03/05/2017 I've decided to take the plunge and go positive for a change. Other people will pick up the negative slack, I'm sure... With regard to the depressing coverage below, numerous researchers in fields such as neuro-psychology have pointed out that the evidence strongly suggests that empathy is and has been for several decades on the decline.
Anecdotal evidence abounds for this position, although usually other kinds of causes are flagged. And, if my theory behind my On Morals blog here is correct, then people should be more inclined to dishonesty as a consequence of the fall in general empathy. http://philosborn.joeuser.com/article/479914/On_Morals_II
However, even then there are possible masking sources. Just because sunshine is correlated with melting tar is no reason to put out tar to attract the sun. Correlation is not causation. Changes in the general culture, the rise of the new information economy, etc., may be just as much a likely suspect.
I can recall in the early '80's how I would occasionally run out of gas in my ancient VW bus, which lacked a gas gauge. In each case, if it happened in the OC then every single time, someone would pull over and offer a lift to a gas station. OCers were Proud of their '50s Americana down-home culture.
By the late '80's in the same area, I was attacked as a cab driver by my fare at a major intersection and the numerous passers-by made no attempt to come to my rescue, instead shouting at me "GET OUT OF THE F**KING ROAD, A*****E!!!" Long term OC residents noted that this sea change had been preceded by an influx of Angelinos (coming from a low-trust culture) and a migration of the digital cottage industry rampant in the early '80's in the OC to places such as Silicon Valley. Jumping to broad social conclusions is a cheap way of avoiding the real digital footwork of research and analysis.
02/11/2017 Hooray! At long last, the IRS waited until the last moment, but they finally sent the replacement refund check, and - coincidentally (?) - who should show up at the Hispanic restaurant where I occasionally hang out in bad weather, but a pair of Postal Delivery people, one of whom turned out to be the new person for my route - and remembers delivering the check last week. I forgot to say anything about the insurance cards, which also arrived, at last. This young woman was definitely not the person I have met before. So, maybe that will end this tale... See below for gory details.
$900+ - the refund check from the IRS, marked "undeliverable" by someone, I'm assuming a postal employee, while ~600 other pieces of mostly junk mail went through without a hitch...
I mailed my paper 1040A on October 14th. Still using paper as every time I've gone to the IRS site to go paperless, their site is either down again or requesting I jump through yet another hoop. After about 6 weeks went by without a refund check I contacted the IRS and was informed that my refund had been mailed and then returned to the IRS marked "undeliverable." I assumed at the time that it must be the USPS that was responsible, as this has been the case on several prior occasions when mail disappered. I have a printout of the IRS acknowledgement of receipt of my "undeliverable" refund.
I do not have very good relations with my USPS carrier, due to the number of missing mails as well as finding other people's mail below my slot on several occasions. Also, last year (2014/2015) the refund was also delayed. Somehow that refund had made its way several feet past where a simple drop would have taken it and ended up completely hidden behind some box or other - a place that required quite a bit of effort. I was not able to duplicate the trajectory or even come close. Then, every other month or so, I get a piece of my mail that has been ripped open by someone and then, typically a month or so later, put through my slot, very likely one of my neighbors.
(Of course, it could be someone else entirely. The area where my office/storage is located I refer to as "El Centro del Methico." In a typical example of what that means in practice, a few months ago a couple of tweakers moved in to one of the units near mine and turned up the volume from day one, attached a big cardboard sign captioned with a marker as simply "METH" to their front door, and then did what all Meth addicts do - follow several insanely complex and torturous paths that attempted to co-opt everyone in the local area into their incessant plots and feuds. About 1/4 mile away and visible from my unit, is a homeless encampment as well, and the local gang bangers cruise the area in the wee hours, looking for wall space to tag. But a meth freak or gang banger would have attempted to cash the check, not mark it undeliverable, right?)
The IRS person re-authorized my check and said that I should wait 4 weeks for the new check before calling in. I received a notice to that effect from the IRS, dated January 5th. Still no refund, and no copies of my motorcycle insurance ID cards, either, which have been sent now at least three times.
So, has anyone dealt with this or something similar? The local Post Office managerial staff has assured me that they are taking a special interest in this and will deliver my check personally, if necessary. My fear is that the IRS will wash its hands of the matter and refuse to authorize another check. Meanwhile, I get regular bills and notifications from my doctors and if they end up being blocked, that is a problem.
One dire thought that I've heard is that maybe the carrier is waiting for me to ante-up. I've heard from people who buy their carrier expensive gifts for XMass. Is that our future, that we become another Mexico or India, where every transaction with government or business requires a little shakedown? I use the Santa An Post Office, where the population is 90% Hispanic and perhaps 30% English fluent - not the kind of people in general who will complain about anything, on the grounds that complaining simply makes one a target...
There is probably some validity to this attitude. In a culture where most people are powerless victims of a ruling oligarchy - as in Mexico and most of Central and South America - one survives by being anonymous and not by painting targets on one's jacket. In such a culture, much more than in most Western cultures, the advantage goes to the ruthless. Unfortunately, Santa Ana's culture is derivative of those corrupt cultures to our South.
(There is the tale that I've repeated elsewhere on JU about the Chinese scholar who around 1911 published his account of the research he had concluded on what were the factors for success in Beijing. What he discovered was that the people who rose to the top in whatever field, were characterized by a total ruthlessness. There has got to be some sort of tipping point in any culture past which one cannot maintain any fiction of public morality.
Chinese culture is a product of several empires, all of which appear to have passed that point of universal corruption and then collapsed, unable to fend off the newest invaders, probably sold out yet again by their own elite, leaving the new gang to start the process anew. The results from the scholar, BTW, were published as a book entitled "Thick Black Theory," which continues after over 100 years to be a national best-seller in China - even though officially banned, and has only recently finally been translated in English.
From the wiki:
Li was a scientist of political intrigue. He wrote: "When you conceal your will from others, that is Thick. When you impose your will on others, that is Black (Dark)." According to Chin-Ning Chu, the 'Thick Black Theory' describes the ruthless and hypocritical means men use to obtain and hold power: "thick faces" (shamelessness), "black heart" (ruthlessness), according to author's view of history. It went through several printings before being banned in China as subversive.)
So, why would someone - presumably at the Post Office - mark the standard IRS envelop "undeliverable." Unless, like so many sociopaths, this one is taking delight in demonstrating his or her power...