Iron Newman

After Ryan Newman’s horrific crash at the end of the Daytona 500 on Monday night – a wreck that looked much worse than the ones that claimed the lives of Ayrton Senna and Dale Earnhardt – I never in my wildest dreams imagined I’d see this less than 48 hours later:

I was relieved when I heard that Newman had survived the crash, but still assumed it may have ended his racing career. At the very least, I figured he was probably done for a few months. And here he is now, accompanied by his young daughters, walking out of the hospital under his own power.

A miracle? No argument here. But also a testament to how far motorsports safety has come since The Intimidator was killed at the very same race nineteen years ago:

…the short answer is that safety improvements at NASCAR races have made it  more unlikely for drivers to die while competing after the death of legendary driver Dale Earnhardt in the same race 19 years ago. They might have even helped save Newman, whose injuries aren’t publicly known.

“It’s been amazing,” said Terry Trammell, a racing safety consultant and retired orthopedic surgeon. “They’ve turned this whole thing around over time.”

Mandated head and neck restraints (HANS devices), along with energy-absorbing walls (SAFER barriers), are among the biggest safety advancements since Earnhardt died of head injuries after slamming into a wall at Daytona International Speedway in 2001.

In 2003, NASCAR also opened a research and development center in North Carolina – the first such R&D center owned and operated by a sanctioning body of a major motor sports series. Part of its mission is to track  crashes and study safety, helping give NASCAR nearly two decades without driver deaths in its three national series – a seemingly shocking statistic considering the risks involved. 

NASCAR has made many, many mistakes since its heyday in the late nineties and early 2000s – too many cookie-cutter tracks, constant messing with the points system – but they’ve certainly gotten this right. The sport’s next major challenge will be the inevitable transition away from gasoline-powered cars:

Volkswagen has made it quite clear that its future is electric, but its motorsport division, appropriately called Volkswagen Motorsport, is following the leader.

This past Friday, VW Motorsport announced it has ended development of racing vehicles that feature an internal combustion engine. In translation, gasoline-powered race cars are officially a thing of the past at VW Motorsport. Instead, it’s going all in on electric vehicles. Even though the division is saying goodbye to the engine as we know it, the company is excited about the things to come.

The ID R race car will remain the division’s ambassador, so to speak, and the production MEB electric car platform will also spawn new zero-emissions race cars, too. The ID R has been a beast on numerous race tracks and courses around the world. It owns the electric car lap record at the Nurburgring Nordschleife, perhaps the crown jewel of its achievements thus far.

A few years from now, Newman’s NASCAR Mustang might be a Mach E.

The partisan judiciary

As usual, if you want to know what a political party is really up to, look at what they accuse their opponents of doing:

The Liberal government relies on a large network of party officials and supporters to decide which lawyers receive sought-after judicial appointments, e-mails obtained by The Globe and Mail show.

Liberal MPs, ministerial staff members and even party volunteers have been involved in candidate vetting since the federal government revamped the process in 2016, after having accused the previous Conservative government of politicizing appointments.

In the United States, where the process of appointing judges is blatantly based on partisan loyalties, you pretty much have to belong to the President’s political party if you ever want to make it to the Bench. Here in Canada, um…

The dozens of e-mails between ministerial staffers from 2017 and 2018 detail widespread partisan involvement in the selection of new judges, offering unprecedented insight into the inner workings of the current judicial appointment process. The e-mails also show clear tensions during that time frame between the minister of justice’s office, which handles the appointment process, and the Prime Minister’s Office, which collaborates on those decisions.

The PMO ensures Liberal MPs are consulted on all nominations in their ridings, the e-mails show, using the judicial candidates’ postal codes to determine where they live. In 2018, a member of the PMO’s appointment branch asked then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s office for the results of MP consultations for more than a dozen candidates, despite the concerns of her judicial affairs adviser, François Giroux.

[…]

The Globe reported last year that the PMO also vets potential candidates with a private Liberal Party database called Liberalist to see whether they had given money to the party in recent years, participated in party activities and even put up Liberal election signs.

Honestly, none of this comes as a surprise, and I’ll go even further and say involvement with the governing political party shouldn’t disqualify you from being appointed as a judge. We lawyers are definitely over-represented in government and politics – heck, the reason I went to law school was because I didn’t know what else I could do with my political science degree – and being a party hack doesn’t mean you aren’t qualified.

My only wish is that we stop pretending this doesn’t happen.

The Wet'suwet'en conundrum

As cross-country protests continue, CTV News has an explainer about the difference between hereditary chiefs and elected ones, and their different perspectives on the pipeline project that ignited this powder keg:

Protests across the country in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have prompted questions surrounding the difference between these chiefs and elected band councils — and the answer is complicated.

Essentially, the hereditary chiefs oversee the management of traditional lands and their authority predates the imposed colonial law, which formed the elected band council.

While the band council is in support of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the hereditary chiefs are not.

[…]

Hereditary chiefs represent different houses that make up the First Nation as a whole. Their titles are passed down through generations and predate colonization.

“The hereditary chiefs draw their authority from Wet’suwet’en law, so their law is the law that pre-exists colonization in the territory,” Kim Stanton, a lawyer at Goldblatt Partners LLP who specializes in Aboriginal law, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview Thursday.

“The hereditary chiefs’ authority is with respect to all of their ancestral lands and those are the lands that they’re seeking to protect.”

In 1997, the Wet’suwet’en people were part of Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, which ultimately upheld Indigenous peoples’ land claims to land that had never been ceded through a treaty, which includes Wet’suwet’en Nation and much of British Columbia.

[…]

On the other hand, elected band councils — as the title suggests — are elected members of the community.

These councils were the result of the Indian Act, which was first established in 1876 and defined how the Canadian government interacts with Indigenous people. They were formed to impose a leadership structure that more resembled Canada’s system of governance.

“They don’t have the authority under the Indian Act to make decisions on traditional territory,” Pam Palmater, an Indigenous lawyer and the chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, told CTV’s Power Play on Thursday.

On its surface, this is about a pipeline project. Fundamentally, it’s about whether the traditional Wet’suwet’en lands – and other First Nations’ territories that were never formally ceded by treaty – are under Canadian authority at all. This dispute has barely even started.

The Recline of Western Civilization

Never mind the election or climate change or the corona virus or anti-pipeline protests. This is the moral dilemma going viral on Twitter today:

Who is right? Neither of them. Who is wrong? Both of them, but he’s worse.

The amount of comfort you get from reclining your seat is rarely proportionate to the aggravation it causes the person behind you, so I think she should have nicely asked him if it was okay.

In turn, the guy in the back is a grown adult man and not a three year-old toddler being told he can’t watch any more unboxing videos on YouTube, so he should have asked nicely if she could put the seat forward instead of throwing a passive-aggressive tantrum.

In my experience, when you ask the person in front of you to put the seat forward they will usually do so, because people in real life aren’t like people on social media. But if that person says no, you suck it up – or maybe ask the flight attendant if you can change seats. But you don’t do this.

So, in this case there’s plenty of blame to go around. Also, I heard “Laurel” and the dress is definitely black and blue.

Bernie is the front-runner. For now.

The socialist won the New Hampshire Democratic primary last night – but not by as much as you may have expected:

A win is a win, and this win certainly gives Bernie some momentum. But 26% of the vote is a long way off from the 60% he won last time around. Yeah, that was a two-way fight against Hillary Clinton – but when presented with more alternatives on his home turf, over half of Bernie’s supporters jumped ship.

If Sanders does pick up most of Elizabeth Warren’s supporters when she drops out, that may put him over the top. But considering their recent history, I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

It’s the surging Amy Klobuchar whom I can see benefiting the most from an Elizabeth Warren withdrawal. A large piece of the Democratic electorate, not unreasonably, wants to see a female President in their lifetime – especially after Hillary Clinton was so cruelly denied victory by the intricacies of the electoral college in 2016. And all of a sudden, Klobuchar is the woman with the best chance of winning this thing.

If she does pull this off, I think this might be seen as a turning point:

The Democratic Party is devoutly pro-choice (the days of anti-abortion Democrats and pro-choice Republicans are long gone) but only Klobuchar appears to realize that if you want to win the White House, you have to at least make an attempt to peel off support from the other side.

Trump Justice

We’ve all been there. Every lawyer has found him- or herself representing a client so belligerent, so unreasonable, so obstinate they’re left with no choice but to withdraw from the case.

In this case, the impossible client is the President of the United States.

Four lawyers who prosecuted Roger Stone quit the case Tuesday after the U.S. Justice Department said it would take the extraordinary step of lowering the amount of prison time it would seek for President Donald Trump’s longtime ally and confidant.

The decision by the Justice Department came just hours after Trump complained that the recommended sentence for Stone was “very horrible and unfair.” The Justice Department said the sentencing recommendation was made Monday night — before Trump’s tweet — and prosecutors had not spoken to the White House about it.

The four attorneys, including two who were early members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia team, had made up the Justice Department’s trial team and had signed onto a Monday court filing that recommended up to nine years in prison for Stone. 

[…]

After the attorneys quit the case, Justice Department officials filed a revised sentencing memorandum with the judge, arguing its initial recommendation could be “considered excessive and unwarranted under the circumstances,” but that it would defer to the court. None of the original prosecutors in Stone’s case signed onto the revised memo.

The Justice Department said the decision to shorten the sentencing recommendation was made Monday night — before Trump’s tweet — and that prosecutors had not spoken to the White House about it.

Maine Senator Susan Collins, in justifying her decision to vote against removing Trump from office, said she thought the President had “learned his lesson.” I agree, he’s learned a lesson.

So now the President of the United States is blatantly interfering in the justice system for political reasons. What kind of banana republic allows that to happen?

Pawpaganda

An Ontario criminology professor says Paw Patrol is pro-capitalist, pro-free-enterprise and anti-government propaganda, and I actually kind of love Paw Patrol now.

“I’ll start with the depiction of the state. Mayor Humdinger and Mayor Goodway — kind of the representatives of the state or the government — are portrayed negatively,” Kennedy explained.

“Mayor Humdinger is portrayed as unethical or corrupt. Mayor Goodway as hysterical, bumbling, incompetent.”

Can’t imagine where they would have gotten that idea.

Plus, Kennedy takes issue with Paw Patrol as a kind of stand-in for a government-funded police force. “I would argue that the Paw Patrol, as a private corporation, is used to help provide basic social services in the Adventure Bay community.

“That’s problematic in that the Paw Patrol creators are sending this message that we can’t depend on the state to provide these services.”

Not to mention, Ryder should be in school, Kennedy added.

Can you imagine how bored a child genius like Ryder would be in school?

Kennedy said it’s possible these kinds of messages affect the children who watch the program.

“I just think that as time goes on, children might be less likely to critique the capitalist system that causes environmental harm in the first place and reproduces inequality,” Kennedy said.

We’ll know how thoroughly the Paw Patrol generation has been brainwashed 40-odd years from now, when governments are building giant golden statues of chickens to boost their economies.

I'd forgotten what political courage looks like

Romney’s note to his Senate colleagues, via Axios.

Yes, being part of a high-profile Mormon political dynasty probably makes you invincible in Utah. And, yes, Romney did once seek Trump’s endorsement and later angled for a position in the Trump cabinet.

And even with all that in mind, this still took some serious guts:

Sen. Mitt Romney sealed a place in history Wednesday by voting to convict President Trump of abuse of power, becoming a lone voice of dissent in a Republican Party that otherwise has marched in lockstep with the president throughout the impeachment proceedings.

Romney voted against the second article of impeachment, which accused the president of obstruction of Congress. But on the first article, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee said that he found the evidence against Trump overwhelming and the arguments by the president’s defense ultimately unconvincing.

Romney’s decision, announced in a deeply personal speech on the Senate floor, where he spoke of his faith and constitutional duty, sparked an immediate and intense outcry among Trump’s supporters — fury that Romney acknowledged is unlikely to fade.

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, called for Romney to be “expelled” from the GOP, while many of Trump’s congressional allies cast him as a bitter and irrelevant relic of a Republican establishment that has all but crumbled before Trump in recent years.

Between this and being proven right about Russia, the passage of time has been pretty good to ol’ Mitt, hasn’t it?

If at first you don't succeed…

Ford isn’t reviving the Esdel. Theranos won’t be coming back. And except for a brief appearance at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s unlikely Marvel will make another Howard the Duck movie.

But Vince McMahon, bless him, is reviving a football league that failed spectacularly in 2001.

The one thing everyone remembers about the original XFL.

Here’s a YouTube video about the new XFL, the long, sad history of spring football leagues, and some signs McMahon might have learned from the mistakes made nineteen years ago.

Some of these rule changes (including a 25-second play clock and a football version of the NHL shootout in overtime) sound intriguing, and the new XFL might find its niche in giving players too young for the NFL a chance to get paid instead of making money for bloated university athletic departments and the hopelessly corrupt and exploitative NCAA. I wouldn’t put any money on XFL 2.0 lasting, but I’ll give it a chance starting this weekend.

By the way, the most promising attempt at a spring NFL competitor was the USFL, which hung around for three seasons in the early eighties. And guess who drove that one into the ground?

Four more years

The Democratic party responded to hears of Russian election meddling by hacking their own election:

Democratic party officials in Iowa worked furiously Tuesday to deliver the delayed results of their first-in-the-nation caucus, as frustrated presidential candidates claimed momentum and plowed ahead in their quest for the White House.

Technology problems and reporting “inconsistencies” kept Iowa Democratic Party officials from releasing results from Monday’s caucus, the much-hyped kickoff to the 2020 primary. It was an embarrassing twist after months of promoting the contest as a chance for Democrats to find some clarity in a jumbled field with no clear front-runner.

Instead, caucus day ended with no winner, no official results and many fresh questions about whether Iowa can retain its coveted “first” status.

Now I know why @Iowahawk moved to Texas.

Democrats faced the possibility that whatever numbers they ultimately released would be questioned. And beyond 2020, critics began wondering aloud whether the Iowa caucuses, a complicated set of political meetings staged in a state that is whiter and older than the Democratic Party, are a tradition whose time had passed.

The party has tried to accommodate critics, this year by promising to report three different data points about voters’ preferences, presumably improving transparency. But the new system created new headaches.

State party spokeswoman Mandy McClure said it had “found inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results,” forcing officials to try to verify results with “underlying data” and the paper trail.

Some of the trouble stemmed from issues with a new mobile app developed to report results to the party. Caucus organizers reported problems downloading the app and other glitches.

Des Moines County Democratic Chair Tom Courtney said the new app created “a mess.” As a result, Courtney said precinct leaders were phoning in results to the state party headquarters, which was too busy to answer their calls in some cases.

Organizers were still looking for missing results several hours after voting concluded.

If the Republican Party is the Terminator, the Democratic Party is C3P0. How on earth do you screw it up this badly, at such an important time? They should be united in the fight to take down a uniquely harmful President, but now they’re fighting among themselves. As usual.

Trump can’t win in 2020. But Democrats can lose in 2020, and they almost certainly will.

The Democratic candidate who does come out of this mess looking the best is probably Mike Bloomberg. I certainly didn’t agree with all of his policies as mayor of New York, but at least he was competent at it. And his decision to avoid wasting time in Iowa (and New Hampshire) now looks like a stroke of genius.