500 yards and feet to the fire

August 04, 2007 by barbara

barbara writes

You know what? I'm having a really hard time with the Minnesota bridge collapse and all the flapdoodle emerging around that possibly avoidable tragedy.

For starters, something there is in both Dems and Reps that wants to point immediately to a cause for something this immense. And given the toxic state of things political, especially in the past 6+ years, I often find myself turning to the right when I point the finger of blame.

And then the calm voices and the faux calm voices (those pretending to foster patient neutrality in order to deflect the anger) urge us to stay centered, to avoid rushing to judgment. Read more.

I see some wisdom in all of that, I suppose. Might be a product of steeping in Minnesota Nice all my life. Some of it must have taken.

We all know how a rush to judgment and a measure of mass hysteria prompted many folks to accept BushCo's cockamamie story about Saddam Hussein being linked to 9/11. And you know where that led us. Catastrophic followup to a catastrophe. The gift that keeps on giving.

I know people in Minnesota -- some of them involved legislatively -- who have been deeply concerned about infrastructure issues here for a long time. Highways and bridges in particular. Overpasses. Tunnels. The whole transportation landscape.

What everyone's trying to figure out now is cause and effect in the collapse of the I-35W bridge. It's hard to keep the hackles from rising when we're told it's been known for as long as 15 years (supported more recently by a 2001 and subsequent inspections) that there were structural deficiencies in the I-35 bridge. And while folks jaw-boned the whichness of what around that information, the bridge came tumbling down.

Cause and effect? Still don’t know, but it’s not looking good for the decision-makers and the budgeters in my view.

I live in a community that is separated from the rest of the metro by bridges, overpasses, underpasses and tunnels. I drive the bridges frequently.

I have no way of knowing whether the bridges are safe. I don’t know how to inspect a bridge. So it comes down to a matter of faith that there is due diligence and scrupulous care by the powers that be to keep us all safe out there. That’s where government enters the picture. The economies of scale and ability to do things for the country that individuals cannot possibly do themselves.

What do we need here? Adopt-a-bridge? Maybe. But then what? Because we just learned the hard way that even the warnings of experts aren’t heeded.

So, like many of us, my faith has been sorely tested this week. I want answers. We all want answers. They're not going to come any time soon.

Please don’t tell me, don’t tell us, to sit down and shut up. We're being somewhat subdued during this period of intense sadness and mourning. But all along the way, we absolutely must hold feet to the fire about this whole dreadful situation.

So get out your flame-retardant footies, legislators and Pawlenty and MNDOT. You’ve got a lot of explaining to do.

Posted in


B (not verified) | August 4, 2007 - 7:51pm

Call coming into urgent care: "I'm in severe pain, my back is breaking, and my span is over-stressed."

Answer from urgent care: "Take two aspirins and call your doctor in the morning."

The morning after came too late for the 35W bridge.


paul miller (not verified) | August 4, 2007 - 8:25pm

slightly off topic but why did Klobuchar vote to give Bush more authority for warrantless wiretaps - maybe coming together after the tradegy? it's hard to impeach Bush for something that you end up endorsing - it's apparent that we're on our own


barbara aka babs (not verified) | August 5, 2007 - 7:09am

Paul, about Amy Klobuchar's vote? I am totally flummoxed, too. And I have to tell you that I am once again disappointed in that senator for whom I had such high hopes. When we lost Paul Wellstone, we lost Minnesota's true and honest voice in the wilderness. I try not to look back, but sometimes . . . oh, you know.


paul miller (not verified) | August 5, 2007 - 8:58am

I understand giving in to the bully when he has the backing of the american people and looks all powerful but when he looks and acts like a hungover sailor why do they let CheneyBushRoveCo call the shots. Bush completely intimidates the dems by playing the terrorism card.

There is a scene in the new Simpsons movie about the NSA listening in on everyone's phone conversations - the audience, of course, has no clue how to react.

You really have to ask yourself what bush has on John Conyers that he has totally caved on impeachment. Watch "Bobby" and it will be so apparent that the politicians in our country have no passion for justice. He even warned about the "swagger" and violence of our foreign policy.

I had no hopes for Klobuchar other than she was not a "republican" per se. She is more Norm Coleman than Paul Wellstone. She has shown her true colors - blechhhhh.


Anonymous (not verified) | August 5, 2007 - 1:14pm

Maybe the Senator is hopeful of preventing another terrible act of terrorism by people intent on killing Americans.

Quite possibly this could be a very wise vote .


LimaBN (not verified) | August 4, 2007 - 9:22pm

Maybe we should treat our bridges like we do our schools, and start holding volunteer bake sales.


barbara aka babs (not verified) | August 5, 2007 - 7:02am

LimaBN, it could come to that. *g* I've been wondering if we should consider an Adopt-a-Bridge program like the Adopt-a-Highway deal. That's been a big money saver for the states. They don't have to pay anyone to clean up trash flung onto our roads and streets.

We could have volunteers scramble around, over and under "their" bridge, taking photos with our cell phones of iffy things, and then we could tell...oh, wait, that's a problem, I guess. Who would we tell?


Anonymous (not verified) | August 5, 2007 - 8:20pm

Mah man and I were struck by how often the first impression of viewers/commentators was of "terrorism", when generally we thought the first impression would be of natural disaster, i.e.earthquake. We wondered whether the Bush administration has succeeded in keeping that threat in front of us forever.
Also, like hundreds of others, we tried to go see the area early today. It should've worked, on a quiet Sunday morning. But NO: the "authorities" have made seeing the site from any angle almost impossible. It seems foolish to us: the more you work to keep folks from seeing something like this, the more rumors of a coverup there will be, the more people will suspect they're being kept from information.


perhansa (not verified) | August 5, 2007 - 9:25pm

It still could turn out to be a freak "perfect storm" of conditions that sent the bridge and so many of our citizens to their demise.

All too often the cause is what is known in the field as a "predictable surprise," a risk that we had enough information to identify and act on but wasn't (often due to a conflagration of circumstances like an unrealistic assessment of probability or impact, or discounting the warnings of the experts, poor management decision-making, inadequate checks-balances, etc.)--just like the Challenger disaster. More than likely there'll be enough blame to go around and too much to hold anyone accountable. We'll declare that it can "never happen again" but it will. It will because of the deteriorating infrastructure around the country. And that is largely due to our pathetic political system which has been hijacked by special interests and big money. No new taxes and zero-sum-game playing have a stranglehold on democracy and it will inevitably lead to more tragic wake up calls. The final disposition will be determined largely by actuaries conducting risk and cost-benefit analysis and politicians playing to the it's-my-money-I-earned-it-I-should get-to-decide-how-to spend-it crowd. If you watch Twins baseball you're constantly hearing Bert Blyleven bemoan the fact that no one pitches complete games anymore and that the game of baseball has forever changed. Well, the special interests have forever altered the political game and now we have to pay the price...

That's my Eeyore moment for the day.


susan | August 6, 2007 - 11:16am

And it's spot-on, Eyeore.
Hey, here's a day-lifter. How about those weapons the Pentagon lost in Iraq? 190,000 AK-47's and hundreds of thousands of units of body armor and more. Authorities fear they may have fallen into the hands of the insurgents. Ya think?

The GAO calles it a collapse in accountability. To think that for a moment I thought only the infrastructure -- and the constitution and the truth -- were collapsing under Bushco.


susan | August 7, 2007 - 12:08am

Back to Amy's vote on FISA. I confess to a news lag here, and what news I pursue has been mostly on the bridge. But has she offered any rationale for this? I see Jim Webb, who usually brooks no guff from Chimpy, voted yes as well. I know everyone's furious at her, so don't tell me that you are too, I get that. I mean, is there any excuse beyond "we didn't want to go on vacation looking like we were blocking the gubmint's ability to protect us?"
Let's see. Maybe they got word that if Chimpy didn't get his way there'd be a terrist attack somewhere, or something they'd pass off as one -- the next steam pipe in Manhattan say -- and then Chimpy would say, "Well, the Dems voted to keep us from protectin' you, which is our job, see." The job he's doing so well. We should have had wiretaps on DOT phone lines.
Anyway, point me to what Amy's saying on all this, okay? Or is it too painful?