Blame That Tune

Leo N. Miletich ("Rock Me with a Steady Roll," March) obviously has a sense of humor. However, his sense of reason seems to have abandoned him. Parallels drawn between the lyrics of Bessie Smith and Pat Boone and those of some recent heavy metal groups are as ludicrous as comparing Coca-Cola to cocaine.

Censors we are not. We are simply asking the recording industry to provide consumers with full information about the contents of a product before it is bought.

In a truly free market, every individual is given the opportunity to think for himself or herself. That is not the case today. Million-dollar record companies with million-dollar ad campaigns aimed at adolescents are doing the thinking for parents.

The Parents' Music Resource Center is not in existence to tell musicians what kind of music they should create or to tell children what kind of music they should listen to. Rather, we are here to ask the music industry to allow people to make their own decisions by giving them the information they need to do so.

This issue is not about ratings or censorship or legislation or religion. This issue is about children. By promoting awareness of explicit themes in music and television, we hope that parents will understand that it is up to them to teach their children to think critically so they will be unaffected by what artists and performers advocate.

Tipper Gore
Parents' Music Resource Center
Arlington, VA

As dangerous as the saber-rattling fundamentalists and would-be censors are, they do not operate in a vacuum. The music industry trade group, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), allegedly has cooperated with the censorship-minded PMRC by wimpishly agreeing to put warning labels on "offensive" records.

Why? The RIAA cannot afford to offend anyone, especially the PMRC, which is made up of senators' wives, as it needs broad, bipartisan support in order to get Congress to pass a home taping bill.

If the RIAA and industry bigwigs get their way, DAT (digital audio tape, a Japanese invention said to be superior to compact discs in sound quality) will never be introduced in this country. DAT allows the consumer to enjoy digital sound quality and to record as on a traditional cassette.

The RIAA would also like a hefty tax on all blank tapes and for dubbing decks (cassette recorder/players which can make copies of tapes) to be outlawed. What they fail to realize is that each innovation in the presentation of music only serves to increase the audience. Yes, most consumers do make copies of records and tapes but, as with Xeroxes of magazine articles or videocassettes of TV shows and films, it is generally for personal use. The Supreme Court has stood by this use of copying equipment.

Even though the home taping bill is supported by people who, on other issues, might be called liberals, the effect of such a measure would be increased government control of technology and the arts. I'm sure Jimmy Swaggart, Oral Roberts, and all their Bible-thumping friends wouldn't want it any other way.

Cary G. Darling
BAM (Bay Area Music) Magazine
Oakland, CA

Looking at my album collection, I realize that I own some music that is discriminated against. While I have heard much of what I own (Billy Joel, Jethro Tull, Dire Straits, Phil Collins, Pink Floyd, etc., etc.) on local radio stations, they seem to never play Petra, Steve Taylor, Mylon LeFevre, Leon Patillo, Kerry Livgren, etc., etc.

Kerry Livgren was a member of the group Kansas. John Schlitt was a lead vocalist for Head East before becoming lead vocalist for Petra. Leon Patillo was a member of Santana. When these people started writing and performing songs from a Christian perspective, they did not instantly lose their talent. Nor did they start writing the style of music one would hear on "The Lawrence Welk Show."

I find it interesting that I can be called a censor for wanting to be able to read the lyrics on an album or tape I wish to purchase for my daughter while no one complains when stations seem unwilling to play rock songs that have a "Christian flavor."

Kent Weaver
Sarasota, FL

Nicaragua or Not

Robert W. Poole remarks ("The Real Issue Is Nicaragua," Editorial, April) that the Sandinista regime's violation of human rights, though disturbing to those who value human liberty, "does not justify U.S. government efforts to overthrow the Sandinistas." But justify is ambiguous.

Any government is morally justified in helping free a people from rights-violating oppressors like the Sandinistas. This means that it is permissible, in the sense that there is no obligation to let the Sandinistas keep abusing the Nicaraguan people.

But not everything permissible is worth doing. So there is a second sense of justify which involves showing that the act to be justified is in the interest of the acting agent. Poole thinks that freeing the Nicaraguans is not in our interest unless leaving the Sandinistas in power "is a clear threat to the survival of the United States as a free society."

This is too high a standard. Benevolence can, for those who love the good and take pleasure in the presence of human decency, be a motive that leads us to aid an oppressed group of non-American innocents. We might be further motivated by the hope that, given free institutions, those people could develop into more advanced trading partners, making all our lives better.

Either of these good motives would have supported similar action to free the Jews from Hitler or the Ukrainians from Stalin. If Poole's standard were to be employed, a free people could never have taken up arms against the evil of a Hitler without first ascertaining that his evil was directed against their national institutions.

A difficulty today is that governments finance activities with taxes. But government activity should be financed voluntarily, and within that constraint, government should have the power to undertake actions to make the world a place in which human rights are respected. Doing so can make the world more a place of liberty and personal respect. Doing so is sometimes permissible and in our own interest, because the more the world is that way, the more it is our world—the world of free, rights-possessing people.

J. Roger Lee
Los Angeles, CA

It is ironic that in a magazine running a series on the Constitution, Robert Poole's recent editorial on ContraGate failed to address this aspect of the matter. The real issue is not how and when the "Reagan Doctrine" of supporting anticommunist insurgencies should be applied, but whether any such interventionist meddling is appropriate under our form of government.

Repeal of the Neutrality Laws (not mentioned in the editorial) would allow private efforts to aid pro-freedom forces. Unfortunately, the Colonel North imbroglio has tainted the notion of private aid with the odor of illegal efforts to circumvent congressional restrictions on government aid.

Friends of the contras need to recognize that Congress, empowered by the Constitution to deliberate these matters, has several times concluded that the Nicaraguan situation does not warrant warlike efforts to overthrow that government. Likewise, the State Department is empowered to conduct foreign policy and the Defense Department, upon act of Congress declaring war, is supposed to do the fighting for this country when paid with tax dollars.

This system, while certainly imperfect, was intended to make going to war very difficult and only under very clear circumstances of danger to the nation. While the Soviet Union and other nations may act in ways that we oppose morally and politically, overthrowing governments and subsidizing guerrillas with tax dollars should only occur with very clear constitutionally sanctioned mandates.

Mike Holmes
American Libertarian
Katy, TX