A regressive tantrum of fools

I don't know what has caused Americans to curl up in the fetal position and have massive temper tantrums about daily things, but I'm fed up with it.

What are we so aggravated about, anyway?  Red cups?  Deformed Reese's trees?  Implied or direct racism?  Safe spaces?  Gilbert Gottfried?

(And yes, the last one was intended.)

Most of you who are reading this are not prescribing to what their peers are doing, which is mental regression.  We felt safer as children when we didn't have to face things that were disturbing to us, and those "very special episodes" taught hard life lessons: the death of a loved one, that narcotics were evil, that strangers were only nice until they had you in their clutches, and so on.  In those episodes (most of the time two parters) the problem was resolved and in the next week, little sister rats on big brother for bringing his girlfriend into the house, not knowing the girlfriend is being abused at home.

In real life, however, there is no such thing as instant gratification.  An assault doesn't end with a backing voice saying, "Stay tuned for scenes from next week..."  Identity theft doesn't end with Lt. Munch giving a tangential solliloquy on what happened.  A death doesn't have Jean Stapleton assuring her fans she's still alive.

Nevertheless, appeasement to avoid conflict has been the fuel for this outlandish, selfish, and ignorant temper tantrums.  It's a hugely oxidizing fuel to beget even more demands, until the appeaser can give no more.

Fortunately, there are people with a gimlet eye for nonsense, and will not only choke off the oxygen, but will divert that narcissism into something useful.  It won't be in the way the perpetually aggrieved expect it, however: it will be done not just to shock, but to teach a firm lesson.  Then there will be only two choices for the perpetually aggrieved: be a poster child for indulgence and infantilism and be outcast without a future, or cast your childish behavior and gimmicks (safe spaces, trigger words) aside and be a fearless and productive member of society.


Education, not agitation

Imagine you're class valedictorian of your high school.  You're admitted to a full four-year scholarship to an Ivy League school, and for the first semester, you do just fine.  The second semester, however, you struggle, and for the first time in your life, you do mediocre work.  A summer away from the books and the all-nighters will do you some good, and then you return for your sophomore year.  You continue to struggle, and at the beginning of the next semester, you're put on academic probation, and told that if your GPA doesn't go up, you will not return for your junior year.  The second semester ends, and you've failed all your courses.  You receive a series of letters - first to tell you that your scholarship has been cancelled, and second to tell you that you've been dismissed from the university.

Who do you blame for your failures?  Yourself, because you couldn't keep up with the material, even though you tried?  Or do you make up an army of straw and bogey men to convince yourself that they kept you away from being your best?

In this article from the American Spectator, the most interesting premise I found was that despite universities wanting to help the underprivileged, it turns out that there is a disadvantage that goes beyond the race: academic preparation.

If you were a class valedictorian and manage to graduate summa-cum-laude, it wasn't because you found every excuse in the book to why you succeeded.  No one gave you extra points "just because."  No one seduced you into believing that The Establishment regularly tries to stand in your way.  Your focus was on education, not agitation.  You fought hard for every A, you pulled all-nighters to thoroughly understand your subject, and above all, you dismissed those who are constantly look for bugaboos in every safe space.

The people who really try their damndest to hold others back are the ones who are so wrought with envy and jealousy that the only way they can cope is through anger, militancy, and bullying.  It is likely because they can't keep up with the workload, or don't understand it, so they pluck the easy fruit of entitlement.  Sit-ins, protests, microagressions, trigger warnings and so forth are merely ways to attract narcissistic attention (and later backlash) to themselves.

The underprivileged who are well prepared and exceed expectations are looked upon the militants as sell-outs, but again, the impetus for that tantrum is that they wish they could take tougher, more challenging courses that aren't bull sessions for the propaganda of their professors - but they feel they aren't smart enough to take those courses.  Hence, they fall back to the familiar: Blame the Establishment, raise your fists, chant out slogans, and then go home.

College and universities who go out of their way to make sure education is more important than political ideology and purity have not been and will not be kowtowing to those whose career is to stir up a toxic college environment.  The student who struggles will be helped by those who understand the subject - not by those looking for useful, and disposable, idiots.  They will tell those who stir up trouble that in no uncertain terms they will never apologize for their mission - properly educating students - and that there will be zero tolerance for disruption, and if they have to, they will have no qualms in removing them, even if it means a public display of doing so.


"You get what you pay for"

I recently celebrated my 44th birthday (today, in fact) and my brothers gave me a cake with a picture of myself, a few days into my 34th birthday, carrying a seat I had just broken.

Another item in the vast library of my mind, long forgotten but brought up again.

History: The seat I had been sitting in had already been broken, so I needed a temporary seat until I could order a new one.  So down to Cleary Square I went, and found this small store near L'il Peach.

"Got any seats?"  "Sure...$10."  I paid my $10 and took this very small, very uncomfortable seat home.

My brothers had come over to visit my father, who slowly beginning to pass away due to lung cancer.  He was still lucid, but by the afternoon he had slipped into a coma.  I was working on my computer (a Compaq desktop I had bought the year before) and sitting on the seat.


I had fallen on the floor because the darn seat broke (and yes, because I was too heavy for the seat).  "Aw s$%!@!" I exclaimed.  I brought the broken seat downstairs for my brothers to see.

They (and my sister in laws) broke into uncontrollable laughter for a long time. Resignedly, I said, "You get what you pay for," which caused them to laugh even harder.  Any other time, my father would be laughing right along with them, but as he was in a coma, he was laughing in spirit.

That incident leavened a solemn, grim situation.  Everyone forgot for a moment that my father was dying, and saw the humor in a misfortunate choice I had made.  The epilogue: the new, far more sturdier chair arrived Wednesday.

You do indeed get what you pay for...boy, oh boy, do you ever!


The White House West

Russell Simmons seems to think Hollywood controls Washington, but I don't.

Celebrities have always been influential, and in some cases they have become politicians themselves (see: Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwartzenegger, Sonny Bono, Fred Grandy, et. al.), but do they outright control things?  Perhaps in the niche sense they do, but most of them are used to push the public into government action.

Take for instance World War II.  Series E Bonds, better known as War Bonds, funded that war, and everyone pitched in through the insistence of celebrities (including Reagan) who encouraged people to buy War Bonds.  The benefit of that was that once the war was over, the interest paid from those War Bonds helped fund the massive post-war boom.

Celebrities were also influential in ending the Vietnam War, encouraging boycotts, burning draft cards, and so forth.  To wit, if politicians won't listen to the public and vice versa, they'll certainly listen to a celebrity.  Propaganda is a powerful coercion.

Russell Simmons could be right.  Too much influence leads to corruption, and soon enough the laws and edicts could very well be determined by vapid entertainers who do it only for their own interests, and not for the public.  Even worse: a very well-educated entertainer hell-bent on making the nation in their own image could dilute all of the checks and balances that have been in place to prevent such influence.

I suppose if the White House decided Washington wasn't good enough and that it should be piopped into the middle of Los Angeles, and that Congress would be replaced in toto by celebrities who can barely function without paparazzi, chemical and physical enhancement, a reservation to Spago, and an appointment to the plastic surgeon, it would be a beneficial move.  

After all, aren't all politicians and celebrities are always promoting something?


Emotional KClO3*

I'm going to begin with the following YouTube video.  It's a classic experiment of putting a gummy bear into a tube of molten *potassium chlorate...watch the video, and then return.

Done?  If so, did you marvel at how violent the reaction was?

Now that the science experiment is done (well, okay, here's another that's a little less violent)...the serious stuff.

I don't know what happens to people when someone comes along - sometimes innocently, sometimes not - and decides to disrupt their hard-fought beliefs, but what I'm seeing disturbs me.

Some people do defend their beliefs with a high degree of diplomacy.  "Agree to disagree" then discussing the new Star Wars trailer, buying a couple more beers or the World Series is good.  Physical, emotional, or psychological violence is reprehensible, selfish and totally wrong.

Take for example Edward Snowden, who is in hiding in Russia for giving out classified government secrets.  If Snowden did this in the '80s, even while technology was nascent, he would be in federal prison and never see the light of day until he was 50.  He would be banned from all technology (if he knew how to use it).  Today, he's being celebrated, especially by the starch-bodied self-absorbed and when the "coast is clear" he'll come home to a heroes' welcome, despite the tiny detail that he leaked government secrets that could be used against us.

People who in ordinary circumstances would be in prisons for lengthy jail sentences are glorified, and those who are saying "let's analyze before we judge" are violently rebuffed - sometimes instantly through social media.

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition to mediocre minds" writ large.

A cult-like movement fears the most is two things: irrelevance and the call from their opponents to hear their cause.  You cannot raise funds (to be wasted later) and break stuff when the facts are solid and irrefutable.  Those who leave on their on free will regroup and attract people who want to hear their case, free of the rigid dogma and free to stick to their own principles and speak freely about them.

There is a comeuppance, though: sooner or later, the violent reactions stop, or are forced to halt before they get out of control and destroy all in their path.  They also produce beneficial hard-learned lessons.  Those groups who are swept to the dustbin of irrelevance did so because they thought through bullying people into silence, their mission would live forever; in fact, their mission shattered after some became insufferably dictatorial - or another more malignant parasite swallowed them whole.  Such is the case with violent opposition - sooner or later, people will ignore the mediocre minds when there is nothing tangible to offer.


The $985.8 million elephant in the room

I would like to respond to Jon Keller's commentary about casinos broadcast, because there's one very important thing missing - namely, a $985.8 million elephant in the room named the Massachusetts State Lottery.

Government sponsored gambling, which is what the MSL entails, has enjoyed the far-easier collection of voluntary taxes (or "taxes on the math-challenged/dumb", if that's how you see it) than those offered by private casinos.  To wit: a private casino can offer payouts of up to 99% on its slots, and players can reduce their odds against the casino ("the house") such that they gain a very slight advantage.  Even though the MSL has a far better payout scheme than other lotteries (69-80% vs. 51-70%), in casinos, those same payouts would be reserved for Las Vegas laundromats, airports, drug stores, and other places where the advantage would border on banditry.

It's also easier to see why the MSL has offered higher prizes on its instant tickets.  A decade ago, a $1 instant ticket had a top prize of $2,000, maybe $4,000.  Now, it's $10,000.  $2 instant tickets went from $10,000 to $20,000 top prizes to $100,000.  Fifteen years ago, a $10 instant ticket was big news; today, there are plenty of $10 tickets, $20 tickets, and $30 tickets.

And the capper?  Up until 2009, all prizes over $1 million were required to be paid out over 20 years.  Now, the MSL allows a player to claim the cash value of the million dollar prize, which is accepting 13 of the 20 payments. Thus a million dollars ($50,000 a year x 20 years) becomes $650,000, and after withholding from the state and IRS, the total is $455,000.

(We've bolded the above because the "bad at math" component insists that there's a 54.5% tax rate for cash.  It's 25% Federal withholding and 5% for state withholding - the latter introduced in 2004 on all prizes above $600.  These are the same people who fly into a spittling rage when they buy a $10 ticket and see a $2 prize on the ticket, not realizing the 5X above it means 5 times $2.)

That is the MSL's fear: Casinos will shrink their profits faster than a putdown from Don Rickles.  Hence, they pray that not a single spade of earth will be turned to give them genuine, and reasonable, competition.

(On a side note: The biggest fear of all, whether it's private or government-sponsored gambling, is that those who actually do win will be prudent with their winnings, and be freed from state-sponsored social programs, such as housing, welfare, and so forth.  Yes, if they owe child support and haven't paid, the money will be taken away from them.  Yes, if they were on welfare, the EBT cards will be deactivated immediately.  They may even be forced to pay back other benefits.  "The ones who can least afford to gamble" did so because they saw a risk, took it, and beat incredible odds, which crushes the criticism into fine dust.  They see the MSL as one evil, and if they can, keep it that way.)


Steak, turkey, and chicken tips...no cash, please

Steve Cuozzo of the Post praises luxury restauranteur Danny Meyer for ending tips to waitstaff and history instead charging 35% more on his menu to make up for it.

I think it's a great idea.

People fear that with the no-tip stance, complacency will filter in.  Wait staff will fall to European standards, where "I'm X and I'll be taking care of you tonight" will be replaced with "I'm X, I'll take your order, then disappear because I don't care about your dietary requirements, your personal tastes, or whether you stuff yourselves with pie and whiskey until you burst."

More likely, there will be a lot less opportunity for waitstaff hustling, chasing tips, pooling and splitting them illegally with management, or barely breaking even.

The restaurant culture in America is such that waitstaff get paid virtually peanuts and are forced to chase the extra money just to survive.  Changing it to the model where waitstaff are paid through a generous salary will certainly reduce stress and strain, and if someone chooses to give a little extra, that tip is exclusively the server's - not the manager's skimming off the top.

The onus, then, shifts to the patron, where that $65 Delmonico steak jumps to $87.75, but the patron then doesn't get whipped into submission with endless upsells - another sign of tip-chasing.  The patron pays extra, but receives a far more relaxed atmosphere from waitstaff.  The waitstaff, free from the entitlement of tips (or no tips at all), can serve worry-free, knowing that they're being taken care of.

The real bonuses everyone receives: happy, relaxed staff and patrons, and more profits because the financial incentive, once crassly exploitative, has been diminished.

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