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Off the Record (January 4, 2023)

HAVE THE FASCISTS begun to make their move? Tacoma, Washington, lost electricity Christmas morning when three power substations in the area were “attacked” by unknown suspects. The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office said that responding officers found signs of forced entry at all three locations, along with vandalized equipment that had caused the outages, cutting power to more than 14,000 people. Police said they haven’t taken anyone into custody and still don't know any of the whys of the sabotage, it has occurred amid a surge in threats to power grids nationwide—with the number of recent events in Washington and Oregon—a hotbed of organized domestic extremism—now standing at eight. In January, a Department of Homeland Security memo warned that domestic extremists have harbored “credible, specific plans to attack electricity infrastructure since at least 2020,” and in late November the agency released another bulletin saying those threats remained heightened. Days later, unknown actors shot up two power stations in Moore County, North Carolina, knocking out power to more than 40,000 homes in what federal and local officials are calling an “intentional” and “criminal” event.

I'VE WONDERED FOR YEARS who reads David Brooks, the blandly insane bloviator for the blandly insane New York Times. The only reality-based writer the paper has is Maureen Dowd without whom you might as well be reading Press Democrat editorials. Here's Brooks this week comparing the movie version of Lincoln with Joe Biden. Did you say that Brooks was comparing the great Abraham Lincoln to a senile figurehead of a president placed in the position by a corrupt Democratic Party so utterly bereft of more plausible candidates that they came up with this lifelong errand boy for the most rancid corporations in the Country? 

BROOKS: “Finding the balance between passionate ideals and mundane practicalities has been a persistent American problem. The movie ‘Lincoln’ with Daniel Day-Lewis was about that. Lincoln is zigging and zagging through the swamps of reality, trying to keep his eye on true north, while some tell him he’s going too fast and others scream he’s going too slow. Joe Biden has struck this balance as well as any president in recent times, perhaps having learned a costly lesson from the heartless way America exited from Afghanistan. He has swung the Western alliance fervently behind Ukraine. But he has done it with prudence and calibration. Ukraine will get this weapon system, but not that one. It can dream of total victory, but it also has to think seriously about negotiations. Biden has shown that America can responsibly lead. He has shown you can have moral clarity without being blinded by it…”

FOUR PEOPLE were killed and several others were injured in a massive, 50-car pileup on the Ohio Turnpike last Friday where “whiteout conditions” prevailed. Over the weekend, in the teeth of a hundred-year blizzard, police had to go on television to urge people to stay home. Roughly a hundred didn't stay home and froze to death, many of them dying in their vehicles beneath concealing snow drifts. As a kid in the Marines we spent a month in winter at a place called Pickle Meadows on the Eastern flank of the Sierras near Bridgeport where, under the general heading of “cold weather training” we learned how to survive outdoors in snow storms. I think I can still remember how to make a snow cave, instruction few people have ever had to resort to, I daresay. Beautiful country, even in the dead of winter. A friend of mine, Manuel Salangsalang, was quite put out when he couldn't buy beer in Bridgeport. “Those puckers, they said they couldn't sell liquor to Indians. I'm not a pucking Indian, I'm a pucking Pilipino.”

THE FBI shows up to drink beer with a bunch of  camo buddies who do a lot of fantasy talk about overthrowing the government. The FBI agent buys the beer and, when they trust him because he keeps buying the beer, suggests, “I got it, guys. Let's kidnap the governor!” The big talking camo buddies start imagining the details when the FBI swoops in and arrests all of them on inflated charges of sedition. The governor cries on camera about how scared she and all Nice People everywhere are of “these deplorables,” and the alleged Mastermind, a remedial reader called Barry Croft Jr., gets 19 years in prison for a crime created by the FBI, and hardly the first one. (cf the car bombing of Judi Bari, a crime mounted in Mendocino County where the FBI created an “environment center” across the street from the County Courthouse in Ukiah and probably employed the car bomber — who maintained an office in the “environment center” — and who also seems to have functioned as an FBI  informant all the way back to the car bomber’s days as a Stanford Maoist. Post bombing, the FBI said darned if they could figure out who did it “because no one would talk to us.” 

AN OLD CONVICT, the late Dannie ‘Red Hog’ Martin, a bank robber by profession, became quite well known as a writer from inside the federal prison system when he contributed his stories to the SF Chronicle. Prison authorities were so unhappy with his revelatory work, that Martin was assigned to “bus therapy,” the practice of driving troublesome inmates endlessly around the country. Word got out that Martin was on one of these eternal trips and the practice was stopped. I met him in the early 1990s. We had a good laugh when he told me his Chron editor warned him to stay away from me as a “bad influence.” 

SPENDING years in prison is not a liberalizing experience. Martin tossed off scarifying stories as if they were routine occurrences. When I mentioned another convict we both knew, Martin remarked, “He's never getting out, but you know what? He's a great guy. Nothing chickenshit about him at all, and he never killed anybody who didn't have it coming.”

A READER WRITES: Something that has struck me in old age is how some people get trapped in opposition to one thing or another, to the point of it defining and even consuming their life. Once I became aware of the phenomenon I started seeing it quite often. It's not exactly the same, but I think Paul Simon got me on the track of that discovery years ago with a favorite line from one of his songs: “Some people are what they lack.” I thought that was a great observation and concisely put. Here's the song it's from:

Señorita With A Necklace Of Tears

I have a wisdom tooth
Inside my crowded face
I have a friend who is a born-again
Found his Savior’s grace
I was born before my father
And my children before me
And we are born and born again
Like the waves of the sea
That’s the way it’s always been
And that’s how I want it to be
That’s the way it’s always been
And that’s how I want it to be

Nothing but good news
There is a frog in South America
Whose venom is a cure
For all the suffering
That mankind must endure
More powerful than morphine
And soothing as the rain
A frog in South America
Has the antidote for pain
That’s the way it’s always been
And that’s the way I like it

Some people never say no
Some people never complain
Some folks have no idea
And others will never explain
That’s the way it’s always been
That’s the way I like it
And that’s how I want it to be
That’s the way it’s always been
That’s the way I like it
And that’s how I want it to be

If I could play all the memories
In the neck of my guitar
I’d write a song called
“Senorita with a Necklace of Tears”
And every tear a sin I’d committed
Oh these many years
That’s who I was
That’s the way it’s always been

Some people always want more
Some people are what they lack
Some folks open a door
Walk away and never look back
And I don’t want to be a judge
And I don’t want to be a jury
I know who I am
Lord knows who I will be
That’s the way it’s always been
That’s the way I like it
And that’s how I want it to be
That’s the way it’s always been
And that’s the way I like it
And that’s how I want it to be


For my 214 closest friends, here's a sneak preview of the cover I designed for the previously-only-published in-Europe Shore Of Pearls (Bertelsmann, 2000), the last collaborative effort with Dan Altieri, soon to be part of a trilogy, along with Court Of The Lion and Iron Empress, for Trident Media e-books.

A wicked tale, a jaunt into a T'ang Dynasty heart of darkness, featuring Magistrate Dee, a hellish tropical prison island, an enclave of corrupt eunuchs, an outbreak of bubonic plague, the ever-voracious Empress Wu and her “Rasputin” with benefits, the Tibetan monk-magician Hsueh-Huai-i. Having been some days in preparation, a splendid time is guaranteed for all...

TED DACE: The killer has been killed. The jailer has been jailed.

The seer has been seen. The peeler has been peeled. The speller has been spelt. The feeler has been felt. The doctor has been doctored. The fire has been fired. The weather has been weathered. The plum has been plumbed. The case has been cased. 

The spin has been spun. The spinster has been spunstered. The mustard has been mustered. The hearing has been heard. The herd has been herded. The broker has been broken. The trip has been tripped. The drip has been dripped. The slip has been flipped. The rapist has been raped. The tapeworm has been taped. 

The exorcist has been exorcised. The ostrich has been ostracized. The capitalist has been capitalized. The nihilist has been nihilated. The vent has been ventilated. The penguin has been penguinated. The marshmallow has been marshmellowed. The fish has been fished. The stone has been stoned. The editor has been edited. The fun has been fund. The sucker has been sucked. The dealer has been dealt. The well has been welt. The entertainer has been entertained.

The water has been watered. The counter has been encountered. The cucumber has been encumbered. The ticker has been tickled. The picker has been pickled. 

The bore has been bored. The lint has been lent. The puck has been puckered. The gut has been guttered. The butt has been buttered. The fairy has been ferried. The hairy has been harried. The mare has been married. The bear has been buried. 

The tuner has been tuned. The burner has been burned. The scammer has been scammed. The baker has been baked. The wanker has been wanked. The spanker has been spanked. The spelunker has been spelunked. The catcher has been caught. The tailor has been tailed. The teacher has been taught.

The timer has been timed. The beater has been beaten. The feeder has been fed. The bleeder has been bled. The peter has been petted. The wet has been whetted. The faex have been faxed. The jet has been jettisoned. The summary has been summarized. The coot has been cauterized. The doomsayer has been doomed. The boomer has been boomed. 

The spleen has been splintered. The inestimable has been estimated. The escalator has been escalated. The phony has been phoned. The finger has been fingered. The liker has been liked. The lichen has been licked. The licker has been likened. The rejecter has been rejected. The detective has been detected. 

The servant has been served.

Happy New Year!

STEVE HEILIG: Some additional practical tips towards better end-of-life care and choices, beyond advanced care directives:

Fill out a POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) form to be added to your medical record. Doctors and NPs (in CA) can help complete and sign these medical orders.

Ask for a palliative care consult. It’s now a distinct specialty and team approach that can help very much.

Ask if the time has come for hospice care (less than 6 months of life expected). Hospice care is too often brought in too late.

If in conflict about care, in-hospital, ask for an ethics consult. Hospitals are required to have such teams to help guide decision-making.

If religion is a factor, ask for a hospital chaplain consult and visit; they are often very good in assuring patients it is “OK” to let go of this life.

And yes, if suffering is unbearable and your state has legalized it (and again, the prognosis is death within six months), discuss the possibility of medically-assisted aid-in-dying (MAID). Even if not actually provided in the end, having that option can be very reassuring to some. In fact, it ironically can wind up prolonging life. – (Steve Heilig is a longtime consultant in these tough matters)


Hi Mr. Anderson,

My name is Joseph Collins, and I'm in eighth grade at St. Mary's School, in Ukiah. I have a project called Proteus, which is a 12 page essay on a chosen topic. I want to ask you if I could interview you on the topic I chose, The Russo-Ukrainian War and How it Affects the World. I have researched a lot on this topic already, and I hope you can help me understand more about it. If you can allow it, I would also like to record the interview. The recording will not be shared, except for my teacher. If you want, I can send you the questions that I have for you. You can contact me for the time and place for the interview. 

Thank you for your time, Joseph Collins


I'm flattered to be invited to help, Joseph. I'm not anything like an expert on the conflict but I will share my opinions with you. You may want to expedite your project by sending me the questions, which I can then answer by either email or by telephone. I'll keep them short and to the point although these are big subjects. (Old guys like me can go on and on.) You're welcome to share whatever I say with whomever you like. Please send me the questions.

WHICH young Mr. Collins soon did.

1. How do you think Russia is affected by the war?

2. How do you think Ukraine is affected by the war?

3. How do you think the U.S. is affected by the war?

4. Do you think that Zelensky and Putin will negotiate a peaceful ending to the war?

5. What does Putin want from Ukraine?

6. What do you think the most likely outcome of the war will be?

7. Do you think America is greatly affected by the war?

8. Should we be supplying Ukraine with so many weapons?

* * *

ED REPLY: First, Mr. Collins, a disclaimer: I have no special knowledge of global affairs, but like most reasonably informed people I fear that the indefensible invasion of Ukraine by Putin's Russia may lead to a wider war in Europe and on into a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia, which would be a major catastrophe for the entire world.

1. How do I think Russia is affected by the war? I like to think most Russians oppose it, but reliable information out of Russia is not available. Ordinary Russians are negatively affected via an increased cost of living, travel bans, deaths of their combatants, and, by extension, being global pariahs.

2. Ukraine has been partially destroyed by the invasion and millions of its citizens forced into exile. It is literally being bombed back into the 19th century.

3. Americans suffer because a huge part of our annual budget is being spent on weapons, money that could be used to at least partially allay the hardships suffered by many people here at home.

4. Zelensky will have to be compelled by the U.S. to negotiate or lose American aid, and Putin is unlikely to negotiate on any terms but his own, hence the present stalemate. The Biden administration seems reluctant to pressure Zelensky and has no influence with Putin. Most wars end when one side or the other “wins.” This war seems likely to continue endlessly.

5. Putin, a nationalist in the Russian tradition, wants all of Ukraine as part of a greater Russia, a unification of all Slav peoples under a Russian umbrella, much as it was under the Czars and then Stalin. 

6. The outcome of this endless war, now in its tenth month, will be the further destruction of Ukraine and more economic hardship for Russians and us Americans who are funding Ukraine and, hovering over all of it, is the ever present possibility of nuclear war.

7. America is harmed by the war by diverting much public money to Ukraine as our own country falls apart.

8. I think we (the U.S.) should make aid to Ukraine contingent upon negotiation to end the war even if it means giving up the Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine. 


[1] I have a picture of a man who has been taking a beating for a long time from 3 punks called Government agency, mainstream Media and Greedy Corporations. He’s fallen on the ground and is on his back taking fist blows to the chin and face. He is tired. So tired he cannot to get up or defend himself, his family or his people anymore. Is that a true and accurate picture of America today?

[2] After having taught medical residents from all over the country over the past 30 or so years (in major state and private university med ctrs), it is clear to me that those physicians most lacking in common sense are those from the Northeastern and West Coast cities. Schooled but poorly educated, they can quote facts but can’t apply them well to clinical situations, and are particularly confused w/ complex cases. CREATIVITY! They have none!!!! And the worst I’ve seen have been from so called ‘major ivy league med schools in the Northeast: automatons who can recite textbooks but can’t practice medicine worth a tinkers damn. And most hate their patients, especially those from ‘lower economic’ backgrounds. Zero compassion, zero empathy. I suspect this observation applies to other professions as well. Attorneys I know tell me the same scenario.

[3] Here’s the thing, people. There ain’t nobody responsible for you but you. All else is delusion. I had an uncle, who came home drunk one time and beat up his wife. He was 6’2′ and about 250 pounds. She was 5’2″ and weighed about 130 pounds. So after he beat the crap out of her, he went to bed and passed out. About three hours later, he woke up with something really cold against his neck. His petite wife was sitting on the bed with her biggest and sharpest butcher knife. She said to him, "I hope you really enjoyed that because it’s the last time it’s ever gonna happen. You gotta sleep sometime you son of a bitch and if there is another time I will make sure you never wake up.” And then this little sweet woman left a very light cut from his left ear to his Adam’s apple. And you know, I knew them both until they both died and he never got violent with her again.

[4] You have jogged another memory from my youth. Me and some neighborhood boys built a “fort” in the woods. Somebody found a large can of tar. The tar in it was mostly a dried out unused portion from a nearby construction project.

We put the can over a fire to soften up the tar so we could then use it to make our fort more air-tight and waterproof. We would take sticks and scoop out the now-runny tar and smear it into the fort’s cracks. It was a messy job. My hands were covered in tar. Someone had a stick with a glob of burning tar on it. He swung it back and forth and a small glob flew off and landed on my dungarees (this is what blue jeans were called back in the day). I smacked this burning glob with my tar covered hands and they caught fire. I screamed in agony. Armand threw me to the ground and covered my hands with a jacket to extinguish the flames. He told me to “stop screaming or Mom’ll hear ya.” There were bubbles of cooked skin. My hands were bandaged for a couple of weeks. There are scars on my hands from this incident to this very day. I marvel how any child makes it all the way to adulthood.

[5] COVID, an on-line comment: "Sorry but knowing requires proof. Not speculation, opinion or agenda. There is no “open scientific discussion ” among conspiracists. All they do is speculate, trying to shoehorn everything to fit their beliefs. Digging up a few people with a few degrees behind their names to “prove” something by opinion is not science. But opinion is all conspiracists consider. If they don’t get what they want, they immediately go to “someone is hiding it.” When the reality is a virus can recombine on its own or be done in a lab and is not possible to know which without a clear fingerprint which has not yet been found from either natural or man-made viruses. The answer “we don’t know” is not acceptable. So the answer then becomes “they are hiding it,”

[6] Here’s a true story and quite recent– actually ongoing: 

I was thinking of placing a profile on one of those dating sites– OKCupid I think– but what they wanted me to do to prove it was me was to take a picture of myself with my hand on my head or something kind of stupid like that. 

So I balked, but my online foray in this regard introduced me to the world of women prisoner dating sites. 

To make a short story shorter, I got seriously sidetracked and started doing research on the women on those sites, if they were real and how, and trying to find out about what they were in for and often finding more than expected, including seeing some of their mugshots. 

What I found in part interesting, even kind of trippy, was how so of them in those shots, and without ‘womanface’, looked pretty much like young men, gay men or boys and especially when compared with their ‘womanface’ pics on their dating profiles. But I mean, these women look in their dating profiles like any other woman one might see in real life or on other normal dating sites. 

Maybe, as a theory, that’s why many women can’t seem to dispense with makeup (AKA womanface).

So, yeah, what the hell is a woman anyway? LOL

[7] Too many moving parts! Yup. I think about these issues every time I fire up my wood heater and read reports and complaints in the local news about rolling blackouts turning people’s heat off, energy costing way too much, and complaints about complex heat and air systems failing at the worst time and heat and air techs being temporarily unavailable due to too much workload. 

My wood heater is extremely simple, so simple in fact that I’ve yet to experience a breakdown. And since I have access to the woods behind my house, I’ve never experienced a lack of fuel either. I get a smug feeling of satisfaction and superiority every time I see people in trouble due to mechanical problems I don’t have. The only mechanical issues I encounter is with my chain saws and wood splitter. And I also have the old fashioned splitting maul that never needs gas or service. If the gas splitter fails or there is no fuel for it, my house still stays warm while the people around me might just be shit outta luck.

[8] If I had taken the money that I didn’t spend on a down-payment for a house in December 2011, and invested it in only Tesla and Apple stock, I could have, only four years later, bought that same house with the increased value of my stock purchases – no mortgage. … If… Same thing is going on now. If you’ve got money, you can rob everyone else.

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