Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Yes, Virginia, There is Science Fraud

One of the keystones of good science is repeatability.  Good science should be neatly written up, with clear methods so that another scientist can, if in doubt, rerun the study, and see if the results can be duplicated.  If they can be duplicated by others, it is a strong indication (but not absolute proof) that the original study was correct.

Unfortunately, perhaps, many not trivial studies are never replicated.  Why?  Because there's no glory (and rarely grant money) in being the second person to do something.  We all remember that Galileo dropped two stone of different mass off the Tower of Pisa to prove that their time of descent was independent of the their mass, contrary to Aristotle's pure reasoning.  But who was the scientist that duplicated that experiment to prove that Galileo wasn't putting them on?

But what happens when scientists do check on the repeatability of psychological studies?

Scientific Studies of Conservatives Can't Be Replicated
Concerned by the unreliability of scientific research in the field of psychology, an international group, the Many Labs Replication Project, began fact-checking major research. Of the thirteen studies it reviewed, only two were proven completely unreliable – and both had to do with conservative political behavior.

Both studies concerned “social priming,” a phenomenon by which people are made more likely to endorse a view or act in a particular way by first being exposed to certain stimuli.

The first study, published in May 2013, was thought to show that exposure to money influenced one to become friendlier to free-market capitalism. According to the study's abstract, this exposure made subjects more likely to endorse the current American social structure and to assert that “victims deserve their fate.”

The second study alleged that exposure to the American flag leads to “a shift toward Republican beliefs, attitudes, and voting behavior” for up to eight months afterward.

Neither study's results could be replicated.
And then, science in general refused to acknowledge the common theme in the refuted studies:
Scientific American, in telling this story, fails to note an irony which is not without its own scientific significance. The Project's review suggests a much-more-than-random failure of scientific studies that pertain to conservative views and beliefs. Scientists' inability to form sound theses in this area and to pursue their evidence with good methodology is a morsel that one interested in academic bias should not want to pass up.
I've had a subscription to Scientific American since childhood, and there is absolutely no doubt that it's editorial staff, in accordance with O'Sullivan's Law, has become a hotbed of liberal fervor.
O’Sullivan’s Law states that any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time. The law is named after British journalist John O’Sullivan.
But I'm going to go out on a limb on this one and admit that my post title is likely a wee bit misleading, rather than outright fraud, what is going is confirmation bias; the scientists, left wing head hunters, knew what they wanted to find, and subconsciously conducted a biased study to find it, and may have even unconsciously edited the data to suit their foreordained conclusion.  A salutatory warning to all scientists of the dangers of being overfond of their hypothesis.

And Virginia?

The Attorney General of Virginia's climate science investigation was a "Civil Investigative Demand" initiated in April 2010 by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli for a wide range of records held by the University of Virginia related to five grant applications for research work by a leading climate scientist Michael E. Mann who was an assistant professor at the university from 1999 to 2005. The demand was issued under the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act in connection with claims by Cuccinnelli that Mann had possibly violated state fraud laws in relation to five research grants, by allegedly manipulating data. No evidence of wrongdoing was presented to support the claim. Mann's earlier work had been targeted by climate change deniers in the hockey stick controversy, and allegations against him were renewed in late 2009 in the Climatic Research Unit email controversy but found to be groundless in a series of investigations.

MD Switches Stripers to Individual Quota

Maryland is changing the way striped bass are caught for sale, ending decades of regulating the popular Chesapeake Bay fish by limiting the times when it can be harvested. Starting Jan. 1, commercial fishermen will have individual quotas of striped bass they can catch almost any time, not just in the relative handful of days permitted this year.

State officials say the change to catch shares, as the quotas are known, should help fishermen make a better living while improving oversight of harvests of the much-sought-after fish with distinctive black stripes — known popularly as rockfish.

Some of the state’s watermen welcome the flexibility of being allowed to fish when it suits them, rather than compete in all kinds of weather in one- or two-day fishing “derbies.”
You might remember years back on "Deadliest Catch", that Alaska switched the crab quotas to individual quotas.  One thing it did was make crab fishing marginally safer; there was less incentive to do stupid shit to beat the competition to the fixed total crab catch.  That's not much of a factor in Chesapeake Bay, but it would lead to more thoughtful fishing.
But others complain that the quotas rob them of initiative by limiting the amount they can catch, in some cases well below what they’ve been landing lately. They warn that the cutback could drive them into oystering or other pursuits, making the tasty fish — a holiday staple for some — pricier and harder to come by in local restaurants and at seafood counters.

“Back in the old days — which wasn’t really more than five or six years ago — we could fish five days a week and catch 1,200 pounds a day,” said Don Marani, a commercial fisherman and proprietor of Don’s Seafood in Fells Point. “Now we can catch in a year what we used to be able to catch in a day. … I mean, rockfish is a great fish, but you can buy red snapper cheaper.”
Another problem that they don't want to publicize, was that the quotas were based on the past reported catches by the watermen.  Of course, many watermen have been substantially under reporting their catch for years, selling on a "black market." Their new quotas only represent what they wanted to report, not what they actually caught.  I'm not saying that the new system will stop the poaching, but it does put a bonus on making sure that your watermen competitor correctly reports his catch.
“It’ll be the end to the traditional fishery and the smaller fishermen on the bay,” predicted Robert T. Brown Sr., president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association.

Not everyone agrees. Virginia and Potomac River officials have doled out catch shares for striped bass for years, and fishermen who’ve worked under those systems say they like it, at least in concept.

“It’ll be a little bit harder on the individual — he’ll have to do a little marketing himself,” acknowledged Lee Wilson of Crisfield, president of the Chesapeake Bay Commercial Fisherman’s Association, whose members mainly work in the lower bay.

But in the end, he said, “it gives you a lot more opportunity” because fishermen can try to time their catch for when prices are higher, instead of having to catch them all at once and have to sell them cheaply because the market is glutted.

CBF Faults Federal Progress on Bay

In a news release, the foundation said its criticism is based on a review of the federal government’s 2014-15 draft milestones, as well as other actions. It concluded that the government is not meeting its commitment to expand forest buffers, limit air pollution and comply with the Clean Water Act when approving permits to reduce stormwater pollution from urban and suburban runoff.

Hear, Hear!

Back when I was working the national desk at the Washington Times, I’d read Ace of Spades and say, “Wow. That looks like fun. He’s writing about politics and making dirty jokes. I could do that.”

So after I actually quit my job and started blogging, Ace’s inspiration was alway there. R.D. Brewer takes us on a trip via the Wayback Machine to the AOSHQ Primitive Era, before he got all respectable and shit.

George W. Bush was in the White House, Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, Howard Dean was running around Iowa as if he were a Serious Contender, and it was safe to ridicule Democrats while making masturbation jokes.

Good times, my friends, good times.
I could just go to Ace's, and cite that, but this way, I get an FMJRA for this week at The Other MCain, in obeisance to Rule 2 of Stacy's 5 Rules for Getting a Million Hits in Less Than a Year:

Ace was integral to my following the blogosphere, and ultimately becoming a blogger, albeit a much lesser blogger.

I first became aware of blogs during the Rathergate scandal in 2004.  Somewhere in the course of that fight (in which I took the anti-Rather side) in an online argument, I probably followed a Drudge link off to the blogs.  Of course, the most exciting part of affair was the discovery by Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs (LGF) that the memos being cited as evidence that President G.W. Bush had used his families influence in his National Guard duty were almost certainly produced on a "modern" computer using Microsoft WORD, instead of the manual typewriters of the time.

I began to follow several blogs that took the issue up like pit bulls, and eventually forced the issue into the mainstream media's view, and lead to Rather resigning in disgrace.  Two of the prominent blogs among that group were the Ace of Spades, and AllahPundit.  LGF has since wandered off the reservation into eccentricity, and AllahPundit, who originally had his own site, disappeared for while, with occasional guest appearances at Ace's, and ultimately reappeared at Hot Air, to the extent that an anonymous blogger can reappear.

Meanwhile, Ace has kept it up day and night since then (with an excellent crew of co-bloggers), with humor, a little smut, and incredible insights in people and politics.  Here's to 10 more years of the Ace of Spades.

Great Moments in Liberal Civility - A Continuing Saga

A Sunday episode of MSNBC’s political commentary show Melissa Harris-Perry has sparked outrage because of a segment that turned Mitt Romney’s adopted black grandson into the butt of a political joke.

Host Harris-Perry stirred the pot by displaying a giant photo of Mitt Romney’s extended family Christmas photo to a panel of liberal pundits and comedians.

‘It really sums up the diversity of the Republican party, the RNC. At the convention, they find the one black person,’ joked Dean Obeidallah, just one of the uncouth digs the group made at the expense of Kieran Romney.

I thought politicians kids were off limits? I guess he just meant democrats kids. Or maybe it doesn't extend to grandkids.  It's good to get the rules out in open.  We don't want to be playing Calvinball here. Some other MSNBC highlights for 2013:

UPDATE: Ace has one of his typically insightful posts on this incident: MSNBC Goofs on Romney's Black Grandson and Then Does the Fake Apology Bit
...I must point out once again that, despite the protestations of the media, despite its claims of professionalism, despite the belief of many in the media that they are "elite" in some fashion -- most cable shows are now essentially Televised Blogs. Melissa Harris-Perry and crew are just snarkin', because snarkin' is what the ADD audience loves. It doesn't matter if no one can actually announce what it is, precisely, that they're snarking on; snarky-snark isn't really logical expression. That's not it's point. The chronic snarkster isn't snarking to communicate any particular idea, except for two very base, primitive ones: We're Superior to This Thing We're Talking About, Whatever It Is, and We Constitute a Tribe, You and I, Mutually Loyal To Each Other, Because We All Hoot and Grunt At the Same THings...
 And then there's Stacy McCain:  Unpopular Personality @MHarrisPerry on Obscure MSNBC Network Apologizes

The Final Obamacare Schadenfreude... of 2013

'Tis the final day of 2014, but the Obamacare Schadenfreude beat goes on:

Howard Dean: Individual mandate in Obamacare wasn't necessary
“This is about the individual mandate,” he said. “The individual mandate was not necessary and it’s probably a big political thing, and that is going to hurt the Democrats because people don’t like to be told what to do by the government no matter what party they’re in.”

“But the truth is, that wasn’t necessary, and the insurance companies like it because it does bring young, healthy people who aren’t likely to get sick into the system,” he continued.
Then why did Obama and Senator Reid go to the government shutdown "Reign of Pain" to protect it? Let's hear from Ted Cruz, the Honey Badger of American politics:

In the same interview, he also admitted: Some Americans 'get screwed' by Obamacare
Former Gov. Howard Dean, D-Vt., acknowledged that Obamacare increases the cost of health insurance for some people, but he argued that most Americans won't get "screwed" by the law.

Dean said that insurance would be cheaper, but "not for everybody," as he debated the American Enterprise Institute's Scott Gottlieb on the merits of the Affordable Care Act during "Fox News Sunday."

"Scott made a prediction here," Dean said. "I think he is partly right, but I think the numbers are going to be small enough so that the antis — the partisans are going to try to talk about all of these individuals who have gotten screwed by this. But most people, the vast majority of people are going to benefit from this."

Gottlieb, noting that "middle class folks really don't benefit [from] the subsidies" in the health care exchanges, predicted that their insurance costs would spike.
But, but, but, we were all told everyone would save $2,500 per year on health insurance!  What happened to that promise.  Oh yeah...

A commenter left this video in a comment in yesterday's Obamacare Schadenfreude post:

Thanks X!

Just a reminder:
During the 3-1/2 years of World War 2 that started with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and ended with the Surrender of Germany and Japan in 1945, America produced:

22 aircraft carriers, 8 battleships, 48 cruisers, 349 destroyers, 420 destroyer escorts, 203 submarines, 34 million tons of merchant ships, 100,000 fighter aircraft, 98,000 bombers, 24,000 transport aircraft, 58,000 training aircraft, 93,000 tanks, 257,000 artillery pieces, 105,000 mortars, 3,000,000 machine guns AND 2,500,000 military trucks.

We put 16.1 million men in uniform in the various armed services, invaded Africa, invaded Sicily and Italy , won the battle for the Atlantic, planned and executed D-Day, marched across the Pacific and Europe, developed the atomic bomb and ultimately conquered Japan and Germany .

It should be noted that during a similar amount of time the current Federal bureaucracy couldn't build a functioning web site.
Who says computer work isn't hard?

A Venn Diagram to help explain Obamacare:

Another casualty of "Black Monday"? Yesterday, Shanahan, today the  CMS official in charge of HealthCare.gov
This is how you take your lumps in the Obama administration. Botch the roll-out of the president’s legacy law so badly that you end up with three million fewer insured people than when we started, and you get to retire, announce it over a holiday weekend, and grab that juicy pension for 41 years of mediocre-to-disastrous public service.
The person tasked with overseeing the development of HealthCare.gov is retiring, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Monday.

The departure of Michelle Snyder, the chief operating officer at CMS who’s been in public service for 41 years, comes a few months after the bungled launch of the federal health care insurance website.
Maybe a new quarterback, although, personally I think the owner is responsible in the case of the 'Coons Redskins.

The search for a proper scapegoat is gathering steam: Dem. Rep.: Obamacare Enrollment Low Because People Think Law Is Repealed
The lower-than-hoped-for enrollment numbers on the federal exchanges are due to Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D., D.C.) argued on Monday. Norton blamed a “negative propaganda campaign” by Republicans that confused Americans into thinking that the law was no longer in effect.

“There are millions of people out there who think it was repealed, so there was no way to break through that very easily,” she told MSNBC. Norton also pointed out that the “debacle of a website” made matters worse because it “seemed to confirm that [the law] must have been repealed, or should have been repealed.”
To be fair to Miz Norton, it's difficult to underestimate the stupidity of the American voter, particularly the democrats. I'm sure her target audience is eating it up.

In a similar vein: Academic blames Obamacare opposition on racism:
Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, Constitutional Law Professor at John Jay College in New York City, wrote an essay published on Christmas day that is a truly marvel of modern scholarship!
The PoliticsInColor piece denounced 2013 as a year of disappointment for black Americans, and offers true insight into race-based progressive doctrine.

She cites several events throughout the year as being particularly disappointing, such as the resistance of Obamacare by “southern White radicals,” her perceived lack of media attention to the manifesto of Christopher Dorner, who she compared to Nat Turner, and her anger over the killing of Trayvon Martin by a “White Latino.”

Browne-Marshall writes in rambling fashion that in 2013,
“…southern White radicals vowed to stop implementation of the Obama-care law leading one to wonder if Tea Party members would oppose affordable healthcare if it came from a nonBlack President.”
Forbes calls Politico out on its "Lie of the Year" turn around:
On December 12, the self-appointed guardians of truth and justice at PolitiFact named President Obama’s infamous promise—that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it”—its 2013 “Lie of the Year.” An understandable choice. But in its article detailing why the President’s promise was a lie, PolitiFact neglected to mention an essential detail. In 2008, at a critical point in the presidential campaign, PolitiFact rated the “keep your plan” promise as “True.” The whole episode, and PolitiFact’s misleading behavior throughout, tells us a lot about the troubled state of “fact-checking” journalism.

2008 PolitiFact: ‘We rate his statement True’

On October 9, 2008, Angie Drobnic Holan of PolitiFact published an article using the site’s “Truth-O-Meter” to evaluate this claim: “Under Barack Obama’s health care proposal, ‘if you’ve got a health care plan that you like, you can keep it.’” The article assures us in its headline that “Obama’s plan expands [the] existing system,” and continues that “Obama is accurately describing his health care plan here…It remains to be seen whether Obama’s plan will actually be able to achieve the cost savings it promises for the health care system. But people who want to keep their current insurance should be able to do that under Obama’s plan. His description of his plan is accurate, and we rate his statement True.”...
In the rest of the long article, they document Politico's "evolution" on this statement.  It's an interesting read if only to completely debunk the idea that "fact checking" is objective examination of the facts.

Tom McGuire, blogger at Just One Minute, actually does some investigative journalism of his own, and investigates one of the the Obamacare "happy" stories from one of the Washington Post articles I mentioned yesterday: ObamaCare - Making Insurance Affordable For Fitness Buffs
The WaPo wants to highlight the good news about ObamaCare, so they lead with the touching story of an aging Young Invincible who gambled with his health insurance and lost:
Beneath health law’s botched rollout is basic benefit for millions of uninsured Americans

Adam Peterson’s life is about to change. For the first time in years, he is planning to do things he could not have imagined. He intends to have surgery to remove his gallbladder, an operation he needs to avoid another trip to the emergency room. And he’s looking forward to running a marathon in mid-January along the California coast without constant anxiety about what might happen if he gets injured. . .
This is a long one, but stick with it... (better yet, go read the original). A lot of it is how Adam Peterson avoided insurance himself to save money until he needed the gall bladder surgery
However, even if he is not being subsidized by the Feds, Mr. Peterson now wants the insurance companies, and ultimately their customers, to subsidize his choices which worked out badly even though a few years back he was not interested in buying seemingly expensive insurance. If somewhere out there in 2014 is a young, fit man hoping to invest in his own business, why is Mr. Peterson intent on denying him the same choice he made for himself in 2007?
(3) you want me to go bankrupt by having all of my medical issues handled in the emergency room (the most expensive form of healthcare delivery) since I will not have access to preventive care without insurance...
No one wants to bankrupt anyone - this isn't personal, although it is about personal responsiblity. And don't think of this a bankrupting you - think of it as a chance to see the world! Medical tourists in India or Mexico can have a pesky gall bladder plucked for $4,500 to $6,000. Bankrupt a high roller like you? C'mon...
This is blogging at it's very best, checking the media, and catching them slanting the truth to make their highly partisan point.  Yeah, we do it too, but at least we don't claim to be paragons of objectivity:

Let's let the original "Unspeakable Armenian" have the final words:

Client 9 Likes "It" Rough

It's pretty well known that when Elliot Spitzer was an ambitious Attorney General in New York, he liked to play rough with the people he was prosecuting, such as Richard Grasso, Chairman of the NYSE and cases involving prostitution:
Big Apple Oriental Tours was a Queens-based travel agency with an angle: it marketed vacations for men to destinations such as Angeles City, Philippines, a jurisdiction in which adult prostitution is nominally illegal but is condoned and regulated by the government because of the money it brings in.
In 2003, attorney general Spitzer, with one eye on the feminist vote and the other on the governor’s mansion, commenced a campaign of legal harassment against the tour company, obtaining a civil injunction prohibiting the company from advertising, which effectively put it out of business, according to owner Norman Barabash.
Ashley Dupree
Nice of Spitzer to attempt to enforce law in a foreign country, which appears to have no interest in its enforcement for his own political benefit.

Spitzer then brought criminal proceedings against Barabash and co-owner Douglas Allen that continue to this day. The first indictment was dismissed because prosecutors improperly relied upon a hearsay tape recording. The second indictment was dismissed because the facts alleged did not constitute a felony, leaving only a misdemeanor charge of promoting prostitution in the fourth degree, a crime so penny-ante it applies to doormen or bouncers. The third indictment was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, according to Barabash, and is currently before the appellate court. After all that harassment, there's been no trial.
Kristin Davis - "Manhattan Madam"
Of course, we know in 2008, as Governor of New York, Spitzer became entangled in his own prostitution scandal when it was revealed he was  engaging the services of high priced "escort service" Emperors Club VIP, and "met" with $1000 a night call girls, in probable violation of the laws against prostitution, as well as anti-money laundering provisions of the Bank Secrecy Act and the Patriot Act.  He was known as "Client 9" to his "service providers", of which his favorite was allegedly Ashley
Dupré, who parleyed the affair into a playboy spread (NSFW). Although he resigned in the face of likely impeachment, he was never charged with a crime.
Now we hear that in addition to liking it rough in the courtroom, Spitzer liked it rough in the boudoir as well:  Call girl: Eliot Spitzer liked to choke me
Author - Rebecca 'Kade'

Eliot Spitzer lusted after violence, a former hooker says in a new tell-all book — revealing in graphic detail how the love gov pinned her to a bed inside a posh, Murray Hill apartment and then gripped her by the neck until she feared for her safety.

The violence was scripted by Spitzer, who wanted his hooker to follow a role-play dialogue in which she would pretend she had just taken a self-defense class.

The kinky politician would then pretend to test her skills by announcing, “Well, then, let’s see if you learned anything,” and attacking her.

“The more struggle there was, the more he was into it,” foxy blond escort Rebecca Woodard recalls of her sadistic tryst with Spitzer, whom she serviced for $1,500 at the behest of notorious hooker booker Kristin Davis.
Hooker - Rebecca Woodward
 $1500!  Not bad for 20 minutes of mildly sweaty work.  But then, it could be considered hazard pay...
“When he grabbed my throat, that was too much,” Woodard says in her book, “Call Girl Confidential,” written for Simon & Schuster under the nom-de-plume of Rebecca Kade.

Woodard would go on to work for Hockey Mom Madam Anna Gristina — eventually allowing her phone calls to be recorded to help prosecutors take down Gristina’s far more upscale operation.

“He wasn’t squeezing,” she recalls of the governor’s hands at her neck. “He was pushing down. I was on my back. I don’t know if he was trying to really hurt me, but he was . . .

“I was nervous. I was worried. This is not OK, I thought . . .

“It got rough,” she writes. “And then he put his hands around my throat, strangling me.

“He wasn’t pretending to be a rapist. But he was like an attacker. I still had my lingerie on. He was naked. He was aroused,” she writes.
 "And then he put his hands around my throat" is a perfect metaphor for the democrats.

Wombat-Socho has the grand Rule 5 post: Rule 5 Sunday: New Year’s Extended Hangover Relief Edition up at the other McCain.

The Sun Flips Out, Again

Sun Reverses Magnetic Polarity; Life Goes On: MSM finally gets that the sun’s magnetic field has flipped

And NOAA made a video to illustrate it:

The entire sun’s magnetic polarity, flips approximately every 11 years — though sometimes it takes quite a bit longer — and defines what’s known as the solar cycle. The visualization shows how in 1997, the sun shows the positive polarity on the top, and the negative polarity on the bottom. Over the next 12 years, each set of lines is seen to creep toward the opposite pole eventually showing a complete flip. By the end of the movie, each set of lines are working their way back to show a positive polarity on the top to complete the full 22 year magnetic solar cycle.

At the height of each magnetic flip, the sun goes through periods of more solar activity, during which there are more sunspots, and more eruptive events such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections, or CMEs. The point in time with the most sunspots is called solar maximum.

In all likelihood, this means that sunspot activity, still low by historical standards for activity at the height of a solar cycle, will now start to decline to the beginning of the next cycle.

What does this mean for the earth?  We don't know, but historically, periods of low sunspot activity are periods of cool to cold climate.

Too Bad They Didn't Have a Pipeline Instead

A mile-long train carrying crude oil derailed just a mile before it would have cut through the heart of a small North Dakota town, shaking residents with a series of explosions that sent flame and black smoke skyward. No one was hurt, but officials were evacuating as many as 300 people as a precaution.

The mile-long BNSF Railway Co. train left the tracks about 2:30 p.m. Monday, and as many as 10 cars caught fire. They were still burning four hours later as darkness fell, and authorities said they would be allowed to burn out.

Cass County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tara Morris said the evacuation of a section of the town Casselton was a precaution in case of a wind shift. A thick smoke plume from the burning cars was largely staying to the southeast of town. Casselton has about 2,400 residents and is about 25 miles west of Fargo.

Authorities hadn’t yet been able to untangle exactly how the derailment happened, but a second train carrying grain was involved. BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said the train carrying grain derailed first, then knocked several cars of the oil train off adjoining tracks.
. . .The derailment happened amid increased concerns about the United States’ increased reliance on rail to carry crude oil. Fears of catastrophic derailments were particularly stoked after last summer’s crash in Canada of a train carrying crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken oil patch. Forty-seven people died in the ensuing fire.

The tracks that the train was on Monday pass through the middle of Casselton, and Morris said it was “a blessing it didn’t happen within the city.”
Pipelines are only about 3 times safer than rail transport on a per incident basis. . .
North Dakota is the No. 2 oil-producing state in the U.S., trailing only Texas, and a growing amount of that oil is being shipped by rail. The state’s top oil regulator said earlier this month that he expected as much as 90 percent of North Dakota’s oil would be carried by train in 2014, up from the current 60 percent.

The number of crude oil carloads hauled by U.S. railroads surged from 10,840 in 2009 to a projected 400,000 this year. Despite the increase, the rate of accidents has stayed relatively steady. Railroads say 99.997 percent of hazardous materials shipments reach destinations safely.
. . . but about 25 times safe on a fatality per delivered product basis.

I blame President Obama for every bit of damage, every injury, however slight.  In the time that President Obama has been dithering over the Keystone Pipeline, it could have been built and carrying this oil.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Those Who Can, Do. Those Who Can't, Teach

David Brooks Hired by Yale University to Teach a Class on... Humility

Walamists Still Icebound in Antarctica

On Friday I reported how the Russian research vessel MV Akademik Shokalskiy was stuck in the sea ice surrounding the Antarctic with a raft of scientists, media and tourists while trying to recreate/celebrate the voyage of Australian Sir Douglas Mawson and his 1911-1914 expedition, and to drum up support for global warming.

Yep, still stuck.
Bad weather on Monday forced back an Australian icebreaker struggling to reach a scientific expedition ship stranded off Antarctica, while snow and winds have prevented a helicopter rescue, authorities said.

The Aurora Australis made it to within 10 nautical miles of the MV Akademik Shokalskiy, which is stuck in an ice field, before retreating in the face of freezing winds and snow showers.

"Adverse weather conditions have resulted in the Australian Antarctic Division vessel Aurora Australis moving back into open water this afternoon," the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.

"The area where the MV Akademik Shokalskiy is beset by ice is currently experiencing winds of up to 30 knots and snow showers. These weather conditions have resulted in poor visibility and made it difficult and unsafe for the Aurora Australis to continue today's attempt to assist the MV Akademik Shokalskiy."

The authority said further rescue attempts could be made by the Australian vessel once the weather improves and it was now in open waters about 18 nautical miles east of the trapped Russian ship.
Ice in the Antarctic is on its way down from the Southern Hemisphere's winter high, but they are still above average for that time of year, as indeed, sea ice in Antarctic has been increasing in the Antarctic for several years, unlike the Arctic.

I have no doubt that the passengers and crew will eventually be rescued, and only a little doubt that the ship will be freed before it's crushed by ice, which is reported to be 3-4 meters thick around the Shokalskiy.

UPDATE:  following that last comment, it is now being reported that the Aurora Australis has, at least temporarily, given up attempt to reach the Shokalskiy, and the ice bound ship is being evacuated by helicopter.

From Stacy McCain:


A Climate of Fears at the Washington Post

A photoessay by  Lenny Bernstein and Darryl Fears emphasizing climate and weather extremes:
Another year of extreme weather brought the Philippines a super typhoon and the United States the widest tornado ever observed, deadly wildfires, severe drought and killer floods. President Obama released his plan to battle climate change and its impact on people and wildlife, but the warming planet passed another troubling milestone as heat-trapping greenhouse gases continued to accumulate. Here is a look back at some of the most significant events to affect the environment in 2013.

1. Recorded carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached the unsettling milestone of 400 parts per million on May 10, a level of the heat-trapping gas unseen for 3 million to 5 million years...
Having two zeros makes a number more ominous, because we have five fingers on each hand?  If we thought in binary, would we need to wait until 512 ppm to be unsettled?
2. A rare EF-5 tornado in Moore, Okla., on May 20 killed 25 people, injured hundreds and obliterated more than 1,000 homes along a 17-mile path of destruction...
Rare, but hardly unheard of. EF-5 exists because tornadoes do occasionally reach that strength.  The fact that the scale only goes to 5 suggests that they are rare.  More rare is when an EF-5 tracks through a heavily populated area, at which point it becomes a tragedy.

Unmentioned is the fact that overall tornado activity activity in the United States is near a record low.
3. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal in June to protect both captive and wild chimpanzees under the Endangered Species Act threatened to end their online trade and use as medical lab specimens.
That's good. But I do worry that without a reason to keep chimps  alive, their number will dwindle significantly.
4. President Obama unveiled his long-awaited climate action plan on June 25, ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to propose limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal- and gas-fired power plants. He also said he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude from Canadian oil sands fields to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, only if it did not “significantly exacerbate” climate change.
And electricity prices have started to rise in response to the lack of supply as utilities have begun to close coal fired plants before the end of their useful life.  The supply will, ultimately be made up with natural gas, but in the meantime, the market disruptions cause prices to rise.  And the Preznit is playing politics with the Keystone Pipeline, pure and simple.
5. Severe, widespread flooding in Colorado killed five people and prompted the biggest civilian airlift since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Yep, there's always bad weather some where:  "There's hurricanes in Florida, and Texas needs rain"

6. It’s “extremely likely” that humans are the main cause of global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said on Sept. 27.
Unfortunately for their story, the world hasn't actually gotten any warmer in the last 17 years or so (depending on which temperature  data set you use), so does that mean that humans are the main cause of climate stagnation? 
7. The Yosemite Rim Fire was scary not only because it burned for two months ending Oct. 25 and ranked as the third-largest wildfire in the history of California, a state that has seen its share of monster burns. It followed a giant Arizona wildfire that killed 19 elite firefighters, the Granite Mountain Hotshots, in June. On top of that, it followed what meteorologists say was the driest year ever in California, where Death Valley tied the record for the highest temperature ever in June, 129 degrees. Los Angeles and San Francisco posted their driest year on record...
I lived in California long enough (23 years) to watch the wildfires denude the Santa Monica Mountains more than once (literally, the window in our front room overlooked them).  Drought and wildfires are a way of life out west.  And no mention of 10,000 record cold weather records set in winter of 2013.
8. Haiyan, dubbed a “super” typhoon, struck the Philippines on Nov. 7 with sustained maximum winds of 195 mph and gusts of 235 mph, one of the most intense storms in modern times.
And still it was one of the least active years for Atlantic hurricane activity on record. 
9. Moose were eaten alive by ticks, two subspecies of butterflies in Florida disappeared, frog and amphibian populations plummeted, and a new study showed that crabs will super-size in the coming years by ingesting increased carbon in oceans.
Oh, my god, moose have ticks, scientists lost track of two subspecies of butterfly (not full species, mind you, and "extinct" species are routinely refound"), and crabs may (emphasis on may) respond to increased CO2 in the water by making larger shells!  It's entirely another question if CO2 in the oceans will rise to that point.  If these guys knew any more, they'd be really dangerous.
10. Wildlife poachers kill millions of animals each year, but this year was especially deadly for African elephants and rhinoceroses, whose tusks and horns are valued for carvings and traditional medicine.
That sucks, but I'm shocked that they didn't find a way to make that happen due to global warming.  It's certainly less reach than the "giant crabs" story. Here's a hint.  Civilized people in wealthy countries with a good energy supply rarely resort to killing elephants and rhinos for their tusks and horns.

Post Shanahan Obamacare Schadenfreude

On Oct. 30, as President Obama was under fire for the botched rollout of his signature health care law, he visited Boston's Faneuil Hall. It was in that hall in 2006 that then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, with a smiling Ted Kennedy by his side, signed a sweeping health care overhaul into law that would eventually become the model for Obamacare.

As with Obamacare, the Massachusetts program (also known as Romneycare), expanded Medicaid, mandated that individuals purchase government-approved coverage, and provided subsidies to individuals to purchase government-designed insurance plans on a government-run exchange.

In his October remarks, Obama used the Massachusetts experience to argue that Obamacare could work, despite what the naysayers claimed...

Yet a new report from the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission reached a different conclusion.

As Modern Healthcare reports:
Massachusetts, whose health care reform program was used as a template for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, had the highest per capita health spending in the U.S. in 2009. According to the commission's report, the state spent $9,278 per person on health care in 2009, which was 36 percent higher than the national average of $6,815, and 11.2 percent more than the next-highest state, New York, which spent $8,341.
What a great model!

Stacy McCain notes, as did I a couple of days ago, that the net effect of the Obamacare "reforms" is to help push to costs onto the rural, more Republican leaning states, and is part of the culture war of the cities against their rural suppliers of food, materials and energy.
Was the relatively high cost of health care in Massachusetts a cause or an effect of the push for socialized medicine? The political impetus for ObamaCare came from highly urbanized, Democrat-dominated states where the cost of health care was already high.

If the result of this national policy is to spread the misery (i.e., causing a rise in health-care costs in more rural Republican-dominated states) why should liberals care? This simply deprives the GOP states of an economic advantage they previously enjoyed.

Politifact’s “Lie of the Year” – Part Deux
Avik Roy writes on how Politifact’s assessment of the “if you like your plan, you can keep it” promise went from 100% true to half-true to a “pants on fire” lie to the “lie of the year.” The column is fairly devastating by itself, but then Politifact’s Angie Holan, who authored some of the relevant evaluations, tried to defend Politifact with a tweet:
The mind reels. Then-Senator Obama’s 2008 health care plan had numerous elements that were sure to disrupt health insurance markets, as Roy noted in the column. (If, on the other hand, Politifact wants to argue that the initial promise was “true” because it represented then-candidate Obama’s honest intent in 2008, then there was no point in fact-checking it at all.) More importantly, insofar as one wants to argue that the 2008 plan and the PPACA are sufficiently different to justify different assessments of the claim, the individual mandate is largely irrelevant — and this is the first time someone from Politifact has tried to suggest otherwise. (For instance, there’s no mention of the mandate in Ms. Holan’s “Lie of the Year” post.) The individual mandate is not what is causing individuals to lose their health insurance. If anything, it has the opposite effect by reducing the effect of other PPACA requirements. It’s as if Politifact “fact-checkers” don’t know very much about the subjects of their “fact checks.”
I wouldn't say that at all.  All the political fact checkers that I've seen have a clear agenda, and the facts are the warp around which they weave the weft of highly colored spun opinion to create the tapestry that tells their foreordained story.

For example, Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post fact checker weaver evaluates spins Chuck Schumer's claim...
“I think what most Americans want us to do is not repeal Obamacare, which is what our Republican colleagues are focused on, but fix it. The president is working to fix it; we are working in the Senate to fix it; we urge our Republican colleagues to join us in fixing it.”
and finds it worthy of only two "Pinocchios" out of a possible four.
Schumer’s comment was carefully worded to suggest that Democrats are working hard to improve the law while being open to Republican ideas. But his remarks leave out a significant part of the story. Senate Democrats generally have not offered legislative fixes — and the leadership often has blocked legislation backed by Republicans and even some Democrats from coming to the floor for a vote. Administrative fixes engineered by the White House can only go so far in addressing some of the problems that have emerged from the drafting of the original law...This comment is on the tipping point of between One and Two Pinocchios, but we don’t have 1/2 Pinocchios. Given the gap between Schumer’s rhetoric and the reality, we lean toward Two Pinocchios
Is there any doubt that had a Republican Senator uttered equally oleaginous words that Kessler would have tortured the fact more closely to find them worth three or four Pinocchios?

Good news!  The Feds are finally going to find a way to blame the health care roll out failure on Capitalism: U.S. government urged to name CEO to run Obamacare market
The White House is coming under pressure from some of its closest allies on healthcare reform to name a chief executive to run its federal health insurance marketplace and allay the concerns of insurers after the rocky rollout of Obamacare.

Advocates have been quietly pushing the idea of a CEO who would set marketplace rules, coordinate with insurers and state regulators on the health plans offered for sale, supervise enrollment campaigns and oversee technology, according to several sources familiar with discussions between advocates and the Obama administration.

Supporters of the idea say it could help regain the trust of insurers and others whose confidence in the healthcare overhaul has been shaken by the technological woes that crippled the federal HealthCare.gov insurance shopping website and the flurry of sometimes-confusing administration rule changes that followed.
I can't imagine the government could possibly offer enough incentive (legally) for a highly paid, successful CEO to take over such a nightmare, with such a low probability of success. However, I imagine they could find some CEO whose businesses have long been propped up by the feds with the appearance of success that they could use as scapegoats.

The rollout continues to lag expectations, and the liberal media have continued to move the goal posts in an effort to make the thing look less hideous:

Obamacare Supporters Really Psyched Over 1 Million Picking A Plan
And by Obamacare supporters, I mean the Major Media, who are thrilled with an Associated Press report
(Washington Post) A December surge propelled health care sign-ups through the government’s rehabilitated website past the 1 million mark, the Obama administration said Sunday, reflecting new signs of life for the problem-plagued federal insurance exchange.

Of the more than 1.1 million people now enrolled, nearly 1 millio
n signed up in December, with the majority coming in the week before a pre-Christmas deadline for coverage to start in January. Compare that to a paltry 27,000 in October —the website’s first, error-prone month — or 137,000 in November.
Of course, the original signup expectations were about 7 million, out of some 30 million uninsured, and this doesn't account for the fact that many of these signups were people evicted from the plans that they had personally selected, and fit their needs, and many more are signed up for the welfare program Medicaid.  And we still don't know how many of these plans have been paid for, or will ever be paid for.

Workers at auto dealership come face to face with Obamacare trade-offs
The 41 employees of Extreme Dodge in Jackson, Mich., are very familiar with trade-ins, but this year they’re learning about trade-offs as they come face to face with the new realities of health care. A few workers say they’re getting a great deal, but most have a severe case of sticker shock. “I feel like I’ve been taken to the cleaners,” said Neal Campbell, a salesman.

The news was presented at the company’s annual benefits meeting earlier this month, when employees were told that the health insurance plan that the auto dealership had provided its workers was canceled because it doesn’t comply with the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Rather than officially sponsor a new policy, the company -- voted one of the 100 best car dealerships to work for in the country last year -- will instead provide its employees with $2,400 apiece to buy their own insurance, or to pocket and pay the new federal penalty if they elect to go without it.
. . .
Twenty-six of the dealership's workers had been covered this year under the old company plan. Twenty-one have now decided to go with the new group plan recommended by the company for next year, though they realize that they face sharply higher out-of-pocket costs next year.

Their deductibles will go from $1,125 this year to $3,000 next year, and maximum out-of-pocket costs jump from $2,250 to $6,350. And for families, those numbers double: to a $6,000 deductible and $12,700 out-of-pocket maximum. “How is this helping the average American that’s working 40 to 50 hours per week?” said Terry Hardcastle, a salesperson. “How are we supposed to live?”
Vote smarter next time...

However, the MSM is starting a campaign to sell "happy" Obamacare stories:
"The White House, Democratic lawmakers and advocacy organizations will launch a campaign this week to highlight real-life experiences under the Affordable Care Act..." "... tales so compelling that they help drive up enrollment, marginalize Republican repeal efforts and erase memories of this fall’s HealthCare.gov debacle."

Shouldn't that just be the internal memo about the campaign? Saying that's what you're about to do is practically the opposite of doing it. And I think the story only came out in that form — over at Politico — because actually doing it is not possible, not with the raw material they have. Perhaps they expected the media to do it for them, in which case the question is, why isn't the media doing their work for them, as usual? And I'm guessing the media can't do it either, because even if you are inclined to sift through the raw material and find the good things, you can only cherry-pick where there are some cherries. Politico needs to write about something, and this was all they had, the desperate fantasy of launching a campaign that can't possibly happen.
And the Washington Post (to mention one) is falling in line like the good soldier propagandist it is:

Beneath health law’s botched rollout is basic benefit for millions of uninsured Americans
Health-insurance sign-ups on U.S. exchange top 1.1 million in initial enrollment period

Midnite Music - 'Candy'

Two different songs called 'Candy'; very different themes:

Robbie Williams

Iggy Pop

Wombat-Socho has the grand Rule 5 post: Rule 5 Sunday: New Year’s Extended Hangover Relief Edition up at the other McCain.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Illness Stalks Western Bald Eagles

Bald eagles are dying in Utah — 20 in the last few weeks alone — and nobody can figure out why. Hundreds of the majestic birds — many with wing spans of 7 feet or more — migrate here each winter, gathering along the Great Salt Lake and feasting on carp and other fish that swim in the nearby freshwater bays.

Earlier this month, however, hunters and farmers across five counties in northern and central Utah began finding the normally skittish raptors lying, listless, on the ground. Many suffered from seizures, head tremors and paralysis in the legs, feet and wings. Several of the ailing birds were taken to the mammoth Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah, where Marthaler and other handlers tried to save them. Within 48 hours most were dead.

At first, the agency's disease scientists guessed that the illness could be encephalitis, which is caused by the West Nile virus, but later ruled out that possibility. And although many sick eagles tested positive for lead, researchers did not think that it was killing the birds.

Officials suggest the eagle die-off is possibly connected to the deaths of thousands of eared grebes that began in Utah in November. Eagles are known to prey on the small shore birds. Because the grebes are thought to have died from avian cholera, many scientists theorize that the eagles became sick from eating infected grebes. Officials still don't know why the shorebirds became sick.
Reading up on avian cholera, it seems like an entirely logical possibility. I hope it doesn't spread out here; our winter duck population seems low this year, and our eagles have been doing well enough that I worry whether there's enough ducks to get them through the winter.

Northern California Threatens Succession, Again

. . .Within two weeks, Baird had crafted a declaration in support of the breakaway State of Jefferson and placed it on the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors agenda. It was approved a week later on a 4-1 vote.

And with that, a movement that has waxed and waned for 150 years was born again.

Neighboring Modoc County's supervisors soon clamored for a similar declaration, and also voted "yea"; the Tehama County board agreed to put the matter to voters; and organizing committees sprang up in seven other counties.

The State of Jefferson flag — which dates to a 1941 effort — is now flown from the Nevada border west to the Pacific Ocean and as far south as Yuba City. (It features a gold pan with two X's, for the double-crossing purportedly dealt to residents of Northern California and southern Oregon by their respective seats of state government.)
Their complaints are the usual litany of complaints that rural counties make in states whose governments are dominated by urban liberals, along with a few uniquely Californian ones:
"I think we should do it," blurted Isaiah Solus, 14, a descendant of Siskiyou County pioneers from Portugal. "We're a whole different part of the state. We need our own water, we need our own rules.... We need a whole different set of things than the city people."

The menu of grievances includes a proposal to remove Klamath River dams, a crackdown on gold dredging and a fire prevention fee for rural areas that has been challenged in the courts as a tax..."We're governed by Los Angeles and San Francisco," the former logger said. "We live by their rules, and we don't like living by their rules."
A former resident of one of the counties involved, Humboldt (the southern coastal county in the map above), I can say with some certainty that the first order of business in the new state of Jefferson would be to legalize marijuana.

I don't expect it in my lifetime.
Still, Hayden believes the State of Jefferson will remain a state of mind. "I'm an optimist," he said, "but I'm not that much of an optimist."

A Tough Choice

It's raining cat's and dogs, or to cite Capt. Mike:

Salmon in the yard
A real frog choker out there
Raining to beat the bank
I hear snakeheads swimming in the downspouts

So a walk on the beach is impractical.  However, at 1:00 PM we have the choice of:

Breaking Bad: Walter White cooks meth (the AMC Breaking Bad marathon continues)
Breaking Bad:  The Washington Redskins (Seen as a Savior, Shanahan Hasn't Delivered)

Good Riddance Day Obamacare Schadenfreude

Today, the Washington Post informs me (somewhere on page A3; but I found it at Reuters) that today  is "Good Riddance Day":
The annual Good Riddance Day event, held three days before New Year's Eve, allows people to symbolically purge bad memories by putting photos, documents or written reminders through a massive paper shredder in hopes of clearing a path to a brighter future.

Thomas Avila, 26, one of the first people in line on for the shredder, said 2013 was a roller coaster for him. One of the hardest parts, he said, was telling friends and family he was gay and finding some of them could not accept him.

Yep, another made up liberal celebration designed to put down the religious and generally acknowledged secular holidays like Christmas and New Years, and substitute their own vision of a dark and oppressive America to justify their anger and destruction of the current system.  Alas, we cannot put Obamacare in that giant shredder; the full effect of the law, to the extent that Preznit Obama actually enforces it, occurs on Jan. 1. So the Obamacare Schadenfreude continues.

Victor Davis Hanson identifies the true victims: Who Will Speak For The Long-Neglected Middle Class?
On almost every left-right issue that divides Democrats and Republicans — as well as Republicans themselves — there is a neglected populist constituency. The result is that populist politics are largely caricatured as Tea Party extremism — and a voice for the middle class is largely absent.

The problem with ObamaCare is that its well-connected and influential supporters — pet businesses, unions and congressional insiders — have already won exemption from it. The rich will always have their concierge doctors and Cadillac health plans. The poor can usually find low-cost care through Medicaid, federal clinics and emergency rooms.

In contrast, those who have lost their preferred individual plans, or will pay higher premiums and deductibles, are largely members of the self-employed middle class. They are too poor to have their own exclusive health care coverage but too wealthy for most government subsidies. So far, ObamaCare is falling hardest on the middle class. . .
That's why you rob banks; that's where the money is.

Compelling Evidence for a Market-Driven Health Care System
The United States does not have a private-sector health insurance system, let alone a functioning competitive market for insurance or health services. In fact, the federal government has been the dominant force in American health care for decades, long before the recent massive expansion of the government’s role in the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Through overly restrictive policies, Medicare, Medicaid, and tax subsidies, the federal government has dominated the operation of the U.S. health care system for the past half-century. It is primarily federal policies that are responsible for driving up costs and making health insurance unaffordable for so many Americans.

The argument over the future of U.S. health care is essentially an argument over how to best allocate scarce resources in this large and important sector of the national economy. Proponents of centralized government control of health care are fond of saying that reliance on a private-sector approach in the U.S. has been tried and failed. According to their arguments, most Americans are enrolled in private insurance, costs are high, and the insurance is insecure. They claim that the private marketplace is therefore to blame for many of the problems prevalent in U.S. health care.

The major flaw in such arguments is that the United States is not a competitive market and never really has been. It is therefore incorrect to look at the broad performance of the largely uncompetitive American health care system and make judgments about whether a competitive health system would work well or not. . .
Read the rest, and be prepared to answer the people liberals who will say "We tried a private health care system and it didn't work." It's a long slog, but worth it.

Meanwhile, the problem with enrollments through the federal website continues:  All Iowans Who Applied For ObamaCare Asked to Reapply at State Website Due to Ongoing Glitches
The White House and its media minions want you to believe that everything is going swimmingly with ObamaCare since repairs were made to Healthcare.gov.

Quite the contrary, Iowa's KCCI TV reported Friday that the 16,000 people in that state who applied for health insurance via that website need to reapply due to a delay in paperwork.
"We are working hard to ensure that Iowans who applied through HealthCare.gov will be enrolled in health coverage. We are encouraging Iowans who applied at the federal portal to reapply through our state website and call center," said DHS Director Charles M. Palmer. "We will make every effort to process applications in a timely manner so that these Iowans can have certainty about their health care coverage."

DHS said it is sending emails and letters to the nearly 16,000 Iowans whose applications are held at the federal hub.
What, did the dog eat their homework?

A reminder of what the “broken” US healthcare system Obama is bent on destroying has done
If he said it once he said it a million times. Obama claimed the US health care system is broken.
Stepping up his push to enact legislation to reform the nation’s health-care system, President Obama today declared, “The status quo is broken,” and he warned that the current system could eventually collapse if nothing is done to control spiraling costs.

With Congress poised to debate sweeping health-care legislation in the coming weeks, Obama warned that if “we do nothing, everyone’s health care will be put in jeopardy.”
BBut American healthcare outcomes are generally as good or better than the ones that the liberals seek to emulate:

 Overall cancer:
•American women have a 63 percent chance of living at least five years after a cancer diagnosis, compared to 56 percent for European women.
•American men have a five-year survival rate of 66 percent — compared to only 47 percent for European men.
•Among European countries, only Sweden has an overall survival rate for men of more than 60 percent.
•For women, only three European countries (Sweden, Belgium and Switzerland) have an overall survival rate of more than 60 percent.
and so on.

If it ain't broke, why are they so desperate to fix it? Because it's the quickest way to gain direct control over one sixth of the economy.

The Great Underwear Double Standard

Guilty as charged. Live with it.

Found at The Political Commentator via Theo's (I think). But if this is political commentary, we need more.  Linked at Proof Positive in the weekly "Best of the Web Linkaround."  Wombat-Socho has the grand Rule 5 post: Rule 5 Sunday: New Year’s Extended Hangover Relief Edition up at the other McCain.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Movie Review: The Desolation of Smaug

Not a bad movie. Lots of action and a plot that could almost have been recognized as something that might have been written by JRR Tolkien. If you understood that the director of the movie was someone who spoke very broken English and interviewed me about the book and then explained its plot to a third individual, who spoke a language that neither of us understood, via sign language and had that individual write the script.

The special effects were OK, but I still think that 3D movies are just a fad.
This was our first adventure with the new 3D films.  I'm glad the 3D trailers ahead of time allowed us some time to adjust to the effect before the film started; it was a little distracting at first, but at least I adapted pretty well.  I do think too much of the film was devoted to finding "cute" uses for the technique.

Tolkien purists cannot possibly find aspects of the movie to their liking; you might check out Ed Morrisey's  review for a more complete list of sins.  But that's sort of what happens when you decide to stretch a shortish, playful kids fantasy book into a three (long) episode dramatic saga.  You have to invent lots of stuff.

Kudos to Jackson for inventing Tauriel, the hot elf chick who slays spiders, wargs and orcs with the best of them, if the best of them is Legolas (who doesn't belong in the movie either), and casting her with "Losts" Evangeline Lilly: