The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Saturday, December 04, 2004  

What Will We Do Without It?

The editors of the Philadelphia Inquirer, in their review of the performance and impending departure of Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge (“Tom Ridge: Shades of Success”), advocate the elimination of the DHS’s brilliant and inspired color-coded alert system. The editors write:

The department’s color-coded threat-warning system is a flop that might be useful to law-enforcement agencies but means little to the public. Does “orange” mean we should keep shopping, but carry along a jug of water? The warnings without specific information confused people and undermined Ridge’s authority by comparing him with the boy who cried “wolf.” Ridge seemed to acknowledge that problem this summer when he raised the warning only in Washington, New York and northern New Jersey after learning that al-Qaeda had been spying on financial institutions.

The warning system also exposes the secretary to accusations of issuing alerts to benefit the administration politically, although Ridge strived to remain above the partisan fray. If the alert system were scrapped tomorrow, the public would feel no less secure. Bringing in a new department head is the right time to ditch the color chart.

So we’re “to ditch the color chart”? The same chart, or scheme, that draws readers to Rittenhouse every day, that in an effort to plan their comings and goings and their purchases of desperately needed emergency supplies?

What are we supposed to do without it?

More important, what fun feature can I henceforth place in the upper right corner of this site? Your suggestions are welcome.

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