I GET MY HANDS DIRTY

I got up early this morning, dressed, took my pills and got into my Black Mafia Staff car and went to distribute signs around my rather large voting area. I am in region 2 of the Central Dauphin School District and it is very large. There are 22,000 souls in my area and they spread out from really urban to really rural.

Some major roads go through it- route 322, rte 83 and route 81. There are also some major streets and boulevards that make putting up signs very hazardous.
I was on one of the roads wearing my electricians gloves and looking for all the world like one of those convicts that pick up trash at the sides of roads. The metal part of the sign is an open ended rectangle with the open end the two feet that you shove in the ground. Handling them really can get your hands filthy, if you don’t wear the gloves. Who knew that the actual earth on the sides of roads is probably two inches deep on top of some sort of crushed rock or granite.

It took me some time to push these wires into the ground and then put my sign up. At one point, I heard a car speed by with a loud voice yelling out my name in a sort of falsetto voice. I count that as one of my votes. I also had trouble figuring out who to ask about putting signs in front of strip malls or businesses. I was o.k. with the bowling alley. I went in wearing my official hat with the American flag on it and asked the manager. He was happy to have me put it out front. When I asked the person in the pizza shop in a strip mall, he told me that he did not care what I did with my sign. I do not think that he will be part of my intrepid band of pro me voters.

I occasionally meet some people on the street who see my signs on the car ( yes they are magnetic and attract attention). These people wave to me and then go on with their business of walking. The lawn mowers and service people are really not that friendly.

Kids seem to be interested in my signs as I drive by and often wave to me or give me a thumbs up. Too bad most of them will not be able to vote. I am trying to get some young people involved in my campaign as poll workers. These would be people who would hand out my palm cards ( a political word that describes a 4 x8 card with a picture and some info about you) and generally smile and say nice things. I will not have any non-smilers in that group.

There are fifteen precincts in my region. That would mean I would need an army of folks to man the polls all day long. That will not happen. I need about thirty people to be at the polls between 7-9 in the morning and 5-7 in the evening. That will take up most of the voters. I believe I can cover all the polls with volunteers. I will probably ride around all day showing my face to the morning and afternoon dribblers.

VAYA CON DIOS

So we got on this bus from the place where we were staying in Puerto Vallarta, on the Pacific side of Mexico. The buses are not the old ones, with the chickens and the screaming children. These were relatively new and driven like we were going around an oval track, rather than down a precipitous mountain. We got on and immediately started hearing the strumming of guitars and a plaintive voice singing Vaya Condios and other Mexican tunes.

The difficulty with hearing and seeing on that bus is that everyone, not in seats is standing in front of the performer. Sometimes, the performer gets on with you and you can really, REALLY, hear him ( and it is always a him) because he is singing in your ear. If you are really fortunate, he is carrying a boombox and is doing some karaoke in you head as you try and let your mind wander into more temperate sounds.

My two grandchildren, ages 10 and 12 are not used to this kind of happening and are really fascinated by these wandering troubadours. At first, they asked us to give the guys a few pesos and later on asked if they could give it to themselves. The trouble with giving these gents money is that they then think that it is their obligation to come closer and sing louder. The only advantage is that you can ask them to sing a song that you know is kind of quiet like Quantanamera. Other than that they tend to sing at the top of their lungs.

The singing goes on in a more convoluted way when you are sitting in a restaurant and a whole mariachi band comes up to your table and wants to do a complete concert. It is even worse when they ask you what songs YOU would like to hear. Since they don’t know, “There Goes My Baby,” by the Drifters I am left with La Bamba, or Besame Mucho or the much maligned La Cucaracha ( if that’s the way you spell it).

You can’t get away from these musicians, even in a Chinese Restaurant when a young man strolls over to you and begins to sings rock and roll songs in an unintelligible language that sounds like Spanish laced with Pennsylvania Dutch. My grandchildren, of course, love every moment of it and reach into our pockets to give each one of these people some pesos. I am hoping, when they get older, that they become more discerning because there are not tryouts for these jobs.

BASEBALL, STEROIDS AND SPITBALLS

There has always been cheating in baseball. If you read long ago newspapers you will see that “sharks” ( old talk for gamblers) hung around ballplayers and games from the beginning of the sport. Before pro football and pro basketball, baseball was the sport to bet on. I am not only talking about the “Black Sox” scandal of 1919, but earlier and maybe even later.

We have not yet forgiven Pete Rose his gambling problems and may never in my lifetime. Those who vote for the Hall of Fame inductees seem to have a grudge against someone who bet on baseball. They do not have the same feeling about the HGH and PED juiced souls that populated the game from the late 1980’s to the early part of the 21st century.

There are arguments pro and con, about who should and shouldn’t have, at least, an asterisk, to the upper right of his records. As Barry Bonds’ trial comes to a close with a less than satisfactory end, we wish that all of this stuff would be cleared up. Yet we see Mark McGuire, who admitted his culpability, in the St. Louis Cardinal dugout as a coach. We see Alex Rodriguez still playing for the Yankees, as was Manny Ramirez, who just retired rather than get suspended again. Yes, he would have been allowed to play after his 100 game suspensions.

Why do we want to punish Roger Clemens so much? Is it the pompous manner in which he declared himself free of such drugs? Why is it that we can still see Rafael Palmeiro testifying in front of Congress decrying those who imbibed and then found out that he did?

We do we wink at certain cheating and go ape at others. When Gaylord Perry admitted to throwing the dreaded “spitter,” we kind of smiled and thought of Perry as and old trickster and allowed him into the Hall of Fame. What about the pitchers who used slippery elm, sand paper and the various offshoots of the finger nail, or belt buckle to either discolor or deface the ball as it left the pitcher’s hand?

I can still remember pitchers cutting their sleeves so that it would distract hitters. How about teams who had their field crews tilt the edges of the field one way or the other to give their team an advantage at bat because they were either very fast or very slow runners? How about the spy in the scoreboard, a trick that continued for many years? You planted someone in the scoreboard to catch the signs to the pitcher and then transfer it to the home team’s coaches.

Somehow none of these, including outright throwing of ball games annoys us, gets us upset as to the steroids. There is something Hulklike about our dislike for super strength, super recuperative ability, super eyesight, or whatever these things give you. Remember, the original Hulk, in the comic books is not the hero as was portrayed on the screen. Maybe Stan Lee knew what he was doing.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE-NOT

When I began teaching in 1961, the African continent was undergoing massive changes as it began to throw off the shackles of colonialism and new countries were being born almost every day. It was great to teach African history from the daily papers. Spokesman for the new countries and some Pan African leaders were on t.v. and the newspapers almost every day. You had to be impressed with the speech and diction of Tom Mboye and the almost American sounding words of burgeoning democracies – self determination, democracy, one man one vote and many more.

So many people were thrilled with the prospect of inviting all of these newbies to join the U.N. and speak for democratic ideals across the globe. There then would be a countervailing force to the Communist bloc and the Red Chinese, who were the chief evil countries in the world. We were not quite sure what was happening in Cuba, but one year later, with the Cuban Missile Crisis, we all knew.

How thrilling a decade it was going to be as our most liberal generation shouted, “Power to the People.” Countries became “free” from their colonial oppressors. The Belgian Congo raised its new flag and welcomed its new government headed by Patrice Lumumba. Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana and Ahmed Sekou Toure in Guinea, Julius Nyerere in Tanzania, Milton Obote and then Idi Amin in Uganda.

These were all the fresh new countries of the world seemingly following the revolutions that had created dictatorships in earlier times, the Bolshevik takeover of the Russian Revolution of 1918, the rise of Benito Mussolini in Italy, the Nazi’s and Adolph Hitler in Germany, Francisco Franco’s takeover of Spain, Mao Tse Tung’s Red China and many others.

The outcry from the populace prior to the advent of these dictators was a chorus of, “Power to the People.” The yearning for freedom from enslavement, penury, slavery, and absolute control led to an even more autocratic system that went far beyond the former. It is only now that we are wary of how revolutions of good people are hijacked by a small minority of men and women, just waiting to make their countries their personal fiefdoms.

Lenin’s revolution of the proletariat led to Stalin’s death camps. Hitler’s national socialism led to World War II and the Holocaust. Castro’s takeover of Cuba let to the elimination of the middle class, the emptying of the country of its most prized people and completes authoritarian control.
How do these things happen? Will they happen again? Are we seeing the 1960’s all over again in the cries for democratic reform in Tunisia, Iran, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria , Jordan and others? Are there, in each country a small group of zealots organized to take over when all of the shouting stops and the battlements are torn down? Have we learned any lessons from the past and can we do anything about it? Is this the natural course of events for human beings? Will succeeding generations see countries that have been dictatorships finally emerge from that corruption to have their chains unshackled? Not sure that I will be around to see it.

PHONECALLS, EMAILS AND DRIVING

I had arranged through a printer to send out 3,000 letters to Super Voters, those who have voted in the primaries since the dawn of time. I had never heard of such a thing, till a friend of mine, well versed in politics, told me that they would be the only people who come out at these off year elections. I had not even thought of who these people might be till I was informed by my friend.

I thought that these folks might be older and wiser in the world of elections. Turns out they are a mixture of the populace, with the majority being those with interest in local happenings. I began to get phone calls and emails asking me very direct questions about local school district happenings.

One big issue over the past few years has been the school district’s attempts to contract out ( privatize) school busing. They had succeeded in doing it this past year and had incurred the enmity of many union loyalists and local people who worked as bus drivers. It was a very bad scene for a long while and is still festering right under the surface.

I also had one email telling me that I was going to be watched from now on. I am not sure what that means, although there has been a strange car outside my house this past weekend. I did find out that it belonged to a neighbor’s friend who was visiting. I will not be paranoid.

Some of the emails and phonecalls have come from people with some very pointed questions about my background, which I had enumerated in my letter. I had mentioned that I had some experience in economic development and that spurred a couple of questions. There were specific questions about cost cutting. That’s a really tricky one because everyone has their oxen to be gored. I answered by saying that cutting begins by moving outward from classrooms and learning and cutting those things that are furthest away. I also said that revenues should be maximized.

Not sure how many people understand that a lack of revenue is often the reason why things get screwed up. If you find that there are hosts of people who are not paying their taxes, or that taxpayer lists are screwed up, you are not doing your job. Also there are grants to be written, both public and private and setting up an educational foundation to fund some of those things that people want, but are not willing to pay through taxation.

People were anxious to hear such things. Since my experiences are chock filled with money problems in public schools, I always have some ideas.

The most fun that I have had is riding around in my election region with signs on my car that say “HILLMAN FOR SCHOOL BOARD.” I have not started going door to door, but I have had people wave to me and smile. That’s what I like. I even had a restaurant owner ask me for some handouts so that he can give them to his customers. Not sure that I am going to win, but I sure am having fun.

ELECTIONS-WHO KNEW

If you have never run for elected office, you will be as surprised as I was that there is a whole world out there that you have never run across. I have spent the last few months talking to people, both Republicans and Democrats and Independents to get some advice about how to go about running my campaign. I am sure that I have already screwed some things up, but I am plodding on.

There are a community of people who are expert in running campaigns. I am sure that you know people like James Carville and Ed Rollins. Actually there are hosts of these people nationally and many state and local mavens. They charge through the nose and can’t possibly guarantee results. Candidates hire them because, like me, they do not know what they are doing.

I met such a person at a birthday party the other day. He is a retired Colonel in the Army and has spent the last number of years advising candidates for all kinds of offices. He makes a living doing this and, according to him, is pretty successful in getting people elected. He rattled off some state legislators and congressmen who owe their positions to his ministrations.

I am not sure if he was selling me on hiring him, but what he said was very interesting. His view of elections is that the better candidate does not always win. He was very clear that going door to door in profusion wins the day. It would even be better if my wife went door to door to, with or without me. His last piece of advice to me was startling. He told me not to hire a professional.

I have met with many people so far, current members of the board of education, chairpersons of the county and local political parties, private citizens who inform me that if I go to a particular coffee house at 7:30 on Saturday morning, I would meet all the movers and shakers in my community. I did just that thing and met only two people who actually live in my region. They both told me that they would have voted for me anyway without the coffee.

I am now expert in signage. I was told that a particular sign company would be able to fulfill all of my needs. This sign company was union approved ( whatever that meant). I now know what that means. These folks do many political campaigns that rely on union members to vote for them. If you get a sign made with them, you really have to get a union bug (a small insignia) on the bottom of whatever you are purchasing.

I am now the proud owner of large magnetic signs for both of my cars. 500 yard signs, removable bumper stickers, palm cards, name tags, door hangars and assorted business cards with my name and an all American banner. I am in the process of sending out 3,000 letters introducing myself to “super voters.” These are people who have voted in every off year election since the birth of our country. Off year elections generally don’t bring out many voters. These people vote every time.

This turnout usually means that we elect people for positions because people only know their names from a sign or a palm card or door hangar. This is where locals begin to climb the political ladder- from prothonotary ( whatever that is), to register of wills, to county commissioner to who knows what else. I am beginning at the school board level and that usually means you go nowhere else.

I have also been told by young people that I need a Facebook page and due to the ministrations of my daughter, I have one, or two really. One is my personal page and the other my political page. I am not sure what to put on the political page, but I now have 12 friends. When the 3,000 person letter reaches the super voters, I may get some more. I now ask myself, “what have I gotten myself into?”