What follows reflects some of the reaction — in news stories and in blogs — to the nomination of Jeh Johnson to be the 4th Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
What follows reflects some of the reaction — in news stories and in blogs — to the nomination of Jeh Johnson to be the 4th Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
I don’t actually know what to say about this video except the City of Hillsboro, Oregon is seriously looking for a police chief.
To get a sense of the interaction between police and fire in Hillsboro, see in particular the short vignette at the 5:42 mark of this 6 minute video.
From the June 7, 2013 New York Times:
In Pakistan’s tribal areas, some said they had long assumed that Internet tools like Facebook, Google and Twitter were really Western surveillance mechanisms. “We have been saying that these forums are Zionist creations to pave the way for a new world order and to keep an eye on people around the world,” said one commander, Ihsanullah Ihsan.
And from The Onion, sometime in 2011:
Earlier today I received a solicitation for paid advertising at Homeland Security Watch. The placement would be part of a national campaign that you may have seen in your neighborhood.
I’m pleased to say the taste-test was a great success. I also appreciated the obvious effort made to match the advertising to the sophisticated expectations of HLSWatch readers.
But the HLSWatch mission requires continued allegiance to our long-time non-commercial values. No paid advertising here. We can, however, promise plenty more complexity to savor.
(The “Savor Complexity” campaign is real.)
Continuity of Government planning is important and should be taken seriously at all levels of government: federal, state, and local. However, like a newcomer to the World Series of Poker, Wyoming has apparently decided to go all in:
State representatives on Friday advanced legislation to launch a study into what Wyoming should do in the event of a complete economic or political collapse in the United States.
House Bill 85 passed on first reading by a voice vote. It would create a state-run government continuity task force, which would study and prepare Wyoming for potential catastrophes, from disruptions in food and energy supplies to a complete meltdown of the federal government.
That seems a little over the top. Well…maybe a bit more than that. But still, I’m sympathetic to any group that seriously wants to plan for the worst case scenario. Yet…
The task force would look at the feasibility of Wyoming issuing its own alternative currency, if needed. And House members approved an amendment Friday by state Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, to have the task force also examine conditions under which Wyoming would need to implement its own military draft, raise a standing army, and acquire strike aircraft and an aircraft carrier.
What is not explained in the article is exactly how a land-locked state could access the aircraft carrier in times of trouble. If the situation is really as bad as requiring your own air wing and power projection capability, perhaps accessibility might be a problem if your borders don’t exactly have any deep harbors. But I could be going out on a limb here…
[A big tip o' the hat to Daniel Drezner at Foreign Policy for the link to this story.]
As if a potential nuclear capability, ballistic missile development, and threats to close the Strait of Hormuz weren’t enough…now this.
I almost wish I was kidding about what Wired’s Danger Room blog ominously warns “It’s official — the Iranian government is in cahoots with COBRA from G.I. Joe:” (apologies for the link to YouTube; I’m still not a blogging ninja able to embed video)
In a 30-minute video released Thursday, al- Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri criticized the mass transportation infrastructure of the United States, claiming significant repairs and upgrades would need to be implemented before the militant group would consider destroying any roads, bridges, or railways with terrorist attacks.
Reading from a prepared statement, al-Zawahiri blasted the U.S. government for its lack of foresight and admonished its leaders for failing to provide Americans with efficient and reliable modes of public transport to reduce traffic congestion, lower carbon emissions, improve air quality, and supply suitable targets for terrorists.
The al-Qaeda commander confirmed his organization initially hoped to cripple travel in the United States by destroying its nationwide high-speed rail system, but had been shocked to discover no such thing exists. Calling it a cost-efficient, modern way of travel that would serve as a boon to small businesses and the national economy, al-Zawahiri implored U.S. officials to invest in not just one high-speed passenger train network, but many of them, so they could all be blown up simultaneously in a signature al-Qaeda attack upon the nation’s major population centers.
Al-Qaeda sources confirmed that members of terror cells living in America regularly complain about the extreme difficulty of traveling around the country and say it has prevented them from doing their jobs effectively. A plot to destroy O’Hare International Airport was reportedly abandoned after constant flight delays made coordinating an attack nearly impossible.
Read the whole thing here.
Yesterday, Mark provocatively asked if preparedness even mattered in the face of catastrophic incidents.
Not only do I say yes, but I’m doubling down on cases of the impossible. By that I refer to recent CDC guidance on preparing for a zombie outbreak.
Yes. A zombie outbreak.
At the surface, this example of public outreach can appear quite frivolous. At the core, it is a fantastic example of simple innovation with the potential for significant reward.
“Zombie apocalypse.” That blog posting headline is all it took for a behind-the-scenes public health doctor to set off an Internet frenzy over tired old advice about keeping water and flashlights on hand in case of a hurricane.
“You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency,” wrote Dr. Ali Khan on the emergency preparedness blog of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Note the reporter’s characterization of “tired old advice.”
The blog post in question basically summarizes some pop culture consideration of the zombie threat and offers basic preparedness advice. However, that same information does not often penetrate into the consciousness of a younger audience when presented in phone books or as bus stop advertisements.
More important, CDC officials said, it is drawing interest from teens and young adults who otherwise would not have read a federal agency’s guidance on the importance of planning an evacuation route or how much water and what tools to store in case a major storm rolls in.
What do the kids pay attention to/what’s the reward?
Khan’s postings usually draw 1,000 to 3,000 hits in a week. This one — posted Monday — got 30,000 within a day. By Friday, it had gotten 963,000 page views and was the top item viewed on the agency’s Web site, thanks in part to media coverage that began mid-week.
Obviously, this is not a paradigm shift in public outreach that essentially solves existing problems in promoting personal preparedness. However, it is a great example of one influential official listening to advice and acting:
The idea evolved from a CDC Twitter session with the public earlier this year about planning for disasters. Activity spiked when dozens of tweets came in from people saying they were concerned about zombies.
Dave Daigle, a veteran communications specialist, proposed the idea of using a zombie hook to spice up the hurricane message. Khan, director of emergency preparedness, approved it immediately and wrote it himself.
There will be of course those doubtful about such efforts:
There have been few comments asking whether this is the best way for the government to spend tax dollars. The agency is under a tight budget review at the moment and facing potentially serious budget cuts. But the zombie post involved no extra time or expenditure, CDC officials said.
“We have a critical message to get out and that is CDC saves lives while saving money. If it takes zombies to help us get that message out, then so be it,” said agency spokesman Tom Skinner.
What I find particularly interesting, and gratifying, about this exercise is the fact that it is not simply a one-off attempt at injecting a little humor into the standard preparedness message. Apparently, there will be follow up:
Whether the message sticks still has to be determined. The agency is planning a follow-up survey to see if people actually did prepare emergency kits or follow Khan’s other advice.
Picking up on current trends in pop culture seems like an easy route to travel for those charged with promoting a preparedness message with the public. Yet, given bureaucratic inertia that exists in most agencies and a reluctance to independently try new things, this relatively small experiment is hopefully an indicator of additional such efforts to come instead of the imaginative work of one individual.
While I do not disagree with other authors on this blog about the need to engage the public about risks and consequences, I feel strongly that a basic preparedness message continues to represent a fundamental building block of this amorphous thing that is popularly known as resilience. If zombies can help getting there from here, then I say why not?
[H/t to Eric Holdeman at Disaster Zone, though I have to question his self-proclaimed zombie expertise if he advises "Conserve your ammo, one shot seems to work fine!" Does he not know about the "double tap rule" of Zombieland?]
As my former hometown of Christchurch transitions from response to recovery, people have openly hoped and prayed for a miracle or two to buoy their flagging spirits. Still, it has been days since anyone was recovered alive from the rubble, and the body count continues to climb toward a figure officials now estimate will approach 240 souls. On top of the human toll, some damage estimates peg the economic impact of the disaster at something north of US$12 billion.
The devastation within the central business district and neighborhoods east of it is particularly pronounced. Sand boils and silt pushed to the surface by the force of the earthquake and the mechanism of liquefaction have now turned to unhealthy dust storms as winds picked up over the past day.
Somewhere between one-third and two-thirds of the buildings in the central business district will never be rebuilt and 10,000 or more homes may require demolition. Power and water have been restored to a substantial majority of households, but the damage to critical infrastructure remains severe enough to hamper recovery efforts.
Some estimates put the number of refugees fleeing the earthquake ravaged city at upwards of 50,000. Many of my friends like so many other families have sent their kids away to other cities so they can return to school while parents sort out what to do next.
All of this sounds pretty dire, and to be sure it is. But despite all the devastation and the debilitating effects of fatigue wrought by successive days and nights in response mode with little hope of sleep much less the opportunity to do so, people have still found it possible to look on the lighter and brighter side of their predicament.
One aid worker captured the following effort to rekindle the pioneer spirit in fellow Cantabrians while following the efforts of the Los Angeles County Urban Search and Rescue Task Force deployed by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance:
The University of Canterbury’s Student Volunteer Army must be getting slap-happy after days of backbreaking work shoveling silt from suburban streets as they are now working to build the World’s Tallest Leaning Tower of Pizza:
Judging by some of the photos you would not be so wrong to assume that disasters bring out the pre-adolescent in those of us who can no longer take the usual creature comforts of civilized sanitation facilities for granted:
If the earthquake found you unprepared and — pardon the off-color pun — you suddenly find yourself without a pot to piss in, no worries, mate.
People find themselves much more easily amused when the chips are down. Take this checklist for example: “You know you are from Christchurch when …
People in Wellington — the national capitol got a little bit worried that they might be next when a M4 earthquake struck the city recently. In response, Cantabrians quipped they don’t even get out of bed anymore for a shake less than M5.
The entrepreneurial spirit remains alive and well in Christchurch too. One enterprising victim of the an earthquake-induced rockfall has offered the boulder that crashed through his house for auction on the New Zealand equivalent of eBay. Bids are already up to NZ$950. If you fancy this oversized relic for your rock garden there’s just one catch: The winning bidder must come and get the item.
If none of this is enough to cheer you up, consider the hope inspired today by the discovery of two relics of Christchurch’s past. Workers found a glass bottle containing a small piece of parchment near the fallen statue of the city’s founder, John Robert Godley, and a metal cylinder sealed with solder amidst the debris of the Anglican cathedral. Both items have been transferred to the Canterbury Museum for conservation and inspection.
Mayor Bob Parker remarking on the find said he hopes the contents of the supposed time capsules will help illuminate the city’s future by telling people, “Why (our forebears) came here, what was their vision. (sic)” Putting Godley’s likeless back upon its perch has emerged as a top priority for leaders like Mayor Parker and Canterbury Museum director Anthony Wright who suggested, “(We must) get Godley back onto his plinth and show Christchurch it started here and lets start again, so we can show that we’re not going to lie down.”
In the midst of chaos, death and devastation, it no doubt helps to take heart in small miracles …
P.S.: Christchurch’s own Wizard of New Zealand, no stranger to hardship himself, cast his spell over the city once more shortly after announcing he will stay despite earlier reports he too would flee the devastation … “I call (upon) the nine spiritual hierarchies: (cherubim), seraphim, domination, powers, principalities, thrones and virtues, archangels and angels to protect and cherish Christchurch.” Here’s hoping it works!
The British artist Ben Nicholson wrote:
Satire is fascinating stuff. It’s deadly serious, and when politics begin to break down, there is a drift towards satire, because it’s the only thing that makes any sense.
Here are eleven “stories” I first heard about this year in various issues of Congressional Quarterly’s Behind the Lines newsletter (one of the quickest and most engaging homeland security reads I know about. )
As members of the international press looked on, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rode on horseback through the streets of Kabul yesterday, dragging the mutilated remains of Taliban chief Mullah Abdul Jalil through the dirt behind her. “Graaaaaggghh!” Clinton shouted as a frenzied crowd of supporters shot AK-47s into the air. Earlier in the day, Clinton had led a band of mercenaries through rugged mountain terrain to hunt down Jalil, whom the former senator eviscerated with a single stroke of her gleaming scimitar. U.S. soldiers marched alongside the triumphant, blood-soaked Clinton to the center of Kabul, where she ordered the Taliban leader’s gutted body be hung from the town’s tallest spire, where “all may behold it.” White House sources confirmed that upon returning to Washington, Secretary Clinton burst into the Oval Office, threw Jalil’s head down on the president’s desk, and let out a deafening war cry. [The Onion]
The underwear bomb terror attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was the straw that broke the camel’s back in America’s news casting business. In a rare show of agreement between the top media outlets, news commentators from every major prime time and cable news program, excluding PBS, has asked the FBI, CIA and other law enforcement and governmental spokes persons to create shorter nicknames for terrorists as soon as any new terrorist threat or action is leaked to the news. “Not only are we finding it hard to pronounce the names when they come in, but because of the fact that most of our newsroom interns are unpaid students, they don’t have the international spelling skills necessary to get names like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab correct,” FOX News associate producer John Smith said. “If the CIA could create a list of simpler names for news gatherers to follow at the outset of these terrorist acts, we could spend more time on gathering the facts instead of looking up the correct pronunciations of these foreigners’ names.” [Glossy News]
As part of his latest effort to jumpstart the economy in an increasingly volatile political climate, President Obama announced a plan to replace the existing hurricane naming process with a corporate sponsorship program that is expected to add at least $500 million annually to the federal coffers. “It’s a plan that says even in the aftermath of possibly the worst natural disaster to strike an area, we may cry, but, uhh, we’ll cry all the way to the bank,” Obama said. “So when the forecast calls for pain, middle class America won’t be left holding the bag . . . Aww, who am I kidding: middle class America is always left holding the bag. But at least now the bag will be sponsored.” Treasury’s Office of Domestic Finance will oversee the application and bidding process, which will begin as soon as a storm is forecast to become a hurricane. Treasury officials acknowledge that the $50 million starting price tag could be a bit steep for all but the largest multinational corporations. [CAP News]
Responding to recent public outcries over its handling of private data, search giant Google offered a wide-ranging and eerily well-informed apology to its millions of users yesterday. “’We would like to extend our deepest apologies to each and every one of you,” announced CEO Eric Schmidt, speaking from the company’s Googleplex headquarters. “Whether you’re Michael Paulson who lives at 3425 Longview Terrace and makes $86,400 a year, or Jessica Goldblatt from Lynnwood, Wash., who already has well-established trust issues, we at Google would just like to say how very, truly sorry we are.” Acknowledging that Google hasn’t always been open about how it mines the roughly 800 terabytes of personal data it has gathered since 1998, Schmidt apologized to users — particularly the 1,237,948 who take daily medication to combat anxiety— for causing any unnecessary distress, and he expressed regret — especially to Patricia Fort, a single mother taking care of Jordan, Sam, and Rebecca, ages 3, 7, and 9 — for not doing more to ensure that private information remains private. [The Onion]
Facing harsh questions about Jesus Christ being placed on the no-fly list before the House Subcommittee for Members We Don’t Know What to do With, TSA director Laurie Partridge explained that the Savior of the world was in no way singled out and it shouldn’t be seen as a religion thing. The tense atmosphere was only broken by Sen. Lieberman wandering through aimlessly. After security officers escorted Lieberman to his place at the Senate Committee for Pretend Legislation, the TSA chief recovered splendidly, according to observers. After some whispering with counsel, she explained. “This is merely a policy matter. Mr. Christ, a Palestinian, comes from a region termed a ‘hot zone’ by our State Department, has no visible means of support, and an arrest record.” [Glossy News]
At a time when widespread polling data suggests that a majority of the U.S. populace no longer trusts the federal government, a Pew Research Center report has found that the vast majority of the federal government doesn’t trust the U.S. populace all that much either. According to the poll—which surveyed members of the judicial, legislative, and executive branches—9 out of 10 government officials reported feeling ‘disillusioned’ by the populace and claimed to have ‘completely lost confidence’ in the citizenry’s ability to act in the nation’s best interests. . . Out of 100 U.S. senators polled, 84 said they don’t trust the U.S. populace to do what is right, and 79 said Americans are not qualified to do their jobs. Ninety-one percent of all government officials polled said they find citizens to be every bit as irresponsible, greedy, irrational, and selfishly motivated as government officials are. [The Onion]
High-ranking intelligence officials said Monday that the military was still aggressively pursuing notorious terrorist Osaka Binn Rogen, declaring that they had not forgotten about bringing the leader of the Al Hydra network to justice. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates assured citizens that American forces were actively hunting down Osaka Binn Rogen, and asserted that locating the mastermind behind the tragic 19/11 attacks is as pressing now as it was when their search first began, six or 10 years ago or however long it’s been. “This homicidal madman committed terrible atrocities against the American people, and we have never, ever lost sight of that,” Gates said. “Binn Rogen is the most wanted man on the planet, and he remains our No. 1 priority.” Based upon field surveillance and intelligence, officials recently widened the search for Orlama Win Roben by dispatching CIA paramilitary officers and Delta Force soldiers to track down, capture, or assassinate the terrorist leader, who has been described as a “very bad, very tall guy with a beard.” [The Onion]
The Chinese government announced today that it would disband its extensive domestic spying program that gathers personal information on its citizens and would instead use Facebook. According to the head of the domestic spying operation, China decided to scrap its elaborate array of spy satellites, eavesdropping devices and closed-circuit surveillance cameras after recognizing that Facebook put them all to shame. “At the end of the day, we were not getting as much intimate personal data as Facebook does,” he said. “So as of today, every man, woman and child in China is officially our ‘friend.”’ The Chinese version of Facebook, launched next week, will feature addictive online games reminiscent of the American version, such as Collective Farmville. [The Borowitz Report]
The Centers for Disease Control has announced that panic season has officially begun this year, recommending that people immediately begin working themselves up into a state of debilitating, irrational fear over diseases they’re extremely unlikely to get. The CDC suggests people panic initially over West Nile virus, and work up to hysteria over Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Both are carried by mosquitoes, so basic panic should definitely include covering yourself in a thick down parka no matter what the weather, and sealing yourself and your family in an airtight room until December. This year’s panic season is expected to be especially lively due to the Florida frenzy over dengue fever, despite the fact that only about eight people have gotten it and the World Health Organization recently admitted to basically making it up so they’d have something to do. Sources say it’s akin to the big to-do over avian flu a few years back. [CAP News]
In the latest incident of drug-related violence to hit the country, all 111 million citizens of Mexico were killed Monday during a shootout between rival drug cartels. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the violence was sparked by a botched drug deal involving an estimated 20 kilograms of marijuana, a dispute that led low-level members of the Sinaloa cartel to open fire on local dealers in Culiacan. Within seconds, the gunfire had spread to Chihuahua, Michoacan, Yucatan, and, minutes later, the other 27 Mexican states, leaving every person in Mexico dead. “Witnesses reported hearing roughly 357 million gunshots, during which time the Mexican populace was caught in the crossfire and killed,” DEA administrator Michele Leonhart said, adding that a four-gram bag of cocaine was also recovered by agents. The agency has sealed off the 761,606-square-mile crime scene…. [The Onion]
Frustrated by the widely held assumption that he unequivocally endorses the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a bald eagle said Monday that his thoughts on the conflicts were far more nuanced than many Americans might expect. Speaking to reporters from his nest in the upper branches of a 175-foot ponderosa pine tree, the eagle explained that each member of his species was different and none should be taken for granted as a lockstep supporter of American military policy. “I think World War II was justified, and I got behind the first Gulf War [in 1990],” said the bird, who has served as the national symbol of the United States since 1782. “But the recent war in Iraq, with its shifting rationale and poor planning, was clearly a huge mistake.” The majestic bird of prey, who said he is not registered with any political party, admitted to having some ambivalence about the current mission in Afghanistan, lamenting that any argument one could make seemed to prompt an equally valid counterpoint. “I’m not a hawk or a dove,” he added. “I’m an eagle.” [The Onion]
For those of you with young children or grandchildren (or just simply young-at-heart), I would like to point out that the men and women of the NORAD are defending our homeland against the EMP threat poised by a bearded man flying high above our defenses powered by magical animals!
What missile defense systems do we have in place to counter such a threat?!?
By that I mean to point out that wonderful service men and women are donating their time and energy in “tracking” Santa over Christmas. I’ll let the “Nukes of Hazard Blog” explain:
Because for more than 50 years, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD), have tracked Santa.
The whole deal is pretty high tech, involving radar, satellites, Santa Cams and even fighter jets.
That’s right… fighter jets.
According to NORAD, Santa tracking begins with something called the “North Warning System.” On December 24, NORAD keeps a constant eye on this system, consisting of 47 installations along the northern border of North America, for signs that Santa has left the North Pole.
Once Santa has lifted off, satellites positioned in geo-synchronous orbit at 22,300 miles from the Earth’s surface and equipped with infrared sensors that enable them to detect heat begin tracking Rudolph’s nose — which, naturally, gives off an infrared signature.
Then the Santa Cams kick in. The Santa Cams are fairly new (they’ve only been around since 1998, the year NORAD went online with its Santa Tracker) and capture images and videos of Santa and his reindeer as they deliver presents to children the world over.
Last, the jets. Canadian CF-18s and US F-15 and F-16s fly alongside Santa and, I guess, make sure he’s safe from terrorist attacks?
Seriously, though, the website is adorable and changes daily. Today, Santa apparently took a short break from making toys to dance with Mrs. Claus, who no doubt feels a bit neglected this time of year.
And before you flip over such an egregious use of government funds (scrooge), rest assured that the program is primarily funded by the likes of Booz Allen Hamilton, Google, and Toys for Tots.
The NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center (NTSOC) opens on December 24th at 4:30 a.m. EST (3:30a.m. CST, 2:30a.m. MST, and 1:30a.m. PST) until 5:00am EST (4:00a.m. CST, 3:00a.m. MST, and 2:00a.m. PST) on December 25th. Official Santa trackers are standing by at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, CO to take your calls.
A huge tip o’ the hat to Nukes of Hazard. If you have any interest in proliferation issues, I would urge you to check out their blog.
For the official NORAD Santa-tracking site, please visit: http://www.noradsanta.org/
If current terrorist threats aren’t enough to keep you up at night, seemingly out of nowhere comes the gopher menace. These crafty and malicious creatures pose a dire threat to critical infrastructure, not just across the United States but around the world!
So writes Eric Holdeman in his latest column in Emergency Management magazine. His article, “If Gophers Were Terrorists,” is a funny piece that nicely encapsulates the trajectory homeland security has taken since 9/11.
First, the threat is exposed:
I’ve recently read several stories about burrowing animals weakening levee systems to the point of failure both in the United States and abroad. I thought about this new hazard I hadn’t previously considered. As with any new “threat,” it must be addressed, so envision what would happen if we discovered that these animals were, in fact, trained terrorist operatives attacking one element of our critical infrastructure.
Then the obvious initial reaction:
First, there would be the predictable congressional hearings by multiple committees in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Since there isn’t a designated Gopher Committee, these legislative bodies would have many committees that viewed this issue as part of their legislative domain. Testimony would come from newly minted gopher experts.
Everyone will tussle for funding:
There’d be lots of lobbying during the process; rural and urban states would compete for funding. Cities and counties would proclaim that, “All gophers are local.” Fire, law enforcement, public health, hospitals and other disciplines would lobby for funding for their field. They’d argue that animal control should not be getting all of the funds. For years, each would make the case that they should have dedicated funds for equipment.
After years of anti-gopher activity without further attacks, attention will turn to new threats:
A new threat might capture our attention. Take pigeons for instance: Have you ever noticed how they seem to be everywhere, listening to our conversations and monitoring our movements?
Making matters even worse, Mr. Holdeman fails to point out the ability of our pigeon adversaries to use their droppings as an ingredient in gunpowder. The possible amounts involved could be staggering…
All jokes aside, the article is a great bit of satire that does a marvelous job exposing the predictable manner in which the U.S. reacts to new threats. The entire piece is worth reading:
Of course to win the WOG (War On Gophers), we should turn to Bill Murray as he is already licensed to kill gophers by the Government of the United Nations:
From the intrepid marketing experts at The Onion:
If you smell something, say something.
The exotic essence of the Far East is absolutely nowhere to be found in this almost inescapable new Department of Homeland Security fragrance.
Formulated by the personal perfumier to Janet Napoloitano, DHS contains essential oils of capsacin, sandalwood, eagle tears, non-Lebanon cedar, and guns. Notes of vigilance, musk, tonka bean, and black cordura pat down the senses to preserve comforting overtones of vanilla. And a cool, commanding base of conditioned orange infusions evoke the powerful agency’s message that, while all may be serene for now, the future almost certainly holds a seductive hint of menace.
My July 1, 2010 issue of the Onion arrived Monday. Surprisingly, the Onion actually prints a more-or-less weekly newspaper, and it is made out of paper.
I do not recommend the paper to children or anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to name a government program “Perfect Citizen.”
This week’s “the Onion” was “The Patriotism Issue.”
Here are some headlines and excerpts from top stories.
(According to the Onion, this news is “only visible to real Americans.” And you know who you are.)
Spurred by an administration he believes to be guilty of numerous transgressions, self-described American patriot Kyle Mortensen, 47, is a vehement defender of ideas he seems to think are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and principles that brave men have fought and died for solely in his head.
“Our very way of life is under siege,” said Mortensen, whose understanding of the Constitution derives not from a close reading of the document but from talk-show pundits, books by television personalities, and the limitless expanse of his own colorful imagination. “It’s time for true Americans to stand up and protect the values that make us who we are.”….
A Gallup/Harris Interactive poll released Monday indicates that nearly nine out of 10 Americans are “tired of having a country.”
Among the 86 percent of poll respondents who were in favor of discontinuing the nation, the most frequently cited reasons were a lack of significant results from the current democratic process (36 percent), dissatisfaction with customer service (28 percent), and exhaustion (22 percent).
“I don’t want to get bogged down in the country anymore,” Wilmington, DE accountant Karie Ashworth said. “I’m not up in arms or anything, I’m just saying it’d be a lot easier for everyone if we just gave it up.”
Of those who were against maintaining an American nation, 77 percent said they believe that having a country is “counter to the best interests of Americans.” Twelve percent said “the time and effort citizens spend on the country could be better spent elsewhere,” and 8 percent said they just didn’t care.
Roughly 3 percent said we ceased to have a country years ago, and explained that they had been stockpiling weapons to protect their independent compounds….
According to a report released Tuesday …, Communists rank last on a list of 238 threats to national security. “Communists may now safely be ignored,” [the] Secretary of Defense … said. “The Red Menace has been surpassed by militia groups, religious extremists, ecoterrorists, cybercriminals, Hollywood producers, and angry drivers.” Other groups deemed more threatening than Communists include rap-metal bands (#96), escaped zoo animals (#202), and Belgians (#237).
After spending another anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks at work, many across the country have begun to secretly hope that the date will soon become a federally mandated day off. “We’ll have it off in 25 years anyway, so why not just start now?” said a Des Moines–area citizen who wished to remain anonymous….
The National Archives and Records Administration announced plans Monday to release a special “framers’ cut” of the Constitution featuring five bonus amendments deleted from the original. According to NARA head John Carlin, the new document includes “more than the 35 lines of never-before-seen provisions sure to thrill history buffs.”….
Though coaches for both the United States and Japanese Little League teams attempted to inspire their young squads before Sunday’s championship game by evoking the memories of those who fought and died for their respective countries in World War II, the coaches’ descriptive tales of conflict, suffering, and mass death left players almost incapable of taking the field….
The U.S. economy ceased to function this week after unexpected existential remarks by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke shocked Americans into realizing that money is, in fact, just a meaningless and intangible social construct.
What began as a routine report before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday ended with Bernanke passionately disavowing the entire concept of currency, and negating in an instant the very foundation of the world’s largest economy….
Gun owners nationwide are applauding the patriotic, though accidental, exercise of Second Amendment rights by 8-year-old Timothy Cummings Tuesday.
“Timothy is a symbol of American heroism,” said NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre from Cummings’ bedside at Norfolk General Hospital, where the boy is in serious but stable condition from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. “While praying for his recovery, we should all thank God that his inalienable right to keep and bear arms has not been infringed.”…
As I listened to President Obama’s Oval Office address last evening, I was struck by his recurrent use of a familiar idiomatic expression. He often prefaces important points with the statement, “make no mistake.” His speeches have become so peppered with this interjection that it has almost acquired, at least for me, the air of a phonic tic.
Why does this bother me? For starters, as someone who admires and supports the President, it draws attention to the tendency of other people who neither trust the government nor support the President’s policies to question his confidence and competence to handle their problems. “Make no mistake,” is another way of saying “trust me, I know what I am talking about.” But too many people don’t trust him, and need a better reason to do so than his assurances and repeated statements that he is in control of the situation.
The President rarely has difficulty convincing people that he understands the situation. They often concede he has a clear vision of the future. But they often express profound reservations about his plan for getting from where we are to where he wants to take us. And too many people are not yet prepared to go along for the ride.
President Obama is not the first president to exhibit vague vocal stylings. When he was president, Bill Clinton was prone to saying, “Let me be clear,” when he wanted to make an important point. He had no reason to ask our permission to make a point, much less make it clearly, but his habit of doing so was far less annoying or cloying because it suggested he had our interests at heart. As we all came to find out, Bill Clinton was an expert at making connections with people, and had a very practical and direct approach to doing so.
Is it a mistake for President Obama to try to reassure us? By no means, no. But he should give us better reasons for backing his positions. That will require him to ask more of us as citizens, particularly when it comes to seeing our interests aligned with the national interest and his vision of the future. He can do this by making the small but specific tasks we can perform on behalf of our country a bigger part of his policy pitch.
If this is a war, as the President suggests, it will require sacrifices of us all. As such, I hoped he would have found a more appropriate metaphor. But then again he may be right that the only way we can win the war against al Qaeda is to see the Deepwater Horizon crisis as another frontier in a long and bitter campaign that has its origin in our own misadventures as well as the government’s when acting on our behalf.
We could begin making sacrifices by expecting a lot less of our leaders and more of ourselves. Let me be clear, as a nation we would make no mistake if we interpreted the situation in the Gulf of Mexico not as a question of Presidential action and corporate accountability, but rather as a call to individual action, a message to our nation to start taking specific and measurable steps to matching our energy appetites with our abilities and our resources.
Every time a lawyer show comes on television, my husband likes to remind that there are no shows that focus on engineers, his chosen profession. He concedes that there are a number of shows on channels like Discovery, History, and Science, but argues that those are not the same as being featured as a wheeler and dealer or hero on prime time. Phil Palin’s post yesterday, Farewell Jack. Welcome to Treme, got me thinking about what my husband has said about engineer-hero shows and whether, beyond 24 and Jack Bauer, any shows exist out there that show the best and worst of homeland security.
The result: a list of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Homeland Security-inspired television. In compiling this list, I have left out made-for-TV movies or mini-series. A few reality shows sneaked on the list, but not in a good way. I did not limit the possible candidates to contemporary programs or programs focused on counterterrorism, choosing instead to include programs that date back more than 40 years and focus on homeland security as broadly defined. I have also included series that have significantly dealt with homeland security issues but may not be solely focused on them.
The Good – 10 Shows That Matter
Fringe – A show that features “mad” scientist Walter Bishop, civilian DHS consultant Peter Bishop, FBI agent Olivia Dunham, and DHS Special-Agent-in Charge Phillip Broyles, and their investigations into fringe science occurrences and an alternate universe. The show has featured the pseudo-terrorist organization ZFT, aka Zerstörung durch Fortschritte der Technologie (Destruction Through Technological Progress), which has cells throughout the globe that trade science and technology secrets. In the first episode, Broyles makes the proclamation “Although this is a joint task force, you are all reporting to the Department of Homeland Security.”
The Law And Order Franchise- The three NY-based shows making up the franchise, Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, have all addressed terrorism and homeland security in significant ways. Law & Order features Detective Cyrus Lupo, who previously worked in the intelligence division of the NYPD. In addition, it routinely addresses terrorism, privacy, and issues relating to Muslim civil rights. In one episode, it even attempted to put on trial a lawyer/scholar who had written memos while employed at the Justice Department that were used to justify torture in the Middle East. Special Victims had a series of episodes in Season 8 revolving around Detective Olivia Benson and ecoterrorists and several of its episodes have featured Immigration & Customs Enforcement, though usually in a manner that is interfering with the NYPD’s investigations. In its latest episodes, Criminal Intent focused on piracy, Somalia, and attempts to arm possible terrorist cells in Africa.
Lie to Me – Featuring the Lightman Group, the program focuses on a consulting firm that uses microexpressions and body language to determine whether people are telling the truth. Granted, the series is more of a police drama, but it makes the list because it features Ria Torres, who honed her skills at perceiving deception while working as a TSA agent. Her natural ability to tell the good from the bad travelers led to her being recruited to join the mostly high-brow intellectual types at the firm.
Third Watch – Running from 1999 to 2005, the show featured first responders and preventers in New York City who worked the “third watch” shift (3pm-11pm). Unlike many programs that featured only one type of first responder, the program had the triumvirate - police, EMTs, and firefighters. The show received wide acclaim for its programming portraying the 9/11 attacks and how it affected the NY first responder/preventer community.
The Agency – Airing from 2001-2003, the program featured real footage of the CIA and focused on the agency’s mission in modern times. Terrorism, Anthrax, Assassinations, Leaked Classified Information, Congressional Inquiries – the show featured many of the same issues that Washington D.C. has tackled post-9/11.
Rescue Me - A series on the FX network, Rescue Me focuses on the Ladder 62/Engine 99 firehouse in New York City. In its early days, the show dealt with the emotional effects of the 9/11 attacks on the firefighters at the firehouse. The show is scheduled to end next year, around the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Emergency! – Reaching back into the archives, I would be remiss to not include Emergency!, the first program (that I know of it) to feature paramedics and their work. Airing from 1972 to 1977, the show featured firefighters and hospital emergency room staff in Los Angeles. The show featured its first responders doing their thing with a number of real-world disasters, including the 1971 Sylmar earthquake and the 1973 Palos Verdes fire.
Mission: Impossible - Before there was Jack Bauer, there was Jim Phelps and the Impossible Mission Forces. While very Cold War-influenced, the show features secret agents taking covert assignments against global bad guys, including corrupt dictators and evil organizations.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. - Another early spy program, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. looked to the remnants of the Nazi empire for its bad guy. U.N.C.L.E. (the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) is a global international law-enforcement agency (Interpol, anyone?) fighting against THRUSH (the Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity) and its efforts to take over the world. The series makes the list as it is a favorite of the government. Allegedly, the show has a spot at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and the CIA’s museum.
Tiger Team - This short-lived (2 episode) series from TruTV (better known as Court TV) probably is better classified as a mini-series or special but there has been constant chatter about its possible re-birth so I decided to include it on my list. The show followed a team that is hired to test the IT security of various organizations. The ethical hackers demonstrated weaknesses in security using social engineering, hard core hacking, and breaking into buildings physically. The show allowed geeks around the world to be proud of their own kind.
The Bad – 3 Shows That We Could Have Done Without
Homeland Security USA - Only 13 episodes of this reality tv show featuring DHS employees doing their job to protect the nation aired. The show featured real employees from CBP, ICE, TSA, and the Coast Guard and was shot in coordination with DHS. Low ratings and claims that the show was no more than propaganda led to its demise. A good premise – highlighting those on the front line – but bad execution.
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero - Some may be surprised that I’ve put one of American’s favorite children icons on the list of bad tv. G.I. Joe is as American as apple pie and how could anyone be against an animated series that began each episode with:
G.I. Joe is the code name for America’s daring, highly-trained, Special Mission force. Its purpose: To defend human freedom against Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world.
Like almost every kid out there, I played with my share of G.I. Joe action figures, borrowing them from my brother’s collection. That said, a television show designed mostly if not solely to peddle children’s toys rightly deserves a spot on the bad list.
A Man Called Sloane- Since the “good” list featured some classics, I had to dig back to find a show from earlier eras that could made the not-so-good list. A Man Called Sloane, which aired in 1979-80 and was canceled after a few episodes seemed to fit in well with this category. The show attempted to be a combination of every spy show that preceded it and featured Thomas R. Sloane III, a spy who kind of worked for UNIT, a secret American intelligence operation run by someone called the Director. As with all spy shows, the UNIT had an evil counterpart – the KARTEL. The show just never took off, though a made-for-tv movie called Death Ray 2000, featuring the never-aired pilot of the show did make it on the air a year or two later.
The Ugly – Who Could Have Possibly Thought This Was A Good Idea?
Gana la Verde or Win the Green – The winner of the ugly homeland security-inspired program award goes hands down to this program. A reality show that aired on Spanish television stations in the Southwest in 2004-2005, Gana featured immigrants competing in “Fear Factor” inspired contests in the hopes of gaining immigration advice. At one point, the show suggested that the winner would receive a green card, a claim that led ICE to point out that the program is not sanctioned by or connected to the agency. Among the challenges given to contestants – eating cockroaches and worms, being attacked by dogs, cleaning the windows of a high-rise building, and running in between semi-trucks. The show was largely criticized by immigration groups, who argued that the program was humiliating and gave false hopes of citizenship to contestants.