Sunday, February 20

WHAT'S THIS -- A "HOMELAND SECURITY" GRANT?

My original intention with this story out of Olympia, Washington, was to have some fun with it, and, along the way, to extract a laugh or two from my readers -- all one or two of them! I was going to say that if I had my druthers and were the victim of a terrorist attack up in Olympia (I hope the bastards don't blow up the brewery there), I'd want my body shrink-wrapped in bubble wrap, so my mourners -- all one or two of them -- would have something to do while maintaining a vigil until my burial. You see, when there are not enough mourners to relieve one another at the funeral home, than you have more than a logistical problem, you have people with good hearts suffering from intense ennui. That's not nice. At least they could sit their popping the bubble wrap while gazing teary-eyed at my lifeless mien.

But (and let's all two of us get serious now), on closer inspection, I noticed an ominous reference in this otherwise innocuous (or, as the AP judges it, "strange") article. Go back to it and scroll down to the sixth paragraph and I quote:

The coroner's office has already started a bidding process to find a company to build the machine. A Homeland Security grant will pay for the machine, which will cost an estimated $50,000.

A Federal grant from the Department of Homeland Security is going to fund the manufacturing of a human body-size shrink wrap machine for the city of Olympia, Washington? And the connection being, what, that the bodies of the victims of a terrorist attack can be shrink wrapped (rather than bagged and zipped), so that somehow ties it up all neat and tidy with Homeland Security doing the funding? Gee, the thought occurs to me, how many cities, big, medium, and small, in this country of ours might just want such a machine for similar reasons? You know the overarching jealousy that exists among cities over Federal funding, and who got what. Or, the thought occurs to me, what other bizarre requests with threadbare links to the concept of "Homeland Security" are being funded with taxpayer dollars? Or, why is it the good citizens of Olympia aren't footing the bill? After all, it is they who may be getting sealed in plastic wrap someday, not us folks down here in southeastern Texas. Besides, no self-respecting Texan dies with his boots shrink-wrapped anyway. Just doesn't happen.

And, then, if you'll allow, the additional thought occurs to me (pesky pontificator that I am):

President Bush recently backpedaled on his pledge to budget for 2,000 additional U.S. Border Patrol agents in 2006, but his white elephant -- the Department of Homeland Security -- is issuing Federal, taxpayer-funded grants for the likes of a shrink wrap machine for Olympia, Washington?

Now if you're still with me this far into this post, please take a minute to read the following and then tell me if you'd conclude from this that a shrink wrap machine for the bodies of terrorist victims appropriately falls into the realm of:

Critical state and local missions supported through these grants include the preparedness of first responders and citizens, public health, infrastructure security, and other public safety activities. While these programs vary considerably in their size and scope, they all contribute to making our nation more secure against the threat of terrorism, as well as other natural and man-made hazards.
Interesting, don't you think, that the Associated Press places this story under an "All Strange News from AP Associated Press" headline banner, but didn't give a thought to doing some real journalism on ferreting out just how many of these sorts of silly grants are being issued by the Department of Homeland Security in an era of porous borders and staggering record Federal deficits. Those $50,000 grants can add up quickly in a country the size of the United States of America.

Finally, are our dead soldiers shrink-wrapped before their bodies are returned home? I'm not being insensitive in asking that question. My point being, if the process is warranted over traditional methods, then let's get such machines shipped over to Iraq, not to Olympia, Washington. After all, our fighting men and women are being killed by terrorists!