Friday, July 29, 2022



We are here to sing, but not
like the birds. Brutal
science tells us only
the male sings, not for joy,

neither to praise God,
but to establish territory.
I me me mine, the nightingale
screams, his only lyrics.

We sing to trespass,
to cross boundaries.
To bring another world
into this world. Like the musicians

in the Warsaw Ghetto, who stood
in the starving streets and made
the most tender music they knew.
Like my father, paralyzed

with Parkinson’s: when he could
barely speak, he began to sing
all the songs of his youth
he alone still knew.

After the autopsy the neurologist said
he’d never seen a brain so badly
destroyed: whole regions dead
like a bombed city.

A voice singing in the ruins
is the last to go.

~ Oriana


~ There is a rich and soulful log of Quarterlifers throughout history and literature who have grappled with the same issues across time, culture, and demographics. Saint Augustine’s Confessions, published around 1600 years ago, is considered the first Western autobiography, but it might most accurately be described as the first Quarterlife memoir.

In it, Saint Augustine—then Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis—wrote: “I found much to bewilder me in my memories of the long time which had passed since I was nineteen, the age at which I had first begun to search in earnest for truth and wisdom… I realized that I was now thirty years old and was still floundering in the same quagmire.” Aurelius was resisting marriage, the pressure of his heavily involved mother, and his own predilections toward obsession with money, fame, and influence. He was deeply preoccupied with finding the right path for his life. Marriage and a successful career seemed easy, but they didn’t answer the deeper questions he sought.

And in this way, Aurelius wasn’t an enigma of his time. He and two close friends felt lost and were searching for answers together. “We were like three hungry mouths, able only to gasp out our needs to one another. . . . We tried to see the reason for our sufferings. But darkness overshadowed us and we turned away asking, ‘How long is this to be?’”

I was preoccupied by similar things in college. As I became increasingly overwhelmed with questions about my future, I—like many before me—found Letters to a Young Poet. This collection of letters from the great poet Rainer Maria Rilke to a nineteen-year-old, Franz Xaver Kappus, gave me tremendous solace. Kappus had originally written to Rilke in 1902 from his Austrian military academy, a school that Rilke had also attended, with questions about whether he should become a poet and how to live.

Rilke replied, “You mustn’t be frightened, dear Mr. Kappus. If a sadness rises in front of you, larger than any you have ever seen; if an anxiety, like light and cloud-shadows, moves over your hands and over everything you do. You must realize that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall.

Seemingly every line of Rilke’s letters gave me comfort when I read them in my late teens and for years following. They also gave me some of the earliest hints that my depression and confusion weren’t unique to me, or to my time. Rilke was himself just twenty-seven years old when he began writing those letters. He had gained comfort from the work of the Danish author Jens Peter Jacobsen, whose 1880 novel, Niels Lyhne, tells the story of a Quarterlifer trying to make his way in the world. Niels’s suffering felt familiar to me too. “There must be some defect in him, he would tell himself, some incurable flaw in the innermost marrow of his being, for a human being could become whole by living, he did believe that.”

That’s a line that I’ve read countless times and it still moves me. It encapsulates for me the simultaneous pain and longing that is so core to Quarterlife. Niels Lyhne was frustrated by his own failed attempts to achieve the life he wanted, or to manage life in a world that often overwhelmed him. “These perpetual attempts at a leap that was never leaped had exhausted him, everything was empty and worthless for him, distorted and confused, and so trivial as well.” In my own Quarterlife, I’d endured the “attempts at a leap that was never leaped” an infinite number of times and seen it in my peers. I’ve since seen it over and over with clients too.

Once I started gathering Quarterlife stories from novels, memoirs, and historical records, I began to see the same dissatisfaction and disorientation everywhere. I noticed, for instance, that the anguish of Quarterlife was embedded in the modern feminist movement. In her 1949 magnum opus on women’s lives, The Second Sex, French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir described the experience of being a young woman anticipating adult life. “It is a painful condition to know one is passive and dependent at the age of hope and ambition, at the age when the will to live and to take a place in the world intensifies; woman learns at this conquering age that no conquest is allowed her, that she must disavow herself, that her future depends on men’s good offices.”

As the Quarterlife years encompass the bulk of female fertility, questions—or certainties—of partnership and childbearing loom large. Gender roles are often stark and restrictive. As de Beauvoir put it, women’s natural instincts in Quarterlife toward “hope and ambition” and “the will to live and to take a place in the world” were in direct contradiction to the social expectations of passivity and dependency placed upon them. Their various emotional and physical symptoms were the inevitable result.

American feminist Betty Friedan expanded on this idea in her 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique, about the secret malaise that so many American housewives were feeling, though they were expected to be perfectly happy and content. Strangely, my feelings as a college grad forty years later, single and unencumbered, were very similar. I’d done everything that had been expected of me in this era and by my family: a college degree in lieu of marriage and pregnancy.

And yet, within that privilege and freedom, I still wondered, as Friedan had put it: Is this all? 

“It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States… As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night—she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question—‘Is this all?’” She’d done everything that had been expected of a Quarterlife woman of her era. She had everything society told her she should want. But she couldn’t help but wonder if there wasn’t supposed to be more to existence.

For the author Richard Wright, Is this all? was an anguished reflection on the entire country in which he’d been raised. Wright’s memoir, Black Boy, is a largely Quarterlife story about surviving poverty and segregation in America in the early 1900s while struggling to forge a creative life. At twenty years old, having left the Jim Crow South for Chicago, Wright was denied a job as a regular postal clerk because, after a lifetime of chronic malnutrition, he weighed just under what was required for the position. In many ways, he blamed himself. “Waves of self-doubt rose to haunt me. Was I always to hang on the fringes of life?”

But he also felt the injustice of losing a career path for which he was fully qualified because “of a few pounds of flesh,” and he reflected on his struggle with the “material way of American living that computed everything in terms of the concrete: weight, color, race, fur coats, radios, electric refrigerators, cars, money.” Wright longed for something more.

He had creative ambitions. He wanted to be a professional writer and had been studying writing on his own for years. Nonetheless, the doubt in his capacity to have that career permeated everything around him. At home, Wright had to grapple further with the doubting inquiries from his aunt Maggie, with whom he, his brother, and his mother lived in close quarters.

~ My excessive reading puzzled Aunt Maggie; she sensed my fiercely indrawn nature and she did not like it…
“Boy, are you reading for law?” my aunt would demand.
“Then why are you reading all the time?”
“I like to.”
“But what do you get out of it?”
“I get a great deal out of it.” ~

And I knew that my words sounded wild and foolish in my environment, where reading was almost unknown, where the highest item of value was a dime or a dollar, an apartment or a job. ~
It was something internal that demanded Wright’s focus. His “hope and ambition” drove him forward, an aching, desperate urge when he received neither emotional nor tangible help from others.

In movies and television, Quarterlife characters are everywhere. Our heartthrobs in rom-coms and heroes in adventure stories are typically Quarterlifers. And yet, these depictions are so common and usually so dramatized that they render the stage of life itself strangely invisible. We observe fantastical stories built on the relative youth of these characters, but we less frequently see honest interpretations of how hard this period of life can be. Quarterlife characters are objectified, fetishized, and almost dehumanized as a result.

Meanwhile, Quarterlife is the stage of life most often depicted in global mythology and folk tales, the oral storytelling traditions that entire cultures knew and listened to for entertainment, but also for psychological guidance. The stories that reverberated in young ears expressed explicitly: Life will include ups and downs, some of the downs may almost kill you, but there are ways to survive, strange ways; if you get through the danger and confusion, you will have changed for the better—you’ll be you, but grown and transformed.

These stories taught something much deeper and more supportive than the modern trope “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” They taught about the intangible parts of life. They taught about the return of joy, the erotic, the pleasure of existence that is possible after trials of loneliness, pain, terror, and boredom are processed, integrated, and understood. These stories taught young people to trust themselves and to know that life is an obscure, individual journey of meaning wrapped in a tale of social accomplishments and failures.

In the popular Grimms’ fairy tale collection alone, stories like “The Three Languages” and “The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was”—two of my favorites—tell of Quarterlife men being banished from town by their fathers after struggling to find their vocation in life. Each Quarterlifer sets off on a journey filled with catastrophes and confusion, entirely unlike anything they’ve encountered before. And each finds, in the end, that the solution to their anguish is a far cry from what they might have imagined. These travelers learn that their true pursuit is not about achievement or heroics. In these tales, such inflated desires tend to be thwarted by humiliations and injury. There’s a far deeper goal at play.

Stories like these are core to what mythologist Joseph Campbell began to identify in the 1940s as the Hero’s Journey theme in global storytelling, a theme that I was grateful to start understanding in my midtwenties. Hero’s Journey stories convey the transformation of a person—almost always a Quarterlifer—from one level of consciousness to another. It’s a transformation that occurs through some combination of risktaking, happenstance, hard work, and magic; never through pure logic or planning alone. All of these stories, Campbell wrote, are really about “the maturation of the individual.”

Campbell broke down the Hero’s Journey structure into three primary stages: Departure, Initiation, and Return. He identified this as the same structure of traditional initiatory rites once hosted by societies worldwide when boys reached puberty and a new stage of psychological life. “The stages of human development are the same today as they were in ancient times,” Campbell wrote. “As a child, you are brought up in a world of discipline, of obedience, and you are dependent on others. All this has to be transcended when you come to maturity, so that you can live not in dependency but with self-responsible authority.” 

When read symbolically versus literally, mythic stories and fairy tales offer a great deal of insight into what Quarterlife development requires. Within these stories and also tucked away within Jungian psychology—the scholarship that inspired much of Campbell’s work and now my own—there is a veritable road map, a system of guideposts to provide psychological orientation for Quarterlifers out in the world alone.

And yet, some important updating is required. Most of this past work was based on male development, and myths with male heroes. We are long past the point of needing a Heroine’s Journey to counter the Hero’s Journey, but instead need a gender-neutral understanding of the possible paths—one more outward and conquering, one more inward and contemplative. The development of consciousness has patterns and pitfalls just as biological development does. But it needn’t be gendered. There is a natural course of development, two classic types of Quarterlifers throughout history, and a goal that they all share.


"In my  days, this stormy period of transition to adulthood was called a "Saturn return." We supposedly have three Saturn returns if we live long enough: the second period of turmoil and suffering happens in mid-fifties, and the last one in late eighties. 

Saturn stands for "adulting": maturity, self-discipline, responsibility, handling challenges. 

Saturn in Leo (that's me) is supposed to mean "You grow younger as you grow older." That's more upbeat than defining yourself as a "late bloomer." 

I'm not saying that we should astrology seriously. Still, it's fun, and may provide unexpected insights.


We each have our own Quarterlife story, our own Hero's Journey, the path from childhood to adulthood, however original and particular the details of that journey may be. I remember those years when I and all my friends seemed to be in a state of revolutionary flux, often abandoning old ideas, forms and strategies while fumbling around searching for new ones, ones that would be truer, more meaningful, more challenging, more fulfilling, and more exciting. People walked out of homes, marriages, budding careers, reaching for what seemed more real, more meaningful, for possibilities just opening up, that they had not even imagined before.

This generated a lot of pain, but was a process too important to abandon. Not everyone came through well, or whole, and most ended up far from their first assumptions, with work and relationships only that period of search and struggle made possible. For all of us the initial step was leaving home, and each ended with return, to a new place discovered and created in their journey. As in the three Saturns, this new stage will be followed by another, another journey,  another search, another enlightenment or adjustment. We are always learning and creating meaning, writing our own stories against the dark.



~ Because:

The Russians would protest. Opinion polls show high support for the ongoing operation, but they don't show that about 95% hang up the moment they start asking about it. That's the number that won't protest now, but will if their sons are conscripted and the economy starts to turn out only weaponry.

It would mean Putin would admit his “special operation" is a total failure. This means he is weak; this means he is deposed and probably shot soon thereafter.

Throwing a huge number of new conscripts into the fight just gives you a huge number of dead conscripts. Russia's biggest problem isn't sheer manpower—it’s skilled soldiers and modern weaponry. ~

Mats Andersson, Quora

Petri Ruohomaki:

Ah, the good old days of proper official declarations of war! And even more the days when armies met on battlefields without purposefully bombing and killing civilians like Russia in the Ukraine. And yes I know that has been done before too so don't start.


~ What is the approval rating of living God? Can you gauge divinity with percentages and numbers?

Russia is an organized religion whose priests live in Kremlin and pray to Mammon. Take it as is or leave it. You not permitted to criticize sacredness, or trolls report you to secret police and secret police arrest you and wardens insert broomsticks up your ass to have fun and stop only after you give them your credit card PIN number.

Rusky worship living God, exalted be his name thou shall not speak it in vain.

Putin is perfect. He never makes mistakes. He never does anything wrong. Or you get poisoned.

And then one day he dies. The God. Himself. And everyone is grief-stricken. The land has lost its spirit. Millions attend state funeral and glue to TV screens and weep, and for some time flutter around like headless chicken not knowing whom to obey, whose command to take, blindly and gratefully.

Then, after appropriate time lapse, you must shit on the dead God loudly. For if Putin died, he must have been mortal!

If you don’t shit on expired God, your patriotism shall be put into question, and arrest could be made.

When he’s dead, shit on Putin you will. Especially trolls and secret police , they will give you earful how wrong he was to invade Ukraine and steal all the money from them.

The most loyal flunkies will trip over each other shitting on the dead god and pledging eternal loyalty to the new one.

It is imperative to put faith into the new God. You not allowed to pick and choose!

Brahmins in Kremlin shall conduct magical ceremonies to choose the avatar of the divine reincarnation. A new God will be born without whom Russia is no more and will not more.
To believers, a messianic message is simple and logical:

“West is rotten, and will crumble. Sacred Russia will show the world the true Orthodox colors.” 

146 million believers have been impressed with a unique language of their own that differs from any in the West.

Comrade do not say “war with Ukraine.”

War is taboo word in Motherland, for if you say it aloud it casts a bad spell and war begins.

Any hardships Russians can deal with as long as there’s no war. So there’s not war. But there’s jail. It’s very real.

Believers must say “special military operation to liberate Motherland from Nazis.”

Not correct to say “Ukrainian Military sank cruiser Moskva.” Correct way: “negatively floated a decrepit ship due to two seamen smoking in the wrong place.”

Have the two seamen got apprehended and put on trial for causing the destruction of property worth one billion dollars?

Russia is religion. You don’t question faith of our priests.

You not say explosions in border regions, say [thunder] claps.

A [thunderstorm] has razed three houses in Belgorod region during special military operation that has earlier negatively affected flotation of a cruiser ship, which has transformed into a diving site, sustaining no casualties except one crew member missing in action whose father received 5 million ruble compensation after launching crusade on social networks but the man’s wife stole the money and disappeared.”

A TV news report the other day showed a proud father who traded his soldier son’s life in the special military operation for a new Lada car. Son died the money bought him a car. Prime time. Russian TV news.

Dmitry Kiselev pleaded with Russian men to sign contract with the army and have their parents buy new Ladas. Or a trip to Dubai.

A contracted soldier will be given every opportunity to receive blings and liberate civilians from consumer goods and toilets.

Our grandfathers suffered and decreed that we must do, too.

Grandmothers lived in hardships and bequeathed upon us the same.

These commandments every Russian knows.

Things won’t get better, but it’s always West’s fault. It is rotten and will disintegrate soon. Find solace and great personal satisfaction in this truth. ~


Welcome to the land George Orwell described, complete with newspeak, doublethink, compulsory hatred and family members selling each other out.

Demetra Strateva:

I know Putin shared which historical person inspired him for the special operation, but he reminds me more of Tiberius, Nero or Caligula than Peter the Great.

Steven Grimmer:

The art reminds me uncannily of Weimar's Otto Dix, an equally depressing post-collapse society.

Otto Dix: Two Veterans

David Butler:

The Dear Poisoner and President for Life has 102.37% popularity.


Russian soldiers sending looted stuff home.


~ The US is a consumerist society, mainly concerned with its comfort. Its attention span and historical memory are that of a labrador retriever. And I'm saying that as a compliment.

Unlike many other countries — including Russia — the US cannot hold decades or even centuries-long grudges nor bask in its old glories.

For most Americans I know, the Cold War is ancient history, together with the rest of them World Wars, and almost as a distant memory as the War of Independence. No resentment there, and no feelings of "we-beat-you" superiority, just like there's none towards Germans or Brits.

OK, that with a caveat: there are millions of Americans, and nearly each has a different idea of what the US is, was and should be, when and why it was or was not so great.

Of course — if you search well enough — you'll find a flag-waving nut or two (or a few hundred thousand depending on your whereabouts) who'll tell you about how THEY beat "krauts" and "Ruskies." Incidentally, the dude they've 100% likely voted for President is also the number one Putin fanboy who wanted to dismantle NATO altogether. So don't worry about those guys, comrades; they're not your enemies. And you know it, too — be honest, you crazy jingoistic patriots love each other.

On the other side of the spectrum, Russia will also find some lovers among neophyte Marxists and the woke crowd thanks to its communist past. Anti-imperialists as they are, they look kindly at Putin's designs to reboot a Russian Empire — in their magical world, the only evil empire is the one they were born to.

But those are fringe groups. Most Americans support Ukraine — and not against Russia per se, but specifically against Putin's government. If Russia gets rid of him somehow, leaves Ukraine to the Ukrainians, and stops threatening to annihilate humankind with its nuclear missiles, most Americans will forget about this war and Russia in a couple of months. And thanks to their short attention span, the Americans might have forgotten about the war already - but Kremlin reminds them every time they kill a bunch of civilians with their "high precision" missile strikes. ~ Vladimir Kokorev, Quora

Phaedra Pappas:

The Russian people have been taught to believe that they are the best people, the strongest, the smartest and the most cultured and the rest of the world fears them. They have been taught paranoia of the West whereas the fact is that the West, rather than admiring and fearing them generally doesn’t give a flying f**k about Russia.


“Let me just tell you about Russia. Russia used to be a thing called the Soviet Union.” ~ Donald Trump, 07.28.2020


In a way, that summarizes Russia very well, especially for the older generation. This is the central fact: Russia used to be the Soviet Union.


The fact that Putin makes this kind of show of force shows, on the contrary, his weakness.

If he were as strong as this, he would not need this kind of show of force.

His goal is to scare the Western world by showing that every major European capital, but also New York in America is within range of his new supersonic missiles.

However, he can't even manage to take control of Ukraine after more than six months of war... This explains why he wants to show his power because, in reality, everyone realizes the weakness of his army in operational conditions.

These demonstrations of strength remind us of what Kim Jong-Un does, for example, when he sends missiles over Japan. He wants to frighten the world, but in reality, this only shows his weakness.

With Putin, it is the same thing! ~ Sylvain Saurel

Leon Ligan-Majek:

Russia will disappear from the face of the earth if he attacks any NATO country even if Putin uses nuclear weapons. He is a bully. The weakest leader Russia ever had.



~ Putin, in a desperately pathetic move, goes to Tehran to beg another impoverished pariah state to sell him some drones. Seriously? That is the invincible, indomitable, fearsome Russian army?

This tells you everything you need to know about how the war is going for the Kremlin madman. ~ M. Iossel


The phrase “Kremlin madman” reminds me of Osip Mandelstam’s reference to Stalin as the “Kremlin mountaineer.”


This short, powerful speech by President Eisenhower deserves to be famous. It deserves to be famous. Ike made it in March 1953 on the occasion of the death of Stalin.

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fires signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”


Eisenhower in 1952, giving a speech to veterans.

Stalin's death was a hugely positive event — the worst was over, though it would still take decades until the fall of communism.

I wonder if Putin's death would be anything like it. We can't be sure that whoever succeeds him wouldn't in fact be a worse fascist. But perhaps not. It would be an opening, though: blame Putin for all the mistakes and corruption, and end or greatly reduce military actions in Ukraine.

The gist of Eisenhower’s speech as a meme:


~ Officially, we feel indignation, moral superiority and a surge of patriotism that no country in the West can possibly match.

Unofficially, we feel much in tune with the Sun. The shining orb rises in the east, for sure—but it spends the rest of the day going west. People on the other side of the world, in the American hemisphere, confirm that the Sun during the night does pretty much the same.

Our imperial elite after the revolution headed west. At the end of WW2, a million or more did the same. Jews at the end of Soviet rule, same. Then, at least 3 million followed suit in the post-Soviet era.

Our oligarchical fortunes have never ceased to go west since the start of our capitalism. The daughter of Stalin, son of Khrushchev, family of Gorbachev, daughter of Putin, thousands of scions, wives, lovers of our men in power—all have been pilgrims to the West.

If someone of Russian provenance in your Quora feed keeps bashing moral depravity and inherent idiocy in the West, there’s an overwhelming chance they do this from the safety of their home in Germany or the US or Israel—or somewhere else in the West. Guess what is the chance that anyone among them will ever go east? ~

James Keyes:

Incredible educational system. But the brain drain continues. Some of the smartest people I know here in the States are expat Russians who came over here for opportunity.

Absolute Tennis Courts, Ltd:

So true. I live in London and most of the Russians I know here are decent intelligent business people, couldn’t wait to get over here and have no intention of going back home to Russia. They do of course have a certain privilege that they mainly come from educated and financially stable background which made it possible for them to come and live here in the first place…which proves your point I guess!

Peter Crowley:

A Russian is asked about how he feels about the Soviet Union.

The thinks for a bit, then say “It’s like he thinks of his wife,
He loves her a little…
He hates her a little…
And, given half a chance, he would go to bed with another woman…”

Andris Lielmanis:

Those who move to the west realize that they have arrived in the countries of “ milk and honey” and are amazed that those in the west don’t appreciate it and don’t realize how fragile such freedoms and prosperity are…the sun may well be moving to the west and towards China…but wokism is moving in the opposite direction.

Ben Berzai:

“So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire without knowing that fire is hot.” ~ Orwell

Michael Bross:

About the elites going (fleeing) west and taking treasure with them. There is a difference between the imperial elite and the current oligarchs.

The former could take some gold, trinkets etc to the west, but had to leave their major assets, land etc, to the state where it was used to build Russia up again.

The latter takes the untold billions from ore and oil and spends it in the western economy, this is a real loss to the state. One or two yachts could build a chip factory.


One the things that has always impressed me with Russians is their marvelous command of language. This answer is a great example of that. It evokes an image in a few paragraphs the the New York Times would devote an entire magazine cover story trying to paint. Thanks for answer.

James Myers:

A “former" official propagandist? Ha-ha-ha. Having spent 3 weeks in the Soviet Union back in the summer of 1966 at age 18, that's all I would hear. The Russian people I encountered were, by and large, pretty decent. Back then many of the heavy construction work was being done by Russian grandmothers since so many men were killed in WWII. Soviets could produce great military weapons but couldn't/wouldn't produce a ballpoint pen that didn't leak.

They drank a lot of Vodka, crummy socks were $3 at their “famous" Department Store “GUM" in Moscow but their subway and bus system was nice and cheap (5 Kopeks (5 cents back then). Went to the “World's Largest Swimming Pool" with my father. You could only stay for 2 hours and then had to get out. They played a lot of Ray Charles songs in the poolside. The locker room person was a small old Russian woman who kept trying to sneak a look at our genitals when changing — curious to know if Americans were different I suppose. Anyone who THINKS they would wish to live under Communist government should live there a while.

Joseph Admire:

I seem to remember that Russian author Vasily Aksyonov once told a joke about his encounter with a Soviet army officer back at the end of the 1960’s when the USSR and PRC were seemingly on the brink of war (and were actually fighting pitched battles on their border). The officer had just bought a motorcycle, it seems, and was positively in tears. When Aksyonov asked why the fellow was so upset, the officer replied that he was terrified that the Chinese would confiscate his motorcycle were they to invade. “But,” Aksyonov replied, “aren’t you worried that the Americans will take away your motorcycle if *they* invade us?” The army officer looked at the author as if the latter had abruptly gone insane. “The Americans,” he replied with a disdainful sniff, “respect private property.”

Bryan Baker:

Brain drain is an affliction of most repressive regimes. What is left behind is a population of those who find their source of identity often based on fear — and the despots manipulate that fear to maintain their control over them.

Jake Holman:

I was speaking to a Russian friend last night. I asked her if she missed the USSR. “No. It was a joyless existence with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.” She and her mom both moved to the US. Her dad is still there longing for the return of Stalin.


~ As Ukraine's military steps up its strikes on Kherson, hinting at a new offensive to recapture the region, there is another force working alongside. They are Ukraine's shadow army, a network of agents and informers who operate behind enemy lines.

Our journey to meet the resistance fighters takes us through a landscape of sunflower yellow and sky blue to Mykolaiv. The first major town on Ukrainian-controlled territory west of Kherson, it has become the partisans' headquarters on the southern front.

“The resistance is not one group, it's total resistance,” the man standing in front of me insists, his voice slightly muffled by a black mask he's pulled up from his neck so I can't see his face as we film him, in a room I can't describe so that neither can be found.

I'll call him Sasha.

Shortly before this war, Ukraine bolstered its Special Forces in part to build and manage a resistance movement. It even published a PDF booklet on how to be a good partisan, with instructions on such subversive acts as slashing tires, adding sugar to petrol tanks, or refusing to follow orders at work. “Be grumpy” is one suggestion.

But Sasha's team of informers have a more active role: tracking Russian troop movements inside Kherson.

"Say yesterday we saw a new target, then we send that to the military and in a day or two it's gone," he says, as we scroll through some of the many videos he's sent from the neighboring region each day. One is from a man who drove past a military base and filmed Russian vehicles, another is from CCTV footage as Russian trucks pass by, daubed with their giant Z war-marks.

Sasha describes his "agents" as Ukrainians "who have not lost hope in victory and want our country to be freed”.

"Of course they're afraid," he says. "But serving their country is more important."

Working alongside Sasha are a team who fly drones into Kherson to spot targets for the military. Civilians, not soldiers, all are volunteers and they fundraise on social media to pay for their expensive kit.

The man in charge cultivated decorative plants before the war, but Serhii tells me he joined the fight to free the south after seeing the bodies of civilians executed in Bucha during the Russian occupation there. "I couldn't just stay at home after that," he says. "I didn't know what else I could do or think of, while this war is going on."

The task he chose instead is extremely dangerous. His team of four get shelled by the Russians every single time they go out, though no-one has been killed. "I know to some extent it's a matter of chance," Serhii shrugs, and breaks into a soft smile. "But at least if it happens to me, then I will know it was for a cause.”

The task he chose instead is extremely dangerous. His team of four get shelled by the Russians every single time they go out, though no-one has been killed. "I know to some extent it's a matter of chance," Serhii shrugs, and breaks into a soft smile. "But at least if it happens to me, then I will know it was for a cause.”

The partisans are fighting to prevent Russia's hold over Kherson becoming permanent: to block a referendum that Moscow appears to be planning to stage. Russia has already introduced the ruble and its own mobile phone networks to the region and is pumping its propaganda from state-run TV channels into Ukrainian homes. Local journalists have either fled, or gone underground.

The acting head of the region, Dmytro Butrii, now exiled to Mykolaiv and a small back office protected by sandbags, insists that a vote on joining Russia would be a sham, a "total fake" and unrecognized by any "civilized" government.

These days, that wouldn't matter much to Moscow.

For Russia, the region is strategic: it's the source of water for Crimea, which it annexed illegally in 2014, and the last section of a much-discussed 'land bridge', or stretch of territory that links Russia-proper to the peninsula.

Some locals have switched sides to help the Russians. So Sasha's team are building a database of those "collaborators", using information from the inside. "It's so that no one can claim later that they were with the resistance," he explains.

But it's also for intimidation. Partisans are encouraged to stick threatening posters outside the collaborators' homes with designs that include the person's face and a coffin, or a "Wanted" poster offering big rewards for their death. The activists then photograph the results to send to Sasha.

"There's a lot of graffiti. People write things like 'stuff your referendum' as well as sticking up their posters," Sasha describes his latest reports from Kherson. "It shows how many people are not afraid: in a city with military patrols everywhere, they manage to print leaflets then walk round with glue when they could be stopped at any moment and things would end very badly.”

There has been a spate of assassination attempts against those who've joined the Russians. A blogger was shot, an official in the Russian-installed administration was killed and others have been injured with car bombs. The most prominent figures to switch sides now wear body armor as a matter of course. The men I meet all say they have nothing to do with the attacks, but they have no sympathy either.

"Other than the word traitor and scum, I have no other words for them," Sasha shrugs. "They're our enemy.”

Vladimir Putin still claims his invasion of Ukraine is a "liberation" operation but in Kherson, his troops rule through force and fear.

Since Russian forces occupied the region in March, hundreds of people have been detained, many of them tortured. Some have disappeared, unheard of for weeks. Others have been discovered dead or returned to their relatives from Russian custody in body bags.

Sources inside the city describe soldiers patrolling the streets and buses stopped at random for everyone inside to be checked. The slightest hint of support for Ukrainian rule, as little as a message or photo on your phone, can get you arrested.

Every time Oleh smiles in the mirror, the gaps in place of his teeth are a reminder of the beatings he endured by his Russian interrogators. He tells me they also broke seven ribs — three still haven't mended. His name is not really Oleh, but he's asked me not to reveal his identity.

A member of the resistance, he witnessed the torture of another prisoner, Denys Mironov, who then died in Russian custody.

Oleh talks in chilling detail about what happened after 27 March when he and Denys were snatched from the street: he describes constant beatings in the first hours involving electric shock, suffocation and death threats. He's sure his interrogators were from the FSB security service.

At some point, his spirits fell so low that he contemplated ending his life, even attacking a guard so they would shoot him.

"They were looking for Nazis, so they beat me because I was bald. They reckoned they'd caught a damn Nazi," he answers, when I ask what information his captors had wanted. "When they stripped me, they saw I had Simpsons underpants so they said I was an American agent and punished me for that.”

A month earlier, when the Russians invaded, Oleh and Denys had joined the territorial defense, Ukraine's volunteer army. But much of the military melted away with the first explosions and Kherson's remaining forces were quickly overwhelmed. So the men became partisans, working against the Russians from the inside.

"We got information on where their forces were based, and when they were on the move, and we passed that on to the military," Oleh explains, adding that he was involved in a lot more activity that he can't talk about.

Another partisan I met described helping Ukrainian forces escape in boats across the Dnipro when they were surrounded — and stealing weapons from the Russians. "I'll tell you the rest when we win," he laughs when I press him for more.

Denys, a 43-year-old with a wife and son - and a fruit and veg business before the war - began driving a bread van around Kherson, handing out food and scouting for intelligence as he went. He and Oleh were also collecting weapons, preparing to join the battle to liberate Kherson as soon as Ukraine launched the counter-offensive that everyone expected.

Instead, the two men were detained and tortured.

I asked Russia's FSB to explain what happened to these men and others. They didn't respond.

It was the middle of the first night before Oleh saw Denys again, and by then he could barely walk and was struggling for breath. Even so, the guards beat him some more. "They hit him in the groin, then the face, then two men with batons took down his trousers and started to beat him near his kidneys," Oleh says, recalling how the tape holding a bag over his own head had worked loose enough for him to see.

"It was clear his lungs had been punctured and he'd been really badly hurt," he says. "But if he'd been helped in time, his death could have been avoided. It's awful.”

On 18 April the men were transferred to a facility in Crimea and the next day, Denys was finally taken to a military hospital where Oleh was sure he would recover.

The first Denys Mironov's family knew of his death was over a month later, when he was returned to Ukraine as part of a body swap.

Many people left Kherson for safety soon after the Russians seized control. The government in Kyiv recently urged others to evacuate, warning that a military operation to retake the region was imminent.

But getting out isn't easy.

Russian officials limit the number of vehicles crossing the frontline and only permit one route into Ukrainian-controlled areas, the road that heads north to Zaporizhzhia. Multiple military checkpoints on the way make it a no-go for Ukrainian men of fighting age. Even women and children face waiting weeks for places on free evacuation buses, or an exorbitant fee for a place in a private car.

But hundreds still flee each day, tumbling off buses or unfolding themselves from crowded, stuffy cars just before dusk into a supermarket car park that doubles as a reception area for those forced into exile in their own country. The adults look exhausted, the children's smiles are timid, as if they're not quite sure whether they're safe yet. Steam gushes from beneath the bonnet of a blue Lada like it's about to explode. After security checks, volunteers offer food and clothes and, for some, there are tearful reunions with waiting relatives.

We can't travel into Kherson now it's occupied, but the mood in this crowd reveals plenty about life there. Even on Ukrainian-controlled soil, people are wary of what they say. "Will the Russians see this?" some of the new arrivals want to know before I film or even record them speaking. Others shake their heads as I approach, and turn away from my microphone.

"It's tough there, the Russians are everywhere," Alexandra tells me, bouncing baby Nastya on her knee in the back of a car. Inside the aid tent an older woman is standing with two carrier bags at her feet looking lost and lonely. Struggling with tears, Svitlana tells me she's fled Kherson because her nerves are in shreds but her husband has refused to come with her. "He said he's waiting for the Ukrainian army to come and liberate us," she says.

As night begins to fall, and more vehicles pull in, a man admits that his own family are running from more than the missiles. "We know people are disappearing, it's true," he tells me, without giving his name. "In Kherson, you don't go out in the evening.”

But Ukrainian attacks have also increased, both in number and impact, as more powerful weapons supplied by the West have made it to the region and are making a difference. Residents in Kherson city have recorded multiple strikes on Russian ammunition depots. Bridges across the Dnipro, including the Antonivskiy, have also been hit multiple times, disrupting Russian supply lines.

The push to retake Kherson could be approaching.

Sasha believes many of those who have remained in the city are ready to stay and fight; those I've spoken to say support for Russian rule is minimal and the searches, detentions and beatings in recent months have shrunk that still further.

"When the army starts to invade, then people will be ready and will help," Sasha says.

After his own brutal experience in Russian custody, Oleh is already back on the southern front to fight for his hometown, alongside Ukraine's partisan army.

They can take the land, but they can't take the people,” is how he puts it. “The Russians will never be safe in Kherson, because the people didn't want them there. They don't like them. They won't accept them.” ~



~ For the first time in its modern, post-Soviet history, Russia is openly and shamelessly acting like a lowlife terrorist organization: killing hostages, videotaping torture and medieval executions of prisoners, encouraging pathological sadists and homicidal maniacs among its military personnel -- all the while complaining bitterly, attempting to present itself as an innocent victim of all the rest of the world. Self-respecting, self-confident armies never stoop remotely this low. Putin effectively is behaving like the head of an Al-Qaeda-like outfit. Which means he knows he's already lost the war. ~ Misha Iossel


If it weren’t for a pair of Czech paratroopers, Reinhard Heydrich’s name might rank closer to the top of a long list of World War II villains. Tall, blond, blue-eyed, and as cold and unrelenting as Russian winter, Heydrich now seems almost a caricature of the perfect Nazi. One postwar biographer called him “Hitler’s most evil henchman,” a title for which there was stiff competition; Heinrich Himmler, the infamous head of the SS, eulogized him as “an ideal always to be emulated, but perhaps never again to be achieved.”

Indeed, Heydrich was the go-to guy for the Nazi leadership’s most sensitive and difficult tasks. His fingerprints are all over some of the most significant moments of the Third Reich. In 1934, in preparation for the Night of the Long Knives, Heydrich—then head of the Gestapo—drew up lists of rivals to the SS in the Nazi party to be arrested and executed. He helped coordinate the nationwide night of anti-Semitic attacks in 1938 known as Kristallnacht. In 1939, he engineered the fake attack on a German radio station near the Polish border that the Nazis used as an excuse to invade Poland.

Two years later, at age 37, Heydrich was put in charge of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, one of the Third Reich’s most important industrial centers. Not long after, he returned to Berlin to take care of some unfinished business. On January 20, 1942, Heydrich sealed his reputation as Hitler’s ultimate acolyte in a pleasant villa in Wannsee, a wealthy suburb on the city’s outskirts. In a long morning of meetings, he presided over a group of high-level bureaucrats and hashed out the Final Solution to the Reich’s “Jewish question.” And then, on a sunny morning in May 1942, he was assassinated by undercover commandos in one of the war’s most daring missions.

The plot to kill Heydrich was hatched in London, painstakingly prepared in top-secret training camps in the English countryside, and executed by a select group of Czech commandos. Its success shocked Hitler and other top Nazis. “It was a portent of the fate awaiting the Nazis if they lost the war,” historian Callum MacDonald wrote in The Killing of SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich.

But Heydrich’s death came at a terrible cost. His assassination spurred an orgy of revenge, resulting in the deaths of thousands of people. Instead of inspiring a wider uprising or encouraging the Czech resistance movement, the reprisals cowed the occupied country. Historians still debate whether it was worth it: Did the assassination’s symbolic value outweigh that of the lives lost?

Born near Leipzig in 1904, Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich was the son of a second-rate German composer and opera singer who kept a nationalist, anti-Semitic household. As a young man, Heydrich was a talented violinist and athlete, competing in swimming and fencing competitions. He joined the German navy in 1922, rose to the rank of ensign, and was dismissed in a cloud of scandal over a woman. In 1931, Heinrich Himmler recruited Heydrich, then just 27, as head of counterintelligence for the fledgling SS. As the SS grew in importance, so did Heydrich’s role in the Nazi party. He was Himmler’s right-hand man, helping him and the party maneuver for power. In 1934, Heydrich was made head of the Gestapo, the feared secret police division of the SS.

The SS officer’s arrogance and competitive streak—a trait that often surfaced as an addiction to risk taking—would prove to be fatal flaws. Himmler, no softy, was known to angrily refer to his headstrong subordinate as “Genghis Khan.” Outwardly portraying himself as a devoted family man and father, Heydrich was also a devoted womanizer, frequently dragging subordinates with him on benders in Berlin’s red-light district.

For all his faults, Heydrich had what it took to go far in Nazi Germany. He was a personal favorite of Hitler’s and, like his patron, knew how to manipulate those around him to get ahead. “Heydrich had an incredibly acute perception of the moral, human, professional, and political weaknesses of others,” his close friend Walter Schellenberg wrote after his death. “It seemed, as if in a pack of ferocious wolves, he must always prove himself the strongest and assume the leadership.”

Restoring order to the Reich Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia—an area roughly corresponding to today’s Czech Republic—was an important steppingstone for Heydrich. Controlled by Germany since 1939, a year after the Munich Agreement had ceded Czechoslovakia’s western borders to Germany, the protectorate was a key source of coal for the war effort and one of Europe’s top arms manufacturing centers.

In 1939, Edvard Benes—the pre-protectorate president of Czechoslovakia—set up a government in exile in London. In a strange turn of international law, the Munich Agreement signed by Italy, Britain, France, and Germany remained in force: If Germany lost the war, things would go back to the post-Munich borders and it would keep nearly five million people and 16,000 square miles of Czechoslovakia.

Benes was determined to prevent this. But to overturn the agreement, he had to prove to the Allies that the Czech people were contributing to the fight against Nazi Germany. Besides spreading propaganda, Benes often pointed to the thousands of Czech soldiers who had fled the country after the annexation, fought in France during the invasion, then retreated with other Allied forces. Czech pilots fought in the Battle of Britain, shooting down dozens of German aircraft.

Working with Britain’s elite Special Operations Executive, Benes began training the best of the Czech army in exile as parachutists who could be dropped into the occupied Czech territory to help the local opposition or conduct sabotage operations. The drops, which commenced in October 1941, were often hasty affairs, and not well thought out. “There was no escape plan,” MacDonald wrote. “The agents would remain underground until they were either killed or captured or Czechoslovakia was liberated by an Allied victory.”

The president in exile had no shortage of volunteers for the secret missions. Two men stood out: Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcík, both veterans in their late 20s who had fought in France and made their way to England at the beginning of the war. Kubis was a sergeant who felt humiliated by his country’s surrender to the Nazis, and earned the Czech War Cross for his part in fighting Germans in France. Gabcík’s last post before the German invasion was in a military chemical warehouse; before leaving, he poured acid over the stocks of mustard gas to keep the dangerous chemical out of German hands.

At secret training bases in Britain, Kubis and Gabcík practiced using explosives and parachutes. Neither man was a natural-born killer—their British trainers gave them mediocre marks on their evaluations—but they were trustworthy, and unlikely to question their orders once on the ground.

As the situation in the Czech protectorate deteriorated by fall 1941, Himmler and Hitler decided to send the 37-year-old Heydrich in to clean things up. His mission was clear. “We will Germanize the Czech vermin,” he told his subordinates after his arrival in Prague. Privately, the SS officer saw the post as a way to escape Himmler’s shadow and further his own career.

Heydrich’s experience running the Nazi secret police force served him well when it came to cracking down on the already weak Czech opposition. He turned the protectorate into an SS fiefdom, appointing fellow SS officers to important positions in the government. On his watch, the Gestapo seized radio equipment brought in by parachute commandos, followed leads provided by collaborators to members of the resistance, and executed thousands of intellectuals and suspected members of the underground. Czech Jews were rounded up and put in ghettos, the first step to the gas chambers. Fear was omnipresent. “The terror…is powerful, and for everyone politically active there is a permanent Gestapo agent,” one parachutist messaged London not long after dropping into the country. “Work is exceptionally difficult in spite of our contacts.”

Though Benes’s government in exile labeled Heydrich “the Butcher of Prague,” his tactics were subtle and effective. Unlike the Poles, Czechs had been far more divided about Germany before the war began, and many were Nazi sympathizers. Even as he brutally cracked down on the resistance, Jews, and intellectuals, Heydrich increased rations and wages for workers, reduced their hours, and worked to suppress the black market, a wartime institution most ordinary Czechs resented. “I must have peace of mind that every Czech worker works at his maximum for the German war effort,” he told subordinates not long after he arrived in Prague. “This includes feeding the Czech worker—to put it frankly—so that he can do his work.”

Heydrich’s tactics soon turned the situation in Prague around completely, putting Czech manufacturing back on track, and making Heydrich a hero back in Berlin
. “He plays cat-and-mouse with the Czechs, and they swallow everything he places before them,” Hitler’s propaganda chief, Josef Goebbels, noted in his diary in February 1942. “As a result the Protectorate is now in the best of spirits, quite in contrast to other occupied or annexed areas.”

Heydrich’s successes in Prague persuaded Benes it was time to take drastic action. In October 1941, plans were drawn up to assassinate Heydrich under the code name Anthropoid. The exiled Czech leader felt tremendous pressure; the currents of war were shifting. That December, with the overextended German army bogging down in the Soviet Union and the Americans on board after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he began to fear not just a continuation of the Munich Agreement, but the possibility of a compromise peace agreement between Nazi Germany and the Allies that would sacrifice the Czechs.

While Benes hoped the assassination would spark a Czech uprising that would reassure the other Allied leaders, it’s possible he had another motive: reprisals, which were sure to come, might outrage the Czechs enough to push them into action. “In this situation,” he told the resistance via coded radio messages from his safe perch in London, “a proof of strength in our own country—rebellion, open action, acts of sabotage and demonstrations—may become desirable…even if it has to be paid for with a great many sacrifices.”

Kubis and Gabcík were airdropped into this tense situation on December 29. The Halifax bomber that delivered them was off course thanks to the snow blanketing the Czech countryside, and they landed nearly 50 miles from their planned drop zone. Still, they made contact with local resistance groups, and were smuggled into the capital, given false papers, and set up in a series of safe houses.

Not long after their arrival, the two Operation Anthropoid commandos began preparing for the assassination. The young veterans weren’t interested in a suicide mission—in their months in Prague they both found girlfriends they hoped to marry after the war. One of the women was even pregnant.

Czechs working in Prague Castle, a massive edifice overlooking the city that was the headquarters of the Nazi regime, fed the two men intelligence on Heydrich’s security and schedule. They quickly eliminated the heavily guarded castle as an assassination site. Heydrich’s suburban estate, a sprawling villa seized from a Jewish sugar magnate, was also too secure. But Heydrich had to travel from home to office—and the overconfident Nazi chief did so with no escort, taking the same winding road down from the hills outside Prague to the city center each day. Kubis and Gabcík spent weeks watching him come and go, and finally picked a hairpin curve on a steep hill a few miles from the commandant’s residence.

For weeks, rumors had been flying within the tight-knit underground about the mysterious mission Gabcík and Kubis were on. The two men were clearly planning something big, but they refused to answer to local commanders. Finally, an astonishingly frank transmission was directed to Benes in London. “From the preparations that Ota and Zdenek [Kubis and Gabcík’s code names] are working on and the place where it is happening, we guess, despite their silence, that they’re preparing to assassinate H,” the resistance leadership messaged. “This assassination would not help the Allies and would bring immense consequences upon our nation.”

Benes disregarded the warning, and the message was intercepted by the Gestapo on May 12. Heydrich was urged to take more security measures, like traveling with an escort and installing armor in his official car. He paid no heed to these remonstrations, frustrating his subordinates. “Heydrich approved the general measures but categorically refused a personal escort, on the grounds that it would damage German prestige,” the Gestapo commander who investigated the assassination later wrote. “A certain arrogant pride and his sporting outlook probably prompted his attitude. He really believed that no Czech would harm him.”

On the morning of Tuesday, May 26, 1942, Reich Protector Heydrich was in a fine mood. He was flying to meet with Hitler later that day, hoping to persuade the Führer to promote him, perhaps to head of security for all of the occupied territories. The night before, he had staged a recital of some of his father’s chamber music, even writing the program notes himself. He spent the morning eating a leisurely breakfast and playing in the palace gardens with his three children and pregnant wife, filled his briefcase with papers he needed for his meeting with Hitler, and climbed into his dark green open-topped Mercedes staff car.

A few miles away, the assassins were waiting. They had ridden borrowed bicycles to a hillside tram stop, their weapons hidden in briefcases strapped to the handlebars. To conceal his Sten gun once it was assembled, Gabcík wore a raincoat, despite the warm weather and cloudless sky. A third conspirator, one of the dozen or so parachutists on missions in Prague, was recruited as a lookout to flash a signal when Heydrich approached.

At 10:32, the signal came and Heydrich’s car topped the hill just as a tram full of passengers approached from below. Kubis and Gabcík readied their weapons. As the car slowed to take the sharp corner, Gabcík stepped into the road and leveled his gun at Heydrich. But when he pulled the trigger, the Sten jammed. Heydrich, enraged, made a fatal mistake. Instead of ordering his driver to step on the gas and accelerate out of the ambush, the SS commander stopped the car, stood up, and pulled his sidearm to deal with what he thought was a lone gunman.

At that moment, Kubis ran up from his hiding spot on the other side of the road and hurled one of his specially-designed bombs at the car. Bad luck struck again: instead of landing inside the convertible, the bomb hit the side of the Mercedes, just in front of one of the car’s rear wheels. The blast damaged the car and sent shrapnel flying into Kubis’s face. Heydrich and his driver, stunned, lurched out of the car and split up, chasing after the fleeing commandos.

Ears still ringing from the misdirected explosion, Kubis plunged into the crowd at the tram stop, firing his .38 Colt automatic in the air to scatter the bystanders. Heydrich’s driver, a hulking SS officer named Johannes Klein, gave chase—but now his gun jammed. Half blinded by the blood covering his face, Kubis managed to mount his bicycle and ride off down the hill, leaving Klein behind.

Gabcík wasn’t so lucky. As the dust cleared, he faced the feared Obergruppenführer of the Czech protectorate, who lurched toward him, pointing a 7.65mm automatic. Gabcík dropped his useless submachine gun, pulled his own pistol and ducked behind a pole. Heydrich began shooting from behind the stopped tram, then suddenly doubled over in pain.

Kubis’s bomb, it turned out, had not been a total failure. A fragment of metal from the explosion had torn through the back seat of the unarmored staff car and hit Heydrich in the back. Overcome with pain, the SS officer stumbled back to the Mercedes and collapsed, giving Gabcik a chance to escape.

Klein, running back up the street to check on his injured commander, found him sprawled across the hood of the car, blood spreading across his dress uniform. “Get that bastard,” Heydrich told him. Klein—his gun still jammed—managed to corner Gabcík in a butcher shop, where the increasingly desperate Czech commando shot Klein in the legs and disappeared down a side street.

Meanwhile, bystanders at the tram stop flagged down a passing van full of floor polish and loaded the SS commander in the back. Jolting over the cobbled street, the van drove to the nearest hospital, where an x-ray revealed the extent of Heydrich’s injuries. The metal from the explosion had shattered Heydrich’s 11th rib, punctured his stomach, and driven bits of wire and horsehair from the car’s cushion into his spleen.

The news reached Hitler less than two hours later. His first reaction was to order dramatic reprisals. Ten thousand Czechs were to be arrested, and any political prisoners in custody—including prominent politicians, like the prime minister—were to be shot. To smoke out the perpetrators, a reward of one million reichsmarks was posted, along with a promise to execute anyone caught helping the assassins, including their families.

In the meantime, Heydrich lay in the hospital, surrounded by guards and attended by Himmler’s personal physician. An operation hours after the attack had removed the metal from his abdomen, and the surgeons reluctantly removed his spleen as well. Within days, it was clear Heydrich’s wound was badly infected. On June 2, he lost consciousness. Two days later, SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich, 38, was dead.

Privately, Hitler was furious at Hey­drich. “Such heroic gestures as driving in an open, unarmored vehicle or walking about the streets unguarded are just damned stupidity, which serves the country not one whit,” he fumed. Publicly, Heydrich’s death was treated as a national tragedy. His body was displayed with an honor guard in Prague Castle for two days before it was sent to Berlin for a state funeral. Himmler delivered the eulogy; Hitler presented the German Order decoration.

As the Gestapo began to hunt for the perpetrators in Prague, retaliation began in earnest. As usual, Jews were the first targets. On June 9, 3,000 Jews from the Terezín ghetto were shipped to death camps in Poland on special trains marked “Assassination of Heydrich.” Hitler decided to go a step further. Lidice, a small village in Bohemia, was selected for annihilation.

On the day of Heydrich’s funeral, the village was surrounded and all the men over 15 were rounded up and shot in groups of 10, a task that took all night and most of the next day. (The executioners were police brought in from Heydrich’s hometown in Germany.) The women of Lidice were sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, where 53 died by the end of the war. A few of Lidice’s 104 children were given to SS families for “proper upbringing”; 82 of them were gassed. The SS then torched the town, dynamited its houses, school, and small church, excavated the town’s cemetery, and even re-routed the small stream that ran through it. By early July, there was literally nothing left.

Meanwhile, Heydrich’s killers had gone to ground in the center of Prague, hidden by a local priest in the basement of a Czech Orthodox church just a few hundred yards from the river. In addition to the three men on the scene, four other parachutists who had helped plan the attack took refuge in the catacomb; one, Karel Curda, managed to slip out of the city and hid in his mother’s barn in the countryside.

As days turned into weeks, the commandos sank into depression verging on panic. Heydrich was dead, but the men felt personally responsible for the increasingly brutal reprisals against civilians. Isolated and alone, they even considered committing suicide in a public park after hanging signs around their necks claiming responsibility.

In the end, their fate was sealed by betrayal. On June 13, with no leads in the case, Nazi officials announced an amnesty for anyone who stepped forward with information on the assassins’ identities, plus a million-mark bounty. A few days later, Curda—separated from his comrades and under heavy pressure from his family—took a train to Prague and turned himself in. Within hours, he had given up the identity of his fellow parachutists and the addresses of several safe houses in Prague.

When the war ended, many of the Czechs who collaborated with the Nazis—including Curda, the traitorous paratrooper—were convicted of treason by the postwar Czech government and executed. (Asked during his trial why he betrayed his comrades, Curda shrugged. “I think you would have done the same for a million marks,” he told the judge.) Because the mission was sponsored by and coordinated from Britain, Soviet-dominated, communist-era Czechoslovakia played down its importance. But since the end of communism in 1989, Gabcík and Kubis have been transformed into national heroes. The crypt of the church in downtown Prague where they made their last stand is now a museum and memorial; a 30-foot-tall monument marks the spot where they gunned down the Butcher of Prague.

Historians, though, are still debating whether Operation Anthropoid should be celebrated or condemned. Despite the hopes of Benes and the other members of Czechoslovakia’s government in exile, the assassination failed to inspire a mass uprising. “Far from rallying the Czech people around the home resistance, as Benes expected, it shattered the remnants of an organization already weakened by the terror of October 1941,” Callum MacDonald wrote.

Nonetheless, the brutality of the Nazi retaliation did persuade the Allies to tear up the Munich Agreement and officially recognize Benes as president. Though it may have suppressed the Czech resistance, it turned the suffering of the Czechs into a cause célèbre internationally, more infamous at the time than the far larger massacres at Babi Yar or Rumbula [a massacre near Riga, Latvia]. “Lidice became the rallying cry of the resistance mainly because the Nazis spoke out about this reprisal,” Mario Dederichs wrote in his biography Heydrich: The Face of Evil.

But perhaps the assassination’s most important impact was psychological. Nazi leaders would never feel safe again. And at a low point in the war, the sacrifice of Kubis and Gabcík—along with thousands of others—showed the Allies that the Nazi hold on Europe was far from unbreakable. ~

Jan Kubiš

Jozef Gabčik



At least the Munich Agreement was torn up as a result of the cruel reprisals; that alone was perhaps a sufficient victory for Czechoslovakia.

As for “was it worth it in view of Nazi reprisals?” the same question has been raised (and never adequately answered) about the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.


~ I adopted the explanation of many. Germany suffered shock after shock, starting with mass death in the trenches of World War I, and continuing with the Versailles Treaty and all of its ramifications, the Depression, rapid modernization in the Weimar Republic, and the violent and terrifying rise of Soviet Communism. Even before all this, in the nineteenth century, Romantic Nationalism, Scientific Racism, inspired by Social Darwinism, rising atheism and Neo-Paganism inadvertently provided a theoretical grounding for Nazism. Hitler was ruthless and crafty; Joseph Goebbels and Julius Streicher brainwashed the masses expertly through media. Etc, etc, etc. Those explanations for Nazism work well enough. But then you get to Reinhard Heydrich.

In spite of his relatively low profile, Heydrich is an inescapable figure. After reading Dougherty's biography of him, I have to wonder how successful Nazism would have been had he never existed. He has been called the architect of the Holocaust. Heydrich was an intelligent, energetic, driven, high achiever. He was chief of the Gestapo, Kripo, and SD – the intelligence agency of the SS. He issued the decree mandating that Jews wear a badge in the shape of a yellow Star of David. He chaired the Wannsee Conference which laid out the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question." He was Heinrich Himmler's underling and Adolf Eichmann's boss. He gave the world the Einsatzgruppen, squads that followed German troops, and shot unarmed civilians perceived to be a potential enemy of the Third Reich. Einsatzgruppen killed two million people, including 1.3 million Jews, and also tens of thousands of Poles, including priests, teachers, and professors, and also handicapped and disabled Poles. Communists and Roma, or Gypsies, were also killed.

Hitler commanded, "Whatever we can find of an upper class in Poland is to be liquidated" and "The increased severity of the racial struggle permits of no legal restrictions. Jews, Poles, and similar trash are to be cleared from the old and new Reich territories." Heydrich delivered. He reported, "Of the Polish upper classes in the occupied territories, only a maximum of 3 percent is still present." Heydrich became a pilot and flew reconnaissance and combat missions over Poland. His plane crashed and he had to make his way back to German lines. Hitler disapproved of this; had Heydrich been captured, the Reich might never recover from his loss. He was also sexually omnivorous, and he commandeered a brothel, Salon Kitty, in order to surveil his fellow Nazis as they made use of prostitute spies.

In 1935, Reich Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick argued that opposition to the Nazis had been crushed. There was no longer any need for the SS to have the extra-legal powers of repression that it commanded. Frick's argument did not carry the day. Hitler appointed Himmler head of the police in 1936. Himmler and Heydrich pushed for a permanent police state. Heydrich advanced this victory for repression by publishing, in 1935, a series of articles for Das Schwarze Korps, the SS journal. These articles were republished in 1936 as The Transformation of Our Struggle. Jews, Freemasons, and Catholic priests were Germany's eternal enemies, Heydrich wrote, and Germany would have to struggle long and hard to defeat them. Heydrich darkly warned that Nazism's victory, Hitler's control, and the crushing of the opposition shouldn't fool Germans into complacency. To justify Germany's long-term struggle against Jews, Freemasons, and priests, Heydrich cited a perverted conception of Darwinian "survival of the fittest.”

As Reinhard Heydrich was rising in the SS, his parents were facing penury and possible starvation. During the depths of the Depression, in 1933, after his father suffered a stroke, Heydrich's parents repeatedly begged him for a loan. He turned them down. Finally, he presented them with a contract outlining how he expected them to behave if he did give them a fraction of the money requested. Apparently they never signed their son's humiliating contract.

Clearly, Reinhard Heydrich was an evil man. And yet, while reading Dougherty's compelling, disturbing, and unforgettable biography, I did not feel normal human anger at Heydrich. This is because I could never feel that he was a human being. I felt I was reading about an insect. Insects and other parasites can do unspeakable things to a human body, but we don't tend to get angry at them. The mosquitos that transmit malaria that has killed millions are just little machines programmed by nature functioning without conscience. I know that I should say that I recognize that Heydrich was a human being in the same way that I am a human being, but even as I say that, I don't believe it.

Heydrich, in spite of the ambitious trajectory of his life, may have been himself as little more than a bug acting according to a plan he never wrote. According to one story, one of his final comments was a quote from one of his composer father's operas. "The world is just a barrel-organ which the Lord God turns Himself. We all have to dance to the tune which is already on the drum." Maybe, had he survived, he would have offered that defense at Nuremberg.

Dougherty's book, interweaving, as it does, conversations with Heydrich's widow, includes Heydrich the man. Heydrich, a loving spouse who held his wife's hand as she underwent the agonized pangs of childbirth. Heydrich, newly assigned to Prague, breathing a sigh of relief that his daily tasks demanded sending many fewer innocent civilians to their sadistic deaths.

Heydrich, trying to win hearts and minds, "generously" increasing Czechs' fat ration. Heydrich, the sensitive musician who played violin so well his listeners were moved to tears. Heydrich, the stiff, awkward youth, teased and ostracized by his peers. Heydrich, the denizen of Hell, awash in the blood of millions.

Heydrich's nicknames include, "The blond beast," "The young, evil, god of death," "The Butcher of Prague," "The Hangman," and "The Man with the Iron Heart." That "iron heart" sobriquet came from Hitler himself. He was "a professional criminal of Luciferian magnitude," and "the king of the underworld," "the puppet master of the Third Reich," "the murderer-in-chief," and "the hidden pivot around which the Nazi regime revolved." He was, according to Himmler, "a walking file cabinet" jam packed with information he used to destroy lives. Werner Best, a fellow Nazi, called Heydrich "the most demonic personality" of all Nazi leaders. A Nazi defector called Heydrich "the all-powerful power behind the throne." Then there is this, in German, "Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich" or "Himmler's brain is called Heydrich.”

Can we explain Heydrich's evil by saying that he was steeped in, and blinded by, hatred? No, we can't. Heydrich's father Bruno interacted with Jews in a collegial way. Jewish students attended his music conservatory. A Jewish merchant stored goods in the Heydrich school. Young Reinhard was friends with the son of the Jewish cantor, Abraham Lichtenstein. Heydrich would later claim, possibly falsely, to have joined anti-Semitic organizations in his youth. Scholars guess that he made these claims to boost his Nazi credentials, since he joined the Party relatively late and to advance his own career.

Further, Heydrich persecuted Catholics and Freemasons. Heydrich's father was a Freemason. His mother was a devout Catholic. She objected to her son's plan to arrest the anti-Nazi Bishop Galen. After this falling out, Dougherty writes, mother and son rarely spoke. Heydrich's mother starved to death during post-World-War-II food shortages in Germany. She was just one of millions of Germans destroyed by the ideology that was meant to elevate Germans for the next thousand years.

Heydrich began, not by killing persons demonized by the Nazis, including Jews or Poles, but his fellow Germans. He co-organized the Night of the Long Knives. Germans killed Germans. Nazis killed Nazis. Men who had marched and fought together murdered each other for nothing but personal gain. Hundreds, perhaps as many as a thousand, died; a thousand were arrested. Heydrich sent his fellow Germans to concentration camps. Until 1938, most concentration camp inmates were German Aryans.

The explanations that help us to file away other Nazis don't help us with Heydrich. Hitler was so over the top that it's easy to write him off as insane. Mein Kampf and the many video and audio recordings of his speeches document Hitler's sick mind. Himmler, in his speeches in occupied Poznan, provided his own justification for the evil deeds he commanded. Eichmann testified at his 1961 trial, and, in May, 2022, an Israeli documentary, The Devil's Confession, was released that includes Eichmann speaking to a journalist in 1957. Goebbels kept a diary detailing what a sick SOB he was, and his unhinged speeches are also on video.

Heydrich died relatively young and suddenly and we don't have his autobiography in speeches, diary entries, or trial testimony.

Unlike Hitler, Heydrich was not a soldier in World War I. Unlike Himmler, he was not invested in Nazi Neo-Paganism. Unlike Goebbels, there's no proof that he was an anti-Semite before joining the Nazi Party. Heydrich didn't join the Party until 1931, as he was looking for something to replace his lost naval career. He joined too late for him to be considered an "Old Fighter," that is the true believers who had joined the Party early on before it gained power.

His widow insists that when she met him he was apolitical. In fact she says he never read Mein Kampf, and he spoke disparagingly of Hitler and Goebbels. Unlike Eichmann, he was not a natural beta male. Eichmann would later offer his own lesser status as his alibi. "I was a mere instrument in the hands of the leaders. I was not a responsible leader, and as such do not feel myself guilty.”

How did Heydrich become Heydrich?

Here's one potential origin story. One of the odder aspects of this incomprehensible life: there were persistent, unsubstantiated rumors, throughout his life, that Heydrich had Jewish ancestry. These rumors existed side-by-side with assessments of Heydrich as the picture-perfect Aryan. The absurdity of this contradiction is just one of the many absurdities of Nazism. People theorize that these rumors gave Hitler power over Heydrich. Others theorize that Heydrich was trying to prove how very not Jewish he was. This is all guesswork.

Heydrich's childhood was comfortable. His parents were respected and well off. His father Bruno was an opera singer, composer, and founder of the Halle Conservatory. His mother taught piano. Little Heydrich, it was assumed, would take his father's place someday, and he was taught music early. Heydrich was a good student and athlete. He was a fencer and swimmer. He was teased, though, for his high-pitched voice and alleged Jewishness. Kids called him “Moses."

Given his age, he missed participation in the irrational bloodletting of World War I. Over two million Germans died, constituting between three and four percent of the population. At just one battle, Verdun, 143,000 German soldiers died. But young Heinrich did not miss the bloodletting at home after the war. Extremists on the right and left were fighting it out in the streets. Fifteen-year-old Heydrich joined the Freikorps to defend conservative German nationalism. After that, wild inflation struck, and his family's fortunes, along with those of millions of other Germans, diminished.

Heydrich, abandoning hopes for a career in music, joined the navy. On paper, he did well, but, according to later reports, he had no friends. His fellow navy men regarded him as too refined; some would later say that he struck them as a "liberal." He was seen as gangly, womanly, and effeminate. The rumor of Jewish ancestry clung to him. His laugh, they mocked, sounded like a bleating goat. Ridicule even appeared in the ship newspaper. His violin was his only friend. When discussing music, "he changed completely.”

In the navy, Heydrich established what would be a lifelong pattern of sexual promiscuity. He "compromised" one woman and then proposed marriage to another, Lina von Osten. As the "von" suggests, Lina was from an aristocratic, if declassé, background. Heydrich was kicked out of the navy for conduct unbecoming an officer. He was crushed; he retreated to his room and cried for days. Since Heydrich now had no income or position, Lina's family balked at the couple's marriage plans.

At the time, six million German men were out of work. But Heydrich's position was not as desperate as many others'. Scholar Robert Gerwarth published Hitler's Hangman, a well-received biography of Heydrich in 2011. Gerwarth says that Heydrich could have worked as a sailing instructor in a yacht club. (Heydrich the sailing instructor: dark comedy gold.) Heydrich rejected such work. He didn't want to become a "sailing servant to the children of the rich."

Heydrich's fiancée was a committed Nazi. His godmother was able to get him an interview with Himmler. Himmler gave Heydrich twenty minutes to sketch a plan for counterintelligence. Heydrich had no experience with espionage. This did not deter him. Heydrich had been a reader of American and British spy novels. He used what he had gathered from reading authors like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to prepare the document Himmler requested. Himmler was impressed both by Heydrich's proposal and by Heydrich's height of 6'3", his blue eyes, blond hair, and athleticism. Himmler hired and swiftly promoted Heydrich.

Hitler promoted rivalries unto death among his personnel; such rivalries, he believed, like Darwinian "survival of the fittest" would result in the strongest man rising to the top. Dougherty quotes a Nazi, "Everyone arrests everyone. Everyone threatens everyone with arrest. Everyone threatens everyone with Dachau." In this competitive arena, Himmler and Heydrich were one of the few successful partnerships. Lina would later say that Heydrich dealt with Himmler "by imagining him in his underwear.”

In a recent interview, James Dougherty said that his late wife was "fascinated" and "intrigued" by a Nazi who wasn't "street trash." James said, "Don't dismiss Nazis as fringe characters. They were human beings like you and me in different circumstances.”

In his Foreword, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt sounds less like James Dougherty; he appears to have shared my incomprehension. "One searches in vain for a rational explanation of Heydrich's descent into evil. No single biographical fragment satisfies. Not his awkward, ugly duckling childhood and adolescence. Not the sudden flameout of his promising naval career. Not the seemingly hopeless job prospects he suddenly faced in 1931 … Not the attraction to Nazism of his fiancée … not the rumor of a strain of Jewishness … Not even the inclination in the German character to excel at any job … Heydrich's monstrosity surpasses experiential evidence … one sees him falling through some trapdoor in his mind.”

Reinhard Heydrich was assassinated by Jan Kubis, a Czech, a Jozef Gabcik, a Slovak. They attacked on May 27, 1942. Heydrich died on June 4. He was the most prominent Nazi to be assassinated during the war.

Possibly the weirdest aspect of the assassination is that Heydrich may not have been finished off by Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik at all. Heydrich may have been assassinated by Himmler.

Gabcik's Sten submachine gun jammed. Heydrich stood and pointed his Luger pistol at Gabcik. Jan Kubis threw a grenade at Heydrich's Mercedes Cabriolet. Heydrich was wounded and taken to a hospital. He was treated by Himmler's doctor. Albert Speer told Dougherty that he thought it was "quite possible" that this doctor ended Heydrich's life.

Reinhard Heydrich could play violin so well he made the hearer weep. He had decent parents who raised him well. He had a happy marriage and he loved his kids. We don't have much of his writing or his speeches. We do, though, have the records of his actions. We may not know why he was so evil, although personal ambition clearly was one paving stone on his highway to Hell. But that he was one of the most evil people who has ever lived, of that there is no doubt. ~

~ Danusha Goska, Facebook, July 29, 2022


How do we understand the evil of a man like Heydrich? Not with insanity...I think his is a very sane, and very practical evil. He was ambitious and clever, could read people well enough to manage and manipulate. He comes up with plans, with strategies to address and eliminate problems. Those strategies involve the systematic, industrialized murder of millions...political enemies, Poles, Czechs, Jews, the Roma, all those undesirables defined by the Nazi ideology. In devising these plans he serves his masters, and expects the rewards of advancement and power.

This is the worst of evils, this practical evil. It has no empathy. It sees no humanity in its victims, and can use, manipulate and destroy them without a twinge of pain or regret, one at a time, or by the millions. It creates horrors, builds hell on earth, with calm efficiency. It is evil on the plan of a modern factory, obsessive about details and inventory, resulting in all that macabre counting: bodies, shoes, gold teeth, eyeglasses. This is a selfish but passionless evil, cold and deliberate,  amoral and without shame, and much more frightening than the evil of the criminally insane.

Einsatzgruppen murdering Jewish civilians in Ivanhorod, Ukraine, 1942 (detail)


I don't have the answer, but I do have an answer. Throughout recorded history, people have committed atrocities in the name of religion, including a secular religion such as National Socialism or Communism -- religions known as "ideology." Even extreme nationalism is enough -- killing for one's country is one of the oldest tradtions. Killing for a cause is generally regarded as more excusable, even noble, than killing for personal revenge, for instance. And if an individual has a psychological background that makes him more susceptible to radicalization -- an inferiority complex, for instance -- an ideology gives him permission to feel superior and justified in eliminating the enemy.


~ During the COVID-19 pandemic, the link between politics and health became glaringly obvious. Democrat-leaning “blue” states were more likely to enact mask requirements and vaccine and social distancing mandates. Republican-leaning “red” states were much more resistant to health measures. The consequences of those differences emerged by the end of 2020, when rates of hospitalization and death from COVID rose in conservative counties and dropped in liberal ones. That divergence continued through 2021, when vaccines became widely available. And although the highly transmissible Omicron variant narrowed the gap in infection rates, hospitalization and death rates, which are dramatically reduced by vaccines, remain higher in Republican-leaning parts of the country.

But COVID is only the latest chapter in the story of politics and health. “COVID has really magnified what had already been brewing in American society, which was that, based on where you lived, your risk of death was much different,” says Haider J. Warraich, a physician and researcher at the VA Boston Healthcare System and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
In a study published in June in The BMJ, Warraich and his colleagues showed that over the two decades prior to the pandemic, there was a growing gap in mortality rates for residents of Republican and Democratic counties across the U.S. In 2001, the study’s starting point, the risk of death among red and blue counties (as defined by the results of presidential elections) was similar. Overall, the U.S. mortality rate has decreased in the nearly two decades since then (albeit not as much as in most other high-income countries). But the improvement for those living in Republican counties by 2019 was half that of those in Democratic counties—11 percent lower versus 22 percent lower.

The new study, conducted by researchers in Texas, Missouri, Massachusetts and Pakistan, covers the years 2001 through 2019 and examines age-adjusted mortality rates—the number of deaths per 100,000 people each year—from the top 10 leading causes of death, as recorded in 2019. These include heart disease, cancer, lung disease, unintentional injuries and suicide. The researchers then analyzed county-level results in each of the five presidential elections that took place during their study period, identifying counties as Republican or Democratic for the subsequent four years. They found the gap in mortality rates between Republican and Democratic counties increased for nine out of 10 causes of death. (The gap for cerebrovascular disease, which includes stroke and aneurysms, remained but narrowed.) Political environment, the authors suggest in the paper, is a “core determinant of health.”

What is it about conservative areas that might lead to this disadvantage in health outcomes? Multiple factors probably contribute to the gap. Previous research has found differences between Republican and Democratic regions in health-related behaviors such as exercising or smoking. Those findings were nuanced. For example, Democrats had higher odds of smoking, and Republicans were less likely to exercise. But people living in Republican states, whatever their own political leanings, were more likely to smoke.

And an analysis of the new study’s data by subgroups supports the idea that individual choices play a role. Hispanic Americans everywhere saw significant improvements in their risk of death. Black Americans still have the highest mortality rates of any racial group, but they saw relatively similar improvement. “It didn’t really matter where they lived,” Warraich says. For white Americans, however, the difference was profound—a fourfold increase in the mortality gap between those living in Republican and Democratic areas.

Still, experts say some policy choices may have a larger role than individual behavior in causing poor health. As health outcomes such as life expectancy have diverged in recent years, “state policies have been becoming more polarized,” says Steven Woolf, a physician and epidemiologist at Virginia Commonwealth University. In an editorial that accompanied the BMJ paper, Woolf wrote, “Corroborating evidence about the potential health consequences of conservative policies is building.”

In a study that focused on life expectancy in the U.S. between 1970 and 2014 and that also looked at some benchmarks beyond those years, Montez, Woolf and others showed that in 1959 a person in Oklahoma could expect to live, on average, about the same number of years as a person in similar circumstances who lived in Connecticut. And both states performed relatively well, compared to the other 48. But by 2017 Connecticut’s citizens had a five-year advantage in life expectancy over their peers in Oklahoma, which is a politically conservative state. They were near the top of the chart, whereas Oklahomans were near the bottom.

In the intervening decades liberal states enacted more policies to address health concerns while conservative states went in the opposite direction, with inflection points in the early 1980s 1994 and 2010. Montez notes that those dates line up with Ronald Reagan’s election as U.S. president, Newt Gingrich’s control of Congress and the rise of Tea Party politics. Political affiliation drives social policies and spending, says Lois Lee, a pediatric emergency physician at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Conservatives tend to see health as a matter of individual responsibility and to prefer less government intervention. Liberals often promote the role of government to implement regulations to protect health. The Democratic approach has included expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Access to health care and having health insurance are important for well-being, Warraich says. 

Democrats also spend more on what are known as the social determinants of health. “We know things like your housing situation, your socioeconomic status, your access to healthy foods and healthy lifestyles, as well as exposure to toxic stress—all these things affect your overall physical as well as emotional and mental health,” Lee says.

Several kinds of policies—around tobacco, labor laws, the environment and guns—repeatedly emerge as significant. “Each party has bundled multiple policies together,” Montez says. In Mississippi, for example, there are no statewide clean indoor air policies restricting smoking in bars, restaurants or workplaces, Montez says. In California, on the other hand, smoking is restricted in all three environments. Cigarette taxes also differ dramatically. “The places where you can’t smoke indoors are also the places where cigarettes cost a lot,” Montez says.

As with COVID, the divergence between states over gun safety laws is dramatic. Firearms contribute to deaths from suicide and unintentional injury and to many nonlethal injuries. Blue states are more likely to require background checks, whereas red states more often allow concealed carry of guns. With gun laws, too, researchers are beginning to look at the effects of policies in aggregate, says Garen Wintemute, emergency physician and director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis. 

“Before California enacted a suite of laws regulating firearms and their ownership and use in the late 1980s and early 1990s, firearm violence mortality rates here were higher than in the rest of the country,” he says. “After those laws were enacted, rates plummeted in California.” The most likely explanation, which Wintemute hopes to test, is that the laws were in part responsible. Until recently, that kind of research has been severely curtailed by the Dickey Amendment, a 1996 addition to a federal spending bill that effectively prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research on firearm violence. Congress clarified the law in 2018, paving the way for research funding. “Things are modestly looking up,” Wintemute says. “The CDC and [National Institutes of Health] both have small amounts of research funding and are using it.”

Cultural differences between red and blue counties also likely contributed to COVID deaths. “You’re affected by your neighbors,” says Neil Sehgal, a public health professor at the University of Maryland and co-author of a recent study of the association between COVID mortality and county-level voting. Sehgal and his colleagues found that through October 2021, majority-Republican counties experienced 72.9 additional deaths per 100,000 people relative to majority-Democratic counties. To the researchers’ surprise, however, vaccine uptake explained only 10 percent of the difference. The finding suggests that differences in COVID outcomes are driven by a combination of factors, including the likelihood of, say, engaging in unmasked social events or in-person dining, Sehgal says. By February 2022 the COVID death rate in all counties Donald Trump won in the 2020 presidential election was substantially higher than in counties that Joe Biden won—326 deaths per 100,000 people versus 258. “COVID was probably the most dramatic example I’ve seen in my career of the influence of policy choices on health outcomes,” Woolf says.

A key takeaway from these studies is that the partisan mortality gap doesn’t have to keep growing. “As a public health expert and as a physician, it doesn’t matter to me whether my patient is a Republican or Democrat,” Warraich says. “I want the best outcome for both of those patients and both of those communities.” Acknowledging the mortality gap, as challenging as that is in our polarized environment, is the first step toward engaging with solutions, he says. “The worst thing that could happen is that [the BMJ study] just becomes labeled as political or partisan,” he says—“and that the people who really need to look at these findings ignore it because it is providing a truth that is uncomfortable or difficult to interpret.”


During the influenza pandemic of 1918, one Idaho newspaper wrote, “The thing to do is not to be alarmed but to take the precautions advised by the medical authority. We should strictly observe the rules against public gatherings, and the epidemic will pass. Think of the others.” If we compare the above quote to the opinions about the COVID pandemic, we find that conservative radio and TV express the opposite view. One of the principal commentators on Fox, Tucker Carlson, likened the mask mandate to Nazi experiments during the Holocaust. He said that the government used vaccines as social control.

Instead of supporting common sense health practices such as social distancing, the conservative organization such as the mega-church leader Joel Osteen and other conservative radio commentators joined ex-President Trump in turning a pandemic into a battle within the culture wars. People question why the COVID Pandemic became part of the culture wars. The easy answer is for profit, and two academic studies, one by Caroline Hoxby of Stanford and the other by Jan Weiner Muller of Princeton University, supported that answer.

Muller discussed the Politics of Revenge. The Republican party has incorporated the Politics of Revenge into their propaganda because it gives their followers an emotional surge. The politics of Revenge use the Culture War to create a billion-dollar business. The way the system works is to pick a topic. Then, they chose the COVID Pandemic. Next, their politicians make disparaging remarks against the medical system, and next, the Conservative radio and TV make it a right-left confrontation by using inflammatory language.

As the commentators increased their verbosity, their listeners started to yell at the clerks and threaten them with physical violence. Eventually, violent encounters occur. A prime example is the airline industry. As the conservative churches and commentators ramped up the anger against masking and vaccination, their followers started yelling and acting obnoxious toward the airline clerks and stewards. Eventually, the customers attacked for enforcing masking and vaccine regulations required by law. The authorities arrested the offenders and fined them $2,000+/-.

Even though the violence in airplanes cost the industry, the Republican Party’s donations increased. Also, the conservative media saw an increase in viewership and ad revenue. The airline industry was not the only target of the right-wing. The medical profession saw violence increase in the emergency room. When they informed patients that they had COVID, doctors and nurses were verbally attacked and threatened with death.

Republican patients would refuse COVID treatment. When patients died, their children cried on TV and pleaded with their fellow conservatives to believe that COVID was real. A few even said, “Do not believe Trump. He’s a liar.” Conservative radio hosts who were the most verbose deniers of the pandemic died. The use of the COVID pandemic to create profit from social division violated the first principle of community fairness. It states that we acquire an obligation, namely, to behave for the good of society, not for ourselves. To act otherwise create a kind of extortion, even violence.


So sad . . . This is not a scenario that is compatible with being a first-world country. On the other hand, perhaps “first world” doesn’t apply here. Places like India and the African countries have actually coped quite well with the pandemic. In all countries I can think of, the principle of not hurting others is well understood. Perhaps only in America can sheer selfishness and trampling on others’ right to life masquerade as freedom.

I remember a meme on Facebook: “My freedom comes ahead of your health.” This was a shock, because in the first months of the pandemic there were a lot of deaths, so in reality,
rather than “health” it was life — the first of the “unalienable rights” on which the American system is built.

When I started seeing headlines about anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers dying of Covid, I wasn’t able to feel sorry for them. It was seeing natural selection at work, helping to rid the country of its true internal enemies — just a little bit.


~ Here’s one more thing for liberals and conservatives to argue about: who lives longer. In a new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, researchers state that liberals live longer than conservatives, basing their results on individual death records, which is a “more valid measure” than self-reporting on health and community death rates.

“We were surprised [about the results],” Roman Pabayo, a community health researcher at the University of Nevada, Reno, and an author of the study, told USA Today. That’s because past research has actually found that conservatives, on an individual level, are happier than their liberal counterparts. And overall wellbeing and happiness is generally linked to healthier, longer lives.

Of course, it’s complicated. One recent study found that conservatives are personally happier than liberals, but people who live in liberal countries are happier on average than those who live in less liberal countries.

“Liberal governments tend to do more to shield citizens against certain hardships, such as unemployment and poverty, which can make people feel happier overall,” said Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn, lead author of the happiness study, in a press release. “On the other hand, conservatives rate their wellbeing higher than liberals because conservatives more readily support and rationalize the status quo, thus, believing that socioeconomic hardships are a result of individual shortcomings.”

So what’s making liberals live longer if they’re not necessarily happier on a personal level? No one really has the answers. It could have something to do with lifestyle, habits, or “how you look at life, [and] how you react to adversity,” Pabayo told USA Today. “We need to figure out what’s really going on.”

Other researchers who weren't part of the study argue that the mortality differences are quite small, and the data is inconsistent with other research. They also state that Republicans and conservatives are more likely to be religious and involved in social networks like church communities — as well as less likely to smoke — all of which has been tied to healthier, longer lives. Thus, the new study’s results are seemingly contradictory with past research.

The study examined over 32,000 adults who identified themselves as either Democrats, Republicans, independents, or other. They were also asked to choose between defining themselves as liberal, moderate, or conservative. The authors of the study tracked who died over the course of 15 years. They found that conservatives and moderates were six percent more likely to die during the follow-up than liberals who matched them in age, sex, and even socioeconomic status. Interestingly, however, the authors found that when comparing between party lines, there was no difference in death rates between Democrats and Republicans.

An accurate study of who lives longer and what causes it would be quite difficult to carry through. So until then, the contest of life span will have to remain a contentious topic. Political Satirist Daniel Kurtzman, however, believes the study is true. “Did they really need a study?” he told USA Today. “Conservatives like guns, tobacco, fossil fuels, deep-friend endangered caribou,” while liberals “like yoga, weed, clean air, free-range kale… and giving everyone free health care.”


We need to remember that Democrats are on average richer than Republicans (who were once called "the party of the rich") And health and life expectancy are related to income and status -- boss vs subordinate. Education is also related to both income and better diet choices.

Also, Democrats are more likely to live in the cities, near major hospitals and other health services, e.g. weight-loss groups and exercise classes. When it comes to emergency conditions such as heart attack or stroke, rapid medical response can means the difference between life and death.


~ At the center of the Earth, a giant sphere of solid iron is slowly swelling. This is the inner core and scientists have recently uncovered intriguing evidence that suggests its birth half a billion years ago may have played a key role in the evolution of life on Earth.

At that time, our planet’s magnetic field was faltering – and that would have had critical consequences, they argue. Normally this field protects life on the surface by repelling cosmic radiation and charged particles emitted by our sun.

But 550 million years ago, it had dropped to a fraction of its current strength – before it abruptly regained its power. And in the wake of this planetary reboot, Earth witnessed the sudden proliferation of complex multicellular life on its surface. This was the Cambrian explosion, when most major animal groups first appeared in the fossil record. Now scientists have linked it to events at the very center of the Earth.

Our planet consists of spheres. There is a 5-70km-thick layer of rock that covers Earth like an eggshell. This is called the crust and below it lies the mantle, made up of a 3,000km layer of silicates. Further down, there is the outer core, made of molten iron, and inside it there is another sphere – of solid iron. It is more than 2,000km in diameter and is growing by about a millimeter a year.

Earth’s magnetic field is generated by swirling iron in the outer core,” said John Tarduno, professor of geophysics at the University of Rochester, New York. “Before the Cambrian explosion the core was entirely molten and its ability to generate a magnetic field was collapsing.

Analysis of crystals in rocks in Quebec by Tarduno’s team has shown that Earth’s magnetic field was less than 10% of its current strength and would have provided poor protection against cosmic and solar radiation. The dynamo that drives Earth’s magnetic field was probably losing power because of rapid heat loss from the core, it is argued.
Then the core began to solidify at its center, which had profound consequences. Essentially it turbocharged motions in the outer core, restoring the strength to the planet’s magnetic field. “Our research indicates that the formation of the inner core began approximately 550m years ago and that happened just before the Cambrian explosion occurred,” said Tarduno.

Why and how the inner core was born had been a mystery. From its tiny beginning half a billion years ago it has grown to a moon-sized sphere of solid iron. It is the most metallic place on Earth and it has had a major impact on conditions on the surface.

Most importantly, it provided our world with a magnetic field. Observations of other worlds – where these fields have disappeared – reveal the dramatic consequences of this loss. An example is provided by Mars, which lost its magnetic field 4bn years ago. Without protection from the solar wind – the continual stream of protons and electrons that pour out from the surface of the sun – the Martian atmosphere was driven off into space, leaving its surface dead and waterless.

“Earth would not have evolved like Mars but it certainly would have lost more water than it has today if it had not rebooted its magnetic field,” added Tarduno. “It would certainly have been a very much drier planet that the one we live in today.”

However, the geophysicist was reluctant to speculate exactly how the rebirth of Earth’s magnetic field would have influenced the evolution of life. “I don’t think that the return of Earth’s magnetic field and the subsequent explosion of life on Earth can be unconnected. But we cannot say what was the exact pattern of events as yet. That needs more study.”


~ “Veg out! Another study finds vegetarians live longer than meat-eaters.” I saw that headline (and others) this week and I read: “Media misunderstand science (again).”

One of the most basic concepts in science is that correlation does not imply causation—even though it is sometimes highly suggestive of it. For example, in post-war Germany, as the stork population fell, so did the human birth rate. But as I was deeply troubled to learn, storks do not cause babies—rather, economic growth led to both destruction of stork habitat, and to declining fertility rates.

So it goes with vegetarianism and longevity. It’s absolutely true that vegetarians live longer (at least among Seventh Day Adventists, the target group of the study). In fact, in this study, vegetarians live six to nine years longer, which is a huge effect. But vegetarians are also more likely to exercise, be married, smoke less and drink less alcohol—all factors that also contribute to a longer life. The actual causal relationship between becoming vegetarian and living longer is unclear, and is certainly smaller than the correlation might seem to suggest.

As with all areas of doing good, we need to use effective altruism: to think hard, and find good evidence to work out the consequences of our actions, and try to do the actions that do the most good—whether that’s doing the most good for animals, for humans, or for anything else. Some good-seeming actions can achieve very little, and some can even backfire. Promoting the health benefits of vegetarianism might be one.


On the other hand, some studies have failed to show a significant life expectancy difference between vegetarians and meat-eaters. There is no scientific consensus on the matter.

But perhaps more important than that is the well-established fact that vegetarians are more health-conscious.

Medical researchers have found that the healthiest, longest-living populations have plant-centered diets, not vegan diets. That means that the diet is mostly full of plant foods, with some animal-based foods.” (

The same source also states: “Vegans die of the same causes as the rest of the population. In the United States, the top 10 leading causes of death in 2020 were heart disease, cancer, COVID-19, accidents (i.e., unintentional injuries), stroke, lung diseases (i.e., chronic lower respiratory diseases), Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, and kidney disease. Rounding out the top 15 causes of death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, suicide, hypertension, hypertensive renal disease, Parkinson’s disease, and sepsis (i.e., septicemia).”


Vegetarians may be at an increased risk of stroke, especially hemorrhagic stroke (the difficult to treat "bleeding stroke," with bleeding into the brain).

Years ago I thought it was a firmly established fact that the best diet was one with seafood, lots of veggies (or, in Japan, seaweed), lots of extra-virgin olive oil, and a small amount of meat (or none -- a pescetarian diet). But it turns out that the debate is far from over. 

I still suspect that the diet that emerges as #1 is going to be a fish-veg diet. "Fish" includes all kinds of seafood. I love the small wild-harvested scallops from my Asian market and red Argentinian shrimp from Trader Joe's. I'd gladly add a seaweed salad, but my Asian market sells only one brand, full of added sugar.


And then here comes Dr. Gundry, warning us about the lectins in plants, particularly beans and South American staples such as corn and bell peppe. However, all is OK as long as the food you eat has been pressure-cooked. “Moist heat” is the key: steaming, boiling. I've been using my Instant Pot every single day for four years now. I love it. I gave away my slow cooker, which doesn't get the temperature high enough to destroy lectins (particularly in beans), and switched to the pressure cooker. My various auto-immune symptoms have most vanished or greatly diminished.

(Dr. Gundry also warns against peanuts, peanut butter, and cashews.)

Finally, though, given all that fuss about the right diet, you just want to say, “Whatever.” As for "taste is irrelevant," think of the time, if you get to live that long, when you won’t be able to taste or smell anything. (And besides, there are ways of seasoning vegetables that make them delicious. Hint: the French cuisine. But simply a little butter or olive oil can make vegetables an epicurean feast.)

Perhaps you thought, “OK, once I’m past eighty-five or ninety, I could go at any time, so let me at last have some chocolate cake.” But it will taste like cardboard. In the elderly, the receptors for sweetness aren't what they used to be.

Might as well stick to carrots and beets until the end. And eggs (be sure to eat the yolk; I toss the white because it has a protein to which I was strongly allergic in childhood). The nutrients in egg yolk, the often-disparaged superfood, help preserve eyesight and liver health.


In the U.S., people eat more protein than they need to. And though it might not be bad for human health, this excess does pose a problem for the country’s waterways. The nation’s wastewater is laden with the leftovers from protein digestion: nitrogen compounds that can feed toxic algal blooms and pollute the air and drinking water. This source of nitrogen pollution even rivals that from fertilizers washed off of fields growing food crops, new research suggests.

When we overconsume protein—whether it comes from lentils, supplements or steak—our body breaks the excess down into urea, a nitrogen-containing compound that exits the body via urine and ultimately ends up in sewage. Maya Almaraz, a biogeochemist at the University of California, Davis, and her colleagues wanted to see how much of this nitrogen is being flushed into the U.S. sewage system because of a protein-heavy diet.

The researchers combined population data and previous work on how much excess protein the average American eats and found that the majority of nitrogen pollution present in wastewater—some 67 to 100 percent—is a by-product of what people consume. “We think a lot about sewage nitrogen. We know that’s an issue,” Almaraz says. “But I didn’t know how much of that is actually affected by the choices we’re making way upstream—when we go the grocery store, when we cook a meal and what we end up putting in our bodies.”

Once it enters the environment, the nitrogen in urea can trigger a spectrum of ecological impacts known as the “nitrogen cascade.” Under certain chemical conditions, and in the presence of particular microbes, urea can break down to form gases of oxidized nitrogen. These gases reach the atmosphere, where nitrous oxide (N2O) can contribute to warming via the greenhouse effect and nitrogen oxides (NOx) can cause acid rain.

Other times, algae and cyanobacteria, photosynthetic bacteria also called blue-green algae, feed on urea directly. The nitrogen helps them grow much faster than they would normally, clogging vital water supplies with blooms that can produce toxins that are harmful to humans, other animals and plants. And when the algae eventually die, the problem is not over. Microorganisms that feast on dead algae use up oxygen in the water, leading to “dead zones,” where many aquatic species simply cannot survive, in rivers, lakes and oceans. Blooms from Puget Sound to Tampa, Fla., have caused large fish die-offs.

Although it is possible to treat algal blooms, many of the current methods—such as spraying clay particles or chemicals over the surface of a bloom to kill and sink the algae—are not always effective at eliminating all of the harmful growth. Some of these methods can even lead to additional pollution. So the best strategy for dealing with the effects of nitrogen pollution is prevention, says Patricia Glibert, an oceanographer at the University of Maryland, who was not involved with the new study.

One option for preventing nitrogen from getting into the environment is improving wastewater treatment plants. The technology exists to remove 90 percent of nitrogen from wastewater, but only 1 percent of all U.S. sewage is currently treated this way, partly because the technology is so expensive. Equipping plants in China to remove nitrogen from three quarters of the country’s urban sewage cost more than $20 billion. Almaraz and her team suggest, however, that curbing nitrogen pollution could be approached more quickly with a change in eating habits that could save billions of dollars in the long term.

Their new study, published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, broke down protein requirements by age (adults 50 to 70 years old need the most) for the current U.S. population and projected future populations out to 2055. By midcentury, the country’s population is expected to be larger overall and to have a greater percentage of older people. The researchers calculated the amount of nitrogen that would enter the environment if people ate today’s average American diet and if they instead reduced their protein intake to only what is nutritionally needed. This shift in diet alone could reduce the amount of nitrogen reaching aquatic ecosystems by 12 percent today and by nearly 30 percent in the future, according to the study’s results. Such a change could also help reduce damaging nitrogen pollution while wastewater infrastructure catches up.

“Many people think that we need to all switch to becoming vegetarians. Obviously, that’s not practical. That’s not something that is really ever going to happen,” Glibert says. Rather than cutting out any foods entirely, she suggests consumers could switch to a “demitarian” diet—an approach that focuses on reducing the consumption of meat and dairy, which currently make up about two thirds of the protein eaten in the U.S. “Enjoy your steak, enjoy your burger but go modest on your meat consumption in your following meal,” she says.

“One cool area that opens up here is how human behavior can influence our environment,” Almaraz says. “I think it can be really empowering to people to understand that, ‘hey, my choices—once those add up with other people making similar choices—can actually have a positive impact.’”



I wonder if some pope or special council will abolish hell -- or is that an essential foundation of Christianity. The main means of religious manipulation are guilt and fear. There is a movement within progressive Christianity to emphasize trust in a loving god instead:

But as an ex-minister told me, if you decrease the level of threat, religious observance goes down. Hell has been Christianity's most effective tool. Nevertheless, there are some Christians who claim they don't believe in hell. I suspect they are already well on the way to leaving religion entirely. "Faith without fear" may be an oxymoron. Note that Pascal's Wager, still commonly used as the best logical argument for faith, is based entirely on fear.


It took me a while after leaving the church to fully realize that I have never done anything to deserve the death penalty — maybe “community service” at most — so, in terms of justice, I had no need to be saved from eternal damnation. I also grasped that the foundation of Christianity, “substitutional atonement,” was a barbaric concept in direct contradicction to the Judaic sense of justice, as well as a secular, humanitarian sense of justice. Ceasing to see myself as a wicked sinner who deserves hellfire has been a long journey, not an instant enlightenment and liberation. Perceiving myself as a good person has actually made it easier for me to be a good person.

Here is an excerpt from an interview with Peter Watson, author of The Age of Atheists:

You say at one point in your book that psychology, or perhaps therapy, has taken over from religion as a way to understand our predicament, and – to an extent – deal with it. Do you follow Freud in viewing religion as, essentially, a product of neurosis?

Peter Watson: I do think there is sound anthropological evidence that the first “priests”, the shamans of Siberia, were probably psychological misfits or malcontents, and that throughout history we have gone on from there, because many well known religious figures – some of the Hebrew prophets, John the Baptist, St. Paul, St. Augustine, Joan of Arc, Luther – were psychologically odd. Religion is not so much neurosis as psychological adjustment to our predicament – that’s the key, religion is to be understood psychologically, not theologically.

It was George Carey, when he was archbishop of Canterbury, not me, who said “Jesus the Savior is becoming Jesus the Counselor”. (This was in the 1990s.) And it was a well known Boston rabbi, Joshua Loth Liebman, who, soon after the end of World War Two, wrote a best-selling book that admitted that traditional religion had been too harsh on ordinary believers and that the churches and the synagogues and the mosques had a great deal to learn from what he called the new depth psychology – he meant Freudianism. So the church invited the psychologists to put their tanks on its lawn, so to speak. And psychotherapy hasn’t looked back. More people go into therapy now as a search for meaning than for treatment for mental illness.

What do you conclude from this?

That worship, the religious impulse, is best understood as a sociological phenomenon, rather than a theological one. In your own books you point up some of the absurdities of religion, but the two I regard as most revealing are the worship of a Royal Enfield motor-bicycle in a region of India, a bike involved in a crash in which its driver was killed but now is reckoned to have supernatural powers. And second, the Internet site,, which lists – apparently without irony – more than 3,000 “supreme beings.” I wonder how many fact-checkers they have. (That last sentence is written in a new type-face I have invented, called Ironics.)

In the recent world-wide survey of religion and economics by Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart, they show convincingly that religion is expanding in those areas of the world where ‘existential insecurity’ – poverty, natural disasters, disease, inadequate water supplies, HIV/AIDS, the lack of decent health care – is endemic and growing, whereas in the more prosperous and secure West, including now the USA, atheism is inexorably on the rise. Religion is prevalent among the poor and in decline in the more prosperous parts of the world.

. . . If you must have a transcendent idea then make it a search for “the good” or “the beautiful” or “the useful”, always realizing that your answers will be personal, finite and never final. The Anglo-American philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre said “The good life is the life spent seeking the good life.” That implies effort. We can have no satisfaction, no meaning, without effort.”



~If cells were personified, each fat cell would be an overbearing grandparent who hoards. They’re constantly trying to make you eat another serving of potatoes, and have cabinets stacked with vitamins they never take.

Like that grandparent, your fat cells are always trying to store stuff. Fats? Of course. Vitamins? Heck yeah. Hormones? You bet. Random pollutants and toxins? Sure. Adipose tissue will soak all that up like an oily little sponge and keep it safe until you need it again. That’s the whole point of body fat—to store energy for you. When you lose weight, your fat cells start shrinking, releasing lipids and other fats into your bloodstream. These get broken down, and eventually the smaller molecules exit via your urine or breath.

But adipose cells release all the other molecules they’ve hoarded, too. That includes key hormones like estrogen, along with fat-soluble vitamins and any organic pollutants that found their way into your bloodstream as you gained weight.

Adipose tissue’s tendency to store things is an unfortunate side-effect, because often we need those things to be circulating, not sitting around. Take hormones, for instance. Female body fat actually produces some of its own estrogen in addition to storing it, and the more adipose tissue a person has, the more estrogen they’re exposed to. This is why being overweight puts you at an increased risk of getting breast cancer. Many types of breast cancer are caused by malfunctions in estrogen receptors, which are more likely to go haywire when more estrogen is around to stimulate them.

Vitamins pose the opposite problem. Adipose sucks up available fat-soluble vitamins (those stashed in adipose tissue instead of being excreted in your outgoing urine)—A, D, E, and K—and often doesn’t leave enough for the rest of your body. Studies suggest that obese people tend to suffer from vitamin D deficiencies because it’s all lurking in their adipose tissue. These vitamins can come back out as you lose weight, and as you decrease your body fat, you also allow more of your new vitamin D to stay in your bloodstream. Water-soluble compounds can just be peed out if you take too much of them, but because the vitamins stored in your adipose tissue can continue to build up you can eventually overdose on them. It’s rare, but it does happen.

Fat is also a (temporarily) safe space to store pollutants and other organic chemicals that might otherwise pose a threat. Organochlorine pesticides build up in fat, as do the polychlorinated biphenyls in coolant fluids and other chemicals from the “dirty dozen” of environmental contaminants. These banned chemicals can get into your food supply in small quantities and are stored in your fat, possibly because your body wants to sequester them away from your organs. Bodies don’t seem to store enough of these to become toxic, but the constant build-up leaves you vulnerable to exposure. And they do start to re-emerge when you lose weight.

Since you’re not eliminating all of your body fat at once, this doesn’t seem to pose a problem for most people. You’re dumping toxins into your bloodstream, but you’re also eliminating them through your pee. There’s some evidence that certain pollutants—so-called “persistent organic pollutants”—can stick around in your body fat for years, but so far it seems that natural toxin-elimination methods (also known as peeing) work well enough to get rid of them.

Safe or not, it’s best not to give your body a spot to stash all the hormones and vitamins it can hoard. Our bodies aren’t designed to hold onto excess body fat and stay healthy—that’s why obesity is a risk factor for so many diseases. Getting rid of fat storage is just another reason to try and cut down on your own adiposity this year. Letting someone shame you into thinking you don’t look the way you should is not a wise reason to lose weight, but doing it to be healthier usually is.

Just think: every time you lose a pound of fat, you’ve also literally detoxed yourself without ever having to do one of those terrible juice cleanses (which, by the way, do not work). You’ve used the power of your own body’s filtration systems to get rid of them—and it will thank you for it. ~


It's abdominal fat that seems to be the risk factor for various kinds of cancer, not the "pregnancy fat" that's stored on the thighs. Fortunately, it's much easier to lose belly fat than thigh fat. 


In recent years, high protein diets are among the most popular, whether the protein is consumed as a supplement (protein shakes for body builders!) or simply a larger than usual portion of a balanced diet (such as The Zone, Atkins or Paleo Diets).

Protein is essential for life – it's a building block of every human cell and is involved in the vital biochemical functions of the human body. It's particularly important in growth, development, and tissue repair. Protein is one of the three major "macronutrients" (along with carbohydrates and fat).

So, consuming enough protein is required to stave off malnutrition; it may also be important to preserve muscle mass and strength as we age. And, in recent years, some have advocated a higher protein diet to rev up metabolism to make it easier to lose excess weight, though success in this regard is highly variable.

The ideal amount of protein you should consume each day is a bit uncertain. Commonly quoted recommendations are 56 grams/day for men, 46 grams/day for women. You could get 46 grams/day of protein in 1 serving of low-fat greek yogurt, a 4 oz. serving of lean chicken breast and a bowl of cereal with skim milk.

A weight-based recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. For a 140-pound person, that comes to 51 grams of protein each day. (You can convert your body weight from pounds to kilograms by dividing by 2.2; so, 140 pounds is 64 kg; multiplying this by 0.8 equals 51). Active people— especially those who are trying to build muscle mass— may need more.

Based on percent of calories— for an active adult, about 10% of calories should come from protein. [Many nutritionists recommend a much higher percentage than that.]

To pay more attention to the type of protein in your diet rather than the amount; for example, moderating consumption of red meat and increasing healthier protein sources, such as salmon, yogurt or beans.


The short answer is yes. As with most things in life, there can be too much of a good thing and if you eat too much protein, there may be a price to pay. For example, people that eat very high protein diets have a higher risk of kidney stones. Also a high protein diet that contains lots of red meat and higher amounts of saturated fat might lead to a higher risk of heart disease and colon cancer, while another high protein diet rich in plant-based proteins may not carry similar risks.


It's hard to provide a specific answer since so much is still uncertain and the experts themselves don't agree. However, for the average person (who is not an elite athlete or heavily involved in body building) it's probably best to aim for no more than 2 gm/kg; that would be about 125 grams/day for a 140-pound person. New information could change our thinking about the maximum safe amount, but until we know more about the safety, risks and benefits of high protein diets, this seems like a reasonable recommendation.


If you want to maintain a high protein diet, the details matter:

Find out from your doctor if you have any health conditions (such as kidney disease) that might make such a diet risky.

Get your protein from healthy sources such as dairy products, fish, nuts and beans, chicken and turkey.

Spread your protein consumption across all of your meals throughout the day.

Choose a well-balanced diet that includes lots of vegetables, fruits, and fiber; the Mediterranean diet or the DASH diet are good starting points.


I see the chief problem with excess protein is that it can be converted to glucose, raising blood sugar and ultimately leading to obesity and obesity-related disorders. Most aminoacids are glucogenic, with the shining exception of lysine.

Who should definitely limit their protein? People prone to kidney disease.

When it comes to longevity experts, they tend to say that "protein is not your friend." Now that we have protein abundance, at least in the rich countries, we need to watch our protein intake. People who tend to live in areas with longest life expectancy (the "blue zones" of centenarians) don't eat cheeseburgers -- though they may eat sheep or goat cheese. Note that cheese is a fermented product, as is yogurt. Fermented products in general nourish the microbiome, and it's the "friendly bugs" that determine much of our health. 


The warnings about too much protein, both as it affects the environment in our own waste, and as it affects our own biochemistry, are concerning, especially considering the popularity of 'keto diets." The backstory of paleo- and keto diets is itself untrue...our primeval diet was not primarily meat and fat based. The hunter-gatherer way of life depended on the daily work of the gatherers: roots, seeds, plants, fruit, insects. Meat was not the center of the daily diet, important, but not the mainstay of consumption. The problem with keto is not just this misunderstanding however, but the extremity of its advice. It simply is too unbalanced, drastically minimizing some nutrients and maximizing others.


Atkins was allegedly dismayed to see that he kept gaining weight on the low-carb diet -- which tends to work very well at first, but fails later. The reason becomes clear once we understand that excess protein ends up turned into glucose, and excess glucose ends up as triglycerides, eventually making us fat.

“When your body has more glucose than it needs for energy and has reached its storage capacity for glycogen, the increased insulin prompts the liver to convert glucose into triglycerides, which are then transported to fat cells.”

 What about excess fat?

While dietary fat has a minimal effect on post-meal insulin levels, it can negatively impact long-term glucose management. A high-fat diet has long been linked to an increased risk of insulin resistance, and scientists are piecing together why. Researchers warn that a diet high in fat appears to disrupt important cell signaling that results in reduced sensitivity to insulin. According to findings published in 2017 in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, saturated fat is the primary culprit, with a more dramatic impact than unsaturated fat.”

The eternal lesson: MODERATION.

ending on beauty:


A day so happy.
Fog lifted early. I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over the honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw blue sea and sails.

~ Czeslaw Milosz, Berkeley, 1971