August 23, 2019

NFL corporate hack Jay-Z against possible self-overpriced Kaepernick

Getcha popcorn!

Entertainment and sports ventures mogul Jay-Z surely kissed the ass of Roger Goodell a bigly amount to have his Roc Nation named NFL Entertainment Czar, as described by Jemele Hill. Supposedly he talked with former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick but it was "not a good conversation."

Well, of course it wasn't if he said "we've moved past kneeling," which got Kaep's co-plaintiff Eric Reid in his lawsuit against the NFL totally jacked up last week.

That said, Trump has said Kaepernick should play in the NFL, but on the condition of "only if he's good enough." (Hold on to that thought.)

And Reid said this:
"Colin can help every NFL team, first and foremost," Reid said. "We did not play our best football tonight. So I'm not going to throw our guys under the bus and say they should lose their jobs. We all played terrible today. But Colin can help out every NFL team."

How much can he help versus how much he thinks he can help, and how much he thinks he should be paid to help?

First, would he come back? Why?

Kaep has two years of not taking shots from defensive ends and linebackers. He might enjoy staying pain-free.

Or, he might say that, rather than being rusty, he's fresh. With the league doubling down again on mobile QBs like Lamar Jackson, he should be hired.

So, how would you rank him against current QBs?

My take, based on a mix of:
1. Overall QB physical skills
2. Overall QB athleticism
3. Overall QB decision making and leadership

AND ... based on where Kaep was at when he was last active —

I rank clearly ahead of him
1. Tom Brady
2. Aaron Rodgers
3. Ben Roethlisberger
4. Russell Wilson
5. Patrick Mahomes
6. Drew Brees
7. Andrew Luck
8. Cam Newton

Four of those eight are fairly long in the tooth, of course. A couple are very long.

In the "at least even," even with just a few years or even one, I'll put:
1. Baker Mayfield
2. Deshaun Watson
3. Dak Prescott
4. Jared Goff

Right now, at least, Marcus Mariota and Derek Carr need not apply as being "at least even." That's mainly due to injuries. None of Mayfield's rookie peers guarantee ahead of Kaep.

So, if you're looking more than one year out, NFL teams? Scratching Brady and Brees for sure, only about one-third of the league's QBs are guaranteed as good or better, in my book.

In addition, he was this spring not too washed up for Arena Football 2.0 to be interested.

BUT.

And a big fat BUT.

Is he overpricing himself?

If Kaep really wanted $20 million from the Alliance of American Football for arena games, he won't come cheap for the NFL. Reid's new contract is 3 years, $22M. What if Kaep wants a $20M guaranteed signing bonus PLUS 3/$22 or something like that on actual salary?

Ain't happening.

Were I an actual GM, and I run one of the teams that does not have a QB mentioned above, or one of the unmentioned rookie first-rounders from last year besides Mayfield? Kaep would get $2 million non-guaranteed and a $500K signing bonus. I would include one or two option years — player options — to give him some additional assurance of job security.

Look at Kaep's actual sabermetrics, per the list of QBs above and other things. Only once, in a full season, did he pop a Quarterback Rating of above 100. For comparison, Mahomes was at 113.8. Wilson, in their almost totally overlapping history through 2016, regularly rated higher. And didn't have injury problems. Remember, Kaep had a history of taking unnecessary hits when he ran the ball.

So, that's part 1.

Kaepernick has been, beyond his Black Lives Matter activism, a nice sledgehammer to beat over the head of Roger Goodell, more curmudgeonly members of the NFL ownership club and MAGA hat wearing fans. But, is he "all that" as a QB? Well, maybe he never was. Better than Flacco but behind DangeRuss. About midway between the two, in fact.

At the same time? The Redscum, also, per their owner, and the issue about the mascot possibly being racist, who could also be called the Snyder Hymies, signed Mark Sanchez to replace Alex Smith after his broken leg. Then signed Josh Johnson to replace him. Kaep is better than either and would also buff up Dan Snyder's rep.

But, even then, he ain't getting $20 million, or close. He can compromise, like Andre Dawson with the Cubs long ago. Or not.

So, while Kaep's legal mouthpiece Mark Geragos claimed this spring that Kaep likely would be signed within two weeks of the settlement? , As I said on Twitter at the time:
Of course, Geragos had plenty of other troubles to worry about shortly after that.

As of March 25, he was reportedly an unindicted co-conspirator in the alleged scheme by Michael Avenatti to shake down Nike. Given that Geragos' other clients past and present include(d) Jussie Smollett, Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder, Gary Condit and Scott Peterson, the idea that he would be PR-heavy and truth-light on Kaep's future with the NFL should be totally unsurprising.

I.e., he probably lies and bullshits as much as Avenatti.

I clearly won't be eating either his hat or mine.

Let's also not forget that Kaep agreed to a contract restructuring and bet on himself as a player, outside of #TakeAKnee. That gives a heads-up to The Undefeated's Bomani Jones, talking about Kaep's sacrifices.

In other words?

Per old friend Idries Shah ... "there are more than two sides."

That's clear here. We don't know what financial discussions were held when Kaep worked out with teams in the past two years and many other things. And, in the spirit if not the letter of the NDA, we may never know.

As for overpricing himself? It gives Kaep a convenient out. Let's say he's making $5 a year on a five-year deal as a Nike "brand ambassador" or whatever. Why would he give that up, even if Nike "held" the contract for him, in exchange for getting beat up, unless he got a lot of guaranteed money? And, he knows he's not going to get that. Contra Eric Reid.

The last couple of years have made clear that Kaep still isn't a bad capitalist outside the NFL.

NFL owners remain better inside the NFL There's probably no more than half a dozen teams he could legitimately help, that have a need for a permanent upgrade at starting QB, that are willing to give him a chance, and are willing to give him even $5M guaranteed signing money.

The number that would give him $20M?

ZERO.

August 22, 2019

Amazon is becoming the People's Republic of China

A while back, I semi-joked, but only semi, that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was the Mao Zedong of his company.

Well, it's time to not joke at all.

Apparently taking a page from Chinese manufacturing companies who, with government approval, force American companies to reveal trade secrets in order to manufacture in China under joint ventures, Amazon built a microwave last year.

Old news, right? Still deserves a look.

First, who the hell needs an Alexa-powered microwave? It reinforces "lazy American" stereotypes. In addition, the fact that the microwave, via Amazon's Dash, can re-order more microwave popcorn (from Amazon, natch) reinforces the Internet of Things spying on us.

But, neither of those is the People's Republic angle. What follows is.

Basically, Amazon looked at prices on Amazon for basic-level microwaves, reverse-engineered one to hold an Alexa, and priced it at or below those other prices.

So, if I make a Braun coffeemaker, what's to stop Amazon from doing that there? Or a GE dishwasher?

Now, I'm not sure if dishwashers sell on Amazon, but I know coffeemakers do. And the new Chairman Mao is right now looking at other small appliances to determine which this would work best on.

So, are you supposed to try to avoid Amazon?

And, that's just with name brands.

Dash itself is the subject of antitrust legal action in Germany, as Ian Bogost reports, but that's the tip of the iceberg. The real issue, as he describes it, is quality of product and quality of service are both uneven because it's a "giant digital flea market." Kind of like First Monday with poorer quality?

August 21, 2019

Texas Progressives talk Abbott, ACLU, 1A,
Goeb, Beto, Eric Johnson, rivers and dams

Texas Progressives remind you to be careful as a late heat wave continues to hang around and make sure that if you have kids in late-summer sports practices, that their coaches are taking care, too.

With that, and a dead-quiet Gulf of Mexico, we bring you this week's roundup.



Texana

SocraticGadfly agrees with ACLU of Texas and others that Abbott's anti-terror task force has an anti-immigrant problem, but can't  understand why the ACLU didn't also call Abbott out for being anti-First Amendment.

Will the GOP legiscritters who hate urban fees for, or bans of, plastic shopping bags listen to their alleged core rural constituents, who say the bags kill horses and livestock?

Monarch butterfly populations continue to decline, but grassroots efforts are trying to reverse that

As the dog days hit, a reminder that climate change will greatly increase Texas' electric demands. Sidebar: the vauntedly independent ERCOT has an Achilles heel: Not being connected to other grids means it has less room for error. (In a bad cold snap in early 2011 in West Texas, it had to get electricity from MEXICO.

The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority is draining four lakes, worried about the age, safety, etc., of dams and spillways. The cost to properly fix all six dams/spillways? $180 million. Property owners, seeing the lakes of their "lakefronts" about to disappear, are pissed off. Get pissed off at yourselves for supporting low-tax, cheap-gummint Tex-ass, even with one spillgate already failing. The GBRA has proposed the idea of special taxing districts, but homeowners have to sign on, of course. The Observer has warned that the potential failure of largely unregulated dams is a statewide problem.

The Great God Pan Is Dead finds the Texas connection to the George Washington High mural controversy.


Texas politics

TXElects reports that SBOE member Ruben Cortez has announced a primary challenge to State Sen. Eddie Lucio.

Scott Braddock expounds on the state of the Bonnen-MQS saga.

Gadfly has his updated take on Bonnen vs Mucus vs Dems.

Off the Kuff would love to not have to address the "Beto should run for Senate!" question any more, but today is not the day that will happen.

Gov. Strangeabbott replaced the incompetent hack David Whitely as Secretary of State with the PR hack from the Workforce Commission, Ruth Hughs.

Danny Goeb, I mean Dan Patrick, has a heart.


Dallas

New mayor Eric Johnson, showing himself to be the neoliberal sucker/idiot he was already known to be, is down with the city throwing recruitment dollars at Uber to get them to move their headquarters to Big D. No way Uber has 2,500 HQ full time employees, does it? Wiki says it only has 11K overall in the US. Meanwhile, also at the Dallas Observer, Jim Schutze is becoming a bit of a soft touch for Johnson. (That said, Schutze missed a good chance to kick the hypercapitalist hypocrites Jennifer Staubach Gates and Lee Kleinman right in the nads. They and their constituents hate appraisal districts, even when they base appraisals on sales of neighboring properties. But, they want their own houses, if they sell, to go for at least that much.)

Schutze still wants to know where Police Chief Hall is hiding.


Houston

David Bruce Collins talks about being at the initial meeting of Green Party of Houston.

Jeff Balke finds the bright spots in Houston traffic.

Marina Kormbaki documents her efforts to navigate Houston without a car.


National

A Shell plant in Pennsylvania essentially bribed workers to attend a Trump rally.

Brains talked about Beltway stenos vs. Bernie in his weekly Dems 2020 update.

August 20, 2019

Dem ---> Trump 2016 Rust Belt voters undervoting 2020?

How many cases of this will happen, I don't know.

But, you have blue collar workers saying he's a fraud on labor issues and older women disgusted at his morals. Meanwhile, not only in the Rust Belt but around the nation, Trump's Labor Department has pissed off the Building Trades Union.

And now, US Steel has said it will lay off 200 workers in Michigan, likely for more than six months.
The lay-offs call into question claims President Donald Trump has made about the resurgence of the domestic steel industry. Last week in Pennsylvania, Trump said his 25% tariff on foreign imports has turned a “dead” business into a “thriving” enterprise. 
Domestic steel prices did rise in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s tariffs. But they have fallen dramatically amid improved supplies and weakening demand from the auto and farm machinery sectors. 
Prices of hot-rolled coil are down nearly 37% from their 2018 peak. 
U.S. Steel’s stock price has plunged 73% since March 1, 2018, when Trump announced his decision to crack down on foreign imports.
There you go. 

On Twitter, some Trump Trainer talked about plans for Nucor and one other company to expand. I informed him back that Nucor, showing its own weakness, whacked a bunch of its steel prices yesterday (and then, as hacks, go No True Scotsman about "real capitalism"). Said person didn't address labor fraud or farm tariffs, though. And, while we can agree to disagree on democratic Socialism, once you start complaining about "identity politics," then about persons' sexual or personal lives? Nope. Whether you identify as religious or not, then you're just another Religious Right conservative (and possible racist). Also, he probably has zero experience with actually working in the steel industry or on a farm.

Meanwhile, refudiating him, Trump staff is now too afraid to meet with Minnesota farmers. (This is not to justify threats of violence.) When the head of the state Farm Bureau calls you out as "insulting" farmers, you're losing it, dude. A big bone of contention is that NASS, USDA's data arm, is allegedly fudging, or even flat-out lying, about production estimates, per the full story. He's also pissing off Midwestern corn farmers over ethanol. (That's not to justify turning hydrocarbon-based fertilizers, laundered through corn, into a energy-losing replacement for hydrocarbons.)

Many of these people are not likely to vote Democratic, for a variety of reasons. They may have burned out on Obama, voting for him with reluctance in his second term. But, if Trump continues looking like a fraud on farm and labor issues — both important in the Rust Belt — and a boor and bully on social issues, they will stay home.

(Said Twitter interlocutor, with his "socialism" comment, also missed that main point — that I was just looking at these voters staying home, not voting Democratic in 2020. And, if that's the level of thinking of many "man in the street" younger Trump backers, they could be in for a rude awakening.)

Remember that it doesn't take much to tilt things. In 2016, Trump won Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by less than 1 popular vote percentage point. Their 46 electoral votes would have elected Hillary Clinton.

This may well help House Democrats.

Senate Dems? Not so much. Only three states close to the Rust Belt have GOP incumbents running in 2020, with full Senate battle details here. That includes freshman Joni Ernst in swing state Iowa, Mitch the Turtle in Kentucky and freshman Shelley Moore Capito in West (by god) Virginia. Ernst might be vulnerable on farm and tariff issues. Stretching the Rust Belt further into the Farm Belt, Democrats have an outside shot at the Kansas seat being left vacant by the retiring Pat Roberts.

The flip side of THAT is that it may increase the likelihood of presidential undervoting, or even more, marginal Republicans staying home entirely.

That said, whoever the Democrats wind up nominating for president could blow this. Ditto for Congressional Dems. And the DNCC could back a bunch of War Democrats anyway.

August 19, 2019

Thoughts on the proposed Gannett-Gatehouse merger


Just "wow," especially as they seem to have diametrically opposite core cultures. Craphouse taking over Dead Fucking Media or vice versa? Yes. Ditto on, say, McClatchy or Hearst taking on Gannett or vice versa. But this? But here we are, and here's my take 10 days in, as both Gatehouse and Gannett sell this to investors etc.

Here's the company announcement, here's Ken Doctor's initial take at Nieman, and here's his follow-up analysis, complete with the "maybe" becoming more serious now that Alden Global Capital, owner of Digital First Media, aka Dead Fucking Media, apparently missed over Gannett's earlier rebuff of its takeover attempt, is spitting in the soup by allegedly taking a 9.4 percent stake in the new merger.

In his initial piece, Ken notes the two companies had become more comfortable with one another, and in the follow-up, that some sort of merger kind of fit both. Fortress Capital, still the de facto owner of Craphouse, was seeing its investment strategy run out of steam. A big acquisition helped. Gannett, kind of puttering around even before Alden's attempted takeover, probably could use a gray, if not totally white knight, and one further down the digital "transformation" road than it.

Later on, in talking to USA Today, Doctor says he thinks Alden might be looking at dumping its papers. Color me skeptical, with it's milking the Denver Post not for money for other papers, but for flailing and failing non-newspaper enterprises it owns. (Unless it thinks the last easy dollar has been milked out of that turnip.) Another angle, which I think more likely, is that Alden will do its best to cock-block this unless the combined company takes its papers off its hands.

And, where will they get that kind of money from, other than a potentially extortionate loan from Alden? So, Dead Fucking Media and Craphouse could have a dual between their hedge-fund owners, which would include Gannett being the piñata in a three-way bashing. (On the third or fourth hand, the apparently lying sacks of shit at Alden said 5 years ago they were looking to sell DFM.)

Now, the fallout?

First, Ken notes, the merged company (assuming federal approval) has to raise money to pay off loans.

Some of that comes through making two HQs into one. Some comes through whacking middle managers, especially, it seems, at Gannett.

And some will come from selling semi-orphan papers and concentrating on areas where one or both chains are already somewhat clustered.

Ken lists Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio. I see that.

But, why he missed Texas, I don't know. Gannett already had a number of properties here after its Journal-Sentinel takeover. Gatehouse, ditto, even before the Statesman buy in Austin. Combined, they'll own every 7-day west of I-35 except Plainview, Midland and Odessa. They'll have several five-day and six-days in North Central and West Central Texas.

Hearst owns Midland and Plainview. Dunno if it will sell or not. AIM Texas Media owns Odessa; all of its other papers are in the Valley. Would they swap Odessa, and maybe a little cash, for Alice? Would they sell out entirely, to the new chain owning Alice and Corpus now? Would Hearst swap Midland, or Midland and Plainview for Corpus, which would let it cluster more than now in Gulf Coast (plus San Antonio) Texas?

Finally, which of the two corporate cultures (assuming Alden remains spurned) wins out? Read Ken for that.

As far as what this will mean? There will be more local cutbacks. Probably at Gannett's papers; don't see how you can do much of that at Gatehouse, although they keep trying; Craphouse just laid off 14 at the Oklahoman, following on 37 cuts after it bought the paper a year ago. CNHI-type furloughs wouldn't totally surprise me if other savings don't materialize.

Gatehouse has an uphill slog on its side; Gannett has been sucking for years on ad revenue (more here); the most recent tumbles are sucking squared.

(Gannett may face one other problem; if its papers lose the Cars.com local exclusive rights like happens to the Snooze next year, in a couple of years, its auto ads money takes another hit.

As for online solutions? Yeah, Gannett may be behind the curve of Gatehouse, but when even the AP whores itself out to Taboola (and other) website clickbait as well as running its own clickbait stories, after whoring itself out to the advertorial world, any online "solution" is only going to be a possible bean-counter solution, not better news.

So, whether it's Gatehouse or Alden that takes over, if you live in most places in Central or West Texas, be prepared for your newspaper to go further in the gutter.

John Temple says Gannett and Gatehouse could suck either other down, with the combo of McNewspaper Gannett and corner-cutting cheapness Gatehouse. Temple, the last editor of the Rocky, recommends something like a public benefit corporation, noting the Philly Inquirer is run by one. I note that Hucksterman created a PBC that I even did a sonnet about and California laws on them — and seemingly many others states' — are pretty loose.

That said, speaking of bean-counters? A decade ago, the C-suite newspaper brass were still very much getting their own. I'm sure that's not totally changed. Long-time St. Louis Post-Distpatch columnist Bill McClellan, years after the date of that piece, continued to call out Lee Enterprises CEO Mary Junck for her corporate bonuses. (LOTS more about Lee at CJR.) Gannett's most recent CEO before the current one got a huge golden parachute a few years back.

Meanwhile, if this goes through, how will this affect current Gannett staff, readers and customers?

For you the employee?

Given that Craphouse has had its design shop for years, and from what I know, it sucking about as bad as Granite Newspapers' small one sucked (and yes, I believe it was done to spin off Gatehouse), if you're a graphic artist, you'll lose your job. You may be given "first-in-line" status to apply for the new (and lower paying) ones that Craphouse will create in Austin, but that's it. If you're not white, from what I've heard before, you might not want to work there anyway.

Given that Craphouse was aggressive enough on expanding its pagination shop to take on the Snooze on contract even before buying the Stateless, the same's going to happen to you as a copy editor. On, and their layout is get-it-out-the-door crappy once you get past section fronts.

Craphouse may consolidate some printing presses, too.

And, don't be surprised if the merged New Gannett adopts CNHI type furloughs.

For you the business?

Your ads will be crappier. You'll likely get one proof copy to review. Whatever errors you don't spot the first time around won't get fixed, or else you'll be charged extra.

For you the publisher?

Tighter paywall may bring more revenue to San Angelo, Abilene etc. Cross your fingers that Craphouse doesn't screw up ads enough you lose customers.

For you the reader?

Tighter paywall online. Deal with it. If you like the print version, and appreciate good design, you'll get less of that once you get away from section fronts. Also be prepared for fewer staff writers again. Breaking news? Late night sports? Look for it on the web; print deadlines will be earlier because of these new Gannett acquisitions being funneled through Gatehouse design and pagination shops, especially if more presses are consolidated. Hope you like your San Angelo paper being printed in Abilene.

August 16, 2019

Greenland tells Trump: We're not for sale, no way, no how

Where's the back nine?

So, Trump allegedly wanted to buy Greenland, which has produced much hilarity on Twitter, including mock (and maybe real) Nigerian 419 scams being reverse-grifted on Trump.

Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that some people think Trump is ADD and has fixated on Greenland and can't let go.

But, that still doesn't address the WHY of that fixation. CNN says maybe it's about mineral rights and potential, as does the link at top.

So, let's dig in.

1. If it's true that Trump's a launderer of Russian mafiyya money, even with no election connection to Putin, could this be a part of that? That pristine snow and ice cleans up a lot of things.

2. Maybe he's eyeing new golf courses. Since the Scots won't give him a blank check at Turnberry, he's going to expand that. And, this would also be a way of laundering Russian bankster money.

3. Maybe he wants to buy it for new collateral on a Deutsche Bank loan.

4. Maybe, as with Michigan, he wants to be its Man of the Year.


See, the stories all state Trump is acting as President of the United States. (We have, as a nation, bought Alaska, the Danish Virgin Islands and the Gadsden Purchase lands, among other things. And we've tried to buy Greenland before, under Harry Truman, so that too is nothing new.) And it WOULD #MAGA: Make All Greenland American.

But maybe he's just acting as Donald Trump, business mogul. And, yes, him conflating himself and his office is nothing new, as my points 1-3 indicate.