Infopost | 2023.02.17

Palestine Ohio tran crash meme Chernobyl HBO crossover

February brought a couple of interesting news items:
East Palestine

Homer Simpson uranium fuel rod days without an accident

Wikipedia Around 8:55 pm local time on February 3, 2023, approximately 50 cars derailed in East Palestine, a village near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border with a population of 4,800.

A train derailed - sounds like local news, right?

New York Times "We are ordering you to leave," Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio said on Monday at a news conference. "This is a matter of life and death."

He added that there was "grave danger" of inhaling fumes from chemicals produced by the release, which the authorities identified as phosgene and hydrogen chloride. In high concentrations, both chemicals can cause severe and life-threatening respiratory issues.

Lethal chemicals in train-size quantities, that's considerably more serious. Residents evacuated and response teams decided that the best cleanup approach would be to light everything on fire.

Palestine Ohio train crash cloud from airplane goatse
Source. Trains carry a lot of stuff.

So while the rest of the internet has covered this pretty well, I did a little extra research on some of the interesting and controversial elements.

The media

NPR February 04 2024 front page

I came across more than a few claims that the event was another nail in the coffin of mainstream media - basically that coverage was suppressed due to someone's agenda. Norfolk Southern? Joe Biden? The Bogdanoffs? Who knows!

It didn't seem completely baseless though, I personally didn't hear about the incident until a few days later. It wasn't the fiery crash that elevated East Palestine to my newsfeed, it was the stories of residents returning to homes that they claimed were contaminated by fumes and acid rain.

And maybe that's exactly as it should be. Even a large train crash isn't headline news, but an entire town being hung out to dry by a rail company and/or state government and/or federal government rightly should be. Still, I wanted to at least see if the incident was reported on. NPR from the day after the incident (which was in the evening) showed nothing on the front page. The only instance of 'train' was "the VIM-GES-CRPA strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa".

I inhaled audibly.

NPR February 05 2023 front page

I exhaled audibly.

The incident did make NPR's national news section the following day, though with everyone focused on the spy balloon it didn't make the top stories. I only checked out NPR since that's enough to determine whether or not a "all of the lamestream media" was being manipulated.

Electronic brakes and unionbusting

Voices from the left were quick to point out that Obama-era requirements for advanced braking systems had been rescinded by the Trump administration after lobbying from Norfolk Southern. No one seems to be making the claim that better braking would have magically prevented the axle failure, but that maybe fewer cars would have derailed. I imagine the NTSB or whoever will have a detailed report on this in the months to come.

I'm not a train guy but in all of the domains I'm familiar with, preventing equipment failure comes down to telemetry and/or maintenance. I haven't heard much discussion of fault detection systems, perhaps they'll be the next bit of fodder for the regulation/lobbying game. The recent rail labor dispute casts a pretty long shadow over the issue of inspections and maintenance. Considering the White House and Congress made a rail strike illegal, framing this disaster as a partisan battle seems like a losing prospect for both sides.

Wordplay and science

Palestine Ohio train crash viral video water oil

Remember how the train crash wasn't really national news until a bunch of people were told their town was safe despite some indications to the contrary? Here we went down this road of discussing partisan foodfights and media conspiracies while a bunch of people are confronted with the choice of remaining displaced or returning to homes that could give them pretty heinous health problems. Is East Palestine safe? Obviously I have no idea, but I read/heard some stuff from people who claim they do.

Gov Josh Shapiro Air quality samples in the area of the wreckage and in nearby residential neighborhoods have consistently showed readings at points below safety screening levels for contaminants of concern. Based on this information, state and local health officials determined that it is now safe for community members to return to their residences.

I was perplexed by the phrasing of the above press release. Rephrased: "air quality samples consistently produced individual datapoints in the safe range". This could describe excellent air quality. It could also describe terrible air quality but every time you measure you at least get one datapoint in the 'okay' range. I'm not familiar with air quality measurements, but I am familiar with data collection and noise. If it were me doing the science and/or breathing the air, I'd be more interested in the median and outlier readings than arbitrarily-selected datapoints.

Maybe I'm pedantic and shouldn't have expected precise language from an elected leader's press release. Then again, saying one thing and meaning another is precisely in the wheelhouse of an elected leader. Why didn't he simply say "air quality samples have shown no hazardous readings" or "air quality is perfectly normal"? On the subject of normal, "... for contaminants of concern" was a nice caveat.

A few days later I read that the EPA gave East Palestine their seal of approval. It's one thing to doubt the statement of a governor who may or may not have been relying on Norfolk Southern's datapoints, but the EPA isn't going to get this wrong. Well, the Scott Pruitt/Andrew Wheeler EPAs might have gotten this wrong, but the Michael Regan EPA isn't going to get this wrong.

Yesterday on NPR an associate professor at JHU talked to Steve Inskeep about his concerns with the EPA's measurement methods. He said that the published measurements were taken from random points around the area, that if he was running the show they'd focus specifically on collections at the site, upwind, and downwind. Not collecting (or publishing) results from downwind of the incident seems like a rather substantial oversight.
Spy balloon(s?)

Macy Day parade satan balloon

Balloonwatch 2023 was an especially exciting way to start February. Tracking the balloon in real time felt like February 2022 all over again with nearly the same level of geopolitical intrigue. That said, most of the action occurred on the ground in the form of uninformed speculation, nationalist bravado, and hyperbole. So I'll recap the story as I occasionally do: through the lens of /r/conservative's best and dumbest comments.

"How do we make this about Trump/Biden?"

Since the national dialogue has been dumbed down to the point that everything has to be framed as a conflict of two presidential candidates:

Lauren Boebert That balloon would never have made it over US soil if Trump was President.

Oh yeah, it wasn't just the terminally-online redditors that weighed in with crazy. Representative Boebert's claim didn't last very long.

"This is exactly why we have the Second Amendment"

Punt gun

Redditor
Redditor
Depends on how central it goes. Biden may be spineless and the military may fear reprisals, but there's many a farmer and woodsman who would have no qualms about introducing it to their rifle.
Redditor
Redditor
Lol, at 60k feet in the air?

There was a flood of tweets daring the balloon to go over Texas, usually paired with a photo of a firearm pointed at the sky. But not everyone wanted to smash it with a rock:

Redditor Redditor I wanna capture the thing and take it apart

"We look weak!"

Redditor
Redditor
Seriously though, why aren't they shooting it down?
Redditor
Redditor
I thought i saw somewhere they were going to wait until it's over water. I would assume this would be because A.) reduce the risk of collateral damage. B.) make it easier to recover. C.) if we don't k ow much about this thing or what on it, do we really want it crash landing in Kansas City?
Redditor
Redditor
Sure wait until it's over water and all of the info it's gathered is done transmitting lol. We're the laughing stock of the world now.

Chinese spy balloon flight radar COBRA47 shadow

As usual, Flight Radar Gang was on point, tracking the balloon by watching the big birds with big radars follow the thing across the country. You'd think that of all places, /r/conservative would have some vague idea of the sigint and electronic warfare capabilities of the United States Air Force.

Redditor Redditor There was balloon over flights during the entire Trump administration and how many times did you hear about it? At least this time it's all over the news and actually affecting foreign relations. Biden has done more to address this than past administrations

Indeed, SecState canceled his China visit and a little while later the Chinese companies associated with the construction of the balloon were added to sanctions lists.

"Okay but what if it wasn't a balloon but something else?"

Redditor
Redditor
Would you be so blase if it was a high altitude plane with an unknown load?
Redditor
Redditor
But that's not what it is. The military seems pretty confident that it's an espionage asset. If I had to guess they're probably waiting for the best opportunity to capture it as intact as possible.
Redditor
Redditor
Your should have left that comment up instead of deleting it
How do you propose they recover anything if they let it float away.
Its possible to put a small hole in the balloon and it wont drop like a rock.
Redditor
Redditor
And I'm not proposing anything other than waiting to see how it pans out. If we let it float away and the Chinese recover it, then yeah, freak out. But for the time being let the military experts do their thing. I'm sure they have a plan. And if they don't, then we rake them over the coals.
Redditor
Redditor
I didn't delete shit.
Redditor
Redditor
That's odd.. It's in reddit Notifications and email, but not when i click on it

This one tracks better when you have their usernames instead of 'Redditor', but it's still a funny read:
The Department of Defense was pretty clear about their gameplan:

DoD First, our best assessment at the moment is that whatever the surveillance payload is on this balloon, it does not create significant value added over and above what the PRC is likely able to collect through things like satellites in Low Earth Orbit.

But out of an abundance of caution, we have taken additional mitigation steps. I'm not going to go into what those are. But we know exactly where this balloon is, exactly what it is passing over. And we are taking steps to be extra vigilant so that we can mitigate any foreign intelligence risk.

Is it the first time. It is not the first time that you had a balloon of this nature cross over the continental United States. It has happened a handful of other times over the past few years, to include before this administration.

"Red dawn!"

Redditor Redditor If it wasn't the Chinese balloon that was spying on the US, it should have been. What the hell is wrong with Biden and the US military? If it made it to Montana, it had to have crossed a great deal of the country already, including US military bases and missle sites. What this really shows is that we can not expect the Biden administration or US military command to protect US citizens when the Chinese (or any other country that biden is beholden to) attack. It will be up to those who believe in the Second Amendment and are armed (some to the teeth) to defend the country.

I'm curious about the scenario this guy is envisioning.

Retired analyst? Fanfic writer? Who knows?

One of the joys of the internet is finding interesting perspectives that may be insider knowledge or may be complete nonsense.

Redditor Redditor The real reason for the balloon at 15 miles high - 80,000 feet or so, is the exact trajectory height with which hypersonic missiles go before coming back down.

The easiest way to test US weakness to these weapons is send out a shitload of tiny cheap objects - balloons - and see how many get spotted officially by military, and make a heatmap of how long before being found and where they are found.

Purpose? It shows blindspots in radar.

The British did this during an exercise in the 60's where 2 planes went to these heights and escaped US radar systems and theoretically dropped 2 nukes.

The US kept it secret and updated their radar capabilities.

These balloons aren't new, and they are mapping response times vs position.

Russia does this ALL the time with Europe, ESPECIALLY the UK where it enters British airspace and they time how long it takes for the RAF to respond and roughly where they were tracked.

It allows them to map any weak areas if ever they wanted to do a proper invasion.

China is likely trying to find a stretch of sky that is radar blind where a hypersonic wouldn't be seen at all until it is too late. That's why it is taking tracjectories near Montana's nuke silos as that's the area it could be shot down from.

I doubt the balloon has any advanced equipment other than GPS and weather measuring, as that can affect radar. Even better is if US shoots it down, it will legit look like just a weather balloon as has no major espionage detectors/cameras. Just weather devices and GPS. But that data is super relevant to even military.

And guess what?

The west does it too.

And that's why this was the best thing for water cooler discussion since the Moskva strategically caught fire and sank.

Pop

Chinese spy balloon explosion screenshot Chinese spy balloon explosion screenshot

In the end, the Air Force blasted it.

Epilogue

I want to believe xfiles poster ufo

Jim Jordan Maybe if the Biden Administration wasn't so worried about banning your gas stoves, they would have seen this Chinese spy balloon coming.

While this tweet is dumb culture war stuff it ended up stumbling into a sliver of truth. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (or, to the layman, "the Biden Administration") followed the spy balloon shootdown by AIM9ing a few more UAPs over the northern parts of the continent. From NPR, the DoD said that revised radar practices led to more ballonlike objects being spotted at aviation altitudes. Take that for a grain of salt, of course.

War hawks were in a frenzy over the Chinese balloon offensive. UFO fans were in a frenzy over the car-sized cylinders appearing in the sky. The DoD told everyone to chill, the UAPs were probably amateur and commercial balloons.

Chinese spy balloon meme patch float around find out F22

rondonjon rondonjon Thankfully. Now I will only hear "Chinese spy balloon" 300 more times before it fades into memory.
Moment of zen

TooHappyFappy
/u/TooHappyFappy
I was in the bathroom of a flight a month ago, just urinating so I wasn't in there long. Captain turns on the seatbelt light and like 10 seconds later the turbulence hit like crazy.
I'm standing there, dick out and can't put it away because I'm deathgripping handles trying not to be thrown around the bathroom.
One of the most harrowing experiences of my life.
PvtFobbit
/u/PvtFobbit
Someone please animate this, but have him still urinating during the fun part.



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