Box Full of Letters from Issue #54
Politics and music:
You have previously published both demographic and anecdotal information about how educated and intelligent your readership is. Don’t you think we’re capable of making up our own minds on presidential question? How many of us do you think were sitting around saying, “I wish Grant and Peter would endorse a candidate — THEN I would know what to do!”
The most beautiful things in life are both above and beyond politics and the magazine is one of them. You should try to keep it that way. Why sully the pages with your own or anyone else’s half-baked political ideas? The first part of your weird, rambling note was an ode to your own open-mindedness and even neutrality on such issues. The second part was a half-assed “endorsement” of Senator Kerry, which really was nothing more than a non-endorsement of Mr. Bush. Gentlemen, this was not your finest work.
Often on weekends, I turn off the shrill voices coming from my television, gather up some good reading like ND, and sit in a quiet place. No Depression USUALLY takes me far away from the shallow, vitriolic, and plainly stupid world of American politics. Imagine how I felt to find your “endorsement.”
Please refrain from such gibberish in the future. It is not worthy of you or the magazine.
— Jason Manning
I’m getting sick of all this political banter throughout your magazine. This is a music magazine (and tends to be a rather good music magazine). Instead of turning it into an attempt to corral people toward one political stance, why not focus on the music?
What particularly pissed me off is the insinuation, in the Ray Charles “Farther Along”, that Ronald Reagan had the gall to die four days prior to Ray. My goodness!?!? Can’t you let the man’s spirit rest in peace? Who cares if David Cantwell didn’t/doesn’t like Reagan? (I sure don’t.) And who can hold it against Reagan for dying on the day he did. And please, for the love of all things good, tell me what in the world that had to do with Ray Charles anyway?
Please get rid of your political commentaries. We can make up our own minds about who we’re going to vote for, and who we want to respect, without a music magazine trying to shove us toward one side. That’s not why I bought your magazine.
I bought your magazine for the Buddy Miller article. And prior to that for the Patty Griffin article. And prior to that for Sam Phillips/Loretta Lynn… Notice — politics wasn’t the reason.
— Daniel J. Summers
I almost did not renew my subscription in 2003 as I thought the political content was too much then. Oh, how I wish I had let it lapse at that time. It’s not a mistake I am going to make again.
In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy the excellent layout, interesting articles and reviews by skipping the political stuff. After reading, it will be straight into the paper recyclables without a word to any more local musicians about stuff in ND and how they need to subscribe to it.
I disagree with most of the political points made by the editors, reviewers and three-quarters of the artists you chose to feature in issue #53, but that is not the point.
I disagree strongly with over half of the contents of the Utne Reader and I read that, but ND is not the Utne Reader. You folks have to have known you were going to lose subscribers by becoming an organ of the Kerry campaign.
I do appreciate Buddy Miller’s warning about being so partisan that it led to hatred. I hope the editors, several of the reviewers and most of the other featured artists in the issue read it and take it to heart.
— Gary Smith
The arrogance and ineptitude of this president is so egregious, summarizing the failures of the past three and a half years in a letter to the editor is impossible. I stand dumbfounded (with most of the world) that people can still support this administration; it is almost beyond comprehension. I want to thank No Depression for their thoughtful insight into what is truly the most important election in a generation. Count me in as a lifetime subscriber.
— Benjamin Goulet
Providence, Rhode Island
I am sorry to see No Depression publish such a poor editorial without basic supporting information, as was published in “Hello Stranger” in ND #53 (September-October 2004). The first half of the opinion page was reasonable and well stated. I believe this large amount of print could have been used for better purposes. I would have liked to have seen some support for your final conclusion that you endorse John Kerry and John Edwards other than “we deserve better”. Not once did you explain how John Kerry is better.
Several of your reasons for not endorsing George Bush could apply directly to the candidate you endorse. One example, “…the administration’s decision to wage pre-emptive war…” It seems John Kerry was one of the politicians to vote to authorize the president to use pre-emptive force. You brought up Abu Ghraib as an example of how the president “invalidated cardinal freedoms expressed in the Bill of Rights,” while you endorse a man who testified before Congress that he was involved with similar acts during the Vietnam War.
You provided the example of replacing a corporate executive who “gambled his shareholders’ fortunes.” I do not disagree, but most shareholders would want to make sure the next executive would not lead us into the same acts. Where is the evidence that John Kerry would not lead us into the same or even greater fumbles?
You state that “We take to this page not simply to reinforce the antipathy of pointy headed liberals”, but that is exactly what you did. The party of your endorsed candidate has put forward a campaign of, “We have to change, the candidate does not matter, we just need a change.” No one can show me evidence from past actions that your endorsed candidate would be any different than the current President. Some might say any change is better than what we currently have, but is it really? I will try my best to keep an open mind until election day looking for some definitive information to give me the confidence to vote for your endorsed candidate.
Unfortunately this letter will probably not be published by the time of the election (if you elect to do so). I too hope everyone will show up and vote come election day, but at the same time I hope they actually try to reason through the decision.
— Jeff Whitmire
So glad to read you have taken a firm stance in your choice of Miller over Budweiser. Needless to say we readers were waiting breathlessly to discover who you would support. O the suspense!
When I last checked you were a music magazine. Leaving it at that would’ve been to take the high road, and all the Steve Earle arguments of the past would’ve been so much chaff on the wind.
But no you had to waste an entire page/column on stooping to needless partisan rhetoric. And really fancy stuff, that; I thought I detected whiffs of the Declaration Of Independence in there. If you just had to do it, a paragraph would’ve sufficed. Instead you put your foot in it big time.
Here is the question. What does the staff of an alternative music magazine know about alternative politics?
Not much evidently, because Kerry makes a poor alternative to Bush. Both are well-heeled members of the elite. Both went to the same Ivy League school and are members of the same secret society, Skull & Bones. Both are internationalists/globalists of the first order (New World Order to you and me). And Kerry cannot even summon the cajones to come out against the war. Think he’ll bring our boys back home? I don’t.
When democracy at the national level has reached such a low as to be regarded as an utter travesty it behooves one to vote for none of the above. To do otherwise is to participate in one’s own undoing. When a murderer asks you how you want to die, you do not dignify that question with a response. You ignore it, or you fight back.
You are doing neither, and only reinforcing the same old dysfunctional game. A kinder, gentler form of totalitarianism just is not an alternative to compassionate conservatism for any people who truly worship the essence of freedom.
In closing, here is a quote from Frederick Douglass: “Find out just what people will quietly submit to, and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
You are enduring well, No Depression.
— Steve Vetter
I was shocked (shocked!) to read that ND’s editors were encouraging their readership to vote for the two Johns in the upcoming presidential election, rather then our incumbent Texas outlaw cowboy, George dubya, who put the world on notice not to mess with Texas, I mean America. John #1 agreed enough to support dubya’s course of action, but I guess that’s just a technicality.
You condemn dubya for not pursuing diplomacy with our allies; however, we pursued diplomacy for over ten years in post-Gulf War I Iraq and were worn down with daily showdowns in the Iraq no-fly zone and harassment of the U.N. weapons inspectors in their efforts to keep things transparent. Diplomacy resulted in the corrupt Oil-for-Food Program which starved Iraqi citizens while enriching Saddam and his friends, our allies, France and Germany (hmmmmm). You condemn dubya for going after Iraq though there appear to be no links between Saddam and al Qaeda; however, Saddam’s public support of the families of Palestinian homicide terrorists to the tune of $20K per mass slaughter was not becoming of a contained dictator. You condemn dubya for not finding WMDs, yet you fail to mention the tens of thousands murdered by gas after Gulf War I and the mass graves uncovered since major operations ended. “Chemical Ali” didn’t get that nickname because he was someone’s ace lab partner.
If we hadn’t finally called Saddam’s bluff, Tony Blair wouldn’t be hugging our new ally, the former terrorist supporter Qaddafi and Pakistan’s rogue nuclear scientists would still be secretly proliferating WMDs to our enemies.
Dubya, being from Texas, doesn’t take polls to decide on a course of action. He calls an axis-of-evil spade an axis-of-evil spade. If it’s extended diplomacy you want, look at how well it’s working with the other members of said axis: North Korea (the latest crackpot member of the nuclear club) and Iraq-redux country Iran (a soon-to-be crackpot member of the nuclear club).
Left-leaning NDers should be singing praises that U.S. intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan rang the chimes of freedom for millions of women, children, and men in what were previously two of the most repressive countries in the world. Your ND readers in those countries were probably a bit dismayed with your comments. They just want to rock out to the new Silos and Tandy albums like us Americanos, without getting their hands chopped off in the process.
Rather than tout the Michael Moore via Leni Riefenstahl version of reality, I defer to the intellect of Elie Wiesel, who unlike us patchouli-wearing/roots-rock-listening NDers, has been to hell on earth when evil was not confronted in a timely manner (we only got a taste on 9/11): “In extreme left-wing political and intellectual circles, suspicion and distrust toward America is the order of the day. They deride America’s motives for its military interventions, particularly in Iraq. They say: It’s just money. As if America went to war only to please the oil-rich capitalists…They are wrong. America went to war to liberate a population too long subjected to terror and death…We see in newspapers and magazines and on television screens the mass graves and torture chambers imposed by Saddam Hussein and his accomplices. One cannot but feel grateful to the young Americans who leave their families, some to lose their lives, in order to bring to Iraq the first rays of hope — without which no people can imagine the happiness of welcoming freedom.”
— Rich Bailen
From many quarters we hear that the coming U.S. election is the most meaningful in decades, a clear choice between Bush and Kerry. In the spirit of “hearing all sides” espoused by ND #53’s editorial, I offer an alternative opinion: It is the most meaningless. Let me restate that: It does not fundamentally matter who is in the White House come November 3.
Both belong to the same elite and serve the same masters — Buddy Miller might well have chosen “Masters Of War” for his Dylan cover. Bush has served them in an almost neanderthal manner; Kerry would be more insidious but no less effective at promoting the elite’s aim of global economic domination at the expense of everyone — including most Americans — but themselves. Now, I might be wrong…but if your candidate gains the White House yet your world continues to crumble, ponder these words.
In the meantime, take heart: The world has not forsaken you. The anti-Americanism widely reported in the U.S. media is (at least in western countries) purely a revulsion at Bush’s unilaterism. The rest of the world holds a flame for America because its founding document is the most enlightened to date in the history of man. But America’s rulers have strayed so far from the spirit of that document, they now stand diametrically opposed to it. (The watershed was establishing a prison camp in Cuba specifically outside U.S. jurisdiction.) America is a house that has shifted off its foundations — and that house cannot stand. Jimmy LaFave nailed it in his towering “Worn Out American Dream” (from Buffalo Return To The Plains, 1995).
So, to ND readers of all stripes, best wishes for what I suspect will be some tumultuous years. I lived in Boston for two years and America holds a special place in my heart. You guys have got some housekeeping to do, but I believe you can do it — and the music that charts this epic time will be truly phenomenal.
— Mike Hallett
Auckland, New Zealand
Editor’s Note: For almost three decades it has been my personal policy not to respond in print to letters to the editor, but this particular matter seems to require a postscript or two.
I type these words during the final movements of the nastiest and most destructive presidential campaign of my memory, which goes back — albeit dimly — to 1964. I am particularly struck by the blind fury with which some readers responded to our endorsement of a mainstream candidate for president. If we are really a country so bitterly divided, we are headed for a rough and rocky road no matter who is elected.
You may or may not wish it to take place in these pages, but we have to be able to talk about our differences, and preaching to the converted only weighs down the collection plate. They may rarely be so explicit, but politics have always been — and will always be — among the textures of these pages. Great songs (and good writing) come from hard thinking, and surely we wish our best artists to grapple with the most difficult and important subjects they encounter.
The lengthening tradition of rock criticism is inextricably interwoven with politics. So is the music in the pop marketplace. I’ve spent my entire adult life studying both music and politics with equal interest and passion. There are of course, at least an equal number of reader who, over the years, have pronounced me wholly equally unfit to write about music
— Grant Alden
Camper Van Beethoven:
The real “Low” down
Allow me to extend my compliments to Allison Stewart (and to artist Stanley Shaw as well) for the splendid article on New Roman Times, the long awaited and wonderful new album from my brothers in Camper Van Beethoven. That done, I do feel compelled to comment on the sub-topic of filmmaker Michael Moore. Although Moore is sometimes bombastic and haphazard in his zeal to dethrone the current regime, I believe him to be a truly passionate patriot and a hero to all of us non-millionaires out here in the real United States (even if he himself is one now). Although David [Lowery, CVB’s leader] mentioned the offer to me, I hope that the makers of the anti-Moore film Michael Moore Hates America neglect to contact me. Considering that the song in question, “Low”, was co-written by David and myself, I would therefore be able to sue the filmmakers for copyright infringement and in turn contact Mr. Moore as to what charitable organization he would have me send the reward money to.
— Johnny Hickman
My Morning Jacket:
Up in smoke
In Mike Usinger’s ND #52 review of My Morning Jacket’s Vancouver show, I found myself wondering whether he had written a concert review or simply a lamentation of not getting to spend enough time in pot-friendly British Columbia.
hile MMJ has admittedly embraced a jam-friendly, long-hair friendly style of music (with some fans who like to toke), the review was peppered with constant drug or alcohol references, some a paragraph long. C’mon Mike, was the repetition necessary in giving a report of the evening’s music? Assuming the band was baked because the show’s pacing was inconsistent seems like a shortcut to giving a thoughtful critique. I have no idea what Jim James or the rest of his band’s personal preferences are, and it does not affect my life either way.
Personally, when I find out that a particular performer chooses to perform or record sober, I think that is pretty cool. It seemed like on the Vancouver night James did not even talk about pot, even if the crowd/show suggested that use was going on.
Some people like to imbibe when they see live music (I’m no different), but enjoying and describing a show is about a lot more than that. It is about the experience of witnessing another person’s talent, feeling a sense of community with new people, and being able to forget about life’s routines for a little while.
“Miked” reviews are one of my favorite parts of the new ND issue I look for in my mailbox. I just hope it stays about providing interesting and clever (which this could have been) accounts of the live shows of our favorite bands, instead of losing the forest for the trees, or weeds, we decided to focus on instead.
— Eric Hanson