Michael McBride

Anyone who does a lot of cooking, like I do, knows that substitutions can dramatically change the flavor in a dish. I often substitute honey and molasses for brown sugar. I have substituted tequila for brandy to enhance the flavoring of a pan sauce for filets. I have substituted brie for Monterrey Jack. I have substituted Saki for wine in marinades. And I substitute sweet onions for red onions almost invariably.

Substitutions almost never ruin a dish, and savvy substitutions can greatly improve on a classic.

But I have never tried to substitute a tuna steak for a cutting board. Or a watermelon rind for a stock pot. Or a bunch of carrots for a Kitchen Aid mixer.

Or a pork tenderloin for a Chef’s knife.

But sadly, decades of legislative substitutes, a.k.a. pork, have brought our national infrastructure to the current pitiful state that has thrown Minnesota deep into the throes of tragedy. And while it is way too early to asses any blame in the Minnesota tragedy, it is important to have a discussion about our political priorities and what should be the national objectives for each Congress in their biennial sessions.

This week’s bridge collapse highlights how valuable our infrastructure is to our national commerce. The bridge collapse will snarl automobile traffic well out into the foreseeable future, impacting productivity of workers, consuming more fuel for commutes, and likely diminishing commerce for the short term. It has disabled barge traffic on that length of the Mississippi, and will likely impact farmers up and down the river causing loss of product or increased shipping prices. Rail lines along the river were cut, having the same effect on the transportation of goods, and the cost of getting product to market.

This one event is a microcosm of the interdependencies that our economy relies on to sustain its momentum. And we have done scant little about improving our infrastructure in decades. This is a bi-partisan failing.

Inspections are no substitute for repairs.

The computer that your automobile repairman uses as a diagnostic tool does nothing to repair the defects in your car. It analyzes the data, and efficiently points the repair technician in the right direction – shrinking troubleshooting times and reducing overall costs. But the requirement for action still rests with the car owner. Years of inspections will not ultimately prevent failure. At some point in time water pumps must still be replaced, brake pads and rotors changed, and tires changed.

Michael McBride

Michael E. McBride retired as a Major from the Marine Corps and blogs at http://www.mysandmen.blogspot.com.

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