LOS ANGELES – Back in the good old days, whenever they were, a troubled American kid had a limited list of options: get a nose ring, listen to loud music, maybe sneak a cigarette or join a neighborhood gang.
Sure, we've had killers and even a couple of home-grown terrorists. The awful Timothy McVeigh and this year's "smiley-face bomber" are among the worst examples.
But we have clearly entered a new era of horror. Today's bad kid might just convert to militant Islam, train in bin Laden's terror camps, join Al Qaeda, and try to nuke the U.S. Capitol.
First, we had Johnny Taliban, the wannabe hip-hop hippie boy from Marin County, Calif. He wanted to "study" in Yemen and Pakistan. And now John Walker Lindh is on trial for being in the middle of an assault against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
U.K. families can worry about the creepy case of Richard Reid, who joined the nut-sandwich cause and tried to blow up a jetliner on its way from Paris to America. In Australia, parents shudder at the tale of terror wombat David Hicks, who was caught soldiering for the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Today, Brooklyn-born Jose Padilla is being held by the U.S. military for allegedly plotting to explode a radioactive "dirty bomb" in Washington, D.C. His pathetic career as a Chicago gang member led to eventual recruitment by bin Laden's boys.
Based on ignored CIA and FBI intelligence, I've put together a handy list of warning signs every parent should print out and hang on the fridge.
Should your teen-ager exhibit any of the below-listed behaviors, please just lock him up in the basement or something. Maybe he'll grow out of it, eventually, 40 years from now. Don't bother calling the federal authorities ... they're all busy blaming the other federal authorities for not finding your little terrorist in the first place.
(The gender-neutral reader may be saying, "Him?" I don't mean to be sexist or anything, but outside of Israel, the Islamist Terrorist tends to be a young man. So, "him" it is.)
— When exposed to nearly naked pop tarts on television, he snarls and says, "She will be punished when Islamic Law is established."
— While you're filling up the tank, he sits sullenly in the backseat and says, "The oil rightly belongs to the descendents of the Prophet. You will suffer a million deaths, infidel."
— Angrily attacks bacon-cheeseburger cardboard promotional sign on Wendy's counter.
— Insists he isn't shaving due to Allah's command, even though you can't see any evidence of a beard.
— Rants about "72 black-eyed virgins" whenever you ask why he's not interested in girls.
— Buys a burqa for his sister off eBay. Tries to kill her when she won't wear it.
— Begs for flight lessons while the other kids are going to driving school.
— Won't gargle with Listerine, due to the alcohol content.
— Always volunteers to fertilize the lawn; lawn is dead.
— Calls the paper the "Jew York Times."
— Also hates Muhammad Ali for no apparent reason.
— Issues several fatwas from family's AOL e-mail address.
— Volunteers as a janitor at the university medical center's radiology clinic. Always the last to leave.
— Charges $35 to your credit card to register KillAmericansAndJews.org.
— Has used all the paper towels and flour to make a George W. Bush effigy, which he's burning on the front lawn.
— No longer answers to Joey. Now it's Abdullah al Muhajir.
— Has absolutely no interest in anything beyond next month.
Ken Layne types from a shack behind his Los Angeles home. The author of trashy thrillers such as Dot.Con and the upcoming Space Critters, he has written and edited for a variety of news outfits including Information Week, the Sydney Daily Telegraph, UPI and Mother Jones. Since the Enron-like collapse of his Web paper, Tabloid.net, in 1999, he has been posting commentary to KenLayne.com.