Saturday, July 28, 2012

Nascar's drug testing policy

NASCAR seems to have this unique drug testing policy.  They randomly test drivers for illegal substances.  If some deadly narcotic like marijuana shows up in their system, they can temporarily suspend the driver.  The driver can then demand a retest.  If he fails the second test, he/she is indefinitely suspended until the "situation" is rectified.  Usually the penalties involve levying fines, suspension, counseling, treatment programs and stricter monitoring for potential future infractions.

What fascinates me is that NASCAR has made it official policy to never specify the substance that one tests positive for.  NASCAR has differentiated itself from all other sports.  They get to play the role of judge, jury AND executioner.  Other leagues at least make the relevant information publicly available.  You know exactly who got suspended for cocaine, ecstasy or whatever.  Justice isn't carried out under a veil of secrecy behind closed doors.

Regarding the recent suspension of driver AJ Allmendinger, President Mike Helton issued the following statements...

"A lot of it has to do with complexities of the whole process itself and realizing that you're dealing with personnel and personalities," Helton told a group of reporters. "We've chosen so far, anyway, to not disclose that.

But as practice began for this weekend's Nationwide race in Indy, Allmendinger's test results and NASCAR's non-disclosure policy continued to be a major issue.
Helton didn't budge.
"We've just taken the position that we're not going to disclose," he said.
Helton added that the lack of positive drug-test results through the years, despite thousands of tests, indicated NASCAR's drug-testing policy did work.
"We take our responsibility very seriously," he said. "The fact it is (rare) is a very good thing for the sport."

Okay, now I understand.  So NASCAR has determined their non-disclosure policy based on the "complexities of the whole process" and the fact that they're dealing with "personnel and personalities."  WHAT KIND OF FUCKING NONSENSE IS THIS ???

Here is the plain, real truth.  NASCAR's entire identity is wrapped around and intrinsically linked to hundreds of corporations.  These companies are the lifeblood of the sport.  Without their investments and sponsorship of racing teams, NASCAR would cease to exist.  Helton is terrified of the prospect of tarnishing the good names of companies like Home Depot, Anheuser Busch, Motorola, etc.

Think about it...

"There goes that coked up guy in the Lowe's car.  Man, he's zoomin!"
"No wonder the driver for the McDonald's car got in a wreck.  He was trippin' on mushrooms."

By the way, it was leaked that Allmendinger tested positive for "methamphetamines."  This doesn't necessarily mean "street meth."  It could be MDMA, cocaine, ketamine.  It might even just be a higher concentration of pseudoedphedrine (the stuff they sell at the Flying J Truckstop outside Columbus).  Incidentally, you gotta love the name "Flying J."  Did you know the owner of the Flying J truckstops has a 16% stake in my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers?  Jim Haslam III just announced that he'll be selling his entire stake and is purchasing the Cleveland Browns from Al Lerner.  Talk about a demotion.  I think they should drug test Haslam.  He must be ingesting drugs that have horrific side-effects.  Lunacy, insanity, idiocy, delirium.   Then again, considering it's the Browns...  Hell, it might be a good fit.

Looks like a nice guy, but appearances can be deceiving.  Good luck with training camp in Diarrhea, er uhh... Berea, Ohio.  Wouldn't it be insane if their new quarterback Brandon Weeden tested positive for marijuana?  That'd be about as ironic as Congressman Anthony Weiner taking those pictures of his dick.

I heard he's considering a run for mayor of NYC.  I say fuck it.  He'd get my vote.

My point was this - Allmendinger might not even be allowed access to the specific information to help vindicate him.  And Mike Helton's not doing much in the way of helping out his employees.  And his workers aren't flipping burgers.  They literally risk their lives.  You ever drive 220 mph pushing on someone's bumper at Talledega?  Helton's starting to sound a little like the indomitable Mr. Mackey.  "You tested positive for drugs.  Drugs are bad, m-kay." 

This could very well be the death knell for NASCAR.  The question of course... what would be the simplest, most effective way to expose this insular policy?   I believe the best method would be to draw on the analogy?

Propose the following question... As it relates to drug testing, why does NASCAR get to operate by a different set of rules and standards compared to other sports like Major League Baseball, the National Football League or the National Basketball Association?  As you might suspect, I'm in the process of coming up with a plan to expose this double standard.

Seems to me like Nascar's President Mike "Helter Skelter" Helton is pretty much a coward.  I actually sent this man a letter (on an entirely different subject) back on May 1, 2012.  Of course, he didn't respond.  Although I don't personally know the guy, I will give him credit for remaining consistent.

May 1, 2012

Mike Helton, President
National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc.
1801 W. International Speedway Blvd.
Daytona Beach, FL  32114

Re: The prospect of an artificially generated stampede in auto racing facilities

President Helton:

In 1913, 73 people were crushed to death in the Italian Hall Disaster in Calumet, Michigan.  This event is generally regarded as the basis for placing reasonable limitations on the First Amendment.  Most refer to it as "falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater."  Roughly a century later, allow me to pose a similar question.  Is it conceivable to text "fire" at a crowded racing venue?  If a significant number of individuals received a text message conveying IMMINENT DANGER and/or the NEED TO IMMEDIATELY EVACUATE, the consequences could be catastrophic.  It would likely result in an artificially generated stampede.

Following the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, companies offering mass text alerts became more commonplace.  Many of these companies offer SMS (short message service) systems to anyone willing to pay for them.  It's just a matter of time before someone with a pernicious agenda opts to utilize this platform.  Furthermore, a perpetrator would probably seek maximum impact as it would likely be a one-time occurrence.  

While security and safety measures have been greatly enhanced in the last decade, there has never been a credible plan to safely evacuate an auto racing facility in the event of a sudden panic.  Why?  Because it's simply not logistically feasible.  We have already witnessed the evolution of flash mobs and the recent spread of dangerous viral text hoaxes.  The prospect of hacking and manipulating a text alert system or cellular service provider represents the gravest concern.  But it's simply the mere existence and availability of lengthy lists of cell phone numbers corresponding to individuals in a confined location.  This, combined with the established level of trust placed in emergency SMS communication, represents the underlying problem.  

While I doubt that I am the first person to conceive of this potential threat, I do suspect this is the first time you've heard about an artificially generated stampede.  Other than virally spread text hoaxes, I've seen nothing about deliberately transmitting false texts in an attempt to create a sudden, mass panic.  There seems to be no discussion of this asymmetric security issue in the public domain.  And if you connect the dots between large crowds and the potential misuse of SMS technology, I think you'll agree that my concerns are justified.  Please consider the following:

    •     The potential for hacking or intentional misuse of any relevant text notification system.  Due to their wider accessibility, socially driven media platforms such as Twitter represent another area of concern.   
    •      The acquisition of cloned cell phone lists linked to racing fans and speedway employees.  A spoofed (disguised) message could easily be configured to appear as though it was sent from an opt-in notification system.

    •      A message originating from a wireless carrier.  You may recall the December 12, 2011 "Civil Emergency: Take Shelter Now" alert sent to Verizon customers in central New Jersey.  Termed a "malicious hoax" by Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden, the event remains unexplained.  Although an apology was issued, there has been no admission of negligence or responsibility.

Being a whistle blower for a hypothetical national security threat is not something I relish, but I cannot in good conscience remain silent.  So in accordance with the Department of Homeland Security's "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign, I have made a moral determination to send you this letter.  I would encourage you to research this issue and take preventative action.  And while this problem is well beyond my area of expertise, I do have some suggestions.

    •    Acknowledge and prepare for an unpleasant reality.  In the event of an artificially generated stampede, any emergency evacuation protocol would most certainly be rendered useless.

    •    Understand that your incident commander may not have ultimate control over the content, timing and delivery of an evacuation order.  This represents a profoundly changed dynamic in facility security.

    •    Assess the security of any cell phone lists associated with fans and speedway employees.        
    •    Be cognizant of the timing and context of official social media updates.

    •     Employ a looped message via the public address system warning fans of the possibility of an artificially generated stampede.          
    •     Include an assumption of risk disclaimer on the ticket stub similar to a foul ball or broken bat warning: Cellular communication devices can be used to create artificially generated stampedes.  If you receive a message demanding an immediate evacuation, wait for official confirmation from the public address system.

    •     Conduct general awareness campaigns as a matter of policy.  A simple slogan such as "Think before you run" could prove very effective in thwarting a text-induced stampede.     

An event of this nature would likely not be a hoax or accident.  It would be executed with malicious intent.  Crowded auto racing facilities provide one of the most easily recognizable targets.  As the leaders of the organizations that put people into these crowded and therefore potentially dangerous environments, you have a moral obligation to warn people about the dangers of panic-laden text messages.  We need to raise awareness before a catastrophe transpires.  There will be no dress rehearsal.

I believe that the federal government will not address this issue until after a disaster has occurred.  Therefore, I would implore you to work with each other and exercise your considerable influence with state and local governments.  It is imperative to devise a time-sensitive game plan.  I am willing to meet with you personally to review this matter.  Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

"There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction." - John F. Kennedy


Eric Saferstein
contact information omitted

cc:  Brian Z. France, Chairman/CEO, National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc.
    Gerry Cavis, Director of Security, National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc.
    Randy Bernard, CEO, Indy Racing League, Inc.
    Brian Barnhart, President, Indy Racing League, Inc.
    Charles Burns, Director of Security, Indy Racing League, Inc.

Letters with similar content have been sent to the following individuals.
    Secretary Janet Napolitano, Department of Homeland Security
    Chairman Julius Genachowski, Federal Communications Commission
    Secretary Arne Duncan, Department of Education       
    NCAA Division I university presidents and chancellors
    Commissioner Roger Goodell, National Football League
    National Football League ownership

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Arsenal of McDonalds

When Gigi handed me the latest copy of the Pittsburgh City Paper, I gleefully leafed through its contents.  Lo and behold, on page 5...


And you thought this area was devoid of nightlife.  "There's nothing to do in the valley" is a common refrain.  You hear it all the time.  Well, I beg to differ.  As Michael McDonald might say, "the proof is in the pudding."  I don't know if he would actually use those exact words.  But it sure seems like it.  After all, the guy uses the phrase "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" with alarming regularity.

Well, it got me to thinking.  This region of the United States (Eastern Ohio > Western PA) is literally teeming with McDonalds.  The golden arches are an omnipresent symbol of inspiration and awe.  A combined tribute to childhood obesity and inexpensive, unhealthy cuisine.  Did you know that Wheeling, West Virginia was the first ever city to have, not 1 but 2 McDonalds, meet their demise?  Yep, both of them went out of business.  The one in downtown bit the dust in the early 90's.  It's now a travel agency (the business model for a brick and mortar travel agency could only survive in Wheeling where the median age is 64).  And there was another McDonalds that folded around the same time.  It was located just up the river in Warwood (locals call this area Whore Wood).  I believe the building is now 1/3 junk yard, 1/3 tire disposal and 1/3 storage sheds.

Even though Wheeling bears the ignominious distinction of having multiple McDonalds collapse their arches, we still have our fair share.  The one located off the I-70 Elm Grove exit is a source of tremendous pride.  An expansive indoor playground, plentiful copies of the Wheeling Intelligencer and a dual-tiered drive thru keep the customers coming back.  They even used to have the live musical stylings of Ron Retzer once a week.  How about that?   Pseudo-Christian, quasi-jazz/adult contemporary music at 7 pm every Friday night.  Can't beat it.  But here's my point.  Yeah, we had a few McDonalds that went out of business, but there was always another one out there, ready and willing to take its place.  It was all about the promise of a future McDonalds.  There was an underlying  political vibe.

I believe it was Herbert Hoover's 1928 campaign slogan that called for a "chicken in every pot and a car in every garage."  Perhaps Mitt Romney could capitalize on this pro-growth, capitalistic embrace.  "A 20 piece chicken McNuggets in every styrofoam container (with abundant choices of seasonally inspired dipping sauce) and multiple 2012 Cadillac Escalades in every 3-car garage (with attached roof carriers for the family dog and a utilitarian-inspired car elevator that conveniently attaches to your McMansion).  Right up his alley.  Or in Mitt's case, right up his grandiose driveway.

So what makes the other McDonald, first name Michael, so popular round deez parts?  I think I can sum up an explanation in one word that consists of three letters... DUH ?

Just look at these two.  The underlying facial features and spiritual temperament are virtually identical.   Translation - they possess the same appearance and attitude.  Their legions of fans call it McTude.  Think about it... "Takin' it to the Streets."  Fast foodies just call it... "taking it to the farm."  If you strip away the suit and the make-up, from here on out, it's a straight up Old MacDonald.  Ee - I - Ee - I - Oh.  With a Ya Mo here and a Ya Mo there...

Sorry about the green screen, mean Gene.  Not sure what's up with that.  Probably one of the better lines in the entire movie.  Not as good as this one though.  Yep, that's her.  Our very own Courtney "Spitfire" Brennan professionally absorbing the rantings of a yinzer lunatic.  Naturally, this was taken before Jerry Sandusky's wife Dottie tried to terminate her existence in a desperate attempt to neutralize child sexual abuse allegations.

So just who are these people that embrace McDonald?  And are the collective chimes of sweet freedom really that compelling?   Personally, I thought Michael McDonald passed away in ot 7 (that means 2007).  I envisioned him dying comfortably in his sleep, not a hair out of place.  His obituary reading, "The time came for this musical angel to truly spread his wings and related follicle plumage."  Turns out I was mistaken.  McDonald is still alive and kicking, or if you prefer, cognizant and crooning.

I like this McDonald better.  It's the subdued yet spirited McDonald who burst onto the scene in the mid 1980's.  He sequestered his own little niche during the Reagan years.  That anti-Soviet Union, Russian bear propaganda was a great fit.  He owned that shit.  And the country loved him for it.

That was 1986.  But now it's 2012.  Much time has passed.  A youthfully golden, wispy McDonald has morphed into a powder gray, bristly McDonald.  Is this just the mere passage of time or could it be something else?  Something more sinister, subliminally evil taking place before the eyes of a nation?  I'm beginning to lean in this direction.  Take a moment and reflect.

When you take a gander at the robotic Mitt Romney in 2012... it's that exact same reincarnated, spirited vibe of Michael McDonald.  We need not replay the "oh beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain" bit.  It's all regurgitated, vintage McDonald!  Romney knows this and he's seizing the moment.  While simultaneously guffawing, Mitt the Shit is carpe dieming.  Once again, the Mormonathon is takin' it to the streets.  Galvanizing the disjointed remnants of the conservative base.

This is a truly brilliant campaign strategy (the perception of multi-McDonalds)... or as some have termed it... "An Arsenal of McDonalds."  F'in Brilliant!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


My father is known far and wide for his rhyming abilities.  Whether it's a birthday, graduation or wedding.  Or whether it be a retirement, circumcision or incarceration.  There is a most certain inevitability that you'll receive a well-crafted poem.  As my birthday is forthcoming, I just got this letter.

Of course, I did my best to respond with a certain degree of aplomb.

the electoral path to 538?

So... there's a total of 538 electoral votes.  The first candidate to reach 270 wins the presidency.  Most political pundits will concede the following strategy.  If Mitt can win 5 out of 7 key swing states, he could get to 270.  Obama can lose some of the ground gained in '08 (states like Indiana and North Carolina) and still do a victory lap if he keeps Ohio or Florida.  It's simply a matter of math.

Well, here's something to think about.  I believe the entire system is geared toward playing out the above scenario - swing state battleground strategies.  All the money, all the advertising, all the conventional political wisdom, all the media, all the campaign strategies...

But what if you build an entirely new hypothetical political structure.  That being ALL or NOTHING.  Think about this scenario.

Question:  Is there a way for Obama to get all 538 electoral votes?
Answer:  No.  If the political atmosphere remains constant, there's no fucking way.  Even in the event of a perceived national emergency, I imagine his popularity would markedly decline.

Question:  But is there a conceivable path for Romney to get all 538 electoral votes?
Answer:  Possibly.  What if the current administration gets hit with a national tragedy?  Corruption or  scandal of epic proportion? 

If I was forced to pick a candidate and place a wager on the all or nothing prospect, I'd easily pick Romney. It's a no-brainer. Only a fool would take Obama.

My point is this...  there's no absolutely no way Obama could run the entire table.  But I could easily envision a bunch of scenarios where Mitt Romney decimates his competitor.   Sorry, I'm not going to specify this time (with the exception of the stampedes, most are conspiratorial in nature).  But all that's required is a "change" in the national dialogue - a new topic that whips up a frenzy, diverting attention from all the routine discussions of the economy, jobs, taxing and spending, immigration, gun rights, war on terror, abortion, etc.

What if the entire "political build-up" from the big 3 networks is getting it wrong?  What if their conventional methodology of the whole process is solely based on the routine (grounded in the past)?  Yeah, I know.  It's all about the swing states.  What if a new dynamic is introduced and it takes precedence over all the regular issues?  What if an entirely new crop of swing states swiftly emerged?  All the current purple states (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania) suddenly shifted into the red column and places like Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, etc. became the new purple states.  What if this literally happened overnight?

If I were trying to win the election for Romney (trust me, the thought of him being president terrifies me), I would be searching for that change in the narrative.  Something big (likely a disaster) needs to happen for Romney to pull this one out.  If there's no major change in the "narrative," I'm pretty sure Obama uncomfortably glides into a second term.

In 2004, John Kerry barely lost the electoral college to George W. Bush.  But during the entire race, it seemed like he was resigned to his fate.  McCain lost by a vastly wider margin in 2008.  He also seemed content to lose.  My point... I don't think Romney or anyone on his campaign team share this "eventually grind out a loss" philosophy.  I think Mitt fully expects to be president in 2012.  Therefore, I believe it's reasonable to conclude that the "overall dynamic" will likely change in the next 100+ days.  Just something to think about.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Penn State punishment prediction - empty stadium in 2012-13



The NCAA announced Sunday that it will levy "corrective and punitive measures" against Penn State in the wake of the child sex-abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky and a scathing report that found school leaders covered up allegations against the now-convicted former assistant football coach.

The NCAA released no details, saying they would be disclosed on Monday morning by NCAA President Mark Emmert and Ed Ray, the chairman of the NCAA's executive committee and Oregon State's president.


Everyone wants to know what will happen to the Penn State football program.  The NCAA will exact punishment tomorrow morning at 9 am.   The most common prediction is the "death penalty" which translates into 1-2 years of no Penn State football whatsoever.  Less draconian measures call for heavy fines and maybe Bowl suspension ranging from 1-10 years. 

Here's what I predict.  During the year of 2012-2013, Penn State will play ALL their home games in an EMPTY stadium.  You heard it here first.  The stadium will be entirely empty except for the players, coaching staff and officials.   The games will still be televised though.   There is precedent for this in Europe.  Several soccer teams in the last decade have been penalized in this fashion, mostly relating to unruly fan behavior (hooligans) and match fixing scandals (Italy Serie A).  They had to play in completely empty stadiums.  Of course, this would only apply to Beaver Stadium, not any of the away games.

And I think the NCAA might make them bowl ineligible, but for how many years, I have no idea.  Probably just one. 

This would be a fascinating precedent because the NCAA would be delivering harsh hometown economic justice to Happy Valley.  Lots of people will stand to lose a ton of money.  Restaurants, hotels, parking, etc.  It could even have political ramifications - I suspect Obama's lead to diminish in Pennsylvania as the election nears.  Could make for an interesting discussion about government accountability, oversight and intrusion.  When it's all said and done, they'd probably set up widescreens near the stadium so fans could still assemble outside.

But here's some REAL-WORLD NOSTRADAMUS SHIT.  As many of you know, I've been predicting the stampedes will take place this year.  Likely early September, I imagine they'll tear a swath through either the NFL or NCAA football circuit.  Wouldn't it be possibly the MOST IRONIC incident in the history of humanity if... the stampedes ripped through the East Coast and into the Midwest, but Beaver Stadium was left completely immune to the domino or cascade effect.  Hell, 100,000+ people would be totally absent.  All because Jerry Sandusky sodomized the living fuck out of all those kids.  His depravity ends up sparing a couple hundred lives and a few thousand injuries of the Penn State faithful.  Talk about the definition of irony.  The only other case that comes close is when Elaine tells Jerry they must have sex in order to SAVE THE FRIENDSHIP.

Just for the record, Penn State President Rodney Erickson was one of the select group that had the courage to respond to my concerns.  I salute him.


Chairman of the NCAA Executive Committee, Oregon State's President Edward Ray, who was mentioned earlier in this blog did not respond to my concerns.  Coward.

Anyhoo, that's my prediction.  Empty home stadium for the 2012-13 season and maybe a year or two of bowl ineligibility.  And they'll likely be on "probationary status" (whatever that means) for 5-10 years.  Remember, you read it here first.