Burt Prelutsky

The last time I saw “The Wizard of Oz,” I found myself identifying not with the Scarecrow, the Tin Man or even the Cowardly Lion, but with Toto. I mean, one minute, the pooch is in Kansas, and the next thing he knows, he’s in Oz, and hundreds of midgets in weird costumes are prancing around and singing about a dead witch. Oh, sure, Dorothy Gale was confused, too, but at least she spoke the language. But what was her little dog to make of such strange goings-on? He really had no idea which end was up, and the truth is, neither do I.

For instance, who sits down and determines the length of prison sentences that go with certain crimes, and how is it that they make such a hash of it? For instance, why do convicted rapists, pedophiles and animal abusers, ever get to walk out of jail? Even if you’re opposed to capital punishment, what excuse is there for ever releasing one of these monsters?

Frankly, I think that whereas there might be mitigating circumstances where murder is concerned simply because, I’m sure we’d all agree, certain people are simply asking for it, there is never a legitimate reason to commit these other crimes.

This brings us to Michael Vick. I realize he hasn’t been tried and convicted of anything except of being a mediocre quarterback, but let us say, for the sake of argument, that he is guilty of having staged dog fights at his home and of having tortured, hanged and electrocuted, the underachievers. Wouldn’t the appropriate punishment for committing such barbaric acts be to treat this Falcon the way he treated those canines?

Speaking of professional athletes, will someone please explain why people will spend good money on over-priced products simply because some fellow, say Arnold Palmer or Tiger Woods, who’s been paid millions of dollars by the manufacturer, endorses it?

Also, why was there so much pressure on Camel cigarettes to rid its advertising of a large-nosed cartoon camel, but nobody squawks when guys like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Mr. Vick, cynically hawk $120 sneakers to children? Anyone who claims that the difference is that smoking is harmful should be reminded that selling tobacco products to minors is already illegal, while getting kids to pressure their parents to blow a bloody fortune on made-in-China footwear they’ll outgrow in a month or two is immoral and inexcusable.

Next, I’d like to know if anybody has ever done a study of the ACLU crowd to determine what makes them tick. Is it nature or nurture that causes them to turn out the way they do? Why is it -- especially in a post 9/11 America -- that they regard every sensible precaution taken against Islamic nutsies as an assault on our basic liberties?