Saturday, May 16

Some odd things about the coverage of the Amtrak crash in Philly

In reading the stories in various papers about the Amtrak crash in Philly a couple of things struck me as...odd:  First, every story I've read has made several points seeking to absolve the engineer from any blame.  Editors thought it was important for you to know that the guy had been obsessed with trains since high school.  And that all his friends thought he was a great guy.

Despite it already being known that the train not only entered the long curve at 70 miles per hour--20 mph above the posted limit--but then, in defiance of logic, accelerated to 106 mph before flying off the curve, editors breathlessly speculated about a mechanical failure, or poor maintenance, or a shortage of funds, or something being thrown at the windshield for the crash.  Later stories even speculated that the crash might have been caused by a rock being thrown at the train, or a gunshot through the windscreen.  (Hey, leftist editors will do anything to blame a gun for deaths, right?)

Despite the clear and well-known connection between reaching twice the posted speed on a curve and being slung off to the outside of it, once the speed was mentioned in an article it was generally ignored after that.  Some editors even speculated that the train might have accelerated all by itself.  (Wow, that's some totally unsupported speculation.)

Then there's the matter of experience, or the lack of it:  This guy was hired as a conductor in 2006, and just 4 years later was running the thing.  I have no idea if this is routine progression, but I'm surprised that a guy can go from first touching the throttle to being made "the" engineer in just 4 years.

Then there's the attempt to pin the blame on the fact that the "automatic train control" system wasn't turned on in the northbound direction.  Come on, morons:  Did engineers just shrug and say "If the ATC ain't working I'm just gonna sit here like a muffin, cuz you just can't expect me to actually run this big sucker."  Yeah.

Then finally, a possibile explanation:  The guy is not just gay, but posts nude selfies on the net.

And like every federally-funded entity, Amtrak is a huge pusher of "diversity hires."

The guy may have been the top-scoring engineer in his class (if they had classes for getting those slots)--I have no idea--but I think it's interesting that not a single mainstream media story mentioned this.  It took some sleuthing by some blogger to find it.

At one point they used to have a name for that kind of digging.  Can't remember what they called it.  Oh yeah..."journalism."  Of course now that means boosting the Democrat party and any of its causes, and ignoring any failures or disasters.

I wonder: If the media had found that the engineer had donated to Republicans or to the Tea Party, or had bought a couple of acres in Idaho, does anyone think they'd have mentioned those things?  Or that they would have worked so diligently to avoid blaming him for letting the train he was controlling accelerate to twice the posted speed on a curve?

And before anyone screams that I'm claiming gays can't run trains safely, that ain't the point:  It's that the media seems to have worked overtime to exonerate the guy, despite the known speed problem, and the known fact that when you double speed on a curve you need four times more lateral force to stay on the track

But of course that's super-sekret physics, and editors and reporters wouldn't even know to ask someone about it.

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