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Thursday, August 02, 2007
Broken Span of Attention

A ridiculous tragedy yesterday as a thousand-foot long stretch of a US interstate highway collapsed and fell into the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. This was not some country road in the middle of nowhere, it was I-35W in the center of one of the larger metropolitan areas in the richest nation on Earth.

When ferries sink in Cameroon or a garbage dump buries villages in the Philippines, we sit back with our usual smugness and sigh contentedly, "How wonderful it is that I live in the greatest nation on Earth, where we build things that last forever, and they stay that way through the grace of a loving and American God."

Why should the wish-thinking that has so infected large portions of the public discourse not filter down to the mundane subject of care and maintenance of infrastructure? It must have, or we wouldn't see these sorts of calamities happening with more and more frequency.

The President this morning offers and prayers and somber good-wishes, but also declared that the costs were Minnesota's to bear, which is odd, since the last I checked, the Interstate system was a federally operated program.

But that's tough love from a Neocon who only believes in Darwinism if it's the social type, or relates to the marketplace. The winners win, the losers die off, and may God have mercy on the souls of your loved ones caught under 200 tons of concrete and rebar.

The sorrow of this event has not turned to anger yet, but it will. I'm on an accelerated program of pragmatic rage, so I was livid within the first ninety minutes of the bridge's collapse. I was even angrier this morning when I started to see some backlash to the assertion that the Bush administration bore considerable responsibility for this tragedy.

"There you go, libs, hating the president for everything. What, do you think he knocked the bridge down himself?"

Hey, there's a delightfully logical response to the questioning of Bush's priorities.

The knee-jerk defenders of this criminal administration tell you that none of this has anything to do with anything else, and especially not war in Iraq. And I know that the Defense budget has nothing to do with the monies that go into maintaining and building American infrastructure.

But it is a question of priorities.

Someone please tell me how investing even half of the $2.5 billion per week that we are currently spending in Iraq in US infrastructure would not make Americans safer on a daily basis. If the president, who incorrectly interprets his oath as protecting Americans from threats (as opposed to defending the Constitution), then repair of infrastructure that we all use every day should be a high priority.

But as usual, sir:

You have chosen...poorly.

As a person who pays attention, I know that money won't be shifted from the Sunni Triangle to Saint Paul, and besides, we're fighting this war on credit. We haven't even begun paying for this thing. Your kids will pay for it, and theirs as well.

Slap a penny, a dime, a dollar on every gallon of gas sold, and shunt it right into state transportation budgets. The feds will monitor the safety of the infrastructure, and enormous fines will be levied against states where dangerous roads, bridges, etc are found. And just to make everyone happy, those fines will be sent to the Department of Defense for any damned thing they want to spend it on, be it war or just research into how to combat the Soviet threat circa 1961. The caveat will be that none of the money can be spent on defense contractors within states that have been monitored with failing infrastructure.

It's a ridiculous solution to a serious problem, but the president has offered nothing except prayer and warm thoughts. You are The Decider. Make a decision. Do something. American lives are being threatened, yes, but far more by rust and stress than by anything Saddam, erm, Hugo Chavez, ah, Kim Jong Il, OSAMA, yes, Osama bin Laden could dream up. At least these people admit that they want us dead, instead of smiling at us and pretending to give a damn.

Keep your prayers. Fix my fucking bridges.

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posted at 8:54 PM

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