Monday, April 1, 2024

Bridge Over Stupid Water

I knew something bad happened that day last week when just before my alarm went off, my wife, Sweetpea, came into the room and sat on the bed, looking at me. My first reaction was like, “Oh crap, what happened?” I thought for sure it would be something like a friend or relative got maimed or killed, or worse, something happened to the dog. But no.

The Key Bridge collapsed,” she told me.

I was relieved it wasn’t any of the tragedies I was imagining. That’s the thing about first reactions; they start with a small personal orbit. Then as it sinks in, the bigger picture begins to emerge.

My next thoughts were, “OK, no big deal for us.” She’s a Baltimore native and I’ve lived here 27 years, but we’re on the other side of town from the bridge. If you think of the I-695 beltway around the city as a clock face, the bridge is between 4 and 5, and we live just outside the midway point between 9 and 10. All of our families live on the west side, as well. I haven’t been over that bridge in probably 25 years.

But then the rest of the details start to become clear… it’s a major shipping port for the East Coast. This missing bridge will force thousands of people to reroute, which will invariably impact the stretch of I-695 that we do use. Most days traffic is already a monumental CF and this will make it worse for the next four to five years it will take to rebuild.

The shipping industry employs a ton of people, from dock workers, to truckers moving the goods, to cruise ships, and so on. There are going to be some big ripples, for sure. And there are cargo ships already in the harbor that need to get out. I understand that the ones on the way in will be rerouted to Norfolk or Philly.

My next reaction was about how fortunate it was that this happened in the wee hours of the morning.

Of course, there were lives lost along with the bridge. They know a handful of road workers went into the water; two were rescued, two more were recovered too late, with the rest presumed dead as well. That’s truly tragic. But imagine if there was bumper-to-bumper traffic on that bridge when it fell. I’d bet several hundred would have been killed, at least.

Early warnings from the boat reached the bridge control people, who were able to shut down the bridge to the cars that were on the way, which saved further lives. Those people are heroes.

This was the first headline I saw that morning:

Seriously? Morning commuters. “Oh yeah, we’ll have it all put back together for the afternoon rush hour, no problem.” Who writes these things?

As the TV news coverage was unfolding that morning, I asked Sweetpea, “Now how long is it going to take before someone tries to blame Biden?

Well, it took a while for the Republicans to drag President Biden into it but right off the bat, they framed the situation using the template of their standard talking points. Blaming DEI, illegal aliens, Secretary Pete Buttigieg, insufficient funding for infrastructure (Hah!), and everything else they could throw at the wall.

They blasted the Mayor of Baltimore, Brandon Scott, for not wearing a suit at the first press conference, again, making up rules on the spot that only Democrats have to follow.

It’s the Tan Suit scandal for the mid-20s! They’re probably just surprised that this guy is Mayor. He looks like he should be worrying about his date for the senior prom, as opposed to long-range urban transportation planning.

Idiots who were previously experts on economics, viral transmission, bio-weapons, and reproductive biology are now experts on bridge construction, blaming design flaws for the collapse.

I’m no physics expert, but I’m quite confident that if you ram a fully loaded cargo ship smack into a central support pylon for any bridge in America, that fucker is coming down. There is no need for conspiracy theories here. It’s just the inevitable effect of a huge mass hitting a vastly smaller immovable object.

I was happy when I heard President Biden announce that the Federal Government would supply the necessary funding for rebuilding the bridge, but that opened the door to Republicans, who will disagree with Democrats on literally anything.

I'm sorry, but how is this not the exact situation in which the government should help? It's a colossal mishap that affects the entire mid-Atlantic region. Jobs are lost, the supply chain is interrupted, and there's a massive reconstruction to be done. This is what governments are supposed to do! Unless, of course, you're a Republican, who thinks the government exists to coddle the wealthy and ensure they stay that way.

I presume his objection is that the shipping company should be footing the bill. He’s not wrong, however, how soon do you think it will be before anyone that money actually appears? I’m guessing years, if ever. The shipping company is already requesting they be held exempt from responsibility. So let The Fed foot the bill, so that the removal and reconstruction can begin immediately, and then seek reimbursement on the back end. These aren't mutually exclusive positions.

The video of the crash clearly shows the ship losing power before veering off course to the right, and eventually hitting the bridge support. So the big questions will be, what happened on the ship? Why did they lose power? Were safety protocols followed? Were there corners cut?

The answers to those questions will dictate who ultimately pays.

I don’t see what the Republicans are grousing about. A white guy piloted a fossil-fuel-burning ship into a bridge, killing a handful of Latino men, who were repairing a road. The Black Mayor and Governor are taking heat, as is the Democratic President. As far as they’re concerned, the system works.


In other news from last week, I was amused to watch the hiring and almost immediate firing of former RNC Chairwoman Ronna (No longer Romney) McDaniel and subsequent brouhaha.

Naturally, Republicans are jumping on the bandwagon claiming that conservative voices are being censored. That’s fine for breathless hyperbole, but in the real world, this has nothing to do with Right vs Left. This is a question of journalism vs disinformation. If they want to see network TV balanced with equal voices from the political spectrum, they can start with Fox “News.”

Of course the trained journalists in the NBC universe are going to be pissed about hiring an election-denying shill. McDaniel went out and espoused every fallacy TFG ever spouted, essentially claiming up was down, black was white, the sky is blue, and brown people will end America as we know it. NBC should have known better and clipped this dumbass hiring at the onset. At the very least, they should be able to read their own room.

The rub for Republicans is that those who do appear “sane” and were averse to propagating looney conspiracy theories have been run out of the party, so there’s not much left to choose from to carry the company water.

And speaking of the buffoonery at the RNC, we have to be careful in adjusting our expectations of what happens when the Trump Crime Family assumes ownership. Like with this message:

Just because the RNC will become the TFG’s legal trouble cash cache and donations dry up, doesn’t mean that those who used to donate there will sit on their money. The Powers That Be will still endeavor to bankroll the races as they see fit, they’ll just use or create different PACs to handle it.

Republicans have been quite successful in winning “down-ticket” state and local races. Putting money into and winning state legislature races is what’s allowed them to gerrymander the House so thoroughly.

Dems will only have a chance at these races if they compete in and fully fund them. They have to run serious, qualified candidates, vie for every office, and stick to the popular messaging (Reproductive freedom, support Social Security/Medicare, support the democratic process by removing artificial barriers to voting, raise taxes on the rich/remove gaping loopholes.)

It would be nice to think Republicans will just implode but there is too much money available to prop them up. After all, it takes a special kind of person to fight for the lowest taxes on the richest people. Such candidates have to be recruited, nurtured, brain-washed, and admitted into all the best Secret Societies. It’s the only way they protect their nut.



Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

As usual, I agree 100%. If not the gov't when this happens, which affects our economy, then when does the gov't help us? Rhetorical of course. I live amongst the hillbilly redneck racists with guns here in the south. It's horrific.

bluzdude said...

This is literally why we have governments.
The Republicans shouldn't worry. There will be plenty of opportunities to skim the reconstruction funds.