Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Luddites dance in the streets and burn bitcoin nerds in effigy as Mt. Gox rumbles, explodes and then caves in


Okay, so twenty years ago – we could even make that ten years ago – the headline above would have
appeared to be written in tongues. But technology roars on.

In fact, it not only roars on, it roars over us, smashing, crushing, slicing, chewing up, and spitting out what used to be considered the human side of humanity at a fearsome rate.

Privacy? Forget it. Calling a company you do business with and having a helpful live person who speaks your own language and lives in your own country pick up the phone right off the bat? A quaint, ancient custom, now vanished. Fiercely expensive personal electronic equipment that doesn’t become outmoded and turn into a totally useless piece of junk that creates hazards both to the environment and to your private information? If you yearn for that,                        you must be old enough to be living on Social Security.

And now even our
currency is under fire.

Let’s walk this back a little bit. It says on every U.S. dollar bill in my wallet, “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.”

Oh yeah? Try to use your tender notes to get on a public bus in New York City. Tender paper notes aren't tough enough for today's technology-lubed economy. You’ll get laughed back into the gutter by impatient riders  on the bus waiting for it to move, or standing behind you waiting to get on.

It clearly irks the clerk in my local supermarket whenever I reach for my wallet to pay cash for a head of lettuce, a quart of milk, and a pound of chopped chuck. She has to take the money, clear it with her supervisor if I hand her a $20 bill or higher, make change, yadda yadda, while other people just swipe their credit cards. 

She usually gets even with me by hurriedly piling the receipt, loose bills, and oodles of loose pennies into my palm before I can stop her, one atop the other, and gloating when stuff starts falling on the floor and I have get down on my knees to pick it up.

And now, like the bubonic plague
comes the curse of bitcoin. And Bitcoin.

As if credit cards and debit cards weren’t doing enough to drive up the cost of living by forcing merchants, who pay a commission for accepting plastic, to raise their prices, even that didn't satisfy the finance nerds. They had to go and invent “bitcoin” and also “Bitcoin” (whether it’s capitalized or not changes the meaning, but they're related) – a way to pay for things with “virtual currency.”

I’m not going to explain bitcoin and Bitcoin to you. The whole concept is above my pay grade anyway. If you want an explanation, go here. And if that’s too complicated, try here, and also here. And if you still don’t get it –  or at least don’t get why anyone other than a drug dealer or Mafia money laundry would want to deal with it –welcome to the Neo-Luddite Society, brother or sister. Let’s grab us some sledgehammers and pickaxes and smash those, uh…

Y’see, that’s the trouble. There’s nothing to smash. There’s nothing to grab. The new money is strictly conceptual, represented by a string of ones and zeros that you can’t put in your wallet and carry down the street in your back pocket.

Am I truly a Luddite? 

You’d better believe it. Heck, I don’t even have a smartphone. I don’t twitter. I don’t tweet. I don’t do apps. I don’t even text.  I still take pictures with a camera.

In fact, the only reason I have a klutzy dumb cell phone is because the evil devils at Make-‘Em-Buy-It Central went out one night and vanished all the telephone booths from the streets of America. Now, instead of dropping a quarter in a slot, maybe once or twice a month when I need to make an emergency call, I  am forced pay ­– nickel-dime charges and taxes included – around $45 a month for a minimalist cell phone plan.

But believe me, if the B-coiners of the planet ever sell their bill of goods to a critical mass of gullible consumers, you’ll not only be paying for things with an outrageously volatile currency, you're also gonna yearn for the day when the cable company put you on hold for ninety minutes and then disconnected before you had a chance to say you couldn’t get Channel 2.

So you can imagine my joy,when the Bitcoin and bitcoin world was thrown into total chaos, after the collapse of Mt. Gox.

Mt. whut?

In case, like me, you’re just not into Bitcoin and bitcoin – or maybe now we can start calling it “bitcon” – be advised that Mt. Gox is not a science fiction description of a geological protrusion rising out of a steaming swamp and belching lava in a bad pulp novel, in which mechanical steel robot thingies death ray you from their eyeballs whenever their mechanical eyelids clank open.

No, Mt. Gox is a Bitcoin (or is it "bitcoin" in this case?) exchange, where people trade this synthetic currency. It is – sorry, was – the biggest bitcoin exchange of them all, until it evidently went belly up, reportedly the victim of its own slovenly security practices.

But until it collapsed, it was damn arrogant about how good it was. Here’s a recent quote from them, taken from one of their ads intended for international high financial mucky-mucks:
 These days it seems like everyone is talking about Bitcoin, the digital currency that is revolutionising the way people think about money, trade and transparency. Mt. Gox offers a secure and reliable multi-currency exchange so you can trade with the entire world in your local currency. Now isn’t that something worth talking about?
Oh, Goody! A digital corpse!

Not only did these “secure and reliable” saviors of Mankind’s money go belly up, but even better happened. According to Reuters, the President of the Japan-located Mt. Gox exchange, a man with the remarkably un-Japanese name Mark Karpeles, when asked whether Mt. Gox was dead, offered an e-mail reply that is a masterpiece of Zen, uh …no, not transparency. Impenetrability and vague incoherence is more like it.

It is so poetic in its mysteriously uninformative way (no doubt raising the anxiety among coiners who thought they had hefty digital sums safely stashed in the gorge of Gox) that it deserves to be typeset as a free verse poem. And so I will set it that way:

"We should have an official
announcement ready
soon-ish.

“We are currently at a
turning point for
the business.

“I can’t tell much much
more for now
as this also involves
other parties."

No kidding, dude. I’ll bet some of those “other parties” have smoke coming out of their ears and murder in their eyes.

So let me add a four-line coda:

That rubbing you hear
Comes from Luddites like me
And what we are rubbing
Is our hands with glee.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Semper Snafu! When some low-level Marines behave like crazy idiots and louts, even the top general starts acting nuts.

General Jim Amos justifiably
tried to kick butt over a scan-
dal  but instead kicked up an
even bigger scandal
.
Let me start by pointing out that the Marines enjoy something special that none of the rest of us can share.

I first saw it when, as a young man in my 30s, I worked in an advertising agency with old Marines from World War II who had never quite gotten over the experience. 

Their offices always had some kind of Marine memorabilia on display. They shared a bond that most of us could well envy, even if they had fought in different theaters of the Greatest Generation's war. And they shared that bond many decades after their service.

So the Marines, as a rule, have clearly done a lot right in terms of morale and cohesiveness.

That said, it looks as if Marine Commandant General Jim Amos rightfully tried to do something in reaction to the scandalous misbehavior of some Marines in an Afghanistan combat zone, and ended up instead falling into the mess face-first, making himself the focal point of the scandal.

What was the scandal about? The story isn’t pretty. Some Marines, who killed some presumably Taliban fighters, made a video of themselves urinating on the enemies’ dead bodies. Well, warriors do crazy stupid things in combat, but this is just the opposite of what you’d want to happen if you ever hope to win the hearts and minds – or at least not completely alienate the hearts and minds – of the people in whose country you’re fighting.

General Amos nearly had a meltdown.  I understand his justifiable ire, but he evidently did something improper in the course of trying to discipline his troops for this misbehavior.

I’m not going to wallow into the nitty-gritty of this brouhaha. I’m not an expert on military or Marine proprieties, and some of the details have already been reported here. But what happened next shows that misbehaving troops can set off an explosive mess that sends even a well-intentioned general off the deep end.

Seems the Marine Corps Times and other newspapers written for American military audiences saw a scandal in the general’s disciplinary actions and – no surprise here – reported on their findings.

Next thing you know, the General banned the Marine Corps Times from the checkout counter racks at all Marine post exchanges. Yeah, you can still find the paper, if you rummage around for it carefully enough, in the back of the store. But the decision is redolent with the strong whiff of a retaliatory message against a newspaper that reports things as it sees them.

Last I heard, the post exchange stores now “are only authorized to display Marine Corps Exchange promotional materials,” according to the new policy. Exchange managers were told to move the newspapers to make room for the commandant’s reading list and that of the “First Lady of the Marine Corps,” Amos’ wife Bonnie.

And what are some of the books on Marine reading lists? Well, they include some excellent war fiction like Stephen Crane’s Civil War novel, “The Red Badge of Courage.” But there’s also a piece of science fiction called ‘Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card. According to the blurb for Ender’s Game ‘In this science fiction novel, child genius Elder Wiggen is chosen by international military forces to save the world from destruction by a deadly alien race.”

Hey, what’s more important to a Marine, deadly alien races or stories in the Marine Corps Times about “everything from career tracks, to pay and benefits, family and spouse issues, and employment after leaving the military?”

Now it’s General Amos whose image is in hot water, not the marines who desecrated enemy bodies. It makes you wonder what’s in another book on the reading list, “How To Excel in a Bureaucracy.”


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Self-pity for getting victimized is the new 30


Look, I’m the first to admit it. I’ve wallowed in my own fair share of self-pity. Bad things have
I found this crybaby on a blog called
TheHappyZone.com. Go there and read
"Self Pity: 7 Easy Steps to Quit Feeling
Sorry For Yourself."  Quite a few killers
and billionaire should read it.

.
happened to me, too. For starters (and also for closers, because this piece isn’t really about me) you should have seen my ex-wife’s divorce lawyer.

That said, all the people running around crying “Victim! Boo hoo, I’m a victim!” are beginning  to lie in my stomach like a lump of chicken fat floating atop a pool of vinegar. (Did I just write that awful line? Well, accidents happen. Let’s move on.)

Let me give you a few examples of the stuff that’s stuffing my goat.

“Christlike” George Zimmerman declares himself a “victim.” So reported the New York Daily News the day before I wrote this piece.

“Speaking out for the third time this week, Zimmerman - who has remained the center of controversy since he was acquitted last year of murdering Trayvon Martin - says he plans 'for the worst and hope for the best' in his new life as one of the country's most hated men,” said the Daily News.

Speaking out again? Now wait just a freaking second, George. You strapped a gun around your waist. You left the house, got into your car and began driving around your housing complex, looking for trouble. The closest you could find to trouble was a teen-aged kid named Trayvon Martin, who was coming home with a can of soft drink and a bag of Skittles.

You were immediately suspicious of him because…? You claim it wasn’t because he was black. And not because he was armed, because he definitely was not armed. Perhaps you were suspicious because he had unhealthy snacking habits. You can’t be too careful around those junk food munchers.

You called the cops, who said they didn’t need you to follow him – which you did anyway. Even if I believe your story, that the teen-ager turned on you, a battle ensued, and he was on top of you banging your head on the sidewalk and you shot him in self-defense, you brought this all on yourself.

But there have been followup incidents involving you and your ex-wife, and you and your ex-girlfriend. And both of them involve you pointing weapons at them. When leads me to believe that whenever the going gets the least bit tense, your finger gets an urge to wrap itself around a trigger.

Victim? George, I believe you as far as I could pick you up and throw you – and I to clarify the meaning of that statement, I think I ought to mention that I’m an old geezer with a hernia.

Pitty those totally victimized billionaires

I thank my fellow blogger and mean bully Steve M, who in a recent post on No More Mister Nice Blog called my attention to the suppurating rash of billionaires bleating that they are getting “picked on” for – well, you know, things such as grabbing money from the people who actually do the work to put in their own silk-lined pockets, foreclosing on little old ladies, buying members of Congress like gum balls in a candy store, shipping American jobs abroad so they can be done lots cheaper by abused children, poisoning the nation’s drinking water….need I go on?

I’m not going to get into all the links Steve provided on his February 18th post, headlined, “PARANOID BILLIONAIRES ARE JUST RICH VERSIONS OF GEORGE ZIMMERMAN AND MICHAEL DUNN.

But one of those links led to a Wall Street Journal piece with a headline that quotes John Mack, former CEO of  former Morgan Stanley CEO as saying, “Stop beating up on Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon.”

Oh, the poor babies! Blankfein let Goldman Sachs bet against its own clients, Dimon let his bank’s own customers get economically, sliced, diced, deep-fried and then served up hot and crispy on elegant foreclosure notices, and both are wallowing in billions as their reward. Beaten up? That’s like the 15 year-old schoolyard bully who whacks a kindergartener over the head with a stick and then screams, “Whaaa! That boy hit me.”

Let me tell you something, you billion dollar pieces of steaming self-pity. If you were behind bars where I’m convinced you belong, you might have an interesting educational opportunity to learn precisely what “getting beaten up” means. And no, it doesn't mean we ought to up the top taxable income bracket another five percent.

Who says you say that I say 
that he said that she said?

Then we have the he-says-she-says, I-say-you-say situation launched – or rather, relaunched – a few weeks ago when New York Times columnist Nicholas Christoff turned his blog over to Woody Allen’s adopted daughter, Dylan, for a rehash of a long-disputed j’accuse, concerning alleged abuse of Dylan by Woody back in the 1990s. (God save us from newspaper pundits who can't come up with a new idea.)

In case you just arrived at the incoming flying saucer reception area of JFK after a long exploration of the Planet Pluto, fasten your seat belt again and try to keep your eyes from crossing while I summarize:

Dylan claims Allen abused (raped?) her; the law enforcement people at the time said they had found no supporting physical evidence; the judge in the case came to an inconclusive “on the one hand this, on the other hand that” statement concerning the matter; Woody and Woody’s adopted son Moses claim that Dylan, just an impressionable child at the time, had been rehearsed about the story by Mia Farrrow so many times that it became an implanted memory rather than an actual fact; nobody’s sure whether another Farrow child was actually fathered by Frank Sinatra (and where’s the DNA that would settle this matter one way or another?); a legitimate phenomenon called Parent Alienation Syndrome has been cited, and…and…

Well, you could spend a few hours on this if you were in a deeply masochistic mood. Both sides have now shut up, at least for the moment, but the public is lining up to take sides, like clowns in a Shakespearian comedy whacking one another with pig bladders. Go here, and be sure to read the reams of raging reader commentary that follow the article. I fully expect to see people who have no idea what they're talking about setting out to burn either Woody, or Mia, or Dylan, or Soon Yi, or anybody they can find at the stake. Beware of enraged digerati waving pitchforks.

But I was talking about Washington Monthly readers taking sides. One of those readers commented that the real victim in this case is Dylan, whether you believe she was abused, or you believe the whole sexual abuse thing sprang from the brow of Mia Farrow when her daughter (not Allen’s daughter) Soon Yi Previn and Woody umm, eloped, and that Dylan is Mia’s messed up proxy puppet.

Well, at least Dylan is a victim of somebody-or-other. Not so much so for Zimmerman and The Billionaires. (Hey, that sounds like a long-fogotten rock band that competed with Hootie and the Blowfish.)

I’ll leave you with that, because it’s time for me to leave for the spa and have a long, muddy wallow in the hot self-pity pool.

Monday, February 17, 2014

When one percent of the population holds or controls all the wealth, there is no security. Especially not among the one percent.


Some years ago, in Quito, Ecuador, I noticed that in every wealthy section of town, each house seemed to have at least one armed guard standing at the front door. A few had two armed guards. My driver’s little jest was that the homes with two guards were the homes of the superrich.

I speculated that there would come a time when the superrich would feel threatened by even bigger thugs than they are today.

All that was covered here, in a reminiscence that, in retrospect, I find harrowing, because it turns out, I wasn’t merely speculating. In fact, I might have been pretty close to the mark.

In a piece posted by The New York Times on its blog pages today, two university professors, Samuel Bowles and Arjun Jayadev have revealed their own, statistics-based take on the same dire social consequence of concentrating too much wealth into too few hands. It nearly comes down to equation: the greater the income inequality, the greater the number of people working as security guards or the equivalent. By implication, mutual mistrust among fellow citizens increases, too.

I urge you to read their piece, and then to look into Bowles’ recently-published book on the subject, The New Economics of Inequality and Distribution.

Some of the points Bowles touched on in the blog piece:

• “We now employ as many private security guards as high school teachers — over one million of them, or nearly double their number in 1980.”

•“What is happening in America today is both unprecedented in our history, and virtually unique among Western democratic nations. The share of our labor force devoted to guard labor has risen fivefold since 1890…”

• “…however one totes up guard labor in the United States, there is a lot of it, and it seems to go along with economic inequality. States with high levels of income inequality — New York and Louisiana — employ twice as many security workers (as a fraction of their labor force) as less unequal states like Idaho and New Hampshire.”

• “There is a simple economic lesson here: A nation whose policies result in substantial inequalities may end up spending more on guns and getting less butter as a result.”

So sleep well, one percenter robber barons. That brief cry you heard below your window just now probably was not one of your security guards having his throat slit by a group of thugs who are about to batter down your door, kidnap you and ship your digits one by one to your negotiators until someone in your retinue comes up with sufficient ransom. 

Again, I said that probably won't happen. Not this year, anyway.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I'm too cranky for my shirt. So shut up!

Lately, I've begun feeling as morose
as this guy
Listen up, Mr. Right Said Fred, author of the song "I'm too sexy." I happen to live in New York. And right now, in New York, nobody's too sexy.

Why? Because of the accursedly miserable weather, that's why! After an endless assault of cold, extra cold,  and extra-extra-cold, not to mention ice storms, snow storms, slush storms, wind storms, blizzards, nor'westers, and miscellaneous additional meterological afflictions, I've had it. I'm fried. I'm frozen. I'm formidably frazzled. I am not, to put it short, in a good mood. I'm not merely a crank these days. I'm crankier than cranky.

Hey, fifty years ago, the forerunners of today's Teaparty fear mongers used to point to Sweden and say, "You see? Sweden has socialism. They even have socialized medicine. And guess what?" There would be a pregnant pause and then the right-winger would pop me with his deadliest bullet. "They have the highest suicide rate in the world!"

But I've come to see, most especially in recent weeks, that socialized medicine has nothing to do with it.  It's the weather, stupid. If you had to spend half your life freezing in the dark of a Scandinavian winter, or trudging through snow and slush,  you too might be tempted to get into bed witha bottle of Aquavit,  a pistol, and Gunilla, and join her in a spirited game of Russian Roulette.

Even down in the Red States, where dinosaurs roamed the forests with Early Man, (i.e., descendants of Adam and Eve) and carbon dated fossils are considered a divine practical joke played on dimwitted scientists, they haven't been able to deny away the weather. Even the Red Staters, now that their trucks and SUVs are skidding and crashing into one another on the Interstates, no longer seem to be denying we're enduring a climate change. It's just the cause of the change that makes them differ with the rest of us. Pollution? Too much carbon in the air? Holes in the Ozone Layer? Don't be silly.

It's all due to "Mother Nature" I heard some Georgia official say on TV this morning while I was brushing my teeth and he was preparing for a tree-busting, powerline-smashing ice storm. Yeah, good old Ma Nature. She's no relation either to God or to climate change. She just a little old lady romping around out there in the snow, in her galoshes and house coat, doing her nasty little thing to the weather.

Hey, I've got a bright idea for the creationists. Pray for sixty degrees and sunny. That way, when the weather finally gets up to sixty and sunny some time this spring, you can say, "Hallelujah! You can't argue with the power of prayer."

And then you can get out of the truck with the pistol you keep in the glove box, and blast Ma Nature right between the eyes. Later you can claim it was self-defense and you were standing your ground.

Just don't tell me about it, please. As you may gather, I'm not in a good mood. Not in the slightest.

Now begone!


                                                                                                                                               

Thursday, February 06, 2014

You are on the verge of being blinded to what’s in your food, what’s in your medicine, perhaps even why your electric bill suddenly got bigger. Be very afraid.


Below, two chilling excerpt from  an article by Haley Sweetland Edwards in the Washington Monthly Magazine online. Read the excerpts, shudder, then read the entire terrifying piece here
***
"And if industry goes on to win the war—if they collect a body of First Amendment case law establishing that corporations’ First Amendment-protected speech cannot reasonably be fettered by economic regulation—our society will be in a world of hurt. There will be no corporate transparency whatsoever. No way to enforce workers’ rights. No way to compel companies to protect investors or shareholders. And all regulations that require corporate disclosure, including most financial regulations, will cease to exist in any meaningful way."
***
"By claiming that the government cannot, under the Constitution, compel companies to 'engage in speech they would not otherwise issue,' NAM is essentially undercutting nearly alleconomic regulation. 'If that seems alarmist, it’s not,' wrote University of Tulsa law professor Tamara Piety, the author of Brandishing the First Amendment. In the legal context, the current definition of 'speech' is famously fuzzy and could, depending on the situation, include very nearly everything a company does, from advertising and performing financial transactions to transferring data and utilizing computer algorithms. So if NAM’s claim were true, it’s very possible that the government couldn’t regulate any of those activities. 'If you cannot regulate commercial speech,' Piety wrote, 'you cannot regulate commerce, period.'”

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

If we insist on having a death penalty, let’s at least have a death penalty calculus, too.


California repurposed its old gas
chamber into a lethal injection
chamber. It can be repurposed back
if lethal injections continue to be
"difficult". This photograph originally
posted by a pro death penalty group.
I have no reason to doubt the statistics from an organization called Death Penalty Focus, informing me that, as of this writing, there are 3,108 people sitting on various death rows in the United States, awaiting execution.

The end of each of them is likely to be horrifying. We have come to the point now where, thanks to a dearth of appropriate chemicals for exterminating people, “humane executions” – an oxymoron if ever there was one – are likely to be botched, with the writhing prisoner, belted to a gurney, gasping and choking for breath. 

In a very recent case, the executed prisoner took nearly 25 minutes to die. In fact, to avoid these botches, states are looking for other forms of execution which are sometimes more brutal but also more difficult to screw up, such as firing squads

Innocent, but executed anyway



Let’s also not forget that there are now more than a handful of stories concerning the executions of probably innocent people. It’s hard to know how many innocents were really put to death, because innocence is rarely investigated after the fact of execution. We do know that many have been saved from the death chamber by previously unused or suppressed DNA evidence.


Even so, the death penalty isn’t going away. There are too many people emotionally committed to capital punishment, and too many candidates for prosecutors’ offices who will defend it to…well, to the death of somebody else.

Personally, I am strongly opposed to the death penalty in any circumstances, But given that the death penalty is still with us, we ought to at least find better reasons to execute convicted criminals. Or not to execute them.

What we need is an impact formula, a calculus that assigns a level of gravity to the harm done to each of a convicted criminal’s victims, multiplied by the number of victims.

Who should be executed?
Just tally up the score.

Let’s say a criminal needs an impact score of 100 points to be condemned to death. And let’s say we assign only 20 points for a murder. However, we can also assign points for the victim’s pain, suffering and terror. If the victim is held prisoner, and slowly tortured to death, we might assign ten points for each half hour of pain and fear.

We could also add a point or two for the pain, suffering, shock, and loss of happiness of each of the members of the victim’s immediate family. They too are harmed, grievously and permanently, by a loved one’s murder.

If adding up all the points results in a score of 100 or more, that would send the convicted killer to death row.

However, people can suffer grievous harm even if there is no direct murder involved. Suppose someone commits an act, as Bernie Madoff did, that causes elderly people to go from prosperity to near-poverty, or to lose their pensions resulting in remaining years of  anxiety and misery, likely shortening their lives. That might be worth a point. And if 100 people are so affected, Madoff becomes a 100 point candidate for execution.

Follow the formula

In short, the intensity of suffering caused by a deliberate crime, multiplied by the  extensiveness of the suffering, equals a score that determines whether the death penalty should be imposed, regardless of whether a crime is a homicide

Under this formula, a disturbed young man who in a fit of rage lashes out and murders a parent might not face the death penalty. But (for the sake of argument let us assume the guilt of all the accused here) terrorists like Dzhokar Tsarnaev would easily qualify for execution. So would serial killers from Joseph Franklin (executed in 2014) to Richard Speck, (who died in prison of natural causes.)

On the other hand, depending on the extensiveness of the evidence and the weighting of harm done, bankers who until now have been let off with a fine (paid by their stockholders) and then enjoyed a fat bonus a year later might well find themselves on death row, or at least spending their bonuses to defend their lives. Who knows? That might include the CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase, Jamie Dimon. 


Sunday, February 02, 2014

Rand Paul, omelets, and the incredible shrinking Republican alternative healthcare program

In order to make a health care omelet, it may
first be necessary to break the Republican
noise machine.


To start, let me dare to get personal and share a little too much information. I’m shrinking. I’m getting shorter and shorter. That’s not a fantasy. It’s a fact of nature. It’s why vaguely ageist clich├ęs like “little old man” and “little old lady” have crept into the lexicon.

I used to be 5’9”. A couple of years ago, I measured 5’8” in a physician’s office. Yesterday, in the locker room of a gym where I work out, I tragically decided to check again. I’m now, at age 74, roughly a tenth of an inch shy of 5’7”. No wonder some of my old pairs of slacks are too long for me and my bicycle seems too big for me lately.

This leads to a new Crank’s Law: stuff shrinks over time. Not least among that stuff is the Republican alleged replacement for Obamacare. We’ve been hearing a bit lately about how they’re going to get rid of Obamacare, but give us something bigger and better.

This morning, while making breakfast, the television was on in the next room while Senator Rand Paul blustered his way through an interview on Face The Nation, the CBS Sunday blab show. The conversation turned to Obamacare and I suddenly heard Paul blithering on about what big and wonderful plans the Republicans will put in place of Obamacare when they kill it.

I should have dropped my spatula, run for a pen and pad, and taken notes, but that would have ruined the omelet I was making. Given a choice between a crab and goat cheese omelet and Rand Paul, I’ll go for the omelet any time.

Nevertheless, Paul’s big plans quickly shrank to the old and totally familiar. Paul would let health insurance companies sell their insurance products across state lines. What that would lead to, of course, is the sleaziest insurance companies in the least regulated states selling “gotcha” policies that would in time bring health insurance back to the old impractical mess we’ve had for the last half century prior to Obamacare.

As for the rest? Well, that was being worked on, I think I hard Paul say over my own kitchen clatter.

Typical Republican stuff. Promise big, rile ‘em up, then shrink the details down to just the laws that screw people.