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Sparse Argument 

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America’s war on terrorism is one long-running joke. Using the preferred policies and mechanisms of our politicians, it makes pin the tail on the donkey look like an exercise in precision.

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But not for Sen. Orrin Hatch, who earlier this week defended our nation’s irrational and wasteful funding formula for distribution of Homeland Security monies for defense against terrorist attacks. Rather than base distribution of these funds on a risk model using probabilistic-modeling technology, he praises the bureaucratic tradition of pork-barrel appropriation. In other words, states with the most powerful politicians get the spoils, rather than states most likely to end up in the terrorists’ crosshairs. So it is that, this year, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service, our most sparsely populated states received far more per capita in security project funds than California, New York or Illinois. So it is that in 2005 Wyoming, with a population of 493,782, received $27.80 per person while New York received $15.54 per person.

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Why does Hatch dislike a more rational proposal that would distribute more money to more likely targets? Because he’s more concerned about Washington’s attitude than studies showing that New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington and even God-forsaken Houston make juicier targets. And pork is hard to give up. “From Day One, I’ve fought against the inherent bias in Washington against Utah and other rural and Western states,” he huffed in a statement. “It [this proposal] cuts the money coming to Utah and overtly exempts Utah from competing for much of the remaining share.”

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It would be awfully tempting to frame this as a partisan issue'what staunch Republican wouldn’t protect red-state middle America over the lefties and homosexuals in the cities and coasts?'but it’s not. The current nonsensical funding formula is ours thanks to Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Even our Republican Sen. Bob Bennett understands the wisdom in distributing monies based on risk.

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Under the new proposal, Utah would lose $8.1 million in security funding, leaving us with $6.75 million to battle any terrorist who dares infiltrate the Wasatch Front. But who among us believes terrorists are interested in striking Utah, Wyoming or Montana? The record thus far shows that big thinking is Al-Qaeda’s hallmark. And you’ve got to think big after attacking two U.S. embassies, the USS Cole, and brining down the World Trade Center. Ever since we invaded Iraq, they’ve have concentrated efforts in Baghdad and Riyadh. Even terrorists independent of Al-Qaeda have gone for such big game as London. Along with headlines, terrorists look for numbers. But who knows, perhaps they’ve got the plains of Wyoming or the tourists at Temple Square on their list. Imagine the statement issued following simultaneous attacks in Cheyenne and Sandy.

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“Greetings in the name of Allah. The courage of our brothers in Evanston gathered with mujahedeen in Salt Lake City to destroy the Crusaders and Jews’ war machine in the cattle and natural-gas fields of Wyoming and the ice-cream processing plants of the Wasatch Front. All of America exited dragging its tails in failure, defeat, and ruin, caring for nothing. May Allah grant us further victories.”

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If the day comes when the terrorists reduce themselves to such paltry targets, we know they’ve lost virtually all ambition. The thought that Hatch might believe that day’s coming exposes not only his naiveté, but also his preference for politics over protecting those most at risk to terror.

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