- Current Issue
SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
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
Estimated acres of forest Henry David Thoreau burned down in 1844 trying to cook fish he had caught for dinner:
The bombardier beetle, which can fire liquid at its enemies from its rear end at up to 300 squirts per second, was being scrutinized in the hope of building a better airplane engine.
London Fire Brigade investigators blamed a building fire in South London on a bird that carried a lit cigarette to its rooftop nest. “Smokers,” said neighborhood baker Richard Scroggs. “What can you say?”
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”