The Musicians’ Voice

Volume CVIII, No. 2February, 2008

The Musicians’ Voice is an open forum for discussion about the state of union affairs. The letters published here do not necessarily express the views of Local 802. Letters must be 300 words or less. Send them to Allegro, c/o Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036, or e-mail Mikael Elsila, the editor, at


To the Editor:

Many members will feel ashamed if Allegro does not publish Rep. Dennis Kucinich’ photo with his positions on issues exactly as Allegro did for six candidates in its January issue.

How undemocratic for Allegro to have highlighted the media-promoted candidates! Greater exposure translates into promotion.

This inequality tops that of the candidates, with the most money buying the most airtime.

Allegro aids and abets conglomerate media misuse of publicly-owned airwaves, micro-managing the election process by mimicking maximum coverage for the same six media-promoted candidates, and no coverage for the single critic of the establishment, Dennis Kucinich.

Allegro presented Kucinich as among those not worthy of the space allotted the other candidates, suggesting readers go elsewhere to read his positions.

Americans accept unfair and undemocratic media-run elections as exciting entertainment.

In democratic countries it would be unacceptable to prejudge an election result and focus coverage accordingly.

ABC now blocks Mike Gravel and Kucinich from debate participation. During their last corporate-permitted appearances, Mike Gravel said, “…They died in vain in Vietnam and Iraq,” and Kucinich called for immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Fox blocks out Ron Paul. Blacked out from public knowledge are their proposals to reform corporate governance and corporate media war promotion. Blacked out are their ability to influence the elections.

Bill Moyer said, “Media will never permit you to get your message out.” Dennis pointed out that he is the runaway winner in polls of the party’s progressive, grassroots base, and scored a landslide 77 percent of the vote in a nationwide Internet poll of independent voters.

Dennis, a former mayor of Cleveland, has the strongest pro-union record in Congress. I suggest Allegro give Kucinich more exposure than the media-promoted candidates to help overcome conglomerate TV’s blackout. (Kucinich’ organization is suing ABC for blocking equal access under FEC and FEE rules.)

–Hank Nowak

ALLEGRO RESPONDS: Mr. Nowak makes excellent points. The question boils down to this: As a progressive union, should Local 802 highlight the more progressive presidential candidates in its newspaper? Keep in mind that we are limited to 24 pages and we already had devoted nine full pages to election coverage. Also keep in mind that our members are expressing a wide variety of views about who should be president. We chose an objective way to focus our coverage: we picked the three top-polling candidates from each of the two major parties, according to Gallup at the time we went to press. We printed extensive member responses about many of the candidates (including Kucinich) and we posted complete profiles of all of the candidates on our Web site. But the question remains an open one. How much should the paper push a progressive agenda vs. how much should we reflect the membership? It’s a balancing act and a judgment call. We’d like to hear from other members about this. Write letters to the editor using the information found in italics at the beginning of this page.

To the Editor:

Allegro’s coverage of the candidates was surprisingly lacking in any mention of their positions on Israel/Palestine.

Why is this issue important? America’s “special relationship” with Israel needs to end. America gives Israel $15 million a day to continue what Jewish-Israeli scholar Ilan Pappe calls the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

Israel is in its 41st year of a brutal occupation, has been defying international law by settling occupied territory, and has been defying the U.N. by refusing to allow the refugees to return for 60 years. Israel is a human rights nightmare, and America’s support of Israel is a major reason for global anti-American sentiment.

The front-runners, Democrat and Republican, are lining up to stroke the pro-Israel lobby. I personally saw Hillary speak at a rally in 2006, held to support Israel’s invasion of Lebanon.

Obama, who has made statements supportive of the Palestinians in the past, has reversed himself since entering the presidential race.

The candidates who are not kissing up to Israel are Kucinich, Gravel, Richardson and Paul. None of them is stating a clear position; none is stating preference for the only just solution: one multi-ethnic democratic state.

The three Democrats are making statements about a two-state solution and addressing the refugee situation. Paul, the lone Republican, is simply talking about ending our financial relationship. (There are many reasons not to support Paul, starting with his position on immigration.)

Allegro also failed to differentiate between Hillary and Edwards in their records on Iraq. While both voted to authorize the war, Edwards has since apologized, while Hillary, essentially a Republican, remains unrepentant.

I won’t vote for either one. I’m simply correcting an important omission.

As the Democratic candidates who are even-handed on Israel are unlikely to be nominated, my vote will go to McKinney, Green Party candidate.

–Rich Siegel


[The following letters relate to a story called “Hear My Voice” that Allegro published in November and subsequent letters that appeared in the December and January issues. ]

To the Editor,

Although this is hardly the most effective forum for political debates, I feel compelled to respond to letters in the last issue. Unfortunately, space limitations do not permit me to address every argument presented. (Brighter minds have debated this issue for decades: see Chomsky and Dershowitz.)

Essentially, the authors entirely missed the point of my letter, which was to question the inconsistencies between the headline and content of the original article, and also to present a more balanced viewpoint without engaging in a historical discussion of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Mr. Siegel’s allegations of racism are so off the mark as to be laughable. I suggest he consult Webster’s and then find anything in my letter that remotely suggests racism. Words such as terrorist and aggression are not “stereotypes” but terms applicable to Palestinians who use violence, indiscriminately targeting civilians to further their political aims. Yes, Mr. Siegel, a man strapping a bomb to his body, no matter what rationale you might presume, is still a terrorist. Last year over a thousand rockets fell into Israel from Gaza after Israel returned it to the Palestinians. Is that also “mythology”? If you want to go back to 1948 and 1967 (a fruitless exercise) need I remind you who started both wars, and every other war since?

Although convincingly presented, many of the second letter’s assertions are debatable. Regrettably, space limits my response. While sensitive to the Palestinian’s plight one shouldn’t ignore Israel’s right of self-defense. The claim that Israel “sabotaged every peace initiative” is factually wrong. One example is the Palestinians rejection of the Taba proposals in 2001. The notion that the resolution to this conflict is “simple” is both naive and unrealistic. While disagreeing with the authors, I’m certain I share their hope that somehow a lasting peace can be found.

–Norbert Goldberg

To the Editor:

Jews have lived for millennia in what the British called Palestine, and after the Holocaust, the U.N. established the nation of Israel. Previous to 1948, Jews were denied the right to pray at the holiest sites. The new state was attacked by six Arab armies, which were defeated. This began — which still exists today — a concerted campaign by these countries not to recognize Israel’s right to exist, coupled with a racist, neo-Nazi/segregationist image taught to Arab children, which totally demonizes Jews.

Historical sources from 1948 — including the Economist and Time magazines — show that the Arab National Committee, the Syrian and Iraqi prime ministers and the Arab League ordered the evacuation of Arab villages in and around Jerusalem and other areas within Israel, so that they would be out of the way of invading armies.

The so called “occupation of the West Bank” has given apologists the excuse to explain away terrorism by homicide bombers as resistance to occupation. If your country is defending itself against the kind of wanton slaughter seen in Israel, you will do what is necessary.

In 1967, 500,000 soldiers from Arab countries massed along Israel’s borders, and fortunately Israel prevailed with a pre-emptive strike. Why should Israel go back to pre-1967 borders that are indefensible? This is especially true now. The Arab world is by and large still committed to Israel’s destruction.

Finally, these apologists have never mentioned Jewish refugees from Arab countries who fortunately were assimilated into Israel. Arab countries have refused to do the same, and purposely allow them to remain in refugee camps where they can foster hatred, and sabotage any peace efforts. The U.N. has never addressed this once when it comes to Jewish refugees.

Lest we forget, what country did the 9/11 hijackers come from?

–Joel Zelnik

To the Editor:

I have been a dues-paying member in Local 802 for over 60 years. The only political agenda Allegro should engage in is that which directly affects musicians. For example, the music industry that supports award shows that give away $15 trophies to people who lip-sync, dancers whose choreography is no more than that of an aerobics class, and engineers who produce sound that is excruciating. 

If Sandy O., Norbert Goldberg, Rich Siegel, Nancy Elan and Thomas Suarez are troubled by the events in the Middle East, they should direct their comments to publications such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. 

–Marvin Pakman


[This letter concerns the passing of French hornist Jerry Ashby; see “Requiem” in this issue.]

To the Editor:

I first encountered Jerry Ashby in the 70’s when he was a high school student. Jerry played one of the Mozart horn concerti with the American Symphony. Later, I met him when he was a member of the Symphony of the New World horn section. I think he was still a student at Juilliard.

On page 6 is a picture of Jerry when we played a brass quintet concert. The other players are David Finlayson on trombone, Warren Deck on tuba, Carl Sakofsky on trumpet and yours truly on trumpet. David, Warren and Jerry were members of the New York Philharmonic. Carl Sakofsky provided the photo; he and and Jerry played in an orchestra in Mexico City.

–Wilmer Wise


To the Editor:

What a wonderful tribute about my beloved husband Francis (Frank) Lavaia in last month’s Allegro. I never thought about him being anybody’s hero but ours. Every day he showed our sons, Matthew and Michael, what it was to be an outstanding stagehand. He was never late, never called in sick, never complained, even when the work was backbreaking and around the clock. He chose this profession, and except for me and his boys, and his new grandson Giovanni, it was the love of his life.

He was a third generation stagehand and held his legacy in the highest esteem. He always told our boys, “Your name may get you in the door but it will never keep you there if you aren’t the most responsible, dedicated, respectful and hard working stagehand. ” He followed his own advice always. He died on the picket line fighting for the next generation’s respect, his sons’ respect.

They are the fourth generation following in his footsteps; very large shoes to fill. Every day his sons have to travel the same road to work… everyday they have to walk 44th Street… every day they have to enter the Minskoff Theatre… every day they have to go to the office that used to be their dad’s. Even though there is a gaping hole in their lives they are not alone. They have the local unions behind them, like 802, who will not cross the picket line, who will fight for the respect the union workers deserve. His sons will carry on their hero’s legacy every day for the rest of their lives. Their respect and love for their dad’s memory is endless and they are, and will continue to be, union members and stagehands, whom Francis Lavaia was very, very proud to call his sons.

–Bonnie Lavaia