Tag: NASCAR

Self-driving cars are a threat to the American way of life

President Obama recently pinned an op-ed for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette praising self-driving cars as “an emerging reality with the potential to transform the way we live”.

Personally, I believe that self-driving cars are a grave threat to the American way of life.

Thousands of Americans are employed as taxi drivers, pizza deliverers, and in other similar professions. If self-driving cars were to become the norm, you can kiss thousands of American jobs, many of which are among the few American jobs nowadays that do not require a college degree, goodbye. Their jobs would be effectively replaced by computers manufactured in China or other foreign countries.

Also, who would want to watch a NASCAR race in which actual race car drivers are replaced by computer-driven cars? NASCAR would no longer be an actual sport if computers replaced drivers; instead, it would become effectively as scripted as WWE, but without the soap opera-esque storylines to keep the audience engaged. There’s a lot more entertainment watching real race car drivers compete against each other than computers competing against each other.

Another instance where self-driving vehicles are a threat to the American way of life is the all-American family farm. If tractors, combines, and other motorized farm implements are replaced with computer-driven machines, then it would be a lot easier for large agribusiness corporations like Bayer (which recently acquired Monsanto) to sweep in and take over family farms across the country.

While Obama has cited elderly people and disabled people (although I’m not elderly (I’m 26 years of age), I have Asperger’s syndrome, and I don’t drive) as two groups of people that might benefit from self-driving cars, the sobering reality is that there’s a lot more people who would be negatively impacted than those who would be positively impacted by self-driving vehicles. In fact, many of those who could benefit from self-driving cars don’t have cell phones that would be needed for them to get a ride in a self-driving car, either for cost reasons (most elderly and disabled people are very poor), or the nature of their disability makes it virtually impossible for them to operate a cell phone.

Bernie Sanders: the Alan Kulwicki of presidential politics

Bernie Sanders has absolutely zero intention of abandoning his bid for the Democratic nomination, despite efforts from President Barack Obama to convince what few big-money Democratic donors have not yet thrown their support behind Hillary to do so.

What the corporate media, Democratic insiders, and even Republicans like Donald Trump don’t understand about Bernie is that he’s basically the Alan Kulwicki of presidential politics.

For those of you who have never heard of Alan Kulwicki, he was a NASCAR driver who won the series championship in NASCAR’s highest division in 1992. Kulwicki ran his own race team and did things his own way. Bernie’s style of politics is very reminiscent of Kulwicki’s attitude towards auto racing, in that Bernie runs his political campaigns largely independently of a political establishment of any kind and does things his own way.

Also, there’s a critical similarity between Alan Kulwicki’s run to the 1992 NASCAR crown and Bernie’s run to the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination: Kulwicki was down by 278 points in the race for the series championship with only a few races remaining, while Bernie is down by a little over 300 pledged delegates with roughly half of the Democratic nomination contests remaining.

I think it’s time for another Kulwicki charge up the standings, America!

NASCAR’s stupidest rule change ever causes a wreck in Truck Series race

NASCAR has a total of three national stock car racing divisions. The series that virtually all NASCAR fans are familiar with is the Sprint Cup Series(NSCS), the highest level of NASCAR-sanctioned racing. The second-highest level of NASCAR-sanctioned racing is the Xfinity Series (NXS), a series designed as a developmental series, but most races are won by drivers who compete full-time in the Sprint Cup Series.

The third-highest level of NASCAR-sanctioned racing is the Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS), a series that features full-fledged race cars designed to look like half-ton pickup trucks like the Toyota Tundra, the Ford F-150, and the Chevrolet Silverado. For this season, NASCAR made a rule change, which only applies in the NCWTS, in which the race cannot be run under green flag conditions for more than 20 minutes continuously at paved tracks (the caution clock rule will not be used at Eldora Speedway, the only dirt track where the NCWTS races, due to the only NCWTS event there being a multi-segment race). If 20 minutes has elapsed from either the initial start of the race or the most recent restart, NASCAR officials will throw the yellow flag, which requires the field to slow down, not pass each other, and line up behind the pace car, for a few laps. Remember, this rule change only applies in the NCWTS, not (to my knowledge) any NASCAR-sanctioned regional series or the two highest-level NASCAR national series.

In the first NCWTS race where the caution clock rule was in effect, held last night at Daytona International Speedway, no competition caution was needed, because the caution clock never hit zero. However, at one point in the race, the caution clock came very close to hitting zero. Daytona is a track where a NCWTS truck takes about 50 seconds or so to complete a lap (although slightly shorter if multiple trucks are lined up in a manner to use the airflow around the trucks to go faster as a group), so a driver who is at or near the front of the field can make a pit stop under green-flag conditions and, barring any difficulties in the pit crew completing the stop, exit the pits before being lapped by any lead-lap car that chose not to pit on the same lap. Because of that, several drivers attempted to legally game the system by pitting under the green flag right before the caution clock hit zero. That resulted in drivers Cody Coughlin and Spencer Gallagher spinning their trucks in an attempt to enter pit road under green-flag conditions; Coughlin hit a steel-and-foam energy reduction (SAFER) barrier between the runoff area on the inside of the track before the pit entrance and the garage area, and Gallagher collided with Christopher Bell as Bell entered pit road. Bell’s car spun into the pit boxes closest to the entrance to pit road; luckily, no trucks were pitting in those pit boxes at the time of the crash. Had there been trucks pitting in the pit boxes near the pit entrance, Bell’s car would have likely spun into pitting trucks and/or pit crew members, which would have likely resulted in injuries to pit crew members.

The NCWTS caution clock rule has had the unintended consequence of making NASCAR’s third-highest series more dangerous to compete in, and NASCAR should scrap the rule entirely. Thankfully, this rule won’t be in effect for Xfinity Series or Sprint Cup Series events.

Also, on a side note, Vince Welch, who does play-by-play commentary for NCWTS races for Fox-owned FS1, is an absolutely awful play-by-play announcer. Welch doesn’t talk a whole lot during the race, mostly letting color commentators Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip do most of the talking during the race. When Welch does talk, he doesn’t show much excitement, in stark contrast to, for example, Mike Joy, FOX’s Sprint Cup series play-by-play announcer, Ralph Shaheen, who did some NCWTS races for FS1 last season due to the death of Steve Byrnes, or Rick Allen, who is easily NBC’s best sportscaster (to the point that Allen should have a much higher-profile job at NBC, such as anchoring NBC Nightly News or doing play-by-play for NBC Sunday Night Football) and does Sprint Cup races for NBC and NBCSN.

The First Annual Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards

For the first time ever, this blog will be awarding end-of-the-year awards to several individuals who I consider to be effective at advancing progressive causes during the year, regardless of whether or not one meets the typical criteria of being politically progressive or not. This is the first annual awarding of the Order of The Progressive Midwestern Awards, for the year 2015. All ProgMid Award winners for this year and years in the future are automatically inducted into the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner.

The award categories for the first ProgMid Awards are as follows:

  • Person of the Year
  • Man of the Year
  • Woman of the Year
  • American of the Year
  • International Person of the Year
  • Group of the Year
  • Athlete of the Year
  • Blogger of the Year
  • Activist of the Year
  • Elected Official of the Year
  • Entertainer of the Year
  • Young Person of the Year

There are two important notes regarding the awards:

  • Many award recipients will receive multiple awards. For example, if the Person of the Year in a given year is a female athlete from Canada, she would win Person of the Year, Woman of the Year, International Person of the Year, and Athlete of the Year.
  • Should multiple people or a group of people win award(s) other than Group of the Year, the plural form of the name(s) of the other award(s) will be used (People, Men, Women, Americans, International People, Athletes, Bloggers, Activists, Elected Officials, Entertainers, and/or Young People).

With that said, I hereby present the First Annual Order of The Progressive Midwestern Awards, for the year 2015!

Person of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Person of the Year is the only open ProgMid Award category.

No person has made a bigger impact on advancing progressive causes in the year 2015 than Bernie Sanders. Bernie, the junior U.S. Senator from Vermont, is currently seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in the 2016 elections, and he has made improving America’s economy a key part of his campaign. Bernie has publicly championed raising the U.S. minimum wage to $15/hour, guaranteeing paid family leave, making college in America truly affordable, breaking up large financial institutions, and many other progressive ideals. Bernie is the ProgMid Person of the Year for 2015.

Man of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Men are eligible for the Man of the Year Award.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is male, Bernie is also the ProgMid Man of the Year for 2015.

Woman of the Year – Rachel Notley

Women are eligible for the Woman of the Year Award.

In Alberta, Canada’s most conservative province, Rachel Notley led the Alberta New Democratic Party to a landslide victory in the Alberta legislative general election in May of 2015, and, as a result of the election, Notley became Premier of Alberta. Notley and her party ran on a progressive platform that championed good government, Alberta’s environment, economic justice, and common sense, and they won in a very conservative part of Canada. Notley is the ProgMid Woman of the Year for 2015.

American of the Year – Bernie Sanders

In order for one to be eligible for the American of the Year Award, one must be a United States citizen, United States national, resident of the United States, or some combination thereof.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is an American, Bernie is also the ProgMid American of the Year for 2015.

International Person of the Year – Rachel Notley

Those who are not eligible for the American of the Year Award are eligible for the International Person of the Year Award.

Since the Woman of the Year, Rachel Notley, is a Canadian, Notley is also the ProgMid International Person of the Year for 2015.

Group of the Year – The Black Lives Matter Movement

The Group of the Year Award is the only ProgMid Award that is required to be awarded to a group of people.

In response to racism, police brutality, and police shootings of black people in America, the Black Lives Matter movement, a group of progressive activists seeking reform of the criminal justice system and increased accountability of law enforcement in America, has brought the issues of criminal justice reform and law enforcement accountability to the forefront of American politics. Black Lives Matter is the ProgMid Group of the Year for 2015.

Athlete of the Year – Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Professional athletes and individuals primarily known for being amateur athletes (including, but not limited to, collegiate athletes and amateur Olympic athletes) are eligible for the Athlete of the Year Award.

Although one would usually not think of a NASCAR driver as advancing a progressive cause, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. played an important role in building public support for taking down the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. When asked about his thoughts about the Confederate flag, Dale Jr. called the Confederate flag “offensive to an entire race” and said that the Confederate flag “belongs in the history books, and that’s about it”. For his condemnation of the Confederate flag, Dale Jr. is the ProgMid Athlete of the Year for 2015.

Blogger of the Year – Kelly Wilz

Those who are an administrator of, editor of, author of, and/or contributor to a blog are eligible for the Blogger of the Year Award.

One of the newest members of the progressive blogosphere is Kelly Wilz, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Marshfield/Wood County. Wilz is also the author of the progressive political blog Dissent and Cookies, which launched in May of 2015. As a blogger, Wilz has primarily focused on ending rape culture in America and supporting tenure protections for college professors, both of which are very important causes. Wilz is the 2015 ProgMid Blogger of the Year.

Activists of the Year – The Black Lives Matter Movement

Those who are largely or primarily known for being a political activist are eligible for the Activist of the Year Award.

Since the Group of the Year, the Black Lives Matter movement, is a group of political activists, members of the Black Lives Matter movement are also the 2015 ProgMid Activists of the Year.

Elected Official of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Those who were a public official elected either directly by the people or elected by a body elected by the people (such as the U.S. Electoral College) at any point in the year in which the award is given are eligible for the Elected Official of the Year Award.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is an incumbent elected official, Bernie is also the 2015 ProgMid Elected Official of the Year.

Entertainer of the Year – Jon Stewart

Those who are entertainers (actors/actresses, comedians/comediennes, musicians, sports announcers, radio show hosts, television show hosts, etc.) are eligible for the Entertainer of the Year Award.

While Jon Stewart left the anchor desk of the Comedy Central news satire program The Daily Show in August of this year, Stewart has not abandoned the first responders who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Stewart passionately advocated for, and won, renewal of federally-funded health care for 9/11 first responders. Stewart is the 2015 ProgMid Entertainer of the Year.

Young Person of the Year – Keanan Sargent

In order to be eligible for the Young Person of the Year Award, one must be less than 18 years of age on December 31 of the year in which the award is given.

At an August 2015 LGBT pride parade and rally in Madison, Wisconsin, Keanan Sargent, the then-nine-year-old son of Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Sargent, did something incredibly creative when confronted by homophobia. Keanan used balloons to obscure a sign that anti-LGBT protesters were displaying at the pride parade and rally. For his creativity and progressive values, Keanan Sargent is the 2015 ProgMid Young Person of the Year.

I care about women in sports, thanks in no small part to the U.S. women’s soccer team

Last night, the U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT) defeated Japan by a score of 5 to 2 to claim the third Women’s World Cup for the United States and the first one for the U.S. in 16 years.

While an estimate of how many people watched the FOX telecast of the Women’s World Cup final, which was held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, is not yet available, I was among the people who watched the Women’s World Cup final live, although I originally didn’t intend to. The start of the broadcast of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race from Daytona International Speedway in Florida, which was televised by NBC, was scheduled at roughly the same time as the opening kickoff of the Women’s World Cup final, and, as a big NASCAR fan, I originally intended to watch the NASCAR race live and watch the soccer game late at night via DVR. However, because rain delayed the start of the NASCAR race by over three hours, I ended up tuning into the soccer game live a couple of minutes after the start, right before Carli Lloyd scored the first of her three goals for the USWNT, and I ended up being able to watch the rest of the game live because the NASCAR race ended up starting well after the soccer game was over. I was not disappointed one bit by the soccer game, in fact, I’m absolutely excited that our nation’s women’s soccer team are, once again, the world champions of women’s soccer.

I hope that the incredible success of the USWNT in this year’s Women’s World Cup leads to a greater public acceptance, and a greater level of respect, for female athletes in all sports.

Usually, the only instances where female athletes get any significant level media attention in this country is when the Olympic Games are taking place, when the major tennis championships are taking place, when Danica Patrick runs in automobile races, and…you guessed it…when the Women’s World Cup of soccer is taking place. This is one of a number of reasons why women’s sports have not been accepted by as much of the American public as men’s sports have. I’m fortunate to have an expensive enough satellite television package where I can, during the winter months in non-Winter Olympic years, find women’s bobsled, skeleton, and curling on television. When female athletes do get a significant level of media attention in this country, it’s often in a sexist manner. When the sports media covers female athletes, they often talk about subjects like the athletes’ love/sex lives or whether or not they have kids, subjects that have nothing to do with an athlete’s performance and the sports media rarely talks about in regards to male athletes.

I hope the U.S. women’s soccer team’s World Cup victory leads to less misogyny towards, and more acceptance of, female athletes in all sports.

Coca-Cola Marketing FAIL: NASCAR driver Joey Logano depicted with near-empty Coke bottle

Coca-Cola bills itself as “The Official Soft Drink of NASCAR” and has provided sponsorship to several drivers who race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the top level of NASCAR-sanctioned automobile racing, although they’re not the primary sponsor of any Sprint Cup team.

As part of its partnership with NASCAR and several of its top drivers, Coca-Cola maintains a Twitter account designed to market Coke to NASCAR fans, using the handle @CocaColaRacing. However, whoever operates the Coca-Cola Racing Twitter page sucks at marketing.

Coca-Cola Racing tweeted two photos of NASCAR driver Joey Logano, one of several drivers sponsored by Coca-Cola, celebrating his win in the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee in August of this year. The right-side photo shows Logano with no Coke bottle whatsoever (although a Coca-Cola patch on his racing suit is visible), and the left-side photo shows Logano with a Coke bottle that is nearly empty. Additionally, if you were to click on both photos to view the full photos, you’ll find that the two photos are the same exact picture, with Logano holding a near-empty Coke bottle in his left hand (right side from the viewer’s perspective), the only difference being that the photo is cropped slightly differently in the left side photo in the tweet than the right side photo.

It’s not anywhere near as bad as their infamous marketing fail from nearly three decades ago, but, for Coca-Cola to market itself by depicting someone holding a near-empty container of their flagship product is a big fail on their part.