Dec. 19, 2001

Trial By Firing Squad

By Roy Rivenburg
Wisdom of Solomon: A debate is raging over what to do with terrorists who are captured alive. According to polls, 19% of Americans favor President Bush’s plan to put them on trial before a secret military tribunal, 20% prefer regular courts and 61% want them tried on an episode of ‘‘Ally McBeal.’’

We like the military tribunal idea -- but not for terrorists. If the goal is to mete out justice quickly and avoid the usual legal maneuvering, send the terrorists to a regular courtroom. Judges and juries will waste no time convicting them. Save the military tribunals for all the other idiots clogging our judicial system. Here are a few cases, gleaned from the New York Daily News,, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Chicago Sun-Times:

-- A New York City man returned to a bank he robbed a week earlier and opened an account for the stolen money, according to police.
-- A Georgia man was arrested for allegedly sending a hoax anthrax letter to the police chief of Smyrna, Ga. The tipoff: his return address on the envelope.
-- The family of an 18-year-old Florida man who overdosed on a painkiller that his friends stole from a drugstore has sued the pharmaceutical company because the painkiller wouldn’t have existed if the company didn’t manufacture it. The family also sued the drugstore for not stopping the theft.

And why stop with dumb crooks and frivolous lawsuits? We also favor secret military trials for Barney the dinosaur, the creators of ‘‘Not Another Teen Movie’’ and Rochester, Minn., school officials who punished two students for violating the separation of church and state by wearing red and green scarves in a holiday skit and using the phrase, ‘‘We hope you all have a merry Christmas.’’

Sign of the Times: A gay version of Charles Dickens’ ‘‘A Christmas Carol’’ recently played in New York with Ebenezer Scrooge as a bitter interior designer and Tiny Tim as Bob Cratchit’s HIV-positive lover.

Alarming Trends Bureau: The latest harbingers of doom for western civilization:

-- A Georgia company is manufacturing water beds for cows, according to the Associated Press.
-- The city of Pomona, Calif., has an Accounting Hall of Fame.
-- 56 percent of Americans sing holiday carols to their pets, according to an Internet survey by
-- A New Zealand company called has registered the Christian cross symbol as a domain name and put it up for sale. Asking price: $20,000.
-- Professors from Northwestern and Purdue are forging a Samurai sword from a meteorite.
-- Artist Nadia Rosen of Culver City, Calif., specializes in reproducing famous works of art, such as the Mona Lisa and the poster from ‘‘Jaws,’’ on toilet lids.

Supermarket Tabloid Headline of the Week: ‘‘Satan’s Tail Found in Bear Trap!’’ (Weekly World News)

Bonus headline, from the National Enquirer: ‘‘Drugged-Out O.J.: I Killed Nicole.’’ Apparently his search for the real killers finally paid off.

By the way, tabloids aren’t the only source for wacky headlines. Here are some gems from mainstream media outlets:
-- ‘‘Man Kills Self, 3 Others, Police Say’’ (Los Angeles Times). Hmm. Did he do it in that order?
-- ‘‘Second Artificial Heart is Walking’’ (Associated Press Health Wire). Yes, but can the artificial heart ride a bicycle?
-- ‘‘Boy Killed by Shark Described as Upbeat’’ (AOL news summary).

Unpaid Informants: Washington Times, Terry Mattingly, Wireless Flash News Service, David Allen, Barbara Chuck, Washington Post, Chris Willman.

Copyright 2001 by Roy Rivenburg
Distributed by
Creators Syndicate