Back of the Book — August 16, 2014

It's Friday, August 29, 2014, 23:29, and I've substantially updated this Web page with more about Steve Post, and with my remarks about the guy I used to know as Little John Basso, I've also added something about an unsavory development on the New York City subway system, and with something about two security stories we touched upon during the program. Is this Web page done? The original top of this page follows the arrow. ⇒ We're in a real rush tonight. They are doing odd things with the #1 train again, at least this time they posted a warning about it. We hope to reminisce and more on this program, and maybe even get to some mail. This is pretty much a bare bones Web page, right now. Check back for updates.

Did you know that I've got a brief synopsis of some of the WBAI LSB meetings? Well, I do, and I've recently updated some of that.

I have also posted a whole lot of the minutes of the Pacifica National Finance Committee. I'm a member of that committee because I'm the WBAI LSB Treasurer.

The next WBAI LSB meeting will be held on Wednesday, August 13, 2014, at 7:00 PM .... This meeting was cancelled because no meeting place was found for it.

The WBAI LSB met on Wednesday, July 9, 2014, at 7:00 PM at The Theater for the New City, at 155 1st Ave. between East 9th and East 10th Sts. on the lower east side of Manhattan. Yes, we met in “the Community Space room.”

The meeting started nearly an hour late, and I was the one who showed up and made the quorum. People had planned to argue over that hardly readable 46 page “melding” of every one of the “sustainability plans,” and their “notated,” bloviations again. I think it was good that we didn't even get to that.

As is unfortunately so often the case the LSB did not get to a Treasurer's Report at this meeting, but I put out a written Treasurer's Report for all to read.

Maybe because the meeting started so late, maybe because one faction operative has been shooting her mouth off saying things about people not coming to the May meeting, there was a lot more discussion about the “excused absences” portion of the meeting, where the LSB routinely excuses the absence of everyone who hasn't attended. And then we voted and not all of the faction operatives got excused this time. If you have three unexcused absences in a row you're off the LSB. I suspect that mostly the actions at this LSB meeting were just people venting.

At a previous meeting the WBAI LSB voted to hold its regular meetings on the second Wednesday of every month and/or the last Thursday of that month, subject to change by the LSB, which gives us the following schedule:

All of these meetings are set to begin at 7:00 PM.

WBAI has a program schedule up on its Web site. The site has gotten many of the individual program pages together to provide links and such, so check it out.

Because WBAI was forced out of its studios by the flood waters' destruction of the building's electrical system we still have this alternate, temporary stream for the radio station! I do not know how long this emergency stream will be up for. If this stream isn't working let me know.

WBAI has put up a stream for the Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. So if you have one of those devices you might try the link out. And let us know how it works for you one way or the other. That way the folks implementing it can iron out any kinks in the system.

WBAI is archiving the programs! Just go here and you'll be able to listen to this program any time for the next couple of months. You may need to scroll up one line to see the audio archive. Let me know if you find this feature useful. There is also another version of the archive here.

If you want to listen to any part of the WBAI archive click here to go right to the archives. When you first go to the Web page you'll only see the WBAI programs for the past 7 days. If you want to see older programs you can click on one of the “See ALL Shows” buttons. Or to see only the two shows in this time slot click here.

Back of the Book is one of the programs that you can download, as well as listen to on line.

In the table on the archive Web page Back of the Book and Saturday Morning With the Radio On are both in the “Show” column. The “Date and Category” column shows the date of the program. After the program I go in and write the details of the program and say which program it is. Of course I'd recommend that you just listen to both programs in this time slot!

The Pacifica National Board (PNB) met in Manhattan the weekend of October 1-3, 2010. The audio has been posted for the first day of the meeting, the second day of the meeting and the third day of the meeting.

The Pacifica National Board (PNB) met in Washington, D.C. February 7-10, 2014. The big news is that they have mandated that there be no negotiations with the four candidates for the PSOA for 60 days.

Given that the PNB has had a change in its membership that has affected the balance of power, this postponement of any negotiations may actually be a ploy by the people who want to sell WBAI to make that sale more likely. It is possible that a PSOA would allow WBAI to come back after a few years, but it would also not result in a big cash influx to the rest of Pacifica, and that is what some people at other Pacifica stations want. Well, things are pretty much up in the air with WBAI right now.

You can listen to the public parts of the quarterly PNB meeting by clicking on the below links:

The Friday session
The Saturday session
The Sunday session
The Monday session

Chaos and fighting continues on the PNB and at the Pacifica National Office a number of workers have quit their jobs in disgust. The people who want to sell off WBAI started on their destructive path with the firing of the Executive Director at a critical time. The Executive Director, Summer Reese, said she had a contract with Pacifica and that the PNB can't just violate that and fire her the way that they did. So the Executive Director barricaded herself and the National Office workers in the National Office along with some supporters. Yeah, Pacifica got some great publicity from all of this.

The disputed Executive Director issued a press release giving her side of this episode. Here is her press release. Luckily for the Pacifica stations Ms. Reese worked to get the CPB filings done by the March 14, deadline despite having been fired the day before. Had she not done this work Pacifica, and all of its radio stations, would have been ineligible for CPB funds, which have been a significant part of every station's budget.

UPDATE: There have been lawsuits filed, and judgments rendered in the cases brought by the minority PNB members against the actions of the majority PNB Directors. I'll keep this running battle updated on the appropriate Web page.

Steve Post

We talked about Steve Post, former WBAI General Manager and producer at WBAI and WNYC, who passed away this past fortnight at age 70.

It's sad to have to report that yet another WBAI person has passed away. I know Steve Post had battled more than one form of cancer over the years.

He was one of the people who were leaving WBAI around the time that I showed up to be a producer. He'd been around when I was a guest on the air. I mostly knew him from his time on the WBAI LAB, of which he was the Chair for a while.

Steve Post was one of the wild and crazy guys who did free-form live radio at WBAI in the '60s and '70s. He helped to make WBAI something that people noticed. One thing I've wondered about from one of his WNYC programs is this: was that story about his crawling around on the ledge outside of the Municipal Building after he'd gotten locked out of Master Control there true? Had to be made up, right? Right?

On this program I talked about a guy I used to know who called himself Little John Basso. There's a movie coming out about him.

I was at the Gay Activist Alliance (GAA) Firehouse on August 23, 1972, for the usual GAA Executive Committee meeting on the 2nd floor. Before the meeting started we were sitting around waiting for a quorum to show up and Nath Rockhill asked, “What are we going to do about Little John?” And others were agreeing this was a problem.

I asked, “What about Little John?” Nath then told me that he’d robbed a bank the day before and it had gotten a lot of publicity. Everyone there was very surprised that I hadn't heard every detail about this crazy story. I was quite surprised to hear that Basso wasn't Little John's real last name, that it was in fact Wojtowicz. I think I may have known before then that he was married to a woman, but I hadn't heard that he was thinking that he was going to marry a to-be-transgendered person. Over the time that I'd known him Little John, as he always wanted to be called, had a lot of things to say, and I’d learned to not pay much attention to most of those things.

The bank robbery was a mess, which was exactly what you’d expect from Little John trying to do something that required thoughtful planning and precise execution.

At one point during a GAA meeting Mark Rubin, at 6'4", gave a speech about how one could see how warped Little John was because he chose to call himself “Little John” and tell everyone that. Yeah, heightism. I'll note here that Little John was taller than I.

During that executive committee meeting it came out that some GAA members had been among the crowd of people who'd been watching the bank robbery in progress. The GAA members were there to specifically prevent anyone from making John's bank robbery seem to be a part of the gay liberation movement.

Of course they made a movie about it all, Dog Day Afternoon (1975). Ironically it starred Al Pacino as the Little John character, and Pacino would also star in a very anti-gay movie called Cruising a few years after that (1980). In Dog Day Afternoon they had gay people demonstrating and holding protest signs such as we used to take to demonstrations while cheering on John’s heist. That never happened.

John was a jerk, and a lot of the time he just didn't get it. John had also not been so good with keeping on the side of GAA in some situations. He could really be flaky.

There were times when gay or lesbian foreign nationals would be stopped at the border and would need to get back into the United States, usually after they'd been living here for years. What would happen then was that an announcement about this would be made during a GAA meeting and someone would be asked to marry the person, which usually got them into the country. At one GAA meeting such a request was made, and John said he'd help the lesbian trying to cross back to America from Canada by marrying her, but she’d have to agree to have sex with him. Ugh! This little incident did not go down well with the GAA membership. I'll note that John had a wife and kids, not the only GAA member who had those.

He sometimes wore his VFW jacket to GAA meetings. I didn't want to have anything to do with the VFW or any other organization like that. He must have kept his sexual orientation secret from them because the VFW was very homophobic.

John was a Viet Nam Veteran. He was a couple of years older than I, so I guess he'd been there a couple of years before I'd landed in the Republic of Viet Nam. As happened a lot back then with Viet Nam veterans we didn't talk about our time in-country that much. We did talk a bit about our sexual experiences there, however. I told him about my exploits with other GIs, and he told me about his. Unfortunately for John he hadn't been as successful as I in keeping his sexual orientation confined to a select few on a need to know basis. He had been found out, and when various officers discovered that he's been violating the military's prohibition of homosexual activity they threatened to court martial him, which would have meant bad time in Long Binh Jail (which went by the amusing acronym LBJ, which were also the initials of the president who'd sent us to Viet Nam) and then maybe he'd be shipped back to the United States to do more time in Leavenworth, Kansas for the crime of homosexuality. John never did get prosecuted for homosexual activity in Viet Nam because, using the threat of a court martial, the officers who know about it coerced him into providing them with sexual favors. The big complicating factor was that the officers' demands collided with one another, and as higher officers found out they preempted the fun times of the lower ranking officers, who took it out on John with extra duty of all sorts. He did not have a good tour of duty.

John went to prison for the bank robbery, and I thought I'd probably never see him again.

He got out of prison much sooner than I'd thought he would. After he got out I didn't see him much. He would identify himself to others as “The Dog,” which he told me was the name given him in prison after the movie had come out. And instead of being quiet about having gone to prison for armed robbery he made it the first thing he’d tell anybody, everybody, even using a bullhorn to do so.

During the Summer of actions against the movie Cruising in 1979, we had a lot of demos, and one time we were sitting in, I think it was on 7th Ave. And Christopher St., and one of the Democrats with a big head had a bullhorn with which he played the radical. Suddenly John showed up, grabbed the bullhorn from him, and the first thing he did was identify himself as “The Dog,” as if that was going to give him credibility among the activist crowd sitting in the street, many of whom had been fighting battles with the police for weeks. He did impress some people, especially the people who'd been hogging the bullhorn. They were really frightened of him. To me, he was just Little John. So after the momentum of the action started to get flabby from what John was doing I went up to John and said hello and took the bullhorn away from him while we talked a little bit. The second John was seen to have been neutralized the Democrat Party wanna-be hack then grabbed the bullhorn from me and resumed his ego trip, but the action got back on track with his rhetoric.

One thing John told me during one of our few conversations after he'd gotten out of prison was that the movie had not only given him fame in prison, it had also caused him problems. John told me that in the movie, when the bank robbers are in the car thinking that they're going to get on a plane and get away with the robbery, one FBI agent looks at Al Pacino’s character, and Pacino’s character looks back. And then they shoot and kill the accomplice. Well, the FBI really did shoot and kill Little John's accomplice in that car, but John told me that the other prisoners had interpreted the exchange of looks as a signal, and that they'd concluded that John had sold out his accomplice and agreed to have him killed while John would give up and get sentenced. This is not behavior that was approved of in prison, and so John had problems around it.

So there's a movie coming out about Little John himself. The movie is called The Dog. Good grief.

The publicity for the movie jogged my memory about a GAA zap action where we'd invaded the Marriage License Bureau demanding marriage licenses for some same gender couples who were a part of the action. We'd brought a cake with two male and two female couples on it, and we'd brought it into the head guy's office there. John was at that zap, and I did not know then that he had some plans about another marriage.

So there was a reminder of what we’d done around same gender marriage over 40 years ago.

Anyway, this movie is coming out, I haven't seen it. But I see from the stories in the papers that the producers sure do seem to have met John, all right. He could be quite exasperating, and if you had to deal with him regarding any kind of business you probably had quite the roller coaster ride. The behavior the documentarians described in the newspapers sure is what I used to experience with him.

Little John died of cancer in 2006, at the age of 60.

We're still in mid-Summer now, but we'll be entering late Summer next Friday, August 22, 2014, at 17:16, which is 5:15 PM (ET). Oh, it's still Summer, but we'll know it's going. And we hope that we'll have a radio program right before the end of the Middle Third, which ends with the end of August. More on the seasons and sub-seasons here.

a flower
Ah! Mid-Summer!

Pickles of the North and I went to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden this past fortnight for the first time in quite a while. If we have the time I'll talk about that on the air.

We talked about a scare that the mainstream media had spread this past fortnight about a gigantic hacking attack, with more than 1.2 billion passwords stolen. But the story seemed odd to me. As it turns out it seemed odd to some other people too, and they're in a position to understand computer security a lot better than I am. The entire scare may have been an attempt to garner publicity for the company that spread the story to the gullible media.

On the last program we talked about some folks who'd claimed to have discovered security vulnerabilities in the Universal Serial Bus (USB) which can be used to alter the firmware of a USB flash drive and install malware on it. In the past fortnight they have demonstrated this exploit, which can also compromise anything using the USB ports, at the Black Hat 2014 conference. Yeah, this one is unfortunately for real.

Bed buig riding an N train.
Some Non-Paying Passengers Are Worse Than Others
photo credit: bed bug by Gilles San Martin

We didn't get to this story on the program, but we'd wanted to.

Yes, the great bed bug infestation of Greater New York has predictably spread to one of the most traveled public areas in the city: the subway system.

Bed Bugs (Cimex lectularius) have been on a resurgence in Greater New York for years now. And it's not just in New York that we're seeing them coming back. A few years ago there was a Pacifica National Board meeting held at a hotel out west, and the PNB members returned home with many stories about the bed bugs they encountered in the infested hotel. And some of the participants were unlucky enough to return home to find bed bugs in their luggage.

There are lots of theories why bed bugs are making a monumental resurgence in America. The theories range from DDT being outlawed and newer insecticides losing their effectiveness against bed bugs to bed bugs finding another animal to infest for some decades. In my opinion we can trace the comeback of the bed bug nuisance to the repeal of laws against the re-selling of used mattresses, which legislation was originally proposed precisely to fight the bed bug infestations of the first half of the 20th Century.

Whatever has caused these things to come back, they are back. And now we have to watch out for them on the damned subway.

So far they have mostly been found in the cushioned seats used by the motormen and conductors on the N train and one on the Q train. It is possible that one was also found by a passenger on the Lexington Ave. Line.

MTA bedbug
Might As Well Make Them Official

As it turns out bed bugs are very difficult to get rid of, once they've been able to hide in someone's house. They can squeeze into extremely tiny spaces, and they can go for two years without having to feed. These days insecticides are not used as lavishly as they used to be, and one of the modern ways used to get rid of bed bugs in houses and apartments is to put heaters into the rooms and heat the entire living space up to over 115° F. And having a dehumidifier along for the heat treatment improves the effectiveness of this method. Still, the little buggers are very good at hiding.

There is talk of a new drug that's going to undergo clinical trials some time soon, a drug that is harmless to humans, but which makes our a blood lethal poison to bed bugs. Since their only known food source is human blood this wold certainly be a way of getting rid of the damned things. Of course given how long the bed bugs can go without feeding you'd probably have to take that drug for a hell of a long time. Still, you'd get rid of the damned things then.

I personally think that the old law prohibiting the sale of used mattresses should be reinstated. That might do a whole lot to stem the flood of these creatures.

Of course it's also possible that the MTA will just embrace the bed bugs on the trains, and let them join the rats, or “track otters” as Uncle Sidney long ago named them, and consider them a part of what you get when you pay your fare.

There are a lot of issues that are considered hazardous to talk about on the air at WBAI, even though the gag rule was lifted in 2002. However, there is the Internet! There are mailing lists which you can subscribe to and Web based message boards devoted to WBAI and Pacifica issues. Many controversial WBAI/Pacifica issues are discussed on these lists.

One popular list the “NewPacifica” mailing list. Founded October 31, 2000, this list is sometimes lively and as of mid-2011, has 687 subscribers coast to coast.

Being lively, of course, it sometimes also gets a bit nasty. All sorts of things are happening on this list and official announcements are frequently posted there.

You can look at the NewPacifica list here, and you can join the list from that Web page too. If you subscribe to the “NewPacifica” mailing list you will receive, via E-mail, all of the messages which are sent to that list.

There is the option to receive a “digest” version of the list, which means that a bunch of messages are bundled into one E-mail and sent to you at regular intervals, this cuts down on the number of E-mails you get from the list. You will also be able to send messages to the list.

This list also has a Web based interface where you can read messages and from which you can post your own messages.

There is also the more WBAI specific “Goodlight” Web based message board. It is sometimes referred to on Back of the Book as “the bleepin' blue board,” owing to the blue background used on its Web pages. This one has many people posting anonymously and there's also an ancillary “WBAI people” board that's just totally out of hand. UPDATE: The bleepin' blue board has had to add a step for folks to get onto it because it's under attack by spambots. When you click on the above link you may be asked for a username and password. Type in Username: poster Password: enternow

When the computer in Master Control is working we sometimes have live interaction with people posting on the “Goodlight Board” during the program.

Our very own Uncle Sidney Smith, whose program Saturday Morning With the Radio On alternates with us, has a blog these days. You can reach his blog here.

We like to stay interactive with our listeners. Here are the various options for you to get in touch with us.

You can also send me E-mail.

And now you can even reach me on Twitter Twitter logo

WBAI related links

WBAI Listeners' Web page

WBAI Management's official Web site

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The contents of this Web page are copyright © 2014, R. Paul Martin.