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Author: Briggs

October 24, 2008 | 30 Comments

Uncle Ted’s Manifesto: Ted, White, & Blue: a review

Uncle Ted

Read Ted, White, & Blue: The Nugent Manifesto. You will not agree with everything, some or lot of it might even infuriate you, but you not regret the time spent.

If you don’t know much about Nugent other than he’s a rock musician, let me tell you something you might not believe. Uncle Ted can write, and write well. His prose crackles with the same energy as his music. The words on the page flow; they practically jump off and get in your face. They force you to think, especially if you don’t agree with him. You can’t just say (to yourself), “He’s wrong.” He makes you say why. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s no small trick.

Unlike just about every other celebrity over the last forty years, Uncle Ted lives clean and sober and always has.

Punks used to laugh at me, said how can you rock and not get high? Well I just stood my ground, and I watched those assholes fall and die. Cuz I just wanna go huntin, it makes me feel so good. I just gotta go huntin, try to find me in the woods.

Nugent is the ultimate environmentalist, a staunch steward of wildlife, an ardent advocate of hunter’s rights, and of the rights of the rest of us to own guns. This book isn’t about these things, but his previous book, God, Guns, & Rock and Roll, is. So if you’re looking for tips about the best kind of arrow head to bring down a buck, or you want to know why Fred Bear was a hero to so many, buy that book and not this one.

Ted, White & Blue really is a manifesto. Here are some of his non-standard proposals:

  • Refuse to fund healthcare for people who don’t care about their health…
  • Eliminate all welfare except temporary benefits for military personal and their families. Able-bodied Americans who refuse to work will be sent to Cuba, Mexico, England, and France.
  • Create a $100,000 reward for any U.S. citizen who shoots and kills a paroled felon during an assault or home invasion.
  • Eliminate the IRS, institute a national sales tax, and force the U.S. government to live within a budget tied to actual revenues.
  • Pass a constitutional amendment limiting citizen employment in the federal, state, or local government jobs to 5 percent of the U.S. workforce.
  • Remove and open all levees and dams in New Orleans and make people live on high ground. Give no more handouts to cover stupid mistakes of any kind.
  • Make it illegal to sue any business simply for the criminal misuse of their legal product.
  • Encourage all states to expeditiously execute all convicted child molesters.

I love the constitutional amendment idea.

Uncle Ted smiles

God gave man a soul; a powerful, instinctual moral and intellectual True North compass that completely differentiates us from all other living creatures….It is soulless to forbid a good citizen the right to carry a gun for self-protection while you dare to actually charge that citizen (subject) to pay for your armed security detail, Ted Kennedy.

Nugent is one of the few—left or right—willing to say things like this: “If you are pissed off about where you see the country going, remember this: you are to blame.” And this “Caring about a problem doesn’t solve a damn thing.” Raising awareness anyone? “[S]ome goofy Americans somehow they are entitled to these material creature comforts even though their wages cannot support this non-essential junk.” “Nobody owes you a thing. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nada. Everything you will get out of life will be based solely on what you put into it…You will get no more than what you are willing to bust your ass to earn.”

He is not a Republican nor a Democrat. His definition of televangelist is religious pimp. He isn’t anti-religion: “Let us all pray for good bombing weather.”

Uncle Ted made an huge, enormous mistake when he was a young man. He purposely got himself out of the Vietnam draft. He knows he must answer for this moral crime. I am tempted to say, a la the media, this “youthful indiscretion”, but I won’t, because what he did was wrong. The only question now is: can we forgive him?

Regrettably, I did not serve in the military upon graduation from high school. For that I am truly sorry…I admit to self-imposed, near-total insulation from worldly truth and the reality of Vietnam…This is no excuse for my woeful and deep disconnect from the critical events of the world–and I don’t offer it as one—but it is the truth…In order to provide some sort of restitution for my youthful disconnect, I have done what I can over the years for members of the armed forces…My enlightenment, though slow in coming, eventually arrived.

Four of my uncles served during the Vietnam war; my dad and another uncle were out of the Navy and Army before the war got going. I naturally served long after, but all my senior NCOs and officers were veterans1. I know how much it means to have people remember those who are serving. When I was in Okinawa, word had it the the folks at ESPN would mention our base on Sports Center one night. They did. A trivial thing, really. But everybody was very proud. Nugent’s concerts for the military in Iraq are deeply appreciated.

Some more Nugentisms. He does not want a fence built along our southern border, but would deport anybody who comes here illegally. “You don’t have a right to heath care. Got that? What you have is a personal responsibility for it.” “When was the last time you heard, read, or saw a story in the media that reported a citizen using a gun to stop a crime?” “Never forget you have a duty, not a right, to defend yourself and your family.”

Counting on ethanol to replace gasoline is akin to believing that rap is a legitimate musical genre, violent thugs deserve to be let out of their cages, or that animals have rights. Dogs chasing their tails make more sense than this bureaucratic KLSTRPHK. Ethanol is a joke.

Nugent has said that he is considering a return to Michigan to run for governor. Would you vote for him?

1None ever flipped out, went insane, became crazed, nor in other ways emulated Oliver Stone.


Artificial photosynthesis

I don’t normally get excited about “Advances in Science” papers, but everything now and then it’s fun to let your imagination play.

Thus, I recommend this article about an MIT chemist named Nocera whose team discovered a cheap, non-caustic, room-temperature electrolysis process that resembles photosynthesis.

Then suddenly (and it was quite sudden), his postdoc discovers a catalyst that can produce oxygen from water, and can do it at room temperature, with cheap materials, in neutral water, and without using huge amounts of energy. In other words, he’s found a catalyst that can do one of the steps in photosynthesis the same way plants can do it. This was one of the biggest challenges chemists in the field had been facing, and he’d solved it.

Be sure to read the comments were the author of the article clarifies one or two things.

They’re still one to three orders of magnitude away from being real-life useful, but, well, it’s pleasant to think of the possibilities.

October 22, 2008 | 8 Comments

Random topics

I use the word “random” in the sense that you did not know what topics I would select today. And I use the word know in its logical sense.

On Polling

From Instapundit comes this link to the WizBang blog on polls and polling.

Mr Wiz Bang seeks to reassure his readers that the picture is not as bleak for McCain viz. the polls as reported in the media.

All of the obvious suspects are here. The polls are commissioned and designed by folks who have a definite stake and desire in the outcome of the election. This of course does not prove that the polls are biased, but it should increase the probability that you think so.

The ordering of the questions and the exact questions used are seldom revealed, but are of obvious importance. For example, in one poll Mr WB discovered that questions about McCain came right after people are solicited for their opinion on President Bush.

You never hear about non-response. For example, pollsters ask 100 people, or try to ask 100 people, but only 20 respond. Who? Why? Are these non-responses correlated with the outcome? Usually, and in fact especially in politics, they are.

One thing Mr WB doesn’t mention is lying. People lie like dogs on surveys and polls. Sometimes, the lying is evenly spread out on both sides of Yes and No, but sometimes not. In this election, I suspect the lying is not even.

One place I did not know about is the National Council on Public Polling, a body whose purpose, inter alia1, is to provide ethical guidelines on polling. If you have ever found yourself caring about any poll, then you ought to read their “20 Questions A Journalist Should Ask About Poll Results.”

I won’t bore anybody with the technicalities, but “11. What is the sampling error for the poll results?” is based on classical statistics, and thus the typical “+/- 4 points error” you hear is wrong and should, as an extremely crude rule of thumb, be multiplied by 2. This fudge factor accounts for uncertainty in the true error, not the statistical formula error, which nobody ever really cares about. The true error is this: A poll says, 46% support M, and, in the end, actual voting reveals 74% support for M, then the error is 46% – 58% = -12%.

Their take on “18. What about exit polls?” also does not account for lying. I’ve told this story 100 times, but it bears repeating. John Kerry’s exit polls had him winning, in Manhattan, by about 10 to 1. The actual result was Kerry winning by about 5 to 2. Now, it’s true that Kerry still won the city, but the actual result wasn’t even close to that predicted by the poll. People who live in Manhattan are under a lot of pressure to voice support for Democrats.

Suicides and economic downturns

This idea comes from Dave Schultz, intrepid Chief Editor of Monthly Weather Review (I am one of the many Associate Editors there; Dave, unsolicited, was kind enough to put a link to my book on his page).

Dave pointed to this article from a local New York City paper. It’s a story of how “researchers” continually find surprising and suspicious correlations with economic data.

You might have heard this one in the news last week. A “researcher” named Pettijohn supposedly found that in lean economic times, chubbier models were featured in Playboy magazine. To which I can only say: isn’t tenure a wonderful thing?

Undoubtedly still drooling—I mean reeling—from that stunning finding, Pettijohn went on to discover “that in uncertain times, people tend to prefer songs that are longer, slower, with more meaningful themes.” Which I guess explains how Barry Manilow got to be popular (From Barry: “You get what you get when you go for it”).

As insightful as Pettijohn is, he doesn’t hold a box of tissues to Leo J. Shapiro, chief executive of SAGE, a Chicago-based consulting firm. Says Shapiro: “DURING a recession, laxatives go up, because people are under tremendous stress, and holding themselves back.”

Now that’s research. “Bob, this recession measures a solid—and I do mean solid—7.4 on the old sphinctometer.”

A guy named Ruhm says that suicides increase when dollars decrease. But the data he uses (they picture it) has already been massaged and filtered etc. and we all know what happens when you smooth time series and then use those smoothed series as inputs to other analyses, right?

1This phrase was a favorite of my intellectual grandfather, Allan Murphy. Murphy was huge in forecast verification and meteorological statistics, a love which he passed on to Dan Wilks (the mustache is real), who is half my father. Meaning: Murphy was Wilks’s advisor, and Wilks was, in part, mine.