July 31, 2014

I've seen the idiocy of Digital First Media up close

Well, online up close.

My career builder feed had a job at one of DFM's papers, one of the relatively few rural properties.

Digital First Media, for folks who don't know, is kind of the Puff Hoes, or Demand, or whatever, of modern papers. It's had two rinses in bankruptcy court, had to gut a central "content" hub because it (and I believe the idea in general) was/is a big fat flop and more.

And, despite the name, the company has resisted implementing elementary modern strategy such as paywalls.

 But, beyond that, it is pretty dumb otherwise.

On the website of this rural High Plains semiweekly serving a county of 20K and primary town of 10K, there's four or five local advertisers.

There are ads that are either programmatic buys from the DFM headquarters, or at least from its major dailies near this High Plains city. They advertise things like shoe stores that sell spiffy $300 shoes that will be worn by plenty of Denver clubbers but nary a High Plains farmer or rancher.

But no paywall.

It also has Twitter streams etc. from these big dailies, with news and even more with features that those ranchers and farmers also surely don't give a damn about.

But no paywall.

It also has links to sponsored media stories at bottom.

But no paywall.

With no daily around for more than 100 miles, and no semiweekly, a cut above weeklies, around (I think) for at least 50, and no other DFM paper around for 200 or so, it's cheap on titles.

General manager instead of publisher. News editor instead of managing editor.

Have fun with a third rinse in bankruptcy. I wouldn't be surprised if you head there by the end of 2015.

July 30, 2014

Chickenshit Boehner gets House GOP to pass pseudo-impeachment lawsuit

Cry me a river, Mr. Backbone of Chocolate Eclair
Let's be honest, that's what Speaker of the House John Boehner's plan to Barack Obama is, now that the House has OKed it. (And, with just five House Republicans in opposition, anybody who ever, again talks to me about "moderate Republicans" at the national level gets kicked in the nads.)

After the Clinton debacle, Republicans know they cannot win a politically-driven impeachment conviction, especially with any "charges" against Obama having even less substance than those against Slick Willie.

So, sue instead.

Isn't it funny how the GOP always talks about tort reform — except when it would hurt them?

And, gets hypocritical:
"What price do you place on the continuation of our system of checks and balances? What price do you put on the Constitution of the United States?" said Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich. "My answer to each is 'priceless.'"
Checks and balances are already in place. Democrats who control the Senate won't pass your idiocy, so you boo-hoo and sue.

So, Speaker Boo-Boo (he's got Yogi's voice but Boo-Boo's face), or RedFace, as I also call him, is suing Obama for "being the President."

Let's let RedFace speak for himself:
"This is not about impeachment -- it's about him faithfully executing the laws of this country," Boehner said.

The speaker alleged that the president not only has ignored the law but "brags about it," decrying what he described as "arrogance and incompetence."

Boehner had been weighing such a lawsuit in recent days, over concerns that Obama exceeded his constitutional authority with executive actions.
Now, let's translate. On paragraph No. 3? This is another It's OK If You're A Republican, of course, because RedFace never talked about suing Shrub Bush, who wrote more executive orders than Obama ever did. 

Paragraph No. 1?

Failure in "faithfully executing the laws of this country" would certainly be considered a high crime or misdemeanor, as it would be violating his oath of office. Therefore, per Article I, Section 2:
The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.
You're that Speaker guy, you idiot.

So, you're chickenshit because you know you'll lose an impeachment, but you, like many a GOPer, has no problem with barratry, and with waste of taxpayer money, when it suits your own ends.

So, will Senate Democrats please sue Boehner for being Speaker of the House? C'mon, Harry Reid, do it!

ESPN still won't cry uncle on A.J. Burnett

During spring training, I blogged about how bad the Phillies' contract for A.J. Burnett was. True, it was "only" for two years (despite ESPN claiming it was a 1-year deal at first) for a sweet $33.5 million. (I consider any X-year contract with a player option to be an X+1-contract for the obvious reason that, if he's teh suck, the team's still stuck with him for X+1 years.)

That's in refutation to ESPN's Jonah Keri, who said, at that time, when I asked if he was going to update this year's bad contracts list, he said "no," saying on Twitter:
Burnett had a great 2013 & signed 1-year deal, so no.
I would NOT call that last year "great."

And, as noted, I would not call his contract a 1-year deal.

Even I, though, was generous. Here, on that blog post, is my preseason prediction for Burnett:
185 innings. ERA+ of 102. A WAR of 1.3 and WAA of -0.2. 
He may well get the innings pitched. But, at a current ERA+ of 90, WAR of 0.9 and WAA of -0.3, the rest of his year would take a "push" to hit those numbers.

And, in a trade deadline piece, Jayson Stark is admitting the player option is a reason the Pirates don't want him back. However, he's still not willing to call it a bad contract. Nor a two-year contract.

#Cardinals make minor pitching move; I'm underwhelmed

Well, Mike Matheny now has his Saturday starter..

Too bad it's Justin Masterson.

In a decidedly underwhelming move, the Birds have acquired the enigmatic Cleveland pitcher, a free agent at the end of the year, in exchange for AA outfielder James Ramsey.

No big overpay, no. But, no real help for the team.

Since becoming a full-time starter, Masterson has alternated good and crappy years, and he's on a crappy year this year. And, this year's the crappiest yet of them.

Even in his better years, Masterson has a low K/BB ratio. And until last year, he wasn't a big K guy in general. Add in that he'll be coming off a DL stint on Friday, and I'm even less impressed. Miklasz claims, along with a few fans, that his FIP says he's better than that. I disagree. Contra Bernie, his bad WHIP is not all a problem with bad luck on batted balls in play; his walk rate is the second-worst of his career and the worst since he became a full-time starter. Bernie says that he talked about Masterson's walk rate as much as his bad luck on batted balls in play, etc., but I'm not totally convinced.

Shockingly, David Schoenfield agrees with my thought, that Masterson will provide little boost. He says he does expect him to be of some help against the righty-heavy Brew Crew, but then notes:
While Masterson's ultimate performance is unpredictable, especially given his knee issue, he's probably not a big upgrade over what the Cardinals have received so far from their back-end guys. The risk for St. Louis was continuing to rely on Miller or Martinez; Masterson should at least provide a little more certainty than those two offered.
Maybe a change of leagues will help. But, it can't help that much. And the Cards no longer have Dave Duncan as pitching coach to perform salvage work on guys like this.

Plus, the Cards got somebody who's kind of full of himself. ESPN reminds us that, preseason, he wanted $17M a year.

Yeah, good luck with that.

Again, not a huge overpay to surrender a mid-level OF prospect for a two-month rental. But, it is a mental overpay to expect what I think Mo is expecting from a man named Justin Masterson, not Bat Masterson.

#Cardinals at trade deadline — Price? Lackey? Colon? others?

With about 36 hours left before the non-waiver trade deadline of July 31, trade rumors continue to rise up hot and heavy.

The latest, per Bob Nightengale, has Tampa ace David Price headed to the Cardinals for a return of Oscar Taveras, Shelby Miller, and the competitive balance "sandwich" draft pick the Cards got awarded a couple of weeks ago.

The Rays' resurgence in the AL East has dampened the likelihood of Price moving anywhere, in my estimate and that of many others. I'd put it below 30 percent.

But, never say never.

As for making that move? I'd prefer to have it tied to a Price contract extension,  but I'll take it as it stands. Price has a great WHIP and FIP numbers, and no significant injury history. Taveras has been struggling. He may need more playing time that — Mike Matheny blind haters aside — he has yet to earn. Speaking of Matheny, Taveras may need a change of scenery. Or, he may be the dreaded "pheenom." The Cards had one in the minors a few years back, guy by the name of Brett Wallace. Oh, he's had multiple cups of coffee, and even a half a pot or two, at various stops in the majors. But, never panned out, and the Cards got a great haul.

Otherwise, compared to last year, Miller's K rate has been down and his BB rate way up, even before his back problems. The pick? The Cards will get that back on a QO for Price, post-2015, if they can't resign him.

As for the Rays having a crowded OF themselves, as some fans say? Desmond Jennings isn't that great, and is arb-eligible after this year. Matthew Joyce is a somewhat better in left, but is on the same free-agency timeline as Price. The Rays have incentive to want Taveras. Tampa fans who don't see that should maybe re-examine how well they know their own lineup, because I've seen claims that Tampa doesn't really need to trade for an outfielder.

The Cards have other options.

John Lackey is presumably resigned to the fact that he'll be pitching for the MLB minimum of $550K next year. He's solidly above average, and with that low contract price is well worth a trade. However, given what the Sawks want for Jon Lester as a two-month rental, the price on Lackey might be steep. And, I hope this blog and others are wrong about the Cards being hot and heavy on Lester.

Bartolo Colon? Laugh at his age and his weight, but he can still throw the ball, and has been relatively healthy. He has a relatively inexpensive contract, too.

The Mets offering to eat $2M of his salary this year sounds nice, but really, that's chump change if your payroll is much above Tampa's. Rather, it seems part of a Mets move to angle for a bigger haul in return. Since that initial announcement, there's been zero additional talk, which makes me think the price is too high.

Cole Hamels is way too high. Shock me; it's Ruben Amaro Jr.

The "others" could include someone like a Dallas Kuechel. He's drawn some rumor, but it's unclear how likely the Astros are to move him, or what their price is.

The final option is to do nothing, or phrased differently, to stand pat while hoping Yadier Molina comes back sooner rather than later and that Michael Wacha comes back some time this year. I lay at least 50-50 odds that is the end result.

Update: Or, Mozeliak could do the equivalent of nothing and acquire back-of-rotation low-fiber filler like Justin Masterson. Ugh.

On the Rays' end, because of new playoff hopes, I don't see a trade right now. In addition, agreeing with this blog, if other teams will only really pay high for Price in conjunction with being able to extend his contract, that's a lot easier to do in the offseason.

July 29, 2014

#NYTimes forgets when Reagan sold $165M in arms as ransom to terrorists

If the President says it's not "arms for hostages," then it's not!
Ronald Reagan Library via Wikipedia
Oh, those spineless Europeans, with backbones like chocolate eclairs! Why can't they be like tough Americans?

The New York Times gives Western European governments an official Old Gray Lady (or would that be Old Grey Lady, in Times-speak?) spanking for giving Al Qaeda groups as much as $165 million in the last six years to ransom European citizens taken hostage:
While European governments deny paying ransoms, an investigation by The New York Times found that Al Qaeda and its direct affiliates have earned at least $125 million in revenue from kidnappings since 2008, of which $66 million was paid just in the past year.

In various news releases and statements, the United States Treasury Department has cited ransom amounts that, taken together, put the total at around $165 million over the same period.
Sounds horrible, does it not?

But, the Times article neglects to mention that the US did similar almost 30 years ago. I'll bet this stash was worth at least $165M in today's values, because Wiki gives us a nice Iranian shopping list about the Iran-Contra affair:
The following arms were supplied to Iran:
  • August 20, 1985 – 96 TOW anti-tank missiles
  • September 14, 1985 – 408 more TOWs
  • November 24, 1985 – 18 Hawk anti-aircraft missiles
  • February 17, 1986 – 500 TOWs
  • February 27, 1986 – 500 TOWs
  • May 24, 1986 – 508 TOWs, 240 Hawk spare parts
  • August 4, 1986 – More Hawk spares
  • October 28, 1986 – 500 TOWs
Too bad the Times neglected to tell us this.

Fortunately, we don't even have to guess. Weapons plutocrat Raytheon tells us that its current version of a TOW runs $58,000 per. Rounded to that even dollar value, all the TOWs alone?

A cool $140 million.

And, everything those naughty Europeans did sounds like it came from the pages of Ronald Reagan, Oliver North, John Poindexter, Robert McFarlane, Caspar Weinberger, George H.W. Bush, Bill Casey, Richard Secord and others:
These payments were made almost exclusively by European governments, who funnel the money through a network of proxies, sometimes masking it as development aid, according to interviews conducted for this article with former hostages, negotiators, diplomats and government officials in 10 countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. ...

Yet the fact that Europe and its intermediaries continue to pay has set off a vicious cycle.

“Kidnapping for ransom has become today’s most significant source of terrorist financing,” said David S. Cohen, the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a 2012 speech. “Each transaction encourages another transaction.”
Yep ... exactly the same happened after Iran-Contra.

Going back to Wikipedia:
In September and October 1986 three more Americans—Frank Reed, Joseph Cicippio, and Edward Tracy—were abducted in Lebanon by a separate terrorist group. The reasons for their abduction are unknown, although it is speculated that they were kidnapped to replace the freed Americans.
So, if the Times is writing as a tsk-tsk mouthpiece of America's bipartisan foreign policy establishment, it needs to shut up.