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Thu

02

Aug

2007

All Fall Down
Thursday, 02 August 2007 21:28
by Stephen P. Pizzo

I wonder how many of those Minnesota commuters were listening to news on their car radios as they approached the I-35W bridge yesterday afternoon? Those who were probably had just listened to GOP members of the House urging their Democratic party colleagues to hurry up and pass legislation re-authorizing the “Terrorist Surveillance Act.”

"It is absolutely vital at the time of a heightened threat environment to realize the present system simply is not as responsive as it needs to be in terms of providing the flexibility and speed in acting on actionable intelligence," pronounced White House spokesman, Tony Snow.

Maybe that's what the victims thought was happening as the bridge collapsed under them yesterday -- that “the terrorists,” had struck again. After all, since 2001 terrorism has been about the only threat to American's safety, lives and wellbeing this administration mentions -- and they mention it often.

So, as those poor folks dropped 65 feet towards the Mississippi below, surely they must have figured that was the cause of their pending misfortune – terrorism.

Those who survived the fall quickly learned that it wasn't terrorism at all. What killed or almost killed those Americans wasn't al-Qaeda but al-George and his administration's neglect, mismanagement, misdirection and mis-allocation of our nation's attention, priorities and resources.

The day before the I-35W span collapsed we learned that the war in Iraq will eventually drain the US treasury of somewhere between $1- to $2 trillion dollars. Not a dime of that will be available to perform critical, and already too-long delayed, repairs to the tens of thousands of bridges and overpasses that carry tens of millions of Americans every day.

In 2005 the American Society of Civil Engineers reported that $1.6 trillion is needed over a five-year period to repair American's crumbling bridges, highways and other critical public infrastructure.

We didn't, we haven't and we likely won't do that. Instead that money is being spent to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, much of which will either be promptly blown up by Iraqis themselves or simply left to rot.

U.S. overseers and Iraq rebuilding failures

International Herald Tribune -- July 26, 2007: The report, issued Wednesday, is the first of a planned series of audits of Western contractors that have received large slices of the roughly $40 billion in U.S. taxpayer money that has been spent on the troubled program to rebuild Iraq. Previous audits have looked at individual projects but never the performance across Iraq of a single contractor. (Full Story)

Meanwhile, back here at home, a giant 83-year old steam pipe blows leaving a huge crater in the middle of a New York City street, a 40-year old bridge in America's heartland collapses during rush hour, our air traffic control system can just barely operate, saddled by failing, antique computer systems and a shortage of runways. Meanwhile air passengers become accustomed to sleeping on cots at terminals as an ever-growing number of flights are delayed or canceled.

Over at the NOAA another day of reckoning looms. Even as global warming threatens more Katrina-type hurricanes, there are no replacements being readied for America's aging fleet of weather satellites.

I'm not going to belabor the point. You get it. The bottom line is that you are more likely to be killed or injured on American soil by a falling bridge or plane or by falling into a giant sink hole than by a terrorist. And not just a little more likely, but exponentially more likely.

As I write this I am waiting to hear what George Bush is going to say about yesterday's bridge collapse in a scheduled morning news conference. We know what he would have said had a terrorist flown a plane into that bridge. He would have come out swinging, demanding that we “connect the dots,” to discover how such a thing was allowed to happen. He would also use the opportunity to demand more money to fight terrorism and support for proposals to trim back more of our domestic rights so he can protect us from just that kind of threat.

And, we'd likely go along with him too. He is certainly not going to suggest we need to "connect the dots." on yesterday's bridge collapse, because those dots lead right to Oval Office and Congress.

Yesterday's disaster wasn't terrorism. Al-Qaeda didn't take down that bridge. Nor will al-Qaeda bring down who knows how many other bridges, killing who knows how many more Americans in the years ahead. No it wasn't. The "terrorist" this time wasn't al-Qaeda. It was the Bush Administrationm, and Congress' misplaced priorities that killed those Americans yesterday. It was the product of the fatal combination of imperial hubris, military/industrial primacy and the blind greed military spending it fosters once it gets on a roll.

How ironic that it was Dwight D. Eisenhower who championed and built American's interstate highway system back in the 50's.

The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, popularly known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, was enacted on June 29, 1956, when a hospitalized Dwight D. Eisenhower signed this bill into law. Appropriating $25 billion for the construction of 40,000 miles of interstate highways over a 10-year period, it was the largest public works project in American history to that point.

The money was handled in a highway trust fund that paid for 90 percent of highway construction costs with the states required to pay the remaining 10 percent. It was expected that the money would be generated through new taxes on fuel, automobiles, trucks and tires. It is said he drew six lines (three vertical and three horizontal) on a piece of paper and told his people to base their freeway system on it. (Full)

It was also as Eisenhower who, on leaving office tried to warn us of the danger created at the nexus of politics, business and the military.

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

Eisenhower was, of course prescient. We ignored that warning and so it has come to pass. The proof lies among the bodies and wreckage of the I-35W bridge. What Ike could not foresee was that this ascendant military-industrial complex would end up also destroying the crown jewel of his administration -- our national highway and transportation system.

Anyway, that's the way it is. So rather than stockpiling duct tape and plastic to protect yourself from a terrorist attack, it might be wiser to stock your cars with a helmet and life preserver for yourself and each passenger.
 
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