Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sunshine Skyway a Source of Dismay for Money Hungry Florida Lawmakers

Courtesy Chris O'Meara / AP Around 120 people have killed themselves by jumping off the Sunshine Skyway Bridge since it opened in April 1987.

On May 2, the AP reported Florida lawmakers would end funding for suicide patrols on St. Petersburg’s Sunshine Skyway Bridge. After opening the article with a patrolman’s re-telling of a failed save, the AP wrote: "Now it’s possible that the bridge patrol, which troopers say has saved dozens of lives since it was initiated in 2000, could be cut back as the cash-strapped state government struggles to make ends meet… By being constantly on or around the bridge, troopers have thwarted more than 90 suicide attempts since 2000, the highway patrol says. Regardless, a state [DOT] spokeswoman acknowledged that the $330,000-a-year program that pays troopers to work extra duty on the Skyway is being scrutinized" (emphasis mine).

Life and death can so polarize people that even a hard news reporter sub-textually voices his opinions! (Another article, titled ‘Skyway safeguards don’t deter jumpers,’ ironically included an interview with a woman who succeeded in jumping from the bridge, survived, then expressed overwhelming gratitude she had lived!) It’s my contention this pervasive thinking is behind the decision to cut the bridge program; further, I believe lawmakers could be convinced to keep it if they saw qualitative proof of long-term merit.
Courtesy Chris O'Meara / AP Hanns Jones holds drawings he made of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in St. Petersburg, Fla. He survived a jump from the bridge on May 30, 2001. Jones says he’s fine and happy today, and he often wonders why he survived when so many others didn’t.

Detractors say Build a barrier or Won’t they do it anyway? But the high-profile spot attracts increasing numbers who want to end their lives in peaceful surroundings. Anyway, lawmakers bestowed authority on engineers to make the barrier decision--word came back: ‘it might hurt the birds.’ Barriers are not compassionate. Isn’t human interaction what pulls us back from the dark?

"It costs 1200 for the Coast Guard to recover
a body from Tampa Bay"-
Christina Headrick, St. Petersburg Times

Times photo courtesy Joe Walles

And if that morose little statistic isn’t bad enough, Myflorida.com lists current contracts awarded for state government security, including hundreds of thousands in metal detectors and wands--measures to stop death before it occurs, to circumvent actions of emotionally distraught people! How do we anymore quantify lives saved through these measures than through the bridge program? It’s right we live in a society in which the greater good is held to an ideal--but is constant talk of guns and checkpoints really going to convince anybody that life’s getting better?

It gets worse. On May 2, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel wrote: "On July 1, the state of Florida will see draconian cuts in state government spending… The reductions, about $6 billion, will have monumental consequences… even as lawmakers continue to push for corporate tax breaks and pet projects better known as turkeys." The Sun-Sentinel op-ed insightfully concludes: "If the standard of a society is how well it treats its less fortunate, then this budget before lawmakers today reflects a state that has come up short."

Bragg, Rick. "On Florida Bridge, Troopers are also Suicide Counselors." New York Times. 9 May 1999: 16.
Headrick, Christina. "For Many, Sunshine Skyway bridge is a dark symbol of sadness and loss." St. Petersburg Times. 13 April 1998.
Jones, Jamie. "Skyway safeguards don’t deter jumpers." St. Petersburg Times.
6 October 2003.
Stacy, Mitch. "Last stop: Battling the draw of a suicide bridge." Associated Press.
2 May 2008.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Simple Shoe Company

what ad campaigns!

Dan Price is no longer affiliated with Simple, in a technical sense, but you can check him out here.

purchase COMPLETELY vegan, 100% earth friendly shoes and bags at Simple's website!

Arnold Schwarzenegger for President!!

I admit it-- I'm a closet E-bayer. But I have to wonder... do many people who sell on Ebay also give their money right back in the form of other purchases?? It seems as though it would be a hard environment to be profitable in. So many tantalizing choices...

I recently came across an auction for a Coach leatherware handbag (MSRP $800). With one day left for bidding, the bag was at $168. It's my impression the bag will ultimately go for a steal. And, as the seller has no record of previous transactions (Ebay documents this publicly) the bag literally looks like a steal! Why anyone would bid on this, I haven't a clue. Perhaps the Ebay environment appears legit-- what I mean is, although the item must have been stolen, the potential purchaser figures she's paying, and thus the transaction is not ethically wrong, or something But will the auction's winner actually ever receive the bag? It seems to me that Ebay is a wonderful place to fence stolen goods. A thief could certainly have a phony credit card at his disposal! <--a "seller" requirement...

Because Ebay's "environment" makes tracing determined criminals difficult (if not impossible) that's reason enough to be wary. But that's not the only thing that Meg Whitman has transformed since Pierre Omidyar founded Ebay with Jeff Skoll in 1995.

I recently went to a large advertised sale at a Chinese boutique near Horsham, Pennsylvania. Big discounts on furniture! The woman informed us she would only be selling on the Internet from now on because brick-and-mortar overhead is just too high! That's the problem. There's so little human-to-human interaction anymore. We see our families, we see our friends, but this used to be a world where a new day would bring a myriad of unique experiences, meetings with new and different people (from what I hear, this was the case!) I know location plays a role... and this is just another rant against technology that's being posted on the Internet! But really, there's just so little personal interaction anymore. (I noticed the other day that the media has reduced people to color: "Barack Obama is stealing the white vote from Hilary Clinton!" weight: "Angelina Jolie / Nicole Richie / insert name here is skin and bone!" etc--people are all reduced to superficial generalities). What this equates to is a loss of interaction, loss of depth in the world.

It's gotten me to thinking about a guilty pleasure of mine-- those Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, Terminator(s) 1 & 3. (Sorry Edward Furlong, I just don't buy you as a revolutionary...) And in these Terminator movies, people lament impending takeover by the machines. Jobs are being automated, outsourced to foreign countries, people send email instead of writing a letter, making a phone call, or paying a visit!

The "machines" are already in control. The real crime is that most of us haven't taken the time to object, or at the very least notice!