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it isn't easy being green, or orange, or...
by alan george

Remember Tom Ridge? He's the Homeland Security Czar who announced to us in March the color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System; a system designed to inform various governmental agencies and the citizenry what alert level was in place by simply checking to see what color was designated at any given moment. Green signifies a low alert level. Blue is guarded, Yellow is elevated, Orange is high, and Red is severe. Interestingly, Mr. Ridge, who delveloped the color code, does not get to choose which color will be in effect. That privilage goes to the Attorney General as a security measure because no one actually knows where Mr. Ridge is at any given moment, or how to reach him.

Recent newspaper headlines across the country read something like "New York On Terror Alert"; an alert apparently based on vague and uncorroborated threats against the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. Problem was the alert never mentioned anything about color. Should New Yorkers have been guarded blue, elevated yellow, or high orange? Sounds like orange talk to me, but the problem is who can tell.

Additionally we have been told that terrorists might attack banks (fortunately, I have direct deposit), malls (as a male, I don't posses the shopping gene), nuclear power plants (I canceled my family's annual 4th of July picnic at Three Mile Island), and Orlando's water supply (it costs six dollars for a glass of water at Disney, so who's drinking anyway). The FBI Director, taking a break from reorganization flow charts, tells us to expect suicide bombers in our midst. The Vice-president pontificates his "almost certain" warnings during every weekend pass out of his secretly located cave. More importantly, the President talks tough at West Point about taking the offense against evildoers. The problem is, does he mean, Iraq, European allies, or Senate Democrats? Excuse me, but if all these post 9/11 threats and alerts are meant to make us feel connected and informed, I respectfully and patriotically say...ENOUGH ALREADY!

But nooooooo, I had to be told about the extremists that recently boarded cargo container ships illegally and slipped into my home state of Florida after spending weeks in an 8 x 10 box. Anyone who would do that has to be on a mission; a mission perhaps to punish Florida voters. It would be nice to somehow get the word out that many of us did not live here in November 2000 and therefore were not contributing factors in the vote which allowed national security to get so screwed up. I want to go back to the good old lazy hazy crazy green days of summer, but it's impossible to relax if we can't find out what color today is. Last time I heard, it was yellow. Do you think your county commission chair knows? Your police chief? Your Governor? Does anybody really knows what color day it is? Does anybody really care?

In the meantime, thank goodness for red-lettered days when we can forget all this terror tension and watch Fox Network's Celebrity Boxing Matches with the likes of Joey "The Gladiator" Buttafuoco beginning his sixteenth minute by taking on the previously 8-1 favored muscle-bound female wrestler Joanie "Chyna" Laurer. Over twenty-million of our citizens watched Joey win by a decision. Wrestling producer Dick Clark knew how to get our attention. Maybe Mr. American Bandstand should be in charge of the security advisory system. If so, maybe the odds would increase in our knowing what color it is today.


I have shown time and time again being qualified for a job is over-rated (also see presidency). For a good time, try surviving as a liberal radio talk show host in archly conservative Northwest Florida; nothing is impossible after that.

more about alan george


live report from a west palm beach safe room
by alan george
topic: humor
published: 12.30.99


jael mchenry
6.3.02 @ 12:59p

Yeah, last week was absurd. It sounded like a brainstorming session. "Yeah, they could... umm... use scuba divers! Or, let's see, maybe do something to a nuclear power plant? Bob, what do you think? Small planes! Yeah, that's a good one! Keep em comin'!"

Yeah, I'm on alert as much as I ever was, but since I live in DC, everything's fair game, so it does me no good to worry about anything in particular. Except the fact that my boyfriend's still in Pakistan. But other than that? All's well.

sarah ficke
6.3.02 @ 4:17p

I don't think it does most of any good to worry about what level of alert we are on unless it is red. Sure, suicide bombers could be in our midst, but the thing about them is that you probably don't know they are there until the bomb goes off. Why be afraid to go get pizza just because it could be that pizza parlor they target? Or that museum, or that theater, or that sports stadium, even.

I appreciate the government keeping me informed, or at least putting information out there that I can choose to read or not read. It seems to me, though, that the whole colour-coding scheme is more to make us feel like someone knows what is going on (and the administration wants us to believe they know) than a system that has any practical use to the ordinary citizen.

matt morin
6.3.02 @ 7:39p

It's a total catch 22. If you continue to issue warnings to the public and nothing happens, it's like crying wolf.

But as we're seeing now with the White House investigation, if someone has any shred of info and doesn't tell people, heads roll if something goes wrong.

tracey kelley
6.6.02 @ 1:06a

What concerns me about the color warning system is this: If you're colorblind, how do you know what to do? Isn't this a form of discrimination?

I'm serious.

One thing I will say about the heightened awareness. When it's so easy for 2 punks to try to pour muranic and sulfuric acid into a small town's water supply (Intrepid Premium Members, you heard it first!) just by kicking the pump house door in, it reminded the Iowa security director that more serious measures needed to be taken to protect public systems, and major modifications will be made around the state.

A year ago, this probably would have been looked at as a simple prank by teenagers.

robert melos
6.8.02 @ 1:12a

"Am I blue? Am I blue? Ain't these tears in my eyes telling you." Oops! I guess blue is now a happy, or at least safe, color.

Actually, I've never really seen or heard a color alert announced anywhere since the color scheme has been put into place. Maybe they're just not telling New Jersey?

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