In Memoriam

The best documentation suggests that Memorial Day began as a holiday commemorating the deaths of Confederate soldiers following the end of the Civil War. The only other substantial claim on the holiday is by the black community of Charleston, SC, which in 1865 created a memorial honoring the black prisoners of war who died at a camp at Charleston, and were buried there in unmarked graves.

With the increasing militarization of the American culture, the significance of celebrations of military commemorations has become downright fetishistic. Talk of sacrifice is dominated by people who have not made sacrifices and, indeed, angrily reject the notion that they should be expected to sacrifice. “Sacrifice” has become the domain exclusively of members of the military. These sacrifices explicitly take place during armed conflict.

Armed conflict is not glorious. “Sacrifice” here is a euphemism for pain, suffering, and death. For those who don’t die, there remain memory, grief, and loss. Combat is hunger, cold, jungle rot, fear, — as someone put it, “hours of boredom punctuated by moments of terror.” It’s death by suicide, vehicular accidents, malfunctioning ordnance, “friendly fire.” Normal, ordinary men commit atrocities in armed conflicts — massacres, rapes, brutality, murders. As I heard a combat veteran say in an interview, “If you don’t hate war, you’re a bad soldier.”

I see a direct correlation between the fatuousness of modern American society and the increasingly rancorous, strident “celebration” of holidays like Memorial Day. Around the country, thousands of communities have days memorializing fallen soldiers. These commemorations have been going on since the days of the Civil War. No government decree was required for these local memorials to be created and to take place. Disembodied heads pontificating about “sacrifice” on broadcast networks have no relation to these commemorations. Most of these talkers will not be attending any actual ceremonies of commemoration. They’ll be BBQ’ing or watching sports or the Indy 500, getting stoned on alcoholic beverages, having forgotten the “sacrifices” they’d been so sententiously bleating about earlier.

This excerpt from Shelby Foote’s history of the Civil War captures the horror. Look around your neighborhood, look at your TV, and ask yourself how many of the big talkers of “sacrifice” would stand in this firing line.

Battle of Wilson’s Creek

Few of the romantic preconceptions as to brilliant maneuver and individual gallantry were realized. Fighting at close quarters because of the short-range Confederate flintlocks and muzzle-loading fowling pieces, a regiment would walk up to the firing line, deliver a volley, then reload and deliver another, continuing this until it dissolved and was replaced by another regiment, which repeated the process, melting away in the heat of that furnace and being in turn replaced. No fighting anywhere ever required greater courage, yet individual gallantry seemed strangely out of place. A plume in a man’s hat, for example, accomplished nothing except to make him a more conspicuous target. Nor did the rebel yell ring out on the banks of Wilson’s Creek. There was little cheering on either side; for a cheer seemed as oddly out of place as a plume. The men went about their deadly business of firing and reloading and melting away in a grim silence broken only by the rattling crash of musketry and the deeper roar of guns, with the screams of the injured sometimes piercing the din. Far from resembling panoplied war, it was more like reciprocal murder.

The Individual and Society: A Reading List

This list comprises books, mostly novels, I’ve read that deal with the individual and his relationship to society and to the larger world.  It’s in no particular order, as they came to mind. The theme of the individual in society is, of course, one of the principle themes of the novel. The novels in this list are mostly concerned with outsiders.  They’re people who are in some way maintaining a personal vision or achieving a goal in the face of significant obstacles.

  • Laxness, Halldor. Independent People. 1934-35. Icelandic. Nobel Prize, 1955.
    • In early 20th Century Iceland, having worked 18 years as a shepherd to save money to buy his own freehold, Bjartur undertakes his life as an independent man.
    • “… independence, what it means and what it is worth giving up in order to achieve it. Bjartur is a stubborn man, often callous to the point of cruelty in his refusal to swerve from his ideals. Though undoubtedly a principled man, his attitude leads to the death and alienation of those around him.” (Wikipedia)
  • Hamsun, Knut. Growth of the Soil. Norwegian. 1917. Nobel Prize, 1920.
    • Isak walks north into the Norwegian forest until he finds a place he likes, and stakes out a farm for himself.
    • “Hamsun’s protagonists were often outcasts and vagabonds that opposed civilization, industrialization, and modernisation. These rootless individuals who distrusted organized society were a reflection of Hamsun himself. The novel … expresses back-to-nature, old-school philosophies, and peasant life.” (Wikipedia)
  • Rolvaag, O.E. Giants in the Earth. 1924-25. Norwegian.
    • ” … a Norwegian pioneer family’s struggles with the land and the elements of the Dakota Territory as they try to make a new life in America. … based partly upon Rolvaag’s personal experiences as a settler and as well of the experiences of his wife’s family … realistically treats the lives and trials of Norwegian pioneers in the Midwest, … also portrays the trials of loneliness, separation from family, longing for the old country and the difficulty of fitting into a new culture.” (Wikipedia)
  • White, Patrick. The Tree of Man. 1955. Australian. Nobel Prize, 1973.
    • “Stan Parker, with only a horse and a dog for company journeys to a remote patch of land he has inherited in the Australian hills. Once the land is cleared and a rudimentary house built, he brings his wife Amy to the wilderness.” (Amazon)
  • Moberg, Vilhelm. The Emigrants. 1949. Swedish. Considered one of the great Swedish novelists of the 20th C.
    • “… in the 1840s up to 1850 … the hardships faced by rural families in Sweden. Poor harvests lead to famine, a catalyst for the beginnings of emigration to the United States in search of a better life.” (Wikipedia)
    • Unto a Good Land. 1952. Swedish.
      • The journey of the Emigrants from New York City to Taylor’s Falls, Minnesota. They settle at the lake Ki-Chi-Saga and start building their home.
    • The Settlers. 1956. Swedish.
      • The emigrants’ new life in America where most of them now have started to feel at home.
    • The Last Letter Home. 1959. Swedish.
      • The last years and deaths of the members of the emigrant families.
  • Berry, Don. Trask. 1961. American.
    • The mountain man flees civilization around Astoria, south to Tillamook Bay, and experiences spiritual awakening in the wilderness with the Indians there.
    • Moontrap. 1962. National Book Award nominee. Spur Award for Best Western Historical Novel, 1962.
      • In the aftermath of the Whitman Massacre, former mountain man Johnson Monday deals with encroaching civilization and racial prejudice against his Indian wife in the Oregon City area.
    • To Build a Ship. 1963.
      • Stranded settlers on Tillamook Bay build a ship in order to reach the outside world.
      • “Don Berry explores the extent to which a man can betray himself and his morality for a dream or obsession.” (Amazon)
  • Worsley, Frank. Shackleton’s Boat Journey. 1933. British.
    • Ernest Shackleton and four men sail a 23-ft lifeboat 800 nautical miles (920 statute miles) across the Antarctic sea in winter, by dead reckoning under a cloudy sky, seeking a rescue party for the crew of the Endurance. Sometimes credited as the greatest ever feat of sailing.
  • Lagerkvist, Par. Barabbas. 1950. Swedish. Nobel Prize, 1951.
    • After Jesus is exchanged for him on the cross, the brigand Barabbas tries to understand why it happened.
  • Doig, Ivan. This House of Sky. 1977. American. National Book Award Finalist.
    • Memoir of Doig’s childhood in Montana in the 1940s and 1950s.

The Common Man

Sometimes, people say that Bernard Sanders “understands the common man,” or, “he is one of us,” or, “he’ll fight for the ordinary citizen.” And, of course, this is meant to contrast to Clinton, who, presumably, won’t.

I wonder what that means, “understands the common man.” Who is this “common man”? Am I a “common man”? This is one of those platitudes than spreads out like a blob of butter on hot toast, and the longer you look at it, the less there seems to be to look at. It just melts away.

So, let’s start with the 1%. Is the “common man” the other 99%? Well, that seems a bit overstretched; I mean, you might not be in the 1%, but still, if you’re in the next 1%, wouldn’t you be fairly wealthy — not “common” at all? Relying on memory, I recall that the income trend line is pretty steep at the high end, and if you make over $200,000 annual income, you’re in the top 5%.

So, should we say “common man” means everyone in the bottom 95%? Hmm, well, I don’t know about you, but it still seems like a family with an annual income of $175,000 is … well, not “common.” Now, that family might be struggling — huge medical bills, or a family member with addiction, or perhaps, they just overspent their income. But, still — is that what is meant by the “common man”?

So, maybe looking at income is grabbing the wrong end of the stick. Is the “common man” the guy who rides dirt bikes in the woods, goes to tractor pulls, remodels his house on his own, hunts deer in the Fall? Or, does he work out at the gym, run marathons, and work remotely via the internet and VPN? Or, maybe, all of the above!

Just who is this “common man”?

Hillary Clinton – Awards and Honors

  • 1969 first Wellesley student to deliver commencement address (selected by acclamation by the other students)
  • 1988 voted one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by National Law Journal
  • 1991 voted one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by National Law Journal
  • 1994 Living Legacy Award by the Women’s International Center for “… her vast contributions in so many fields, especially honoring her work for women and children.”
  • 1995 the New York University Annual Survey of American Law dedicated its 52nd volume to Clinton. (Each spring since 1942 the NYU Annual Survey has dedicated a volume to a preeminent attorney.)
  • 1997 winner, Grammy Award for Spoken Word Album: “It Takes a Village.”
  • 1997 Lincoln Medal from the Ford’s Theatre Society, presented annually to “individuals who, through their body of work, accomplishments or personal attributes, exemplify the lasting legacy, and mettle of character embodied by” Abraham Lincoln.
  • 1998 the United Arab Emirates Health Foundation Prize, “… given to a person or persons, an institution or institutions, or a nongovernmental organization or organizations having accomplished notable advances in the health field since the promotion of the global strategy for achieving health for all by the year 2000 elaborated following the International Conference on Primary Health Care, which was held in Alma-Ata in 1978.”
  • 1999 the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Children of Chernobyl Relief Fund “… in recognition of her long-standing efforts to improve children’s health in Ukraine and around the world.”
  • 1999 the Mother Teresa Award by the government of Albania, for “… Mrs. Clinton’s work for humanitarian aid in the Balkans.”
  • 2004 Nursing Health and Humanity Award from the University of Rochester School of Nursing, “… given to someone who has made significant contributions toward advancing the science of nursing and influencing the professional practice and public image of nursing.”
  • 2006 Outstanding Public Service Award from the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, “…  for her work in support of women’s reproductive health.”
  • 2006 Remembrance Award from the Northeastern New York Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association
  • 2007 honorary doctorate in medicine by the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, for being “a strong advocate for increased investment in medical research” and for “raising awareness of the increased health problems linked to obesity, poor quality food and physical inactivity.”
  • 2009 Margaret Sanger Award by Planned Parenthood “… to recognize leadership, excellence, and outstanding contributions to the reproductive health and rights movement.”
  • 2009 Salute to Greatness Award by the Martin Luther King Center “… to recognize individuals and corporations that exemplify excellence in their leadership and have demonstrated a commitment to social responsibility in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.”
  • 2010 George McGovern Leadership Award by the World Food Program USA“… for her commitment and visionary approach to ending global hunger.”
  • 2012 Champions for Change Award for Leadership by the International Center for Research on Women “… in recognition of her long-standing dedication to empowering women and girls worldwide and ensuring their human rights.”
  • 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award for Peace and Reconciliation by theWorldwide Ireland Funds “… to salute her commitment to peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland over her two decades as First Lady, US Senator and Secretary of State.”
  • 2013  Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, the highest Pentagon medal given to private citizens
  • 2013  Warren Christopher Public Service Award by the Pacific Council on International Policy, “… presented to those who demonstrate commitment to international and domestic affairs, to the highest ethical standards, to promotion of the common good, to equality and fairness, and to government service as a noble pursuit.”
  •  2013 Chatham House Prize by Chatham House, “… in recognition of her personal leadership in driving a new era of US diplomatic engagement and for her particular focus on promoting education and rights for women and girls.”
  • 2013 Liberty Medal, by the National Constitution Center, “… for her career in public service and advocacy efforts on behalf of women and girls around the world.”
  • 2014 Ripple of Hope Award, by the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Center, which “… celebrates leaders of the international business, entertainment, and activist communities who have demonstrated a commitment to social change.”
  • 2015 Barbara Jordan Public-Private Leadership Award, given to “a deserving woman anywhere in the world who has made the highest achievement during the preceding year or years in any honorable field of human endeavor in the public or private sector.”

Hillary Clinton’s CV

This list originally compiled by Tricia Beliso; I augmented it with sources and dates, as well as additional material.

  • 1965-1969 Wellesley College
  • 1968 elected President of Wellesley College Government Association.
  • 1969 graduated with departmental honors (political science)
  • 1969 first Wellesley student to deliver commencement address (selected by acclamation by other students)
  • 1970-1973 Yale Law School
  • 1973 postgraduate study at Yale Child Study Center
  • 1973 “Children and the Law,” Harvard Educational Review
  • 1973 staff attorney, Children’s Defense Fund and consultant to Carnegie Council on Children
  • 1974 research assistant, House Committee on the Judiciary, during impeachment proceedings regarding President Nixon
  • 1974 one of only two female faculty members, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, law school
  • 1976 state campaign chairman in Indiana for the Carter campaign
  • 1977 Rose Law Firm, intellectual property and patent infringement law, with pro bono in child advocacy
  • 1977 Rodham, Hillary; Steiner, Gilbert Y. (June 1977). “Children’s Policies: Abandonment and Neglect”. Yale Law Journal 68 (7): 1522–1531.
  • 1977 co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families, a state affiliate of the CDF.
  • 1978-1981 member, Board of Directors, Legal Services Corporation
  • 1978-1980 chair, BoD, Legal Services Corporation, during which period, she tripled funding from $90 million to $300 million
  • 1979 Rodham, Hillary (1979). “Children’s Rights: A Legal Perspective”. In Patricia A. Vardin, Ilene N. Brody (eds.). Children’s Rights: Contemporary Perspectives. New York: Teachers College Press. pp. 21–36.
  • 1979 first woman to become full partner at Rose Law Firm
  • 1979 chair of the Rural Health Advisory Committee, where she secured federal funds to expand medical facilities in Arkansas’s poorest areas without affecting doctors’ fees
  • 1983 chair of the Arkansas Educational Standards Committee, where she sought to reform the state’s court-sanctioned public education system
  • 1985 introduced the Arkansas Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youth, a program that helps parents work with their children in preschool preparedness and literacy.
  • 1982-1988 member of the BoD, of the New World Foundation
  • 1986-1992 member, BoD, Children’s Defense Fund
  • 1987-1988 chair, BoD, New World Foundation
  • 1987-1991 first chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, which addressed gender bias in the legal profession
  • 1988 voted one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by National Law Journal
  • 1988-1992 member of the BoD, Arkansas Children’s Hospital Legal Services
  • 1991 voted one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by National Law Journal
  • 1992 first “First Lady” to hold a postgraduate degree, and the first to have her own career up to the point of entering the White House.
  • 1993 appointed to chair the Task Force on National Health Care Reform
  • 1995 helped Janet Reno create an Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice;
  • 1995 “Women’s rights are human rights” speech, UN Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing
  • 1997 with Senators Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch, created and got passed the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and conducted outreach efforts on behalf of enrolling children in the program once it became law.
  • 1997 promoted nationwide immunization against childhood illnesses and encouraged older women to seek a mammogram to detect breast cancer, with coverage provided by Medicare.
  • 1997 initiated the Adoption and Safe Families Act, and the Foster Care Independence Act
  • as FLOTUS, she visited 79 countries to amend their relations with the United States
  • 1994 Living Legacy Award by the Women’s International Center for “… her vast contributions in so many fields, especially honoring her work for women and children.”
  • 1997 winner, Grammy Award for Spoken Word Album: “It Takes a Village.”
  • 1999 the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Children of Chernobyl Relief Fund “… in recognition of her long-standing efforts to improve children’s health in Ukraine and around the world.”
  • 1999 the Mother Teresa Award by the government of Albania, for “… Mrs. Clinton’s work for humanitarian aid in the Balkans.”
  • 2000 first woman & first former First Lady to be elected as U.S. Senator from New York
  • 2006 reelected to the Senate
  • 2009 Margaret Sanger Award by Planned Parenthood “… to recognize leadership, excellence, and outstanding contributions to the reproductive health and rights movement.”
  • 2009 Salute to Greatness Award by the Martin Luther King Center “… to recognize individuals and corporations that exemplify excellence in their leadership and have demonstrated a commitment to social responsibility in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.”
  • 2009-2013 US Secretary of State under the Obama administration
  • 2010 George McGovern Leadership Award by the World Food Program USA “… for her commitment and visionary approach to ending global hunger.”
  • 2012 Champions for Change Award for Leadership by the International Center for Research on Women “… in recognition of her long-standing dedication to empowering women and girls worldwide and ensuring their human rights.”
  • 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award for Peace and Reconciliation by the Worldwide Ireland Funds “… to salute her commitment to peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland over her two decades as First Lady, US Senator and Secretary of State.”

Sanders Supporters

Increasingly,  I find supporters of Bernie Sanders’ Presidential campaign arrogant, condescending, and narrow-minded.

Sanders himself is an ordinary career politician. He has spent most of his adult life in political office. The only time he’s ever held a “real job” has been when he was between political jobs.  I don’t object to career pols the way some people do.  I prefer to vote for people who know what they’re doing.  You don’t hire an individual to run your company because he just graduated from university and thinks “running a company would be cool.” You ask that individual to show you a CV that demonstrates the ability to run your company. Only in politics is ignorance of the job’s duties, and no demonstrated ability, considered a virtue, by some. 1 Sanders has demonstrated the ability to keep the political bacon fried to tasty perfection for his state: Vermont, sixth smallest and second least populous of the 50 states, with the second highest proportion of non-Hispanic whites and the forty-eighth highest proportion of blacks. In regard to the latter number, the 2010 Census puts the black population of the state at 1% of the total population, or 6,260-odd in a population of 626,000. 2  Only one state has a higher proportion of white folks, and only two states have a lower proportion of black folks.

The open question is: How has his thirty-year career in the national legislature, working the bacon grill for Vermont, prepared him to be President?  One ought to be able to ask for a CV that shows leadership within the Congress on any of the important issues.  Did he lead the fight for financial regulation? Did he lead the fight against military intervention in Iraq? Did he lead the fight to make health care legislation more inclusive? In what legislative battles, over the past 30 years, can the figure of Bernie Sanders be seen in the forefront?  Well, the answers are no, no, no, and none.  He has spent nearly his entire adult life in an elective office, or running for one, and yet, never has bubbled up to the top of the pyramid, never been the go-to guy when help was needed.

Which is the reason why, if you ask a Sanders supporter for an example of Sanders’ leadership on an issue — any issue — the response will be in the form of talking smack about Hillary Clinton.  No Sanders supporter appears to have the plain, old-fashioned gumption to admit that support for the candidate is based on emotional attachment and not on rational evaluation.  Nor will the Sanders supporter admit that, when push comes to shove, one of the core beliefs of the Sanders supporters is that “any idiot can run the country.” It doesn’t take skill, experience, or knowledge, to be President. Anyone who can get the votes can do it. In this instance, that “anyone” is Bernard Sanders, erstwhile Senator of the sixth smallest state of the union.

I believe that one of the reasons that Sanders supporters are so nasty to Hillary Clinton supporters is that she has the record Sanders lacks.  She has the CV of leadership, skill, experience, and knowledge, that make her a credible candidate for the Presidency.  Many people say that her position on this issue or that disqualifies her from that office.  She voted to support the war in Iraq, or she opposes the dismantling of the “war on drugs,” or she changed her mind about gay marriage; and, therefore, she should not be President.  That’s fine — one can support or oppose a candidate on many issues.  Sanders is an opponent of gun control3, which is one of my hobby horses.  I could, following the paradigm of the Sanders supporters, denounce his candidacy on that point alone.  That’s not how I roll.

One of the lessons I have tried to teach my kids is, “You can’t make yourself look good by making someone else look bad.” Sanders supporters didn’t get that lesson, or it didn’t take.  As a result, there’s no effort by his supporters to convince others that he’s the right guy for the job.  There’s simply a relentless personal smear campaign to make the other candidate look unfit.  The operational paradigm is that Sanders’ undistinguished record will look good, if Clinton’s record can be obscured by personal animus.  It might work.

There might be a President Sanders sworn into office in January 2017.  The result of that swearing in will be a colossal failure of “progressive” politics.  Although it is considered axiomatic in American politics that a politician “will say anything to get elected,” Sanders supporters have been adamant that their candidate is different, and he’ll do everything he says he’ll do.  Well, — no, he won’t.  We won’t have single-payer healthcare in America in my lifetime (which is drawing to a close).  We won’t see an end to private prisons in the next decade.  We won’t see a decline in gun violence under President Sanders, nor will we see greater restrictions placed on firearms buyers and sellers. We won’t see any improvement in American schools, or a decline in child poverty, as a result of a Sanders Presidency.  We won’t see banksters in jail, and we won’t see the big banks broken up.

As a result of Sanders’ failure to keep his promises, progressive politics will be sent even further into the wilderness for another generation.  And, really, that’s what I most get angry about.  Because, in my view, the Sanders campaign is born out of the intellectual laziness and emotional immaturity of supporters who want some political Moses to lead them to the Promised Land, so that they won’t have to struggle in the desert.  Real, successful progressive politics always works from the ground up.  Unions work because they’re organized by, composed of, and run by, the people in the communities where they exist.  The Civil Rights Act was not a hand-me-down from some “leaders” in the national government.  It was the government’s response to relentless pressure from progressives — real progressives — on the ground, in the communities.  Those progressives moved the national consciousness, the consciousness of voters.  Voters brought about changes in the law, not Messianic legislators.

Bernard Sanders is a Jew, but he’s not Moses. The Promised Land to which he promises to lead us, is a myth. I can excuse him for getting caught up, and believing his own press releases. He’s a politician.  I can’t excuse his supporters, for their uncritical acceptance of everything he says as Biblical Truth. The very first rule of responsible citizenship is, Question Authority.

Old saying: You can fix the blame, or you can fix the problem.  At the end of the Sanders regime, banished and humiliated “progressives” will return to fixing the blame, because fixing the problem is hard work.


  1. On the right, these people are known as the “TEA party.” On the left, they’re known as “progressives.” 
  2.   “Vermont.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 5 Feb. 2016. Web. 5 Feb. 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vermont&gt;. 
  3. At the Federal level, “it’s a state issue” is his official line.  He voted for a bill in Congress to immunize firearm manufacturers from product liability lawsuits. 

Just the Fax, Ma’am

It happens that I am occasionally the victim of the need to send a fax. Yes, this vestigial technology persists in the slackwater bayous of the internet world. Every printer I’ve owned in the past 15 years has had some kind of proto-fax machine embedded in it, and every one of them has had a dorky and clumsy interface. The Jurassic Period saw the worst case scenario, having to manually punch in the phone numbers on the printer itself, with the printer additionally required to have its own phone line.

But, even if you have advanced into the modern era, and your printer can “fax” via the internet, wait — it’s a document that you have to sign and date and then send. You mean — yes, it’s a Word document, received via email, that you now have to print out, sign, date, stick it onto the printer’s “copy” window, then return to your computer to punch in the phone number and — by this time, it’s Miller time, and you’re ready to bong a gallon. Look up clusterfuck in the dictionary, and this scenario will be one of the definitions.

Some businesses, I know, still use fax extensively. Ordinary folks might send a half-dozen, usually in a legal or financial situation, or sending the office order over to the local deli, which promotes its “with it” status by accepting takeaway orders via fax.

So, what happens when you encounter this PDF form that has to be filled out, signed, dated, and faxed? — and, of course, this is a matter of pressing importance and must be completed and sent immediately.

You print the form, fill, sign, date. With a sigh, you slip the paper onto the copy window and return to your computer. Oh, no. You haven’t installed the “fax” software that came with the printer, because you figured you’d never use it. Oh, man, — haha! Good luck finding that CD! That means a Google, followed by a trip to the printer manufacturer’s web site, a massive download of the bloatware, an interesting experience with Windows Installer … and then, having propitiated the gods with an exceptionally excellent stream of curses, you bring up the software interface, negotiate its arbitrary design quirks, put in your fax number, create a “fax cover page,” and send your fax.


All this reflection on the gentle art of faxing is by way of setup. I am not in the habit of giving free adverts to products, but I’m excepting the rule with a web service called “HelloFax,” that is easily accessible via a browser extension.

Warning. The following description involves the use of technology.

HelloFax is specifically designed to address all the absurdities of the adventures described above.

You upload your uber-important document to HelloFax. You edit it as needed, sign and date it. You create/select an address book entry for the phone number. You click “send.”

Wait … what? How can you … ?

After you create your HelloFax account, you sign a blank piece of white paper, in the manner you would sign a document — your legal signature. You then use your phone’s camera to take a photo of the signature. You upload the photo to HF. On the HF server, the image is processed to make the background transparent. If necessary, you can resize the signature image to make its appearance relative to a document appropriate.

From this point forward, you can sign and fax any document without ever having to approach any machinery, without even leaving your seat.

You upload your document to HF, open it in the HF editor, and insert your signature image in the appropriate location. Since the background is transparent, the signature visually appears to have been the product of pen on paper. You can insert a date, if needed. It also is inserted as an image with transparent background, so you can drag it around into the appropriate position with your mouse.

If you have a document or documents that are resent periodically, you simply open the appropriate item in your “sent faxes” folder in HF, edit as needed, and click “resend.”

You can create and add a coversheet, if desired.

There may be other, similar tools. Adobe has one, which in my observation is clumsy and a PITA to use. I had an account at fax.com for a time, but really, it was not useful for the kind of service provided by HF. And it’s expensive, if you need only send or receive the occasional fax, and don’t use the service more than a few times a year.

HelloFax is not free. In fact, the cost of the full-service solution 1 would not be justifiable for the occasional user, unless you were in some situation in which immediate access to it was an absolute requirement. But, HelloFax allows you a certain number of free faxes, so you can treat it as free, up to that point. This number of freebies has migrated somewhat since I signed up for the service.

The FAQ reports:

The free plan comes with 5 free fax pages. When you run out, it’s only 99 cents / fax for faxes up to 10 pages and 20 cents for every page after. Note, this is just for sending faxes. To receive faxes, you can pick one of the paid plans.

The implication is that you get five free pages, period, and then after that you have to pay (the entirely reasonable) specified fees. However, HF seems to be running promos on some of the cloud services (in my case, Google Drive), and I’ve been faxing with reckless abandon for six months at no charge. 2

Aside from the convenience — I just filled out, signed, dated, and faxed a financial document in less than 5 minutes — HF represents to me a well thought out, and cleanly implemented, process design. Someone analyzed how computer users handle faxes, and realized that it blows chunks. The analyst then went the next step, and asked the money question, “What technology is available to address the pain points in this process?” And, finally, the stroke — instead of yet another special-purpose software application, practically invisible in a sea of such: a web-based service easily accessed via a browser extension. HF integrates the faxing of documents into the computer user’s daily workflow.


  1. Both send and receive faxes, and an assigned fax telephone number. 
  2. I am not disturbed by the fact that this is a send-only option. I have no anticipation of ever needing to receive a fax.