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July 14, 2009

Comments

keys88: "As the last(?) regular anonymous poster here, I must agree with your suggestion and have decided to cease anonymous posting here after this post. Should I choose to post further, I will do so under my own name."

Keys88 I appreciate your understanding and support under the circumstances. The only reservation I had about the request to end anonymity was your ability to post. You engage in robust argument but don't abuse the anonymity and having lived and worked in LA I really do understand why anonymity is important in that marketplace -- unfortunately. I have appreciated many of your observations and posts and hope you can continue to participate in the conversation without creating problems for yourself.

Rick Blanc writes: "End anonymity."

As much as anonymity serves a benefit and protection in some cases, its abuse on this blog has been outrageous. The lies, filth and depravity that it has facilitated in terms of the attacks on you makes it more harmful than helpful.

As the last(?) regular anonymous poster here, I must agree with your suggestion and have decided to cease anonymous posting here after this post. Should I choose to post further, I will do so under my own name.

Rick, congratulations on your excellent and thoughtful posts. Keep up the good fight.

RL: "So what would you have me do differently? Edit posts? Bar certain commenters and not others?"

End anonymity. The question arose because a certain anonymous poster, who was perhaps actually known, committed the aforementioned. If a name is attached it is on them.

Then you are complicit, whether actively or passively. That means complicit in lies, invective, character assassination -- whatever the offender decides to spread around. That means on Robert Levine's site lies, defamation, libel and decadence are ok, as a matter of policy.

So what would you have me do differently? Edit posts? Bar certain commenters and not others?

RL: "No; it's because I don't censor posts, whether from people whose identity I know, people whose identity I suspect, or people whose identity I don't know."

Then you are complicit, whether actively or passively. That means complicit in lies, invective, character assassination -- whatever the offender decides to spread around. That means on Robert Levine's site lies, defamation, libel and decadence are ok, as a matter of policy.

Just wondering what does any of this have to do with the sad news contained within this posting?

Then there is the disgraceful Michael Comins who curiously Robert seems to have given free-range to even though he "pretty much" knew who he was while "sort of pretending" he didn't. Is that because the disgrace Michael Comins is a fellow partisan Robert?

No; it's because I don't censor posts, whether from people whose identity I know, people whose identity I suspect, or people whose identity I don't know.

Rick Blanc writes: "And the mobility of the marketplace is the sovereign principle of capitalism which is why these RMA guys don't like markets -- and why I don't like them. Instead they cling to an anachronistic model of market control and organizing (like good Marxists) that they hope to get a few more miles out of -- at whatever expense to the business or other musicians."

Perfectly stated, Rick. Milking every drop they can out of deals they know full well are outdated and are being eroded by growing worldwide competition bit by bit every day, every week, every month.

It's a scorched-earth policy whose legacy for the next generation of musicians may end up leaving them nothing more than a recording marketplace in disarray, divided among an ever-growing number of global competitors - competitors whose very existence was enabled and fueled by foolish, short-sighted protectionist policies that produced short-term financial gains for a relatively wealthy few whose special payments were "protected" while diluting the marketplace and driving businesses into the hands of worldwide competitors ready and eager to deliver high quality recorded music at lower prices, no strings attached. Not a race to the bottom, simply lower prices and better deal terms. Basic business stuff.

The recorded music business has evolved into a worldwide marketplace where talented and experienced orchestras are a mouse click and a wire transfer away. If the AFM is not going to compete effectively in this technology-driven worldwide marketplace, we had better get ready to kiss an awful lot of recording jobs GOODBYE. Is that really in the best interests of the AFM?

How many jobs must be lost to foreign recording orchestras before things change?

How many promising, talented musicians must be relegated to flipping burgers instead of working as a recording musician because of a lack of opportunity brought about by outsourcing recording jobs to non-AFM locations due to AFM protectionist policies?

How many AFM members will continue to be willing to accept the sacrifice AFM session work to foreign orchestras and Seattle in order to protect the financial interests and special payments of the LA recording elite?

keys88: "...projects that end up going non-AFM as a result of these policies. People doing well is a fine thing, but if in order to maintain that wealth many more musicians are forced to do without, that's not fine. That's the rich staying rich at the expense of everybody else masquerading as trade unionism, and it stinks."

That's right.

keys88: "More competition will also help break the very unhealthy monopoly regarding contractors that continues to plague the business. Simply put, this handful of people have way, way too much unregulated, completely arbitrary control over the careers of musicians."

Particularly in Los Angeles.

keys88: "Music is transportable, it's a fact, and has been for decades thanks to technology.... - people having music done in Seattle or Eastern Europe instead of the AFM, made possible by technology...."

And the mobility of the marketplace is the sovereign principle of capitalism which is why these RMA guys don't like markets -- and why I don't like them. Instead they cling to an anachronistic model of market control and organizing (like good Marxists) that they hope to get a few more miles out of -- at whatever expense to the business or other musicians.

But Robert wants statistics.

"There are lies, damn lies ... and then there are statistics." Winston Churchill

Then there is the disgraceful Michael Comins who curiously Robert seems to have given free-range to even though he "pretty much" knew who he was while "sort of pretending" he didn't. Is that because the disgrace Michael Comins is a fellow partisan Robert?

Bob: "the lawsuits were filed years after Tom Lee began shutting the recording musicians out of any consultative role and instead began to treat them as an unclean minority, fit only for fleecing."

Bob: "Also not doing this for gratitude. I find it most telling that the Sock still has no idea why I write this blog, or why I criticize Tom Lee. Hint: it’s not because I’m running for office, or trying to get into the good graces of the RMA"

Hmm... On the one hand, you spout the RMA propaganda like a true believer... "unclean" ... "fit for fleecing" and on the other, you claim you're not trying to get into the good graces of the RMA. Well, try or not, you've proven yourselves to be one of their biggest cheerleaders in a very public way, Bob. I think the axiom "Actions speak louder than words" is especially appropriate here, or perhaps "if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck..." Yes, I know, you're not a "Bob". Well, I'm not a "sock" either... if you insist on nicknames, I'll play along.

Bob: "As opposed to the recording musicians that the Sock despises?"

Actually I don't despise them. They are highly successful, and good for them! What I do despise is the closed-shop mentality that some of the recording elite leaders seem to have, combined with the fact that their policies - while enabling great wealth for a relative few - lock a great many people out of doing AFM sessions for projects that end up going non-AFM as a result of these policies. People doing well is a fine thing, but if in order to maintain that wealth many more musicians are forced to do without, that's not fine. That's the rich staying rich at the expense of everybody else masquerading as trade unionism, and it stinks.

Robert: "The RMA needs a real national union; symphony musicians don't have one and never did. What we have is a federation of locals, and for symphony musicians, the operative word in that phrase is "locals."

Perhaps, but perhaps Locals need the freedom and flexibility to negotiate local recording contracts that reflect the needs, talents, cost of living, and particular requirements of their local members. Looking purely at a cost-of-living scenario, it's a lot cheaper to live in Houston or Atlanta than it is in LA or NY. We have many, many talented musicians in lots of cities across the country. These musicians may never have the opportunity to do film or TV recording work of any serious level in the business unless we restructure the business to create opportunity, not deny it - and that's exactly what LA/NY-based rates forced on everybody else does, stifling competition and inflicting a "one size fits all" pricing approach based on a total fiction in regards to relative local costs (that they're a constant). More competition will also help break the very unhealthy monopoly regarding contractors that continues to plague the business. Simply put, this handful of people have way, way too much unregulated, completely arbitrary control over the careers of musicians.

The local pricing model has worked well for the symphony musicians - why not recording musicians? I know, I know, you'll sound the alarm about the "transportability" of music, but so what? Music is transportable, it's a fact, and has been for decades thanks to technology. Get over it. We have a far, far bigger problem of "transportability" now - people having music done in Seattle or Eastern Europe instead of the AFM, made possible by technology. Orchestras worldwide are only a wire transfer and a mouse click away now - can we really afford to maintain the same short-sighted protectionist policies that have created and continue to empower and enable so many of these competitors?

This has been interesting. I'm starting to understand why Michael Comins, aka 802disgrace, has been keeping a hidden identity. He wants to perpetuate the illusion that he is actually a respectable guy -- rather than a vicious fake, phony, fraud.

Michael Comins is one of the leaders and editorial writers of the largely discredited "Member's Party" in NYC, and apparently was or is a candidate for the 802 Executive Board. This guy who lies, smears, makes obscene references and malicious personal attacks, wants to be on 802's EB!

The "Member's Party" website begins by saying the Member's Party is "The Party of Rank and File Empowerment." Is this the same rank and file that Michael Comins consistently expresses contempt for?

Michael Comins wants to represent the "hobbyists" he despises? And wants to take his lack of integrity into the 802 Executive Board while writing flowery homilies about union solidarity? What an odious joke.

From what I hear others in NYC aren't buying his rabid radical crap either. Are the members of the Member's Party aware of what a dishonorable guy Michael Comins actually is? No wonder he's been anonymous on this blog.

Sockpuppet Anonymous:

And that's why we're at opposite ends of the spectrum on this, Bob. From my point of view, it's not the AFM who's filing the multiple federal lawsuits, attacking the Federation. It's very clear here who is amassing the warchest for more lawsuits, who is filing the lawsuits, and what the agenda of these radical musicians is. Now, we see them playing "nice" to other locals (like Phoenix), trying to gain sympathy for their cause, and taking a strong interest in the pension fund from what I've heard... Clearly trying to build support for the next convention.

Perhaps they’re taking a “strong interest in the pension fund” because much of the Fund is their money. Apparently Sockpuppet can’t see anything except through the filter of tactical political advantage.

And you know what? Building coalitions and campaigning is fine by me - let's see an open and honest race for the AFM President. But when the attack lawsuits are launched against the AFM, that's where loyalty ends and mercenary behavior begins.

I know it won’t help to make this point for the 15th time. But the lawsuits were filed years after Tom Lee began shutting the recording musicians out of any consultative role and instead began to treat them as an unclean minority, fit only for fleecing. This is a little like criticizing the Allies for invading France without mentioning that the war was started by Germany.

Bob, it will truly take a born politician to spin the radical recording musicians' multiple federal attack lawsuits and formation of a competing guild into actions that somehow support and help the AFM. Your attempts to do that here on your blog as a sockpuppet (to use your term) for your new recording friends will no doubt earn you some gratitude down the line if they're able to gain control of the AFM, assuming they leave anything left of the AFM other than a back accounting office to process their own special payments.

Not a “Bob.” Also not a born politician. Also not doing this for gratitude. I find it most telling that the Sock still has no idea why I write this blog, or why I criticize Tom Lee. Hint: it’s not because I’m running for office, or trying to get into the good graces of the RMA, or am trying to jump-start a career in Hollywood. There’s nothing that Sockpuppet has written that I find more compelling evidence that Sock is really Tom Lee than this incomprehension. I’m coming to believe that Tom really can’t see anything in terms other than political advantage.

And remember - they've got the golden-parachute PMG to jump to if their lawsuits are successful and the AFM becomes crippled or mortally damaged in the process of fending off these continuing legal and financial attacks. The same might not be said of symphony musicians, freelance musicians, or all those pesky "hobbyists" that the radical recording elite despise so bitterly.

As opposed to the recording musicians that the Sock despises? How is the PMG a “golden parachute?” It appears to be nothing more than a shell that could perhaps be turned into a union if the AFM keeps waging war on LA recording musicians.

Frankly, if the AFM were to vanish tomorrow, the effect on most symphony musicians would be negligible, given that our contracts are between our managements and our locals. The RMA needs a real national union; symphony musicians don't have one and never did. What we have is a federation of locals, and for symphony musicians, the operative word in that phrase is "locals."

We’d have to re-create a place for audition ads, and hire a few negotiators, and rebuild a strike fund. But, if there are other valuable services that the AFM is providing symphony musicians for the $2 million or so that comes out of our pockets bound for 1501, I don’t know about them.

If the AFM was so concerned about being an effective union for symphony musicians, why was the position of SSD Director left open for more than half a year - during the worst downturn in the fortunes of the orchestra industry in our lifetimes?

".. click on his profile and check out the URL folks."

That's funny -- I didn't know you could do that. So if I read it right 802disgrace's name is Michael Comins? Anyone know this creep? Hey 802disgrace 'small d for small man' it looks like your pathetic identity is blown.

btw, why is everyone so riled up about 802's identity? click on his profile and check out the URL folks! that didn't happen by accident.

Robert: "The AFM will not be destroyed because of one or two people cross the line of polite discourse in attacking individuals. But it may well be destroyed because its leaders see political advantage in demonizing a minority group within the union."

And that's why we're at opposite ends of the spectrum on this, Bob. From my point of view, it's not the AFM who's filing the multiple federal lawsuits, attacking the Federation. It's very clear here who is amassing the warchest for more lawsuits, who is filing the lawsuits, and what the agenda of these radical musicians is. Now, we see them playing "nice" to other locals (like Phoenix), trying to gain sympathy for their cause, and taking a strong interest in the pension fund from what I've heard... Clearly trying to build support for the next convention.

And you know what? Building coalitions and campaigning is fine by me - let's see an open and honest race for the AFM President. But when the attack lawsuits are launched against the AFM, that's where loyalty ends and mercenary behavior begins.

Bob, it will truly take a born politician to spin the radical recording musicians' multiple federal attack lawsuits and formation of a competing guild into actions that somehow support and help the AFM. Your attempts to do that here on your blog as a sockpuppet (to use your term) for your new recording friends will no doubt earn you some gratitude down the line if they're able to gain control of the AFM, assuming they leave anything left of the AFM other than a back accounting office to process their own special payments.

And remember - they've got the golden-parachute PMG to jump to if their lawsuits are successful and the AFM becomes crippled or mortally damaged in the process of fending off these continuing legal and financial attacks. The same might not be said of symphony musicians, freelance musicians, or all those pesky "hobbyists" that the radical recording elite despise so bitterly.

I've been a regular poster in several web/bulletin board/blog -based communities, and I've come to the conclusion that anonymity is much less of a problem than most people think. It might be frustrating to put up with the occasional outrageous flame post, but in the end, reputation matters more than identity and most sites do ok with self-policing, i.e., someone who behaves like a jerk will be treated as such and not taken seriously, those who post well reasoned arguments are given extra weight, and anonymity/meat space reputation is weighed in as well.

The alternative is for Robert to patrol his site like a cop -- something I strongly suspect he's not interested in. I'm also inclined to believe the preservation of anonymity is really not necessary to Robert's purpose, and it is, after all, his site.

I don't like anonymity on principle. That's not to say that it can't allow some things to be said that need to be said. But my experience - both with this blog and watching some of the earlier ones - is that anonymity is way too tempting to those who like to engage in personal attacks, even if the the person attacked would have no credible means of retaliation if the posting had not been anonymous.

I saw way too many mean-spirited postings about the personal lives of AFM officers (including some current incumbents); stuff that I thought was not only unfair but which was really not relevant to their job performance. What I didn't see was much discussion of the issues facilitated by anonymity.

And Rick's right; not only do I not want to have to "patrol" the site, but I know that any attempts I make at keeping discussion within bounds will quickly lead to cries of "censorship." There's a difference between censorship and limiting comments to substance - but it's generally hard for the censoree to see that. I don't want to have to spend time, and energy, in defending myself against charges of censorship, no matter how bogus.

RL: "to create a cause celébre because one of those under attack lashed backed is really beyond description."

Whatever. My point is go ahead and "lash back" if that's what one feels he needs to do, just be accountable, sign your post. Otherwise the site itself facilitates the abuse, in my opinion.

Agreed. I'm trying to figure out how to implement it within the limitations of the TypePad platform.

RL: "to create a cause celébre because one of those under attack lashed backed is really beyond description."

Whatever. My point is go ahead and "lash back" if that's what one feels he needs to do, just be accountable, sign your post. Otherwise the site itself facilitates the abuse, in my opinion.

I am sympathetic to keys88 argument to keep open the option of anonymous posting and I agree it is a rational position for someone living in LA.

After being personally attacked anonymously by two different posters on this site I'm not convinced any problem here can be solved leaving the anonymous option open. I understand some people may be against me for one reason or another -- fair enough, they are welcome to their opinions. If someone wants to attack me and sign their name -- again fair enough; I have recourse. I never post anonymously. Anonymous too easily morphs into reckless, malicious. Either people sign their posts and take responsibility or, it seems to me, the danger of anonymous abuse and irresponsible even depraved conduct remains.

The alternative is for Robert to patrol his site like a cop -- something I strongly suspect he's not interested in. I'm also inclined to believe the preservation of anonymity is really not necessary to Robert's purpose, and it is, after all, his site.

The Committee site is a little different. Few posts are posted live in real time so this particular problem has not arisen -- yet. Otherwise the publication of posts on the Committee site is open for all "...subject to the bounds of good taste and decorum....," as the site clearly states, with good taste and decorum to be determined before publication.

The Sock:

Finally, remember that the issue with 802disgrace's offensive posts that represented a direct personal attack on Rick Blanc, supported by lies, is not the anonymity of 802disgrace, it was the content of the posts. Anonymous or not, those posts were WAY over the line, and I find Robert's casual indifference to that content to be the real issue here, not whether or not someone puts their career in jeopardy by putting their name to a post. The personal attack that those posts represent was outrageous and inappropriate no matter who signed the post.

One has to admire the way in which the Sock makes my conduct the issue, rather than anonymity, or making personal attacks on other musicians, or sockpuppetry, or anything else.

It sums up very neatly what I’ve always despised about the way the Sock – and his bosses – operate; the use of whatever issue is floating around to attack those who criticize them about substance, regardless just how trivial or irrelevant is the basis of their attack. No one but a born politician would be so adept at using whatever material was at hand to advance their own personal agenda.

And for someone who’s made a career on this blog by anonymously attacking a whole group fellow musicians and union members as greedy, selfish pigs to create a cause celébre because one of those under attack lashed backed is really beyond description.

The AFM will not be destroyed because of one or two people cross the line of polite discourse in attacking individuals. But it may well be destroyed because its leaders see political advantage in demonizing a minority group within the union.

Doug -

Thanks for considering my viewpoint (sorry for the length!), and good luck with your orchestra situation - it's situations like yours that demonstrate how strong AFM members can be when they act with loyalty and solidarity - perhaps others will learn from this excellent example.

Dear Phil,

Thanks for your kind words. It's been tough adjusting to a sudden 25% loss in compensation but I'm still grateful to be able to make a living as a musician in this rough national economy.

Dear Keys88,

Thanks for taking the time to write a thorough case for anonymity. You make many points that I need more time to consider but for sure I agree that musicians should not be punished for expressing their opinions. At the same time it is difficult to take anyone seriously who writes with extreme invective. The message that style sends to me is that whatever case is being made is not strong enough to stand up on its own merit. On this blog on too many occasions in my opinion, invective language from anonymous posters has done nothing more than perhaps provide them with emotional release due to the very safety that such anonymity provides. But such remarks rarely advance the discussion and for me that becomes frustrating. As an anonymous poster, thanks again for giving me a thoughtful response to my opinion. I will consider your points further.

Doug

Dear Doug,

You and I have had only the most passing contact. At risk of now causing some ghost to taint you as an RMA lackey, I want to offer public appreciation to you.

The Orchestra in Columbus suffered one the most blistering management attacks that has been seen in recent years. The resulting contract was not a pretty picture to many, but your leadership together with that of your colleagues in the Orchestra made all the difference in salvaging the best from an almost impossible situation. That should never go unnoticed or forgotten.

As a bassoonist in that Orchestra you put yourself at risk both professionally and politically, because you were committed to doing the right thing. I applaud your courage and that of many other outstanding AFM Local Officers who continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with each other for the good of our musical community. Thank You

Doug writes, "I think this blog would be much better if you did not allow anonymous postings. People who wish to express their opinions must at the same time take responsibility for the words they choose to use."

OK, Doug, but in LA where a single contractor does the vast majority of top film/TV studio work, any critical comments said publicly about this contractor could be a very quick career-ender. We have no job security in this business, the contractor can simply stop calling a musician for session dates and that's it. No appeal, no contract, no reason need be given. And there's a long line of "loyal" (ie non-criticizing) musicians in line behind every working musician, ready to take the gig at the drop of a hat.

How would you expect to still hear both sides of these issues if there was no anonymity? And as far as criticism of the RMA, who is very, very closely tied to this major contractor (they "arranged" for this contractor to be an AFM member, despite being a non-musician), that sort of criticism can be just as career-threatening given the cozy relationship between this contractor and the RMA.

Bottom line: Nobody's going to put their career in jeopardy in order to voice their opinions on this or any other AFM blog - it's simply not worth it. An end to anonymity means and end to dissent when it comes to any criticism of the current RMA/contractor power structure in LA. If all you want is posters who agree with the RMA and their tactics, that's what you'll get... a bunch of RMA cheerleaders. Is that really what you want?

By the same token, check out http://www.responsible47.com - the anonymous watchdog group that for years has published a newsletter that, despite being critical of some of the RMA and Local 47's tactics and actions (for example, when the former Local 47 President hired a convicted felon as his assistant), still publishes ALL COMMENTS sent to it, pro and con. The fact that these comments can be published anonymously has created an active dialogue, including both RMA supporters and those concerned with some of the RMA's actions. It's a great example of how anonymity has created a free flow of ideas and opinions on both sides of these issues, without forcing those who comment to put their careers in jeopardy by insisting they identify themselves. If anyone believes that responsible47.com has published something that is incorrect, they can write and it will be published from what I've seen. By the same token, I doubt the RMA newsletter would be so quick to publish letters and comments critical of the RMA. Indeed, it's interesting to watch some people howl about how the responsible47.com newsletter is full of "lies", yet there are never any details attached to these "charges". No specific "lies", just "lies". Very revealing.

Finally, remember that the issue with 802disgrace's offensive posts that represented a direct personal attack on Rick Blanc, supported by lies, is not the anonymity of 802disgrace, it was the content of the posts. Anonymous or not, those posts were WAY over the line, and I find Robert's casual indifference to that content to be the real issue here, not whether or not someone puts their career in jeopardy by putting their name to a post. The personal attack that those posts represent was outrageous and inappropriate no matter who signed the post. And even if someone does sign the post with a name rather than a nickname, what's next... some sort of validation that if someone signs a post "Robert Nelson" that someone named "Robert Nelson" actually exists and is the poster? There's no practical way, short of enclosing this blog in an AFM-members-only controlled password-protected website, that you could ever come close to ensuring that whatever name gets signed to a post here is the actual name of the poster who is a current AFM member. And then what? Exclude potential AFM members (like music students and those considering rejoining the AFM) from including their voice in the conversation?

In my opinion, the critical issues we are dealing with today are the ISSUES that are shaping the AFM and its Locals going forward, not the personalities and personal details of those who choose to offer ideas and debate the issues. That's the entire problem with the 802disgrace thread - instead of writing about ideas, he chose to attack a writer of those ideas personally here with lies and filthy, despicable insinuations regarding self-gratification and other repugnant references. Just because a poster chooses to avoid endangering his or her career by not disclosing their name doesn't mean their data or ideas are any less valid than those people who choose to attach their name (or "a" name) to their posts. It's the ideas that matter.

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