Column: Are You

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Mr. Carpenter is working on a book about American demagoguery. He is a columnist for HNN.

You have heard about it. You have read about it. It made its debut as deadly serious stuff. But have you actually perused the Department of Homeland Security's web site, Probably not. Odds are, what you know about it has come from late-night comedians, frantic relatives, fair-and-balanced Bill O'Reilly, or hardware salesmen stuck with palettes of duct tape and plastic sheeting. So as a public service, I present to you real segments of the real thing. A warning, however. This is the brainchild of the same lunatics bringing us global chaos, hence its inherent denseness likely will make your increasingly insecure hair stand on end.

Click here to make a donation to HNN! begins earnestly enough: "Whenever possible, we want to stop terrorist attacks before they happen." No doubt that is true, however much a terrorist attack's costly bloody aftermath slipped the White House's mind when inventing a bold new budget. Strike that. It was Congress's fault, whose Republican majority "did not respond to the $3.5 billion we asked for," said our always-earnest Republican president. Truly "a disappointment … when the executive branch gets micro-managed by the legislative branch" that way, continued the surprised and outraged commander in chief. An anonymous Republican congressional aide responded that "we told the White House months in advance what we were going to do with this bill" -- but put your trust in George on this one. He knows what liars the controlling majority is.

Once assures us it wants to stop terrorist attacks -- the heightened likelihood of which the White House will guarantee by blowing up the Middle East -- it tells us to "make a plan," and just in case, "make a kit." The suggested plan, however, is less of a plan than a challenge to stout-hearted survivalists. "If you see large amounts of debris in the air" -- a common tip-off to a bad day -- "or if local authorities say the air is badly contaminated," then you should "be prepared to improvise." In short, you are own your own. At this critical juncture, improvisation may simply entail putting your head between your legs and kissing your butt good-bye. This may seem a downright depressing prospect, but at least you will be comforted by the knowledge that the executive branch is "disappointed" by it all, and only insensitive Republican congressmen "micro-managed" your demise.

The survival "kit" recommends in case of extreme emergency and prolonged deprivation is mostly a Martha Stewart reminder to the sensible homemaker: "Choose foods your family will eat." If you failed to figure that out on your own, your gene pool is rightly toast anyway, so good riddance.

As for the proper response to a "dirty bomb" -- such as a stick of dynamite used "to spread radioactive materials over a targeted area" -- you should know "the farther away you are from the blast … the lower your exposure." Take heed, courtesy our Department of Homeland Security: Anticipate dirty-bomb explosions and stay the hell away. Should you be so thick as not to pack "foods your family will eat," henceforth be advised that "if there is an explosion or other factor that makes it difficult to control the vehicle" you happen to be driving at the moment of an unanticipated ka-boom, "pull over" and "stop the car." After that, sit down to a bickering picnic with foods your family does not like. also recognizes that causes for "suspicion" of a chemical attack could very well be frivolous, so it is best to verify first that people around you are "twitching, choking … or losing coordination," while judiciously double-checking for the sight of "many sick or dead birds, fish or small animals" lying about. If so, see "improvisation" techniques. In lieu of that, "stay healthy." I kid you not.

Finally, in the event of the big one, a nuclear blast - what calls a "damaging pressure wave" - you should "quickly assess the situation" of today's brisk winds and "consider if you can get out of the area." You may also want to consider obtaining a passport beforehand and getting the bejesus away from this madness.

And there you have it. You can duck, pray, or get out of the way. The White House Lords of Re-Creation who got you into this mess will be hunkered down in secure, lead-laden bunkers at the first sign of danger, while you are plastic-coating windows, packing that emergency lunch, peeking outside for dead birds, checking for "damaging" nuclear winds, and horribly regretting that a Republican Congress micro-managed the whole damn thing … all the result of a few hanging chads.

Meanwhile, weeks of heightened security alerts intended to scare the wits out of you and thereby ensure heightened war-hysteria have, by any reasonable account, revealed their purpose. Moments before the onslaught of worldwide anti-American terrorism likely to spook the average Joe, the White House and announced that an "exhaustive review of intelligence as well as new counterterrorism measures" warrant a security-alert reduction from orange to yellow. Just a coincidence.

It is well to keep in mind that as we make oppressed Muslims safe for a peaceful democracy, a democracy is about to unleash a vast armory of weapons of mass destruction, which may also be your own. No one knows that better than

© Copyright 2002 P. M. Carpenter

Mr. Carpenter's column is published weekly by History News Network and

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More Comments:

Tom Kellum - 3/9/2003

Mr. Carpenter's always informative, insightful, reasonable, fair, balanced, and on-target deconstruction of this illegimate "Administration" and its policies which demean and debilitate us all (except the greedy rich & their sycophants), is also funny as H---.

mary - 3/5/2003

I wait patiently for P.M.Carpenter's column. His latest,"Are You Ready.Com was one of his best so far. I laughed so hard I hurt myself. He has a way of zeroing in on the stupidity of the administration, especially when they are trying to be serious. He has his finger on the pulse and I enjoy his articles so much.

Suetonius - 3/3/2003

Mr. Carpenter's columns have become tiresome. He proceeds from an a priori distaste for the president and the political party in power--fair enough. But he then proceeds to disparage a practical source of information that serves a real service to the American people. And for what end?

The dissatisfaction with the President is understandable and not an issue--although his vehemence is a turn-off on a website that ostensibly is supposed to be about history and current affairs, not a left-wing internet blog site.

But the cheap shots at the website and its information, without any practical alternative offered, is amateurish. If Mr. Carpenter has ever lived in 'tornado alley' he would understand two important concepts that lie at the heart of what the government has recommend (and the Red Cross has _long_ recommended)--you're on your own at first, and you ought to be prepared for it.

If Mr. Carpenter thinks that the government at all levels ought to have the resources to be able to respond to each and every person caught in a disaster--be it terrorist or otherwise--he isn't thinking. The ratio of emergency personnel to civilians is in the order of one to several hundred. After a tornado or a major flood, large parts of the infrastructure in a locality are unusable. Scale this up to a terrorist attack and you will understand that it makes intuitive sense that not everyone can be helped immediately and must rely on their own preparations.

My neighbors who live in this front-line city are coming to understand what those of us from the Midwest have long known--you're dumb if you aren't prepared. But because tornados are still a rarity here, and hurricanes more so, my neighbors have not needed to confront the question of preparation. The blizzard of a few weeks ago proved the utility of the preparations accompanying the Orange Alert for many of the doubters here.

So if Mr. Carpenter wants to disparage the website and ridicule it freely, he is welcome to do so. But for him to have any further credibility in this locale, he ought to offer his own constructive suggestions instead. The time for abject criticism without practical alternatives passed on September 11.