The continuation of Skiing Uphill and Boregasm, Zug is 'the little blog that could.'

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Name: Ed Waldo
Location: of The West

I am a fictional construct originally conceived as a pen name for articles in the Los Angeles FREE PRESS at the 2000 Democratic Convention. The plume relating to the nom in question rests in the left hand of Hart Williams, about whom, the less said, the better. Officially "SMEARED" by the Howie Rich Gang. And now, smeared by Fox News and Sean Hannity, as well! Plus, FEARED by Ted Nugent! AND Hated by the Freepers!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

RIP Into A Good Book

Return of Bambi

Well, they're at it again: the (War) Ad Council has teamed with the Library of Congress to push literacy in the most brain-dead manner possible.


Yes, there's a new PSA (Public Service Announcement, a "free" radio commercial), that OFFENDS me on virtually every level imaginable. (Listen to it HERE) It is sponsored by the aforementioned. (For a history of the War Ad Council, now the Ad Council, see "Smokey and the Bandits," an unauthorized biography of Smokey Bear)

Here's what it says on their website:

In an exciting collaboration with the Walt Disney Company, scenes from the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, are featured in the first round of PSAs.

The PSAs encourage children and parents to log on to the Library of Congress's website, www.loc.gov, a great place to let the journey into learning and imagination begin.
Yes. The (War) Ad Council, that hoary bunch of propagandists who brought you Iron Eyes Cody crying, and Smokey (NOT 'the') Bear, puts together the volunteer ad agency and the sponsoring group and voilà!, another series of 30 and 60 second radio and TV spots, and, usually, print ads as well. Sometimes, like this time, they get somebody like Disney involved.

Well, actually, Disney DID a campaign ad for FDR in 1944, and there's been a quasi-governmental/quasi-business relationship ever since. Disney leased the War Ad Council the use of Bambi for a year (Bambi is back, BTW, no doubt to remind people of the Blu-Ray release of the Annotated Bambi, now with feature footage of the artists actually drawing, and funny off-color office cartoons they did about how much they'd grown to hate deer!)

And what does this 'exciting collaboration' between the LOC and Disney and C.S. Lewis's Estate and "The Geppetto Group" create?

Sponsor Organization: Library of Congress
Campaign Website: www.loc.gov
Volunteer Agency: The Geppetto Group
To tell kids that it's MUCH cooler to do the work to read a long (Christified work, although C.S. Lewis carefully kept all Biblical reference out of it) book for "FUN" instead of watching cable movies, or playing video games on the latest platform.

Yeah. Right. Sure.

What the hell are these people thinking? WHY do they automatically assume that Fiction is the highest form of reading?

(I mean BEYOND getting Disney a free national multimedia ad campaign for "The Chronicles of Narnia," its merchandising and sequels?)

As a writer of fiction -- novels, short stories, "true" first person stories, etc. etc. -- I decry but accept the reality that the vast majority of "reading" is nonfiction. Even moreso when you include all of the reading that is never documented as "books" read or "magazines read." Emails, notes from your spouse, cable TV synopsis screens, signs, instructions, medicine and food labels, and, yes, ads: all are writing that we read on a regular basis.

And blogs, like this one.

But for many years, the well-intentioned institutions have been missing the point.

Who cares if "Reading Is Fun?"

Reading Is Power, baby.

Why aren't we advertising that?

Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" was what inflamed the united Colonists in the Year of 1776, and at the time, it was read by more Anglo colonists proportionately than have watched the highest-rated SuperBowl. Literacy rates in New England for WOMEN were over 90%. They were higher for men.

In the South, after the Nat Turner rebellion, states passed "Nat Turner" laws. One of the most draconian was that any slave who learned to read and write was to be executed. Reading was considered THAT dangerous.

Now, when you are selling "reading" why aren't you selling the fact that reading and writing are the keys to power in nearly any field you care to name?

The Southern Plantation aristocracy considered reading so dangerous to their power that it was banned on pain of DEATH. And you're selling this ... power as "fun!" That's like selling Coke because of the neat swash on the can. It's like selling a vacation to the Carribbean for the neat seashells you could find. It's like starting a simile and then having no earthly idea how to finish it.

What is the (War) Ad Council and the Library of Congress thinking? (We KNOW what Disney's thinking). The LOC was FOUNDED from Thomas Jefferson's library, based on the PRESUMPTION that reading was the power that sustained our Republic.

And they're selling crypto-Christian (and, arguably, ROTTEN literature, says this book critic) novels to get kids to read? Oh good grief, Charlie Brown.

Why not a series of ad spots of famous actors -- aimed at whatever demographics you're targeting -- talking about reading. Unless you are a good and voracious reader, acting is impossible. The real actors I've known (you know, the ones who know "upstage" from "downstage," can hit their marks and do it for the cameras OR the stage) have all been exceptionally well-read.

Bill Gates may have dropped out of college, but I have a feeling that without an amazing capacity for wading through reams and reams of dull technical writing he wouldn't be playing gazillionaire globe-trotting philanthropist today.

And many of us wouldn't have the software that's allowing this to be read over the internet.

Throughout history reading rates have fluctuated greatly, but one fact remains unyielding amidst the chaos of history: the literate classes have always ruled society. If there is 2 percent literacy, that two percent will be running things.

This is a fact, shorn of interpretation.

In our society, we offer the unique opportunity for ANY citizen to rise to the highest offices in the land, save for the presidency, which has a "born in the USA" requirement.

And to do that, you gotta be able to read. And, formerly, you had to be able to write, as well.

Politics is NOTHING but language: rhetoric. Pathos, Ethos, Logos. (Ethos and Logos are faves 'round hereabouts.)

Language in oratory, language in writing (in various forms), even the language of declarations of war, of surrender, of victory, of written orders, laws, and commandments, all are intrinsically tied to READING.

RIP into a good book.

What about a guy whose friend is working on his car (*can you DO that anymore?) and can't figure out a problem with the leaking blinker fluid. He calls out to his buddy, hey, look up the "blinker fluid dispenser." The friend flips to the index, locates blinker fluid ... replacement, specifications, dispenser"

And READS the "trick" "It says here, to cover the intake while you uncouple the muffler bearings."

Case closed. READING saves the day.

Why are you selling it as a video game? What has possessed generations of "educators" and "librarians" to try and sell reading as a competing media? You know, like playin on the computer, watching TeeVeee. Watching videos. Playing videos, surfing the 'net ...

(All of which are better the better you know how to read, BTW)

Reading isn't "fun." It's the power at the base of our entire civilization. You don't have to know how to read -- there have been mighty empires with single-digit literacy rates. It ISN'T all that imperative from a raw sociological point of view, after all. Literacy rates fell after the Revolution and have never yet recovered. They got so low in the 19th Century that the whole public education system was BORN.

Reading ain't fun.

Reading ain't "fundamental."

It's elemental, and that's power.

See the foureyes sittin' on the fence?

See the two jocks pushin him around?

Thirty years later, they'll be pushin a broom for old foureyes. (A cliché, but when you're propagandizing the American public as you've been doing since World War II and "Loose Lips Sink Ships," clichés can be good.)

That's right, Bifocals T. Owl* reminds you, "Reading is Power, kids! So RIP into a good book!"

That'd sell reading. Might not sell a lot of copies of the Narnia trilogy, but it WILL sell reading. Not reading novels. Not even reading books. Sorry librarians, and sorry fiction writers.

Whether they ever read my tales, or check a book out of a library, we need to sell reading. It's good for them, important to our society, and, therefore, personally good for US: We, the Resders.

Instead, what we have is a series of free ads for the Disney 'Narnia' movie (which they hope to turn into a franchise), coloring books, happy meals, fruit rollups, backpacks, notebooks, glitter pencils, etc. etc. etc. Why are our public airwaves being turned into a free ad campaign for a series of "Christian" books, and a WORSE movie from Disney?

That shouldn't be what we're selling.

We need to sell that reading is essential to attaining power, status or celebrity in this society.

That's what we should be selling.

READING is power. Reading manuals. Reading news stories, reading supreme court decisions, reading the AP Stylebook and Libel Manual (587th edition). Reading instructions, reading regulations, reading signs, reading charts, reading Monopoly Reading Railroad cards, you name it.

Reading is power.

Reading THIS, however, won't do you a damn bit of good.


[* Bifocals T. Owl, which I just made up, could be the gazillionth "official" cartoon mascot of the Federal Government. See Pat, Your Passport Pal, Broadband The FCC Cat, and others HERE. And HERE is the motherlode.

Here follows the longest footnote ever recorded in this blog, its acquaintenances and predecessors:

It rather bothers me that, beginning with the lie of Smokey Bear (with which, as a stepson of a Forest Service Engineer, I was raised), government has become increasingly administered by Cartoon Characters: Woodsy the Owl, Smokey Bear, McGruff the Crime Dog, Harry and Ariel Recon, the CIA's Spy Pigeons (don't believe me? Look at the CIA for Kids website at http://www.cia.gov/cia/ciakids/aerial/index.shtml); although, sadly, Mr. Zip, the Zip Code guy was murdered, probably some time during the Nixon Administration.

In New Mexico, they hired an ex-Disney artist to come up with the three Chili Peppers "Hal" "Eee" and "Peenyo" (spelling is approximate) which they stick up outside of construction projects. In 1992 and 1993, during the remodeling of the "roundhouse" (The Capital Building) in Santa Fe, they had these 5-foot-tall cartoon chili peppers mounted on plywood cutouts saying "Pardon our mess! We're REMODELING!"

And I thought: "Yeah. We're a REAL state. Our capitol building is guarded by cartoon chili peppers." Talk about your fundamental credibility and tax dollars at work!


And, increasingly, we're a REAL country. Our republic is administered by cartoon characters. Why, our spy agency has its own cartoon mascots!

Might I suggest for the FBI: "Wally Weasel, the Undercover Investigator"? "Hey kids! Wally Weasel here! If you see anything suspicious, when you're over at your friends' houses, turn their parents in ANONYMOUSLY for cash and prizes!" We could add it as a rider to the Patriot Act II that's slithering through the capital.

Or, what about "Choker the Anaconda," your Homeland Security Snake? He could remind you that we've got to "put the squeeze" on terrorists and put him outside every dam, power plant and unguarded chemical facility in the country.

Or, perhaps the IRS could use him, instead.

Oh yeah. We don't have enough cartoon characters.

But at least CNN has John King.

Which brings us to toon town.

I was listening to our favorite cartoon weasel, Dubya the Younger, doing his snickering routine. For a long time, a nagging realization has been niggling at the receptors of my cerebral cortex. And, finally, it clicked.

Bush is the reincarnation of Muttley, the evil hound of Hanna-Barbara's "The Wacky Races," which premiered as a Saturday morning cartoon (remember them?) on September 14th, 1968.

Muttley has exactly the same evil, reflexive snicker that Dubya the Younger does. (click to hear)

Like Bush, Muttley was a redux of an earlier caricature:

"The first was Snuffles, who appeared on the Quick Draw McGraw show almost a full decade before Muttley made his TV debut. Snuffles would perform his bit of anti-gravity glee when he would get a doggy snack. Muttley on the other hand, went into his floating euphoria when his master, Dick Dastardly, would give him a medal."
(from http://www.hotink.com/wacky/mfiles/ - a cartoon fan page)

Yes, that's right. Muttley's master was Dick Dastardly, "Dastardly" being Portuguese for "Cheney." (Dastardly himself, of course, was Snidely Whiplash, or, the standard melodrama villain, stringy mustache and all).

Who on the Hanna-Barbara staff in 1968 had such keen psychic powers? How could they have so accurately predicted the 2000 and 2004 presidential races, and presciently filled them with such perfect grotesques? Whoever it was, we need their talents to find Osama bin Laden. Nobody else seems to be succeeding. (Or even, now that I think about it, seems to be LOOKING).

But it gets even stranger.

"Dastardly and Muttley" was a spin-off of The Wacky Races, premiering on September 13, 1969. A typical Hanna-Barbara ripoff (even notice how "The Flintstones" was a straight ripoff of "The Honeymooners"?), the show was modeled on the then-recent movie hit, "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines." (As "Wacky Races" had been modeled on the then-recent Tony Curtis hit "The Great Race." Weirdly, a sequel to "Flying Machines" would then appear, "Those Daring Young Men in their Jaunty Jalopies" bringing the whole plagiarism cycle round full circle -- pun intended.)

The plot was that Dastardly, Muttley and their wacky henchmen in dopey-looking planes, on orders from the unseen "General" constantly were trying to stop "Yankee Doodle Pigeon" from delivering his top-secret communiques.

Yankee Doodle Pigeon is all-but-exactly replicated by the CIA's Aerial Recon, the CIA Kids' Page co-mascot of our infamous spy agency. They both are pigeons. They both have the Rocky Squirrel aviator's cap with goggles, and both have a leather mail pouch slung over one shoulder.

The only difference?

Aerial has a tourist's camera hung from a strap around her neck. (click here to see)

Hanna-Barbara should sue, except that would make them monstrous hypocrites on a par with Liddy, Colson, Buchanan, Bush and, of course, Dastardly Dick.

When They Came for SpongeBob

First they came for Bert and Ernie and I said nothing
because I was not a Muppet.

Then they came for Tinky Winky and I said nothing,
because I was not a Teletubby.

Then they came for SpongeBob and I said nothing,
because I was not an asexual cartoon sea creature.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak up.

— Bugs Bunny (attributed)

end longest footnote**
(** cobbled together from several 2005 posts)]

Friday, June 22, 2007

Meet the new Senator from Wyoming

Chosen by the Democratic governor after the state GOP nominated three candidates, the new Republican Senator from Wyoming (replacing the late Sen. Craig Thomassee here), is state Senator John Barrasso, M.D.

Dr. John Barrasso
Senator-select John Barrasso

From the story by the Casper Star Tribune's Cheyenne reporter (that quaint institution that most local newspapers still have, a stringer in the state capital who—often—reports for several papers as the "capital bureau." In Montana, it's Mike Dennison. etc.) :

Name recognition could carry Barrasso
Star-Tribune capital bureau Friday, June 22, 2007

... He also voted to draft a bill to ban smoking in public places statewide.

He circulated petitions to exempt food from the state sales tax and successfully sponsored the 2006 amendment that incorporated the two-year tax break in the budget. The exemption was subsequently made permanent.

"I believe in limited government, lower taxes, less spending, traditional family values, local control and a strong national defense," Barrasso said in his application to the Republican State Central Committee to succeed the late U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas.
That was the quote picked up by the AP reporter, whose story fills the pages of every other newspaper in the country, from Forbes to the Flatbush Daily Flummox:

Conservative Wyo. Surgeon Newest Senator

By BOB MOEN, Associated Press Writer
Friday, June 22, 2007
(06-22) 10:18 PDT Cheyenne, Wyo. (AP) --

Republican John Barrasso, a surgeon and conservative Wyoming legislator, became the country's newest U.S. senator Friday, replacing the late Craig Thomas.

The temporary appointment, announced Friday by Wyoming's governor, will have no effect on the Senate's party breakdown, since Thomas was also a Republican. He died June 4 while being treated for leukemia.

Barrasso, 54, will serve in Thomas' place until the beginning of 2009. He said on his application that he also intends to then run in a November 2008 special election to serve out the remainder of Thomas' term through 2013.

Barrasso also left no doubt that he will be a conservative voice in Washington.

"I believe in limited government, lower taxes, less spending, traditional family values, local control and a strong national defense," the orthopedic surgeon and state senator from Casper wrote in his application.

He said he has "voted for prayer in schools, against gay marriage and have sponsored legislation to protect the sanctity of life."
But, as no man is one-dimensional, the possibly good Doctor is in an interesting position vis-à-vis abortion as medicine and abortion as political doctrine: (from the Casper Star-Trib story):

In 1994, he was one of the contributors to "No on Number One," a political action committee organized to oppose passage of a constitutional amendment that would have banned most abortions.

Voters overwhelmingly defeated the amendment.

When he ran for the U.S. Senate in 1996, he was quoted as saying he doesn't believe in telling doctors how to practice and he believes that abortion should be a decision between a pregnant woman and her doctor, according to newspaper accounts.

At the same time, he said he would vote to ban use of federal funds for abortions.

Since being elected to the Wyoming Senate, he's sponsored bills to increase the penalty for killing a pregnant woman.

The latter bill passed the Legislature last winter but was vetoed by the governor on grounds that it would open up a state debate on abortion rights and might be unconstitutional.

Freudenthal said the state already has laws to protect pregnant women.

Barrasso said his only motive in sponsoring the bill was in reaction to the murder of Califonian Laci Peterson and her eight-month-old unborn son, Connor.
And, he is another in a long line of "mediagenic" candidates (ibid.):

The decades spent by John Barrasso in helping us care for ourselves have paid off big in positive statewide name recognition.

A Casper orthopedic surgeon, Barrasso, 54, has been in the spotlight for years through television and radio appearances and a weekly newspaper column peppered with practical medical advice.
But he has a physician's view of medicine, and not a politician's.

During his nearly five years in the Wyoming Senate, he has actively worked on health care issues, including sponsorship of the "I'm sorry" law.

The so-called law enables physicians to talk freely with their patients once unforeseen complications arise without having that conversation used against them in a lawsuit.
So, we may well have that classical Greek conflict between the Oath of Hippocrates and that of Hypocrites.

Meantime, meet the new Senator from Wyoming, John Barrasso, M.D.

Time will tell what a man of quality he will or won't be.



Right Wing Finds Dreaded Liberal Media Bias In Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I didn't mean to go on the Right Wing blogs today. Usually, the level of sheer hatred that is espoused towards anything I vaguely believe in makes David Duke look like a Welcome Wagon hostess. Several links during fact-checking have taken me to sites that I would prefer not to remember, let alone refer to.

But it is IMPORTANT to go and look, occasionally, just as it's important to listen to Right Wing Hate Radio once a month or so, to REMIND you of how much these people hate you, your children, your beliefs, and how dangerous they potentially are.

But one, in particular, seemed to scream loudest as the poster child of the Clueless Need To Hate that so characterizes the Right Wing blogosphere these days. That may sound harsh, but I assure you, it's entirely fair (just think "Ann Coulter"):

I am not going to quote the entire NewsBusters ("Exposing and Combating Liberal Media Bias" ) posting. I leave it to more nuanced minds to understand how nitpicking about a straight, factual article is an example EVIL, LEFTIST, LIBERAL MEDIA BIAS!!!!

Mostly because you've got to be more than a little crazy to analyze the sheer psychotic paranoia of this post, and I guess I'm not that nuts, after all.

Some 'blogger' named "Pam Meister" (whose profile states: "A recovering liberal since 9/11" and whose website has this slug: "Conservative discussion and viewpoints from Deep Inside New England's liberal wasteland") has posted that the AP story (which I referred to earlier in the day) is biased ... because THE WRITING ISN'T AS CLEAR AS SHE PREFERS!

This is the equivalent of using spelling flames to prove liberal bias.:

AP Touts New Wyoming Senator's Conservatism; Leaves Out Legalities

by Pam Meister

... Wyoming state law dictates that a replacement senator must come from the same party as the senator being replaced. The AP story seems quite vague about this:

State Republican Party officials had given Gov. Dave Freudenthal a slate of three nominees from which he had to choose the temporary replacement for Thomas. Freudenthal, a Democrat, chose Barrasso over Cheyenne attorney Tom Sansonetti and former state Treasurer Cynthia Lummis.
The reader might get the idea that Gov. Freudenthal was somehow strong-armed into picking another Republican to fill the seat, when in fact, he was following the law.
And check out this (not atypical) comment:

Why include facts that don't fit the MSM agenda? ; )
WHAT agenda? That the AP writer wasn't bland ENOUGH? Or that he didn't heap praise and adulation on the new senator from Wyoming because he was a RepubliKKKan and, therefore, must have the ground ahead of him strewn with rose petals? Nutso.

And WHO is NewsBusters?


The NewsBusters Blog is a project of the Media Research Center.

NewsBusters.org has been led since 1987 by Brent H. Baker, "the MRC's Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and Vice President for Research and Publications. The division produces daily, weekly and special reports that document and counter liberal bias from television network news shows and major print publications. Tim Graham serves as Director of Media Analysis and Rich Noyes is the Director of Research."
And who is the Media Research Center?

Media Research Center Inc. is a conservative media watchdog group run by president and founder Brent Bozell. The Center has a $6 million annual budget and 60 staff members and is funded by larger right-wing foundations (see below*).
[* Some of their related operations:

* Business & Media Institute
* CNSNews.com
* NewsBusters
* Parents Television Council
* TimesWatch


* The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Inc.
* Sarah Scaife Foundation
* Castle Rock Foundation
* John M. Olin Foundation, Inc.
* The Carthage Foundation
* JM Foundation[4]
Board members include:

  • Bruce Bartlett, Senior Fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis
  • John Berthoud, President, National Taxpayers Union
  • Steve Moore, Founder, The Club for Growth
  • John Drescher, Senior Fellow, The Discovery Institute
  • Dr. Walter E. Williams, Distinguished Professor of Economics George Mason University
  • Daniel J. Mitchell, McKenna Senior Fellow in Political Economy Heritage Foundation
And who is Brent Bozell?

Bozell, L. Brent III

13 institutional roles for $2,191,952

Brent Bozell, a zealot of impeccable right-wing pedigree, is the nephew of columnist William F. Buckley and the son of L. Brent Bozell, Jr., who assisted Barry Goldwater with the writing of Conscience of a Conservative.

A close associate of the late Terry Dolan, the closeted gay founder of the National Conservative Political Action Committee, Bozell served for several years as the Dolan organization's finance chairman and president. In 1991, he helped orchestrate a smear campaign directed at the opposition to Clarence Thomas's appointment to the Supreme Court; in 1992, he was the chief fund-raiser behind Pat Buchanan's unsuccessful bid for the Republican Presidential nomination.

The Media Research Center provides Bozell with a platform from which to bash the arts and popular culture. Recently (1996) Bozell has been part of the drive to eradicate PBS.

The garish portrayal of our culture by Bozell, such as the claim that the film version of Last Temptation of Christ showed Jesus "engaging in sex acts and committing adultery," are sometimes entertaining, but the accretion of drivel can be wearing.... (more)
Ms. Meister should be paddled on her keister for Rorschaching so indiscriminately.

At this level of hallucinatory psychosis, ANYthing proves the psychotic blogger's point. I don't know of anything other than gunpowder and steel that can bridge such a communications chasm —as we learned in 1860 and the four years following.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

FOOD Fight!

I had not, to be frank, realized how crazy I actually was, until I read this in the hilariously oxymoronic "liberal values" blog.

Some have expressed surprise over such great differences in belief between two blogs on the left. The left versus right division is only one division of beliefs. There are many other intellectual battles which are equally important. This includes defending reason and science over superstition, and opposing bigotry regardless of the source. I will continue to disagree with leftist blogs such as The Democratic Daily when they spread claims that the attack on the United States on 9/11 was committed by parties other than al Qaeda terrorists, that Mel Gibson was just a misunderstood actor with a bit too much to drink, or that astrology and new age beliefs can be a substitute for modern science.

If The Democratic Daily chooses to respond to disagreements over these issues with personal attacks, so be it. Just don’t be surprised if I respond.

Written by Ron Chusid
At first, as a contributor to The Democratic Daily, I wanted to reply, but then I thought that it might be a lot better to channel a REAL liberal. Alas, Thomas Jefferson was attending the 316th "Haunting & Fishing" convention in Shambhalla (Something about the Northern Solstice), along with Abraham Lincoln, John Stuart Mill, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Benjamin Franklin and even John Locke. Heck, I'd have settled on a channelled statement on the deleterious effects of a censorious disposition and what sort of purgatory awaits the "heretic hunter" from Anthony Comstock, but he was running a booth in the huckster room at the H&F #316, as well.

However, I WAS able to contact Charles Ward Beecher (the famed orator, and father of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of UNCLE TOM'S CABIN). Beecher was boycotting the convention for reasons that remain obscure. Here's what he had to say:

On The Importance of Controlling Everything

Channeled from a lecture delivered by the Rev. Chas. Ward Beecher to an assemblage of Ponderosa Pine numbering in the thousands.

NB: The Additional Channeled Essays of Rev. Beecher are not presently available. My cat became sick on them, unfortunately, and they have not been yet retyped. Nor, perhaps, will they be.

-- H. Wms., Ed.

In the tides of fortune there floats the expectation that Life will, finally, meet our expectations. That hoped-for and, perhaps, someday- to-be-grasped Ideal bears us ofttimes through the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Why is this?

What irrepressible Spirit in Mankind abides in the sure knowledge that the Universe exists to be subdued and controlled? Whence derives our magnificent drive to dominate all; to urinate, once and for all, on the fence posts of Eternity?

It is a mystery.

Let us, then, wax our eloquence.

Is it not right; is it not meet that we should gambol in the Fields of Elysium one day, even as we gamble in the mudpie of Moloch here, in this, our visible life? Is it not our destiny to challenge the very chain link fencing of heaven's gate through our fortitude, our enduring self-love and our hubris? Is it not obnoxious to read people who can only make their points through rhetorical questions?

That the species of Mankind was formed of the mud and clay of the Earth to make the whole world, and the Universe beyond into a mudpie with a flaky clay crust is beyond question. But to what purpose, to what end may Humankind bend its sweaty brows in the accomplishment of this end? And to what purpose in fighting the Universe itself, if the Universe is, obviously, much bigger than us, and would whip us in any fair fight, no matter how drunk we might manage to make the Universe?

Obviously, we'll have to rely on quickness and deception.

Whence derives, then, this unquenchable thirst in each one of us to fully command our surroundings? The mere fact that we can transform a tree into a birdhouse with louvered blinds, and shutters, and a pitched roof in a Late-Victorian style seems rather pointless in its teleology. Was not the tree already a birdhouse? Of course! we must reply, but that is not the point.

Life is no improvised dance, but an endless and pitiless urge to order. We emerged from the teeming pool of stygian chaos, and diligently have maneuvered to regulate all the moments of our lives, from cradle to grave. This was not an easy struggle. It was not without its rigors: its arduous ascents, its crushing defeats and its stunning victories.

The wristwatch was bought for us only by the sacrifice of countless lives, through numberless minutes and hours learning to make files smaller and smaller until, at last, we could carve the tiny little gears which would give us mastery over time itself.

And what of the terrible conflicts and upheavals which made it possible to standardize time, so that, anywhere there might be an uplink, anyone, ANYONE could set his or her wristwatch to the right time? And this only a minor skirmish in the war to subdue chaos.

If, as some pessimists believe, the laws of Entropy are, finally, unbeatable, we have already conceded that struggle to Entropy. But is not our history one of achieving the improbable in the face of the impossible? The imperfect in the face of the important? The impassable in the face of the impervious? Are we not impressive?

Cynics--men of little faith and smaller intellect--have claimed that it would be impossible to travel from Portland to Boise in less than a week. Now, we fly!

Critics--those who cannot write writing about those who can--have belittled and abandoned any hope that chaos can be controlled, and yet Major League Baseball has not missed a year of play, even when Europe was in flames, and the whole world arrayed in full battle gear to strive in the greatest expenditure of gunpowder Marco Polo could ever have imagined.

We must buck up.

The odds are long, but the risk of defeat is too intolerable.

Even now, our implacable foe moves against us, locked tight in the death-grip of an arm-wrestling tournament that is smugly believes it cannot lose. Rust never sleeps.

But the race is not to the swift, nor the victory to the strong. There are too many ways of bribing the referees, of drugging the racehorse, of training at high altitude with anabolic steroids. Chaos need not be treated fairly to win. We can cheat.

And, in a contest for our very lives, the day will come when actuaries will be able to breathe easily, at last. When the very word "accident" will fade into meaninglessness itself, as have such chestnuts as "Iron Curtain," "States' Rights" and "Liberal Republican." Randomness is a force, true, but Mankind has made sense rule where senselessness had never been challenged before. And we have done it with a completion percentage that would make Vince Lombardi proud.

Consider algebra, or consider the Leap Year.

It is Man's destiny to not merely endure, but prevail, said one. And, we might add, it is also Woman's destiny to prevail not merely, but to have her cake and eat it too. As Marie Antoinette stated so succinctly, with an equanimity which included not merely her class, nor only those who spoke whatever Austrians speak for their first language: "Let them eat cake." And so we shall, with diligence and an unwavering devotion to universal empowerment, at last eat that very cake.

But this is merely icing. What must be recognized; what must be finally acknowledged is the unquenchable thirst to micro-manage Reality which is every human's birthright. We were born with an aversion to disorder. Ultimately and finally, we, the last and greatest hope of Mankind, must prevail.

The Universe is a large place, but we are quick learners, and it is not in our nature to accept the chaotic mess of Nature, no matter how cute we may find bunny rabbits and squirrels. The spontaneity of mindless ants must never again menace the picnic basket which is our lives. To be or not to be—precisely, with no wishy-washiness—is our birthright and Destiny.

The End.
Now, I've got to get back to my crystal gazing. BTW: breaking news. You know that "scientific" thing about hormone replacement therapy? You know: it was recommended for EVERY woman over 50, and then they found out that it was dangerous, and UNrecommended it for those women, it being highly dangerous and all?

Well, it's good for them again.

Glad to have the certitude of science and all.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Note on 'White House for Sale" Below

Note: It was gratifying to hear Thom Hartmann interviewing Kristina Wilfore of BISC this morning at the 'Take Back America" conference for his AirAmerica show. The subject of Howie Rich came up again and again. "Howie Rich" had entered the political vocabulary, along with Oregon operative Bill Sizemore, and Nevada (formerly Oregon) zillionaire Loran Parks, who often funds Sizemore.

It was good to know that this stuff is common knowledge, at least on some level. Oregon was characterized in a fractured version of "canary in a coal mine." (Have you noticed, lately, how many clichés are repeated, but fractured, as in "toad the line"? They are difficult to quote verbatim, since they, as clichés, are filled in by the mind familiar with the original cliché.)

BISC and I go back to last summer, when they put up their Howie Rich Exposed Website. which still says:

Hart Williams' narrative of deception on Howie Rich is one of the best investigative pieces available. Check out Unlimited Terms of Endearment XIX: Breaking News and this post about Howie Rich's entry to the New York Times and this post about how the media has ignored this story for some recent developments.
I don't actually know them, but, like the PBS show, it came purely from the merit of my blogging on Howie.

(A funny story: The Thom Hartmann Show's producer called me breathlessly about the story in the [election] fall of 2006, but evidently felt that the story only had "legs" in one 24-hour news cycle. I couldn't get back to them on short notice in the early morning, so I never heard from them again. I still have the phone message.)

It is good to know that in some small portion, the investigation of last summer was -- as I thought at the time -- important in terms of understanding the hijacking of our political process by big money.

which is what brings us to ...

White House For Sale

Look, we might as well acknowledge it:

The presidency is for sale.

We have a ridiculous dog and pony show a full year earlier than we've ever seen before -- a presidential campaign that began before all the 2006 votes were even counted; a presidential campaign show that gives the 24/7 news outlets an excuse to yabble on and on while the most criminal administration in US history gets plenty of cover from the (generally ridiculous) "Campaign 08" spectacle.

(This is, however, a windfall for that political class of consultants, pollsters, media consultants, et al, who are guaranteed full employment at least a year earlier than usual.)

Joke candidates like Fred Thompson (whatever happened to "qualifications" in American politics?) are viable PURELY because of name recognition; while the Mike Gravels and Ron Pauls are able to garner huge coverage from their "sideshow freak" status.

This is a unique moment in US politics. The mindless greed, the "ME FIRST" mentality that created this crisis in 2000 with the front-loading of the primaries (does anyone remember that John McCain BEAT Bush in New Hampshire?) has now multiplied exponentially.

"Super Tuesday" -- originally set up to increase the influence of the "old South" in 1988 -- was a bad idea to begin with. NOW, it's a laughably quaint notion: "Hyper Tuesday" on February 5, 2008, will simply decide the issue, in a multi-state mega-primary that will make it all but impossible for ANY candidate to have any meaningful campaign presence in all of the states involved.

Without an astonishing amount of cash before February 5, you might as well just be in the process for the addicting ego-boost of being a sought-after candidate. (If you doubt the addictive quality of a presidential bid -- even a HOPELESS one -- just ask Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader)

Is it just me, or is there something irredeemably cheap; and tawdry about turning the selection of "Our Next President" into a high-tech game show? "American Leader"? The spectacle of the 9 or 8 or 15 Republican candidates in the Reagan Library, with an AIR FORCE ONE (!!?!) suspended in the hangar they were evidently debating in -- it was Rupert Murdoch's penultimate wet-dream of a game show. And every debate has been, while not as astonishingly surreal as that Reagan Library quiz-fest, at least a weird souped-up version of "Jeopardy!"

It will be a beauty contest, the selection of a pig in a poke (but NO poking the pigs, if you please). The entire original purpose of the primary season -- testing and measuring the mettle of candidates in the crucible of the campaign -- has been co-opted entirely. We might as well save ourselves the time and money and simply let the fat cats select the candidates in the smoke-filled back rooms again.

Because that's what is happening. The "campaign" is just a diversion: a diversion from the REAL selection process, and from the continuing looting of the U.S. Treasury by ... the same class that has neatly cut "We The People" out of the electoral process.

We get the shaft and "American Idol" for a full year, courtesy of the 24/7 presidential marathon, and the mice keep control of the cheese factory.

Great if you're a billionaire. Sucks for the rest of us.

Worse, at least in the case of the GOP, we have a "debate" process utterly untethered to reality. A slick, phony Mitt Romney can state that he'd like to double Guantanimo, and not a laugh is heard. The other nine or ten or twelve candidates can pretend that Iraq was a just war, and torture can be justified -- all as if these were "American" values. They debate phony plotlines for episodes of "24" -- which they even REFER to in the 'debate.'

We're living in a Philip K. Dick novel. That's why absurdity doesn't work now. You can't make absurd that which is ALREADY absurd.

Because reality is whatever can be presented in the media, which are now owned by, again, that same class that has cut us out of the process. The broken "campaign" serves that class in every possible manner: it diverts attention from their current depredations, while preserving the illusion of a "fair" campaign selection process. Neither is true: both are sham.

Meantime, we follow the candidates' fundraising, as though we were following an NBA partial score.

Thus far, in many ways, this is all a non-event: the desperate hope of the second tier candidates is to garner name-recognition, the hope of the first tier candidates is to so fill their campaign coffers that they can drown their opposition in a flood of sheer coin.

But the bottom line is this: the presidential selection will almost undoubtedly be over in the SECOND week of primary voting. Iowa will be followed with the Nevada caucuses, for an additive sideshow.

Here's the schedule from the Democratic website:

The addition of 2 states early in the process will also open up the dialogue to engage a broader range of people to talk about a wider variety of issues. This will enable the Democratic Party to choose the strongest candidate to be our Presidential nominee.

The new schedule is as follows:
  • Iowa holds the first-in-the-nation caucus on January 14.
  • New Hampshire holds the first-in-the-nation primary on January 22.
  • Nevada conducts a caucus between Iowa and New Hampshire on Saturday, January 19.
  • South Carolina holds a primary 1 week after the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, January 29
The regular window will open for all other states on the first Tuesday in February -- February 5, 2008.
THAT FOLLOWING WEEK, virtually everybody else will vote.

If it isn't over by then, it will be by the end of February.

In 2000, it was over by March. In 2004, it was over by March. Whoever had the most cash won. In 1968, by contrast, it wasn't "over" until Bobby Kennedy won the California primary in JUNE (and was assassinated moments later, throwing the process into a chaos that would culminate with the "old boy" nomination of Hubert Humphrey and the splitting of the Democratic party that allowed Tricky Dick Nixon to snatch the White House).

But in the modern era, increasingly, the frontloading of the primaries has recreated the old Golden Rule of Gilded Age politics: he who has the gold doesn't need to follow the rules.

And that's the key: Whoever had the most cash won. George Bush's backers knew that. They banked on it (literally) by making sure that Bush was so floating in cash that a McCain candidacy -- which would have crushed Bush in any prior primary campaign -- never got off the ground, because McCain could not possibly raise the obscene amounts of sheer cash needed to be competitive in each state by March of 2000.

But you BUY your way into "American Leader." It's the only game show where it's OK to buy your questions and sell your answers. And, you pay the game show, not vice versa.

Please note that their "investment" in Bush's campaign has PERSONALLY paid out in excess of what they contributed to the Bush campaign in 2000, via tax cuts. They actually MADE money on the deal. Which may be why so much effort has been put into "hot-wiring" the electoral process this year.

In prior years, the primary season allowed time for 'dark horse' candidates to move to the forefront, to raise money after surprise wins, and to move to a level of parity with the frontrunners.

In fact, the frontrunner has nearly ALWAYS stumbled. In 1972, Ed Muskie was the frontrunner all through the 1971 silly season, but self-destructed in New Hampshire (thanks to Donald Segretti, and his fledgling dirty tricks apprentices, e.g. Karl Rove).

It was eerily reminiscent of the well-timed "hit" that was put on John Kerry over a "controversial" joke that was suddenly trumpeted by our moribund and moronic echo machine.

Er ... I mean media.

The presidential selection process is broken: whoever raises the most obscene amount of cash by the end of 2007 will almost certainly win the primary.

And THEN what do we do? From March 1 to the deep summer of 2008, both parties will have nothing else to do but raise and spend money to destroy the character, candidacy and credibility of the respective opponents. (Given past history, advantage: GOP).

They can then play electoral games by trying to schedule their convention as late as is humanly possible (as Bush and Rove did in 2004) since the Federal campaign funds -- from that box that nobody checks off on their income taxes anymore -- aren't given to the campaign until after the official nomination.

All of which are not in the least democratic (small 'd'), nor in the interests of "We The People."

The presidential selection process is broken, and we're being snow-jobbed with an obscenely early campaign that masks the inconvenient truth:

Never has big money so controlled the selection of a president. The so-called "grass roots," conversely, has never been so neatly culled from the process.

And nobody's talking about it.

Maybe they should.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Father's Day Tale

[WARNING; CAVEAT LECTOR: Long -- and ... wordy.]

Welcome to the best Father's Day of my life. (I share this because it's a great story, even though some monkey will toss feces on it at some point, guaranteed, or use it for armchair psychoanalysis, which is pretty much the same thing. One writes, finally, with a commitment to truth, irregardless* of the consequences.)

[* A word used by choice:

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition (2000):



ADVERB: Nonstandard Regardless.

ETYMOLOGY: Probably blend of irrespective and regardless.

USAGE NOTE: Irregardless is a word that many mistakenly believe to be correct usage in formal style, when in fact it is used chiefly in nonstandard speech or casual writing. Coined in the United States in the early 20th century, it has met with a blizzard of condemnation for being an improper yoking of irrespective and regardless and for the logical absurdity of combining the negative ir- prefix and -less suffix in a single term. Although one might reasonably argue that it is no different from words with redundant affixes like debone and unravel, it has been considered a blunder for decades and will probably continue to be so.]

I was born "Joseph Hart Williams, Jr." That's the documentary evidence, which is important here.

My father had slightly different name, but "Junior" is in the eye of the beholder: He was a "Josephus Hart Williams, Jr." But everybody knew him as "Bud." I was known as "Joey," or, with my babysitters, Norma and Clarence, as "Joe Bud."

Nothing much was known about his father. He had died in the first two years of the Great Depression, when my father was three years old. But that's getting ahead of the story.

At the age of five, my brother (3) and I were sent to my grandparents' home to live, ostensibly because my mother was attending the University of Wyoming in Laramie, which was a sixty-mile commute from Cheyenne.

One later attempts to reconstruct these things.

Being only five at the time, I was not, obviously, privy to the calculations, although I would imagine that, in that idiotic manner of parents everywhere, they tried to explain it all to me logically, and it soared past my ears. I was five, after all, and knew nothing of prudence, planning, commuting nor temporary -- I'd probably never even registered the hearing of those words. They were part of seemingly infinite swirl of grownup words* that I noted the syntax of without any meaning.

[* You know, those words that adults s-p-e-l-l out in the presence of pre-reading children, as a form of literary class warfare.]

the author's first (and last) hula hoop

At first, they thought they could do it. But, evidently, mother did a donut driving on the old Lincoln Highway over Pole Mountain one snowy winter day.

It was decided that commuting was a bad idea. She would live in Laramie, whilst attending nursing school.

Thus: we were sent to our grandparents' to live. It was a relatively large extended family. My father had been working for my mother's sister's husband, building new houses in Grand Island, Nebraska. My mother's brother got a job with the Union Pacific Railroad in Cheyenne, Wyoming, changing the brushes on the electric engines of the diesel locomotives, and got my dad on in the same job at the railyard.

So, when I was six months old, my parents rented a U-Haul and drove old Highway 30, the Lincoln Highway, which is now essentially Interstate 80, which followed the Union Pacific tracks pretty much all the way to Cheyenne, Wyoming. We were a railroad family making the transition to automobiles, like the rest of 1950s America. Ike was in the White House and all was right with the World.

We went to Cheyenne by car, but we were returned to Kearney, Nebraska by train. The life story of my family is bound up in trains, and the train tracks of the UPRR main line. The "transcontinental railroad" that had been one of the last bills signed by Abraham Lincoln prior to his assassination. (The last bill, ironically, was the one creating the Secret Service, which has guarded U.S. Presidents ever after.)

My grandfather worked for the Union Pacific as a car inspector, having dropped out of school at thirteen, to support the family. He put two of his sisters through college, which was unusual for that time. But, being featherbedded into the railroad, he never missed a day's work during the Depression -- a fact that rarely gets mentioned in the obligatory Depression poverty stories that various Aunts and Uncles tell.

In a sense this was the beginning of writing and history: family stories. And as I've followed the oral history through the years, I've noted how stories have diverged, been altered, forgotten, emended and mythologized.

One uncle tells the story of how HE, a kid from the Wrong Side of the Tracks, finally got to go to Hawaii. (The same uncle, having entered Service in World War II, was put through college at military expense. As he graduated, the war came to an end. He was discharged. He was called back up for the Korean War, but never left the US, nor, I think, was even posted. He was just sort of "on call." He now lists himself biographically as a "World War II and Korean War Veteran.")

Because they had money in the depths of the Depression, my grandfather purchased an estate when it had been forfeit sometime after the owner's death. I am told by my aunt -- who is usually pretty accurate on these things -- that it was called the "Swann Estate." It was a 19th Century Gingerbread house, the sedan version of Harry S. Truman's house in Independence, Missouri.

If you had ever been to my grandparents' house, you would swear the Truman house was at least a first cousin.

Yes, it was half a block from the railroad tracks,and everyone in the extended family is immune to the sound of trains rattling by, at least after the first 24 hours or so, as many a new spouse learned on their first visit to the parents/grandparents' house.

Mostly what I remember from being five was that at EXACTLY my eye height, there were five square panes of colored glass in the door -- which had an old manual doorbell an ornate brass fixture on both sides of the door the size of a grapefruit. You pushed the lever back and the stiff spring rang the doorbell. It was great fun to watch people coming up the walk through the different panes of old glass, some still with bubbles in it, red, cobalt blue, gold and two others I can't recall. Such are the priorities of the five-year-old mind.

The Swann estate had quite a few outbuildings. My grandfather sold off chunks, liquidating most of the surrounding blocks over the years.

The stables next door were converted into a house, which grandfather later sold, and which still stands, generally painted blue. Dad had done the conversion. And that was where my mother and father moved, having lived in the Swann Estate main house, prior.*

[* You know, that place that the impoverished veteran uncle had lived on the "wrong side of the tracks" in. Such is the nature of our history: we always take the most complimentary interpretation. We have all done it -- and the challenge of the writer is to report in the opposite direction: warts and all.]

My father converted the stable, the newlyweds having lived with the parents for three or four years (a not unusual arrangement in those days). I was conceived in the new house, and then the fledgling family moved to Grand Island that spring to work on the houses that my uncle constructed that year. They moved later that year to the Omaha area, where they remain to this day.

(I have often been asked "What, were you, born in a barn?" To which my reply is, accurately: "No, but I was conceived in a stable, so it's probably in my nature.")

My brother and I were sent to live at that same Swann house, and I awakened every morning to the sight of the converted stables in which I'd been conceived. I didn't know it at the time, though.

That's an oddity of human experience: knowledge (or disinformation, its opposite) changes what we see. In the 'sixties, it was decided by dirty-minded psychologists that Lewis Carroll had a sexual "thing" of some sort for the real "Alice." But then documents were found that pretty much killed that slimy notion. (We project our fantasies of history on history all the time: official histories are no less shaded, ofttimes, than family histories.)

Alice's adventures in both books acquired a patina of evil, or even child molestation, and that view COLORED the experience of Alice (Wonderland and Looking Glass) for many years thereafter -- even though it was purest fiction.

In the same way, Southern Historians "swiftboated" Ulysses S. Grant in the latter half of the nineteenth century. So successfully, in fact, that he is still regularly referred to as "one of the worst American presidents," and often referred to as a terrible general. (Less successfully, since Robert E. Lee estimated Grant as the best general he'd ever faced.) As we change the histories of our nations, so we learned how to do it from changing the history of our families.

For a long time politicians did it (until the standard of fact checking became exponentially greater, post-internet). The story of the amazing expanding resume is as old as human history. As is the convenient story.

And we were told a convenient story about mommy going to school, and shipped off to the grandparents. It was the first convenient story in a cascading profusion to come.

We had done the same thing the winter before. This wasn't the first year of the winter exodus back to Nebraska. We would stay up with grandpa and Uncle Paul and watch the "Tonight Show" long after grandma went to bed at 9 or 10 pm.

My grandma was a fascinating woman, and she particularly delighted in reading to me, because I loved books, and so did she. For some reason, she kept reading Longfellow's "Song of Hiawatha" to me, long after I'd grown sick of it.

And here was the last time I ever saw my father, AS my father. I don't remember it, because it's not the sort of thing that registers at the time. When you leave, intending to come back, you seldom realize that there might not be anything to come back to. This is as true at 34 as at 4 as at 104.

We went to the train station. My grandmother may have come to Cheyenne to take us back on the train: because my grandfather worked for the UPRR, she could take the train anywhere for free. So, she did.

Or, my parents may have driven that 305 miles from Cheyenne to Kearney on the old Lincoln Highway. (I would be back and forth on that stretch of highway paralleling the UPRR main line more times than I could count by the time I was seventeen).

My grandmother, as I noted, used her unlimited travel on the UPRR whenever she wanted. My brother and I (born two years later in Cheyenne) had been at the Swann house through the winter.

Maybe it was cabin fever. Who know? My grandmother and grandfather famously didn't get along. Their bedrooms were on separate floors. His was on the first floor, with his stash of Rosicrucian books hidden in his closet. Hers was upstairs, with her secret library of Alice Bailey books hidden in HER sewing room, a large closet off her bedroom.

So much of our lives are led in secret. But those secrets had consequences for my brother and I in this case. One day, before grandfather got home from work, my brother and I were packed up and taken to the train station. We were still young enough to ride on the train for free.

So grandma could take us anywhere the railroad went whenever she wanted. And she just about managed to do just that:

Three days later, we arrived in Walla Walla, Washington, my grandmother's sister's home. Her husband worked at the Welch's factory across the Columbia River in Kennewick, which was closed just last summer.

I still remember a strange thing from that odyssey that I thought for years was a hallucination: with the sun setting we crossed the Great Salt Lake, going West: and the fantastic pink clouds and turquoise sky were perfectly reflected in the lake, that the train was FLYING over!

We left our seats and ate in the dining car, while the train flew suspended in a pink and turquoise sky.

Why flying? You couldn't see the tracks, and there was lake ten or fifteen feet below. It seemed impossible. Years later, I drove the interstate, and saw that section of the UPRR tracks on a long, straight trestle, ten or fifteen feet ABOVE the lake, cutting across a shallow section.

I had actually experienced that magical moment. For decades, I thought it must have been a dream.

Long story short: when we returned months later (after a lifetime's worth of PTSD childhood experiences), it was to the old Swann estate: my grandparents' Victorian gingerbread house.

One morning I was informed that my parents had arrived during the night. When they woke up, we'd see them.

We hadn't seen them in months. After an eternity, we were sent upstairs to the middle bedroom, and in a scene straight out of Dickens, informed that this was "your new daddy."

And I only saw my real father a handful of times thereafter, and then only in the awkward "visitation" mode, and after a year, I never saw nor heard from him again. He had given us up for adoption (after a futile battle with the "hell hath no fury" ex-wife, my mother). I never blamed him. I grew up. I moved on. Lots of kids lose a parent. We all deal with it because we have to. My dad had loved us, and been a wonderful father. I DID remember that. And that's about all.

I have one very precise memory of the last time I saw him. He bought me a little plastic black-and-white fake cowhide vest as a toy at the (since razed) Ben Franklin dime store in downtown Kearney.

And I never saw or heard my father again.

One strange interlude in 1969, around the time of my grandfather's death, my mother and I drove to a house in Kearney, where I was introduced to my father's mother, and his brother. That's it. I think they said that he was alive. That's every last bit of it.

Forty four years passed.

Now, the story gets all tear-jerky. (I didn't mean to become a character in a bad Dickens' novel; it just happened that way. Onward.)

The moment that remains etched in memory was the moment that my mother pointed to the guy across the bed from her and said, "This is your new daddy." My new name was, I was informed, "Claw Sun." I know that moment, because I remember making up a mnemonic device, picturing a bear's paw clawing at the sun. I didn't want to forget my new name, and embarrass this guy in his undershorts.

(Helluva way to meet your new 'father.)

I know: how was it that a five year old does that? I don't know. But, like the image of the train flying over the Great Salt Lake, it is probably entirely accurate. In fact, I didn't have to worry about remembering that new word: for the next twenty-three years, it would be my legal name.

And I wanted very much to ask a question that I never did: As in, "But I already HAVE a daddy? What happened to HIM?"

And so began life under the new regime: do not mention the old regime. Taboo. No!

It was easier on my little brother, John, because he was only three, and you don't remember doodley squat from being three. One dad was pretty much the same as another to him. But I'd gotten old enough to know who my dad was.

Then, as now, I was cursed with a too-detailed memory. Not so my little brother, who must have been too young to remember any of it.

And, remember, we had just spent months in Walla Walla, Washington, a place I didn't like then, and haven't been back to since.

We were both fed a steady diet of "a boy about your age drowned in the Columbia" until my little brother was deathly afraid of any form of swimmable water until well into high school. Walla Walla might have been OK, but the house we were shanghaied to was more Addams Family than Dickens. So maybe he does remember something. But I don't ever recall him having done so.

I have a solitary memory that is burned into me with the heat of a star and the precision of a diamond drill. When we arrived at the train station, it was night, and we were exhausted. We were driven to the new house, and, half asleep, taken into the guest bedroom and put to bed. The following morning, I woke up, opened my eyes and saw the molding around the ceiling. And, in a shrieking existential panic that resonates in my mind to this very day, I thought: I DON'T KNOW WHERE I AM.

I mean: completely.

Everything that I knew had been stripped out of my life, and I didn't even know where I was. Then I remembered the flying train and then the night car trip, and I've been pretty much oriented in time and space, ever since. But I have never forgotten that one morning.

It's a lot like what happened to MY dad. His father died when he was three years old, and he doesn't remember HIM. But he remembers that moment when he was told that he was getting in a car to drive "East."

From that moment on, our personal history was carefully erased. "Daddy Joe" was a topic that was carefully tied off and amputated over the years. In our family photographs, my mother took a pair of scissors (probably the ubiquitous nursing scissors, with the blunt spade nose for rooting under bandages to cut them off) and cut the FACE OUT OF each and every picture of my father.

Weirder still, many years later, my mother gave me the little "My Baby Book" that she'd kept. She had scratched out the "Williams" and scratched in "Claussen" everywhere that it had appeared. Then, a few years later, she'd scratched out the "Claussen" and returned it to "Williams."

The inherent absurdity of "Joseph Hart Claussen, Jr." was always evident to me, and part of a great hole I carried with my family history. The documentary record was successfully expunged, and from age six until I was in my twenties, "Daddy Joe" became a taboo and forgotten subject.

I know. Shades of Oliver Twist and all that, but it's true, every word. Honest Injun. Cross my heart and hope to die.

No photographs survived for many years, until our old babysitters, Norma and Clarence, who never had any children, GAVE me a photograph of my father they'd preserved during all the years that I lived at home. I was in college at the time.

When, years later still, I received my baby book, for some reason, I matched the photograph of my father that my babysitters had given me to the four black and empty corners opposite my mother's photograph where my father's photograph HAD been. They were the old kind of glue-down mounting pieces, little paper L-brackets that held photos so that they could be taken out of albums and the bad handwriting on the back deciphered.

I don't even know if they make them anymore.

The picture fit in those four brackets PERFECTLY, as if a piece of an epic jigsaw puzzle.

Fast forward to Hollywood, 1976. In town just a couple of months, my wallet has been stolen. Inside it are my draft card, my drivers license and my Wyoming Birth Certificate.

In order to replace the drivers license, I have to replace the birth certificate. I write Wyoming.

A letter comes back: You will have to take it up with Nebraska. Wyoming no longer issues amended birth certificates.


Turned out that after the legal adoption and name change, Wyoming had gone ahead and issued me a new birth certificate. So I sent off to Nebraska. The birth certificate came back: Joseph Hart Williams. Nobody had ever changed my name during the divorce.

I'd have saved a lot of grief, had I just gone ahead and become JHW. But I went through the whole rigamarole set out by the Nebraska Department of Vital Statistics Bitch From Hell, Frieda Theis.

She is finally dead and can no longer hassle my family, so I may tell the tale. Years later, I found, in some old family documents, a letter from Ms. Theis to my MOTHER, giving her the same grief about changing my name. Registered this, notarized that, fees, fees, fees. It was about changing the name on my birth certificate, and was dated 1961. So, for at least 15 years and two generations, Frieda Theis made my paperwork identity into a living hell.

I changed my name back to Joseph Hart Claussen (a deadly name for a writer, since no one ever managed to spell it the same way twice in a row). I thought hard about keeping the JHW certificate, while I corresponded with Frieda Theis, and had no ID, couldn't get a job, etc. etc.

Because "Hart Williams" looked very much like a writer's name. But I thought it would be "phony," and passed on the notion. (In 1980, I began using it as a pseudonym, along with the fifty others I was using to write entire issues of various LA men's magazines. In 1984, I formally changed it, and my passport now legally reads 'Hart J. Williams.')

What's in a name? A rose by any other name would have trouble with Frieda (M?) Theis.

Now, I have always remembered the OTHER thought I had when I made up that mnemonic to remember the alien new name I had been unceremoniously given: I hated it. I still hated it in 1976. I hate it to this very day.*

[* Not that I hate the man from whom it came. My stepfather was a U.S. Forest Service engineer, and was the best of all possible stepfathers. As such, my mother divorced and remarried him regularly until he died in 1991. I just hated the NAME, as an aesthetic issue. I remember really loving 'Williams' as a kid, and the beautiful calligraphy in which it was rendered very often. Being left-handed, I did not know that the flowing cursive-script would never be mine, most especially that "ILLI" flourish that cursive writers take such delight in when writing.]

Wives and girlfriends have asked me over the years: "Don't you want to know who your real father is?" And I would answer with a standard palette of denials, trivializations, etc. The issue was so charged that my brother and I both came up with an endless array of denial tactics to hide the issue that always remained: WHERE did I come from? What is my paternal line?

By the time I "took back" my name in 1984, I had become interested again in finding out who my father was. Over the following decade, I carefully, stealthily, mined nugget after nugget, and kernel after kernel of information out of my mother. It was an exhausting process to get her at a moment of weakness or forgetfulness to let something slip. And then, it was back to TABOO status.

In 1993, having moved to her home in Ottawa, Kansas, to help her finish packing and moving (she'd spent two years depressed after the death of my stepfather), I made the discovery of all discoveries.

I ran across the NEGATIVES of those old photographs. And there, in negative, were all the pictures of my father and I and my mother that I only knew from the photos with the hole where my dad's face ought to be.

I "liberated" the negatives. Later, with a scanner, I converted them and sent them to my brother, who probably promptly finked, but I figured he ought to at least have a set for HIS kids. THEY might want to know.

She mutilated the pictures, but had FORGOTTEN the negatives. (NB: NYAHAhahahahah!)

So, after thirty plus years, I had something new to go on. Then, about the same time, my grandmother, my father's mother died. (My mother's mother died in the same year, more or less, and both in their 90s).

I spoke with her, and she told me that my father was alive, in a town in Tennessee that she couldn't pronounce, and DIDN'T WANT TO SEE ME. My mother -- who, weirdly, ended up being the hospice nurse who saw my paternal grandmother into the grave -- found out no additional information, either.

The truth was now, literally, dead and buried: Dead Grandmothers Tell No Tales.

And then the internet arrived in my household in 1995.

For the next twelve years, I looked for my father, grandparents, relatives, ANYTHING that might shed some light on that side of the family. Irrespective of how one might feel about blood ties, there were issues of hereditary disease, family life spans, etc.

Well, try looking for a "Williams."

One thing I learned: "Williams" is not so much a family, as a people. They were those who came with William, Duke of Normandy when he attacked the British Isles, and defeated Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

William (the Bastard, which he literally was) was a forward-thinking* monarch, and initiated the first census of his subjects, creating "false" family units throughout England.

[* Another forward-thinking concept was the establishment of the first national parks ... anywhere. It was expressly forbidden for anyone but the king to hunt stags -- which he never did -- in the national parks, with the stag of the Red Deer called, at maturity, the hart. William's harts (you might call them) were protected under penalty of death. No editorial commentary implied: just noting a fact.]

It was the census recorded in the Domesday Book that created the necessity of a surname, generally what one did, or where one was from, or whose son one was: Smiths (the most common name in the USA), Coopers, Fletchers, Bakers, all of which were trades; and their sons, like Johnson (the second most common), Williamson, Thompson, Wilson, etcetera; and an interesting surname, Williams, which were the men and their families who came over with William.

The THIRD most common surname in the USA.

OK: try looking for "Joe Williams."

Or shoot yourself; the latter course of action at least stands a chance of accomplishing something. The former is merely and utterly hopeless.

OK: the sateen-covered "Our Baby Boy" baby book said that Josephus Hart Williams was the father, the father's father, and the father's father's father. This might or might not have been accurate. I could not proceed from that premise. But I had a "unique" name, so I looked.

I found a very few "Josephuses" over the years. Once, a private eye who owed me a favor for ghostwriting a proposal had gotten me a skip trace list, and turned up thirty such names and variants (Josephus H. Williams, Josephus Williams, J. Hart Williams, etc.)

But none of the leads ever went anywhere.

Until last August.

Now, don't think that I had no "pedigree" -- proletarian though it was. My Aunt Jenny had researched and even published a book on the genealogy of her mother's side of the family (my mother's mother's side).

That was very well known.

[Here's a weird piece of trivia, however: I learned last summer that my mother's mother's mother was born within two miles and two years of my father's father's father -- even though it would take until their grandchildren to relocate as closely as a single state. Those two married, and I'm their offspring.]

But I literally knew nothing of MY father. Or his family. I knew his mother's side of the family. But my father and his father and their family was a complete blank.

What my mother had done wasn't so awfully odd. Divorces -- at that time -- were still VERY scandalous. I remember having a girl in my grade school class pointed out to me at church, because SHE was the product of a DIVORCE, and had a different last name than her mother and 'father'.

So, the history of a prior marriage had to be erased, and who better to do that than the potentially scandalous divorcee who had borne said children? Ergo, "mom."

OK: The first thing you did was to change the children's name. Check. Then you discouraged any reference to the prior marriage and father. (Check.) Because children say the darndest things.

And then you spend a childhood (not yours) erasing the memory of the missing father, and even, perhaps hint that he left you because he DIDN'T LOVE YOU. (You little brats!)

He couldn't be bothered, you know. Best not to discuss it.

I took it as well as might be expected. But this is a commonplace story in the America I came of age in. I really get the feeling that a version of that is what's going on with Alec Baldwin's daughter. It's as common as dirt, and if the mother has any GUILT about the divorce (like, say, some of it was her fault), the coercion ramps up significantly.

It's no different than the Communists rewriting Russian history when they came to power, or the rewriting of Chinese history. Or of our own.

That's a bit of the point of this column, wordy as it is. My path has made me what I am, so I don't damn any of it. But I DO think that learning from mistakes is important, and the 44 years of separation from my father are tragic inasmuch as the only reason for the suffering that we endured was because of one woman's inner demons.

There is no justification in that.

Poisoning children against their absent fathers is a venerable national pastime, but it's high time we substituted it with something like, say, soccer, which has the additional advantage of being physically healthy, in addition to its obvious benefit of NOT making adulthood the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder of childhood.

I've seen a lot of families, and believe me, if you think what happens on the world stage is bad -- wars, revenge, theft, oppression -- what happens in Family Court, proportionally, is FAR worse. Thank goodness we don't treat citizens and other nations the way we often treat our families. If we did, the human race would probably be extinct already.

OK, denouement.

The key was finding the 1930 Census online, for which I must thank Ancestry dot Com, who gave me a fourteen day free trial, which I put to very good use. The 1930 census was only "declassified" in 2002, and without it, none of the dominoes could have fallen over.

I had always been told a cryptic: Your grandfather Williams died when your father was three years old. Your grandmother ran off, and three of the four children were put in foster homes. (Remember, this was 1930 or 1931, and EVERYBODY was struggling to feed whomever they already had. Not four more abandoned children.)

But my father was adopted by a farm family in Indiana, "To keep the name in the family."

Which name? Josephus? Or Hart? What family? Do you realize HOW MANY FREAKING WILLIAMSES THERE ARE!!?!?!?

A man I knew used to say that there were almost as many Williamses as there were white people. Another man I knew used to say the opposite: there are almost as many white people as there are Williamses. I imagine there's probably a racist tinge to the remark, but I merely report; I'm not judging.

Besides, like I said earlier: the Williamses are more a people than a family. So, I can reasonably assert that any black Williams is as much related to me as any white Williams. After all, we both got our names the same way: we adopted them for a census. And, ironically, it was the U.S. Census that finally cracked the case for me (after the "Eureka!" moment of decrypting some really bad Census penmanship).

But my truth is that, for 44 years, I had no idea. I was stuck on square one and couldn't roll an "8" to get out. The intensely personal puzzle sat for decades mocking me, like a supercilious, smirking sphinx.

Aaaaaargh, I would think to myself. But, without some key additional piece of information, I could never crack the code. (To everything there is a season...).

For nearly my entire life, the puzzle could not be cracked, but I had no way of knowing that ONLY a Google-monkey could solve the conundrum of father AND the whole paternal line. Well, Google-monkeys (I'm referring to myself) did not exist, could not exist until the past couple of years. So, while the key existed, it didn't exist in any way that I could access.

And then, in August 2006, I found that key.

But that part will have to wait for another day. The reason that this was written was to tell you a good Father's Day story.

And, it was to note that my story of a lost father is all too common in my generation, and moreso for those generations that followed. I'm not the only kid who literally had my father's memory cut out of my life.

But I'm one who found his long lost father.

And today, at noon, I wished him Happy Father's Day for the first time in his life and mine.

After that incredibly awkward initial first meeting last year, I've gotten to know my father: he's a good man, and a father to be proud of. More than that I could not have wished for.

So, Happy Father's Day to you who know your fathers and to you who do not. I hope that you find the answers that you seek, and that your path is ultimately successful.

And that it doesn't take you as long to reconnect to your roots as it did me. But even then, I hope you make it. Not all child abuse is physical, nor is it all parceled out by men. Sometimes mothers do bad things too.

Happy Father's Day, Dad. It's good to finally know you.