Cash rules everything around me
Herald Mail Media
Facebook wants to take over the world monetary system. What could go wrong?
That’s right, the same company that is famous for videos of cats being scared by a zucchini, for allowing the Russians to take over our politics and for passing out your private data like Halloween candy has formed a company that has been secretly working for the past year on a currency named “Libra,” the Greek word for “internet scam.”
The plan, according to The New York Times, would “create an alternative financial system that relies on a cryptocurrency” that would make it faster, easier and less complicated for Facebook to take your money.
The Times writes that, “If the project, which Facebook hopes to begin next year with 100 partners, should come together, it would be the most far-reaching attempt by a mainstream company to jump into the world of cryptocurrencies, which is best known for speculative investments through digital tokens like Bitcoin and outside-the-law e-commerce like buying drugs online.”
OK, but that’s not my fear. I’m not worried that a bunch of 85-year-old Facebook users are suddenly going to start ordering crank.
What I do worry about is that — how do I put this nicely? — if I were looking around for a group to trust my money with, Facebook would rank about 3,738th on the list, right between the Gambino crime family and a group of third-graders holding a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese.
Facebook has spent the past decade doing everything it possibly could to not earn our trust. And now it wants our cash? Oh, all right, just let me finish filling out this waiver stating that if Facebook manages to lose my money it’s my own fault, and that I will pay them for the inconvenience of having to show up at congressional hearings.
Because you know this is where it’s going. Mark Zuckerberg sitting before the panel saying, “We didn’t mean to lose everyone’s money, it won’t happen again,” and a bunch of clueless old white male senators sternly saying, “Well, young man, see that it doesn’t.”
Because a data breach is one thing. People get their data stolen all the time and nothing ever seems to come of it, no matter how horrible we are told it is by companies trying to sell us data-protection services.
And privacy? I’m over it. I sort of appreciate that Facebook sells my personal information to companies, because I would rather see ads for mountain bikes than for Maalox.
But money is different. If Facebook screws that up, it’s not the same as a bad guy getting ahold of your account number at Macy’s. And forget idle hands: Money without accountability is the real devil’s plaything. Which the government knows. In fact, the Times says, “Financial regulators in the United States and other countries could stop Libra before it is even released if there are concerns that the technology will enable money laundering or other types of crime that have become common with Bitcoin.”
Good for the United States. You should only get to launder money if you’re the president.
I suppose I need to acknowledge the inconvenient truth that the big banks haven’t done such a great job of handling our money either. Every decade, like clockwork, they go off on some harebrained scheme that ends with a massive taxpayer bailout.
So who do you go with — Facebook or Wells Fargo? One loses your data, the other assigns you fictional data that doesn’t exist. I guess I’m old school. If I know I’m going to get hosed, I’d feel better about being hosed by an established financial institution. But all those old goats who used to bury their money in Mason jars aren’t looking so dumb after all.
How old is old?
Herald Mail Media
I never had much use for the United Nations until now. Because, according to this esteemed organization, I am not old. Yet.
According to Steven Petrow, writing in The Washington Post, the United Nations defines old age as beginning at 60. The difficulty, Petrow notes, is that the United Nations assigns the designation of old age based on how many years you have lived, not how many you have to go. So if you’re 60, you are considered old whether your life expectancy is 65 or 165. Therefore, he says, 60 is not a very good gauge.
Makes sense. Although frankly, that sounds like an argument an old man would make.
“I will soon turn 62,” he writes. “What does that actually tell you? Not very much, which is why, like many of my sexagenarian friends, I’m apt to claim, ‘Yes, age is just a number.’”
Actually, that’s how you tell if you’re old. If you start throwing around phrases like “age is just a number,” “you’re only as old as you feel” or “60 is the new 40,” a buzzer should go off and your forehead should start flashing OLD OLD OLD.
I really hate that last one, it’s so stupid. What did they say in the Middle Ages, “26 is ye new 12?”
I acknowledge that there are people age 60 who are a wreck, and people 10 years older who could leave people half their age in the dust. But that’s the product of good genes. It’s not because of a mathematical mind game.
Overall, I don’t understand what the problem is with admitting you are old. There are certain cruelties of old age — by the time you are old enough to afford a sports car, you are too old to get in and out of it — but there are also benefits.
Over the weekend, a young woman at the garden center carried a bag of potting soil to the car for me. That didn’t make me feel old. What made me feel old was that I let her.
The U.S. women’s soccer team makes me feel old in kind of an odd way. It’s not so much that I didn’t grow up with soccer and find it boring. It’s not that they run up the score or celebrate each goal as if they’ve just been released after 40 years in a Turkish prison.
When I was younger, any one of the three would fire some sort of passion one way or another. Today, none of it seems to matter. It’s the James McMurtry line: “I’m forty-some years old now and man I don’t care/all I want now is just a comfortable chair.”
Petrow quotes experts as calculating that old age begins “when your specific life expectancy is 15 years or less. That is when most people will start to exhibit the signs of aging, which is to say when quality of life takes a turn for the worse.”
So it’s like when they assign you your own parking space at the podiatrist. And it’s when the number of pills you take each day exceeds your average mph as you’re driving to the podiatrist.
Speaking of which, there’s an equally insidious and depressing way of knowing when you’re old that has nothing to do with the United Nations: It’s when the television shows you watch are sponsored wall-to-wall by medications and the makers of back braces.
It does explain something though. I saw an ad for a drug whose potential side effects included a “fatal brain infection.” I didn’t catch what it was this medicine was supposed to be able to cure, but I’d have to be pretty miserable before I risked my dome filling up with pus.
But if you’re in the red zone of your life, what’s a little brain infection as long as you’re regular?
'See section': Birth for an audience
Herald Mail Media
Most guys no longer go as far as W.C. Fields, who said he liked children “so long as they are properly cooked.” So, too, have guys grudgingly changed their preference for celebrating the birth of their child in the bar across the street from the hospital.
Yes, we are incrementally giving up our caveman tendencies. This happens when you make small concessions. Pretty soon, the union has taken over your whole shop.
That’s happening in Brazil, where C-section births are becoming not just a family affair, but a special event with a gaggle of people watching.
According to The Washington Post, “The phenomenon is inspiring a new industry of party planners, makeup artists and caterers, focused on turning these highly orchestrated operations into wedding-like spectacles, produced for an audience.”
Look, I’m as enlightened as the next guy. Actually, that’s not completely true. Thirty years ago, I was just as enlightened as the next guy. Today, it’s not just that I want people to get off of my lawn — I don’t want the lawn. I want it paved so I don’t have to mow.
Isn’t this supposed to be a blessed event, intensely quiet and personal time in the innermost sanctum of the nuclear family? Why in the name of Pele would you want the whole fraternity house, getting drunk, cheering on your spouse and urinating into the potted plant?
This is probably her idea, not his. According to the Post, “At the Sao Luiz private hospital in Sao Paulo, a mother-to-be can get her hair and makeup done in her hospital room. For 2,000 reals per day — about $500 — her family can rent out the presidential suite, with a living room and bathroom for guests, a balcony and minibar. Mothers can request their favorite flowers and magazines, and even change the furniture if it clashes with their planned decorations. A 22-story maternity ward now under construction will include a wine cellar and ballroom.”
For all this extravagance, $500 a day seems cheap. An American hospital would charge you — well, your first born child. Really, what can you get in an American hospital for $500 besides an Ace bandage?
I am aware that Europeans do things differently, with their nude laundromats and their weird breakfasts and their invasion of your personal space, but sheesh. It’s a matter of time before copycat Americans, who think it makes them look suave, latch on to this radical idea, which makes Elizabeth Warren’s look like the Coolidge administration. (I am also aware that Brazil isn’t in Europe, but in today’s politics, a foreigner is a foreigner, right?)
The French thought Marie Antoinette was a snob because she refused to give birth in public, but at least they had a reason — they wanted to make sure the heir to the throne was actually a live birth and not some changeling.
But face it, we’re not all giving birth to the dauphin. And to that point, doesn’t this put a lot of pressure on the child? What if you throw this big celebration and then he turns out to be a cheese-fries-eating Uber driver?
My fear is that this won’t stop at child births. Especially if profit-minded American medicine gets hold of it. I can see the day when they rent out the operating room for pet parties where everyone gets to spay their own cat.
You know how women are with events. It’s just a matter of time before she pops a surprise colonoscopy party on you. You’re just about to go under and she says, “Look, honey, I invited all your friends!”
You’re going to need that wine cellar.