“Homeland Alert” software

Are you there?

Duct and cover

Back when we were on a high terror alert, the government was constantly warning us to stock up on duct tape — to point of taking out expensive full-page ads in the New York Times urging us on. And, dutifully, citizens raced to the hardware stores — buying three times as much of the stuff as usual. At the same time, though, many experts — including ex-military folks — were deeply skeptical it would do any good. Yet still the government pressed on, urging us to buy. Why?

Well, in one of the weirder conspiracy theories I’ve heard in a while, the Washington Post has noted that America’s major duct-tape manufacturers are huge donors to the Republicans:

Turns out that nearly half — 46 percent to be precise — of the duct tape sold in this country is manufactured by a company in Avon, Ohio. And the founder of that company, that would be Jack Kahl, gave how much to the Republican National Committee and other GOP committees in the 2000 election cycle? Would that be more than $100,000?

His son, John Kahl, who became CEO after his father stepped down shortly after the election, told CNBC last week that “we’re seeing a doubling and tripling of our sales, particularly in certain metro markets and around the coasts and borders.” The plant has “gone to a 24/7 operation, which is about a 40 percent increase” over this time last year, Kahl said. The company had more than $300 million in sales in 2001.

And Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge keeps pushing the product. “You may want to have a safe shelter for four or six hours,” he told PBS’s Jim Lehrer on Wednesday, “until … the chemical plume moves on.” So “you may need that duct tape.”

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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