4/18/08 from Marc

Random Thoughts..

First, where is everybody? It seems that very few of you have questions or comments for Mayor Sheila Dixon. So, is that disinterest in city politics, or more who could care what she says, or this kind of stuff is just ho hum? Well, we will be in her office at 4:30 on Monday. Hope to have it up on our site when we get back from City Hall.

Next, we will be focusing some of our work on school violence, talking to the CEO, teachers and students. So, if you have thoughts on it, send them in. If you are a schoolteacher or student maybe you can be part of the interview. Comment here or email justinlevy2@gmail.com.

Your responses to WYPR Board

Someone asked if Martin O’Malley ever voiced his support. I heard he did from a third party. I also received calls from many elected officials outraged by what happened, including Senator Ben Cardin, Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, Congressmen John Sarbanes, Wayne Gilchrest and Elijah Cummings, Delegate Jon Cardin, State Senator Jamie Raskin and many others. I heard there was a lot of outrage from many within the Baltimore Metropolitan delegation.

I wake angry and frustrated many days thinking about what happened. Usually, once I say good morning to my little one, walk my dog Charley, and have coffee with Valerie, I am over it.

We keep up the good fight with them where it needs keeping up, but we are moving on. We have so many stories we want to do, interviews we are waiting to produce, town meetings to organize, and a new public media we’re working to create to worry about their board and management too much. They are a distraction.

Presidential Election

I have been thinking a lot about Obama’s comments and the continuing ad nauseum conversation about what he said. How much can we talk about it, over and over and over. The other day when I was in Hagerstown for our Maryland Humanities Council performance of Martin, Malcolm and Marc, we were in a hotel bar. Fox was on. It is amazing to me that all the discredited political professionals, like Dick Morris and angry caustic commentators of new like Geraldine Ferraro kept going on and on saying so little of any substance. Is there no other news to be covered by our major media than what Obama said at his fundraiser? Their choice of commentators tells us everything about what they are attempting to make important in this election. Their base of thought is so limited, yet has the broad power to define the discussion. We can end that with new media and new conversations.

American elections have always been contentious. I have been reading the book 1800 about the election that swirled around Adams and Jefferson and others. If you just look at that election along with the elections of 1860, 1912, 1928 and 1960, you can see that the venal and the vicious has always been at the forefront. It is bare knuckled. Part of the bare knuckles of 1800 and 1860 and 1912, besides the vicious personal attacks, was actual deep policy differences. Candidates were unafraid of speaking to their visions of America, and they had them.

So, I could put up with all viscera, silliness, nastiness and meanness if candidates would just declare their visions honestly and with the passion of conviction.

I believe what Obama said about what motivates people’s distrust is true, and what McCain said to Michigan workers about their jobs not returning was real and true. They were both eviscerated and trashed for being straight.

Instead of backpedaling, candidates, tell us the reality as you see it and what you think we as a nation need to do.

That would be refreshing.

NOW

I gotta go, my 10 (almost 11 year old) only has a few more days till she is gone and back to school, so we got some Daddy/Daughter time that is calling.

Have a wonderful weekend.

-marc

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4/09/08 from Vietnam, to Annapolis, to the movies

This has been an interesting week.    First, the Peabody Award comes for our work on the series we produced called Just Words.   It was funded by the Open Society Institute and aired on WYPR for a little over a year.    We submitted the work for the prestigious Peabody but had no expectations of winning one.  It is a little overwhelming to be in the company of Steve Colbert, Planet Earth, Sixty Minutes, and other incredibly important national shows (including Project Runway, which I watch at my 11 year old daughter’s behest).  It is quite an honor.    

From 2005 to 2007 dozens of NPR stations around the country aired our six part documentary series, Shared Weight.   I don’t know how many of you heard them (all six will be up on our new website for you to hear and podcast).    They are six stand-alone hours produced with and about Vietnam veterans from both sides of the conflict.  We spent six weeks in Vietnam recording and three veterans of that war went with us.   

At any rate, we planned to return to Vietnam sometime in June or July to finish one of our stories.   The first hour in our series was the story of Vietnam Veteran Homer Steedley and North Vietnamese soldier Hong Ngoc Dam.   Homer killed Dam on his first day in Nam.    They met coming around a bend in the road.   There they were alone face to face.  Homer got his gun our first.  Dam died.   Homer took the documents off his body.   He kept them in his mother’s attic.  For over thirty five years the image of that young man’s face and the documents he kept haunted him.   He had to find Dam’s family to give them back that piece of him, of their son, husband and brother.   We found the family.    That first hour was called Wandering Souls because Vietnamese Buddhists believe that souls of the dead wander if their bodies or something of theirs is not returned home.    Dam was one of 350,000 Vietnamese MIAs.  

Now, Homer is going back to Vietnam for the first time since the war.    He wants to meet Dam’s family and together they will journey to Kontum to find Dam’s body.   We want to be there to finish this story of healing.  

Well, we found out this week the trip is moved up to May.   So, producer Jessica Phillips and I will be journeying to Vietnam.   Hopefully, we will be sending back stories to you, with any luck with sound and pictures.

When we get back, we will head out in early June to the National Conference for Media Reform in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  They want to hear, and we want to tell, the story of what happened at WYPR.   We want to tell the story of this community’s efforts to keep the public in public radio and to build and keep our sense of community.   There will be thousands of people there who are dedicated to keeping alive and creating community non-corporate-controlled media.   We will let you know what we find.

Then I am off for a week to the Pueblo Indian reservation in New Mexico to teach radio to a national gathering of Native American high school students.   It is a camp called Native Visions started by the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health.  It is not my first time there over the last fifteen years, but I love teaching at the place.   Hopefully, more stories for me to share.

 

ANNAPOLIS

OK, Annapolis is done.   The session is over.   So, what really happened?  

The biggest crime was the Constellation Energy deal being ratified by a bullied State Senate and House of Delegates.   It was 1999 deregulation redux.   I know, I know, the reregulation debate can still occur.    The Public Service Commission was not granted subpoena power.  This is the single most important failure of that deal and legislation.   Read Sun Business Columnist Jay Hancock’s column today.   We still do not know why energy cost so much after the 2005 auctions or what goes on at the auctions.   The control of the grid and wholesale electric market is opaque, at best, at the state, regional and national level.   It is controlled by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is controlled by the federal government, which, as we found at the beginning of the Bush/Cheney administration, is controlled by big oil and coal.   Remember Vice President Cheney’s Energy Task Force in 2001 that would not release its report and never did.   Do you remember that it was made up of all his friends in oil and coal and their ancillary industries? 

What we needed was a bill that put teeth in the PSC, that changed laws to allow full disclosure of deal making in that industry and encourage our elected Congressional representatives to demand reform at the national level. 

We can have openness, honesty, and a strong energy future with Constellation or anyone else.  These ideas are not mutually exclusive.

 

MORE – MOVIES NOW

OK, enough blah blah … what I want to know is when will these clouds go away?   I want sunshine. 

We saw the film Stop Loss the other day at Hunt Valley.   It was a powerful movie about the back door draft affecting the lives of so many American soldiers.  It was by directed by Kimberly Pierce, whose previous film was Boys Don’t Cry.   We went to a 5 PM show.  We were the only two people sitting in the theater.   I know Mondays at five may be a slow movie time but I think Americans don’t want to hear about this war.   So few of us know people who serve, who died there or who were wounded in battle.   What about you, do you know anyone who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan?  After we saw the film I was thinking about my student’s brother who died in Iraq and another woman I know whose son was killed in Iraq.  This war makes me angry.

We also saw John Sayles’ Honeydripper at the Charles.    What superb acting, wonderful script, great music and uplifting.   God, it felt good to walk out of a movie smiling. 

And Thursday night, it is the Stones in Scorsese’s Shine a Light at The Senator.  I can’t wait.   Talk about feeling good.  I am afraid to tell you all that I saw my first Stones concert in the spring of ‘64 in Albany, New York.   I have been hooked ever since.  I was always more of Stones man than a Beatle boy.   Though I loved post 65 Beatles.   OK, too much information.

See you at the movies.

3/28/08 Constellation Deal

So, what is up with this deal between O’Malley and Constellation?   Where are the voices of dissent?   Where are the voices in our state legislature, in print, on TV and in radio who are raising questions about this so-called settlement?

Martin O’Malley ran on a campaign to address consumers being shortchanged, over-charged and ripped off by Constellation and their home state company BGE as a result of the 1999 deregulation of the industry.  A move pushed by Sen. Pres Mike Miller and one of the forgotten forces behind all that lobbying in Annapolis in 1999 – ENRON.

The state government and Constellation say this will allow us to deal with a looming energy crisis in the next few years that will lead to brownouts across the state.   We don’t generate enough electricity for our growth.   But how does this “settlement” address that issue?

 OK, so now we are getting some credit and rebates and the state won’t have to pay the bill of deactivating Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plants.  We all get back $175 if we are lucky and they get to profit millions or even billions.  We are still saddled with at least a 72% increase in our rates.  Governor and state leaders, tell that to our bank accounts every month!

Because of the settlement, there will be no more investigations into stranded costs paid to Constellation to compensate them for losses that never occurred when they took over BGE plants.    What about the investigation into the corporate relationship between BGE and Constellation?   What about the accusation that Constellation sells Maryland energy sources outside the state, then sells them back to us, to BGE for huge profits?  No further investigations into the wholesale power auctions and our exponentially rising utility bills! Investigations in 2005 and 2006 clearly showed something amiss.   It clearly appeared we were being gouged and huge profits were being made.  We will never know the answer to what happened to us and what Constellation really did.

No subpoena power for the Public Service Commission!   How will they get to the bottom of anything as they look at re-regulation of the industry and plan for the energy future of our state?   Steve Larsen, Chairman of the PSC, on my show, said he wanted the answers to this and more.  Now his hands are tied.

Constellation stock is now on the rise.   They can have outside investors without state regulatory approval. 

What about the future?   Hydropower will have its end.  Our dams can’t handle the load and the silt is building up.   Solar, wind and nuclear will take years to make a dent in our total energy supply.   Does this give Constellation the power and right to continue to mine coal, spew its death into the air, and make West Virginia look like a moonscape after the tops of our most ancient mountains are lopped off?

We need better answers to what de-regulation did and what was going on between Constellation and BGE.   We need a better plan for our energy future than we are getting.

State legislators need to raise their voices and raise questions.    Our local media needs to investigate and keep this discussion alive.  We all need to be involved at whatever level we can to keep the pressure on.

 Dealing with the power of Constellation Energy and the rates we pay was a central theme of Martin O’Malley’s run for Governor.   This shows all too well the power that corporate giants have in our state political process.   I know Governor O’Malley felt pushed against a wall.  We have a very precarious energy future in the next few years.  This settlement, however, was not the answer.  It was not even close. 

-marc

3/18/08 Obama’s Speech Today

Photo Credit: Wall Street Journal

Today, I was a guest on Doni Glover’s show on WOLB.   When we finished our conversation on the air, I stumbled into their lunchroom.   Everyone was glued to CNN listening to Obama’s speech on race.  I sat down.   I became glued to the TV, to the words Obama was speaking to us all.  

I don’t know how many of you heard it, but you can watch and read it here.  I have never heard a politician running for office talk about race in that manner.  He tackled it head on.   

We live in a nation where race has always been at the root of our social and political discussion.   Race is at the root of our national persona.   It is complex, very complex.  Our generation, our race, our region, our gender, and our exposure other races define our feelings and sense of race as a nation.   Barak Obama clearly understands the complexity of race in America.   My own sense of him is that growing up as a Black child raised by a socially and politically open white mother, with conservative white grandparents in a white world, with an African father whom he did know, defined his own search for racial identity in America.   He lived in other cultures and saw race not just through the lens of Black and White but through Asian worlds that most non-Asian-Americans ever touch.   This is a life journey that took him, and continues to take him, wrestling with race through all its American complexities. 

America needs to have this conversation with itself.  Maybe Barak Obama is the only one, at the moment, who is able to create this conversation among ourselves.  

I really understood what he was saying about his minister, Reverend Jeremiah Wright.   White America easily dismisses Reverend Wright because they identify his words with the words of Farrakhan.  Most of us in the white world have to be willing to admit that this visceral reaction is what motivates us to become angry at the words of Reverend Wright.

Obama said he could no more turn against Reverend Wright than he could his white grandmother.   He said Reverend Wright came out of a generation that grew up in segregation and in the face of outright racial hatred in America.   He is still a distrustful and angry man.  He also said how much he learned about his faith and life from Rev. Wright.

Obama went on to say how much his white Kansas rural-raised grandmother loved him.   How much she loved this Black child in her life but how he cringed at her racist remarks. 

This is life in America.   This is an America where love and family cross all those lines.  This is an America that must have a conversation with itself.

When Obama turned his conversation to the white working class of America and its frustrations, it was clear that he understands the anger of white working class Americans who feels like Black folks are getting a free ride, while they worked for everything they have.   He understands how that is all wrapped around the economic conditions they face with factories closing, mortgage foreclosures, and crumbling public schools that intensify the anger around race.

He understands the responsibility Black America must take for itself.   He called on Black fathers to come home to their children while understanding the devastation and desperation of life in the Black inner city streets of America.  

He also understands that to get beyond race we need to have more than just a conversation with ourselves as Americans.  We need to rebuild our economy so that it supports stability and equality.   A nation rebuilding its infrastructure, breeding and teaching creative minds, a nation at work with decent paying jobs, a system that provides health care for all its citizens, and public schools where we feel safe and confident sending our children, just might allow us to go beyond race.  A movement fighting for this America has the power to transcend race.

I hope and pray that Big Media in America will do this speech and this conversation justice.   I am not optimistic but will jump for joy if proven wrong.   Let’s see what sound bites they use from this magnificent speech. 

Let’s see if the rabid hosts of hot talk television and radio and the knee-jerk response columnists can keep their powder dry.   Let’s see if they can stop to think for a moment and help us have this conversation.  

I was sitting with a dear friend at lunch (yeah, I can have lunch these days – what a novel idea) who said his liberal Jewish mother and her friends could not vote for Obama if he defended Rev Wright’s words.  

The first thing that came to my mind was, how short our memories are.   His Mom is obviously part of my Dad’s generation.    I remember growing up in a world where we Jews lived in our neighborhoods apart from the rest.  It was because of discrimination against us and by our own choice to live among one another.  Non Jews were not trusted not to be anti-Semitic until we were satisfied they were not.   Goyim jokes (jokes about those who were not Jews) abounded in the community.   I grew up with cousins with numbers on their arms tattooed on by their Nazi torturers in concentration camps.   I knew that at any moment they .. the proverbial they .. could turn on us before sunset.  There is a distrust born of being a discriminated against minority.

You overcome it, you go beyond it, you fight against it, both in society and within your own being.  It is a complex thing.   I, too, understand the anger in Rev. Wright and in other dear friends of mine.   I don’t agree with it.   Race is both deep and superficial.  It means nothing in the reality of existence but it defines our every move in America.  

President Clinton’s conversation on race when he was in the White House was superficial, elitist and detached.   Maybe now we can have a conversation based in the material reality of our everyday lives.  Obama’s words were eloquent but eloquence is not enough.   If he wins, he must build the America he preaches about.  If he loses, he has to build the movement he talks about.  Words of beauty will only take us so far.  

I hope the substance is as powerful as the speech.   We will see.

-marc

02/29/08 Leap Day!

OK .. I am back. There is so much going on..

First, let’s get to the WYPR stuff right away.

The board and management of the station keep saying that there are reasons they cannot divulge as to why they cancelled my show.

So, I am asking them now …. Freeing them up from any fears they may have …
DIVULGE!!!!

Tell everyone, the listeners, the press, why you did this.
Tell me, you have never told me. I and my friends and people who loved and listened to the show would love to hear your reasoning.

My guess: they don’t have one, other than the reality we have all witnessed over the last month.

Anyway, on to bigger and better things!

It is time to get back in the saddle, so we are going to be bringing you new interviews. Until we get our new website up, you can find them right here on our blog, ready to listen to or to podcast.

How many of you are fans of the WIRE? My guess is a lot of you are.

I love the WIRE. It is a show that speaks not only about life in the inner city neighborhoods of our land but about what they are emblematic of in America. It speaks to who we are becoming in America. The acting is just phenomenal and the writing is the best on television.

Over the course of the next few weeks, we will air interviews with actors, writers, producers, and others from the WIRE. We will start with creative partners Ed Burns and David Simon. This week you will hear actors Clarke Peters, who plays Lester Freamon, Andre Royo, who portrays Bubbles, and Robert Chew, playing the ill-fated kingpin Prop Joe. There will many more this week and in the coming weeks.

We won’t stop there. More interviews with authors, public figures, artists and just interesting folks coming your way. Many of them will be multiplatform stories, with pictures and more. Download the scripts, download the interviews. The Marc Steiner Show is back!

Let us know what is happening in your worlds and what you want to hear.

I will be writing more after the weekend, reflecting on what’s in the news, in our communities, in the arts.

Stay tuned… more exciting stuff coming our way.

Have a great weekend!

marc

2/21/08 thoughts today

I really want to get past this and build a new and creative world for us and for you.  We will and we are.  We’re going to post a new interview in just a few minutes. 

I wanted to write a few words about last night, as well. 

The gathering last night was amazing.  It was a cold snowy night.  A night that saw many events across the community cancelled.   But in Charles Village, an auditorium was filled with 300 people or so. 

The people there represented our community.   It was Black, White, Asian, Latino, elders, youth and middle aged, gay and straight.   There were truck drivers from Baltimore, school bus drivers from Bel Air, steel workers from Dundalk, university professors from every discipline, lawyers, nurses, doctors, social works, inner city activists, students, school teachers, filmmakers, journalists, artists and artisans.    Some were activists who came as an organized group but most were just folks there to speak there mind. 

It was inspiring to hear what my listeners and station members had to say.   Sure, on one one level it was about me and about the fact that I have been part of people’s lives in this community for the past fifteen years.     But all this was and is much larger and more important than any one man or any show on public radio. 

This is about community, about building community and a radio show that drew diverse communities together.  It is about the future of public radio and what the public means in public radio. 

Speakers stood to tell Tony Brandon, Barbara Bozzuto, Andy Bienstock, the management and board of WYPR that the program gave voice to the voiceless in this community. People testified that they had been introduced to voices, people and ideas from our community that they would never run across in their daily lives.  One inner city activist, Dante Wilson, said that all the media shows is negative images of Black communities.   He said that our program showed the world that there is a different side to the streets of Baltimore and people who were working to make a difference.   

School teachers stood up to say that nowhere else did teachers and regular working people have a forum to speak to the public.  Jewish-American and Arab-American leaders were there because our show was a place where ideas were non-threateningly shared.  

It became clear that the people in that audience felt that the Marc Steiner Show was a place that built community, built bridges between the diversity we live in, and created communication.  One thing was very clear; people understand that and want public media to be a place to build community.

The concept of public ownership of the airwaves was foremost in the minds of those who attended last night.    The “your” in Your Public Radio is more than just words.    When I came up with those call letters, it meant that it was to be a community owned and run station.   I believed it, the people who gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy the station believed it, and in the ensuing years those who became members of WYPR believed it.  I told them to believe it, and the station during its fund drives told them to believe.   We were telling them a lie.

Last night the community demanded that the station management and board include them in the process.    People believe that listener-members should have seats on the Board of Directors.   They should be part of the process of directing our public radio.   Some demanded that the board resign or that Tony Brandon and the management resign or that the board should fire the management and start over.  

A theme that was constant throughout the night was people demanding that the public mean something in public radio.

Out of this meeting the CAB will write a report to WYPR’s Board of Directors.  The meeting is March 12th.  You may attend that meeting.  You just have to register with WYPR to reserve a seat.

This is about the ownership and future of public radio.

-marc

 

2/20 A few words from Marc

Hello everyone,

I have a few short reflections after seeing what I wrote last night. I don’t want to fall into the trap of he said/she said quarrel of inconsequential detail. On some levels I have allowed myself to do that.

First, I realized when I spoke of the $750,000 raised that I inadvertently left out that $70 some thousand dollars of that amount was really contributed or in a sense forgiven by Johns Hopkins University. I realized after I sent it in to my blog that I left that line out.

Second, I want to be clear how grateful all of us should be to the original guarantors. Bill Clarke, Jonathan Melnick, Anne and Jane Daniels, Tony Brandon, Charlie Salisbury, Earl and Darielle Linehan, Tom and Barbara Bozzuto and Albert Williams. Without their guarantees we could not have saved the radio station for Baltimore. I just want to be absolutely clear about that.

Finally, the problems boil down to certain things that leadership of the station just doesn’t get.

  1. This should have been a partnership between guarantors, contributors and members to create a board to oversee the fiscal and fiduciary responsibilities of WYPR

  2. Martha Rudski, WJHU Marketing Director, came up with the name Your Public Radio because we believed we could create a truly powerful and unique institution that belonged to this community.

  3. When we first started, the story around NPR was the amazing marriage between this conservative Republican corporate executive and a community activist talk show host known for his progressive leanings coming together to build a community radio station. My belief in the myth hurt us all.

  4. All this is madness. There was never any concrete reason for it to happen. They keep changing their story as to what led to the end of my show because they are grasping for straws. There is no reason other than a deep personal and political dislike for me from Tony Brandon and a few others. They could not stand what I stood for, or that I was the face and voice of the station. Ray Blank, the station consultant, has said to me more than once that they see you getting all the recognition. They feel they deserve some. I always gave it to them.

  5. So, all this is for what?

 

I have nothing left to say unless they come at me or at the public with more specious comments.

See you tonight.

-Marc