Thursday, February 23, 2017

The First Eye-Openers Of Speedweeks 2017

We now have the first true eye-openers of Speedweeks 2017.

The first shocker was Chase Elliott storming to the win in the first 150 after such a poor effort in the Busch Clash.   It also broke up the expected dominance of Penske Racing's Fords and Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas; Kyle Busch in particular suffered when the field almost wrecked amid heavy blocking; also waylaid was Paul Menard, who'd quietly stormed into contention.    The other Fords also acquitted themselves - Stewart-Haas was expected to be stout, lesser expectation was applied to the Petty-Roush trio but those Fords ran strong as well; it was actually disappointing Aric Almirola and Trevor Bayne finished out of the top five.   


But the bigger shocker came even though Denny Hamlin winning at Daytona doesn't come across as a surprise - the surprise was that he stormed past Dale Earnhardt Jr., returning to NASCAR after sitting out half the season recovering from a concussion.    Junior grabbed the lead early and then got into a spirited sidedraft fight with Denny Hamlin.  After a midrace yellow Ryan Blaney made a hard challenge to Junior; the challenge got very chippy as at one point Blaney faked out Junior and dove to the bottom and inches ahead but got no drafting help.    It thus appeared Junior would cruise to another qualifying race win - except Hamlin got the drafting push and stormed to the win just before the white flag.

So with the 500 field now set, some quick takes -

The upsurge in blocking in plate races nearly caused at least one melee in the 150s, contributed to the Hamlin-Keselowski crash in the Busch Clash, and is becoming a problem for NASCAR between stifling passing - the drivers' on-track goal, naturally - and also the potential for crashes beyond the two-car set-to in the Clash.   Drivers of course also tried to push-draft; it's worth noting when they could do it with authority there wasn't much if any blocking, so it constitutes the ultimate mixed bag for everyone involved.   Even with that there was noticeably more lead changing in the 150s than in the Clash, an encouraging sign for Speedweeks.  
The Hendrick, JGR, and Penske fleets grabbed the Thursday gold, but numerous teams acquitted themselves more than respectably - the Petty-Roush alliance showed drafting fight - Aric Almirola in particular curiously commenting before the race about need for more fight on his part - while the RCR Chevrolets may have been the biggest surprise, as very little was expected here yet Austin Dillon pushed Hamlin to the late lead and finished well in his 150 while teammates Newman and Menard largely unnoticed proved they can surge to the front.   The Ganassi-SABCO Chevrolets also showed fight, especially Jamie McMurray in spots looking like Donnie Allison in the #1.

The SHR Fords as expected were stout; the biggest surprise has been Danica Patrick, who followed up a 4th in the Clash with 7th in her 150.    The return of Clint Bowyer to the front after his miserable lameduck year of 2016 was certainly welcome.

Dark horses were in evidence as well - Cole Whitt, Ty Dillon, former Firecracker 400 and Winston 500 winner David Ragan, the above-mentioned Ryan Blaney, and Ty Dillon mixed it up respectably all night.

Decidedly unimpressive was JGR rookie Daniel Suarez, who'd run second for much of the Clash but looked like a rookie from Jump Street in the 150s.  

And so Speedweeks 2017 has truly kicked off.

The Immigration Maze

Activists portray illegal immigration as a noble act - yet never consider that it would be legal if it was in fact a noble (and accountable) act. Lack of accountability permeates the self-interest that drives illegal immigration, and a recent story about false documents makes the mistake of pretending they are part of the noble act.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What Is Happening In Sweden

Donald Trump came under fire for a vague comment about Sweden and Islamo-Arab violence there. All he did was bring attention to a real issue........the fact Islamic immigration is demographic imperialism.

Skills Bills And Vocational Education

A look at state governors and their approach to vocational education.

2003 NFC Playoffs As Panthers Upset Rams

One of the most memorable yet underappreciated playoff games was 2003's double-overtime stunner between the Carolina Panthers and the St. Louis Rams

More NASCAR Questions

Twenty years ago NASCAR was on the rise and October's Diehard 500 was the most exciting race of that 1997 season with a profligacy of passing to where the official stat of 32 lead changes looks too low

Speedweeks 2017 hopes to see an upset winner of the 500 along the lines of the 2014 Firecracker 400 - though without the rain

The Wall Street Journal authored a widely-read analysis of the decline of NASCAR popularity and racing writer Jeff Gluck adds his own take by noting Brian France's absence from the sanctioning body to where he in essence has no stake in the company and Lesa France Kennedy and Jim France basically are the ones in charge even though Brian ostensibly handles day-to-day operation.

As one respondent, Shane McKinney, notes in the Gluck piece, "It's amazing the actual shareholders.....have no interest in NASCAR except to collect the monies."

It showcases what has been apparent for many years now - the incompetence of the sanctioning body's leadership.    It also raises questions about whether the France family down the road will continue to hold onto NASCAR and its racetrack brethren International Speedway Corporation.   Certainly the fact Monster Energy Drink is paying substantially less in sponsorship money than past sponsors is a disturbing sign the sport's value has faltered badly.  

It shows how much hope a lot of people have put into Monster Energy's involvement - for the sport's history shows it has genuine competitive excellence, excellence it needs to get back.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Flynn Affair

Michael Flynn's resignation as President Donald Trump's first national security adviser won't end the controversy surrounding the new administration's purported ties to Russia.

Depending on which sources you consult, Flynn was either one of Vladimir Putin's stooges or a martyr to the swamp—the permanent bureaucracy in Washington. The truth is undoubtedly more complicated. And it's crucial that we get closer to it.
Flynn had a target painted on his back long before he ever joined Trump's White House. As head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Pentagon's main intelligence shop, he often clashed with colleagues and the rest of the sprawling intelligence bureaucracy. He was forced to resign from this post in 2014. But Flynn wasn't an incompetent intelligence officer, as some detractors have claimed. He often got the big issues right.

In 2010, when he was deputy chief of intelligence for NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, Flynn coauthored a scathing report that concluded the U.S. intelligence community is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy in that war-torn country. That was correct—it is obvious from many independent sources that the quality of intelligence on Afghanistan has been abysmal.

Will New NSA McMaster Shake Things Up?

A Russia hawk and a Russian peace proposal that perhaps wasn't

A week after Donald Trump asked Mike Flynn to resign from his post as national security advisor, the president has announced another Army general, H.R. McMaster, as Flynn’s replacement. If there are any worthwhile objections to McMaster's appointment among the broad national security, military, and political realms, I have yet to read them. The universal admiration for Trump's pick is reminiscent of his selection of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court vacancy—something conservatives, moderates, and even a few liberals are happy about.

McMaster's military service and leadership are well known and well regarded in national security circles. His 1998 book Derelicition of Duty about the mismanagement of the Vietnam War at the top of the command chain was a popular read among commanders in Iraq. McMaster was one of those commanders, leading the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment to take back the northern Iraq town of Tal Afar from al Qaeda in 2005. He was instrumental in developing the surge strategy with David Petraeus. McMaster is also perceived as fairly hawkish on Russia, which contrasts him greatly with Flynn and the president himself.

Fixing the Power Grid through Open Markets and New Technologies

A smart way to handle the issue
The electric power system makes our modern, mobile, information-age economy possible. But it is organized in much the same way it was in 1884, when Thomas Edison created the first system of power plants to light up homes and businesses in lower Manhattan. By way of comparison, the iPhone, which is the spiritual descendant of the telegraph, packs more computing power in a user's pocket than mainframes that once filled entire rooms. Meanwhile, the electric system is still built around central generating plants delivering power to customers via a monopoly provider—the local utility company.
In most segments of the U.S. economy, market competition drives prices lower, delivers innovation faster, and gives consumers more choice. But in the electricity system upon which all our modern devices depend, competition has come slowly and fitfully. We could do better with more of it.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Clash Serves Up Monster Cup's Mixed Beginning

NASCAR enters a new era, but with the legacy of deterioration still with it.

NASCAR's new series sponsor, Monster Energy Drink, endured a decidedly rough debut weekend as its first event, the Advance Auto Clash - aka the old Busch Clash - was delayed by rain from Saturday night until late Sunday morning, ironically a more preferable time to run the race than on a  Saturday night, which at Daytona has been plagued in recent years with rain delays, none more preposterous than the disastrous 2015 Firecracker 400.

First up was ARCA's Lucas Oil 200, and it was a frustrating race with several vicious crashes with two cars upside down, and the continuing problem for racing that it remains too hard to pass and too hard to push-draft, a problem that plagues NASCAR as well as ARCA.    The rally to the win by Austin Theriault - a Fort Kent, Maine native who was the unsung hero of 2016's Nextera Truck 250 at Daytona - was a welcome result but the frustration with how difficult it is to pass and to push-draft remains a sore spot for Speedweeks, and it showed up in the Advance Auto Busch Clash.

Some of the fight for the lead was good, but for the most part the top three or more either swerved all over and chopped off cars getting a drafting run or stayed on the bottom line and the top line could not advance and seize the lead - blocking has upsurged with the deterrent of push-drafting gone and it helped lead to the last-lap mess.    

Of the teams involved, the biggest losers were Hendrick Motorsports between Jimmie Johnson's sixth straight Busch Clash DNF and decided mediocrity on the part of 500 pole winner Chase Elliott; only Alex Bowman showed anything at the end.   The Chevrolets in general looked once again only able to draft, not take the lead or hold it beyond chopping everyone off.  

The Penske Fords are the obvious favorites while the Stewart-Haas guys looked okay other than Kurt Busch.   Danica Patrick's fourth-place finish was laughable given how the Red Sea parted after she was stuck racing for midpack as usual.   

Of the Gibbs Toyotas - once again prohibitive favorites for the 500 - newcomer Daniel Suarez looked the part of a rookie, he drafted and stayed in line and that was pretty much it.   Denny Hamlin is the obvious alpha dog in the JGR outfit.   Martin Truex in the Gibbs-aligned Vasser #78 had a bad day.

And so Daytona Speedweeks waits for Thursday Night and one wonders if the 150s will serve up something they haven't for years - a surprise.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Intersectionality Wars

Liberalism's ideology where Love Enables Hate

"I get a lot of laughs watching people on the left trying to climb the pyramid of grievances.

Because modern liberalism has largely abandoned economics in favor of a giant interlocking system of grievance-based identity politics, the left has created an incentive system where different groups are forced to fight one another as they struggle to ascend to the top of the pyramid.

So, for instance, you have fights between WoCs (Women of Color) and garden-variety white feminists over the checking of privilege. You have transgender women (which is to say, men who say they're women) fighting against old-guard feminists who see this as yet one more assault from the patriarchy. You have the African-American community not-super-invested in the gay marriage movement.

I don't know about you, but I'm waiting with baited breath for the final, Census Bureau-adjusted exit polls from the 2016 election to be released, because if the data show that Hillary Clinton lost in part because a noticeable chunk of minority men voted against her, then it's going to be awesome."

The US is the only multiethnic society to have succeeded as such, because it has upheld three principles.