Saturday, October 29, 2022


City Hall in Munich         


The world is dazzling, I may be too weak
to endure the radiance of existence.
Sunlight is plainly a fountain.

Why haven’t I noticed before
those buildings like an ocean of glass,
the coral reefs of flowers?

The gloating perfection of trees!
The clouds of leaves
moored to the branches,

trunks hardened into towers
of rock, closed to disaster.
So many hands to wave good-bye,

to conduct the street
like a symphony.
The rustle of moving things —

as if there were
somewhere to go,
as if nothing had happened.

I don’t yet see details
as small as butterflies.
Even birds will start flying later.

But they’ve taken the stitches out
of the sky. Unlike me, it has healed
without a scar. Unlike you.

~ Oriana


"the gloating perfection of trees" — getting out of hospital is like a resurrection, the world so whole and new.


Both the patient and the world are resurrected. And the resurrected world is astonishingly beautiful.

I love it when the Pacific is mostly green, as can happen on overcast days. Reminds me of the Baltic, often green and aquamarine.


~ Milena Jesenska (1896-1944), both Czech and Christian, was the second great love of Kafka’s life. She was to achieve world fame due to the letters they exchanged.

She was the daughter of Jan Jesenský, a professor of dental surgery in Prague. A handsome man, Jesenský was a well-known member of Czech high society. Milena lost her mother at the age of thirteen. She attended the Minerva high school, the first private Czech high school for girls, from which emerged the first emancipated women intellectuals championing a new, freethinking lifestyle. Erratic family circumstances and the emancipatory views of the Czech-German Prague intelligentsia brought this vivacious, energetic and flighty young woman who had a taste for risk into open conflict with society.

In 1917, as a result of her “lax behavior and moral misconduct,” her father had her confined for nine months in the Veleslavín insane asylum on the grounds of ‘moral insanity’. At the time she was having an affair with Ernst Pollak, a bank clerk from the provincial town of Jičín, well-versed in music and literature, whom she married when she came of age at 21 and left with for Vienna. Ernst Pollak, dubbed ‘Kenner (wise guy) Pollak’ was a member of Franz Werfel’s circle at the Arco Café in Prague that Kafka would occasionally join. It was most likely there that Kafka first met Milena, although it was only a passing acquaintance. In Vienna, Pollak dominated the table of the regular clients at the Herrenhof Café, where even leading Austrian literati such as Hermann Broch sought him out for advice and assistance.

In Vienna, Pollak also publicized the work of the then little-known Prague writer, Franz Kafka. It was he who brought Kafka to the attention of Milena Jesenská. By then her German was good enough for her to try her hand at translating shorter German texts and German translations of non-German authors into Czech. She started to send her translations to Czech newspapers and magazines, where a number of her friend worked as journalists. Kafka’s story The Stoker was not the first work by a German author she had tried translating. As she was wont to do, she made written contact with the author about the translation of The Stoker, and their correspondence developed into an ‘epistolary novel’.

Kafka also had marital designs on Milena. Throughout 1920 letters streamed back and forth between the north Italian spa of Merano, where Kafka was convalescing, and Vienna, where Milena was living in a less than happy marriage. On two occasions they met in person. Their first meeting, in Vienna, was happy and full of promise. Their second, in the frontier town of Gmünd, culminated with a lapse on Kafka’s part and marked a hiatus in their relationship. On the one hand, they were poorly matched temperamentally, and on the other, Milena was unwilling to abandon Ernst Pollak, whom she loved in spite of their marital difficulties. Kafka’s relationship with Milena ended like the two previous ones. Out of it came Kafka’s Letters to Milena, an outstanding feat of letter writing, and Milena’s translations of Kafka, the first ever into a foreign language.

Milena went on to make her name as a journalist and led a very eventful life alongside a number of remarkable men. She was active in many fields and her views underwent considerable change. Towards the end of her life she courageously used her writing skills in the struggle against fascist violence before meeting her death in Ravensbrück concentration camp in 1944.

from Wiki:

~ Since Pollak's earnings were initially inadequate to support the pair in the city's war-torn economy, Jesenská had to supplement their household income by working as a translator. In 1919 she discovered a short story (The Stoker) by Prague writer Franz Kafka, and wrote him to ask for permission to translate it from German to Czech. The letter launched an intense and increasingly passionate correspondence. Jesenská and Kafka met twice: they spent four days in Vienna together and later a day in Gmünd. Eventually Kafka broke off the relationship, partly because Jesenská was unable to leave her husband, and their almost daily communication ceased abruptly in November 1920. They meant so much to each other, however, that they did exchange a few more letters in 1922 and 1923 (and Kafka turned over to Jesenská his diaries at the end of his life). Jesenská's translation of The Stoker was a first translation of Kafka's writings into Czech (and as a matter of fact, into any foreign language); later she translated two other short stories by Kafka and also texts by Hermann Broch, Franz Werfel, Upton Sinclair, and many others. Jaroslav Dohal, the name given for the translator of the Czech edition of Kafka's short-story "Reflections for Gentlemen-Jockeys", is most likely a pseudonym for Jesenská.

After the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the German army, Jesenská joined an underground resistance movement and helped many Jewish and political refugees to emigrate. She herself decided to stay, however, despite the consequences. In November 1939 she was arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned first in Prague's Pankrác and later in Dresden. In October 1940 she was deported to a concentration camp in Ravensbrück in Germany. Here she provided moral support to other prisoners and befriended Margarete Buber-Neumann, who wrote her first biography after the war. Jesenská died of kidney failure, in Ravensbrück, on 17 May 1944. ~

~ During the war, she was involved in working against the German occupation. She wrote for the underground magazine, V boj [Let’s fight], helped refugees escape abroad, and her apartment became a temporary asylum for Jewish and political refugees from Germany, Austria and other countries. The Gestapo arrested her for her political views. While in the concentration camp she worked in the hospital there, supporting and comforting her fellow prisoners, who called her Mother Milena. ~


An exceptional woman, a great human being, she deserves to be known as more than a footnote to Kafka. Still, to be loved by Kafka, whose love mode was writing excruciatingly neurotic and self-centered letters, is reason enough.

Sorting Room, Post Office, 1923 | Inset: Postcard sent by Kafka to his parents, 1924


We can’t peek into a dead Russian’s mind. But we can look at the legacy of the House of Romanov who collectively created what we know as Imperial Russia.

The Oriental past

In the early 17th century, the House of Romanov inherited the estate of the House of Rurik, called Muscovy. Muscovy was a big rump of the demised Mongol empire known as the Golden Horde.

Muscovy was oriented toward the Ottoman and Persian civilizations. It absorbed vast Turkic territories to the south and east. What we have of Asiatic influences in modern Russia comes from that era.

“Russia” was the Latinized Greek name for our mighty State adopted by Peter the Great at the inception of the empire. Imperial Russia was meant as a clean break from the Tatar-Mongol legacy.

So originally, Russia as a Westernized empire was the opposite of Muscovy as an Orthodox Slavic heir to the Empire of Jochi [a Mongol commander, eldest son of Genghis Khan].

Clean start

The House of Romanov found its ideological footing under the strong influence of new European powers. The era of colonial discoveries created wealth and splendor that eclipsed the Ottomans. First, the Poles, and later Germans, Swedes and the Dutch created a gravitational pull that Muscovy couldn’t resist.

Peter the Great capitalized on it. Thanks to his energy and vision, he revolutionized the country through massive European imports. True to the brutal spirit of the era, he wanted to uproot the old Russian culture, and cauterize the stumps. That’s why he moved his residence to the brand new city of St. Petersburg, chopped off men’s beards, and made their women show their necklines and cleavages. The Europeans did that.
European colonization, v.2.0.

Peter’s successors doubled down on that. What happened in the next 100 years was the second wave of European colonization in our lands. The first one was by Christian Varangians [Vikings, mostly from Sweden].

The House of Romanov imported wholesale an entire class of military and bureaucratic aristocracy from Europe. It was a bit like Muscovy recruiting Turkic, Lithuanian, and Polish aristocrats for making them their Pretorian guards. Especially favored were Baltic Germans.

After the French revolution, many French aristocrats found refuge under the House of Romanov, too.

In the end, naturalized Germans became the major agents of European influence inside Russia. The House of Romanov in the end were almost 100% pure ethnic Germans.

The hard logic of geopolitics made us butt heads with the rising German empire. But Tsar Nicholas was doomed to do this. The deeply embedded trajectory of Westernization dragged Russia into a purely European war that the country didn’t need at all.

“Romanov” = “pertaining to Rome”

Hilariously, the family name of the men who made Russia a major Orthodox power, means “of Roman origin”, “pertaining to Rome”. The narrative of resisting Papists—and now, their decadent, atheist European descendants—constitutes the core of our national identity.

The House of Romanov traces their legitimacy to their roots in Slavic aristocracy within the Polish-Lithuanian realms. In Muscovy, “Roman” as a male first name initially denoted either a Slavic-Catholic connection or a provenance from the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom.

Cool to be foreign

In the 17th century, especially after the annexation of Ukraine, everything Polish became so fashionable that many educated Russians even switched from the archaic Old Slavonic alphabet to “Polish” letters even when writing in Russian. Only Peter the Great’s reform of the Cyrillic alphabet saved us from losing our Cyrillic fonts.

However, Peter the Great simply substituted the Polish fad with a Dutch/German fad. Up until the revolution of 1917, Imperial Russia remained the colonial rule of a tiny Westernized aristocracy over millions of impoverished, exploited Eurasian natives. DNA-wise, our last Czar, Nicholas II Romanov, was only 3% Russian, the rest being German and Danish royal contributions.

Putin’s Reconquista

Before Putin brought to heel the Stalinists, there was a real fear of the Communists returning to power and nationalizing the oligarchical loot. Clinton sent an IMF $10 billion loan and the oligarchs gave huge sums to Yeltsin to make sure Russia didn’t revert to communism.

Now, President Putin doggedly tries to roll back the Westernizing legacy of Peter the Great and the House of Romanov. The oligarchical elites that form his power base see in Europe and America a threat to their power and their wealth. Russia’s young are too smitten with the comfort, the cool, and the easy-going Western attitudes.

“Generational sovereignty” is the new mot du jour that came from our Presidential administration. This means preventing the young from succumbing to Western influences. The war in Ukraine is instrumental in creating the spirit of enmity and estrangement to separate us from them.

Pakistanis and Indians can keep up that divide going, after all, generation after generation. Turks and Greeks, Armenians and Azeris, Jews and Palestinians, the same. Why not us?

Below, a vision by artist Vladímir Malakhóvsky. New Russia walks through the icy wilderness of a globalist world on a mission to fight evil Western influences.

Layer upon layer of spec ops gear, medieval armor, Russian shawls, demining pads, and other elements of national culture in the right proportions provide our best defense against the rot of post-modernity. The word Svyat in Cyrillic is an archaic spell that roughly means “Holy Spirit, protect me!”

This retrograde, defensive eclecticism would have Peter the Great disgusted. ~


~ In terms of geopolitics, President Putin is the opposite of Peter the Great.

Peter the Great took a major turnaround of the Russian civilization toward Europe. As our major man of letters once said, he “chopped through a window to Europe”.

President Putin does the opposite. He’s walling off Russia from Europe.

Why does he do that?

Hard logic

Out of the logic of our internal politics. President Putin needs to perpetuate the current political and societal structure of Russia beyond the horizon of his personal rule. The only way to prevent the plague of power rotation, the government’s accountability, electoral competition, and other core features of liberal democracies is to create a gulf of permanent enmity between Russia’s political class and the West.

The war in Ukraine does exactly that.

Circle the wagons, gentlemen!

President Putin has the full support of our state-oligarchical clans in that.

The thing is, power rotation is pure poison to them. Historically, in Russia, access to State power is a total prerequisite for material wealth. Changes at the top always were accompanied by massive re-distribution of wealth. No matter how rich you are, once your hungry enemies get privileged access to the tools of government power, sooner or later they’ll rob you naked.

In our neck of the woods, this works like the law of gravitation. Planes and birds can resist it—but only for so long.

No land for liberal filth

Here lies the paradox of Yeltsin’s “liberal”, “pro-Western” young guns from the 1990s who now
eagerly serve President Putin. They pour torrents of bile and venom on the perfidious, effeminate, rotten West. These men found their sweet spot under the Sun. They don’t want new young guns to come and take what is now theirs.

Democracy is sheer bunk, they say. “Free” “elections” are a flimsy decoration for the oligarchical rule. “Human rights” and “rule of law” are cynical political tools. No need for Russia to fall for those ruses.

Below, in the cartoon by Víktor Bogdánov, Peter the Great watches in frustration President Putin boarding up the window he chopped through from Russia to Europe.

Peter the Great revolutionized the governance of old Muscovy by opening the country wide to European influences. President Putin wants to insulate us from them. He wants his successors to keep Russia exactly the way it’s run now for as long as it gets. ~

Ivan Mitrovic:
There is a considerable difference in the leadership styles between the two of them. Peter was a visionary. He saw the future and knew where exactly he wanted to be. And he did so against the heavy opposition from the plebs and, more importantly, people around him who didn't understand the future he wanted to build. That made him often angry. So happens a lot with visionaries who can't understand why everyone else doesn't see the future the way they do, as it should be so easy to see. Being alone with the vision is a hallmark of a leader. For example, Ataturk was in that position with his reforms in Turkey.

On the other hand, Putin is a follower, a mere populist with no vision, just reflecting the enflamed public feeling and reacting to the situation. He has to keep people close to him happy with favors, but all of them are in the same boat thinking-wise. There is no opposition and no clear vision of Russia's future; just reacting to whatever the present brings. And not in the best way, at that. I am sure that Putin didn't want to cut ties with the West entirely and turn to Asia, but his mistakes and miscalculations led him to that, not his vision.

Peter The Great, unlike Putin, was very comfortable around people. And Peter didn't have to fake toughness. He was tough. In all his portraits, Peter is fully dressed. Imagine seeing a painting of 60+ Peter The Great riding on his horse shirtless. Anyway, there was a reason why one was named The Great, not The Little. Ah, this just reminded me of another big difference between the two of them.
Three mobilized soldiers received salami as parting gifts.



Calling the Russian army a horde of Orcs is apt. Orcs were conceived as a degraded creation, brutal and incapable of humanity, motivated by rage, spite and hatred of all they cannot have or be. Recruited from Russia's prisons, the former convicts brought the criminal culture with them. Brutalizing the conscripts became a regular part of the operation...there is total lawlessness and brutality, their acts are meant to terrorize and dehumanize, to utterly destroy the culture they do not and cannot have.

War crimes are assured — these soldiers were and are first and forever criminals. Brutal themselves, they brutalize everything they can reach...rape, torture, murder of children and civilians, destruction of property, vandalism, looting, all their typical methods of operation. Leaving the marks of their excrement everywhere, defiling what they see but can never have, is part of their terrible spite.

This is a brutality we saw also on January 6th, with the insurrectionists leaving their filth behind, smeared over the walls of the capitol. Our own horde of Orcs, like a remote battalion of Putin's foul army.

Like the war in Tolkien's books, this is a war against pure evil, one that will decide more than the future of Russia and Ukraine. WW III is happening now, and everything is at stake.


Yes: hatred of anything associated with culture and education, hatred of science or anything "smart" -- one can see that in the bottom layer of any society. In the case of Russian recruits, they know their lives don't count. That comes on top of the abuse they've suffered (and dealt out to anyone weaker) in their whole lives. 


a bit more from Dima:

Below, a King Kong statue in Prague by Denis Defrancesco. Our size, the Bomb, and our abundance of resources make us a King Kong of global politics.

A Russian airline pilot bets a hundred rubles on a blind landing, kills 70 passengers and crew, and walks free after only 6 years behind bars.

On October 20, 1986, while approaching an airport in Grozny, PIC Alexander Kliuyev made a bet with FO Zhirnov that he could make an instruments-only landing with curtained cockpit windows and without using standard ground-based, low frequency radio transmitter.

Kliuyev made an error in his calculations and ignored the ground proximity warning that advised him to pull up. With the cockpit windows still closed, the plane touched down at a speed of 280 km/h with the force of 4.8 g’s.

The plane’s landing gear came off upon the impact, and the fuselage crashed into the concrete strip, broke in half and rested upside down. Fuel poured onto the hot turbine engines from the damaged fuel tanks setting it on fire.

FO Zhirnov survived the crash and helped passengers get out of the burning plane, managing to save several people. Three days later, he died of a cardiac arrest. He lived long enough to tell the story of their bet.

70 of the 94 passengers and crew on board were killed.

PIC Alexander Klyuyev survived the crash without a scratch. He was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison. After the review of the case, the term was reduced from 15 to 6 years. In the end, Klyuyev spent in jail one month for each person he had killed that day.

PAC Klyuyev has become a prolific author of books on meditation and spirituality. There’s no mention of the plane accident or his time in jail on his website that advertises his books and tour dates.

~ Misha Firer, Quora


After Putin boasted of being like Peter the Great, someone managed to put up a sign across from Putin's Kremlin Palace: 

"You are not Peter the First.
You are Adolph the Second."



When a high-ranking Lithuanian diplomat flew out of his hotel window in Minsk in 2006, rumors were spread in the press that while being drunk he was urinating out of the window and accidentally fell out. Who even does that, except for the lowest-level gopniks?!? ~ Albina Griniute

[gopnik = a member of a delinquent subculture in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and in other former Soviet republics — a young man (or a woman, a gopnitsa) of working-class background who usually lives in Russian suburban areas and comes from a family of poor education and income. Gopniks are often seen squatting in groups "in court" (на кортах, na kortakh) or "doing the crab" (на крабе, na krabe) outside blocks of flats or schools with their heels on the ground. It is described as a learned behavior attributed to Russian and Soviet prison culture to avoid sitting on the cold ground. They are also stereotyped as being prone to substance and alcohol abuse, crime and hooliganism. ~ Wiki]


~ A veteran adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin says that Russia has abandoned its centuries-long hopes of integrating with the West and is bracing for a new era of geopolitical isolation.

In an article for Russia In Global Affairs magazine released on April 9 and titled The Solitude Of A Half-Blood, Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov wrote that "Russia's epic journey toward the West" is over, marking an end to its "repeated fruitless attempts to become a part of Western civilization" over four centuries.

Relations between Moscow and the West are at lows not seen since the Cold War, severely strained by issues including Russia's takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea region, its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, its role in Syria’s seven-year conflict, and the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in Britain last month. [this article was written before the current war]

Surkov, 53, a longtime Putin aide who served as his top domestic-policy strategist for many years and currently works as the presidential adviser on Ukraine, wrote that the 2014 split with the West over Ukraine marked the beginning of a new era in which Russia faces "100 years (200? 300?) of geopolitical solitude.”

Russia's seizure of the Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine severely strained Moscow's ties with the West and led to U.S. and European Union sanctions that, together with a slump in global oil prices, sent the Russian economy into a two-year recession.

The Minsk accords, Western-backed cease-fire-and-peace deals signed in September 2014 and February 2015, have not ended the conflict in Ukraine's east, where fighting between government forces and separatists has killed more than 10,300 people.

With Russia's hopes of rapprochement growing dimmer as conflicts have flared with the West, the country is increasingly looking inward as well as eastward, rather than toward the West, Surkov said.

He cited the saying in Russia that the country has "only two allies: the army and the navy."

"Solitude doesn't mean complete isolation," Surkov wrote, but he said Russia's openness would be limited in the future.

"Russia without doubt will engage in trade, attract investments, exchange know-how, and fight wars...compete and cooperate, cause fear, hatred, curiosity, sympathy, and admiration," Surkov wrote. "But without false goals and self-denial.”

The journey that Surkov said Russia had traveled to some degree mirrors the evolution of Putin's own outward attitude toward the West.

Putin engaged with the West after his first election in 2000, but later grew increasingly critical of the United States, the EU, and NATO. He now frequently accuses them of shunning Moscow's offers of cooperation, fostering hostility, and trying to sideline and weaken Russia.

Surkov's article was published three days after the United States imposed new sanctions on more than two dozen tycoons, security officials, and politicians thought to have close ties to Putin, in an attempt to punish Moscow for what the U.S. Treasury chief called "malign activity around the globe.”

It also followed rare criticism of Putin from U.S. President Donald Trump over Russia's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Surkov recalled what he said were futile attempts at Westernization by past Russian rulers, writing that Russia once attempted to imitate the United States and "edge into the West."

He attributed Russia's fascination with joining the West to "excessive enthusiasm" by Russia's elite. But he said that fervor was now all but gone.

Surkov, who was first deputy Kremlin chief of staff from 1999 to 2011, was the architect of "managed democracy" -- his term for a policy under which Putin tightened control over Russian politics and society in his first two terms, in 2000-2008.

He has many interests outside or alongside politics and has written novels, essays, and song lyrics.

In the article, he describes Russia as a kind of "mixed breed" culture that incorporates elements of both the East and the West, like "someone born of a mixed marriage.”

"He is everyone's relative, but nobody's family. Treated by foreigners like one of their own, an outcast among his own people. He understands everyone and is understood by no one. A half-blood, a half-breed, a strange one," he wrote.

He said it was up to the Russian people whether Russia now becomes "a loner in a backwater" or "an alpha nation that has surged into a big lead" over other nations.

"It's going to be tough," he said, but Russia faces a long journey "through the thorns to the stars."

"It'll be interesting," Surkov wrote. "And there will be stars.” ~


Can we be sure that there will be stars? Or just a downward spiral?

Margo Gontar:

“Do you still think this is a righteous war?” journalists ask.
“Yes, absolutely. We are fighting pure evil." he says. 
"Anybody in the West who asks Ukraine to 'just do peace talks', they need to go to these villages, they need to see what's been done to these people.”

“If China invaded US -- hypothetically -- leveled LA, leveled Seattle, Portland, massacred thousands -- would US just sue for peace? No.” Best explainer of what is wrong with the whole “peace deal with Russia” idea.


It would be like negotiating with Hitler. And there were people who before the war and early into the war championed that idea, just as there are now those who believe that Putin can be negotiated with and will abide by agreements. Alas, some people just can't get the idea of "pure evil." Or they hide in "what-about-ism": "But what about the Palestinians?"


~ Outwards formidable, inside rotten. It is a totally rotten, corrupt, ill-disciplined and demoralized lot. Corruption and rot prevail from the generals to the conscripts. The Russian military has no professional NCOs, and all the NCOs are either conscripts or contract soldiers. It is like the Russian military had brain (officers) and muscles (enlisted men), but no skeleton (NCOs).

After 1967, due to diminishing cohorts, Russian military began to conscript prisoners and convicts. Make no mistake, Russian prisons are animal factories — and the convicts brought the prison culture in the military with them. The result was a total demoralization. Russian soldiers have always been treated badly and little better than cattle, but now the Russian military basically became a prison led by its inmates — one of the most destructive aspects was the dedovshchina culture [of hazing and abuse].

It is sufficient to say the Russian military (outside the parade units) has little to none discipline, but brutalization prevails throughout.

Now what do you think what happens when this kind of an Orc horde — bullied, harassed, tortured, abused and maltreated by its officers (who are professionals) whose internal organization culture is the legacy of prisons, gets to go abroad?

When svoboda [freedom] meets war, the result is bespredel — a state of “lawlessness” and “arbitrariness” where masculine brutality prevails. However, bespredel indicates a complete rejection of any and all rules, be they official legal regulations or an informal code.

Bespredel includes brutalization of the civilians, rape, torture and abuse of any enemy inhabitants, complete disregard of the Geneva convention and any rules of law, and all-prevailing looting and vandalism. Humilitation of the enemy, especially raping the women, is an important concept here — mind you the inner culture of the Russian military is post-1967 and prison inmate legacy.

A disciplined army simply does not throw its leftovers and garbage like that — it will reveal its whereabouts to the enemy. Nor will they rape, plunder and loot like that — it provokes partisan war and vengeance. But a criminal mob will. Criminals do not plan for the future — they live in the moment — and do not care of consequences and repercussions. 

In the WWII, the rule of thumb on the Finnish front was that the Russian soldiers usually played fair and followed the Geneva convention, but the partisans were absolute bastards who warred on women and children — many of the partisans were recruited from prisons. The result was that Finns never took partisans as prisoners — they were always shot on the spot.

The behavior can be condensed to three words: envy, hate and spite.

Envy, because an ordinary Ivan Ivanovich is poor like a church mouse. Remember Russia is the country where the Potemkin villages originate? Only Moscow and St. Petersburg are wealthy by any measures. The rest of Russia is more akin to the third world, and horse is a commonplace vehicle everywhere. Many of the Russian soldiers come from the poorest oblasts in the Russian Federation, and have never seen an indoors toilet. They experience a cultural shock — similar what happened in the Winter War. When such people arrive in the civilized world, they are full of envy and malice — they smash and vandalize everything because it is not theirs nor will it ever be.

Hate, because the Russian soldiers themselves are treated little better than garbage and abused on daily base, and let down by their officers. This leads to cowardice in the face of the enemy, and hate of own officers (many Russian officers are afraid to go alone without a sidearm among the enlisted men) and also hate on anyone who is defenseless, including the elderly, the women, the children. Such hate leads to dehumanizing, denigrating, insulting, and terrorizing enemy civilians and prisoners-of-war. It is about destroying the enemy as a nation. As such, everything Ukrainian is inferior and worthless to them, and the wholesale vandalism, destruction, mass rape and war crimes ensue.

Spite, because there is no attempt to impose any restrictions and punitive measures, “because we can”. Staining everything with excrement — especially works of culture — is a hallmark of this. Many of the Russian soldiers have lived all their lives being abused, beaten, brutalized and terrorized. It is how young males behave when they are in abject absence of any female influence nor subject to any form of disciplining guidance, and when they now finally have gotten to taste freedom, they behave like three-year-old children.

Of course, Vodka Drunkenski is the Russian arch-trope. Whenever the soldiers get booze, they will get blasted — and they brew samogon on their own. Alcoholism is rampant, and it is far easier to commit atrocities when drunk than when sober. ~ Susanna Viljanen, Quora


Many heads will roll in the aftermath of Russian army defeat in Ukraine. (Main Cathedral of the Armed Forces, Moscow; Misha Firer)

Matthias Knoll:
A long time ago, my father's teacher said in school that Russia is God's whip for Europe.
Putin might be God's whip for Russia.

Scott Franklin:
This has been going on a long time. I read an autobiography of a German who was a prisoner in Russia from 1945 to 1954. When they got to the prison camp the warden put the Germans in charge of the supply warehouses, as he didn’t trust the guards to not pilfer them.


~ Before 2022, I would have answered “probably”.

See, while scenic and strategically important, Crimea was still predominantly ethnically Russian, economically depressed and would usually vote for a pro-Kremlin candidate in Kyiv. Honestly, Ukraine is better off without Crimea. In a dictatorial state a small, resistive minority may not be a major headache, but in a democratic state a pro-enemy minority gives them representation and can swing elections towards Manchurian candidates.

While Crimea was not unique in this, and arguably the strongest holdfast of Russian support was around Lysichansk and Siversk, Crimea was nonetheless a major contributor to pro-Russian political fortunes, one Ukraine could afford to lose.

An arrangement that leaves Ukraine without Crimea might make for a more stable and democratic Ukraine, for the price of a holiday location in desperate need for subsidies.
Russian influence over Ukraine must end. Cutting Crimea off might a price to pay for that, one Ukraine could afford to pay.

After 2022 however, that deal is necessarily off the table. Russia used the place as a springboard for an aggressive war of conquest, and their armed forces cannot be allowed to remain there in any capacity. ~ Tomaž Vergazon, Quora

I had exactly the same reasoning in 2014.

Then I asked a colleague from Kyiv, “Why you don’t just give Crimea away? It’s economical backwater, they seem to agree with the transfer to Russia, you get peace and at the same time the chance that pro-Russian candidate will ever win elections goes to zero, which is also what you’d like.”

His response was “Sure, but how can you ever be sure Russians won’t come and knock at our door again with new demands?”

Eight years later, here they come..

Hans-Ingo Radatz:
Crimea is not only a holiday resort. Sevastopol is the traditional harbor of the Russian Black Sea fleet and therefore, controlling Crimea pretty much is equivalent to controlling the Black Sea. And that't of the utmost importance to Ukraine, economically as well as militarily.
The Russian population of Crimea could have sought after a political solution with their government — special territory, regional autonomy etc. Welcoming foreign troops from an aggressive neighbor was tantamount to high treason.

Crimeans will now have to make up their minds, whether they want to be loyal citizens of Ukraine or whether they want to emigrate to their beloved Russia. Options that might have been considered before 2014 are now clearly and definitely off the table.

Willy Daglish:
By the time Crimea is regained by Ukraine, most pro-Russians will have left. Those who remain will be those who have changed their minds, apart from a few fifth-columnists ordered by Moscow to stay behind and cause trouble.

Ukraine must capture back Crimea. There are very significant oil and gas resources in the Back Sea that the West was working on with Ukraine until Pootin invaded. Ukraine, with western investment will rejuvenate Crimea into great part of Ukraine with tourist, shipping and other assets. It will keep the Russian fleet away which is worth doing just in itself.


Like any war it’s unpredictable. Remember, it took US 20 years, 4 US presidents, trillions of dollars and countless lives lost to replace Taliban with Taliban. ~ Kostony, Quora


~ Putin's Russia has no future whatsoever. It dies with him. It falls when he falls. And he is a mortal man, regardless of the current state of his health. A 70-year-old mortal man.

This is so because Putin's Russia has no ideology (doing everything opposite of the West is not an ideology, it's a broken funhouse mirror) and no governing institutions (it's all a balance of power between the various coteries within his inner circle). Putin can outlast the tenure of some Democrats in US Congress or even (though unlikely) the current White House administration, but he cannot outlive Western world's democratic political structures, which are based on the principles of shared rationality and mutual benefit.

The world is going to face multiple global challenges in the foreseeable future, but Putin's cynical, resentful, impotent, kleptocratic, revanchist and hopelessly anachronistic version of Russia won't be around long enough to be part of the solution to those challenges. ~ Misha Iossel, Facebook

Tom Beck:
His refusal to prepare for the inevitable succession means after he goes, Russia may fall into a dangerous interregnum of competing would-be strongmen, armed factions, gangs, regional warlordism, and every other kind of instability. Just what you want in a country with lots of nuclear weapons.


~ Following Mussolini’s example, Putin believes everything is the State, nothing outside the State, and nothing against the State. Furthermore, Putin equates himself with the State, and Putin asks his subjects to sacrifice for Russia. He does not accept the notion that the State needs to reciprocate. An example is his investing a large proportion of Russia’s GDP into oil production, benefiting his bank account and those of his close supporters. Limiting the country’s ability to manufacture equipment increases the difficulty in sustaining the supply chain, and it is only one weakness of Putin’s war plans. The other is administration because it requires the delegation of authority.

The weakness of an authoritarian regime like Putin’s is that there are no restraints on his opinions. Putin’s beliefs in a mythical Russian Empire  are like the American Republican Party’s convictions in their mythological free market system. Republicans say no to centuries of market experience. It shows that the most effective way to extend prosperity in an economy is to employ checks and balances in a joint effort between the government and business. This type of enterprise benefits the most people. An unregulated market system becomes governed by greed. That is why prices of goods and services have not decreased during the era of trickle-down economics.

Putin’s weakness is comparable to Hitler’s ignorance of the history and practices of war. Like Hitler, Putin overrides his generals because his opinions conform to the world that contains his mythical empire. Like the Nazi Generals, who followed Hitler, the Russian military followed Putin down the same rabbit hole that the German leaders jumped down.

History tells us that the tenure of a totalitarian or authoritarian leader lasts 25 to 30 years. Then their country falls apart because there is no infrastructure to support the economy. Sometimes during their tenure they wreak havoc only within their country. Sometimes their chaos affects the entire world.

Under the control of greed, Russian leaders ignored their manufacturing sectors like the Republicans ignored the American manufacturing sphere. As a result, neither Russia nor the US has prepared for a war such as the one in Ukraine. If a country attacked the US as it was done at Pearl Harbor, the United States would be unable to rebuild its navy without first rebuilding its manufacturing. That is why Europe and the US started manufacturing computer chips. ~


Like a third-world country, Russia has mainly an extractive economy, rather than one based on manufacturing. The U.S. has teetered close to this abyss, closing down its manufacturing or sending it overseas, especially to China. It seems that there has been some degree of turnaround, and now companies such as General Motors, Intel, and American Steel are opening new factories in America. History teaches that an industrial country can turn its industrial complex into a warfare supply structure. According to some historians, it was America's great industrial potential that won WW2.

There is no escaping the fact that manufacturing is a very important part of the economy. So many benefits, including greater national security.

Even Russia is waking up to this, but their factories are 50 years behind. 

I hope to live long enough to see Putin go, and witness what happens afterwards. I wouldn’t be surprised if what followed was chaos, followed by the emergence of another leader — still dictatorial, but maybe a tad more enlightened. Above all, not another genocidal fanatic Russian nationalist. 


~ Will Putin use nuclear weapons in Ukraine? This billion-dollar question matters not only to Kyiv and Europe, but also to China. So far Beijing has trodden a careful line between Russia, its strategic partner, and Ukraine, which is a significant trading partner.

During September’s Samarkand summit, Vladimir Putin thanked China for its “balanced position” on the Ukraine conflict.

But if Moscow decides to use tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine, China can hardly maintain such a position any more. A joint declaration between Beijing and Kyiv in December 2013 agreed that China will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine and, more importantly, will provide security assurances in the event of any such threat by a third party.

Russia using nuclear weapons in Ukraine would be “a moment of infinite stupidity,” writes the prominent Chinese security think-tanker and PLA [military] insider. ~


When history repeats itself, it's not in every detail. It's in the overall pattern. Murder is murder. Pure evil is pure evil.


~ On September 12, 1938, President Roosevelt listened to Hitler’s Nuremberg Speech. FDR spoke fluent German and French. He traveled throughout Germany in his youth.

After listening to the broadcast, Roosevelt was now fully convinced: Hitler was a lunatic.

President Roosevelt started making war plans. His primary goal was building thousands of long-range bombers. This was outlined to his top Generals and Admirals in October 1938.

At that time, 95% of the American public was isolationist. Regular Americans wanted nothing to do with another war.

Roosevelt kept his preparations secret. He knew his popularity would plunge if it became known he was preparing for a major conflict. He might even be voted out of office in 1940.

In the 1930s, Americans stupidly thought:

If we prepare for war, then we are causing war.
If we have a strong military, then we are increasing the likelihood of conflict.
Military spending is too high. We need to chop spending to help poor people.

In retrospect, FDR looks like a genius.

In 1944, General Curtis LeMay told reporters: We will kill every Japanese if that is what it takes to win this war.

That sounds like hyperbole. But LeMay meant what he said.

If required, the USA would liquidate Japan.

Roosevelt and LeMay understood evil men. They also understood what the USA should do to them.

Many Americans in 2022 — as in 1938 — do not get it.

They do not understand:

Basic immorality of Hitler, Tojo, Kim, Xi, and Putin.

Violence is usually required to contain despots.

Foreign entanglements cannot be avoided. Pearl Harbor taught us that lesson.

Our intervention in major conflicts is unavoidable — both practically and morally.

~ Stacy Tidwell, Quora

Steven Martin:
90% of Americans opposed war, not out of stupidity, but because they knew war meant wounded Americans, badly burned cousins, crippled brothers and uncles, and dead dads. They were not stupid at all.

Stacy Tidwell:
Smart people like President Roosevelt saw the “writing on the wall” long before the average American. He knew in 1938 war was inevitable.

The same thing is happening today. The average American is becoming more isolationist — even as multiple dictators are making their hostile intentions clear.

Our adversaries are making direct threats against the USA and our allies. No nuance involved.

Russia never really got de-Stalinized. It's just variations on the same theme: We are superior to everyone else and should rule the world.


While officials blame the coronavirus for the rising mortality rate, the growing unwillingness of Russian people to have children has exacerbated the crisis.

~ For the first time in the history of modern Russia, the natural population decline reached 1.04 million people.  

Although the Russian government points at the pandemic as a cause of decreasing population, experts say that the trend had started way before the health crisis struck the world.

The increase in the retirement age, the quality of medical care in the region, declining living standards and numerous other challenges Russians face are among the reasons why the country is facing a population decline for the fourth year in a row.

Although the Russian government points at the pandemic as a cause of decreasing population, experts say that the trend had started way before the health crisis struck the world.

The previous maximum natural decline in population in Russia was noted in 2000. Then, it was 958.5 thousand people.

In 2020, Rosstat reported that the population decline was 702 thousand people, which was twice as many as in the previous, non-pandemic year, and everyone was aghast even then.


The data published by the agency does not contain statistics on the migration flow, although it has significantly improved the situation. In 2021, the net international migration to Russia increased by 3.3 times — almost up to 350 thousand people (up from 106,500 in 2020). The Russian media giant RBC notes that this increase is the result of a growing number of people arriving in Russia, especially from the Commonwealth Independent States, including Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia, and at the cost of fewer departures from the country.

Mikhail Denisenko, director of the Vishnevsky Institute of Demography at the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE University), explains that two factors may have caused the migration growth in Russia.

First, restrictions on international travel were partially lifted, including the entry of migrant workers. Second, migrants had their term of stay in the country extended, and if their term of stay exceeded nine months, they moved from the category of temporary to the category of permanent. But again: the exponential growth of the balance of incoming and outgoing migrants is hardly a consequence of profound socio-economic reasons.

It’s most likely that it is "an adaptation of administrative rules to the pandemic," points out Professor Irina Kalabikhina, head of the Population Department of Economics Faculty of Moscow State University.

How coronavirus impacted Russia

Experts believe that Russia's high level of population decline is primarily due to the pandemic — either as a direct cause or as an accompanying disease.

"Covid-19 is not a joke, not the ‘flu.' The losses are quite serious," Professor Kalabikhina emphasized to RBC.

Demographer Denisenko is convinced that the coronavirus pandemic contributes 60-65 percent to the natural decline. However, this statistic is not consistent with reality.

The absolute record of mortality among people infected with Covid-19 was recorded in Russia in November 2021. At that time, 87,500 people died of the coronavirus and its consequences. In December, the disease was the main cause of death of 54.6 thousand people, and a total of 215.5 thousand people died that month.

Taking into account past data from Rosstat, Covid-19 took the lives of 517,800 Russians during all of 2021. This is 3.2 times more than in the previous year. A total of 681.1 thousand people have died in Russia since the beginning of the pandemic in which coronavirus was considered the main or accompanying cause of death, according to Rosstat data.

Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who previously estimated an 81 percent increase in deaths from Covid-19 and its effects, said the other day that, excluding excessive deaths due to the coronavirus, mortality in the country over the past year decreased by 1.02 percent. She said deaths due to diseases of the circulatory system fell by 1 percent, those due to cancer fell by 3.7 percent, those due to HIV fell by 8.5 percent, those due to tuberculosis fell by 8.9 percent, and those due to endocrine system diseases, eating disorders and metabolic disorders fell by 14.6 percent. Could this be because all the forces of medicine are now focused on one disease? And others, due to the limited capacity of specialists, are less likely to be diagnosed?

Fatal reform

Still, some officials insist that the death rate from coronavirus is even higher than the official one, because the statistics do not include, for example, people with chronic diseases who were cured, but died sometime later due to complications.

In general, authorities at various levels often justify their mistakes or their inaction by using Covid-19 as an excuse to manipulate people. Even if it is impossible to belittle the seriousness of this disease, there are other factors that have seriously influenced the grim statistics.

For example, the pension reform. "It's killing slowly but surely,” said the “SVPressa” back in pre-Covid times, and they also predicted, "The life expectancy will begin to fall in proportion to the increase in the retirement age."

Extending the working-age to 63 years for women and 65 years for men will definitely lower life expectancy in the near future, experts predicted in 2019.

Political observer Dmitry Galkin explained, "Workers of pre-retirement age will take even less care of their health because it is now very easy for them to lose their jobs and very difficult to find new ones. In addition, people engaged in physical labor will work longer hours, so the likelihood of them developing dangerous chronic diseases due to the general wear and tear of the body will increase dramatically.”
Russians themselves complained to journalists: "I will definitely die right in the workplace, because I simply won’t have the strength to work, but I will have to work anyway. Otherwise, there will be no salary, no pension benefit.

Pinching pennies forces people to buy cheap products that destroy and undermine the body, leading to the emergence of many serious diseases, including cancer!”

Even before the pandemic, economists at Credit Suisse were sounding the alarm: an aging population is becoming a problem for the entire world, not just individual developed countries.
Without reforms and faster growth of labor productivity, the growth rate of the global economy may slow down, and the welfare of people may decline, which will certainly affect their health.

Russia apparently tried to solve this problem at the expense of pensioners. But they did not take into account, or did not want to take into account, the fact that the life expectancy of Russians is often less than retirement age. Thus, in one-third of the regions, men do not live long enough to get their deserved rest.

Independent demographer Alexei Raksha believes that Russia has the worst mortality situation compared to any country in the world with a similar level of income and economic development. For example, by the level of "accumulated mortality," Russia ranks fourth out of more than 40 European countries. ~

Red Square fireworks end of WW2

"We live in a time dominated by pessimism and cynicism. These poses are a kind of armor against the vulnerability of hope. To be cynical is to close the door to the possibility of disappointment. To be pessimistic is to foreclose the risk of being made a fool by optimism.” ~ Lydia Polgreen, What My Father’s Death Taught Me About Living, New York Times, October 27, 2022


~ Angela Hammontree, 55, considers herself very conservative — "pro-gun, pro-Bible, pro-Trump”.

That can trip her up when it comes to love, though.

"The first person I dated after my divorce seemed like a great guy," Ms Hammontree recalled. "And then I found out he was a freaking Democrat!”

They dated for three months, but broke up one month before the November 2020 presidential election.

"I couldn't stand it any longer," she said. "I really liked the guy. But I just don't feel like a relationship can go very far without those same [political] views.”

Now, she checks voter registrations on Google before dates — just to make sure she's not going to be dining with a Democrat.

In fact, studies suggest that Ms Hammontree is not alone in her view on relationships. A 2020 YouGov/Economist poll found that 86% of Americans think it has become harder to date someone who supports the opposite political party.

Experts say that who you vote for has now risen to be among the most important factors in love.

The challenge is particularly acute — and cuts across generations — for singletons living in places where they are in the political minority.

Young people who worked in the Donald Trump White House, for example, famously found romance difficult in liberal Washington DC.

Daniel Huff, a former Trump White House adviser, once went on a date, ordered cocktails, and found himself alone before they even arrived. In that small window of time, his date had learnt where Mr Huff worked. She promptly walked away.

That experience inspired him and fellow ex-Trump staffer John McEntee to launch a dating app, The Right Stuff, earlier this month, which only allows conservatives to join.

"Conservatives in liberal areas are totally discriminated against," Mr McEntee complained.
"They're made to feel on their own. Totally alienated.”

To sign up, users must disclose standard information such as height and gender. But to add some personality to their profile, they can choose to fill in prompts including: 'A random fact I love about America'; '[My] favorite liberal lie'; 'My favorite conservative pundit' and 'January 6th was…’

A user must be invited to join. In theory, this will keep liberals from accessing the app and possibly spoiling it for serious users.

Liberal women in conservative parts of the country find dating equally challenging.

Nora Murphy, 32, spent a few years exploring the dating scene in deep red Idaho. Recognizing she was in the political minority, Ms Murphy sought to give conservative men in her area a chance.

"We'd be getting along great and then politics would come up and it was clear it just wasn't going to work out," she said.

She eventually married a Romanian.

The dating divide is just one symptom of an extremely polarized United States. According to the Pew Research Center, "Democrats and Republicans are farther apart ideologically today than at any time in the past 50 years”.

And last month, a CBS poll found that a plurality of Democrats and Republicans see the other side of the aisle not as political opposition but as “enemies".

Ms Hammontree, who lives in Canton, Ohio, conceded that her views on politics and dating were a relatively recent development. Though a lifelong Republican, she doesn't remember caring so much when she was younger.

"I don't think I would've thought about it as much of a deal-breaker then," she said.

Researchers think that as more singles pair up with partners who share their politics, those same politics will be passed along to their children. "This has the potential to amplify polarization through the creation of homogenous social networks and households," a 2017 study said.

Indeed, a trend of liberals and conservatives living in clusters of their own political tribe has become more pronounced in recent years, according to Rose McDermott, a political psychologist at Cornell University.

The narrative of a deeply divided modern America — in the dating world and society broadly — has truth to it, said Dr McDermott.

"I don't think it's overblown," she said. "I think it's getting worse.” ~

I don't remember seeing such images decades ago. But then the idea was that practically all Republicans (and Democrats, for that matter) were "moderates," and Americans first, not all that far apart in their values and beliefs.


It’s not easy. But if the couple is motivated to preserve the relationship they value, they can establish rules that can nip destructive arguments in the bud (I speak from experience — yes, it can be done). It’s like the rule of not talking about religion and/or politics during family gatherings. The solution may not be ideal, but I think we’d agree that all siblings, close relatives and close friends should be allowed to attend mother’s funeral, for instance, without engaging in verbal combat over guns or abortion.

Yes, it’s awkward, but we live in a world with people who hold opposite views on at least some matters. As long as all agree on basic rules of decency and the value of diversity, we can work out how best to get along.

That being said, if I were involved in the dating scene now, would I consider dating a Republican, especially a Trump Republican? Never.


~ In 1968 a debate was held between conservative thinker William F. Buckley, Jr., and liberal writer Gore Vidal. It was hoped that these two members of opposing intellectual elites would show Americans living through tumultuous times that political disagreements could be civilized. That idea did not last for long. Instead Buckley and Vidal descended rapidly into name-calling. Afterward, they sued each other for defamation.

The story of the 1968 debate opens a well-regarded 2013 book called Predisposed, which introduced the general public to the field of political neuroscience. The authors, a trio of political scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Rice University, argued that if the differences between liberals and conservatives seem profound and even unbridgeable, it is because they are rooted in personality characteristics and biological predispositions.

On the whole, the research shows, conservatives desire security, predictability and authority more than liberals do, and liberals are more comfortable with novelty, nuance and complexity. If you had put Buckley and Vidal in a magnetic resonance imaging machine and presented them with identical images, you would likely have seen differences in their brain, especially in the areas that process social and emotional information. The volume of gray matter, or neural cell bodies, making up the anterior cingulate cortex, an area that helps detect errors and resolve conflicts, tends to be larger in liberals. And the amygdala, which is important for regulating emotions and evaluating threats, is larger in conservatives.

While these findings are remarkably consistent, they are probabilities, not certainties—meaning there is plenty of individual variability. The political landscape includes lefties who own guns, right-wingers who drive Priuses and everything in between. There is also an unresolved chicken-and-egg problem: Do brains start out processing the world differently or do they become increasingly different as our politics evolve? Furthermore, it is still not entirely clear how useful it is to know that a Republican’s brain lights up over X while a Democrat’s responds to Y.

So what can the study of neural activity suggest about political behavior? The still emerging field of political neuroscience has begun to move beyond describing basic structural and functional brain differences between people of different ideological persuasions—gauging who has the biggest amygdala—to more nuanced investigations of how certain cognitive processes underlie our political thinking and decision-making. Partisanship does not just affect our vote; it influences our memory, reasoning and even our perception of truth. Knowing this will not magically bring us all together, but researchers hope that continuing to understand the way partisanship influences our brain might at least allow us to counter its worst effects: the divisiveness that can tear apart the shared values required to retain a sense of national unity.

Social scientists who observe behaviors in the political sphere can gain substantial insight into the hazards of errant partisanship. Political neuroscience, however, attempts to deepen these observations by supplying evidence that a belief or bias manifests as a measure of brain volume or activity—demonstrating that an attitude, conviction or misconception is, in fact, genuine. “Brain structure and function provide more objective measures than many types of survey responses,” says political neuroscientist Hannah Nam of Stony Brook University. “Participants may be induced to be more honest when they think that “scientists have a window into their brains.” That is not to say that political neuroscience can be used as a tool to “read minds,” but it can pick up discrepancies between stated positions and underlying cognitive processes.

Brain scans are also unlikely to be used as a biomarker for specific political results because the relationships between the brain and politics is not one-to-one. Yet “neurobiological features could be used as a predictor of political outcomes—just not in a deterministic way,” Nam says.
To study how we process political information in a 2017 paper, political psychologist Ingrid Haas of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and her colleagues created hypothetical candidates from both major parties and assigned each candidate a set of policy statements on issues such as school prayer, Medicare, and defense spending. Most statements were what you would expect: Republicans, for instance, usually favor increasing defense spending, and Democrats generally support expanding Medicare. But some statements were surprising, such as a conservative expressing a pro-choice position or a liberal arguing for invading Iran.

Haas put 58 people with diverse political views in a brain scanner. On each trial, participants were asked whether it was good or bad that a candidate held a position on a particular issue and not whether they personally agreed or disagreed with it. Framing the task that way allowed the researchers to look at neural processing as a function of whether the information was expected or unexpected—what they termed congruent or incongruent. They also considered participants’ own party identification and whether there was a relationship between ideological differences and how the subjects did the task.

Liberals proved more attentive to incongruent information, especially for Democratic candidates. When they encountered such a position, it took them longer to make a decision about whether it was good or bad. They were likely to show activation for incongruent information in two brain regions: the insula and anterior cingulate cortex, which “are involved in helping people form and think about their attitudes,” Haas says. How do out-of-the-ordinary positions affect later voting? Haas suspects that engaging more with such information might make voters more likely to punish candidates for it later. But she acknowledges that they may instead exercise a particular form of bias called “motivated reasoning” to downplay the incongruity.

Motivated reasoning, in which people work hard to justify their opinions or decisions, even in the face of conflicting evidence, has been a popular topic in political neuroscience because there is a lot of it going around. While partisanship plays a role, motivated reasoning goes deeper than that. Just as most of us like to think we are good-hearted human beings, people generally prefer to believe that the society they live in is desirable, fair and legitimate. “Even if society isn’t perfect, and there are things to be criticized about it, there is a preference to think that you live in a good society,” Nam says. When that preference is particularly strong, she adds, “that can lead to things like simply rationalizing or accepting long-standing inequalities or injustices.” Psychologists call the cognitive process that lets us do so “system justification.”

Nam and her colleagues set out to understand which brain areas govern the affective processes that underlie system justification. They found that the volume of gray matter in the amygdala is linked to the tendency to perceive the social system as legitimate and desirable. Their interpretation is that “this preference to justify the
system is related to these basic neurobiological predispositions to be alert to potential threats in your environment,” Nam says.

After the original study, Nam’s team followed a subset of the participants for three years and found that their brain structure predicted the likelihood of whether they participated in political protests during that time. “Larger amygdala volume is associated with a lower likelihood of participating in political protests,” Nam says. “That makes sense in so far as political protest is a behavior that says, ‘We’ve got to change the system.’”

Understanding the influence of partisanship on identity, even down to the level of neurons, “helps to explain why people place party loyalty over policy, and even over truth,” argued psychologists Jay Van Bavel and Andrea Pereira, both then at New York University, in Trends in Cognitive Sciences in 2018. In short, we derive our identities from both our individual characteristics, such as being a parent, and our group memberships, such as being a New Yorker or an American. These affiliations serve multiple social goals: they feed our need to belong and desire for closure and predictability, and they endorse our moral values. And our brain represents them much as it does other forms of social identity.

Among other things, partisan identity clouds memory. In a 2013 study, liberals were more likely to misremember George W. Bush remaining on vacation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and conservatives were more likely to falsely recall seeing Barack Obama shaking hands with the president of Iran. Partisan identity also shapes our perceptions. When they were shown a video of a political protest in a 2012 study, liberals and conservatives were more or less likely to favor calling police depending on their interpretation of the protest’s goal. If the objective was liberal (opposing the military barring openly gay people from service), the conservatives were more likely to want the cops. The opposite was true when participants thought it was a conservative protest (opposing an abortion clinic). The more strongly we identify with a party, the more likely we are to double down on our support for it. That tendency is exacerbated by rampant political misinformation and, too often, identity wins out over accuracy.

If we understand what is at work cognitively, we might be able to intervene and try to ease some of the negative effects of partisanship. The tension between accuracy and identity probably involves a brain region called the orbitofrontal cortex, which computes the value of goals and beliefs and is strongly connected to memory, executive function and attention. If identity helps determine the value of different beliefs, it can also distort them, Van Bavel says. Appreciating that political affiliation fulfills an evolutionary need to belong suggests we should create alternative means of belonging—depoliticizing the novel coronavirus by calling on us to come together as Americans, for instance. And incentivizing the need to be accurate could increase the importance accorded that goal: paying money for accurate responses or holding people accountable for incorrect ones have been shown to be effective.

It will be nearly impossible to lessen the partisan influences before the November 3 election because the volume of political information will only increase, reminding us of our political identities daily. But here is some good news: a large 2020 study at Harvard University found that participants consistently overestimated the level of out-group negativity toward their in-group. Inaccurate information heightened the negative bias, and (more good news) correcting inaccurate information significantly reduced it.

“The biology and neuroscience of politics might be useful in terms of what is effective at getting through to people,” Van Bavel says. “Maybe the way to interact with someone who disagrees with me politically is not to try to persuade them on the deep issue, because I might never get there. It’s more to try to understand where they’re coming from and shatter their stereotypes.” ~


Is it helpful to know that some biological differences are involved, e.g. conservatives on the whole have a larger amygdala, and are thus more prone to seeing threats? I suspect that having experienced a punitive rather than a nurturing and compassionate upbringing is more explanatory -- and it's possibly the punitive upbringing that relates to the larger amygdala. One way of another, trying to understand why a certain person holds various beliefs might be helpful. And remembering that generally no one is totally right or totally wrong. 


"SEE HOW THEY RUN": an extremely brief movie review

1) You need to be British to really understand this movie

2) The scene I loved is how the perp --already after making his confession, and threatening the lives of all assembled -- is offered a cup of tea (poisoned by Agatha Christie, of course)


~ In the New York Review of Books, an article about a woman who had not bothered to have an amniocentesis (these days there is a blood test) and ended up having a child with Down Syndrome. The paragraphs on the “medical freak show” interested me slightly, but mainly I thought about my youth and the recurring thought that just because I valued the life of the mind so much, I’d end up having a “mentally defective” child (apologies; that term was OK back when I was considering whether or not to have a child). A child with Down Syndrome or another mental disability would be my punishment for loving books and ideas. It would be life’s corrective action, humbling me, saying See? You wanted your child to be a genius. What a laugh!

No man expects to be “punished” by life or society for loving books and ideas. Perhaps there is some notion that reading books is unmanly, but women’s attraction to intellectual men would be a corrective. A man who can talk about literature realizes that he “speaks woman.” Tony Hoagland carried a copy of Rilke’s Duino Elegies for seduction purposes. I know it not only because of his poem where he confesses to using this ploy, but also because I remember how we met at the Yaddo Arts Colony, lined up for dinner. He was holding a red-cover copy of The Duino Elegies in his left hand (the side that showed).

Why on earth did I expect to be punished, humbled, “corrected”? I grew up in a milieu where reading and intellectual achievement were encouraged -- not that I needed to be encouraged, being a compulsive reader. Nor can I point to the slightest streak of sexism in this regard. True, I overheard my parish priest saying, “Girls . . . They are so stupid.” But I can’t claim that this harmed me in any significant way; even as a ten-year-old, I realized that the comment said something about the priest and nothing about me. (Nor did I retaliate by sending him a note: “Priests . . . They are so stupid.” No, I was a nice quiet girl. Anyway, I was too busy reading.)

So I don’t really know why I expected to be punished for being who I was. Perhaps it had something to do with the way life kept shattering my dreams. Perhaps I picked up sexist judgment from the larger culture. Or perhaps it’s more universal than that, more “female.” My mother said, more than once, that she had terrible nightmares during her pregnancy about giving birth to an abnormal child. Such nightmares, I read, are perfectly normal during pregnancy. Nor do I think that my brave and resourceful mother would not have managed to cope somehow. Fortunately she didn’t have to.

Most fears don’t come true. It’s what we didn’t think of fearing that tends to happen — IF anything happens. And then it’s not the end of the world.

And I don’t really need to analyze the possible sources of those long-ago fears. I was bad, so I would be punished -- millions of Catholic children were raised to believe that. It’s in the past, irrelevant now. Onward. There are real bridges to cross.


~ Most of us have the wrong idea about Satan. We picture a being with horns, wings, claws and blood-red skin; a being who embodies wickedness; a being waging a long, drawn-out war with God and the human race. But the Devil is not a cartoonish figure plotting universal destruction (or, in a gentler mood, possessing young girls and priests). Once upon a time, not too long ago, he was known to move in distinguished circles.

During what historians call the long 19th century, which extended from the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789 to the First World War in 1914, Satan’s career flourished in European literature. This Satan was not the caricature of evil so familiar today but a well-spoken gentleman – at least, sometimes. Each time he appeared, he changed guise; never staying still, he displayed resourcefulness and personality that the best of society could appreciate.

To understand the Devil of 19th-century literature, it’s important to understand the Satan of the Bible. In the Book of Job he is called ‘a son of God’, and he roams the earth as a disinterested – and inconspicuous – supervisor of human affairs. At one point, after making his rounds, Satan returns to the court of the Lord and suggests that Job, God’s most loyal follower, only has faith because he was blessed with material advantages. The heavenly father agrees to an experiment: He will suspend the protection that surrounds the exemplary man and see whether his faith survives. Soon Job is afflicted by theft, storms, fire, violence, boils on his body, the death of his children, and more still. But these misfortunes are not caused by Satan; they are things that can happen to any mortal.

Despite it all, God’s favorite remains devoted. The role of Biblical Satan is to put a rare example of human worthiness into relief and, more importantly, to affirm the transcendent power of the Deity. There is nothing commanding, or even particularly ‘evil’, about him. Busy but retiring, the Satan of Scripture is more like a lawyer than anything else. Even in the New Testament, he does not ‘tempt’ Jesus so much as test him (the Greek original allows both translations). Unless asking questions is evil, there is nothing wrong with what Satan does – he inhabits the realm of ideas, not passions.

During roughly the next two millennia, Christian civilization almost forgot about the circumspect and deferential Satan of the Bible, and the poor Devil acquired an undeserved reputation. However, over the course of the 1800s, he recovered some of his former stature as European authors began conjuring a more complex figure.

For optimists, the eclipse of age-old hierarchies and superstitions that accompanied the 19th century heralded both material and spiritual improvement. The new age promised freedom of conscience, broader political franchise, economic vitality, and unprecedented technological achievement. But there was a darker side to ‘improvement’: religious revivalism, colonial exploitation, class antagonism, and social engineering. The Devil fit right into the commotion as authors sought precisely what their forebears had shunned: intimacy with the ‘bad guy’.

In 1821, the English writer Robert Southey implicitly denounced Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron as leaders of the ‘Satanic School’ of literature. They were, he wrote, wanton ‘men of diseased hearts and depraved imagination’. Shelley and Byron weren’t really Satanists. They were basically atheists. But the insult was a point of pride; they embraced Satan as an outcast who raged against tyranny on high — a characterization that owed more to John Milton, the author of Paradise Lost (1667) and an apologist for regicide and revolution, than to anything in the Bible. Paradise Lost is a great Christian epic, second only to Dante’s Divine Comedy (c 1320). But while Dante stuck Satan, cold and miserable, in the deepest pit of Inferno, Milton pictured him as an unleashed menace.

Writing around the same time as the ‘Satanic School’, William Blake did not share his contemporaries’ irreligion or fondness for scandal, but he acknowledged the debt of the literary guild to infernal forces. Milton, Blake opined, ‘wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, … because he was a true Poet and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.’ Satanic or not, Romantic authors such as Blake, Shelley and Byron equated the Devil with creative vigor, free expression, and a fiery temperament.

The long-lived lion of German letters, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, was wiser than his hot-headed juniors. Taking a dim view of Romantic pathos and bravado in his masterpiece, Faust (1808), Goethe made his version of the Devil, Mephistopheles, an embodiment of doubt. Goethe’s titular hero has spent long years familiarizing himself with the sum of human knowledge only to conclude that it amounts to nothing. Faust calls on nether forces in the hope of filling a personal and universal void. Mephistopheles shows up and, in exchange for the scholar’s soul, promises to give him what he’s missing. When all Goethe’s fancy language is left aside, what Faust gets is a series of exalted states that translate into sexual infatuation and drunkenness. Under this spell, he manages to forget himself for a while, but he gains no deeper understanding. From the outset, Mephistopheles looks upon the earth as ‘a rather sorry sight’. ‘Man,’ he concedes, ‘moves me to compassion, so wretched is his plight.’

It would be anachronistic to describe the 19th-century Devil as an existentialist (a fashionable philosophical stance in the following century), but that’s much the part he played for skeptical and agnostic authors in Europe at the time. The German poet Heinrich Heine, who appreciatively called Goethe ‘the great pagan’ for the Olympian calmness of his outlook, also sought Satan’s company:

I called the Devil and he came,
His face with wonder I must scan;
He is not ugly, he is not lame,
He is a delightful, charming man
A man in the prime of life, in fact,
Courteous, engaging, and full of tact.
A diplomat, too, of wide research
Who cleverly talks about State and Church

Jewish by birth and a reluctant convert to Protestantism, Heine did not adhere to a religious tradition of any stripe, and he viewed politics with irreverence. But not taking things seriously does not preclude knowing that they are serious. Heine is famous for his wit but also for the deep melancholy beneath his sparkling play of words, where devilish verses laugh off the pain of being alive. For Heine, the Devil offered something better than compassion for cosmopolitan types: good conversation. That’s as good as it gets.

Many others in Heine’s day entertained relations with this ‘delightful, charming man … in the prime of life’. The anthology Le Diable à Paris (1845-46 ) presents a record of such sociability through depictions of the ‘mores and customs’ of the French capital’s inhabitants. Contributors included the novelists Honoré de Balzac and George Sand, the illustrator J J Grandville, the dramatist Alfred de Musset, and the poet Gérard de Nerval, among other notables. The premise of the collection was that a visitor from the underworld could travel to Paris, stroll around at his leisure, and feel right at home in the modern city. The urban intelligentsia harbored few illusions about the bright streets and gloomy alleys they inhabited. On occasion, some of them might even have knelt down and joined the Devil in prayer. One certainly did: Charles Baudelaire.

For Baudelaire, a morbid Catholic voluptuary who turned the rebelliousness of early Romanticism on its head, misery and crime renewed the timeless drama of the human soul, which strives to soar but remains mired in filth. The sinner’s last hope is the Devil:

O Angel, the most brilliant and most wise,
A God betrayed by fate, deprived of praise,
Satan, take pity on my misery!

O Prince of exile, you who have been wronged,
Who, even conquered, rise yet more strong,
Satan, take pity on my misery!
Great king, who know the lore the earth imparts,
Intimate healer of our anguished hearts,
Satan, take pity on my misery!

An appeal to Satan signifies that a spiritual fire is burning; there can be no Devil without God, after all. Baudelaire believed in salvation and damnation, and – as per the teachings of the Church – he believed that humankind is inherently corrupt. But the Church is corrupt, too. Without charity and true Christianity, the poet observes, the ‘leprous and despised’ turn to Satan as an ‘adoptive father’.

As the century grew longer, similarly provocative gestures became almost a matter of course for aspiring bohemians who struck poses somewhere between Byron and Baudelaire. Some evidently did not know what they were up to as they tried practicing the dark arts. Thus, in A Season in Hell (1873), Arthur Rimbaud addresses ‘hideous pages torn from my diary of damnation’ to ‘dear Satan’, positioning himself among proud pariahs:

From them I have inherited: idolatry and love of sacrilege; –oh! all the vices, anger, lust … above all lying and indolence.

I abhor every trade. Owners and workers, peasants, the lot of them, mean and petty. The hand which writes is as good as the hand which ploughs. – What a century of hands! – I shall never get my hand in.

Rimbaud expresses no revolutionary ardor, world-weary cynicism, or perverse Catholicism. He has ‘inherited … idolatry and love of sacrilege’, yet he has no idea what to do with them. ‘The hand which writes is as good as the hand which plows,’ but he sees no point digging in the dirt. By about the age of 20, Rimbaud was done with poetry. He spent the remainder of his short life seeking adventure overseas. ‘I have never been a Christian,’ he wrote, ‘I understand nothing of laws; I have no moral sense, I am an animal.’ The ingenious but doomed adolescent lost faith in ‘dear Satan’.

The works of Shelley, Byron, Goethe, Heine, Baudelaire, and Rimbaud do not fill even half a shelf in the library of Pandaemonium. All the same, a few things should be clear: where and when the 19th-century Devil shows up, events take an unexpected turn. He is not the crude epitome of hatred and iniquity that the vulgar imagine. Satan enjoys poetic license; he can trade in white lies, outright falsehoods, and even the truth. Like God, whose will he performs, the Devil stands on the other side of the law.

‘Sympathy for the Devil’ – like many things inherited from 19th-century Romanticism – is almost certainly a bad idea, but the occasional consultation can prove availing. Speak respectfully and keep your distance, and you just might learn something from this ‘diplomat … of wide research’. The Devil you don’t know has a complicated and thankless job. ~

And some of course saw Satan as a beautiful woman.


Susan Krakowsky:
Most — or at least a large percentage — of Christians live in free democratic relatively prosperous countries. My impression is that religion tends to decline in such environments.

When asked by PEW why people left christianity, the top answers were 1)The church’s continued demonizing of the LGBTQ community, 2)Hypocrisy, 3)The alliance between the Church and the GOP, 4)Sexism (which includes reproductive rights), 5)Racism, 6)The Church’s refusal to change as the culture changes.

1, The most outspoken Christians have demonstrated that Christianity doesn’t regenerate people. Christianity obviously doesn’t create good people, so why pick a religion which doesn’t noticeably change people’s behavior?

2. People are becoming more educated. As people become better informed, it’s difficult for them to accept unsubstantiated things like the Exodus story and the Genesis creation story.

3. Higher moral standards. People have higher moral standards now than in the past. For example, a lot of people think that slavery is bad. However, the Bible never says that slavery is bad. Instead, it says that slaves should obey their masters. It’s difficult for people to use the Bible as their moral compass when the Bible condones something like slavery.

4. Lower birthrates. Religions spread primarily through birth. That is, children passively inherit the the beliefs of their parents. In Christian countries, birthrates are declining, and so fewer Christians are being created.



JMC’s point about higher moral standards reminds me of what Milosz wrote about it: the higher our moral standards become, the more cruel the god of the Old Testament appears to be.

The point about lower birthrates is extremely important. Children born into a Catholic family are going to be indoctrinated with Catholicism, while those born into an Islamic family become Islamic, and so on. The battle to preserve religion coincides with a pro-natalist viewpoint. But the new wrinkle is the wider access to education and information in general, which inevitably creates at least some, or total, skepticism about religious mythology.

Thus, if you know anything about DNA, the idea that Eve was created from Adam’s rib becomes absurd. It would mean that Eve and Adam would have identical DNA, which means that it Eve would have to be male. We’d have Adam and Steve, whose behavior would be an “abomination in the eyes of the Lord.” Also, so much for “Be fruitful and multiply.”


Christianity is not slowly declining —  it is plummeting into irrelevance across the Western world.

The reasons for this are clear.

1. We no longer believe in the religious worldview. Science has overcome religion and we now have new theories to explain the origin of the universe and life. These theories (which have been proven to be the most accurate by our current methods) contradict the theories of Christianity.

2. The morality of sexual purity has crumbled, not only in wider society, but the sexual abuse scandals of the Roman Church showed its very own leadership to be contradicting the values it purports to venerate. Western societies have a new morality focused on sexual liberation and the environment.

3. The priestly hierarchies were intellectually assaulted since the Reformation and there has been a gradual diminishing of clerical power. Without a priestly class, the religion cannot sustain itself.

4. Its religious texts were widely read and people realized that the teachings of Jesus contradicted the teachings of the Church. Jesus’ ideas lead to the abolition of religion. He criticized priests more than any other group. His ideas were focused on an internal spiritual revolution rather than the proclamation of government-run churches or churches that literally become the government.

5. We do not believe in religion's magical claims.

These trends cannot be reversed.

Anyone who seeks to revive Christianity will be reviving an emaciated version that would have been condemned as heresy by those who reigned over the religion at its height of power.

John Biles:
Conservative churches are declining because they espouse positions repugnant to their own children, who are deserting Conservative churches.

Liberal churches are declining because churches require a lot of volunteer labor to stay afloat and with most families being two-income, there’s no one to do the work which keeps churches going as communities.

Sarah Dillon:
As a population becomes more educated, it has less and less need for clearly untrue ancient superstitions. It's very, very rare that a person who is not indoctrinated into Christianity or any other religion takes it up later in life. Although it does happen occasionally, it is most often to people who are troubled at the time, and susceptible to what they believe is being promised.
Countries, or parts of countries, where quality education is less available and/or less valued have far fewer people capable of evaluating what is presented to them as true, and tend to perpetuate myths to the next generation.

Brian Overland: 
In the modern world, most people look unfavorably at the view that life is one big long test, or gamble, in which 1) we aren’t told by God which religion is correct, but 2) the millisecond after you die, an angel or demon appears and says “Ha ha ha! You guessed incorrectly! The correct answer was… Calvinist — or Mormon — or Jehovah’s Witness — or Catholicism — or Seventh Day Adventist — or radical Islam… or whatever religion it was that you didn’t bet on. Now that you finally know the truth, you are now told it is too late to use that knowledge. “Gee God, thanks for not letting me know what The Answer was when — according to the rules you made up — I could’ve actually used that knowledge.”

It should not be surprising that in this modern world, many educated, reasoning, self-respecting people no longer put any faith in this kind of childish and silly view: “Everyone in my church is rewarded for all eternity, and everyone not in my church is punished forever and ever.”

Dick Harfield:
Christianity has peaked in Europe and will continue to decline, as well educated young people desert religion. The opposite is occurring in Africa, where Christianity is gaining converts and the decline in Christian numbers may be decades off in the future. That is a natural process, as missionaries bring an exciting new religion to a region and preach judgement to come, telling potential converts to choose between heaven and hell. Subsequent generations are not so easily influenced and may begin to consider whether they really believe all these promises and threats. Higher education has an important effect in all this, as education tends to teach people to think for themselves.

Tilford Bartman:
Such large numbers of Americans have left Christianity to join the growing ranks of U.S. adults who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” Religion is kind of being left to the barbarians, lol.

I think there was once a substantially larger and more active liberal Christianity or Christian left, whatever you want to call it, which could balance things out more. Not many of those voices seem to be much in the public conversation, and perhaps those Christians who do continue adhere to a religious identity and tradition feel threatened by the decline.

I think Jews have experienced this even more than Christians in America just in terms of the decline of Jews who are members of a Synagogue, describe themselves as religious, keep traditions, etc. There's a very good PEW study about it religious trends in America. There have certainly been some big changes afoot.

Fred Liggin:
Christianity’s marriage to imperial power has always been its decline (historically). In this country its syncretism with racialized cultural systems to uphold ethno-cultural superiority for Euro-Anglo men attached to notions like Manifest Destiny and tethered to previous movements like the doctrine of discovery baptized by a White blond haired blue-eyed Jesus planted the seeds for the ebb and flow of nationalism.

In my view as a Christian pastor, I do believe evangelicalism has been a poisoned well for decades led by leaders determined to make Christianity a civil state and it has made “American Christianity” a civil religion.

It is still true that you are born into the religion of your parents, although they themselves may no longer practice that religion in any consistent way. There is much in traditional religion that is childish: the dependence of a child on the god/father and all his rules, his prerogative to reward and punish. There is much that is close to a credulous belief in magic...that certain rituals and prayers can give you leverage with this all powerful father/creator, and that prayer is an important activity that can be effective.. that can "work" to get god to give you what you are asking for.

I find this both peculiar and a kind of infantilism. People seem so ready with their prayers, in any situation, and seem satisfied that if they pray they have done something both real and applaudable. It is infantile magical thinking in action -- your wishes and pleas have power to compel the powerful "parent" to grant them. It is ludicrous and goes largely unquestioned.

This attachment to belief in prayer can persist even when much of formal religion is rejected due to its contradictions, the corruption of its leaders, and its failure to match the relevant power of science. It seems to me more like wishful thinking than anything else.

The distortions of Evangelicals, that so loudly proclaim their Christianity, prove them to be anything but. Nothing of Jesus' recorded teachings remains in them, in fact, they believe and practice the opposite of anything he may have said. For them, the beatitudes are all wrong, they do not see the poor, the meek, the hungry, the stranger, as holy, as blessed, but as unworthy, undesirable and undeserving. Theirs is a religion not of love but of hate, not of forgiveness but of blame, valuing not the poor but the wealthy, not the meek but the powerful. And they are arrogant in their assumption they have heaven all tied up and ready for them.

They are completely blind to their own corruption. As they would have to be to see Trump as the second coming.


~  “It’s been remarkable,” Paola Anderson said as she watched Momo, her 13-year-old white Pomsky, run around the backyard, keeping up with dogs a third his age.

The drug is called rapamycin. After nearly a decade of research showing that it makes mice live up to 60% longer, scientists are trying it out as an anti-aging drug in dogs and humans.

[Rapamycin is an immunomodulator, suppressing hyper-immunity, i.e. excess inflammation common in old age — hence the term “inflammaging.” It’s also a potent inducer of autophagy, i.e. the removal or dead and senescent cells.]

Rapamycin was discovered nearly 50 years ago in soil collected from Easter Island in the South Pacific and studied in a Canadian lab, and it’s the most promising drug to fight aging that Arlan Richardson has ever seen.

A professor at the Reynolds Oklahoma Center on Aging, Richardson has been doing this kind of research for 40 years.

“It’s the best bet we have,” he said.

Now, scientists are moving forward and testing the drug in dogs.

Researchers at the University of Washington’s Dog Aging Project gave rapamycin to 16 dogs and imaged their hearts.

“It started to function better. It started to look like a more youthful heart,” said Matt Kaeberlein, co-director of the Dog Aging Project
, who has presented this research at conferences but hasn’t yet published it.

Those dogs took rapamycin for only 10 weeks. Here’s what happened to Momo and his “brother,” Sherman, who took it for much longer.

One day in May 2015 Sherman fell over. He’d had a stroke.

Five vets refused to prescribe the drug. Finally, a sixth vet agreed to prescribe rapamycin, but only after consulting with Kaeberlein [a scientist who’s done research on rapamycin] to determine the best dose for Sherman.

By this point, a month after his stroke, Sherman was so weak, he had to be fed by hand and carried everywhere.

But rapamycin changed all that, Anderson and Godfrey said.

“The third day after taking rapamycin, he could eat on his own. By the seventh day, he was walking on his own,” Anderson said.

Sixteen months later, the dog who had been given two months to live is still alive, and while clearly old, he’s still active and able to run around the yard.

That got the moms thinking about Momo. He wasn’t sick like Sherman, but at 13, he was getting old and achy and losing stamina. The couple decided to try rapamycin on him, too.

“Why not have your dog live longer if you can?” Godfrey said.

She said that within days of taking the drug, Momo was able to run for hours, whereas before, just a 30-minute walk would tire him out. On a hot summer day when CNN visited, he was able to keep up with Anderson’s parents’ dogs, who are 4 and 5 years old.

Anderson and Godfrey couldn’t be happier.

“We call Sherman and Momo our rapamycin babies,” Godfrey said.


Take a look at the labels for Rapamune, made by Pfizer, and Afinitor (PDF), made by Novartis, two drugs that are essentially the same as rapamycin and are used to treat cancer patients and organ transplant recipients. The list of things that can go wrong is long and horrifying: cancer, diabetes, infections and more. [note that large doses are used in the treatment of cancer and transplant patients — doses large enough to be highly immunosuppressive]

“You have to be concerned about these side effects,” Kaeberlein said. But that hasn’t stopped him from doing research on the drug.

First, Kaeberlein thinks the side effects seen in cancer patients and transplant recipients might not be because of rapamycin per se but because those patients were very sick to begin with, because they were taking a whole host of other drugs as well, or both.

Secondly, he uses a much lower dose of the drug on his healthy dogs compared with the dose used on sick people.

Richardson, the aging expert at the University of Oklahoma, agrees with Kaeberlein. He’s so convinced that he gave a low dose of rapamycin to his own dog, coincidentally named MoMo.
MoMo had a heart problem, and Richardson said it stabilized after he started taking rapamycin.

He said the Tibetan terrier looks and acts younger than his 14 years, which would be around 80 or 90 in human years.

Plus, he said, there have been no side effects.

“We’ve been doing blood chemistries on her the whole time, and there’s nothing bad,” Richardson said.

The researcher was quick to note that one dog’s experience did not constitute proven scientific data – but he added that he’s given rapamycin to tiny monkeys called marmosets and hasn’t see any negative side effects for them, either.


Rapamycin has had very limited testing in healthy humans. Novartis gave rapamycin to 218 elderly volunteers, and it enhanced their response to the flu vaccine by 20%.

The results “raise the possibility that (rapamycin) may have beneficial effects” on the decline in immune function that occurs naturally as we get older, the study authors wrote.

They reported that the side effects of rapamycin were “relatively well-tolerated.” Severe side effects, they wrote, occurred at a “similar” rate as those experienced by the patients in the study who took a placebo, or a sugar pill.

Of the 53 patients on the lowest dose of rapamycin, 22 suffered some side effect, most commonly mouth sores.

Dr. Monica Mita, who’s done her own research with drugs like rapamycin, said she thinks the side effects can be managed.

“It’s really a matter of using the right dose and keeping an eye on the patients,” said Mita, co-director of experimental therapeutics at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles.


Kaeberlein, the professor of pathology at the University of Washington, is nervous about this article.

He wants readers to know that Momo and Sherman’s story is a tale of two dogs – that’s it – and not scientific evidence in any way, shape or form, especially considering the placebo effect, meaning Momo and Sherman’s owners might subconsciously be seeing what they want to see because they believe so much in rapamycin and fought so hard for it.

He doesn’t want Momo and Sherman’s seeming success to “encourage dog owners to go off to their veterinarians and demand rapamycin.”

And Kaeberlein, who’s also president of the American Aging Association, is nervous for another reason, too.

He dislikes the term “anti-aging,” as it conjures up images of snake oil salesmen peddling the fountain of youth.

Instead, he prefers to think in terms of treatments that will delay the onset of diseases of aging, such as dementia or heart disease. In mice, rapamycin has been shown to slow these two types of declines, as well as several others.

Over the next year, Kaeberlein will be studying rapamycin in a much larger group of dogs: about 150, compared with the 16 he studied earlier.

He said other groups are looking at doing more aging studies in rapamycin in humans, too.

It’s been a long journey for the compound discovered more than half a century ago in the dirt of a South Pacific island.

“The rapamycin story is one of the most surprising, enticing, satisfying and unique stories in the history of medicine,” Mita wrote in a medical journal five years ago. “And the end is not near.”


Caution: only low-dose rapamycin should be considered, and only with lab tests to make sure it’s working properly without causing problems.

I know what you are thinking: No way is my doctor going to prescribe rapamycin for me just because I’m showing various symptoms of aging.


I think one can get comparable benefits safely with berberine. Before we have more research, it’s probably wise not to exceed 2000 mg of berberine a day. Note “probably.” Everyone is different, and some experimentation is necessary for best results, which can be checked with simple blood tests (e.g. blood glucose and cholesterol).

Rapamycin may be more potent in certain health conditions — but here we are in the morass of not enough research to even begin to answer even the basic questions. Until we have verified answers, which may take years, please stick to berberine.

Some scientists are taking rapamycin, but they have access to specialized testing and other resources not open to the public. Dr. David Sinclair, perhaps the best known anti-aging scientist, sticks to metformin. Since berberine is even better and doesn’t require a prescription, the choice for the average health-conscious person is quite clear.


Fortunately, just as berberine has proved to be an excellent natural analog of metformin, a natural analog of low-dose rapamycin has also been found — though to my knowledge the two are yet to be compared in a systematic study.

The richest food source of EGCG is matcha green tea — one of Japan’s secrets of longevity.

A variety of EGCG supplements are also available, but here caution needs to be applied. Amounts higher than 800 mg may cause liver damage. To be on the safe side, I suggest sticking to the tea — unless you have a particular health condition that’s been shown to benefit from EGCG in supplement form.

I still ponder the irony of the fact that dogs are going to enjoy the longevity benefits of low-dose rapamycin long before (if ever in our lifetime) humans gain the same access.

Fortunately, any supermarket that sells tea generally carries matcha green tea, for instance the Bigelow brand.

Not that black tea should be avoided. Black tea provides theaflavin, with its multiple benefits.

Because black tea contains caffeine (as does green tea, but the amount of caffeine in green tea is much lower), you may want to have black tea in the morning and green tea in the afternoon.

Note: both kinds of tea are appetite suppressants, so they may be of special interest to those who wish to lose weight.


~ Imagine you could take a medicine that prevents the decline that come with age and keeps you healthy. Scientists are trying to find a drug that has these effects.

The current most promising anti-aging drug is Rapamycin, known for its positive effects on life and health span in experimental studies with laboratory animals.

To obtain the maximum beneficial effects of the drug, it is often given lifelong. However, even at the low doses used in prevention for age-related decline, negative side effects may occur, and it is always desirable to use the lowest effective dose.

A research group at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Aging in Cologne, Germany, has now shown in laboratory animals that brief exposure to rapamycin has the same positive effects as lifelong treatment opening new doors for a potential application in humans.

Combatting the negative effects of aging is increasingly becoming the focus of research scientists. Lifestyle changes can improve health of older people, but alone is not sufficient to prevent the ills of older age. Repurposing existing drugs for ‘geroprotection’ is providing an additional weapon in the prevention of age-related decline.

The current most promising anti-aging drug is rapamycin, a cell growth inhibitor and immunosuppressant that is normally used in cancer therapy and after organ transplantations.

“At the doses used clinically, rapamycin can have undesirable side-effects, but for the use of the drug in the prevention of age-related decline, these need to be absent or minimal. Therefore, we wanted to find out when and how long we need to give rapamycin in order to achieve the same effects as lifelong treatment”, explains Dr. Paula Juricic, the leading investigator of the study in the department of Prof. Linda Partridge, director at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Aging.

Only brief exposure

The scientists have tested different time windows of short-term drug administration in fruit flies and found that a brief window of 2 weeks of rapamycin treatment in young adult flies protected them against age-related pathology in the intestine and extended their lives.

A corresponding short time window, 3 months of treatment starting at 3 months of age in young adult mice, had similar beneficial effects on the health of the intestine when they were middle-aged.

“These brief drug treatments in early adulthood produced just as strong protection as continuous treatment started at the same time.

“We also found that the rapamycin treatment had the strongest and best effects when given in early life as compared to middle age. When the flies were treated with rapamycin in late life, on the other hand, it had no effects at all.

“So, the rapamycin memory is activated primarily in early adulthood”, explains Dr. Thomas Leech, co-author of the paper.

One step closer to applications

“We have found a way to circumvent the need for chronic, long-term rapamycin intake, so it could be more practical to apply in humans”, says Dr. Yu-Xuan Lu, also co-author of the paper. Prof. Linda Partridge, the senior author of the study, comments:

“It will be important to discover whether it is possible to achieve the geroprotective effects of rapamycin in mice and in humans with treatment starting later in life, since ideally the period of treatment should be minimized. It may be possible also to use intermittent dosing.

“This study has opened new doors, but also raised many new questions”.


Interesting, but also depressing — if the “brief exposure” needs to happen in early adulthood.

But there is reason to hope that low-dose chronic treatment would deliver anti-aging benefits in humans.

And perhaps we could settle for just some benefits at an older age, e.g. improved immune function. Rapamycin is an immunomodulator, suppressing hyperimmunity. An overactive immune system causes trouble, autoimmune diseases being only one example.

Then there is this:

~ A recent study from Drexel University discovered that rapamycin showed promising anti-aging properties on aging human tissue, specifically skin. The study enrolled 13 participants, 40 years of age and older, who applied rapamycin cream to one hand and a placebo cream to the other hand every one to two days for a total of eight months.

After eight months, most of the hands treated with rapamycin showed an increase in collagen production and a decrease in age spots and wrinkles (1). Collagen is an important protein that gives skin its structure. When collagen is damaged, wrinkles often appear. This study offers a new use for rapamycin when used at low doses, including new applications to increase the human lifespan and improve longevity. ~


The research is obviously in its infancy.

I’m just glad we have berberine and for some people, metformin (not all respond to metformin, making me wonder if a berberine-metformin combo might finally work for those individuals). Some think intermittent fasting may be most beneficial of all treatments. But there’s no money in fasting, so we’re lucky it’s got any exposure.

A bit of history — the Easter Island connection 

Rapamycin (also known by the trade names of sirolimus or rapamune) is a macrocyclic lactone produced by Streptomyces hygroscopicus, which was isolated from soil samples collected from Easter Island by Georges Nogrady in the late 1960s. Scientists at Ayerst Pharmaceuticals in Canada discovered that Streptomyces hygroscopicus produced a compound that would kill fungi, which they named rapamycin after the name of Easter Island, Rapa Nui. The initial interest in rapamycin focused on its antifungal properties. When it was found that rapamycin inhibited the growth of eukaryote cells, research on rapamycin turned to rapamycin’s immunosuppressive and anticancer properties.

Rapamycin was approved by the FDA in 1994 to prevent organ rejection in liver transplant patients. In addition to being used as an antirejection drug, rapamycin or its rapalogs are being used today to prevent restenosis after coronary angioplasty, and they are being tested in many clinical trials as antitumor agents, e.g., FDA approved the use of rapamycin in treatment of pancreatic cancer patients in 2011.

Research in the late 1980s turned to identifying the mechanism by which rapamycin blocked the growth of eukaryote cells. Heitman et al. discovered the protein, target of rapamycin (TOR), in yeast that was responsible for rapamycin’s ability to inhibit growth. Three groups in 1994 independently identified the mammalian counterpart, mTOR. TOR, a serine/threonine kinase, was found to be a master-regulator in the response of eukaryote cells to nutrients, growth factors, and cellular energy status, and this is now known as the TOR pathway.

Harrison et al. in 2009 reported that rapamycin increased the lifespan of both male and female mice. This was a major discovery in aging because it was the first evidence that the lifespan of a mammal could be significantly increased by a pharmacological agent [the discovery that metformin can do that came sooner, but received no publicity). The journal, Science, selected this study as one of the major scientific breakthroughs in 2009 (Science 326, 1598–1607), the first discovery in aging to be selected by Science as a breakthrough. Over the past decade, there has been an explosion in the number of reports studying the effect of rapamycin on aging and age-related diseases, and there have been several reviews describing various aspects of rapamycin on aging. 

In the past 2 years, two groups have specifically tested the feasibility of giving rapamycin to older subjects. As noted above, Mannick et al. [97] found that the rapalog, RAD001, was safe when given to subjects ≥ 65 years of age for 6 weeks; the RAD001-treated group actually showed improved response to influenza vaccination and reduced infections. In a pilot study with subjects 70 to 95 years of age who were otherwise healthy, Kraig et al. found that 8 weeks of rapamycin was safely tolerated, e.g., the subjects showed no changes in cognitive or physical performance and in self-perceived health status. Importantly, they found that rapamycin had no significant effect on glucose tolerance or plasma triglyceride levels.


research is underway studying the effect of rapamycin on companion dogs and marmosets.


So we are in “the cloud of unknowing.” Ten years from now? If there is funding. Human trials are expensive.


~ Nutritional yeast, also known as nooch or “hippie dust,” is a single-cell fungus with incredible nutritional value. It’s made from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a type of yeast used in brewing and baking.

Manufacturers grow S. cerevisiae, deactivate it using heat, and dry it to get the final product. They can select and culture specific strains of yeast for desired nutritional value and properties.

Nutritional yeast is a popular cooking ingredient, especially in vegan dishes as a cheese substitute [I think flakes rather than powder work better as seasoning; I am yet to try the flakes.]

People also use it to boost their immunity, energy levels, and intake of essential nutrients.

Nutritional versus brewer’s yeast

Nutritional and brewer’s yeast are close relatives: they both contain S. cerevisiae, but they slightly differ in the production process, nutritional value, and uses.

Brewer’s yeast is a byproduct of the beer brewing industry, usually grown on hops or grains. People use its dried and deactivated form as a nutritional supplement. Depending on the growth medium, brewer’s yeast may contain gluten.

The food industry grows nutritional yeast for its dietary uses only. The growth medium is glucose or molasses, which makes the final product gluten-free.

Unlike nutritional yeast, brewer’s yeast is naturally rich in chromium, which can help lower blood sugar levels. As such, brewer’s yeast might be a better option for people with diabetes. Nutritional yeast is usually fortified with vitamin B12 and thus more suitable for vegans, who can be at risk of B12 deficiency.

Brewer’s yeast has a bitter taste that many find unpleasant; nutritional yeast has a nutty or cheesy flavor and blends well into various dishes.

In summary: Brewer’s yeast may be more suitable for diabetics, but it has a bitter taste and may contain gluten. Nutritional yeast is usually fortified with vitamin B12, has no gluten, and tastes much better.

Nutritional yeast didn’t get its name by chance— it delivers a blast of high-quality protein, fiber, B vitamins, and minerals. Plus, it has only 60 calories (kcal) per serving with no sugar and cholesterol.

There are two types of nutritional yeast: fortified and unfortified. Fortified products usually contain added vitamin B12, folate, and other B vitamins.


S. cerevisiae used by bakers is naturally rich in folate in the form of tetrahydrofolate and 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (the active form). Nutritional yeast is likely to contain folate in these forms as well.

Natural folate content depends on growth conditions and varies between products; you should always check nutritional labels before assuming that a nutritional yeast product contains enough folate.


Nutritional yeast is rich in:

Mannan-oligosaccharides (MOS) [food for the friendly bacteria]
Nicotinamide riboside
Dietary nucleotides

These nutrients support your gut health and the immune system, and they contribute to a range of nutritional yeast benefits discussed below.

Based on the growing method and conditions, nutritional yeast may also contain:


B-glucans from S. cerevisiae cut cholesterol levels in 15 obese men and caused no side effects. Studies on rats and mice also suggest their cholesterol-lowering potential.

Blood pressure:

Components of nutritional yeast that may help reduce blood pressure include:

Minerals (potassium and magnesium) [36]
Peptides that block angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) [37, 38]
Nicotinamide riboside


Prebiotics (beta-glucans and mannan-oligosaccharides) and cell wall components from S. cerevisiae can support the gut microbiome and help with a range of digestive issues.


Gut health is the cornerstone of robust immunity. By nurturing the gut and shielding it against pathogens, nutritional yeast (S. cerevisiae) can strengthen the immune system.

Two main carbs from nutritional yeast, alpha-mannan and beta-glucan, have immune-boosting properties. They bind to and stimulate the immune cells, making them more efficient against various infections and diseases.

In summary: Beta-glucans, zinc, and other nutritional yeast components boost your immune system, making you more resistant to infections, chronic diseases, and allergies.


Many athletes and active people use nutritional yeast as a natural energy booster. It’s loaded with nutrients that support a healthy mood and energy production.

Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome are often deficient in B vitamins and other nutrients. Products based on S. cerevisiae may improve their nutritional status, enhance cognitive function and mood, and reduce other symptoms.


People allergic to yeasts and molds should skip nutritional yeast. Those with atopic dermatitis (a type of eczema) may also be intolerant to yeasts.

If you have kidney stones or gout, avoid all yeasts. They are high in uric acid and its precursor, purine, which may worsen your condition. Try to limit your intake of yeast-fermented products such as beer, bread, wine, and cheese as well.

Nutritional yeast doesn’t contain gluten, but people with celiac disease (gluten intolerance) or Crohn’s disease may have antibodies to S. cerevisiae. Yeast-based products may worsen symptoms in such patients.

Yeasts are also high in tyramine, which interacts with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), a class of drugs prescribed for depression. People on MAOIs should skip nutritional yeast and other tyramine-rich foods.

ending on beauty:


To your voice, a mysterious virtue,
to the 53 bones of one foot, the four dimensions of breathing,
to pine, redwood, sworn-fern, peppermint,
to hyacinth and bluebell lily,
to the train conductor's donkey on a rope,
to smells of lemons, a boy pissing splendidly against the trees.
Bless each thing on earth until it sickens,
until each ungovernable heart admits: "I confused myself
and yet I loved—and what I loved
I forgot, what I forgot brought glory to my travels,
to you I traveled as close as I dared, Lord.

~ Ilya Kaminsky

(photo below: Anna Stępień)