Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Morning Quarterbacking

I am now less concerned about Graham Harrell's ability as a back-up quarterback than I am about our lack of depth on the offensive line.

Then again, maybe the difference wasn't so much playing with Green Bay's starters as it was playing against the Kansas City Chiefs.  Height-challenged rookie Russell Wilson looked like a Pro Bowl contender against the Chiefs last weekend, prompting Seattle's coach to name him as the Seahawks' starter for the season opener (and leaving poor Matt Flynn to remain as a back-up quarterback, albeit at a much higher salary than he enjoyed in Green Bay).

Maybe the Chiefs aren't that bad.  Maybe Russell Wilson really is a superstar NFL quarterback in the making, and Graham Harrell is a reliable back-up for Aaron Rodgers.

Hope springs eternal in the pre-season.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dark Knight Rises Copycats?

It was expected that last month's shooting at the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises might inspire copycats.

Last weekend, an Ohio man was arrested after he brought a gun, ammo and knives into a screening of the movie.  He was seated in the center of the back row, with a large duffel bag (he may as well have worn a sign that said "sniper wanna-be").

But in a less violent case of life perhaps imitating art, one of the movie's odder subplots was eerily echoed at the beginning of August when a brokerage firm found itself the victim of rogue trades supposedly caused by a "glitch" in the firm's newly-installed software.  The brokerage made a large volume of bad bids, other brokerages exploited their errors, and the firm found itself nearly bankrupt in a day.  The broader market was not affected, seemingly, as share prices did not swing significantly.

(Spoiler Alert) - in the movie, the villains break into the stock exchange (literally), and install their own software to execute a high volume of trades, targeting just one firm (Wayne Enterprises) in order to wipe out most of its worth and allow a corporate takeover.  They do this to gain access to a particular corporate asset that they can weaponize.

I was surprised that the ExtremeTech article did not mention, while discussing the feasibility of breaking into the stock exchange, that it is not actually necessary to do so.  Plenty of brokerage firms with lesser security than the NYSE have the ability to execute high volumes of trades electronically, and the article's comments do point that out, but the commenters assume the market would stop trading and all erroneous trades would be reversed.

By the time I saw the movie, and by the time the article was posted, however, the debacle at a brokerage coincidentally named Knight Capital was in the news.  Their trades were not reversed, and the company barely survived with an emergency credit deal.

Of course, Knight Capital was not deliberately targeted (at least, not that anyone can tell).  There would be no real motive, except to make a bit of money at their expense on the day of the software disaster, and I believe those profits were split among many firms.  It's not like Knight had a coveted corporate asset that they would not sell unless they were in dire straits.  Then again, maybe they did.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

What's in it for Ryan?

The cheddarsphere is abuzz with news that Mittens has chosen Wisconsin's own Eddie Munster lookalike Paul Ryan as his running mate.

This is believed to be a sop to the Koch-funded power-brokers who now control the Republican Party.  Romney's vulnerabilities among the base are primarily due to his policies as governor of Massachusetts, especially the model for the Affordable Care Act.  How better to combat that than with the architect of that manifesto of social darwinism, the Ryan Budget?

Romney's other vulnerabilities include his inability to relate to the 99% and the perceived "weirdness" of his Mormon faith.  While Ryan can't help him with the 99%, at least having a Wisconsinite with a taste for fine wine on the ticket will give Romney a designated drinker for those all-important cocktail parties.

But it's hard to understand why Ryan would risk his powerful position in Congress for a VP run.  Yes, he can run for both offices, and Joe Biden managed to win re-election to the Senate and election as Vice President simultaneously.  However, Wisconsin independent voters with recall-induced election fatigue may not relish the idea of a special election to fill Ryan's vacant Congressional seat in the event the Romney-Ryan ticket wins the White House.  Rob Zerban's chances just got significantly better.

Romney is by no means the favorite in November.  The election is very tight, and the Ryan pick will not help Romney with independents.  Is Ryan merely positioning himself for a presidential run in 2016?  How'd that work out for Sarah Palin?  Come to think of it, she's doing pretty well for herself as a Fox News personality.  So is Mike Huckabee.  Maybe Ryan's positioning himself for a career change to media pundit.