- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Punk elegy
"For many music fans who grew up in the 1970s and '80s, as I did, the death of Clash front-man and guerrilla rocker Joe Strummer [Dec. 23] was far more shocking than last year's death of George Harrison, or the 1980 murder of John Lennon for that matter. For those of us who came of age in the era of punk rock, The Beatles were little more than has-beens worse yet, they were hippies.
"The Clash, on the other hand, were the best that punk had to offer. Back then, the Clash truly were, as they called themselves, 'The Only Band That Matters.'
"The Clash, like nearly all British punk at that time, was an intellectual hodgepodge of anticorporate, anti-American, anti-establishment ideas.
"It wasn't the leftist politics that drew us in though the sense of rebellion was an integral part of it it was the rhythms, the energy, the wit and the outrage.
"This failure to get his increasingly political message across to his new listeners must have incensed Strummer, who dragged the band through a long, torturous recording session for what would become a three-album tirade against U.S. foreign policy in Central America entitled 'Sandinista!' (1980). The album cover had the band members in army helmets, as if ready to do battle with imperialist Uncle Sam themselves.
"By nearly all accounts, 'Sandinista!' ruined The Clash. The album itself was more a scattering of song fragments than a well-crafted, thematically consistent array of political songs, as was originally intended.
"[T]he title track off 'London Calling' is familiar to most audiences today as the theme music in Jaguar commercials."
Michael Judge, writing on "Eternity Calling," Thursday in the Wall Street Journal

Fading battle
"As the columnist John Podhoretz has pointed out, it was only three years ago that prominent conservative spokesmen, notably including Lynne Cheney, appeared before Congress to condemn the violence purveyed in rap lyrics by stars like Eminem. But when Eminem's semi-autobiographical movie '8 Mile' opened to large crowds recently, not a syllable of conservative criticism was to be heard. [I]n the age of terrorism, the battle against the liberal culture has faded as a key component of Republican politics.
"If once high-profile conservative causes are losing their punch, the same can be said of certain high-profile conservative spokesmen. Jerry Falwell may have permanently lost his place in acceptable conservative circles when, on the heels of the September 11 attacks, he appeared to place the blame on America's 'tolerant culture.' More recently, the Bush White House distanced itself from both Falwell and his fellow Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson for antagonistic remarks about the Muslim religion."
Daniel Casse, writing on "An Emerging Republican Majority?" in the January issue of Commentary
Who knew?
"So many of the foibles of 'The Simpsons' are projections of what happens in my life, and in our family. I see both the humor and the tragedy in everyday existences in the lives of Homer, Lisa, and Bart. Marge may be my favorite character. She is so pure in her life, she tolerates the nonsense and just stays right in there.
"Ned Flanders is another character I like. He seems naive, but keeps chugging on with his positive approach to life. Instead of being victimized by all of Homer's schemes and abuses, he ends up doing well, which confounds Homer. What's interesting to me about 'The Simpsons' is that it's about people of pure motive and perseverance who keep plowing ahead in spite of the lunacy that surrounds them."
Attorney General John Ashcroft, interviewed by Susanna Dokupil and Eli Lehrer in the January/February issue of the American Enterprise


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