Friday, August 3, 2007

8-3-07: Bridge Collapse

Every time there is a tragedy, the natural reaction is to assume that, without immediate action, the tragedy will occur again tomorrow, or soon. What happened in Minneapolis was terrible, a true tragedy. Although the death count is not high as of now, it's still truly unfortunate.

But isn't it fascinating how America reacts to these tragedies? I was in the gym yesterday, listening to my new iPod Shuffle that Joanna got me for my birthday (thanks, sweetheart), but was glancing over at the TVs by the treadmills. One had CNN on, with "Lou Dobbs Tonight" going through the tragedy. I read a book by Lou Dobbs a few months ago called War on the Middle Class. It was an interesting collection of facts, and I agreed with most of what he had to say, to a certain extent. But, like most American media, Dobbs seemed to fall into the trap of immediate action. He had a poll in the middle of the coverage asking "Are federal, state, and local officials doing enough to maintain the safety of our roads and bridges?" After a while, he showed the result: 96% said yes. Had you asked a week ago, I doubt it would have reached 70%.

It's too open a question, to start. What do you mean by "enough"? Every one has their own standards. If you mean "the roads and bridges aren't crumbling every day", then I'd say they're doing OK. But most people see the tragedy and assume it's the same across the country. They hear how 7,000 bridges are below par, but that doesn't mean they're going to collapse. It just means they need some repair. The bridge in Minneapolis had passed inspections, but was never declared unsafe to use. It is an eye-opening experience, but people need to recognize it more as an individual tragedy than as a harbinger of things to come. It doesn't mean it's an epidemic.

The other thing, and I had to call if funny, happened after Dobbs' show went to commercial. The first two commercials: the first was (I believe) as Saab commercial that involved a bunch of cars zooming around on highways with a bunch of overpasses. You could see the cars go over several bridges, in a marvelously synchronized manner, at high rates of speed. The second commercial was, I believe, an insurance commercial that involved near tragedies. Nice work, CNN. I'm sure somebody else had to notice.

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