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At times it’s hard to fathom exactly how stupid our nation has become. And then there’s this: though only reported thus far by MTV News, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently broke up a major terrorist plot that threatened to strike a painful blow to America’s collective loins. The strike was thwarted when DHS agents on the Canadian border confiscated a hard drive containing the song files for a new solo record by Death Cab for Cutie guitarist/producer Chris Walla. “I couldn’t even venture a guess as to where it is, or what it’s doing there,” Walla told MTV. “I mean, I can’t just call their customer-service center and ask about my drive. There’s nothing I can do. I don’t know if we can hire an attorney … is there a black-hole attorney? You can’t take a black hole to court . . . They could be water-boarding my drive for all I know.”
MTV says it’s “not abundantly clear” why the hard drive was confiscated, but I’ll sleep better at night knowing that it was. And this will help even more: DHS has come up with “a mathematical value purporting to represent the square root of terrorist intent,” according to Congressional Quarterly. In fact, that was reported nearly a year ago, but I only heard about it last night and wanted to share the discovery.
According to CQ, the “figure appears deep in the mind-numbingly complex risk-assessment formulas that the department used in 2006 to decide the likelihood that a place is or will become a terrorist target—an all-important estimate outside the Beltway, because greater slices of the federal anti-terrorism pie go to the locations with the highest scores.” Variables used by DHS in calculating the square root of terrorist intent included an “attractiveness factor,” which seeks “to establish how terrorists might prefer one sort of target over another,” and the “chatter factor,” which seeks “to gauge the intent of potential terror plotters based on communication intercepts.”
Maybe this is how DHS’s list of national assets to protect against terrorist attacks came to include Old MacDonald’s Petting Zoo in Woodville, Alabama. “Don’t just gaze at the animals–touch them!” says the zoo’s website. “Feel the wool of the sheep! Experience the fuzzy chin of the llama as he eats from your hand.” Will Al Qaeda stop at nothing?
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”