now this garbage on the weekend?
WBAI gets credit for airing Winter Soldier put on by Iraq Veterans Against the War.
But it didn’t air them.
It aired Friday’s proceedings. They skipped Saturday and Sundays proceedings to air their crappy programs where they spin old records. Actual news was taking place — and KPFA was airing it — but WBAI wasn’t.
Doug Henwood apparently is uncomfortable calling that out. I have no problem. I called them out on the Saturday it happened.
WBAI’s news has been a damn joke forever.
They are in the media capitol of the world and yet their news played like the worst local news in the worst and smallest market in the country.
The news only aired Monday through Friday and for a half hour.
So if any news broke on the weekend, WBAI couldn’t cover it.
While KPFA has hourly news breaks during the day — at the top of the hour (except during Democracy Now!) — WBAI considers ‘news’ to be telling people the time and temperature.
They are an embarrassment. So is the DC station.
And if you can’t carry your weight and you’re risking destroying the ‘network’ (five stations) you need to go.
Law and Disorder Radio will go on if WBAI doesn’t. The rest of programming offers nothing. It’s weak minded hosted by the weak minded and so far from Lewis Hill’s intent with Pacifica that they should all be ashamed. It’s not just the falling asleep on air twice in 2012 by Tom Wisker (who was then hosting Weaponry on WBAI). They are an embarrassment. More importantly, they are not carrying their weight. They owe Pacifica money and they risk the entire network going under as a result.
Free Speech Radio News was actual news. It wasn’t garbage. It wasn’t, “Let me interview my friend about their new book while we pretend on air like we’re not best friends.” This was actual reporting — a foreign concept to WBAI, granted. The loss of this half-hour show is tremendous. Free Speech Radio News covered everything that was news and did so professionally.
A few weeks ago (a few days before I wrote the post at Stan’s blog), a friend called about what was going to happen to FSRN. Couldn’t we, he suggested, all kick in and take care of that? We could. And normally I’d be the first to write that check. But I’m sick of paying WBAI’s bills. And rescuing FSRN would just give Pacifica another excuse not to address the WBAI problem.
WBAI is not pulling its weight. It needs to publicly be informed it has X number of days to turn that debt around or its station will be sold. Pacifica cannot risk going under to save that awful station. Today, the world lost Free Speech Radio News. If the problem’s not addressed, it will be something else in a few months. If the problem’s not addressed, it will eventually be announced that Pacifica is going under. One station should not be allowed to destroy the whole network. KPFA, KPFK, KPFT pull their own weight. WBAI needs to make money quickly or be cut lose and the same is true of WPFW.
Pacifica is supposed to be a network which supports peace. Its purpose is too important. Losing FSRN is a huge blow, losing Pacifica would be even more so.
If you want to help Pacifica, you might also start demanding Amy Goodman write off the two million she’s expecting Pacifica to pay her. As Pacifica Treasurer Tracy Rosenberg noted at Matthew Lasar’s Radio Survivor:
It’s not correct that Democracy Now hasn’t been paid a penny by Pacifica. It’s been paid millions of dollars, just not the last million. Since 2002, when the initial contract is signed, through the current day, the total amount Pacifica contracted to pay Democracy Now is over $5 million dollars. The problem is signing contracts that go up every year regardless of whether the pledges received during the airing of the program go up or down, and they have gone down substantially in the last decade. Pacifica, unfortunately, has gotten a lot of bad legal advice over the years and tends to make decisions emotionally. Emotional ties to DN were not a good enough reason to sign a contract which was not advantageous to both parties involved. And in the end, it hasn’t proven that advantageous to DN either. Pacifica’s then-ED Greg Guma objected to the terms during the renegotiation in 2007 because he could see the numbers weren’t trending in support of the terms, but no one listened to him at the time.
Goodman’s very good at enriching herself. It’s really time for her ‘to give back.’ It’s also time for Pacifica to either enter a new contract with her or else drop her from the airwaves. It wouldn’t be a loss. As Cindy Sheehan has pointed out, since Barack Obama has become president, she’s been on Democracy Now! only once for a few seconds. Amy puts on CIA contractor Juan Cole but ignores Cindy? That’s not Lew Hill’s mission statement.
It’s Friday in Iraq which means protests — as it has now for over nine months. Iraqi Spring MC reports protests took place in Falluja, in Adhamiya, Mosul, Rawa, Tikrit, Samarra, Ramadi and Jalawla. NINA adds:
Preacher and Imam of Samarra Fri-Prayers Dr. Sheikh Mohammed Taha Hamdon called on Iraqis to obtain legitimated rights.
Hamdon also appealed the international community, Arab countries and international media to come out for silent about what he described as “ethnic cleansing suffered by Iraq’s Sunni component at the hands of militias.
Addressing the people of Diyala and Baghdad provinces in addition to Kirkuk , Salahuddin and Anbar , saying: “What is happening to you of killing and displacement caused of your demands of legitimated rights.”
Protests have been taking place non-stop since December 21st. Someone tell the world media. Al Mada notes that protesters in Falluja spoke of how they did not trust the government anymore — not to protect them, not to represent them. The newspaper reports Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and chief thug of Iraq, was called out in Diyala Province for marginalizing and excluding Sunnis. He was denounced in Samarra and Ramadi where his insults of protesters was tossed back at him with protesters noting he was one the one practicing sectarianism. Kitabat notes Nouri was also denounced by protesters across Iraq for allegedly taking marching orders from Iran.
Those ongoing protests were not the only protests in Iraq today. Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) notes that the Sadr movement states they have at least 700 members in prison with at least 100 sentenced to death and they are in prison for resisting the US occupation of Iraq. Some of them have been held since 2004. Thursday, Moqtada al-Sadr called on his followers to protest these detentions. Kitabat notes Moqtada’s followers in Baghdad and across Iraq took to the streets to protest and demand the release of the imprisoned and that a mosque in Kufa had an especially strong turn out of participants. What happened to the amnesty law which was supposed to address this. An unnamed Sadr MP tells Al Mada that Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc is blocking it.
On protests, Adnan Abu Zeed (Al-Monitor) reports:
It seemed as if many Iraqis like Husseini have become so addicted to demonstrations and protests as the only available democratic means to achieve their goals that if their attempts were unsuccessful, they would consider democracy a failed project altogether.
Husseini described the demonstrations on Aug. 31 during which protesters called for the cancellation of politicians’ and MPs’ pensions. However, their demands were not met, just as in all previous protests, and security forces cracked down on demonstrators and blocked the roads.
Speaking to Al-Monitor, he said, “I was overcome with despair. I felt that those protesters were heading toward a dead end and wouldn’t achieve their goals. The government’s procrastination harms protests more than blocked roads or security officers, who have closed off all entrances in every demonstration.”
However, Husseini discarded his despair and decided to take to the streets once again.
Meanwhile mass arrests continue. However, two arrests will probably garner more attention. NINA notes, “Aljazeerah and Badiyah operations forces arrested late lastnight the Dean of Imam Aadham Faculty [Dr. Imad Kareem Hamad] of Aanah district western Anbar province.” Two nurses were also arrested. NINA also notes, “Eyewitnesses told NINA that a military force arrested Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abdul Jabar [of Abu Hanifa NMosque] and one of his assistants after Friday Prayer, without knowing the reason.” Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is asking why the Sheikh was arrested.
The mass arrests help breed the continuing and ongoing violence. AFP reports, “Two bombs exploded near Sunni mosques in the Iraqi capital as worshippers left after Friday prayers, killing at least six people, as four more died in other attacks, officials said.” Xinhua explains, “The first roadside bomb exploded near Al Tawheed mosque in the Dora district in southern Baghdad after Friday prayers, killing five worshippers and wounding 16 others, a police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity. Another roadside bomb went off near Shanshal mosque in the Jihad district in southwestern Baghdad, wounding five worshippers, the source said.” Iraq Times notes the final death toll from the two Baghdad bombings was 7 with twenty-eight injured. In addition, NINA notes a Mosul bombing targeting a police patrol claimed the lives of 3 police officers and left three people injured. Alsumaria reports a suicide bomber targeting Mosul military headquarters claimed 2 lives (3 counting the bomber) and left eleven injured. The Iraq Times adds that 1 corpse was discovered on Palestine Street in Baghdad late Thursday night showing signs of torture. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) notes, “Gunmen also shot and killed police Col. Ghazi Ahmed after storming his house in the former insurgent stronghold of Hawija, 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.”
Arango goes on to note that Nouri al-Maliki is backing Asaib al-Haq, a Shi’ite militia rival to the Mahdi Army:
And he’s also probably hoping to neutralize cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr who has huge popularity in Iraq and who is Nouri’s strongest rival in the next bid for prime minister. Arango’s report is the first thing in weeks to justify the claims his paper makes in the new round of TV advertisements — we’ve all seen them right? If Arango were given a little more space, he probably could have addressed Nouri’s attacks on the Sunnis. Not the ‘Sunni insurgency’ (a media catch all for rebels, militants, al Qaeda and more) but to the Sunni population in general. And those attacks? That’s why he’s backing Asaib al-Haq — who do you think that militia is attacking? The protesters have repeatedly maintained the Sunni community is being targeted by Shi’ite militias backed by Nouri al-Maliki. Al Mada reports this was again raised in Friday’s protests with speakers in Falluja demanding Nouri curb his militias.
And this behavior? It really demands that aid from the US be cut off.
Iraq Body Count‘s death toll for September through yesterday? 1035 violent deaths. Though media reports might want to pretend otherwise, there are a lot of Sunnis in that number. The two mosques bombed in Baghdad today were Sunni mosques. Equally troubling, the corpse on Palestine Street. That’s a sign of how bad the violence is getting, corpses are being discovered yet again, in the last weeks, dumped on the streets of Baghdad.
Matt Hoh, Michael Shank and Danny L. Davis (CNN) survey the war fronts and notes:
Iraq threatens to explode into all out civil war, with suicide bombings still all too frequent. Earlier this month, for example, 30 worshippers were killed at a mosque near Baquba, while late last month, several dozen people were killed in a string of bombings in and near Baghdad. Afghanistan, meanwhile, is still riven by insurgent attacks as well as tribal, religious and sectarian disputes.
Not only is Iraq on the verge of all out civil war, but the U.S.-backed Shiite government in Baghdad is increasingly authoritarian and is contributing to the country’s ongoing demise. The Sunni-Shia violence in Iraq is, as the International Crisis Group (ICG) puts it, “as acute and explosive as ever” primarily because “Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has implemented a divide-and-conquer strategy that has neutered any credible Sunni Arab leadership.”
Maliki has had his security forces detain and brutally torture thousands of political opponents in secret prisons and denied them access to legal counsel. Amnesty International reported this week that Iraq executed 13 men following unfair trials plagued by allegations of torture. “Iraq is one of the world’s most prolific executioners,” the report states.
In this environment, Iraq is supposed to hold parliamentary elections early next year. But they can’t pass an election law, as we noted in Thursday’s snapshot:
Cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr’s the one leading the push for Parliament to pass the election law on the Shi’ite side (in Iraq, the law is passed before each election or the elections are not held). And the one saying no? Members of Nouri’s political slate (State of Law) and Nouri’s political party (Dawa). Guess what group Khudheir Al-Khuzaie? Right. All Iraq News reports that the vote on the election law did not take place today and was postponed until Monday. Alsumaria quotes an unnamed source stating that there are disagreements about the electoral system and the quota system.
All Iraq News notes independent MP Safiya al-Siheil is concerned and she stated today that she fears the elections may be delayed. If elections are held, Diwaniyah may make history next year. Al Mada reports feminists in the province are planning to form a collective to run for office with the goal of advancing women in all fields. Dad Hasnawi tells Al Mada that the slate would be the first of its kind in the province, in Iraq and in the Arab world and that it would embrace women’s issues.
Saturday the KRG held provincial elections. Exit polling places the Kurdistan Democratic Party (led by KRG President Massoud Barzani) in the lead. The surprise from the polling is that the other dominant political party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, is no longer dominant. Second place, according to the exit polling, has gone to Gorran (Change). The Independent High Electoral Commission has still been unable to release the vote totals. Only three provinces voted. It shouldn’t be that difficult. Here are some of the latest Tweets on the election: Kitabat notes allegations that the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) is attempting to rig the results of the elections and that UNHCR has sent a delegation into Sulaymaniyah to investigate. Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) reports:
The preliminary figures cited by the parties, observers and independent organizations were based on polling station counts. The results showed the KDP in first place with 37.4% of the vote, which would give the party about a third of the total seats. Parliament is comprised of 111 seats, in addition to the 11 seats reserved for non-Kurdish minorities, which have traditionally been close to Barzani.
The KDP’s main ally, Talabani’s PUK, slipped to third place with 16.6% of the vote. The Movement for Change came in second place with 24.7%, followed by the Kurdistan Islamic Union with 9.8 %, the Islamic Group with 6.1%, al-Haraka al-Islamiyya with 1.2% and 4.2% for the other parties.
These figures are subject to change. A source from the Electoral Commission in Erbil told Al-Monitor that approximately 40% of the 150,000 votes of the security forces and of the Iraqi Kurdistan guard — the Peshmerga — will go to Barzani’s party.
The official results are expected to be announced on Sept. 30, but the overall standings are not expected to be affected, prompting some within the PUK — including the deputy head of the party, Barham Salih — to recognize the party’s decline. He said, “The loss is harsh, but denying the people’s will would be shameful,” in reference to accusations by the Movement for Change that the PUK and the KDP are trying to rig the results.
Today, US Secretary of State John Kerry declared at the United Nations, “So tonight, we are declaring together, for the first time, that the use of chemical weapons, which the world long ago determined beyond the bounds of acceptable human behavior, are also a threat to international peace and security anywhere they might be used, anytime they might be used, under any circumstances. As a community of nations, we reaffirm our responsibility to defend the defenseless, those whose lives remain at risk every day that anyone believes they can use weapons of mass destruction with impunity. Together, the world, with a single voice for the first time, is imposing binding obligations on the Assad regime requiring it to get rid of weapons that have been used to devastating effect as tools of terror. This important resolution reflects what President Obama and President Putin and colleagues around the world set out to do.”
Of course, he didn’t mean it. He’s perfectly fine with the chemical weapons the US used in Iraq and sleeps without any sorrow over the hundreds of Iraqi children born with cancers and birth defects as a result of the chemical weapons. Before the resolution passed, World Can’t Wait’s Debra Sweet noted at War Is A Crime:
Wrapped in some benign sounding words about prosperity, peace, and “shifting from a perpetual war footing,” the core of Barack Obama’s message to the United Nations yesterday made clear that if the U.N. doesn’t pass a resolution the U.S. wants against Syria, he still could execute a strike.
Here’s the take-home:
“The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region. We will confront external aggression against our allies and partners, as we did in the Gulf War.
“We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world. Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil, the world still depends on the region’s energy supply and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy.”
The UN News Centre notes that Iraqi Vice-President Khudheir Mussa Al-khuzaie spoke at the UN today:
Turning to the situation in neighbouring Syria, Mr. Al-khuzaie called the conflict a “serious threat to our security, stability and the integrity of our land and people.” He urged a peaceful solution to the conflict warning that otherwise, “the region will forge ahead towards the unknown.”
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