Some years ago, Alan and I attended the Halloween parade in Defiance, Ohio. Those who attend such events know that a big portion consists of fire trucks, police cars and other public-safety conveyances, lights and sirens a-goin’, for the delight of children lining the route.
This particular year, one police agency showed off its latest toy — a handsome mobile command center, an enormous vehicle, a police station on wheels, presumably for use in the sorts of disasters that strike a place like Defiance. (Crickets.) OK, tornadoes. And floods. What if the police station was flooded? They would need that mobile command center.
Alan is all for public safety, but only recently we had been discussing the news that the city swimming pools might have to close for lack of funding. “But the taxpayers can afford that?” he fumed.
Of course, the taxpayers probably can’t afford that, but Uncle Sam can, and I’d wager my next meager paycheck that at least some of the bill was picked up by a federal agency entrusted with keeping Defiance safe from al-Qaeda attack. Every smart police chief and sheriff knows there’s money galore for such things, if you know where to look.
(That Klan rally in Fort Wayne I alluded to a few days ago? When the Klan spoke outside the county courthouse, the perimeter was protected by a line of sheriff’s deputies, each one holding a brand-spanking-new plexiglas riot shield. Riots are a rare event in Allen County. I began to suspect having a couple dozen tooth-challenged Klansmen hold a rally was the best thing that ever happened to the sheriff’s equipment budget.)
Anyway. I think I’m right:
It reads like a tally of terrorist targets that a child might have written: Old MacDonald’s Petting Zoo, the Amish Country Popcorn factory, the Mule Day Parade, the Sweetwater Flea Market and an unspecified “Beach at End of a Street.�? But the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, in a report released Tuesday, found that the list was not child’s play: all these “unusual or out-of-place�? sites “whose criticality is not readily apparent�? are inexplicably included in the federal antiterrorism database.
Oh, it gets better. Ready?
The National Asset Database, as it is known, is so flawed, the inspector general found, that as of January, Indiana, with 8,591 potential terrorist targets, had 50 percent more listed sites than New York (5,687) and more than twice as many as California (3,212), ranking the state the most target-rich place in the nation.
Indiana, “the most target-rich place in the nation” for terrorist attacks. They should put that on the license plates.
Even the locals are baffled: One business owner who learned from a reporter that a company named Amish Country Popcorn was on the list was at first puzzled. The businessman, Brian Lehman, said he owned the only operation in the country with that name. “I am out in the middle of nowhere,�? said Mr. Lehman, whose business in Berne, Ind., has five employees and grows and distributes popcorn. “We are nothing but a bunch of Amish buggies and tractors out here. No one would care.�?
Amusingly enough, Lehman’s congressman is hard at work building a national reputation for opposition to wasteful government spending. Of course, just being on the list doesn’t mean Lehman qualifies for his own half-price mobile command center or anything like that. The database is “just one of many sources consulted in deciding antiterrorism grants,” the story says. It’s meant to be ” inventory or catalog of national assets,” nothing more.
Makes you wonder, however, how and why an Amish popcorn factory is considered a national asset in the first place. I mean, everybody likes popcorn. Still. It’s not like it’s Orville Redenbacher.
Here’s the whole report, if you’re in a pdf-downloadin’ state of mind.