Bullet-train propaganda: China-style vs. California-style

Oct. 22, 2012

By Chris Reed

Last week’s New Yorker features a well-reported but conflicted article that tries to depict China’s all-out push to become the world leader in bullet trains as a vast fiasco of corruption, incompetence and hubris without noting any of the similarities to California’s — or the Obama administration’s — lie-filled push for bullet trains.

Reporter Evan Osnos concludes the July 23, 2011, disaster on “the world’s largest, fastest, and newest high-speed railway” exposed the “ugly underside” of China’s pell-mell race into bullet trains. This paragraph made me snort:

“The Wenzhou crash killed forty people and injured a hundred and ninety-two. For reasons both practical and symbolic, the government was desperate to get trains running again, and within twenty-four hours it declared the line back in business. The Department of Propaganda ordered editors to give the crash as little attention as possible. ‘Do not question, do not elaborate,’ it warned, on an internal notice. When newspapers came out the next morning, China’s first high-speed train wreck was not on the front page.”

In California, our Department of Propaganda doesn’t just include the California High-Speed Rail Authority. Instead, its stars are the news and opinion pages of the Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles Times.

Given the stakes and the money involved, this may be hard to believe. But these basic facts have never been reported by the Bee and the Times, the most powerful in California:

There was no solid factual underpinning for almost any of the claims made in 2008 about ridership, pollution reduction, job creation and total cost that persuaded Californians to narrowly approve Prop. 1A and provide $9.95 billion in bond seed money for the project.

What’s more, a number-cruncher determined exactly how predictions of immense ridership — 50 percent higher than for all of Amtrak, which operates in 46 states — were manufactured.

As I wrote for City Journal

“Elizabeth Alexis, a Palo Alto finance expert and co-founder of Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design, delved into the methodology and discovered, among other things, that the rail authority assumed that the future cost of gasoline would top $40 a gallon. Alexis also noted that the public-opinion polls that bullet-train backers crafted to gauge potential passenger interest were heavily biased. For example, 96 percent of commuters surveyed were already train riders. But unlike commuters in other states, only a tiny percentage of Californians rides the train.” 

If this happened in the private sector, the SEC and the FBI would be on the warpath. But in California, this amounts to an official secret kept from the public by the Times and the Bee. This amounts to irresponsible incompetence on a grand scale.

7 comments

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  1. us citizen
    us citizen 22 October, 2012, 12:35

    Wait a minute……..CA politicians never lie! Nor does the media. I say sarcastically. hmmm, maybe that is they never tell the truth……hmmmmm same difference I think.

    Reply this comment
  2. us citizen
    us citizen 22 October, 2012, 12:37

    So what you are saying is the small amount of train riders in this state, got this pushed through. Whats wrong with Am Trak?

    Cant we revolt?

    Reply this comment
  3. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 22 October, 2012, 17:03

    Revolt…who cares! Get it out of your system.

    Sick of reading over and over…..and PACK AND SHIP!

    Reply this comment
  4. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 22 October, 2012, 18:46

    The rail scam will be a disater-heck it already is…..it will only get worse…

    Reply this comment
  5. Sean Morham
    Sean Morham 23 October, 2012, 15:58

    $90000/year employees in the information booth. $300000/year train drivers.
    Inflated union contracts to build.
    This will be such a mess for the state; this may very well be Brown’s legacy to pass on, or should I say to piss on the citzens of California.

    Reply this comment
  6. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 23 October, 2012, 16:53

    Sean…..intervention will help…worrying about things you will never see change leads to spiraling down into depression like most CWD wing nuts!

    Reply this comment
  7. Hondo
    Hondo 24 October, 2012, 14:16

    This won’t get built. The wall of debt is here and there is no more money left to steal.
    Hondo…

    Reply this comment

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