Vol. 2, Issue 41, December 14, 2004
White House Announces New Color Alert System, in Five Shades of Red
The White House has issued a statement reassuring Americans that the delay in replacing Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge is posing no danger to the country.
"Frankly, Tom set up a pretty nice system, and I think it nearly runs itself," said President Bush on Saturday. "In fact, I'm just stepping in to take the reins for a little bit myself. And the first thing we're doing is fixing the most successful and important instrument of the agency. I'm talking about those color alerts, of course."
The color-coded terror alert system was introduced in 2002 to widespread criticism. It provides vague warnings about when Americans should be "especially alert" without going into details. It has been raised to "orange" level (high alert) six times, though no reasons were given as to why.
"I know some people don't take the color warnings seriously," said Bush. "And I have to say that's a mistake. But the reason may be that it's too cheerful. The color alert scale is a rainbow right now, and people just don't take rainbows seriously."
Bush announced that the five colors currently used by the system (blue, green, yellow, orange, and red) would be replaced by crimson, scarlet, ruby, vermilion, and cerise.
"Now we're not at yellow alert anymore, we're at scarlet," said Bush. "And I think when we make the announcement, if we make the announcement, that we're at vermilion alert, well that will mean more to people than saying we're at level orange. Orange is a fruit, for crying out loud."
Analysts were unsurprised by the announcement.
"Well the red states beat the blue states last month," said Greta Jurgensen of the RAND Institute. "So this is just the next logical step in taking the country all the way, so to speak. And there are many more dangerous decisions the President could have made besides change the color wheel of anxiety. However, taxpayers should know it will cost at least $160 million to redo all those color-coded signs and brochures."
Many also feel that, faced with the daunting task of assembling 22 separate agencies under one umbrella, the department of Homeland Security can do little else besides tinker with the alert system.
"Actually, I think the White House has just made it much more difficult for the next secretary of Homeland Security," said Jurgensen. "They've done the only easy bit left to do. Who would take the job now? I sure wouldn't."