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Vladimir Putin’s Ex-Wife Called Him a Vampire


Lyudmila Putina once called President Vladimir Putin a vampire, while he in turn has suggested that anyone who could put up with her for three weeks was heroic and deserved a monument.

from the Moscow Times June 7, 2013


Quote of the Day: Representative Trey Gowdy Says Interference With Mueller Would Cause a “Bad 2018”


Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, warned Trump that any interference in the Mueller probe would result in “a very, very long, bad 2018.”

This quote comes from the Washington Post via Microsoft’s news feed, which relieves me of the cost of a subscription to the paper.  I already subscribe to the New York Times and at $15 a month, it is more than I can afford.  At least I can excuse a subscription to the New Yorker at $10 a month because of the beautiful artwork on the cover.  Unfortunately, subscribing to a news feed of any kind is growing more and more futile as the Orange-Haired Demon fills up every possible news opening.

Mr. Trump seems to be getting more and more frustrated with the investigation into his campaign and now, his personal finances.  He has already warned prosecutors not to cross a “red line” between the Russia connection and his personal finances in general.  He already failed to release his income tax returns, as every prospective President has done for the last sixty years.  He has received large loans from Deutsche Bank since the Great Recession, when many fortunes were wiped out.  Deutsche Bank, by the way, has recently paid $600 million in fines to the EU and the US for laundering money from Russia.  Mr. Trump has accumulated an unblemished record of sycophancy to Mr. Putin for the last ten years.  He just has “guilty” written all over his face.  There is only one thing holding him up: his ultra-Republican policy choices.

Our Constitutional system makes it impossible to impeach Mr. Trump until January 2019 because the Republicans hold a majority in the House and they agree with most of the policy that he lays out.  That’s not to say that they don’t wince at some of the more offensive things he says or does, but they think that “his heart is in the right place”– meaning that they, too, are anti-immigrant, pro-protectionism, anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, and so on.  Mr. Trump has made the obvious conclusion that the more regressive his policies, the more rabid his followers.  This makes the 35% or so of people who support him more active than the majority that opposes him.

This means for the opposition that they must pump up their energy as much as possible.  It’s as simple as that.  You’ve got to really, really, really hate Trump to really get rid of him.

FDA Opens Comment Period on New Proposal to Lower Nicotine Levels in Cigarettes– Officially


According to Medpage Today and Stat News (yesterday), as well as an official announcement from the FDA today, the FDA has opened a public comment period for a new rule which would lower the nicotine levels in cigarettes to “non-addicting” levels– 0.3-0.5 mg/gram of tobacco.

Cigarette fiends will find this proposal shocking if not actually heartbreaking.

While this idea is in line with the new administration’s starkly regressive anti-drug policy (illustrated by the comments of Attorney General Sessions about the KKK), it may find resistance from personal-liberty advocates like libertarians.

On the other hand, public-health activists are sure to celebrate the prospect of a new Prohibition.  Theoretically, removing nicotine from cigarettes could save millions of lives over the next ten years.  Statistics published in the Stat News article claim that the present number of smokers (about 15% of adults in the US) could be reduced to 1.4%.  This is a great idea, but it ignores the lessons of Prohibition.  Mandating emasculated cigarettes would instantly stimulate a black market in high-potency smokes.  Just ask anyone who has tried to quit smoking.  The lack of availability of sufficient nicotine to relieve withdrawal symptoms would result in cravings, with mood and personality disturbances like intense irritability, periods of obsessive rumination about obtaining a supply of nicotine-laced smoking materials, and aggressive attempts to obtain those materials.

The only way this could work is for all tobacco companies to gradually reduce nicotine content simultaneously, so that orderly withdrawal could take place.  Experience with other substances like opioids suggests that an addicted person could tolerate a five percent reduction in nicotine ingestion per week… but due to the nature of the source, victims are likely to try to smoke more and develop unnatural hoarding behaviors.  Past experience with low-nicotine cigarettes (such as those that have holes in them to dilute the smoke) shows that users will smoke more, inhale deeper, and retain the smoke in their lungs longer in an attempt to compensate for the lack.

All in all, I rate this as A Bad Idea.  There are few Good Ideas available in relation to the use of poisonous, addictive substances by the general public– particularly widely-available substances.

(photo courtesy of and comfreak) 


Quote of the Day: Tillerson Was Not Really a Friend of Russia as Many Have Claimed; He’s More of a Pragmatist


“Russia today poses a danger, but it is not unpredictable in advancing its own interests,” Tillerson told senators. “We need an open and frank dialogue with Russia regarding its ambitions, so that we know how to chart our own course.”

This comes from an article in Bloomberg View from March 13, 2018, entitled, “Tillerson Refused to do Another Russia Deal” which explains that, although Tillerson did do a deal with Russia before the rupture in US-Russia relations over Ukraine (a business deal worth $500 billion between Exxon and Rosneft, the Russian state oil company) he gave a “clear condemnation” of Russia’s actions in the Crimea and their support of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad when he was under consideration for the Secretary of State post.  He also blamed Russia for the chemical attacks in Syria, hardly a friendly position.  Tillerson knew how to negotiate with Putin to advance his business position, but he was not planning on being ensnared in the Trump-Russia collusion scandal by appearing to be weak on Russian issues.  His last act as Secretary of State was to blame Russia for the poisoning of a Russian refugee in Britain; Trump’s statement on the incident was supportive of Britain but otherwise wishy-washy.  It’s not likely that Pompeo will be any more accommodating to Putin, but he will be a Trump loyalist in every other respect– unlikely to put the brakes on when Trump’s policies take a sudden turn for the bizarre.  What’s more, as a former military man, he has completed Trump’s encirclement with military advisors and secretaries.  There is no question that Trump will be closely advised by men with military mind-sets, and we already know how easily influenced he is by his sycophants.

We also know that Pompeo will be good for the morale of the remaining State Department employees, as he is likely to do more effective at working with the department (see the article in the New Yorker we previously cited about Pompeo being a super-hawk at State.)  Unfortunately, State’s problems have more to do with a lack of policy rather than personality issues.  Former UN ambassador John Bolton (an extreme conservative) may be under consideration to replace McMasters as National Security Advisor; in this case, even military doesn’t satisfy Trump (supposedly he is tired of the general’s long-winded lectures.)  This administration is likely to lurch, unpredictably, further and further to the right.

(photo courtesy of

Owning a Gun Makes Me Masculine and Powerful: Firearm Ownership Relieves Feelings of White Male Insecurity, Meaning Racism and Guns Are Inextricably Entwined.


There is a hidden and disturbing aspect to the national obsession with owning guns.  Three percent of the people own half of the guns, which means that a few people have a large number of firearms each.  These unusual people are overwhelmingly white, mostly male, and usually rural.  The most disturbing part is the connection between the character of these gun owners and their obsession with stockpiling arms.  The possession of a firearm makes a white male feel more powerful and assuages his fear of being robbed of what is “rightfully” his… even though his net worth is rather small.  He feels that brown invaders are going to come and steal his precious possessions, although he owns little other than ammunition.

They’ll probably rape his wife too, and then kill them all.  The movie “In Cold Blood” had a powerful effect on elderly rural whites, but long before that, during the Civil War, there were many episodes of that kind involving soldiers and civilians alike in pillage and rapine, sometimes simply because of starvation.  “Racial memory” of atrocities haunts those who dwell in rural houses far from their neighbors.

Modern insecurity is different: poorly educated white males often lose their livelihoods and have nothing but time to brood over their ill fate.  This has occurred more and more over the last forty or fifty years, in waves with factory and retail closures and the disappearance of entire industries.  Employment in the US steel industry collapsed between 1975 and 1999, from 521,000 to 153,000.  The coal mining industry employed roughly 175,000 men in 1986 and 52,000 in 2016 (this compares to an all-time high of 883,000 in 1923.)  (Wikipedia)

The problem is that the system in this country has both created the insecure white man and provided him with a means to relieve his anxiety: the immediate presence of a loaded firearm.  The insecure white man is motivated by racism and poverty: he doesn’t have enough stuff and he is afraid that brown people are coming to take it from him.

This is the situation that obtains and there is nothing that can be done to change it, unless we relieve the victims of perceived persecution: the white male.  Nonwhite, mostly nonmale, nongunowners will congregate in cities where the police will be forced to protect them from the depredations of gun owning thugs (including some of the policemen themselves.)  Of course, the gun collectors will probably stay in their compounds out in the country and avoid venturing into the city where they might meet their imagined enemy.

The key to real relief of this situation is to provide real security for the people: jobs, money, and protection from thieves and assault.  A nationwide jobs program that gives everyone who can work (especially poor white men without educations) a job with a living wage– coupled with a welfare program that gives everyone who cannot work basic security: food, housing, medical care.  The cost of this program will be large, but if successful will be rewarded with dramatic growth in gross domestic product, median household income, and lifespan– sufficient to support dramatic improvement in the economy.  Unfortunately, this program will not increase the incomes of those who are already wealthy– it will cost them money, in taxes.  But it will be worth it to reduce the death rate from firearms and to reduce the number of mass shootings (besides making many people happy by easing their poverty.)

A comprehensive program includes mental health evaluation and treatment, starting in grade school with emphasis on identifying those who might become isolated enough and vengeful enough to precipitate violence.  All this costs money, and money means taxes.  It won’t be good enough to protect our country from military invasion with a huge army and modern nuclear missiles if society is falling apart from the inside.

(By the way, I oppose a national gun-confiscation campaign because it will play directly to the fears of the alt-right.  It is inefficient to attack this problem with weapons that simply provoke more paranoia.)

Therefore, the national obsession with low taxes will have to be changed.  I suggest an intensive propaganda campaign that emphasizes the duty of the wealthy to protect civil society and prevent internecine violence.  Yes, it’s a liberal idea that is anathema to the conservatives who control the national conversation.  This means the propaganda of the extreme right wing will have to be drowned out.  Intensive propaganda efforts are needed to speak louder than the NRA and the National Enterprise Institute, among others.  Propaganda costs money: Tom Steyer, are you listening?

(photo courtesy of and jabbacake)

Quote of the Day: “It’s Almost as if Someone’s Paying Trump to do It.”–Joseph Cirincione


“Trump is methodically destroying the moderate camp in his Administration and moving steadily crazy-hard right,” Joseph Cirincione, the president of Ploughshares Fund, an N.G.O. dedicated to containing the spread of nuclear weapons, told me. “Today’s firing and the crude, insulting way that he did it weakens the traditional conservative camp, the State Department, and American credibility. It’s almost as if someone is paying Trump to do it.”

From an article in the New Yorker about Trump’s selection of Mike Pompeo to be his new Secretary of State.  Just keep repeating that in your mind: “It’s almost as if someone is paying Trump to do it.”  What does that imply to you?

(photo courtesy of and hansbenn)

Stephen Hawking: ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’



Stephen Hawking died last night at the age of 76.