The Lesson from Florida

25 March 2012

Last week, a rednecked peckerwood who regards himself as a protector of the common weal, saw a black kid walking around in a neighborhood where one doesn’t see many black kids.  Self-said protector, who carried a piece, followed the kid.  The kid got nervous, the peckerwood got hot under the collar and, bang, the peckerwood shot the kid.  Dead.

Racism, rank and foul.  And now the peckerwood gets a chance to sit in Old Sparky.  Bad deal all around.

I may be making things worse, but I’m going to play “blame the victim.”  But before I do, I’d like to point out that any male of any race who’s walking all alone in a middle-class neighborhood in the dark of night is going to arouse suspicion.

OK, so here goes.  If someone, anyone, from a peaceful middle-class neighborhood, saw a bearded Afghan trooping down the sidewalk in the wee-small hours wearing full tribal raiment complete with the funny little hat, the alarm bells would be ringing everywhere and Homeland Security would be Johny on the spot.  Same holds true if the individual were white as the driven snow, but sported a shaved head, an iron cross dangling from his neck, wore a t-shirt with “White Power” stenciled on the front and back and, to top it all off, had a swastika tattooed on his cheek.

On the other hand, if General Colin Powell or President  Hamid Karzai were walking down the same street at the same time, people would no doubt give them second looks, but ascertaining they too were middle-class, thanks to their middle-class appearance and comportment, everyone would go back to bed.  The peckerwood?  Well he’d probably squint and grimace, maybe even grind his teeth a bit, then write them off as just not his kind.  The peckerwood would go in his way, looking for more malefactors of society.  Now I don’t know what the dead kid in Florida looked like, but I am going to address the stereotype that made him, as a young black male, a cause for concern.

ONE:  Young black males run around in oh-so baggy  pants with crotches hanging to the knees and the legs cut off at mid-calf.  The hanging pants expose ether the wearer’s underpants, or his ass-crack.  These pants are known to the white middle class as “shit-britches” for they look weighted down by a ten pound load in the seat.  This one fact alone makes a person stand out in a highly negative way.

TWO:  They like to go around in “hoodies”, i.e., pull-over sweatshirts with hoods, and the hood pulled up.  Even on hot days and nights.  Only thugs and the Unibomber do this.

THREE:  If a front tooth becomes carious and needs a filling, these guys choose gold.  It makes one think of pirates.

FOUR:  Their cars are too often pimpmobiles, i.e., an old Caddie or Lincoln, all jacked up with tiny little wheels and painted a shocking pink.

FIVE:  When spoken too, they reply with such words as “axe” instead of “ask”.  They affect a strange and incomprehensible dialect generously referred to as Ebonics.

SIX:  Young black males’ high rate of incarceration for violent crimes and drug dealing.  This is without a doubt, the most pernicious component in the stereotype of young black males, and the most difficult one with which to deal.

SEVENTH:  Their comportment is bad.  When they talk, they screech.  They spit gum all over sidewalks.  They gather in bare-chested groups and belt beer.

EIGHTH: They spend too much time playing basketball.

If young black males will listen to a few simple tips from an old salesman, things will go a lot easier.

FIRST:  Hitch up the baggy pants and tuck in your shirt.  Better yet, go buy some nice middle-class clothing at Nordstrom or The Gap, and toss the shit-britches in the trash.

SECOND:  Go back the the dentist and have the gold filling replaced with a crown matching the rest of your teeth.

THIRD:  Find an English professor and pay the professor to teach you how to speak businessman’s English.  You’ll end up talking like President Obama and Bryant Gumbel, and that’s not a bad thing.

FOURTH:  Let your hair grow out.  Not an Afro, but what’s called a businessman’s cut.  Like what President Obama wears.  Or General Powell.

FIFTH:  Go get a pair of wire framed glasses.  If you don’t need glasses, have the optician fix you up with optically flat lenses.  You won’t believe how a pair of glasses will make you appear older than your years.  And educated.  A mover and shaker.  Someone of importance.  In my sales work, I’ve advised several young men to do just this one thing and their sales careers improved.

SIXTH:  Drive a decent car.  Something conservative and nice.  Think Caddies, Chryslers, BMWs, Lexus and such.  And for heavens’ sake no mudflaps, no dingleberries, no odd-sized wheels — keep it the way the factory built it.

SEVENTH:  Stay away from the people and environments that get young black males arrested and convicted.  Or shot.  Like walking around a sleeping neighborhood all by yourself and in the dark of night.  (Hell, even I wouldn’t do that.)

EIGHTH:  Take courses in marketing and sales, courses from which anyone can profit.  You may have flunked out, or been kicked out, of high school, but you can find someone, somewhere who can teach these things.

If you don’t think what I’ve said makes any difference, I’d like to tell you of my late friend, a fellow we’ll call Bill.  Bill was black.  I met Bill one night when we got in an acceleration contest on Park Avenue in Minneapolis.  It was a dead heat, so we pulled into Porky’s and introduced ourselves.  We became fast friends and Bill became my little girl’s godfather.

Bill was born and raised in rural Oklahoma, moving to the Twin Cities for his senior year of high school.  When I met Bill, he was the lot boy at the Plymouth dealership where he bought his car.  Most of his day was spent washing cars, sometimes running parts for the service department.  Before long, Bill signed up for night classes at a local college and got a BSME.  He then got involved in Junior Achievement where he networked and nailed a plum job at a manufacturer on the North End.  Later, he went back to the same college, again at nights, and received an MBA.  A few years later, he and another fellow started their own business of which Bill was the president.  Under Bill’s management, the business did real, real well (I should have been so fortunate).  There were a few occasions when Bill got a traffic ticket, but because of his demeanor, his appearance and his educated way of speaking, the cop always called him Sir.

I can guarantee – guarantee – if that kid in Florida had practiced the things I’ve described, and lived his life as Bill lived his, the kid would be alive today.

-Merlin-


The Rat

21 March 2012

A coupe day ago, I went to get in the car and espied a wad of paper I’d tossed on the passengers’ seat.  It was all chewed up – shreds and pieces all over the place.  I had a rodent in my car.  I had not a single clue as to how it got in, but I fervently hoped it had gotten back out.

No such luck.  The next day, I spotted little crumbs of foam rubber under the driver’s seat, along with some small “raisins” .  The little S.O.B. was still with me.  Should I fumigate?   Nah, the car would stink for ages.  It’d probably make the wife unit and me sick as dogs.  Now I could lock Sweetpea, my cat, in the car overnight; she kills anything she sees — even tried to kill the neighbor’s Shih-Tzu.  The little mop ran into it’s doggie door and that ended the chase.  Sweetpea  paced back and forth, looking in the doggie door while Shis-Tzu quaked with fear and pissed on the floor (you know how little dogs are).  I decided against that course of action as Sweetpea could get tangled in the wires under the seat.

The next morning I saw a hole had been chewed in the seat cushion.  Damn!  Rodents will chew through anything, including the insulation on wires.  The miserable, flea-ridden creature could cripple my car just so he could sharpen his teeth.  Bastard!  Well, perhaps he ate the foam rubber and it clogged his guts and he died.

I bought a Victory mouse trap and set it on the floor of the backseat, just to the rear of the pile of chewings.  I put down the window, closed the door and went out to muck in the flower bed.  It wasn’t but ten minutes and I heard a snap.  Ah HA, I got the sucker.  Anticipating my kill, I opened the car door, prepared to dump the little carcass into the compost heap.  But there was no mouse in the trap.  Instead, there was a rat, standing on his hind legs and squeaking his indignation at me.

I have no idea how he got into the car, much less avoided the trap, but avoid it he had.  “You little piece of crap!” I yelled.  With that, he scuttled back under the car seat.  What to do, what to do.

Ah, a rat trap baited with foul smelling cheese might do the trick.  That night I smeared some Gorgonzola on the trigger, left the rear car door open and placed the trap on the floor.  The next morning the cheese was gone and the trap not sprung.  I was really tempted to go get Sweetpea, but she’d just get fleas and tapeworms from the damned thing, for she always ate her kill.

Fortunately, the rat left my car so I made sure the Toyota always had the windows up.  And for good measure, left a baited rat trap nearby.

The next morning I came into the garage and there it was the rat; large, corpulent, and insolent as hell.  If the rat could have given me the finger, it would have.  I picked up a  hunk from the wood pile and threw it at the rat.  Missed.  The rat looked at me, squeaked and headed for a small gap under the overhead door.  With another piece of wood in my hand, I ran out the side door hoping to intercept the horrid little creature.  But of course I couldn’t.  Before I could close on it, it ran beneath the woodshed.

I ran in the house and fetched my old pellet pistol.  Back out by the woodshed, I knelt an peered in among the footings.  And sure enough, there he was.; two beady eyes peering back.  “Got you, you little shit” I hissed as I pulled the pistol from my belt.  Evidently, the rat had never gotten wise to pellet guns, for he just kept looking at me with nonchalance.

I aimed at a spot between the beady eyes, and with a steady slow pull of the trigger, let a pellet fly.  The two eyes disappeared in a spray of blood and brains, and that was that.  Of course there was a bit of a smell for a few days.

Having had this experience once, I make sure a rat trap is always in the garage, loaded and cocked.

-Merlin-


The Wonder of Europe

10 March 2012

Yesterday I caught a BBC feed in which a disquieting article appeared.  It seems that in the highest circles of the British government, they are afraid the European Union (EU) will fail.  Many in the UK (and the USofA) are afraid Europe is getting up to its old tricks: Bickering, posturing, dissent and, finally, war.

War.  You can imagine how this lamentable state of affairs will come about.  Tensions continue to mount as the bigger, more powerful and far richer nations slam economic privation on Greece.  These “bailouts” impose a level of austerity not seen since WWI when the Allies made Germany cough up ruinous reparations.  The German people were reduced to absolute penury and the discontent the penury generated made fertile ground for the first mountebank or crank to come along.  And of course, one did.

And one can now.  It might be one of these Dutchmen who go around bitching about immigrants.  This person will anathematize Greece as a parasite and demand some outrageous thing.  Before you know it, the rich European states will want to do something to Greece.  If the EU isn’t again prosperous, some trumped-up case will be made that the Greeks have become terrorists.  Taking a tip from the USofA, a “coalition of the willing” will form around Germany.  It will attract the more bilious states in Central Europe and, one fine day, the coalition will invade Greece so as to protect their assets.  Sensing an opportunity to jam-up it’s old rival and enemy, Turkey will join in the fun

As an antipode, France will gather to her bosom, Spain, Italy, Latvia, Estonia et al and perhaps the Balkans as well.  This coalition will side with Greece, opposing the “coalition of the willing” and the whole continent will erupt, just as it did twice in the 20th Century.  This time, however, the USofA will stay out of it, except to side with England, should the UK be threatened.

After the war is all over, the penitent Europeans will promise never to do it again, but Europe will be desolated.   After a bit, the Brits and Americans, joined by Canada and Australia, will come in to pick through the bones.  The Chinese will want a piece of the action too and what’s left of Europe will become their vassal states.  Russia won’t make a peep as they’ll be selling their gas and oil in both directions: east to the Red Chinese and west to the vassal states.

How can Europeans do this to themselves time after time?  America, with as much land and people as Europe doesn’t do this kind of thing — well, we did have a civil war, so I don’t suppose we can preach.  But it’s instructive to remember our Civil War was created along state borders, just like the European wars.  Our Civil War was not some amorphous agglutinations of tribes, it was state against state, right along the borders.  Indeed, when we fought the Civil War, we weren’t that much different than the Europeans.  So what’s different?

Two things.  One: We have a common language.  I can two-way conversation with a Floridian, but can a Brit have a two-way conversation with, say, a Croat?  A common language means a common people.  I mean, look at the failure of multiculturalism in Europe where immigrant population are inward looking and never learn their new countries native tongue.  People there often can’t talk with folks across the street.

Two, we have a constitution.  In America, enough  states decided that going it alone wasn’t such a hot idea and our Constitution came to being.  Of course, there were plenty of rough spots after the Constitution was passed, such as the whiskey rebellion, reaching  a low point  in the Civil War.  After that blood letting, the country more or less came back together and the Constitution reigned.

After the Civil Way, a resurgent  Federal government stuffed some things down the states’ throats which killed any remaining notions that Virginia or Minnesota were indeed separate state like France and Luxembourg.  A good example is the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), which regulates interstate commerce, preventing the states from sticking it to each other and ensuring free passage of people and goods across state lines.  Such Federal laws and regulations have diminished the power of the fifty states to where they are little more than prefectures.

While people in Washington State and Idaho consider themselves to be peers, can you imagine the Germans feeling that way about the French?  Or the French feeling that same way about Italians?  No, of course not.  No European state will cede a jot of its autonomy to a central European government — each will insist its language, national culture and pride must be preserved and the others can go to Hell.  In the USofA, Washington DC can order the forced occupation of a state by Federal troops, just as JFK did when enforcing the 13th Amendment on the school-house steps.

And consider this: If Austria said it was pulling out of the EU, it would pull out.  Perhaps the Germans would wring their hands a bit, but that would be that.  If Texas declared its independence from the USofA, it would be occupied by Federal forces by nightfall and the Governor arrested for sedition and treason.

Can such a central government exist in Europe, a government that could bring all the bickering states to heel?  Absolutely not, and so the Brits are right.

-Merlin-


The Oscars

1 March 2012

Yes, I watched them.  What a snore!  And weren’t they dreadful?  They always are.  Mawkish, smarmy, lachrymose and droning.

The host calls out some celeb who reads some drivel from a teleprompter, opens an envelope speaks a name and all hell breaks loose.  Someone, feigning surprise, stands.  With much blubbering, this individual comes up to the stage to be given an ugly little statue (I got a better looking trophy at the drag strip back in 1964) .  This person will then spend up to twenty minutes thanking everyone involved, including the bootblack from the bus depot.  Then the tableau repeats ad infinitum.    The whole Academy Awards thing  takes longer than a baseball game.

What adds to the length is that every year, they add more and more categories, getting down to such things as they guy who empties the Sani-Cans on the set.  However, conspicuous by its absence is award for the lowest Nod Factor.  What’s a Nod Factor?  The Nod Factor is a measure of how many people nod-off during the film, and for how long they stay asleep.  The scale runs from 0-9, with 0 being the best and 9 being the worst.  For example: Zero would be the Star Wars movies and nine would be My Dinner with Andre.  Here’s how the nod factor would work.

Truckers, airplane pilots and selected Mercedes-Benz owners are beginning to use a small headset that tracks eye movements.  The headset contains two little infra-red lasers and their associated sensors that keep track of your eyes.  Whenever you begin to lose focus – when you’re about to nod off – the sensors detect this and set off some sort of alarm.  Why not use this technology to find out when members of the audience are about to, yes, nod off?   But instead of an alarm, the little headset would start counting minutes until the subject awakens. It would, of course, record multiple instances of nodding off.  When the show’s over, an usher collects the headsets and the data are disgorged.

To get a good sampling, the little headsets would be given out randomly to, let’s say, every fifth ticket holder and the holders’ age and gender recorded.  To further refine the data, the study would be run in a random sample of towns and cities across the USA at the same time-slot and, on the same number of days after the film’s release.

Gad, imagine the possibilities here.  For example, you could discover that ten-year old boys are turned-on by Duke Nukem and that thirteen-year old boys are turned-on by smut.  This system’s data would be refined even further my measuring when headsets are returned to the usher before the movie ends.

What producer wouldn’t love to know how many women, and of which ages, nod-off at scenes of male bonding, but stay alert during scenes of girly sleep-overs where the participants run around in skimpy PJs.  Data like these would let movie-makers know in advance which audiences will stay awake and tailor its advertising campaign accordingly.  The data will also predict which movies will be dogs not worth making.  The mind boggles.

Of course, movie goers would like it too.  For example, the movie Pearl Harbor would earn a male-adjusted Nod Factor of 7 or 8 while Ed Guien would earn a full zero.   The female-adjusted Nod Factors for the same two pictures would be 1 or 2 for the former and a 9 for the latter.  With this information published beside the parental ratings, people would never miss movies they’d like, or have to sleep through ones they wouldn’t.

Thanks to this technology and sampling method, I myself could win an Oscar as the man who brought total cynicism and exploitation to Hollywood.  I can hardly wait.

-Merlin-