Tuesday, May 23, 2017

When Personal Spite Drives Political Hatred

More and more it is becoming clear that personal hatred by the Mainstream Media and Democratic Party for being shown up is what drives hatred of Trump - and personal spite isn't limited to them. It is reminiscent of Watergate, which was never about any crime but was an excuse for personal hatred by the MSM and Democrats of Richard Nixon, whose real crime was showing them up.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The NASCAR Fall-Star Race And Continued Rules Struggle

The expectations for the first NASCAR All-Star Race under Monster Energy tutelage were high, especially given that it marked the 25th anniversary of the first All-Star Race run at night, a race whose brutal finish is naturally still celebrated.

The All-Star Race was perhaps the least competitive running since segmenting was changed after Davey Allison led wire to wire in 1991.   The All-Star Open wasn't much better until things got hairy at the finish.  Eric Jones' ill-advised attempt to blast into the lead by hammering the grass killed his night.

Post-race reaction among fans and media was negative - typified by Autoweek's piece advocating taking the race away from Charlotte and running it somewhere else, such as Bristol or Iowa or a road course.   Given the worthlessness of road racing, running an all-star race on one can never work, nor are short tracks anything resembling the answer.   

It reflects the continued universal frustration at the lack of passing on the bigger ovals - a plague that has nothing to do with the track layouts and everything to do with racecars with too much horsepower, too little grip, and no drafting effect being generated - and Goodyear's much-hyped options with soft or hard tires proved laughably irrelevant, perhaps the funniest example of how NASCAR and fans got hoist with their own petard after they believed their own propaganda about cutting downforce and thus improving passing.

A report on a proposed 2018 rule package suggests the Cup cars will run a conventional airdam instead of a splitter - Eric Jones' Charlotte crash that tore his splitter to bits would seem to add credence to this - would remove the sharkfin run for years now, increase the spoiler from 2.5 inches to four, and remove side skirts to lessen sideforce.   The hope is to reduce corner speeds, though given history I'm not holding breath that it will do that.   The spoiler-airdam proposal seems to make sense, though I'd prefer a substantially larger spoiler; the history of the larger spoiler has generally been positive for competitive racing, it's been spoiler reductions that have been a bollox.   I'm intrigued how removing the sideskirts affects things, for the sideforce issue has shown itself to be serious in the Truck Series.

The rule package that oddly has gone completely under the radar (outside of a reference on NASCAR's Sirius/XM radio morning drive show)  has been the Xfinity package to be run at the Brickyard in July. The use of drag ducts on the Xfinity cars attacks the issue of the weakness of the draft for the cars, and certainly the Cup cars need all the draft they can get pretty much regardless of track - it is thus baffling that Cup cars haven't tested drag ducts.   The issue of horsepower has also gone unaddressed; the reality is the Trucks are the only of the three major touring series that has gotten horsepower under control; the Xfinity series has been okay as far as controlling horsepower; Cup has completely ignored the fact horsepower needs to be controlled, and seriously so.  

As far as individual racer performances went, the lack of passing makes gauging the drivers trickier - Kyle Busch's win was a milestone for him given he's never won a race in a Cup car at Charlotte before.   Kyle Larson was probably the strongest car given he led the most laps, except he never led again after the third segment started.    The All-Star Open was more interesting given the hairiness of the finish, but among those who advanced from it only Chase Elliott was relevant to anything at the end of the main race; he struggled and fell to Daniel Suarez in the Open while Austin Dillon finished second, this as it appeared Elliott would just breeze into the lead and be done with it.    Also noteworthy was Regan Smith, who ran respectably in Richard Petty's #43 in his first race subbing for injured Aric Almirola, out for two months and maybe three.  

So Charlotte's 2017 NASCAR week gets off to a terrible start.   One hopes it can get better.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Study Shows Fact-Checkers Are Bad at Their Jobs

PolitiFact exposed again
What's interesting about media fact-checkers is that, while they often prove to be subjective in their findings, they do allow others to objectively evaluate them since they append value judgments such as true or false to statements. I've previously noted two university studies, one at the University of Minnesota and another at George Mason University, that simply quantified PolitiFact's results over a specified period and cross-referenced the results with partisanship,. The results were unsurprising to those who regularly marveled at PolitiFact's reasoning—the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact checker rates Republicans as telling falsehoods much more often than Democrats (rates of 3:1 and 2:1, respectively). There's really no other way to explain it other than the organization has, at a minimum, a serious selection bias problem.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Hidden Debt Hidden Deficits

A new study has been released showing how state and local governments are $1.91 to $3.4 trillion in debt due to unfunded pensions.

Additional information comes here.

See also the progressive bankruptcy of Connecticut and Illinois.

NASCAR's Back-Breaking Mid-Season

NASCAR's  2017 season is the debut season of Monster Energy Drink sponsorship and in its first eleven races the season has seen a plethora of surprises, not all of them positive.   The Kansas 400 Winston Cup race was the second win of the season for Martin Truex, but the story of the 400 was Aric Almirola, who suffered a compression fracture in his back in the most vicious crash seen in a long time.  

Almirola's injury puts a scary damper on what was developing into a promising season after a very frustrating 2016 season.   Fourth-places at the Daytona 500 and Winston 500 and a strong ninth at Richmond indicated the beginning of a turnaround; working with the Roush organization, Richard Petty's team has benefitted, and the Roush fleet's renaissance - following the promotion of younger, engineering-oriented personnel after years under former crew chief Robbie Reiser - has become one of the stories of the season.

Almirola's injury has brought out stories about how safety has improved in NASCAR the last sixteen seasons, and that's certainly true, as is that racecar safety has been excellent for decades - yet overlooked has been the close calls in that span.

Sterling Marlin's near-disastrous neck injury from - ironically - a crash at Kansas happened in 2002.

The next season Jerry Nadeau was gravely injured in a crash at Richmond, a crash some data indicated was one of the hardest hits ever recorded - greater than on superspeeedays.  

In 2013 Michael Annett suffered a serious sternum injury after blasting the SAFER barrier in Daytona's Busch Series 300 - in a twin irony, he was driving a Richard Petty car and Aric Almirola subbed for him at Phoenix.  

The crash believed to have given Dale Earnhardt Jr. the concussion that ended his 2016 season - and whose lingering effects will see his retirement after 2017 - happened in the 2016 Michigan 400. 

Eric McClure suffered serious injury in 2012 at Talladega, blasting through the track's enormous paved runoff area and hammering the SAFER barrier. 

Denny Hamlin suffered a compression fracture in this vicious 2013 melee at Fontana.

Almirola's Kansas injury came in a race that saw an eye-popping fifteen yellows, most of them for crashes that involved some eighteen cars - and writer Mike Mulhern rightly asks about why brake rotors are exploding as happened to Logano that triggered the wreck.   Related to this is the trap speeds in the Almirola wreck measured some 215 MPH.   Why racing ostensibly needs speeds that high is puzzling, especially when speeds below 200 should suffice, especially for a track like Kansas.

Kansas was also a bitter pill for Ryan Blaney, who led 83 laps in the Wood Brothers #21 yet could not hold off Truex in the race's late showdowns.   He has led 233 laps so far, by far the most by the Woods' #21 in decades, and it's a sign winning is in the #21's future.

With so many yellows, restarts made for some good racing, highlighted by Brad Keselowski's nifty three-wide pass on the outside of the trioval on the final lap.   Keselowski's runner-up finish, Kevin Harvick's third, and Blaney's fourth further the progress of a season where Ford's competitive depth has exponentially grown with wins by Stewart-Haas, Penske, and Roush - it adds further bitterness to Aric Almirola's injury with a return to victory by Petty's team a real prospect.  

The win by Truex was his second of the season with a whopping 536 laps led to date; he was one of just three Toyotas in the top ten, and his Toyota benefactor Joe Gibbs Racing remains winless.   It raises anew concern that Toyota has not invested sufficiently in competitive depth.

Competitive depth has been a problem for Chevrolet since the halcyon days of Hendrick vs. the RAD Alliance of RCR, DEI, and Andy Petree Racing, yet so far in eleven races Chevy has won with Hendrick, RCR, and Ganassi Racing, a greater depth by the Bowtiers than seen in several years.

The big picture takeaway going forward is 2017 is not your typical recent Winston Cup season - there is clearly new energy and new competitive depth (nine different winners among eight different teams in eleven races so far) and the meat of the season for the first time in a long time holds actual promise of something special for racing.    Getting Almirola back will help.