Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Can the Hillary Email Counter-Attack Keep Working?

The facts keep disproving Hillary Milhous Clinton's spin campaign.

U.S. Backed Into Accepting Iran's Initial Bargaining Position

Some detail about how Obama sucked up to the Ayatollahs and deceived Congress in the process. The deceit continued with John Kerry's acknowledgement to Congress on July 28 that Obama will ignore the law if Congress blocks the Iran deal, something it seems certain to do.

Bernie The Phony?

Bernie The Bozo isn't socialist enough for socialists.

Then And Now - 1995 Summer 500 Pocono

Twenty years ago Pocono Raceway witnessed one of its most competitive races in the Summer 500 - aka the Miller Draft 500 - and seeing it in the aftermath of the frustrating 2015 Brickyard 400 is illustrative of NASCAR's search for rules packages that will open up passing.   This Pocono race illustrates what NASCAR hoped to see at the Brickyard and beyond, and it's worth breaking down what went right for NASCAR in 1995 because they shouldn't give up on getting what we see in this Pocono race -

* As is obvious from the beginning, the draft is very effective here.   Historically Pocono produced drafting and it made for a lot of passing; the 1982 Summer 500, famous for Dale Earnhardt's Turn One tumble with Tim Richmond, remains the benchmark for excellent racing on 2.5-milers with low-banked corners.   This was in the period when NASCAR had begun windtunnel testing the cars - this after Billy France felt the manufacturers had lied to him about their racecars in lobbying for rule changes - and they were sporting large spoilers but no aeropush effect.

* Goodyear was a year removed from the 1994 tire war with Hoosier and was using leftover tire war tires to a considerable extent; at the time Chris Economaki and Dick Berggren noted in their written forums that some of these tires seemed to race more like bias ply tires.   It is clear in this 1995 race that the tires are being leaned on pretty hard and are allowing the drivers to race hard. 

* The draft is so effective and the tires so raceable that shifting is not hurting ability to pass, this after the beginning of shifting in 1991-2 indeed affected ability to pass, to where some drivers lobbied against it - "Shifting is a pain in the ass," Terry Labonte said in 1992. 

The discouraging result from the 2015 Brickyard 400 should not mean the end of a high-drag aero package, because we know it can work, and work spectacularly.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Making Stuff Up To Defend Iran

John Kerry and Obama fabricate defenses of their Iranian deal and their subterfuges are becoming more clear.

Why Federal Government Fails

It fails because it relies on dictating from the top down; it has no clue how the real world works; it acts based on politics rather than objective analysis. Federal government consistently fails where private initiatives usually succeed.

Politicians Should Remember the Power of Prices And Privatization

Politicians never seem to get it that price controls NEVER work - leave prices alone. They also have ignored how to best handle public services - by privatizing them.

Dodd-Frank Flouts Law While Hitting Economy

The Dodd-Frank Law hits banks and has hurt the economy as government meddling always does and it has flaunted the law by empowering the idiots known as government regulators.

What the Syrian Weapons Charade Says About the Iran Deal

Syria has blatantly cheated on its weapons deals, and so is Iran.

One Hand Clapping For Brickyard Busch

It was one hand clapping at the end.

Kyle Busch seized the Brickyard 400 on a restart with 11 to go and seized his fourth win in the last five races, a surge of success reminiscent of his 2008 binge of victories in his debut season with Joe Gibbs Racing.   The 22nd running of the Brickyard 400 and also the Saturday Brickyard 250 offered Kyle Busch two for the price of one and also served as the first race weekend for NASCAR's higher downforce package.  

Looking at some of the subplots of the 2015 Brickyard 400 -

A discouraging first weekend for the high downforce package - Drivers were unhappy with how their cars raced in the Brickyard with a nine-inch spoiler, wider radiator pan, and lower airdam clearance.   The hope was this package would increase drag and thus create a drafting effect to create more passing.    The result for both races was an extreme disappointment.   Cars could suck up on other cars noticeably better than in years past, but the draft never kicked in to any worthwhile effect outside of Kyle Busch's retro-1970s finish in the 250 with Ryan Blaney, stalking him in the final laps then gunning him down on the backstretch.  

The lack of passing is certainly discouraging, though some silver linings did show up - not only did the draft make an actual appearance at the Brickyard, albeit to grossly insufficient effect, what was striking was how often drivers complained that they were loose behind other cars, a 180 from the aeropush era's cliché about "my car pushed bad in traffic."  

Some unfavorably compared the package to the low downforce package at Kentucky where passing did increase.   Kentucky got lucky to some extent there and while passing shot up from last year's incidence, in the end it was not that much greater than the previous high that track produced.   And the fact remains that history has shown us how this retro-5&5 Rule Package failed long-term in 1998 and also in the mid-2000s decade when John Darby took over the garage and cut downforce after 2003.  

The caveat in all this has remained tires.   Drivers wanted a softer tire for Kentucky and presumably will get one for Darlington when the Retro-5&5 Package returns.   The issue, though, isn't softer tires as much as bias ply-type tires, tires that are more forgiving than radials have usually been.   That Goodyear won't build bias ply NASCAR tires is true enough - "They don't sell (bias plies) to the public," MRN's Dave Moody notes - but it can build tires the drivers can lean on hard and race hard with, because at times we have seen cases where Goodyear brought tires the drivers could indeed lean hard on - this was evident in the Erik Jones-Kasey Kahne sidedraft epic in the Truck 200 at Charlotte in May.  So there's no reason they can't come up with a radial that races like bias plies - a tire that's forgiving and the drivers can lean hard on.

That NASCAR will run different downforce packages for different tracks from now on seems evident now; a high downforce "draft" package should work on tracks like Indianapolis and Michigan where a Retro-5&5 Package seems to work at places like Kentucky and Darlington; getting the right tires remains a part of the varied packages.

Kevin Harvick becomes NASCAR's Aaron Rodgers again -  Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers puts up gaudy volume stats and touchdowns, but in the clutch he's been mediocre at best, still unable to win a game where he has to stage any kind of significant comeback and just 2-4 in the playoffs the last four seasons; he has especially come up small against the Seahawks.   Kevin Harvick has developed a reputation similar to Rodgers - he leads the most laps race after race yet never cashes in with it.   He came up short again at the Brickyard, finishing third.    It has been a consistent pattern of Harvick; if NASCAR increased the bonus for most laps led by a significant amount - it should, BTW - Harvick would be a lot closer to the championship than he presently is. 

Toyota's one-man show - True, three JGR Toyotas finished in the top-ten and so did the increasingly woebegone Michael Waltrip outfit as Clint Bowyer grabbed a top-ten, this while David Ragan showed some respectable form during the day.   But it remains Kyle Busch's show, and the difference he makes is graphic considering Toyota got nothing out of his substitutes and has basically gotten nothing out of anyone else now that he's back.  

Hendrick Killers - Kyle Busch's surge has done something astonishing - Hendrick Motorsports had a lousy day at the Brickyard and haven't been all that hot since winning the Firecracker; ironic that Dale Junior brought out a late yellow while Jeff Gordon, the last entrant in the 1994 Brickyard 400 still racing, crashed out, leading to a media joke about how his NASCAR debut was in Richard Petty's final race and The King went out in a blaze.

Forget Ford - Penske had a good day despite struggle with Brad Keselowski's outfit, and once again that was it as far as Ford goes.   Aric Almirola had an encouraging effort but crashed, while his MIA teammate Sam Hornish Jr. had a better-than-expected finish, but that was it for Ford; Petty's team still had a better day than the Roush-Fenway mess lowlighted by Trevor Bayne bringing out the last yellow.  

There was a Ryan Newman sighting - The stealth Newman finished 11th, the best for the RCR bunch.   Austin Dillon's forgettable foray to Cup continued getting worse with a pit speeding penalty he never recovered from.  

So it goes with the Brickyard behind us and Pocono ahead.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

India Inc And India's Caste System

1991 economic reforms opened up India to market forces and the result has been the transformation of what was once the poorest nation in the world into one of the wealthiest - and it has effectively ended India's oppressive caste system.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Scott Walker And Benefits To Workers

Scott Walker took on unions and the result has been beneficial to workers. And it's why he remains a viable candidate.

Obama Lobby Smear in Iran Deal Debate Cannot Go Unanswered

The debate over the Iran nuclear deal signed last week is just beginning but the willingness of the administration to smear its opponents is already clear.

Lessons for Iran from the Failed North Korean Nuclear Negotiations

Looking back at the failure of negotiating nonproliferation with North Korea and the lessons for the Iranian appeasement effort by Obama.

Islamo-Arab Imperialism Is What It Is

Following the Chattanooga massacre ABC News tried to whitewash Islamo-Arab imperialism.

The International Baby Business

The dark side of gay surrogacy.

Iran Deal’s Tepid Support Technical Problems And Teheran Gloating

Iran Deal already shaky in its first three days.

Watch Out Clinton, Here Comes Bernienomics

Bernie Sanders' economic malice gets exposed.

Transportation Empowerment Act

A proposal on highway funding.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mullahs’ Military Shopping List

Susan Rice of the administration actually thinks the Iranians will spend their new money on their people; they never do, they spend for war.

NASCAR And Drivers On What Constitutes Good Racing

The 2010 Winston 500 set the motorsports record for lead changes at 88, and is a great illustration of the issue of what constitutes great racing

NASCAR will use two different downforce packages for the Brickyard 400 this weekend as the Xfinity Series will run a larger spoiler and gear rule for additional drag, with the hope of creating a drafting effect for more passing. A similar package for the Cup side will run at Michigan in August. Crew chief Eric Phillips of JGR for one has spoken in favor of the change.

It also brings to the fore a recent piece by Jim Utter interviewing Dale Earnhardt Jr. about recent talks within the NASCAR driver council where the question was asked, "What makes a good race?" Junior noted that "NASCAR I think wants pack racing and drafting and passing, tons and tons of passing." He also noted "I think the drivers' opinion....is a bit old school. Something from the 1980s and '90s.....off-throttle time, guys sliding around, tires wearing out, tires not making a fuel run, having to really take care of it. That's the kind of thing we want to encourage."

In all the 40-plus years I've followed and studied racing I've had disagreements with a lot of people, and the best races we've historically seen have been the races with the packs, where the draft kicks in to very strong effect, and the drivers fight for the lead hard.   In NASCAR history some 80 races have broken 40 official lead changes and multiple others - such as Ontario Motor Speedway in 1972, 1974, 1977, and 1979 - hit 35 or more (Ontario in 1978 hit 30) official lead changes and numerous unofficial ones;  twenty years ago Pocono saw one of its best races and it hit 35 official lead changes and multiple unofficial ones.

But Dale Junior's view of good racing and NASCAR's aren't necessarily that far apart - though NASCAR meddling has thwarted the goal of more passing between trying to stifle push-drafting and absurd out-of-bounds rules for the plate tracks - and the Pocono race linked above showcases at least some of what Junior mentions; it also showcases the draft kicking in to great effect.   Overvaluing technique as opposed to actually making something happen doesn't work, but if technique makes something happen - Tim Richmond noted during his 1986 victory binge how he mastered Pocono by compromising on his driving style - then clearly it matters.

It brings to mind the low-downforce package used at Kentucky for the Cup cars and the positive feedback provided even though history has long told us low downforce is not a sustainably effective racecar package, as shown in 1998 and the second two-thirds of the 2000-9 decade, the John Darby era of the NASCAR garage area.

And the caveat that is often overlooked is tires - drivers want a softer tire with the low-downforce package as Junior noted above, though studying the sport's history it seems the sport needs not a softer tire as much as a bias-ply tire, a tire that is forgiving to the driver, does not require the driver to "catch" the car but instead all but requires the driver to race hard.   Certainly the era of bias-ply tires in NASCAR saw an enormity of passing and the best illustration of bias-plies remains the June 1991 Michigan 400 when the first half saw over 30 lead changes, official and otherwise, with Earnhardt Sr. and Davey Allison waging a ferocious fight for first often throwing their cars five lengths deeper and deeper.   The 1995-6 period saw several such races where the tires raced more like bias-plies, as did one of the forgotten races of the last fifteen years, the 2000 National 500 at Charlotte.

Getting back to downforce, it brings to mind a question I know I never thought of and doubt anyone would have thought of before - could NASCAR be evolving toward multiple downforce packages for different tracks?  That drivers use different racecars has long been true, despite the myth John Darby pushed of "twenty different cars for twenty different tracks" that NASCAR wanted to eliminate.   The varied downforce packages NASCAR is racing would seem to indicate they're thinking along those lines.  

And if it works out it will be a major evolution in the sport, where both sides involved - the drivers and the sanctioning body - have worked together to an extent we haven't seen before.

Race Terrorists And The Democratic Party

The fuss over Donald Trump ignores the terroristic #BlackLivesMatter mythology being pushed further into the Democratic Party.

How to Gut the Principles of Law in One Easy Verdict

The World Court is not a real court, it is a kangaroo court for international predators.

Most Don't Need Health Insurance

The IRS has found that more people than expected are paying the fine for not buying health insurance. It shows anew that "40 million people don't have health insurance" because they CHOOSE not to have something they do not need.

Bill de Blasio’s Anti-Uber Scheme is Based on Misinformation

Bill de Blasio is waging war against the ridesharing company Uber, basing his case against it on falsity.

Some Economic Links

Mark J. Perry posts some links, showing for instance the folly of the worker-classification issue, shown in the demise of a cleaning services company.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Todd Szegedy Pulls A Tim Richmond Move

2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the debut of New Hampshire International Speedway. The Magic Mile debuted in July 1990 and it has raced varied NASCAR stock car classes as well as Indycars since. The class that seems to breed the most enthusiasm is the NASCAR Modified Tour, as the track's most exciting races have invariably been from the Mod Tour.

2015's first Mod Tour slugfest at New Hampshire was the Andy Blacksmith 100, named in honor of WGIR FM 101.1 radio personality Andy Blacksmith, who had passed away recently.   Held on an overcast and somewhat muggy day, The Andy Blacksmith 100 lived up to the Manchester, NH station's motto as The Rock Station, and also lived up to the station's status as an affiliate of NASCAR's radio networks, MRN Radio and PRN.

In short, it rocked.

The early battle was dominated by Doug Coby in the Mike Smeriglio #2 and the Bob Katon Jr. #13 of Ted Christopher, who combined to lead 26 of the first 50 laps, but as the first half went on Woody Pitkat in the #88 Buzz Chew car, #6 Ryan Preece in the Ed Partridge car, and Donny Lia's #8 Mark Sypher car took over, and both escaped a huge wreck on the second-half restart, though Pitkat's escape was razor-thin; he spun when the leaders on the outside line gagged and stacked up the outside line.

Under the ensuing red flag, it got notice who the new leader was - Todd Szegedy, driving the Garbarino #4 Dodge.    Szegedy hadn't won on the Mod Tour since the  FW Webb 100 at Loudon in 2013 and had driven only a partial schedule in 2014.   He's made all the races so far this season, and he was running a "spec" motor that team owner Bob Garbarino had complained about because it's not something built by an independent outfit like Ron Hutter.  

The politicking of racing can be its most annoying problem, and the irony of the situation became that the last 50 laps of the 100 became a tense shootout in which Szegedy's #4 was drafting and push-drafting with Lia, Preece, and Ronnie Silk's #15 Rob Fuller car, and also making his way into the fight was the damaged Curb Motorsports #44 of Bobby Santos, involved in the halfway wreck. 

Szegedy drafted past Silk with ten to go, but a four-car crash in Three set up a three-lap showdown, and on the final lap Donny Lia, a former Garbarino driver, stormed to second then stormed nose-to-nose with Szegedy, and they hit the stripe abreast and Szegedy the winner by about a wheel.   It was strikingly reminiscent of the 2014 Sunoco finish where Santos took the lead, Ted Christopher crossed underneath in Four, then got sideways and lost second.   This 2015 finish wasn't quite as chaotic,  but it was a near-photo finish reminiscent of Tim Richmond hanging tough on the outside to take the win - the second time in three races New Hampshire's Modifieds have seen a finish worthy of comparison to the immortal Tim Richmond finish with Geoff Bodine and Ricky Rudd in 1986. 

The lead changed 29 times, a guaranteed high for the whole weekend for all the classes racing here, and yet another reminder of what happens when the draft becomes everything.

It was another great race in a season where Modifieds have put on unusually memorable battles at Stafford Speedway this year as well - notable is that Rowan Pennick has been cleaning house at Stafford this season but never got untracked and got into a late melee at Loudon, ending his day.  

With that the Mod Tour waits for the next round, and prove anew they're worth the wait.   This race likewise proved worth the wait for Todd Szegedy and Bob Garbarino.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Obama’s World: No People, Just Regimes

Obama cannot be honest about his appeasement of Iran.

Belated Discovery Of Obamacare Truth

The Slate website has now authored an accurate assessment of Obamacare, admitting it to be thievery for entitlement. Or as the cliche puts it, it robs Peter to pay Paul, and ever-more people are realizing they're being robbed.

An Alternative to Obama’s Bad Deal

It's called Victory over Iran.

Progressivism Loses Versus Reality

Victor Davis Hanson notes the failure of progressive thought whenever it butts against the real world; it instead blames someone or something else.

The Lie Against Genetically Modified Organisms

Slate recently admitted what the Reason Foundation has long shown - that genetically modified foods are no threat to anyone.

What Lower Labor Force Participation Rates Tell Us About Work Opportunities and Incentives

They tell us government is paying too much to have people not work.

The Deal Wasn’t About Iran’s Nukes

It was about Obama sucking up to the region's largest terrorist state.

The Lie of Solar Power

Solar panels have sprouted like weeds, and it's because government is forcing them on people instead of allowing better more traditional energy sources to flourish.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Is The Civil War Over?

No, because the real enemy is not the Confederate Flag - it is race hustlers.

Why Millennials Should Pay Attention to Monetary Policy

Because the Fed is not doing anything right.

Greece's New Plan More Austere

The Referendum Was a Disaster for the Greek Left and exposes yet again the stupidity of Greek politics; it also showcases the weaknesses of the recent bailout, the third in five years for Greece. "In the end the lender always gets his due no matter how the borrower votes."

Obama Rewards Iranian Imperialism

The Dawn of Iranian Empire

Obama Strikes a Deal—With Qassem Suleimani

Obama's negotiations were mostly about rewarding one of Iran's worst terrorists, the head of its Quds Force because he actually thinks the Iranians - one of the causes of the Mideast war - can be his substitute for "boots on the ground," even though they're not, and real boots on the ground were manifestly successful.

Iran Deal: The Right to Despair

The Iran deal guarantees Iran will have nuclear weapons.

The Progressive Regression

"Progressive" thought is not progressive - it is defense of unearned wealth and power.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Why Krugman Lies About Obamacare

Paul Krugman has emerged as the most stubbornly dishonest defender of Obamacare, an entitlement taken to be repaired 51 times and which needs Obama to cook its books to be portrayed as a success.

Regional Price Variation Defeats Purpose of Progressive Tax

Better rethink the concept of progressive tax.

Iranian Diplomacy Goes Nowhere

Twice before thne Iranian enemy walked away - and the US never learns.

NASCAR's Rules Debates Go On At Kentucky And Beyond

The Quaker State 400 at Kentucky saw NASCAR's renewal of the 5 And 5 Rule make its 2015 debut, and this low downforce package will return at the Southern 500 at Darlington. Several drivers were waxing enthusiastic about the racing at Kentucky and NASCAR was pleased as well. Some of the racing at Kentucky was indeed good.

The epic Erik Jones-Kasey Kahne sidedraft battle in May 2015 at Charlotte posted here is meant to illustrate the continuing rules exploration that the sport is undergoing as NASCAR will debut a high downforce package later this season, with the Pure Michigan 400 seeing a 9-inch spoiler with wicker, a two-inch airdam clearance, and 43-inch radiator pan, changes expected to increase drag on the cars and which appear influenced not only by racing as shown in the above-posted Truck race - where the Trucks make more downforce than the cars and have put on numerous spirited battles for first on  intermediate tracks - but also by the high-downforce package Indycar used at Fontana which made for more drag and with the resultant draft exploded to an Indycar-record 80 lead changes among 14 drivers.

The dynamic of low downforce vs. high downforce has been a running one forever, and the 5 And 5 Rule's return at Kentucky is worth exploring given the history of NASCAR's war against downforce - it has not been a positive history.   The 5 And 5 Rule debuted in October 1993 at Charlotte and Atlanta and was intended to cut speeds by making drivers lift for the corners more; it didn't happen, instead the leaders became all but unpassable, and the rule was dropped after 1993.

It was brought back for the entirety of 1998 for the same reason, and also on the theory that reducing downforce would neutralize aeropush that was becoming a burgeoning problem for racing.   Again, it didn't happen - the 1998 season saw a very competitive race at the 600 at Charlotte but overall passing was made harder.   John Darby took over the NASCAR garage and in 2004 the 5&5 Rule was brought back again; during Darby's reign NASCAR saw downforce cuts, numerous sway bar changes, and in the end the racing never became that good outside of the plate tracks.

Kentucky certainly saw some good racing, but given the history of the 5 And 5 Rule I can't be that optimistic that it will work.   For Darlington a softer tire is slated to be used,  but we've seen that before as well, and it misses the larger point about tires - the best races we've seen away from the plate tracks have been where the drivers seemed better able to lean on the tires the way they could on bias-ply tires - and we continue to see examples of such with bias-shod racecars in the K&N Series and the Modifieds; in the last few seasons we've seen four-abreast for the front at Iowa Speedway with the K&N cars that looked like old-school Michigan International Speedway.

Softer tires sound like a good idea but it's not necessarily better to need to get four tires on stops; we've certainly seen good racing where some drivers did not get fresh tires, and economically it is better to see what the late Bob Newton said during 1989 Speedweeks - "Someday teams will see they don't need ten sets of tires to win the Daytona 500."  

The continuing rules exploration campaign is not new to NASCAR, but what it shows of late is that NASCAR actually seems to be better understanding of the minutae of what the racing is doing compared to the recent past, and we certainly want better racing - not every race can reach 80 lead changes or even 40, but it isn't unreasonable to want 40-plus lead change races on tracks that history has shown are more than suited to see it.

Iran and the 1989 Murder in Vienna

In 1989 Iran assassinated Kurdish leaders and thus sabotaged peace talks with the Kurds - and the man who ordered the hit is Obama's negotating partner.

Greece Monkeys

The European Union's overlooked angle in rescuing Greece even though Greece does not deserve to be rescued.

Friday, July 10, 2015

NFL Countdown 2015

Roger Goodell's recent comment to CNBC about a potential decision on the Tom Brady appeal before training camps merely reminds us that the countdown to the 2015 season is still on and the NFL will soon renew acquaintances.   So a quick comment on the 32 teams seems appropriate before training camps start -


New England Patriots
- Always the Patriots, it seems.   It used to be Only the Patriots in the bad old days of Sullivan meddling, Victor Kiam's botch of the Lisa Olsen fiasco, Irving Fryar's bar fights and car crashes, Dick MacPherson's joyous hugging of players, and the feud between Bill Parcells and Bob Kraft.   But few remember that MacPherson began the slow climb of the worst team ever toward respectability and that Kraft turned out to be right about Parcells, so the recent dynasty had something to build in when it started.    That dynasty has been such that even losing Tom Brady to injury didn't prevent a new, raw-boned quarterback from winning eleven games while learning on the fly, so even if Brady doesn't see the field until Week 5 the depth of this team seems more than enough - much as the 2010 Steelers went 3-1 in Ben Roethlisberger's league-imposed absence.   Much has been said about the secondary, as though two-and-a-half years of directly witnessing Aqib Talib, Darrelle Revis, and Brandon Browner will not produce lessons on how to play the Belichick defensive system to the secondary players left.   We also seem to insist on forgetting how Belichick never misses star players who walk.  

Until we see otherwise, the Patriots winning 12 games or more and contending for the Superbowl is a lock.

New York Jets - Geno Smith by every account I can find is on his last legs as a quarterback and I'm confident the quarterback controversy will be between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Bryce Petty.   The rookie is considered a development project and more than one expert I've read considers him someone to keep an eye on down the road.   The Jets defense has been ranked highly, even though it hasn't truly beaten good offenses (they allowed 30 or more points six times last season); they loaded up on corners in reuniting Revis and Antonio "Honorary 19 Kids And Counting Cast Member" Cromartie, and as one anonymous scout I've read put it, it says a lot about Dee Milliner being demoted to fourth corner.   New coach Todd Bowles seems more professional than Rex Ryan, but the jump from coordinator to head coach is big, especially as Bowles seemed to be good but not great as a coordinator.   Plus, it's the Jets.

Buffalo Bills - Rex Ryan has brought his arrogance to Buffalo and while the fanbase seems to be liking it so far, there is no quarterback on the horizon there that instills confidence, with the scuttlebutt about Matt Cassel I've heard being quite negative on his chances there.   Ryan's Jets tenure was marked by lack of discipline, lack of preparation, and weakness at situational football; he got away with it for three seasons, had a minor renaissance in 2013, then collapsed in 2014.   And the first thing the Bills staff has done? Its O-line coach gets arrested for a beachside brawl.

Miami Dolphins - They've committed to Ryan Tannehill and overlooked is the Dolphins actually improved on offense from 2013 and also improved in points scored to their highest ranking at such since 2001.   On defense the Dolphins got Ndamukong Suh, and the idea is obvious - attack Tom Brady.   Only problem - King Kong Suh has been largely irrelevant against Brady in two career meetings.   Overall the Dolphins have never shown the killer instinct needed, especially late in the season, under Joe Philbin and Tannehill, and at times owner Stephen Ross between public commentaries and elsewhere has looked amateurish.   8-8 looked likely again.

Baltimore Ravens
- After winning the Superbowl in 2012, the Ravens in effect blew up their roster to pay Joe Flacco.   Somewhat surprisingly it hasn't really hurt them, and 2014 was a nice rebound season ending in the bitter playoff shootout at Foxboro.   It says a lot about Flacco and also Ozzie Newsome that the Ravens seem another playoff lock, even with the AFC North as deep as it was in 2014.  

Cincinnati Bengals - Stuck in the high-end middle is what the Bengals are.   Marvin Lewis has shown he can make a very good regular season team, and Bill and Duke Tobin put the lie to past criticism of the Bengals' front office.   But with all that, they are always behind the 8-ball come playoff time.   Each playoff game, Andy Dalton has been outclassed, sometimes glaringly, and it's another game of Prove It for the Bengals; they nonetheless have come an extremely long way from the dark days.

Cleveland Browns - Once 7-4, the Browns lost their quarterback, then Johnny Manziel came in and proved atrocious.   Nonetheless that 7-9 season provided some blocks to build on; better leadership is needed on the roster, but at least now the Browns can legitimately say there's something to start building on.   Even so they still have some last-place division finishes to endure before progress becomes clear.

Pittsburgh Steelers - They surprisingly won the division last year but got embarrassed at home by the Ravens in the playoffs, a sign both that the AFC North is the deepest division in the league and also that the Steelers still have some holes to fill, notably ability to handle playoff football - they've now lost three straight postseason games.   Ben Roethlisberger remains one of the elite quarterbacks, albeit one that can be beaten, and beaten badly.   The defense has become the issue with Dick Lebeau going to the hated Titans and the overall unit under construction.

Houston Texans - Bill O'Brien showed he is someone on the rise in getting the Texans to 9-7 last year.   Now he has to build on that, but Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer don't look like the answer at quarterback and the fact remains the Texans beat only one quality opponent (Buffalo) last year.   The star here is JJ Watt and the defense, but that defense still hasn't really figured out Andrew Luck, and the rest of the AFC South may be better than last year.

Indianapolis Colts - Now comes the hard question - have they plateaued?   They've won 36 games in the Andrew Luck era but are 0-4 against the Patriots by ever-widening margins, were only 6-6 against quality foes last year, and their coach suddenly doesn't seem like a lock to stay, though I doubt he gets canned.   That they've been stuck at 11-5 for three straight years is not necessarily a good sign for advancing another level even with three playoff wins the last two years.   Another 11-win season seems a lock, but then what?

Jacksonville Jaguars - Blake Bortles has been in one of the league's weakest situations with the struggling Jaguars, a team with just 14 wins since cutting David Garrard and making what proved a colossal mistake in playing Blaine Gabbert.   There appears to be stability at the top, but improving in the wins remains a necessity from a unit that was abysmal across the board.  

Tennessee Titans - It may have been the worst possible first impression Ken Whisenhunt could make.   Refusal to commit to Jake Locker wound up dooming the season after a Week One win, injury to Locker thanks to a headhunting Browns squad and abysmal play by Charlie Whitehurst led to Zach Mettenberger's debut well before he was ready, a complete lack of playmaking from a defense reported to be completely confused by a new scheme, and it all added up to 2-14, a disturbing reminder of the 2-14 season twenty years earlier that spelled the end of the Houston Oilers.   The Titans rebuffed reported trade offer to draft Marcus Mariota, and the early scuttlebutt has been strikingly positive, and they need Mariota to give them real playmaking.   They've won just 30 games this decade so far and it should have been a lot more; Mariota and company have that opportunity.

Denver Broncos - Gary Kubiak is now in, but the expected improvement in defense for 2014 never happened, and Peyton Manning's reputation for playoff failure and cold-weather struggle only got reinforced.   Wade Phillips takes over on defense and that's not a good sign given his failures as a coach over the years.   In an AFC West that didn't get better from 2013 the Broncos are seeming locks to win the division again, but after that they haven't proven they can go anywhere.

Kansas City Chiefs - The Chiefs improved in wins over quality opponents in 2014 by winning four such games, against Seattle and New England and sweeping San Diego, but overall the Chiefs slipped in Andy Reid's second season and are stuck right now with a quarterback in Alex Smith who did better than expected from 2011 onward but whose ceiling is too low.   It's too much right now to think the Chiefs can reach 11 wins again or reach the playoffs again.

Oakland Raiders - With one foot supposedly out the door for Los Angeles, the Raiders haven't been expected to do anything on the field for ten years now.    But in Derek Carr and Khalil Mack the consensus is the Raiders have two solid players to build around.   For the first time in a long time the scuttlebutt is the Raiders actually have a program, though it will take time to develop it.

San Diego Chargers - Are they one foot out the door for LA?  By all accounts the answer seems to be yes, and it explains why Philip Rivers has refused to sign a new contract with the Chargers.   Rivers' best days may be behind him and one wonders if he should have been traded to Tennessee and his former coach; the ugly loss to a batch of backups in Kansas City in the season finale showcased the Chargers to no longer be a playoff contender.


Dallas Cowboys
- They had a far better season than anyone could have hoped for in 2014, but they haven't truly shown maturity enough to be taken seriously.   Tony Romo played smarter football than expected and for once the Cowboys' playoff failure can't really be blamed there.   But bad reputations never get disproven outside of John Elway in 1997-8, and Romo isn't someone to feel confident in.   The Cowboys also have a possible headache in Dez Bryant, though a new contract may be worked out before camp.

New York Giants - They won a Superbowl yet even with that the last five years have been a steady erosion of the Giants under Tom Coughlin.   The pattern for most of his tenure had been fast starts and second-half collapses; recently the starts have been bad and the bleeding was never really contained.   Eli Manning remains the ultimate enigma - a two-time Superbowl champ who can't get the Giants better otherwise.   The stat that best personifies the ugliness of the Giants - 1-9 against quality foes last year including yet another season sweep by the Eagles.

Philadelphia Eagles
- What cost the Eagles the 2014 season?   Only one person - Mark Sanchez.   Forced to start halfway through, Mr. Buttfumble exploded early, then as the season went on  he lost four of his last seven starts just as he did with the Jets.   Sanchez is still there and the Eagles are taking a chance with former Ram Sam Bradford and also signed Tim Tebow while also jettisoning numerous players - and getting an earful about it from several of them - as Chip Kelly now has full personnel control.    When healthy Bradford played well, and Kelly has shown he can get something out of his players.   It's nonetheless a big If right now.

Washington Redskins - The Deadskins have committed to Robert Griffin III, but RGIII regressed and also got injured, and the Skins have worked on the O-line in response.   One can't feel confidence here, even though Jay Gruden is a better coach than the disaster of his first season was.

Chicago Bears - John Fox is a proven team-builder with Carolina and Denver, and one can't visualize him keeping Jay Cutler long.   Cutler is a strong-armed stiff with no football acumen; at a position that requires high IQ, Cutler is a dolt.   Backup Jimmy Clausen certainly is no alternative, having been a complete failure with Fox in Carolina in 2010, but there is no scenario where Cutler stays the starter.   Look for 2015 to be a transition year.

Detroit Lions - New coaches instilled more professionalism into a team with great talent but which failed because it freelanced too much and didn't stop hitting after the whistle.   The next step now awaits.   Matthew Stafford played by the coaches' own admission too conservatively in cutting down on INTs; now he needs to bring back some of the reckless quality and hone it to become stronger.   He also needs to overcome a fatal obstacle - inability to beat quality opponents, as his playoff loss in Dallas makes him 0-18 in road games against quality foes.  

Green Bay Packers - The Packers keep winning the NFC North but the last four years under Aaron Rodgers they've won just two playoff games and Rodgers continues to be a failure when he has to stage any significant comeback - his win over the NY Jets was only his second comeback win after trailing by more than one score (the 2012 win over Detroit is the other) where former backup Matt Flynn staged three such comebacks in 2013 alone.   The loss in Buffalo was especially illustrative - after the Bills went up by nine, Rodgers led a field goal drive, got the ball back, and promptly gagged up the game-ending safety.   Under pressure Rodgers has shown no credible ability to handle it.   He also remains incapable of beating the Seahawks after failing to do so twice in 2014, even with a 16-0 lead.  

Minnesota Vikings - The bad news is they failed to beat a single quality foe, the only team in the league without a quality win all year.   The good news is they now seem to have a program in place with Teddy Bridgewater and despite the fiasco of Adrian Peterson.    They're definitely well ahead of where they were just four years ago, so needing more time to  become a contender is not a shock.

Atlanta Falcons - They cleaned house after going 6-10, but the problems that led to going 10-22 since back-to-back blown playoff leads in 2012 may not be gone.   They still have Matt Ryan, but Ryan is a proven big-game failure and their defense has been abysmal of late.   In a weak division last year the Falcons were just another team and don't look any better.

Carolina Panthers - This is the best team of the NFC South and should not finish with a losing record as they did last year.   Cam Newton showed his grit by winning despite being under siege all season and he became the first Panther since Jake Delhomme to win a playoff game.   They may not break 11 wins but 10 should be enough to win the division.

New Orleans Saints - Even with Drew Brees the Saints regressed in 2014, failing repeatedly to step up with the season on the line, and one is a little iffy about New Orleans' ability to rebound between cap complications, poor coaching (why Rob Ryan is still on that staff is puzzling), and lack of sufficient clutch play from Brees.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Only one question is here - will Jameis Winston become a capable NFL quarterback?  Numerous opinions are that he won't because of maturity issues that may not be going away with camp a few weeks away and overrated play - one Football Outsiders analysis ranked Winston as having a nearly 70% chance of being a bust.   The Bucs were certain going into the draft he would be their man, and he has some excellent perimeter people to throw the ball to; we also have recent history of an NFC South quarterback considered a flop entering the season who proved everyone wrong - Cam Newton.   There is another issue percolating, and that's Lovie Smith, who was only mediocre with the Bears and never got their offense going all that well.

Arizona Cardinals - They did far better than anyone expected until Carson Palmer was lost for the season.   Now we see if they can become close to elite with a healthy Palmer; Palmer's ceiling isn't as high as it needs to be, and that's going to remain a strike against the Cards.   Bruce Arians, though, has been nothing but a transformational figure; once the butt of ridicule, the Cardinals are fully a contender, to a level they didn't reach even in the Kurt Warner period.   

St. Louis Rams - They have Nick Foles, now they need to actually step up after slowly eroding in three years under Jeff Fisher.   The team is no longer the youngest in the league; now their core has to live up with hitting their prime.

San Francisco 49ers - The signs were clear that Jim Harbaugh had burned everyone out, so now the Niners proceed with a former assistant and a huge question at quarterback.   Colin Kaepernick regressed horribly in 2014 and has gone to a QB facility in Arizona, and also has worked out with ex-Niners killer Kurt Warner, to where Vernon Davis has said, "He looks like a totally different guy."   The O-line was in disarray in 2014 - and one can't help but think Jonathan Martin had something to do with it after his controversy in Miami the year before.   Martin is now gone and the Niners seem to want to run the ball more now, though who will do it is a bit of a puzzle with Frank Gore gone.  

Seattle Seahawks - Now the questions rage - will Russell Wilson stay in 2016?   The contract fight is suddenly an issue with a Seahawks team whose cap management may not be as good as people thought.   The popular face of the team is still Marshawn Lynch,  but overlooked in the Superbowl XLIX controversy is Lynch was pretty well neutralized by the Patriots until the final Seattle drive and even then did not show enough explosiveness to feel he would have scored from the 1.   They're still the best bet in the West and I'm picking a Carolina-Seattle NFC Title fight.

Of course it's all subject to change once camps start and preseason sorts out.

Monday, July 06, 2015

A Way Out for Greece after the 'No' Vote

Greece voted to demand others subsidize its economic stupidity rather than grow up. There's still a way out.

My Big Fat Greek Economic Crisis

A look at Greece's bankruptcy and angles to it that appear to have been overlooked.

Frustration At The Firecracker 400

Daytona racing has a history of enormous competition, but when it goes wrong it becomes incredibly maddening and at time scary. The 2015 Firecracker 400, coming a week after the amazing MAVTV 500 Indycar race at Fontana, showcased some of the same issues as Fontana but also other issues specific to NASCAR.

Observations from the ugliest Firecracker 400 in years -

* - The cars regularly broke 202 MPH, and once again nothing good can really come from 200 MPH, though Indycars are far safer at 200 than stockers.   The idea that Indycars somehow lose something when the power is restricted to 200 MPH or that NASCAR loses something with restriction to 190 is baffling, especially when in 2001 the entire sport openly acknowledged - Rusty Wallace gave it specific utterance at that time and has repeated it since - that 194 MPH is the cut-off point for keeping the cars on the ground.  

The complaint about restrictor plate racing will come up again, as usual ignoring vicious melees at non-plate tracks, such as the Watkins Glen series of melees including last year's Ryan Newman-Michael McDowell melee, bad crashes at Charlotte over the years, and so forth (Indycar has this same myopia about the lethality of crashes in its "plate" races as opposed to melees on its street circuits, crashes that usually out-do superspeedway wrecks as we saw with Dario Franchitti and more recently with RC Erenson in the Indy Lights race at Toronto).

Worth nothing for context is that this past Friday at Stafford Speedway, CT there was a huge crash in the SK Modified race that took out the leaders (notably Ryan Preece)  and there have been numerous such incidents in a Stafford season where the racing has been unusually competitive.

As relatively uncompetitive as this Firecracker was, it was still superior racing to most non-plate races, and as with the California Indy 500 at Fontana it showcased that the sport needs pack racing - albiet to a point.  The real issue for NASCAR is Brian France's ridiculous opposition to push-drafting - it stopped the blocking that has become more of a problem in racing of late, and it created more outright passing than anything else can; push-drafting would have opened up far more in the way of passing and thus opened up the competition level above what it was here, and this was even more true with the Firecracker 250 for the Xfinity Series, where uncompetitive racing and resultant frustration led to melees that left the finishers all with weak racecars.   

80 lead changes, seen at Fontana, is a lot better than the 22 seen in this Firecracker.

* - The real cause of the Dillon crash was Kevin Harvick, and he's done this before, notably last year's above-mentioned Newman-McDowell crash at the Glen.   Harvick has led over 1,200 laps but hasn't cashed in that much on winning.

* - The Hendrick cars have the season pretty much to themselves.   There is no non-Hendrick challenge anywhere outside of Stewart-Haas Racing, and the only challenger there is Harvick.  Kurt Busch has surged since coming back so he can still offer some challenge.   Outside of him, the rest of the field is racing for fifth at best - only seven of seventeen races have been won by someone other than a Hendrick or Harvick/Kurt Busch Chevrolet.

The upshot of the Austin Dillon crash is it is an illustration of his career - racing for nothing and hitting the wall.

* - Aggravation at Chevrolet's dominance has been a long-standing gripe within NASCAR dating to the 1960s and surging with the 1970s comeback of the Bowtie Brigade, and it appears Chevy's success is driving away other brands in other series, with Indycar potentially losing Honda after Chevrolet returned to the series only a few short seasons ago.   Sanctioning bodies need to rethink whether Chevrolet is as good for their series as they might think - certainly racing needs a lot more success from non-Chevrolets such as Honda and Toyota and (call this a subtle lobby all you want) any comeback Dodge might contemplate.

* - The worst of the non-Chevrolet lot is Ford.   When Penske Racing is off - and it's been curiously off outside of two wins this season - then the brand has nothing.   Roush Fenway Racing is worse than an also-ran, it is a cancer now, between failures at engineering and a driver roster inferior to some of Roush's customer cars.   It is no accident that once again Richard Petty's #43 looked stronger than the Roush cars, and it may be Petty needs to switch manufacturers and thus not be dragged down further by the Roush alliance.

* - With all this, the potential for a first-time winner this year looks strikingly weak.   Nobody with Roush or RCR looks like they know which way is up, and even with some respectable darkhorse runs at Daytona nothing developed to indicate anyone can seize a first-time win.   If anything, some of the drivers tagged for future potential are only getting worse, notably Danica Patrick.   Kyle Larson curiously does not seem to be taking any next step, and that's it as far as drivers who might get a first win.

*- Interesting off-the-track point is made by longtime NASCAR writer Mike Mulhern.   The talk of a franchise system in NASCAR comes after a $1 billion deal by Nike for the NBA, and it leads him to ask a question worth pondering - "Could NASCAR do a deal like that without franchising?"   Stay tuned there.

So what's next? Kentucky for NASCAR, Milwaukee for Indycar, and the sport has to plug on and try to get something better.