Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Hind Sight

I guess I should not be surprised at how much the national and local news has been dominated by the 35W bridge collapse last week.

Having lived in Minnesota for 20 years I am certainly not surprised at how people jumped to the aid of others without prompting or thought.

So I probably should not be surprised that the media is already publishing stories trying to put blame for this incident on some one or some group. I am curious, why does the media assume that there is always incompetence or neglect behind these disasters? To assume that some one is always responsible also assumes that we are always perfect in our knowledge. That seems like unreasonably high standards to me.


Ed Abbey said...

Glad to see you are safe.

To answer your question, I think it is because the attention span of us Americans is so short, that we have to have the reason quickly lest we forget the event.

That or we are just a tabloid culture addicted to bad news which includes the person or circumstance responsible.

The sad part about all this is that when the truth comes out probably sometime late this year or next year, it will be lost in all the other current news and since it will be really old news at that time, and we won't learn anything from it.

Balloon Pirate said...

Agreed, but when there were what appear to be a number of disturbing warnings about not only this brigde, but many of the bridges that were built during the heyday of the interstate road system, at the same time infrastructure budgets are either stagnant or being cut, one begins to wonder about priorities.

Any civil engineer--hell, anyone who even devotes a few minutes of thought to the issue--will tell you that these bridges are under a lot of stress--not only the traffic, but the weather--especially in Minnesota, where the annual temperature variances regularly top 100 degrees. Yet, there seems to be an attitude of 'nothing's happened, so we shouldn't worry so much' by those in charge of the budgets.

To be fair, there's more projects available that need the money than there is money to be spent. But in our car-centered society, it seems like pure hubris to ignore these warnings.


Freewheel said...

True, no one's perfect. But I can't help but think of the trillions of dollars going to Iraq and how all of that taxpayers' money could have been invested in our own infrastructure. That would have provided a lot American jobs and prevented this tragedy.

Fantastagirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fantastagirl said...

I had a comment, then re-read it, and it's not coming out the way I meant it to.... sorry.

So I'll just say - Glad you are safe.

and honestly - I don't think they will ever know the truth of what went wrong.

mal said...

Ed-you are probably right, it will get lost on page B15.

BP, Fanatasta Girl- I suspect when they get to the end of this they will find it was initiated by corrosion and finished by stress.

Freewheel- I agree our priorities are are out of whack but would it have prevented this collapse? I do not know. There is very much a "it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality about this stuff

Balloon Pirate said...

That wouldn't surprise me, and in fact that's pretty much what I alluded to in my comment. That's not my point. Which is this:

When the cause is confirmed, if there was a study of that bridge that suggested this might be a factor that should be addressed--and especially if there was a budget proposal to fix this problem that was deleted--the people who chose to ignore it will be in trouble.


Cheeky said...

I agree - I am soooooo tired of hearing who is "possibly" to blame every night on the news. Enough already.

Oh and this is my first time to your blog - I guess you could call me a "neighbor" from just up the road in Otsego!

Alice said...

i guess it's not really going to help to find the "one person" whose to blame here, but i think it's definitely important to figure out what DID go wrong.. don't want to see this happen again obviously. those pictures are sobering.

Jessica said...

The stories of altruism continue to amaze me. I do miss that about Minnesota. Our local headlines remind us that we're 300 years overdue for "The Big One." Disasters are depressing, morbid, and terrifying, but would you really want a national media outlet NOT to consider this news?

AndiJF said...

"I am curious, why does the media assume that there is always incompetence or neglect behind these disasters?"

In this case, as in many others, the authorities responsible for public infrastructure had been warned repeatedly that the bridge structure had deteriorated to a "structurally deficient" state, and apparently took not effective action. This was undoubtedly "neglect".

However, in the real world of rising costs and limited resources, these kinds of "neglectful" decisions are common, and may be quite reasonable (According to The Economist, 73,784 bridges in the USA are "structurally deficient" like that in Minneapolis; do you want to close them all? D'you want to pay taxes to replace them all next year?). Someone (over time, probably a lot of people) made judgement calls, but then the music stopped...

Link to The Economist article (I think it's free content): http://preview.tinyurl.com/2ypxyp