- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 27, 2002

Noble: Erica Pratt, a pint-sized Steve McQueen who managed an epic great escape this week.
Last Monday, the seven-year-old Philadelphia resident was placed in peril that would have persuaded McQueen's Captain Virgil Hilt to stay a POW. She was dragged, kicking and screaming, into a car and driven to an abandoned home. There, her hands, head and feet were bound, and she was left locked in the basement.
Instead of panicking, she showed poise that any prisoner would envy. She started chewing. She bit and gnawed. She didn't stop biting until she had freed herself from her duct-tape fetters. She then found her way through the basement and up the stairs, where she was stopped by the locked door. Using her head (even though bits of duct tape were almost certainly still stuck to her teeth), she used her feet to kick out a wooden panel in the basement door. She wiggled through and continued her escape by breaking out a window and screaming for help. Her great escape was completed when two boys playing nearby heard her cries and pulled her to safety, nearly 24 hours after her great ordeal began.
Erica's suspected abductors, James Burns and Edward Johnson, had presumably spent the day thinking of ways to spend the $150,000 ransom they had demanded. Instead, they'll probably spend whatever money they have on attorney fees. Police arrested both men on Thursday, following a brief foot chase.
Hopefully, their fate, coupled with Erica's amazing escape, will give potential child-kidnappers plenty to chew on.

Knave: Country singer Steve Earle, who has managed the almost unspeakable (and certainly unsingable) feat of making music more offensive than almost anything by Eminem.
True, Eminem is a misogynist, a misanthrope and a malevolent, malicious, malodorous malcontent, whose music is much improved with a touch of "mute" to the radio remote. But at least Eminem hasn't stooped to the level of sympathizing with, much less glorifying, terrible Taliban John Walker Lindh.
Steve Earle's song, "John Walker's Blues," on his "Jerusalem" album which is slated for a late-September release, does both. Actually, it goes further. A sampling of the song's lyrics says it all:
"We came to fight the jihad, our hearts were pure and strong/We filled the air with our prayers and we prayed for our martyrdom/Allah has some other plans, a secret not revealed/Now they're dragging me back with my head in the sack to the land of the infidel/If I should die, I'll rise up to the sky like Jesus."
And while Steve Earle may believe that Johnny Walker can fly (R. Kelley just believed that he himself could fly), or perhaps simply had too much Johnny Walker, he's completely sober-minded about his opposition to the war on terrorism. He told one interviewer: "September 11 is being used as an excuse to do things that that side of the world was gonna do anyway. We were always going into Iraq at some point; this is being used as an excuse."
Perhaps such extreme silliness shouldn't be surprising from a self-proclaimed Marxist. Still, there's something simply revolting about such songwriting, regardless of whether it stems from heartfelt sympathy or crass commercial interest. (Besides, playing the raceer, controversycard only carries so far. Just ask Michael Jackson.)
It can only be hoped that, when "John Walker's Blues" is released, sad sales give Steve Earle the bottom-of-the-chart blues.


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