"His conclusions were, and are, inclined to be bizarre." -- TNH, 1987
Way back when, in the late 70's, I picked up a new product at the store to try: Electric Fries, a frozen paste of mashed potatoes and binders, formed into a deeply ridged slab which went into one's toaster for heating and browning; one broke apart the slab along the ridgelines, and, voila!, you had "French Fries" out of your toaster.

Electric Fries ended up as one of the exhibits at The Museum of Failed Products, probably because they tasted like paste and tended to scorch badly along the high spots. Very few people ever saw them. The reason I got to try them out is because the Phoenix metro area, with a large diverse population, is one of the most popular places for manufacturers to do test-marketing for new products.

Back last year, a main-transformer fire at one of the Phoenix area's electric substations caused about a 20% loss of the city's electrical supply for several weeks. About ten days after the first fire, a second transformer, at another station, also caught fire. Residents were asked to cut back and conserve on their use of electricity.

Also last year, a break in an underground gasoline pipeline caused Phoenix to lose a third of its gasoline supply for about a week-and-a-half. There were hours-long lines at the few gas stations that still had anything in their tanks after several days; police were posted at some stations to prevent arguments and fights.

Yesterday morning, it was announced that recent heavy rains had contaminated Phoenix water treatment plants, and that Phoenix water needed to be boiled before drinking or washing dishes, etc. This is supposed to be resolved in a day or two, but in the meantime all the major stores have sold out of bottled water, etc.

And here (Fair Warning!) is where I find myself starting to reach for my tinfoil hat:

If I were running a country that had experienced a major terrorist attack several years before, I'd want to prepare for future possible attacks. I'd want to know how the public would react to a (partial) loss of electricity, a (major) loss in gasoline supplies, a (full) contamination of its water supplies.

Is Phoenix being used as a test-market for possible terrorist-attack scenarios?

This falls into the "If I were writing a story..." category, I think. For a paperback thriller, the idea of the government cutting electricity, gasoline, water supplies to a particular city, to see how the populace reacts, would be a great plot element.

But even if the (innocent) explanations for the transformer fire, the pipeline break, the treatment-plant contamination, are true, I would want the government to study how the Phoenix public reacted to and coped with the various shortages. Because someday we might have to deal with real and deliberate attacks on utilities and tranportation systems.

"I deeply resent the way this administration makes me feel like a nutbar conspiracy theorist." -- TNH, 2003

Last Minute Addition: A letter-to-the-editor in today's Arizona Republic raised the idea that the treatment-plant contamination was the result of terrorist action. Jeez, that guy's wacko!

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