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The Essay
Show #330
Homeland Security
David Gunn

According to a press release issued by the Public Relations Bureau of the U.S. Government, the aim of its new Office of Homeland Security is to consolidate counterterrorism functions now scattered across various entities, including the FBI, CIA, the National Guard, local police and the League of Urban Telex Marketers. On paper, its task is to focus on preventing terrorist attacks and fortifying potential targets, but an as-yet unwritten precept is to outlaw the public use of sousaphones, which the CIA suspects of concealing tiny enemies of the state. The U.S. President--whose name is now classified for security purposes--appointed Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge to head the office. That's, of course, what they want you to believe. For how do you think the public would feel if it knew the department was really being run by a musical shaman with only the most superficial security training? Surprised? Well, that's certainly how Beano Bengaze, the shaman in question, feels. It wasnít a position Beano sought. Rather, the position--and its contradictory expense reports--went out of its way to secure him.

It started with a misunderstanding of his mailing address. Although Beano lives in a cabin deep in the New Hampshire desert, the nearest city to him is Presque Isle, Maine. If you look at a map of those two states, you'll see that this is highly unusual, since Presque Isle is mostly surrounded by Canada. This may explain why his mail delivery is often delayed, misrouted or simply confused. Last May, Beano received a summons for jury duty. Like any good American, he initially ignored it, especially since it pertained to a county in Missouri in which he'd never lived, at least not materially. (His mind briefly strolled back to August 1999 when he and Weasel Slayer, the largely unfathomable bi-nosal warrior ancestor of Otto Lummer, were passing through Saint Louis. It was a journey of incorporeality, thanks to a mysterious shamanic ritual coupled with a Klingon cloaking device, and the two never physically touched down in the city. Still, the U.S. Judicial Bureau seemed to think otherwise.) But then he began to think how he might apply his shamanic principles to the local justice system. So he filled out the summons card and returned it to Omaha. Nine days later, Koi, an administrator from the Office of Management and Budget, phoned him to confirm that his FHA student loan had been approved and a check had already been made out to him. However, he had to claim it in person. She failed to reveal her whereabouts, but Beano heard the unmistakable sound of the Bureau of Land Management's shredding machine in the background, so he headed that way.

The "way" consisted of walking a mile up a dry arroyo to an access road that led to the eastern massif of Mount Tug. A small limestone cave lurked near the trailhead. But not always. When it did, Beano would soon thereafter find himself either in a hotel just off the Algonquin Highway in Saskatoon, or in the basement of the Rorschach Building in Presque Isle. Today, propitiously, it was the latter. The BLM building was a block away on a totally unrelated Algonquin Highway, though Beano was already well aware of the eccentricities of things termed "Algonquin." He entered the building's foyer, only to discover that it now housed the Attorney General's Office. The receptionist, however, was not surprised to see him, and handed him an identification badge with his name and correct mailing address on it. She instructed him to climb one flight of stairs, then proceed down a circuitously winding corridor to Motor Vehicles, where Wally Areeses was expecting him. He did, but Mr. Areeses was not. In fact, no one there had ever heard of him. One person had, however, received an email confirming a jury duty summons for Zenon A. Bagbee, Beano's 19th century calliope-playing alter ego. The nearly nonplused shaman asked for and secured directions to the Office of Management and Budget: down the hall and to the right; you canít miss it.

Well of course you can!, especially when the route takes you directly in the path of the Institute for Homeland Securityís "Dark Winter" war game. You may remember it: the year is 2002. Terrorists introduce a virulent strain of smallpox into three states. Numerous current and former governmental officials play other governmental officials. (Former Senator Sam Nunn plays the President; Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating plays himself.) It's quite the realistic scenario and the lessons learned from it are supposedly so useful that the Institute decides to replay and reinvent the game on a regular basis--including the day Beano is strolling down the hall and to the right from Motor Vehicles. Unfortunately, he's instantly cast in the role of terrorist, and his counterparts do not play their roles lightly. As he is thrown to the floor and throttled by a man clad in a Kevlar environmental suit, Beano is forced to request swift succor from Weasel Slayer. Suddenly, the air is filled with the aroma of cedar, rust, a sizable tax refund and tincture of Anbesol, and the man in the suit clutches at his own throat and collapses. An alarm bell sounds, lights in the corridor wink on, one wall sinks into the floor to reveal a gallery of computerized control panels, and a man in a uniform steps from that room into the hall to meet Beano. He passes a scanner over his identification badge, which beeps five friendly tones that approximate "Climb Every Mountain." Then he shakes Beano's hand and presents him with an Institute certificate good for one year's service as Chief of the United States Office of Homeland Security, along with a pad of the aforementioned unfathomable expense reports.

So for a year, anyway, the nation is secure--plus, knowing Beano's proclivities, we need not worry about sousaphones disappearing from public venues. We need only remain ever vigilant to defend this 330th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar against interruptions from you, our listening audients, and instead rely on the calming secure channel influences of Damian, here, and there, Kalvos.