Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Removing All Doubt

Last week, I expressed my exasperation at the dim bulbs out there bloviating in a tone of absolute certainty about the cause of the St. Anthony Bridge collapse (The GOP and David Strom). This, of course, came before any of the submerged bridge parts had been fished out of the river, to say nothing of an actual forensic investigation of the causes. Needless to say that those of us with at least one functioning brain cell not exclusively devoted to electing DFLlings to power thought that we might want to hold off judgment until the actual cause was known. The thinking person's natural first thought has been, and should continue to be: there are other bridges rated worse than this one, that are older than this one - why are they all still standing?"

So anyway, I thought we had plumbed the depths of stupidity, and swore off writing anything on the topic at least for a long while. Then, of course we were afflicted with Sunday's Strib Letter of the Day. But then, I thought, "OK, now rhetoric relating to the bridge can't possibly get any stupider."

Alas, we haven't yet bottomed out. Jeffie the Wingnut Slayer had yet to write his weekly "column"...

The twin calamities this month [the bridge and the floods in southeast MN -ed.] couldn't be more different. The 35W bridge disaster was man-made, but one that had an element of luck to it. We now know that MnDOT was so concerned about the bridge they feared it may need to be condemned but held back from repairing it in an effort to seek out a cost-effective solution.

Jeffie, is no doubt referring to this article. But Jeffie conveniently ignored (I swear to this day that he really is a semi-literate - he can only read things that confirm his preconceived notions) this part of the article which quite explicitly undermines the assertion that cost was the only factor:

But five weeks later, all those preparations stopped. In a single
conference call on Jan. 17, the same consultants who said reinforcement plates
were needed to strengthen the bridge cautioned MnDOT that drilling for the
retrofit could weaken it.

"That was the turning point. That's where we turned the ship 180
degrees," said state bridge engineer Dan Dorgan.

I mean, that's a pretty important factor in the calculus don't you think? Oh, there was this part too:

Dorgan and senior engineer Gary Peterson denied in interviews that money was a
factor in deciding what to do with the Interstate 35W bridge, which was not due
for replacement until 2022. They provided a written timeline showing that MnDOT
supervisors on Nov. 1, 2006, funded the reinforcing project for $1.5
, with work to begin in January 2008.

To say nothing of the very real possibility that the overarching cause of the disaster was a design defect. Of course Jeffie probably was unable to read that article, what with his selective illiteracy setting in.

But this is old terrain, and there's nothing I, or the drooling partisan retards like Jeffie, haven't written before.

What makes this extra super dooper fun, is that he tries to make the connection to the flooding in southeastern part of the state, with hilarious results:

That point was driven home to me this weekend. Nobody and nothing can prevent tragedy; we may find that the disaster in the southeast had no easy prevention, that it was, as the insurance agents will put it, an "act of God." [the legal term is "force majeure", something I figured Jeffie would know because he met a lawyer once and was briefly married to another; one thing's for sure, though: that toothless dog would have misspelled it. -ed.] Perhaps there was no levee that could have protected against the flooding,


No, there wasn't and can't be. Since you had a hard sustained rain falling on a very hilly area with only a thin layer soil over the bedrock, you'd need one damn big levy to keep that water from running down into the watersheds of the valleys in the area, where some of those towns were unfortunately situated.


no police that could have secured the area to prevent a car from chancing a water crossing it was not designed to make.


They were flash floods. I suppose Jeffie possesses the intellect to immediately know exactly when and where these might pop up. In the real world however, things are a little more complex.

We may find this was just the sort of senseless, random tragedy our species has had to deal with for the past 200 millennia. And before 35W collapsed, I would have felt sure of that.

But now I wonder: did we cut corners somewhere?

Yes. We didn't spend eleventy billion dollars building levies around the bases of all those hills in the driftless zone.

Could we have had state troopers out, but for the cost-effectiveness of it?

Oh, sweet Jeebus.

Could we have built levees, if the money had been there? Could we have done something to prevent this, if only we'd been willing to make the sacrifices needed to do so?

You. Are. An. Idiot.

Maybe not. Probably not. But I wouldn't have even entertained the possibility a month ago.

That's because you have a feeble mind, ill-equipped to function in the real world.

Back then I believed that Minnesota was a state that did what it could to protect its residents, even if that wasn't always cheap or easy. I don't believe that state exists anymore. It's gone -- it turned out that kind of wishy-washy, liberal thinking was interfering with tax cuts for the wealthiest among us. And why should we ask the best off among us to look out for the least among us? Let the poor build their own bridges.

Ryan??? RYAN???!!!!! This graf is so NonMonkeyesque, I feel like I'd be intruding on your turf.

We owe each other something. We owe our children something. We owe our neighbors something.

And we've been paying it. Or so I need to shove my tax returns (and all those receipts with sales tax and gas tax line items) in your fat face?

No, the government can't solve every problem, nor should it, but it can solve some problems better than private enterprise can -- or "government" as an institution wouldn't have survived Adam Smith.

Like building enormous levees around the bottoms of hills.

There is every good reason to ask that government do things efficiently and carefully. But it can't do its job well if it lacks the resources to do it at all. We, the people of Minnesota, have to ask ourselves if we hope for our state in 2025 to resemble Minnesota -- or Alabama. I know which one I'd choose, and why. Do you?

Well, if you measure success by tax expenditures, I'd say that Minnesota's budget ($25 billion / annum) has a long long long way to go to match Alabama's ($11 billion /annum).

I'd say the old taxes are generating enough revenue.

Unless, you know, you want to build levees everywhere and station State Patrolmen every 200 feet.

No comments: