• Color Me Skeptical

      Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano this week announced that she may scrap the color-coded terror alert system. It has become so irrelevant, says a SF Chronicle editorial, that comic Jay Leno joked, “"To give you an idea how sophisticated this system is, today they added a plaid in case we're ever attacked by Scotland.”

      When your issue is teed up on late-night TV, you've got a problem. The five colors - ranging from severe-risk red down to no-worries green - never caught on or made much sense… Few people take the wolf-crying seriously.

      It would be a surprise if government scraps its system. Government rarely scraps anything. Of course, the color codes were particularly silly. Three days after the government’s plan was announced, I did a show about it and government’s other useless warning systems.

      Remember those government-sent warnings that were supposed to replace normal TV programming and tell us what to do in an emergency? They've been annoying us for years: "This is a test of the Emergency Alert System."

      Wasn't Sept. 11th an emergency? Yet on Sept. 11th, the government's alarm was silent. It was never used in New York or in Washington, DC. The alarm was not sounded when the federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed, or when the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993. Why wasn't this system used even on Sept. 11? Because the private media were there first. Thank goodness they didn't kick us off the air. Radio and TV stations gave out more information than most government officials even had.

      When it comes to getting information to people, the thousands of independent radio and TV stations are much more useful than government bureaucracies.

      Pre-October 2009