Monday, March 24, 2014

Carolyn Birden's Response to Bob Lederer

Bob Lederer's post is a mixture of fact and fiction, indeed.

***This guilt by association tactic is typical of the attempt to defer attention from the issue at hand:  Although Bob has had a long association with some rather unsavory people and organizations himself, citing these now would be a distraction.  Pots and kettles, as it were.

had become Interim Executive Director in August 2012 after the Board declined to renew the contract of the last regular Executive Director. And in November 2013, the outgoing PNB had conditionally offered her the permanent position.

***I'm not sure what "conditionally offered" means:  Reese was sent a "hire letter" outlining terms of employment.  She accepted that and the board agreed to offer her a permanent contract, which it did.  She signed that, the board signed it, and she was hired.  The JUC majority tried to break the contract by voting to do so, which is not how one breaks a contract.  

In New York, Reese is known for, among other misdeeds:

***Reese is known for many things, including extraordinary work keeping Pacifica from being sued during the course of her Interim tenure and weathering the results of some very dangerous moves by various staff members. Her ability to function was hampered by the Board's failure to authorize the hiring of an HR director, in the absence of which Reese consulted with our insurers and the lawyers they provided in order keep the Foundation out of legal trouble.  She successfully negotiated with the union at WBAI and agreed to as much of a cushion as was possible for the laid off staff, a layoff mandated by our desperate financial condition.  They received medical benefits during the months subsequent to the layoff, and separation payments as soon as she (somehow) located funds to pay them. For Lederer to hide his own complicity as a member of the boards (local and national) that ignored the station's desperate condition is despicable.
  •     laying off three-quarters of WBAI's paid staff last August, including the News Department, yet not providing legally (and morally) required severance payments until 7 months later, after some former employees were forced into near-homelessness;

  •     hiding from the board and listeners for 4 months the lawsuit filed against Pacifica by owners of the Empire State Building, that nearly led to WBAI's eviction from the broadcast antenna room until Justice & Unity blew the whistle and demanded a special Transmitter Fund;
***Justice & Unity (known locally as Unjustice and Disunity) did not "blow the whistle" or raise money for the transmitter rent, much less the replacement transmitter we need.  Instead, the JUC members of the WBAI LSB continually caused disruptions and created diversions to make sure the board remained divided and unfocused on anything so real as our financial picture. So far as I have been told, no member of the JUC has joined the new group of volunteers working at WBAI to mail out premiums and otherwise help out at the station.

  •     secretly soliciting a proposal (in summer 2013) to lease out WBAI from a New Jersey-based station whose drivetime program featured repeated uncritical reports about Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands; and

***See, it is this kind of spin that would make Karl Rove proud of his disciple:  the board did not "secretly solicit" a proposal:  it was submitted unsolicited, and the IED, as was correct, notified the board and issued a public call for RFPs for an LMA in order to keep Pacifica from accusations of favoritism.  The proposal was not submitted by Ken Freedman's managed station WFMU, as Bob states above,  but by a foundation, Auricle, he created to keep any such proposal separate from WFMU. That WFMU broadcast a program that WBAI would not does not make the LMA proposal evil or subversive: there are other reasons to reject LMAs. 

  ***Of course when Bob Lederer's  favored operative Dan Coughlin submitted his own proposal for a lease-management agreement with WBAI, Bob conveniently overlooked Coughlin's long and troubled history with WBAI (including an illegal attempt to gain control of a WBAI bank account), the political haven JUC members had found on Coughlin's MNN broadcasts, the fact that MNN doesn't do radio but only television, and that Coughlin was complicit in several illegal acts contributing to WBAI's financial troubles. That WFMU was probably doing a better job of implementing Pacifica mission to present all sides of current issues than WBAI was is ignored by Lederer, who spins WFMU's program favoring Israel's party line as evidence that Auricle and Freedman would be unfit to administer a lease agreement with WBAI.  

***The real reasons why a lease agreement would not be in WBAI's interests are hidden by the crocodile tears the JUC is shedding while they ignore their own complicity in destroying - I do not use the word lightly - WBAI's reputation and financial stability. I will write more about that later, but suffice it to say that there is a "poison pill" in these LMAs that could easily be exploited by those planning to gain control of the station and sell it.  Rumor has it that some people within the station (perhaps even the LSB) have plans to exploit this loophole.  Having been around WBAI for many years, I do not discount rumors until they are either confirmed or debunked. This one has legs.

  •     repeatedly violating Pacifica bylaws and processes by arbitrary hiring and firing around the network.
***This statement is an egregious distortion of Reese's management history (and an excellent example of Lederer's spin technique):  her management decisions, if one examines them carefully, have been aimed at putting out fires, some of them caused by the same JUC operatives at various stations conspiring to cover up incompetence and worse, who are now sanctimoniously decrying "bad management."   Several JUC oxen who were threatening the station were gored by the ED's moves.  The use of the term "arbitrary" is doublespeak for "acted promptly and correctly as the Executive Director when faced with illegal behavior that threatened the integrity of the station or Foundation."  

Refusing to accept the PNB decision, on Monday Reese broke into the Pacifica building using bolt cutters - and bragged about her action on video - and she, her mother and some friends have moved into the organization's national office.

***The ED has not "moved into" the national office but entered her office to keep the Foundation's business operations afloat. The bolt cutters were there because the acting (not yet legally elected) chair of the PNB had padlocked the door to the national office.  Evidently the JUC plan was to bring the Foundation to a halt; Reese has managed to go to work,  meet the scheduled payroll for employees,  work with creditors made fearful by the unwarranted firing of the ED without legal rationale, and maintain as much stability as one can in the face of an ongoing coup against the ED.  

They may be following a plan laid out by Chris Condon, a member of the local board from our Los Angeles station. He openly wrote the following to Reese and several dozen other Pacifica people:

***Condon's "plan" was advice that occurred well after the above events: some of it is common sense.  And as it turns out, the ED probably should have hired a security guard, as the unconfirmed Chair Pro Tem of the PNB Margy Wilkinson tried to shove her way past employees to enter the building she had announced she was taking over.  

1.     Do not surrender your office or your position.
2.      Do not surrender the checkbook or control over the bank account.
3.      Do not permit members of this faction into the Pacifica building or into your office. If you want to meet with them do so at some other place.
4.      Change the locks on your office immediately, get a 24 hour security camera.
5.      Keep your supporters and allies nearby, working in your office, do not ever be there alone.
6.      Immediately hire an armed security guard. If anyone in this faction shows aggression or violence towards you requiring self-defense, shoot them. Not to kill; but a 38 hollow point in the knee cap, obliging the recipient to spend the rest of their life in a wheel chair, should have a salutary effect on the rest of them. Or call the police҆."

Neither Reese nor her supporters have disavowed this blatant call to violence.

***No, your statement here is, again,  not true:  several people, including the ED Summer Reese, have disavowed the remarks by Condon. Like several others who are not unfamiliar with his style, I assumed his words were the kind of rhetoric that people stupidly (sorry, Chris, but true)  spout in defense of a cause, hyperbole that in saner moments Condon would regret.  And in fact he has retracted those remarks.  Clearly I do not appreciate his comments advocating going ballistic, consider them injudicious, and assume no one but a spin doctor would treat them as literal advice.  The "call the police" advice, however, might well be meant seriously, and let's hope that there are no further attempts at physical intimidation by the JUC.

Meanwhile, Reese and her supporters have unleashed a media blitz, with a torrent of false propaganda about the decision. They continue to cynically stoke fears that those now in the National Board majority are scheming to sell WBAI - despite the compete lack of evidence for the claim. In a public statement, national board member Cerene Roberts, who is also part of Justice and Unity,   repeated the group's longtime strong opposition to the sale, leasing, or signal swapping of WBAI.

***This statement " despite the compete lack of evidence for the claim" is not quite true.  As I said above, where there is smoke at Pacifica, there is often fire, and the rumors about a planned takeover must be considered seriously.  

***Nothing Cerene Roberts says can be taken at its face value.  She has continually interfered with, failed to work for, thrown roadblocks in the way of, keeping WBAI afloat and protecting the Foundation. If you look at the votes of the PNB meetings - oops, sorry no minutes: the Secretary Cerene Roberts together with the Recording Secretary Adriana Casenave have failed to produce the minutes that would document her votes - one can see the actions taken that belie her words:  not her words but her actions favor the very conditions that would inflame the conditions favorable to the sale or lease of WBAI.  

For more details on this week's events in Berkeley (and ongoing developments), as well as more background on Reese, see the article "Long-overdue changes at Pacifica give hope for network's renewal" at .

***Actually, you will get a better picture by reading the history here:

and opening up the links listed in the right-hand margin on the SupportKPFA page.

This argument is not going to served by self-serving distortions and spins of the facts, and I would urge people to read carefully, then read again, and ask questions. Following is a succinct statement by those of us on the board trying to keep the station and the Foundation intact:  
Carolyn Birden
Pacifica National Board Member from WBAI

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