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.
Connie said on July 12, 2006 at 10:36 am
Elkhart County also got one of those mobile command centers using Homeland Security money. For some ridiculous cost in the thousands you can even get them to park it in your event in case you have an emergency. Like terrorists at the County Fair.
mary said on July 12, 2006 at 10:39 am
Thanks for the link to Mike Pence’s website. Remind me to download the podcast for something to listen to while I pair up socks.
nancy said on July 12, 2006 at 10:43 am
No, you listen to Mike Pence when you can’t sleep, Mary. Jeez. Hoosiers know that.
Joe Kobiela said on July 12, 2006 at 11:07 am
What goes clip, clop, bang, clip, clop, bang????
amish drive by shooting!!
The amish have got toghether with the japanees and came up with a new buggy. It’s called a Toyoder.
alex said on July 12, 2006 at 12:51 pm
Much to Mr. Pence’s good fortune, Hoosier anti-tax fanatics don’t know what pork is unless it’s deep-fried and breaded.
mary said on July 12, 2006 at 1:04 pm
An article in MSN today mentions an insect zoo being considered a terrorist target. I think they need to park that mobile command thing next to the praying mantis tank.
Amy Alkon said on July 12, 2006 at 2:27 pm
I blogged this, too. Just idiotic. I’m so infuriated about how idiotically our country is being run. I guess the priorities are preventing flag burning and dirty words on TV.
If the NYC subway is ever hit, we’re in big trouble.
ellen t said on July 12, 2006 at 3:10 pm
Totally different subject matter. Nice feature about one man and his baguette obession. You can totally see the eighth from last graf coming.
brian stouder said on July 12, 2006 at 4:35 pm
Why does this remind me of Barnie Fife and the Second World War surplus motor cycle?
And even in that bit of good-natured farce, Mayberry snapped up a surplus thing. Surely our various municipalities can also get Uncle Sam to give ’em some used gear (if they really want this stuff), no?
mary said on July 12, 2006 at 5:44 pm
Brian, you don’t get it. It isn’t nearly as cool to get used stuff, and the used stuff has technology that could be years old. Who needs that? Anyway, if you can get cash from Homeland Security to buy big noisy things that flash lights and drive on all terrains and play music really loud, why not? You can even get special outfits for the guys who drive them and ride in them.
Danny said on July 12, 2006 at 8:50 pm
Mary, I know you amight be still mad at me, but I just got home after a hellatious day at work and read the sock pairing comment. That was hilarious.
Hey, the Amish references remind me, did you all know that Floyd Landis, one of the current favorites in th Tour de France, was raised Mennonite? He said that how he was raised, there wasn’t much else to do, but throw rocks, shoot animals and ride bikes.
Even if he wins the tour this year, he is going to have hip replacement surgery at the age of 33. Odd facts.
Kim said on July 13, 2006 at 9:20 am
Seems to me this whole Homeland Security windfall/let’s buy some ex-pen-sive toys is just our time’s amped-up version of the DARE windfalls of the early 1980s. Anybody remember local police depts. getting loads of government cash to stop kids from taking drugs and/or being abducted? Long ago I wrote a story about how the local p.d. spent its windfall: on plastic, it’s school pic day-style combs that said “Dare to resist drugs,” (being a parent now it’s more like “dare to comb your hair”) and then-cutting edge video cameras and their expensive accessory, the surveillance van, to spy on would-be drug dealers and abductors. Nice that our government responds to what we fear, eh? Think of how amazing our world could be if we feared, um, poverty or illiteracy. Then again, they’d probably send us plastic combs. Sheesh.
Bob said on July 13, 2006 at 12:33 pm
My roots are about ten miles from Berne. A few years ago I was sitting in a lawn chair in the back of a pickup truck in a church parking lot, watching the Swiss Days parade with local friends. Congressman Pence came down the street passing out candy to kids, and someone asked me if Mike and I were kin. I replied, “How could that possibly be? He’s a Republican.”
The non-verbal reaction told me that the person who asked was probably at least a Republican sympathizer, maybe even a collaborator. I couldn’t stop myself; “Y’know, those parents should do a better job teaching their kids about strangers with candy.”