Friday, July 31, 2015


This is a video of an encounter with someone who appears to be Officer Tensing of the University of Cincinnati police department a little over a year ago when he had been on the job for just about a month:

What the actual fuck?

Why is he doing this? What does he think he will accomplish? Where does an officer's need to feed his ego and authority come from?

Ray Tensing is the officer who killed Sam Dubose in an incident very similar to this one. Ray Tensing is charged with murder but is out on bail because his father, a Cincinnati fireman, came up with the $100,000 surety on his son's million dollar bail. Tensing was fired from the UC police department but demands his job back.

 WCPO would like you to believe he was always polite...

Monday, July 20, 2015

So What Have We Learned From The Greek Thing -- So Far?

[NOTE: This post has been simmering for a number of days now, and it may be somewhat out of date. Oh well! ;-)]

The Greek Riot Dog, Loukanikos -- or rather his doppelganger -- was said to be spotted out and about the other day as the Greek Parliament prepared to debate the latest version of the capitulation to the Troika that was required in order to get financing to reopen their banks and get the economy moving in some direction other than full-speed reverse. There were a handful of clashes in the streets -- eagerly gobbled up by the media -- between riot police and "anti-establishment" protesters in Athens. Molotov cocktails were thrown, which is a sign of course that everything is going up in flames. Except no. The Greek Parliament had a pro-forma debate and passed the austerity measures demanded by the Troika in order "to open talks on a third bailout." The flames in Syntagma Square died out quickly enough. The Greeks went back to brooding; the rest of Europe went back to wondering WTF; the US went back to fretting over sharks and missing white women.

Typical summer news cycle. Nothing really happens in the summertime, you  know. It's all prep for what's coming After Labor Day. That's when things really get going again.

The Greek Spectacle has been fascinating to be sure, but from appearances, nothing has really happened at all... except, maybe... the cracks in the Euro-facade have become so wide, the Euro-Projekt may be facing disintegration sooner rather than later. The euro itself may become a currency curiosity. Greece will no doubt go through a period of increasing difficulty, but in the end, the Greeks may be able to show Europe a way out of its dilemma.

I keep thinking of what's been going on in Europe through the lens of how the United States of America was created. There are serious unresolved issues in Europe, much as there were in the nascent United States, and crises like those of the Ukraine and Greece are necessities if Europe is to become a united continent. Europe has not managed to unite though today there are celebrations of "unity" as one parliament after another agrees to go along with another unworkable and unsustainable Greek "bailout" measure. This fiction of unity is also a necessity on the path to real unity, and perhaps Greece will be able to show the rest of Europe a path out of its increasingly ridiculous -- and dangerous -- nonsense. Much the same way the Greek "bailout" is entirely fictional. There is no Greek bailout, never has been, at least not for the Greek people. There is instead a smoothing of the means of looting those people. Ah, but it's all for unity's sake, so it's all good. Right?

The USA was not actually united at the outset. It formed quite roughly as a collection of essentially independent states that originated as British North American colonies, and these colonies formed a less than perfect coalition at the outset of Independence in order to expel their British overlords. Once that was accomplished, the Confederation of essentially independent states (formerly colonies) had a period of difficulty as they floundered, unable to adopt or implement national policies -- because the initial version of the USA was not a nation. Not in the sense it needed to be. It was a coalition that barely functioned. We can argue at another time whether the notion of a nation was actually all that much of a good thing in the end, but the difficulties of governing the non-national confederation are mirrored in many ways by the difficulties Europe is experiencing as exposed by the Greek Thing and the many other economic, social, and political fractures and failures that have widened and worsened during the recent sturm und drang over so-called "bailouts" of the Periphery and Greece in particular.

It's not just the economic strain, though that is the leading indicator in Europe. It's ethnic, political, social, historic and geographical strain as well. Some of those factors may be more important in the underlying dynamic of what's going on than the economics of it all.

Perhaps the most united Europe ever was was during the period of the Roman Empire starting a couple of thousand years ago. More or less "primitive" tribal peoples (primarily Celts) in Western Europe were conquered and ruled by foreign -- mostly Italian -- overlords, under the banner of Imperial Rome. The subject peoples paid tribute and became civilized through their assimilation of Roman culture and technology, the spread of the Latin language and its use as a lingua franca, the imposition of pax romana and the relatively free flow of trade.

All of this led to a several hundred year period of relative peace and prosperity for the conquered yet relatively lightly ruled Celts of Gaul and the rest of the Western European empire. The problem -- the existential threat, in fact -- were the Franks (ie: French) and Allemani (ie: Germans) across the Rhine who were kept at bay by Roman and auxiliary Celtic troops until the empire withdrew and the savage horde descended on prostrate Europe, initiating the Dark Ages, yadda yadda -- at least as the tale has been handed down from the days of yore (Gibbon's "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" dates to 1776-89, roughly the period of the dis-unity of American Independence from Britain interestingly enough.)

I think we have a tendency to make too little of the ethnic divisions in Europe today. The population of Roman Gaul and western Europe was largely -- not exclusively -- ethically and culturally Celtic, which the Romans were quite familiar with having been invaded by Celts repeatedly over the centuries. Their languages and cultures were different, but not so different that either considered the other "un-human." The ones to be feared as "un-human" were the peoples across the Rhine, the Franks and Allemani along with other Germanics, ethnically and culturally dissimilar from either the Romans or the Celts, and constantly threatening to the peace and prosperity which had been established and maintained in western Europe under Roman rule.

As cruel as the Romans and Celts could be (and there is little doubt that both played a very cruel game with their own people) the Franks and Allemani were considered far crueler, far less inclined to mercy, far more rapacious, greedy, and destructive. The Romans and their Celtic allies built up cities -- many of which are still vibrant -- and trading outposts all over western Europe; the Franks and Allemani destroyed them, destroyed the networks of trade, killed the people, fought one another, and made misery for all their principal reason for being. At least that was the general fear of what would happen if they weren't kept at bay, and that was the reality much of western Europe experienced when the framework of Roman rule crumbled and the savage hordes swept over the Rhine and into the west.

The Empire shuddered and crumbled. Rome itself was taken and sacked by Germanic savages several times after 410 until ultimately Odoacer I deposed the last Latin Roman emperor Romulus Augustulus in 476... oh, the story has been told so many times, why repeat it here. After all, in due time, the Gothic usurper Theodoric had Odoacer deposed and -- they say -- personally cut him in half. How rude, but that's what was feared would happen if the Germanic hordes descended on the essentially Celtic west, and so it did.

As the empire shuddered and collapsed in the West, petty Germanic states were formed among the smoking ruins of formerly vital cities and towns, great estates that the Romans had established were seized and became the kernels of baronies and duchies and marches and counties. The native Celts were dispossessed, enslaved and/or killed in their multitudes. What few Romans there were were driven out or hacked to pieces.

Greece itself had become part of the Roman Empire long before the collapse. As part of Rome it had a special place, however. Greece paid tribute to Rome and a layer of Roman aristocrats nominally ruled, but in fact, the Greeks were relatively autonomous within the Empire. In the late empire, however, Greece was repeatedly invaded by Germanic savages, and Athens and Corinth as well a numerous Peloponnesian cities were looted by the Visigoths under Alaric. This was by no means the first taste Greeks had had of Germanic brutality and greed, but it was a shock to the system nonetheless.

Subsequently,  Greece became a province of the Eastern Roman Empire based in Constantinople and Greeks apparently prospered, at least until the 7th or 8th Century.

The Visigoths went off to what's now Spain and established kingdoms of a sort there and in North Africa.

While that didn't end the Germanic and Slavic threats to Greece, their destructive sojourns in the  Hellenic provinces tended to be brief so long as the Roman Empire persisted in Constantinople. Once the Roman Empire was extinguished by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, Ottoman rule replaced ostensibly Roman rule in Greece, and that rule continued until Greece obtained its independence 1828-1832 (with French, Russian, and British aid.)

"Greek Independence" is something of a fiction, however, as the newly freed (from the Turks) rump state had a relatively small population (far fewer than under Turkish rule). The Great Powers (France, Britain and Russia -- Germany didn't exist at the time) installed a Bavarian king whose Bavarian ministers taxed the locals more heavily than the Turks had, taxed them in order to pay off British and Rothschild bank loans. Sounds remarkably similar to the current situation.

Rather than go into the weeds any farther than I already have, I'd just point out that the newly "independent Greece" was from the first a vassal state of the Powers and their banks, impoverished and oppressed, its people exploited for the purpose of enriching a handful of domestic magnates and foreign interests.

As the situation is described in the Wikipedia:
Britain and the Rothschild bank, who were underwriting the Greek loans, insisted on financial stringency from Armansperg [the Bavarian finance minister installed as one of King Otto's regents during his minority]. The Greeks were soon more heavily taxed than under Turkish rule;[2] as the people saw it, they had exchanged a hated Ottoman tyranny, which they understood, for government by a foreign bureaucracy, the "Bavarocracy" (Βαυαροκρατία), which they despised. (Ottoman rule had been called in Greek Tourkokratia – Τουρκοκρατία, "Turkish rule").
In addition, the regency showed little respect for local customs. Also, as a Roman Catholic, Otto himself was viewed as a heretic by many pious Greeks, however, his heirs would have to be Orthodox according to the terms of the 1843 Constitution.[3]
Popular heroes and leaders of the Greek Revolution, like the Generals Theodoros Kolokotronis and Yiannis Makriyiannis, who opposed the Bavarian-dominated regency, were charged with treason, put in jail and sentenced to death. However, they were pardoned later, under popular pressure, while the Greek judges, who resisted the Bavarian pressure and refused to sign the death penalties (like Anastasios Polyzoidis and Georgios Tertsetis), were saluted as heroes.
And so on and so forth, as Slavoj Zizek would say.

Greece was effectively in revolt against these harsh impositions from the outset, and in certain ways, that revolt has never ceased. Nor have the impositions, often specifically German impositions (cf: Nazi invasion/occupation 1941-44.)

The current situation shows us that the Greek people despise the impositions from abroad, particularly by Germany. Their current government, however, agrees to these harsh impositions claiming there is no alternative, but suggesting that resistance is called for. The history of Greece and Europe shows us that the type models for the current untenable situation were established long ago -- some portion of the model going back to Roman or pre-Roman times -- and that Greek resistance of one sort or another has been a constant whenever foreign interests have failed to respect the dignity of the Greek people.

While the Greek government struggles to reach an acceptable accommodation with its creditors, the people of Greece are exploited impoverished by order from Berlin and Brussels. While the government of Greece demands that their oppressors relent. Their oppressors respond with blank stares and even harsher impositions. So it goes. The pattern has repeated many times, the Greek people have suffered and endured many times, and ultimately Greece and its people survive.

Europe struggles with its conscience, but so far has done nothing to ameliorate the situation in Greece, claiming rather insistently that they cannot do what must be done on behalf of Greece due to alleged legal constraints that prevent it.  Therefore Greece must suffer, regardless of anything else. "Rules" -- they say -- "are rules."

Advisors -- so called -- advocate Greek separation from the euro and even from Europe and repudiation of its odious debt, but so far the Greeks refuse to follow that advice, preferring to stay within the Eurozone and fight through the current situation using truth and reason versus the fantasy and cruelty that European powers believe is their only alternative.

That fight will be long by any measure, but it's had an effect on the stability of the European project. That project appears to be in the process of self-destructing -- with ample assistance from inside and outside.  On the other hand, there are many interests trying to hold it together under modified "rules," including Greece and (apparently) the United States.

So we'll see. The road is long, and even after five years of failure, we still seem to be at the beginning of the journey. Whatever the case, neither Greece nor Europe will ever be the same again. The "ringfence" around the Greek Thing has failed.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Tempest, Prometheus Bound, and The Greek Thing

We broke off yesterday from following the drama in Brussels over the Greek Thing and went into town (Albuquerque in this instance) to attend a performance of Shakespeare's "The Tempest," far and away my favorite Shakespeare play.

It was fascinating, really, because the production was done as a summer youth project by middle and high school students, and I thought they carried it off well -- all things considered. In addition, most of the male roles were played by girls, some of them quite young. Prospero in fact was played by a female (which has become something of A Thing in the theater lately).

"The Tempest" was probably Shakespeare's last play, dating from about 1603, and it deals with issues and themes of wrongs done, forgiveness extended, reconciliation, love, freedom and... magic. To me the play is a surprise practically every step of the way because often what you might expect to happen is turned upside down through Prospero's magic, Ariel's intervention, Caliban's frustrations, and so on. The resolution seems rather, pat perhaps even formulaic, but it leaves one with something to ponder, too, that even in the worst of circumstances, one's ability to forgive wrongs done matters more than one's urge toward vengeance.

The characters stare into the abyss, in other words, and the abyss stares back. Rather than fall in, they change.

And that change leads to a new dawn and new reality.

Well, if that didn't have something to do with The Greek Thing and what needs to happen -- but hasn't yet -- I'd want to know the reason why.

On the other hand, in some of the consideration of what's been going on with regard to Greece and Europe, the ancient Greek drama of "Prometheus Bound" by Aeschylus has been mentioned as a type-model for the nearly impossible struggle Alexis Tsipras and the Greek people have been engaged in with the Euro-creeps and Euro-crats.

"Prometheus Bound" is a surprisingly short and quite stunning play, certainly one of the masterpieces of Ancient Greek drama. Breathtaking in its tragic implications for those who would do good in the world and good for mankind.

Prometheus is a Titan who steals fire from Olympus and gives it to humans for their use. This angers Zeus who has Prometheus chained to a rock and sets a harpie to eating out his liver -- which re-grows every night, so the harpie comes every day to eat Prometheus's liver again. Through this torture and sadism -- for that's all it is -- Prometheus defends his actions on behalf of humankind and condemns Zeus and the Olympian gods as usurpers (which they are), hypocrites and deceivers (which they also are).

Here's an interpretation of the drama done in Brussels (how appropriate) in 2010 (in French, a little over an hour long):

Prométhée enchaîné - José Besprosvany from focus live on Vimeo.

And here's another version, animated, only 12 minutes or so, in English:

PROMETHEUS BOUND from Manatee Idol on Vimeo.

"Prometheus Bound" was the first of a trilogy of short plays dealing with the myth of Prometheus, the other two being "Prometheus Unbound" and "Prometheus the Fire-Bringer." The other plays only survive as fragments, but according to scholarship, in the end, Prometheus is released from his chains by Herakles, and he eventually reconciles with Zeus after warning him of danger to his rule of Olympus.

The parallels with the current situation between Greece and the European powers is not exact, of course, but the echoes and necessities are surely there. The most recent iteration of  "negotiations" and an "agreement" between Greece and its creditors have led to a realization that the Euro-project, and potentially the European Union itself, are likely to be extinguished in the not too distant future due to the intransigence, greed, and pure venom of the Germans.

This won't end well, in other words.

But eventually, in both "The Tempest" and the Prometheus Trilogy, a way is found to reconcile.

Will it be found in Europe before a tragic conclusion?

In essence, it must be.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

SYRIZA'S Rise and Alexis Tsipras as a New Model European Hero

What's been happening in Greece since the election of a "radical leftist" SYRIZA coalition last January has truly been one of the most dramatic episodes in European history. Even more dramatic is what's been happening in the rest of Europe.

The old ways are being shattered, but their replacements aren't entirely clear from this distance. What is crystal clear is that the way things have operated in Europe and Greece for a generation or more -- at least since the fall of the Berlin Wall -- cannot and will not be sustained any longer. The damage done by the nearly universal adoption of neo-liberal economic models and their mindless imposition by governments and quasi-governments throughout Europe and beyond must, without exception, end.

Greece had been the laboratory for the cruelest impositions of the mindless Euro-crats -- cruelties which have not ended by any means, cruelties which may in fact get worse before there is any substantive change in Europe -- but with the strong rejection of the European demands on Greece in the recent referendum, the Greek people were able to reverse the roles and begin to take the reins of Fate from the hands of their tormenters.

All this has met with a barrage of criticism, from the left, right and center, in large measure because the critics don't understand what's going on from either the perspective of "Europe" or from the Greek point of view. The critics see things through their own lenses -- which may have nothing at all to do with how the players in this drama are seeing and experiencing things, and likely has nothing to do with the goals and objectives of those players.

Tsipras and SYRIZA have taken the worst beating from the critics. After all, they're the new kids on the block, they're inexperienced at governing, and they're the weakest players with hardly any leverage against the Titans who rule. Critics have claimed they have neither Plan A nor Plan B for getting through the turmoil and that the situation in Greece has deteriorated markedly since the installation of Tsipras and the SYRIZA government. A "responsible" and "adult" government would have surrendered abjectly and without reservation to the demands of the Troika from Day One, and by doing so, it would have (somehow) "saved" Greece from the dire straits it is now in.

Barring that, a truly "radical" and "revolutionary" Greek government, which SYRIZA claimed to be, runs the other side of the critical game, would have got into office and taken a measured, step-by-step approach to leaving the eurozone, repudiating its debts altogether, and marching to the rhythm of its own drummer -- from Day One. Doing so might have put Greece in dire straits, but those straits would be brief, and like Argentina or Iceland, Greece would emerge from the worst of it shortly and better off than before.

Tsipras and SYRIZA have done neither, and so critics have become almost hysterical in their denunciations and condemnations. They are doing it wrong!!! The claim further is that Tsipras and SYRIZA are just bungling their way from one level of crisis to another, literally throwing away opportunity after opportunity to change the dynamic and "save people's lives." Etc.

They don't know what they're doing, they don't have a plan, and what they are doing is making matters categorically worse, every day in every way.

 Except that every day the repercussions in Europe for the actions of the Euro-Titans have been profound and growing in intensity. As the inabilities of the Euro-Titans to come to a resolution of the crisis drag on, the cruelties of the impositions on Greece by a German-led cohort of Europe are manifest and are ever-less acceptable. Germany and its friends are more and more isolated, more and more under pressure, more and more irrational. Making this case clearly -- that Germany was the problem in Europe, not Greece -- was one of SYRIZA'S prime objectives, and it was made explicitly clear in a gathering of "subversives" in Croatia (or was it Slovenia) in May of 2013, video of which was posted online at the time.

It's rather remarkable to listen to this presentation by Alexis Tsipras and Slavoj Zizek in 2013 and compare it to what the Greek government has been doing since taking office in January of 2015. Clearly Tsipras and SYRIZA had a plan in 2013, and to the extent it has been possible to do so, they have been implementing it step-by-step since coming into office.

Their goal, from the beginning, was to "change Europe" -- because they believe sincerely that the model of Europe as it has been implemented is simply wrong and destructive and must be changed for the well-being not only of Greece but of the people of Europe as a whole. Greece has been a neo-liberal laboratory which has failed to produce the results promised. People are therefore suffering for no rational reason. Germany is the problem, for most of the worst and cruelest of the impositions on the Periphery -- including Greece -- have been demanded and designed in Berlin. This situation simply must change, and it cannot change by continuing to take orders from Berlin, orders that are impossible to fulfill.

Nowadays, all this seems self-evident to everyone, but in those days it wasn't. There was tremendous faith in the neo-liberalization of Europe, and while Greece and the rest of the Periphery might be experiencing temporary "pain," it was for a good cause. In the end, whenever that end came, Greeks and the rest of the Peripherals would be better off and would be thankful for the reforms that had been instituted.

Even now, there are those who claim that what is being done to Greece and the Periphery is Necessary and Good.

But those voices are fewer and fewer. The obvious truth -- a truth which until the rise of SYRIZA must never be uttered -- is that the cruel impositions on Greece and the rest of the Periphery are Unnecessary and Bad. Downright evil in fact. Yes, the right word is Evil.

While there have always been critics of the neo-liberalization of Europe, there has not been, until now, a European government so intent on exposing the lies and the cruelties and the unnecessary evil of the neo-liberal deceivers in Berlin and Brussels, certainly nothing like Alexis Tsipras and the SYRIZA coalition going head to head with the Troika in any and every venue they can manage.

They are heroes in the classic sense, doing daily battle with much more powerful forces and exposing the fraud of the neo-liberal project in Europe in every single contest. The Titans are trembling.

And in Brussels both yesterday and so far today, they are paralyzed.

Their programmatic cruelties toward Greece are almost fully exposed as selfish and irrational and destructive. The "rules" of Europe simply make no sense. The entire Euro-Project lacks reason and humanity. None of it can be sustained.

Greece is going through a period of intensifying suffering it is true, but with the referendum last weekend, the Greeks took the initiative away from the Troika, took possession of their own fate, owning whatever would come their way, and bewilderingly to the critics, they put their faith and trust in the ability of Tsipras and SYRIZA to find a way to a better future. The standard narrative is that by making essentially the same proposal to Europe that the Greek people had overwhelmingly rejected in the referendum, SYRIZA and Tsipras had betrayed the People -- and they should resign forthwith.

Except that's not how the Greeks see it.

There have been protests, it's true, but there are no riots in the streets (unlike the situation during previous governments and their capitulations to the Troika when there were intense and sustained street battles). The Greek people seem to understand how this is playing out -- and what SYRIZA is doing -- something the critics can't fathom to save their lives.  The Greeks have presented a strategic surrender, the fourth or fifth "capitulation" since SYRIZA's rise to power. None of the previous capitulations have been accepted by the Euro-Titans, and it looks like this one will not be accepted either -- but we'll see about that.

The Euro-Titans are paralyzed. They cannot act, not for good and not for ill, as the stalemate in Brussels can't be broken. At least not yet.

A strategic surrender puts Europe on the spot. So far, Europe lacks the wisdom to accept -- something no doubt Tsipras and SYRIZA knew would happen. Germany is still the problem, and Germany has never demonstrated wisdom or compassion or basic human understanding in the situation. German bullying and bull-headedness has worsened the situation in Greece, and continuation on the German path will quite likely lead to the destruction of the Euro-Project. That outcome may be necessary to cause the kind of transformation of Europe that the Greeks are aiming for.

 This is the video of a two hour conversation between Alexis Tsipras and Slavoj Zizek in Zagreb, Croatia, May 15, 2013 at the 6th Annual Subversive Festival. Compare what they say with what Tsipras and SYRIZA have been doing since January of 2015.

An unintentional hero is one who does what's right, come what may.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Greek Thing

I haven't had much to say about the Greek Thing -- or that much of anything -- lately due to the fact that so much of the reporting about it has been based on rumor, insult, innuendo, and advice, not on whatever is actually happening at all.

Much of it is absolutely captivated with the sayings of various heavy-hitter-players in the drama with no particular interest in the consequences to ordinary Greek people -- who have been suffering mightily under the lash of a bunch of wilding Euro-Creeps, the men and women of the Institutions wielding the instruments of the financial torture of the Greek People on behalf of... whom? Who is profiting from all this suffering?

You know that somebody is.

Yesterday, however, was the referendum on the question of whether to accept the terms of the Euro-Creeps for more austerity which has been wrongly (deliberately wrongly) termed a "Greek Bailout." There's been no hint of a Greek bailout since the start of the crisis all those many years ago. The bailout, such as there's been one, has been of the banks that lent Greece money it couldn't pay back, and of the Titans of Europe, the Troika, the "Institutions" which made the banks whole and which are now demanding the Greeks make them whole on a bunch of loans that shouldn't have been made in the first place, most of them "odious" by any rational standard.

The referendum was considered to be running neck and neck right up to the point where the initial results came in showing a 60/40 No (OXI) to Yes (NAI) vote. It was not neck and neck, it was not even close. The pre-vote polling was wildly wrong, but that's been typical of the reporting too. The overwhelming sentiment among the Greek people is to reject -- in no uncertain terms -- the threats, ultimatums and harsh impositions from Brussels and Berlin and do what it takes to achieve a decent resolution to the crisis.

Brussels and Berlin are apparently not in the mood for a decent resolution, and they have never cared a whit about the dignity -- let alone the survival -- of the Greek People. The impasse remains. But the Greeks have finally taken matters far enough into their own hands that they have options they did not have when they were yoked tightly to the demands of their creditors putting the lives of ordinary Greeks in jeopardy, and the well-being of many Greeks in the toilet.

We'll see whether the Titans of Europe come to their senses. I doubt they will. Instead, they are likely to seek titanic levels of vengeance -- just as they have blustered and threatened all along. Defiance is to be punished. But the time comes when defiance, sustained defiance, is the right course, and all I can say for the moment is that the Greek defiance is a thrilling sight to see.

The Titans may not be tameable, but the Greeks have already gone far to undermining their authority and turning back the fear with which they rule. The gods will have to deal with their creatures in time, and that time is drawing nigh.

The Greeks just might save civilization one more time... or at least give it a boost.

Sunday, July 5, 2015


This will be a somewhat different post on my father's birthday than I've done before.

In the past year, I've done a lot of ancestral research and I've found out a lot of things I didn't know before while I've confirmed quite a bit of what I was told as well. By the time I was born, all my grandparents were dead, and I didn't grow up around uncles and aunts and cousins. I knew that they existed -- and had no idea how close they were -- but I never saw them, never knew them, with the exception of my father's sister Alice and her husband Max and their son Bob. I have long known there were quite a few others, but I didn't know they were living as close by as they were -- in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area, and in the Sacramento area. My father and his sisters Alice and Eleanor are the only ones who stayed in Iowa.

But the problem is I'm not sure now if he was my biological father. If he wasn't, as I suspect he might not have been, it would go far toward explaining some of what I thought were simply his quirks and later neglectfulness.

He was born on the banks of the Mississippi River on the 5th of July 1901. I'm sure it was hotter than holy hell that day. He was the second son of his parents, William Henry and Elizabeth Veronica. Elizabeth would go on to have ten children altogether, the last, a son, Eugene, born in 1916. Nine of her children would live to adulthood. A middle daughter, Marian, was killed when she was 12 or 13 due to a sledding accident. A boy came sledding down the hill at great speed. Marian didn't get out of the way fast enough, and the sled hit her in the head. She was dead on the scene.

William Henry was an attorney, farmer, real estate magnate, and a minor politician in Eastern Iowa, with clients in several counties along the Mississippi. He himself had been born to Irish parents, James and Alice, who had come from Ireland in the 1840s and 50s, just before and just after the Famine. I'd been told stories that the Irish side of the family had emigrated to America in the 1600s, to Maryland where they became prominent and were heavily involved in the Revolution and the establishment of the independent United States of America, which made my father's birth on the Fifth of July a kind of coda to the whole matter of American Independence.

This turned out to be melarky. Quite some time ago, I started researching that history, and found that no matter how I tried, I couldn't make a direct connection with the prominent Maryland family and my own. In other words, I couldn't find any of my supposed Maryland ancestors who'd gone West, through Virginia and Ohio and eventually settled in Iowa. The names were different as were their directions of travel. I let the issue sit for a while because I thought there might have been an ancestor whose name I didn't know, and who might not have been mentioned along with the others. I didn't know whether there was an unfound connection or not.

But then when I did the research on my father's ancestors I came across the records that showed that my father's grandfather, James, had emigrated from Ireland with his father Alexander (and perhaps a brother Edward and other relatives, I'm not sure) in either 1842 or 1850. The stories I found in county histories used one or the other date, and census records used 1850 when the question was asked. Nowhere near the 1688 date I'd been told. The confusion of dates (1842 or 1850?) may be because there were two waves of immigration by members of the family and who came when wasn't necessarily clear to later historians, scholars, students -- and family members. Be that as it may, I found there was no direct connection between my ancestors and the Maryland family of the same name, although there may have been an ancestral connection between them in Ireland prior to 1688 (that's still a matter of much murk, as the history in Ireland is a tangled mess...)

Regardless of the fact that the family origin in Maryland was wrong, the story of the journey from Maryland to Ohio and thence to Iowa was pretty much right. Soon after landing in Baltimore in 1842 -- or 1850 -- they commenced to travel west -- doubtless on the B & O Railroad if they could afford it or on the parallel National Road if they couldn't pay the train fare -- to the area around Springfield, Ohio, where they took up farming for several years before moving on to the then-Frontier of Scott County, Iowa, where they settled in 1856-7 on several farms between Princeton and LeClaire.

As far as I could tell, the whole family as well as others who weren't blood relations but who were somehow connected with the family moved en masse from Ohio to Iowa.  The story was that they moved because the "opportunities" were better in Iowa.

This is a fairly typical story of western migration at the time. I found in my studies of the Gold Rush to California that people in established communities in the east, particularly in upstate New York, Indiana, and Ohio, would pull up stakes and head west to the gold fields of California -- despite the fact that they were doing relatively well where they were. In fact, they had to be doing relatively well where they were because heading west was so expensive, rather startlingly expensive it seems to me. They had to have money to begin with, or they couldn't have made the trip, whether to California or simply to the other side of the Mississippi River.

These were not, in other words, hardy, hardscrabble Pioneers. They were for the most part well-established, successful and well-off members of noted families in well-settled communities.

So it would seem to have been with my father's ancestors who moved from Ohio to Iowa in the mid-1850s. The farms they took up in Scott County provided them with a handsome enough income that their offspring could go to college and in many cases become lawyers and/or growers (the next generation kept the farms) and become political players in their communities -- which stretched from Davenport to Clinton and beyond.

This was the family my father was born into.

His mother, Elizabeth, was the daughter of German immigrants -- Reinhold and Veronica -- who arrived in this country from different parts of Germany in 1855. Actually, there wasn't a Germany at the time, only German kingdoms, states and principalities, all nominally independent. Reinhold left his home town of Waibstadt (he spelled it "Weibstadt" which made it very difficult for me to find it as I was doing research) -- between Heidelberg and Heilbronn in the province (then-Kingdom) of Baden -- now Baden-Wurttemberg -- in 1854 when he was 14. He made it to Le Havre, France, and arrived in New York in 1855. He lived in New York, in Brooklyn, until 1863 when he took out citizenship papers and moved to Iowa as a carpenter on the Chicago and North Western Railroad, where he lived and worked the rest of his life.

His wife, Veronica, came from Koblenz, (then spelled Coblenz) on the Rhine, in what was then a Prussian province. So far as I can tell, her family were Jewish conversos to Catholicism. The story was that Reinhold's family were also originally Jewish, but I've found no convincing evidence that is so. However, almost all the families in the Koblenz area of Germany that shared Veronica's maiden last name were Jewish, so I think it is likely she was descended from conversos even if he wasn't.

According to the story I was told, Veronica never learned English, and so she was never able to easily communicate with her offspring.

Reinhold died in 1901, two weeks after my father was born, so my father never knew his German grandfather, and he could barely communicate with his German grandmother. Veronica died in 1918, possibly a victim of the Spanish flu.

By 1918, my father was a 2nd Lieutenant in the recently organized Iowa Expeditionary Force training for deployment in Europe. He and his troops would never go to Europe, as the Armistice would be signed before their training was done, but the experience of drilling with his troops on the town's central square was always a thrill to him, something he looked back on fondly, even though he was barely 17 years old at the time.

He went to the University of Iowa starting in 1920 to study law. His older brother Vincent was already there in the Dentistry School, but somehow, Vincent got a law degree, too. My father graduated from the University of Iowa in 1924. This I knew. There was no secret about it. But I found something else, something startling as heck to me. Whether it was a secret, I can't be sure, but it is something I knew nothing of before last year.

My father got married on his 21st birthday in Davenport at St. Mary's Rectory to a woman named Bernice (called by her middle name Evelyn) who was from Iowa City, and they remained married for at least 10 years. I had no idea. None.

This first marriage was never mentioned to me at all, and I would have known nothing about it if I hadn't stumbled on the records -- including marriage certificate and 1925 Iowa census and 1930 federal census -- that my father was married to Bernice/Evelyn. They had no children, and by 1935 were no longer wed. My father was actually married to someone else in 1935, a woman named Thelma from Waterloo, Iowa. I knew about her because she was the mother of my half-brother Terry. She died shortly after Terry was born, probably from an infection, but the cause of her death was never entirely clear to me. Her death was devastating to my father. He kept her close in his heart and memory for the rest of his life.

Terry, it would later be discovered, suffered from what is now called autism, but then he was categorized as an "idiot savant" when it was recognized that there was something wrong with him. Shortly after his birth and the death of his mother, he was given to my father's older brother Vincent and Vincent's wife Garla.They raised him as their own son.

My father and his wife Bernice/Evelyn and Vincent and his wife Garla had been very close during the 20s and 30s. They had lived and worked together as a kind of team in Iowa and Illinois (I had known nothing about the Illinois venture, either) doing primarily real estate title work. At some point, Vincent shifted from a dentistry to law major at U of I, and he became a lawyer. I don't know when that happened. Later, after Bernice/Evelyn was out of the picture, my father and Vincent and Garla shared the same house in Iowa (c. 1940) and continued working together at the family law firm. Terry was listed in that census as Vincent and Garla's son.

Later, Vincent and Garla would move out of town, apparently to one of the farms owned by the family. William Henry, my father's father, died in 1940, and I suspect the farm that Vincent and Garla moved to was part of their inheritance, just as the house in town where my father lived was part of his inheritance.

In 1946, Garla... died.

Exactly what happened was never entirely clear. Vincent said he came home one morning from spending the night with his mistress Pauline in town, and he found Garla dead at the foot of the stairs.

According to the medical examiner, her body was covered with bruises, and it was in his opinion highly unlikely that she had died by accident. Vincent was arrested and charged with her murder.

I had been told of his arrest and trial and acquittal, but I hadn't known that there were two trials, as the first ended with a hung jury. Terry was a witness to whatever happened, but he was not allowed to testify as he was ruled incompetent. In the second trial, however, he was interviewed in chambers, and subsequently the judge directed a verdict of acquittal -- it was reported in the newspapers as a unanimous not-guilty verdict, but my father's detailed version of what happened said the verdict was directed from the bench. This indicates to me that Terry's testimony -- which wasn't described by my father, as he was not in chambers when Terry was interviewed -- essentially verified that Vincent hadn't done it. Who did, or if anyone did, is unclear. My suspicion is that Terry may have been the one who caused Garla's death, assuming it wasn't an accident.

I learned, too, that soon after his acquittal, Vincent moved to Santa Barbara where he married Pauline. He practiced law in Santa Barbara until his death in 1961. I had no idea he was there. From 1949 to 1953, I lived in Santa Maria, just up the road from Santa Barbara, but I had no idea Vincent was so nearby.

Vincent was mentioned but my understanding was that he stayed in Iowa. Not so according to the records.

My parents met in 1944 at McClellan Field in Sacramento, and they were married in 1947 in San Francisco (or possibly in Reno. They honeymooned in San Francisco at any rate.) Both my mother and father were serving in the Army Air Corps when they met, my mother as a medical technician, my father as a training officer.

In 1945, my mother sent a letter to my father saying she had just given birth to stillborn twin daughters fathered by himself. He kept the letter for the rest of his life, and I found it among his papers after his death. I had no idea, of course, that any such birth -- stillborn or not -- had taken place as it was never mentioned by my mother or father.

My suspicion is that she actually had an abortion, but I have no way of knowing for sure. Her subsequent story was that she contracted polio and had to leave the armed forces before the end of the war, but according to the letter, she was forced to leave the WAACs in 1945 because she was pregnant. The story that she told about having polio was -- I believe -- false. In fact, I never believed it was true, though I didn't know about her pregnancy until after my father died in 1969.

My mother and older sister moved to Iowa after my parents were married in 1947. I was conceived shortly after they arrived in December of 1947. I was born in August of 1948, and my parents were divorced in May of 1949. My mother then drove back to California in my father's 1942 Packard Clipper (with infant me in the backseat) which she received as part of the divorce settlement. She got the car, $1000 in cash, and $50 a month child support for me until I was 18 (or possibly 21). My sister took the train back to California.

My mother lived as a single mother from then on.

My father came to visit once, in 1951. I thought he came specifically to visit me/us... but now I think not. He had relatives all up and down California at the time, in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Francisco and elsewhere in the Bay Area. Now I think he merely stopped by to visit me and my mother, but he was actually in California to visit his many other relatives. His child support payments subsequently became erratic, and he would only pay if my mother called and pestered him. Ultimately, he stopped paying child support altogether, and no amount of cajoling could get him to pay any more.

I was sent to stay with him in Iowa during the summers of 1961 and 62. During that time, he told me many things, and one of them -- that I paid little attention to at the time -- was that no one in his family had red hair. My mother did, however, and obviously, I must have inherited my red hair from her... except it takes two red-head genes to have a red-headed offspring, and he was telling me that he didn't know of any other red-headed family members... ohhhh, it finally dawned on me, he was obliquely pointing out that he might not actually be my father at all.

He never questioned my paternity outright, but after 1951 I had very little contact with him (phone calls at Christmas and/or my birthday some years, other years, nothing), and those two summers in 1961 and 62 that I spent in Iowa were followed by very little contact. After 1966, there was none at all. He wouldn't answer his phone and he wouldn't respond to letters. I contacted his sister Alice who lived down the street from him, and she said even she rarely saw or spoke to him. He had become a hermit.

Now I think it is possible that he discovered or decided that he was not my biological father when he came to visit in 1951 which was the reason for his subsequent erratic contact and support.

If I was not his son -- except legally -- then he would have little reason to be particularly interested or supportive...

His quip about no one else in his family having red hair was the tip-off -- which of course I didn't understand at the time. I was not familiar with the genetic requirements of red-headedness, and it didn't occur to me until quite a bit later that he might have been suggesting that he wasn't my father, not biologically.

If he wasn't my biological father, who might have been?

There are a couple of potential candidates, friends of my father's, one of whom at least I know was a red-head -- as he represented my father's estate and I worked with him for months after my father's death to settle his affairs.

My mother had often mentioned him -- that friend and fellow attorney -- fondly as one of the only people in Iowa she got along with when -- briefly -- she lived there.

I know his name, but I won't mention it here, as he had a large family of his own, and it wouldn't really be fair to them to suggest that he might have been my biological father -- without any evidence other than a "possibility."

The reason for my parents' divorce was stated as mental cruelty, but according to my mother, the precipitating cause was that one night my father got drunk and got into bed with my 14 year old sister which terrified her. My mother filed for divorce within a week. My father didn't contest it.

Forever afterwards, my sister held a grudge against my father -- if he was my father -- and she considered him beneath contempt. My mother, on the other hand, was more or less ambivalent about him, and after he had a heart attack in 1955, they seriously considered reconciling and re-marrying. But it didn't happen.

The sticking point may have been her refusal to return to Iowa under any circumstances and his reluctance to live in California -- despite having so many relatives in the state.

Or it may have been something else, I'm not sure. All I recall is that the two of them were considering getting back together, and I thought it was pretty exciting. I was annoyed that it didn't happen.

It was considered highly unusual for a single mother to live independently in suburban Southern California at the time, in fact, it was almost unheard of. While I had no urge to live in Iowa, I was eager for my father to re-join his family in California. I don't know for sure why it didn't happen, but I do know that at the time, my father was looking after another sister, Eleanor, who was crippled with scoliosis. She was his secretary at his law office and lived upstairs in his house. His son, Terry, didn't stay with Vincent after the death of his wife Garla but was placed with another family who were friends of my father's in town. They looked after him until they could no longer do so due to their own age and infirmity. Terry was then placed in a state hospital (I'm not sure which one -- there was one near Dubuque and one near Davenport) where I assume he spent the rest of his life. I'm not certain, but I think he died in 1972 at the state hospital, but I have so far been unable to confirm it. My memory is hazy, but I believe I got a letter from the attorney who had handled my father's estate -- the attorney who might be my biological father -- saying that my half-brother had passed away.

At any rate, in 1955, my father was taking care of his sister Eleanor and was responsible for the care of his older son, so I suspect that he felt he couldn't leave Iowa to re-marry my mother and live in California.

There are still many unknowns in this story, unknowns I may never learn the truth of, but over the last year I've learned a great deal about my father and his life that I knew little or nothing of prior to plunging into ancestral research last year. I will no doubt continue to refer to him as "my father" even if, as may be, he was not my biological father. It hardly makes a difference since the man I suspect may have been my biological father never suggested he was nor did my mother ever suggest to me that the man I thought was my father might not have been.

My father died in January of 1969; my mother died in 1987; and my sister died in 1993. I'm not certain when my brother died, but I suspect it was in 1972.  I discovered in my research that I had cousins living in Sloughhouse near Sacramento until 2009 when the last one died; I had no idea. I knew about two aunts living in the San Francisco area, but I never knew exactly where, and I didn't know until recently that there was a third aunt in the Bay Area as well.

I discovered that one aunt had lived within half-a-block of my own apartment in San Francisco, though not at the same time that I lived there, and that her husband had been the manager of the Geary Theatre where I was employed when I lived in San Francisco, though I was unable to determine if he was there when I was working there (I think not, though his name was vaguely familiar when I first learned it.)

I made many other discoveries and found many other connections and linkages that I'd known nothing of previously, some of which I may detail here.

It's all been an extraordinary journey for me that I'm still attempting to fathom. So many Americans know so little about their own heritage and ancestry. Many of the stories we may have been told -- if we've been told anything -- are likely false. On the other hand, many other stories may simply be incomplete, either because the story-tellers don't know the details or because they purposely leave out details.

I relied on the Google and, along with for primary resources. Ancestry and Newspaper Archive are both paid services, neither of which are complete -- or cheap for that matter -- but from them I have gained a great deal of information, including my father's previously unknown first marriage.

About that marriage: Bernice/Evelyn went back to Iowa City at some point after 1932, and she lived there until whenever she died, sometime after 1969. I wasn't able to find a death date for her, but she was apparently a valued employee at the University Hospital until she passed away. She had been a University Hospital employee when my father met her in 1921. They married in 1922. My mother met my father at the base hospital at McClellan Field in 1944. They married in 1947. I wonder if my father's other wife, Thelma, had also been a hospital worker before they were married...

So many questions... sometimes so easy, other times so difficult, to find answers...