AN HOMAGE TO DECENT PEOPLE

The word “decent” isn’t used much these days. Somehow, it has receded into the past as so much of our vocabulary has. I want to clarify its usage by eliminating other words that have come to replace it and not come close enough to be a synonym. Let me say that the following words are not what I mean- good, kind, charitable, religious, pious, benevolent, hardworking, etc. The closest word is mensch, a Yiddish word that literally translates into “person.”

I believe that I can only clarify the word “decent” by description. Here are a few. Lester was my maintenance supervisor when I was a school superintendent in Pennsylvania. He was an obvious Pennsylvania Dutchman with a really great accent. When the time came for speaking in Dutch, he put it on as thick as peanut butter. I do speak some Dutch and he even surprised me when was speaking to some of his friends or community residents.

Lester did not lie, nor tell stories, nor did he offer up his services for other people. He did all of the work that he had to do and did it well. He never complained and never bragged about any of his accomplishments either as a civilian or a 4 year navy veteran. He was plain spoken, a clear eyed father to his children and a wonderful husband to his wife Anna.

You always knew you could count on him in a pinch. My children loved him. We had a teacher strike during my tenure as superintendent and I worried about them being in town. I called Lester and asked if they could stay with him and Anna. He told me that he would be right over. Lester was the consummate decent man.

Tom was my attorney when we sued the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on behalf of 214 rural school districts. Tom worked for an upscale law firm that took the case on a fee for service and eventually, when we ran out of money, pro-bono. Tom was the lawyer for most of that time.

To speak with Tom, even now, is a treat to my ears. In his expansive role at this high class firm, in which he is now of counsel, he always answers my calls and seems to be happy to speak with me. We have gone through some tough times together.

Tom spent lots of time keeping me at an even keel. He taught me whatever I have learned about forbearance. His quiet and thoughtful ways enabled me to see clearly how we might proceed with our pleadings. In some ways, he would caution me about going out on a limb. It was never a direct statement, but some kind words in my ears.

Eventually, our Supreme Court said that our case was none of their business, even though the constitution was clear about how the state should proceed with funding. Tom had warned us that might occur, so even at the beginning of the case; he created a 501C4 corporation that cold lobby the legislature.

He was correct, our lobbying was successful and we were able to increase the state’s share of school funding to rural schools. I don’t remember Tom ever raising his voice to direct us. As a matter of fact, in the 27 years that I have known him, I have never heard him raise his voice beyond a conversational tone. He is a truly decent man.

When I came to be the executive director of a regional education service agency in western Pennsylvania, I found the financial part of the organization in a shambles. By Buck Day (hunting) in November, I fired the business manager. We then proceeded to go through the process of hiring someone to fill that position

There was something about Andy (Andrea) that struck us all in the interview. She was a plain spoken person who came from the area and had worked in the accounting department of a large company. Even though she was not familiar with public school finance, we hired her.

What we did not know at the time was that this wonderful salt of the earth person would help us make the organization a vibrant and expansive entity. I don’t believe that I can tell you the extent of her improvements, not only in the business department, but in our relations with the seventeen school districts we serviced.

Andy never pushed people to do their jobs. Her calm and plain spoken words came through to people, including school superintendents. She set up a health program for our organization and the seventeen school districts. She helped the business offices in many of our districts. It appeared that she could just about do anything.

There was something that occurred on a regular basis that made all of us understand how she dealt with problems. Our executive staff, five of us, exclusive of Andy, had all been in education. Our once a week staff meetings were education oriented. It became obvious to me that we were speaking in a language that Andy was not conversant with. One day, a few weeks into her tenure, Andy came to see me.

She looked at me and said, “Arnold, I have no idea sometimes what we are talking about at staff meetings.” She suggested that we go out for dinner once in a while, drink a glass of wine, and answer her questions. I was both flabbergasted and delighted.

We did go out for dinner a number of times at the beginning of our working relationship. After a while, Andy knew what we were talking about. That symbolized Andy. She was bright enough to understand that she needed to solve that problem. Her demeanor was one of quietude and Western Pennsylvania speech.

Of all the folks that I worked with at that time, I miss her the most. Unfortunately, the year that I left, a stroke felled her. She was unconscious for 3 months. When she awoke, she was unable to speak, read or write or do anything computational. At that point, she and her boyfriend of many years married. He took care of Andy and still does to his very day.

I think of her often these days. She was the quintessential decent person.

NEAL MADE ME DO IT

NEAL MADE ME DO IT !!!

The other day, my good friend Neal, reminded me that I had not written a blog in a while. I looked back at the dates and he was correct. For some reason I was paying attention to home life more than my obligations to Jean Jacques Crawb. So, you can blame Neal for this blog and any mistakes that I might make in it.

Since this is Neal’s idea, it will also be his blog. Carol and I met Neal and his wife Mary when we moved to Harrisburg and joined a temple there. I believe that we hit it off right away because of our senses of humor. At that point Neal and Mary had a little boy Ben, who was about two and Mary was ready to give birth to twins. I can still see them lying on the floor of their living room cooing and laughing.

Neal and I both got onto the Temple Board at about the same time. He eventually became the treasurer. However, that’s not the highlight of his career. He and I used to fool around at board meetings and probably drove some people crazy. It’s not as if we were fooling around, but we each had views that were at variance with the majority of the board.

Now you must understand that Neal and I do not share political views. He is a real conservative (not like the common term used today). He is for smaller government, individual enterprise, and fairness to those who need help. I am more to the left of center (you probably knew that) and we would actually discuss these topics before, during and after the board meetings.

Neal used to drive Carol crazy when she spent 3 years as president of the synagogue. He would make her laugh and lose track of what she was trying to do. Neal is not just a talker. He is a doer of the highest order. He was able to computerize our synagogue, put our budget on it, create a homepage, and organize painting the entire downstairs (social room) of the synagogue. Help his son Ben and Friends to build a handicap ramp on the side of the building. He honchoed so many things that made our temple a better place.

Lately, during the summer, the entire clan comes to Myrtle Beach, SC and meets us in Charleston. Neal used to complain that he could not get Whoopie Pies in Harrisburg. So, we sent him a couple of boxes. When we meet in Charleston, there is a Whoopie Pie General Store. He buys a bunch.

The twin girls, Rachel and Nancy have graduated from college. Cannot believe that they are as old as they are. Nancy works at a local hospital in Harrisburg. Rachel does her thing with a marketing company and in her spare time she does a website for South Carolina Organization of Rural Schools (SCORS). They are both delightful young women. Yes, they do have that twin thing and are so close to each other. Rachel just purchased a house and Nancy lives there too.

All of this does not explain Neal and his family. Mary, his wife, is a one of a kind person. There are no limits to her ability to keep track of her family, which also includes her mom. There is much of her in the twins and in her son Ben, who will be married soon.

We keep in touch with everyone including Mary’s mom Mary. They are a delight to be around. Maybe we can con them into moving to Charleston.

HOW SMART IS JIM COMEY?

This will be the shortest blog I have written in the eight years that I have been writing blogs. I am sure that you are aware that Jim Comey was trained as an attorney. He also understood that Mr. Trump used to threaten his adversaries with the idea that he taped their conversations.

Now that you have either heard or seen his memoranda, does it strike you as amazing that he could remember every single work of his meetings an phonecalls with Mr. Trump?

Did he walking into his physical meetings with President Trump “wired?” Did he have his phone tapped when he spoke to Mr.Trump on the phone?

YOU ARE DOING THE SAME STUPID THING

Here is a headline from an article recently posted on Slate.com:

Advice on how to talk to the white working class without insulting them

You haven’t learned anything yet, have you? What is wrong with you? Did you not look at any of the polls? Do you believe that there is a homogenous group out there called, “The White Working Class.?” Does that mean that there is a homogenous anything out there?

There people who voted for Trump, really voted against how they have been treated over the past 50 years. Don’t come at me with Democrat or Republican. I have lived through most of those years as a sentient person advocating for rural people. Can’t you understand that this was their one chance to get even with those 3 piece suited over educated smarmy know it all that they put in the “Liberal Box.”

Let me give you one example of how this hatred can be inspired. As an educator in a very rural area, I was aware of the massive unemployment among the people in our area (3000 square miles in Northwest PA). I somehow got involved in economic development. After a time, I was asked this question, “How come all of the companies coming to PA are settling in just a few areas?” I guess I could have answered by saying that logistics mandated that they settle where there is transportation, services, skilled workers and such.

However, there were many industries that would have been advantaged by locating on route 80 only 60 miles from the Ohio border and a few hours away for 2/3 of the population of the U.S. Some of these industries required skills that could have been acquired by workers there or they were minimum skilled jobs.

So, I decided to inquire of the state, how they decided where to direct the companies who inquired about PA locations. It took me a bunch of time to locate the person who actually answered those questions. When I spoke with her, and asked her the question, she said, “We send them to suburban Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Allegheny County, Harrisburg and its suburbs, etc.” I then asked her why she does not consider some of the companies to other places in some rural area. She said, and I am not kidding, “Why should I send them to hamburger, when I could send them to steak.”

You may interpret that question as you will. To me, it was a succinct answer to how state government and later on federal government discriminate against rural people. I understand that you might want to put this in terms of “White Working Class,” but if you look more carefully, you will see that it is mainly rural people with these kinds of anti-establishment feelings.

Those in suburban communities are mostly looking inward toward the cities. They may be thinking that cities are not doing well and we must take care of ourselves. They rarely turn around and look to the rural areas that border them. Rural people know that they are being disregarded. They know that the majority of the still think that rural people are mostly farmers. That is so far from the truth these days.

The portrayal of rural people in the media is astounding. And sickening. Most of the jokes about rural people are demeaning. I have been chided for many years for describing programs like Lake Woebegon as anti- rural in his description of the unknowing rural people. How about Gomer Pyle, even Jeff Foxworthy and the Cable guy make rural people look like jokes. Do you think maybe there is a part of the soul of rural people that resents all of these things? Did they see Trump as someone who might get even for them? They didn’t seem to care that he was just the kind of person who really knew nothing about them, but was going to do things that they would like.

Once again read, “Deer Hunting with Jesus,” by Joe Bageant

VLADIMIR, HE’S MAKING A DURACHIT OUT OF YOU

See if you can recreate in your mind’s eye the scene in the oval office with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.Kislyak  and the Russian foreign minister, Lavrov.  Along with Trump, they look like they were a bit inebriated, while they were laughing hysterically. To the American people, that might have looked a bit askew. Then when we found out what went on in that meeting, we might have gotten angry.

What did that picture look like in the Russian press? Let’s take this to the people in the street in Sverdlovsk, or Vladivostok, or any other town and city in the Russian Federation. With unemployment in Russia growing and the economy on its knees, it probably looked like the big wheels having a good time with the capitalist President of the United States.

This would go along with the various positive things that Trump has propounded about what a wonderful person Vladimir is. Could it be that from the Russian perspective, that Trump has corralled Vladimir and his cronies into doing things that might have a negative effect on the Russian Federation? Do the Russians think, as some do here in the U.S., that Trump is an incredibly smart businessman, who has outsmarted the Russian autocrat.

Can it be true that this man, Trump, is so clever that he has a public persona of ignorance of world affairs, unknowing in the machinations of the world economy, and no understanding of history? After all, he is an Ivy League graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, a long and somewhat successful career as a businessman, a television star, and an international tradesman?

Look out Vladimir; you are being taken by one of the greatest actors in American history. Hasn’t it occurred to you that when you supported Trump, he might really have been conning you to do that. Remember how he wanted your hackers to find Hillary’s 30,000 emails? Didn’t you even consider that he would eventually be blaming you for any of the bad things that happen during his presidency?

Even the words that he used with Kislyak and Lavrov about F.B.I. Director Comey strike you as somewhat odd? It is almost as if Trump understands that his public behavior, odd as it might be, is a perfect ruse to get Vladimir comfortable with his apparent stupidity. Then, with his guard down, and his certainty that Trump is a durachit, Donny Littlehands then pulls of a coup of humongous proportions.

Trump is not the only person to affect a similar strategy. There have been countless politicians in the past and maybe even today who appear one way in public and another in the confines of their posse. When you look at The Great Turtle, Mitch McConnell, you see a lethargic, drawling boob. However, in private he is an eloquent mastermind of political strategy. There can be no doubt that he is conning us into thinking that he is a bit learning disabled.

So, there you have it. This giant charade may go on for the next 7.5 years. You better watch out Vladimir. Constantly check your spectacles, testicles, watch and wallet after a conversation with Donald Trump.

 

I PUT A PUSSY WILLOW UP MY NOSE

My wife, Carol, has been involved in education for a long time. She spent 14 years teaching 3rd grade and gifted kids. Her adventures with the gifted group have been grist for so many stories. At the time Carol taught, many gifted programs did not divide the children by age. If they did, there were a few grades in any group.

It is for that reason that planning activities for those kinds of children becomes even more difficult. These are never ordinary kids. If they are really gifted, they give their regular teachers headaches. How about a kindergarten child who became the milk money counter because he did a better and more accurate job than the kindergarten teacher. Furthermore, the teacher appreciated the extra time that this munchkin gave her to do other chores in the classroom.

How about the second grader who worried about his teacher because she had a difficult time understanding the concept of negative numbers. If you have ever been a teacher at any grade, you have run into these kinds of children once in a while. Most teachers love to have them in their classes. They add so much to the classroom atmosphere even while driving the teacher nuts.

Sally was in kindergarten. She would cry when she came to Carol’s class. Carol finally got her to tell what she was crying about. In a blubbery voice she said, “I worry about the children that I have left behind in kindergarten. They won’t be able to play the games because I am the only one in class who can read.” Touche Mrs. Hillman.

Mark was in third grade and Carol had prepared a peanut butter and confectionary concoction that was stiff like clay. The children were supposed to make it into something creative. Mark kept licking his hands and rolling the concoction in his hands. He clearly wanted to eat it. Carol said to him, “You cannot eat it until you create something out of it other than a ball.” He quickly made fist, traced his thumbnail down the center of the ball from top to bottom of the ball and said, “It’s a hiney,” and stuffed it into this mouth.

Roger was in kindergarten and wore glasses that were covered in chalk dust and always askew. His favorite activity was to recite songs backwards. When asked what he was most anxious to learn about, he thought for a moment and asked, “How does Santa get to all of those houses in one night?”

Brittany was in third grade. One day she said to Carol, “Do you have dry underwear?” Carol said, “yes,” do you?” “No I need some.”

Then there is Johann. Johann was a really exceptional first grader who was fond of making animal noises. He was very immature for his age. If you can imagine someone so bright and then immature at the same time.

Carol decided to take the lot of her children to the Reading Museum to see some shrunken heads, and other important things like paintings and statues. In front of the museum was a small stream with a garden and little bridges. The kids loved it until Johann came up to Carol and said, “Mrs. Hillman I stuck a pussy willow up my nose as far as it could go and now I can’t get it out.”

Carol looked at Johann and asked, “Why did you do that? His answer was, “I just wanted to see how far up it could go.” So, with a quick switch in lesson planning, Carol gathered the troops and took the children to the emergency ward of the next door Reading Hospital where the kids learned a bunch. Johann was fine. The end of the story happened a few years ago. Carol discovered that Johann is now Dr. Johann the pediatrician. How about that?

 

 

WHAT’S WRONG WITH BEING ANGRY?

 

You can read the title of this blog posting in two ways. The first way is to ask why it is wrong be angry. The other is to ask a rhetorical question, “Why can’t I be angry.” It is the latter surmise that I am referring to. Evidently, there has been a pivot (I now hate that word and its current use) in our country.

Before the 2016, it was the followers of Donny Littlehands that were out there yelling about almost everything in our country. The found their frustrations being answered by a candidate that tapped into their anger. They had no idea that this catering to their anger would eventually lead to their eventual demise.

Another group of dissatisfied customers was the followers of the “Bern.” They were so angry that their ideals were not being recognized by the oldsters in the Democratic Party. They believed all that Bernie told them could happen. They also had no idea that their lack of participation in the election process would lead to their eventual demise.

There you have it. A pile of people with rage setting a course for perdition. Except, that one of the groups has gotten their dreams come true and the other their worst fears.

Is it possible that we all viewed this rage with a skeptical glance? We are the middle of the roaders of all stripes. How did this fringe candidate beat all of those other fine looking 17 candidates to become the scion of the Grand Old Party?

As you look back at the campaign of the first woman to be a presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, do you now wonder how a person with such a placid personality and little emotion could have been nominated. How did she not realize that the passion of a new generation and their absence in November election would doom her to failure?

Was there a candidate on either side of the political spectrum who engendered as much passion as the followers of Donny Littlehands? The answer is maybe. Bernie’s youngsters were concentrated in specific areas of the country. Donny’s were all over the map.

Now we have a resistance movement that is mostly middle class women who seem to believe that acting like ladies and gentlemen is a path to dethroning this would be dictator. Folks, that’s not the way it is going to happen.

If you interpret the above dissertation as a call to arms, you are sadly and unequivocally mistaken. It is a call to passion. You are fighting against a foe who has found bedrock of passion and hatred of all the middle class values that we treasure. The answer to this provocation is not to act even more like ladies and gentlemen, but to summon up your gut reactions and speak them or write about them or some other form of active protest.

Let me describe a scene right here in Adult Disneyworld. Our congressman and former Governor of South Carolina, the Appalachian Trail and Argentina (you remember him don’t you) has had a number of Town Hall meetings. He is a slickster and knows how to play a crowd, even a hostile one.

In his visit here in Sun City, his first questioner was an angry gentlemen who said things that were true, but in a way that was very angry and maybe even off color. He flipped a bird to those that tried to shut him up. There was nothing in his words that wasn’t true. Yet, the crowd there assembled (all old people) insisted that he sit down or be thrown out. Two huge security people approached him to bodily throw him out. The slick congressman went over to the man and kind of caressed him and calmed him down. This made the congressman a gentleman and the crowd approved.

It’s kind of like when you are approached by a well-dressed man on a street asking for directions, he stumbles as he says thanks you and brushes by you. You later discover that he has picked your pocket of your wallet.

In other town hall meetings across the country, the successful ones, the ones with the most vigor are the loud ones, the ones you see on pt. For some reason we seem to enjoy those displays of raw emotion. However, in our own placid approach, we don’t do such things.

Anger does not mean rational thinking. Anger is a display of what one is really thinking. You should be angry about the things that are happening in our country. We have a president who has called our constitution “archaic.” We have a president who crowed that he did not need any American banks to fund him because he got more than enough from Russian sources (Eric Trump and Donny Littlehands).

We have a majority of Congressmen who believe that taking $800 billion from Medicaid will make the program stronger. Don’t the lies and broken promises make you angry? Yes, anger is a normal emotion. It is not something that requires its suppression when it lifts your bile. If anger is all you do and you take no political action, then anger is, in fact, useless.

Anger is a stimulant to action. Trying to be ladies and gentlemen does not work in 2017 and maybe even forward. Think of what you might have said to Donny Littlehands if you were Carly Fiorina and Donny said a stupid remark about your face. What would you have said if you were Jeb Bush and Donny said that you had no energy? You were governor of Florida, would you have let this punk say those things about you. What would you have said to Donny if he accused your father of killing JFK?

We should all be angry at the actions of those who have been appointed as cabinet members and subalterns. The newest member of the Littlehands administration, the head of the FCC had been an attorney for Verizon. There has been an attempt by some of the larger carriers, such as Verizon to corrupt “Net Neutrality.” This means that there could be a time when the carriers decided what you could get on the web and the larger carriers would have more swack to edge out smaller companies.

How about Trump children and their relatives going to China and selling visas to Chinese businessmen for 500k in order for them to invest in their businesses. How about Ivanka Trump getting licenses from China for her companies to sell in China. Should we not be angry about the U.S. government paying money to a Trump enterprise- Mar a Lago and a New York City apartment because the Littlehands child is in school there and the mom does not want to move into the White House?

Are all of these not things to be angry about. So to the elderly lady who came to my house the other day and reacted negatively to my being angry about these things, where has being civil and mannerly gotten us? While the administration makes ethnic snides, racial epithets, and a president who has provided us with proof that he is a vulgar misogynist and cheater on his wives, we should rise all above that and be civil. Not on your ever lovin’ rear end. Be angry and do something.