Archive for November 30th, 2006

by Jay Stevens 

Here’s an intriguing bit of news: outgoing Senator Conrad Burns hinted at future plans in a speech today to the Montana Grain Growers Association convention:

Burns told the…convention that he planned to remain involved in issues such as litigation reform, taxes and fighting environmentalists – both in his last month in office and through a coalition he is helping organize.

A mysterious “coalition” to battle environmentalists? Hilarious. Sounds like he’ll be the baddie in the next Bond flick, “Gold Digger.”

But here’s the killer quote in the piece:

Burns said Thursday he wasn’t sure why he lost. The economy is good in Montana, unemployment is down, and incomes are rising, he said.

Completely unaware on so many levels. Blustering auctioneer to the end, eh? Forget about Abramoff and his shotgun mouth for a second, the economy quote is telling. As Babej and Pollack wrote in Forbes’Eight Marketing Lessons for ‘08”:

–When it comes to economics, relevance matters.

The Republican majority believed it deserved credit for strong economic numbers–low inflation and unemployment, high profits and stock indices–yet many voters didn’t see it that way. They saw higher gas prices, higher medical costs, higher interest rates–and little personal benefit from the highly touted tax cuts. If you are going to talk about the economy, make it relevant, like Ronald Reagan did with his famous question: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” Of course, Iraq and corruption were the key issues in the race. But when the GOP tried to throw a Hail Mary with the economy, it screamed “out of touch” to many average voters reeling under the combination of higher everyday costs, a decline in real wages and perceived erosion of their net worth as the housing market stalled.

While the most of us were being buried under rising health care, energy, and education costs, good ‘ole Connie was cuttin’ deals with Big Pharm, Big Energy, and Big Insurance. Forgetin’ the little folks was what did him in.


Ochenski mulls the early-season Montana legislature Republican rhetoric: “The last thing we need, especially from the party that has started more wars than anyone in recent times and failed to win even one, is yet another ill-considered battle.”

The Montana Chamber of Commerce surveyed its members on what they’d like to see done with the budget surplus, and apparently it’s going to be a long, cold legislative session for GOP House Speaker, Scott Sales: Over 70% want to use it for education.

The notorious Mark T will be glad to know that both Burns and Baucus still plan to protect the Rocky Mountain Front.

The Missoula Independent weighs in on SHEC’s beneficence: “Since when is ‘Christians act Christian’ an international headline?”

Salon’s Sidney Blumenthal sees in the 2006 election a “younger, bluer American that could reshape politics for years to come.” Let’s hope so.

An excellent synopsis of the 2006 election spin: “Eight marketing lessons for ’08.”

Shane the Wordsmith examines the definition of “conservative and liberal,” then mulls jargon, allowing George Carlin to speak for all of us.

Is H. Clinton out if Obama is in?

Kos mulls the 2008 presidential landscape.

A state audit of FL-13’s voting machines shows a high degree of error. Christine Jennings vows to stay in the fight for the long haul. (Kos take.)

Push over, Tom Tancredo, we have a new anti-immigration Congressional nutcase: meet Representative Steve King (R-Iowa).

The number of EU countries that knew about the CIA’s rendition program grows…

Remember that the SCOTUS is considering a climate change lawsuit? Well, it’s pretty apparent that Scalia doesn’t know sh*t about the issue, and that’s probably why he appears inclined against it.

Thomas Friedman suggests re-invading Iraq. The mind reels…

Colin Powell: it’s a civil war.

Pakistan wants NATO to accept the Taliban back in Afghanistan. This the kind of ally in the “war on terror” Bush can muster.

And now we know why the Saudi Prince summoned Cheney for a sit-down: Saudi Arabia will make us very, very sorry if we withdraw from Iraq. Wheee! What a mess…

Terrorist caught trying to assemble components for a briefcase bomb to blow up Congress! What’s that sound? *crickets*

by Jay Stevens 

This may sound crazy, but I think I like baseball’s hot stove league more than the actual season itself. It could be because I’m a Red Sox fan and there’s too often little joy in that in the waning days of summer. But I think it’s more that the winter trades and free agent signings elevate baseball into the realm of imagination. It’s always fun to mix-and-match players and speculate on the possibilities of a team (ah, the old days of baseball card trading!), sometimes more fun than actually watching the teams play the games and, thus, grind the perfection of potential under the cold boot heel of reality.

Er…anyhow…the big story this offseason involves my Bean Town gang’s attempt to sign Japanese phenom pill-hurler, Daisuke Matsuzaka, to a multi-year deal. The story is big not so much because of the player, who figures to be a decent number-two level starter, but because of the staggering amount of money involved.

That is, the Red Sox offered $51.1 million just to talk to Matsuzaka! That amount doesn’t include whatever money the pitcher himself will be offered! (In fact, the money offer was so ridiculous that many pundits thought it was offered just to keep the Yankees from acquiring Matsuzaka.)

However, under the complex financial rules surrounding the deal and baseball, the money isn’t as much as it appears and some are already calling the deal the biggest move of the offseason.


First, Boston has to pay the $51.1 million to Matsuzaka’s Japanese club, the Seibu Lions, only if Matsuzaka signs with the Red Sox, and apparently Boston’s boy-genius GM, Theo Epstein, is leveraging that fact into pressuring the Lions to pick up some of Matsuzaka’s U.S. contract, which would effectively lower the negotiating fee. That is, the Lions would gladly pay some back to get any money at all.

Second, the $51.1 million bid doesn’t count against baseball’s luxury tax. The tax hits any MLB club that exceeds a certain payroll threshold to the tune of a 40 percent on money that exceeds that payroll. That means, if you add that 51 mil to Matsuzaka’s actual salary – to, say, 20 million a year – the Sox can stay below the threshold and save its luxury tax payments. Which makes the actual cost of hiring Matsuzaka comparable to $16 mil a year for a player whose entire salary falls under the luxury tax rules.

Third, $16 million for a number two pitcher in his physical prime is looking like a bargain in this year’s free agent market. Jeff Passan:

Already Boston made the move of the winter with the posting bid for Matsuzaka, which, as the pitching market shakes itself out, is looking somewhat reasonable. Adam Eaton, who has never posted an earned-run average under 4.08 or thrown 200 innings in a season, got $24 million for three years from Philadelphia. Jeff Suppan is poised to get $10 million a year, Barry Zito perhaps $17 million. And the New York Yankees, the team that bid only $32 million for Matsuzaka, landed the negotiating rights to left-hander Kei Igawa – a pitcher most executives envision as a No. 4 starter – for $26 million.

The one thing that can be said about this whole Matsuzaka deal is that baseball economics are completely and absolutely f*cked up. Just compare Boston’s complex “steal-of-the-offseason” with the relatively simple successful building strategy under the NFL’s economic system.

Um…go, Sox?

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