Maine Writer

Its about people and issues I care about.

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Location: Topsham, MAINE, United States

My blogs are dedicated to the issues I care about. Thank you to all who take the time to read something I've written.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Unfortunately T-Party didn't push John Boehner out

A New York Times op-ed article by conservative writer Peter Wehner seems to breath a political sigh of relief, because the right wing T-Party failed in their "furious" attempt to depose House Speaker John Boehner, "even though he helped 'his party gain its largest majority since the Truman administration'."

Frankly, I'm disappointed in the T-Party (or "Tea Party, whatever name you prefer to use, it's still the proverbial "duck" right wing extremism).  In failing to depose Boehner, the T-Party has likely pulled the Speaker even further to the right than he was inclined to be, otherwise.  Perhaps, if the right wing had succeeded in their efforts, the political "coup" would've released Boehner to be a more compromising statesman.

Wehner doesn't consider this alternative potential outcome in his article.  Although he presents a reasonable (albeit, a somewhat hoity-toity intellectual- marked by an air of assumed importance) argument for why Boehner should remain as the Republican Speaker of the House, his argument doesn't allow for any other option.  Since Wehner longs for the reasonable days "back when" Ronald Reagan was the "sunny optimism" of Republicans, he doesn't see how those were the progressive days of conservative politics. Unless the right wing are brutally up ended, we're doomed to have more of them, like snakes multiplying in a cave, absent "sunny optimism".  By today's political polarizing measures, Ronald Reagan would likely qualify as being a Blue Dog Democrat.

I say, "you go T-Party right wing extremists"....a few months of you people in the political seat could turn Boehner into another Ronald Reagan! Maybe, his conversion would be akin to Paul on the road to Damascus.

This is what Wehner wrote on January 16, 2015 in The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — We live in an era of unusual political polarization, but the polarization isn’t simply between the two parties; there are also splits within them.

Last week the Republican Party’s divisions were on display, when Speaker of the House John A. Boehner — who helped his party gain its largest majority since the Truman administration — faced an uprising. The revolt was led by conservatives against a man whose voting record is unquestionably conservative. It was another indication that the tension on the right these days is not about policy or ideology but tone and temperament.

Mr. Boehner is hardly a perfect leader, but what got him into trouble was less a failure to lead than a failure to fight. The Republican Party is more uniformly conservative than ever. What some on the right are insisting on from Republican leaders, but not getting, is greater confrontation, more strident rhetoric and legislative brinkmanship. Hence the unhappiness.  (Julie's note....where's the "Democracy" in this thinking???)

What informs these demands is an apocalyptic view of American life during the Obama era. America is “very much like Nazi Germany,” in the words of Ben Carson, a Tea Party favorite. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said we had a couple of years to turn this country around or “we go off the cliff to oblivion.” Mark Levin, a popular radio talk show host, warned that Republicans were “endorsing tyranny” if they didn’t support shutting down the government in 2013.

Those of us who are conservative and deeply concerned about the damage inflicted on the country by the president but don’t share this doom-laden view are labeled by some on the right as cowardly and unprincipled. Which raises a significant political and philosophical issue: Is there a conservative disposition? The answer, I think, is that there is, and what I’ve just described is not it.

What often masquerades as conservatism these days is really populism. There is room for populism within conservatism, but it should not define conservatism. In fact, it is often in conflict with it.

Conservatism, for starters, is rooted in human experience. It appreciates the complexity of human society. It believes in a givenness to human nature and in enduring principles, yet it has the capacity to apply those principles to changing circumstances. And because it isn’t a rigid ideology, it leaves itself open to self-examination and self-correction. Authentic conservatism has a high regard for things empirical, for facts that can lead us to better apprehend the truth.

Conservatism is famously anti-utopian, understanding life’s imperfections and the limitations of politics. Knowing this, those on the right shouldn’t become enraged or forlorn when the world itself doesn’t fully conform to their hopes. Conservatism considers one of the cardinal virtues to be prudence. And no conservative — certainly no one familiar with the magnificent history of the Constitution — should be opposed to compromise per se. Whether or not accommodation is wise depends on whether an agreement nudges things in the right direction.

This doesn’t mean that conservatives shouldn’t fight passionately for liberty and justice. Today’s Republicans, for example, should advance a policy agenda that systematically transforms welfare-state programs into a market-friendly safety net. (Julie's note:  did "Scrooge" say this with more honesty?)

Nor does it mean that conservatism is merely a disposition, unconnected to a political theory. It simply means that conservatives should make their case with an urgency balanced by practical wisdom, equanimity and a sense of proportion. Their passion should also be balanced by gratitude.

(Julie's note- I'm certainly not thankful for Boehner's leadership by opposition and obstruction.  He didn't personally bring about a Republican victory. Rather, it was the Democrats who didn't vote 2016, who allowed this leadership debacle to happen.)

Ronald Reagan and the Democratic House Leader Tip O'Neill were friends......both Rest in Peace, along with their effective leadership.

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Evil ISIS (Islamic State) has blown it with Japan and neighbor Jordan

ISIS has not produced evidence of life for captured Jordanian pilot.

If evil ISIS (the non-Islamic State of middle east terrorist militants) has a prisoner to trade, they'd better produce this exchange or risk creating yet another world enemy in their Jordanian neighbor. If ISIS can't produce the Jordanian pilot being held as a captive, who is requested as a trade for a female suicide bomber who's now on death row, then the ISIS militants will have enlisted yet another world enemy in Jordan.

Where's the Jordanian prisoner pilot? Surely, he would've been in the ISIS video with the Japanese prisoner, requesting the release of the (failed) suicide woman bomber, but he's not. Although the Jordanian pilot is generating anti war feelings among his nation, the issue might backfire if the ISIS terrorists are unable to provide proof of life of the two hostages (Japanese and Jordanian).

How hostage pilot drama is feeding an antiwar movement in Jordan

Jordan has refused to pull the trigger on a prisoner swap, saying it lacked proof the pilot held by Islamic State jihadists was still alive. Jordan says its role in the US-led coalition has not diminished.

By Taylor Luck, Correspondent JANUARY 30, 2015

Christian Science Monitor reports:

AMMAN, JORDAN — The ongoing drama of a Jordanian pilot held hostage by the Islamic State has escalated into a political crisis for King Abdullah II, threatening the position of a stalwart US ally and leading player in the coalition against the jihadist group. Jordanians have been gripped by the detention of Lt. Muath Kassasbeh, whose fighter jet crashed near Raqqa, Syria on Dec. 24.

A sunset deadline passed Thursday with the government refusing to pull the trigger on a prisoner swap with the jihadist movement, saying IS had failed to provide proof Lt. Kassasbeh was still alive and well. Rather than blame IS (the evil Islamic State) for the protracted hostage crisis, the public at large and members of the pilot’s family have turned on the government. They are hitting the streets and faulting Amman for putting Jordanians into harm’s way in a war they say is not their own.  

The finger-pointing has given rise to something even stronger: a full-throated antiwar movement.

Rallies in solidarity with Kassasbeh have quickly turned into anti-coalition protests, with participants denouncing the US and its allies as “cowards” who are “using Jordanian blood” to fuel their war against the Islamic State.

Protesters have even gone as far as challenging King Abdullah himself – rallying outside the gates of the Royal Palace and demanding “Abdullah, why are we fighting?” or resorting to more personal jabs such as “Abdullah II, where are you?”

The anti-coalition movement has also flourished online. 

Activists have gathered under an Arabic hashtag on Twitter that translates as #NotOurWar, organizing protests, calling on Jordanian authorities to withdraw from the war against IS, and detailing the civilian deaths caused by coalition bombing runs.  (Note: this is very naive, because ISIS will invade Jordan & these protesters are living in a state of psychological denial to believe otherwise.)

“The hostage crisis has turned public opinion against the war, which was already unpopular to begin with,” says Oraib Rintawi, political analyst and director of the Amman-based Al Quds Center of Political Studies.

Yet perhaps the biggest threat to Jordan’s role in the coalition is posed by Kassasbeh’s family itself.

The pilot’s father, Safi Kassasbeh, has emerged as a sympathetic figure and victim of the conflict. The family has called on Jordan to withdraw from the coalition and has openly questioned coalition leadership over the details surrounding Kassasbeh’s crash-landing.

Kassasbeh hails from the East Bank Bararsheh tribe in the southern province of Karak, the backbone of the Hashemite monarchy’s tribal support, whose members fill the ranks of the military and security services.

Should the Karak tribes move to withdraw their sons from military service or boycott the coalition in protest – as some have threatened in private – the move would cripple the Jordanian Armed Forces and its military and logistical support for the coalition.

In addition to pledging its air force, Jordan has allowed American warplanes to use its airstrips and military bases near its eastern borders as launching pads for strikes in neighboring Syria and Iraq.

The US and its allies have relied heavily on Jordanian intelligence and Amman’s ability to extract information from returning Islamic State fighters, which according to security officials have become a “huge source” of intelligence for coalition operations.

Despite the growing public dissent, Jordan shows little sign of backing down from its war against the Islamic State. According to government sources, Jordanian jets have continued to participate in bombing runs.

King Abdullah vows to stay the course

Abdullah has pledged Jordan’s commitment to fighting religious extremism in public speeches both within Jordan and abroad. In two separate summits with Jordan’s central and southern tribes last month, the monarch sought to convince Jordan’s tribes that the US-led campaign against IS was indeed “our war.”

In fact, Abdullah has intervened personally in the Kassasbeh hostage crisis, reassuring the pilot’s family while following up on government’s efforts to release him.

Yet, as the pilot hostage crisis drags on, anti-war activists say they will not stop until they force the king’s hand.

“We won’t stop at saving Muath, we will continue until we get all the sons of Jordan out of harm’s way,” said Mohammed Abdullah, one of several dozen protesters outside the Royal Palace late Wednesday.

“Jordan will never again spend its blood for the wars of the West.”

(Julie's note- Meanwhile, ISIS seems to patiently await the outcome of this turmoil, but without providint proof of Kassasbeh's life. Is it possible Lt. Kassasbeh tried to escape and was killed in the process? Or, has he just disappeared, altogether?  It seems like evil ISIS would show their prisoner if he were alive. IMO). This hostage situation will backfire on evil ISIS, unless they produce a prisoner exchange.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mrs. Michelle Obama in Saudi Arabia - charisma!

In 2007, I wrote about how impressive it was for women of the world to see Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sitting with Middle East leaders, sans burka. That was 7 years ago and now Mrs. Michelle Obama is exceeding expectations - sans burka encore!

Universally, women are drawn to charismatic feminine fashions. 
Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy is a world class example. In the 1950s and '60s, women didn't need a Fashion 101 course to instantly recognize the charisma Mrs. Kennedy held with the feminine (and masculine, too) psyche.  
Beautiful Mrs. Obama, sans burka, in Saudi Arabia

"Jackie" was like a First Lady paper doll. She complimented everything she wore, including sunglasses, babushkas and jeans.  

Likewise, Mrs. Obama commands the same charisma, with an obvious exception. Mrs. Obama's persona extends beyond the Oleg Cassini high styles. Her gender and race puts her at the top of the charismatic list among women of color in the world, who are decidedly not "Jackie".  

Mrs.Jackie Kennedy in 1962 - fashion for the ages, in Newport 
Rhode Island, in an Oleg Cassini silk gown

There’s a lot of fuss over what Michelle Obama didn’t wear on a visit to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, to offer condolences for the country’s late King Abdullah, along with her husband.

Headlining a story on the First Lady’s choice to bare her hair, the Washington Post wrote, “Make no mistake: Michelle Obama just made a bold political statement in Saudi Arabia.” 

Bloomberg claimed that her choice of attire “quietly but forcefully represented women in a land that refuses to grant them many rights.”

It’s undoubtedly true that Saudi Arabia greatly impinges on basic rights for women. Saudi women are expected to wear long sleeved, full-length abayasand cover their hair with a headscarf. The country’s male guardianship laws keep them from moving about freely without a male relative, and women are further barred from driving.

Foreign women, however, are not legally required to wear the headscarf. Still, the U.S. State Department advises American women against going with them. “Women who choose not to conform to this dress code face risk of confrontation by Mutawwa [Saudi Arabia’s religious police] and possible detention/arrest..

Michelle Obama didn’t heed that warning, but she’s in good company. Neither did Secretary of State Mrs. Hilary Clinton.

No scarf for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, right, and Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled al-Hamad Al-Sabah in March 2012.

First Lady Laura Bush had tea sans headscarf with Saudi King Abdullah at Riyadh Airport in May 2008. (Looks to me like King Abdullah didn't have a problem with Mrs. Bush's hair cover!)

Even Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) praised Michelle Obama on Twitter for “standing up for women”, by not wearing what he called, a “Sharia-mandated head-scarf in Saudi Arabia.” 

Thank you Mrs. Michelle Obama. You have achieved bipartisan and universal praise for your fashion leadership. 

Indeed, women like Mrs. Obama and others have made Saudi Arabian ladies more powerful than ever before, even as the Kingdom suppresses their equality. Just showing up sans burka (headscarf) and "presto" women control of the media! Saudi Arabian women are intelligent...they "get it".

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Russian ex-patriot Mikhail Khodorkovsky - a bloggers response

"Can we blame Russians for wanting to emigrate? When will the regime collapse?" The New Yorker.

There was a period when Russian blog readers were nearly as numerous on Maine Writer as Americans. Quite suddenly, the numbers from Russia on the Google stats dropped from hundreds of hits a day to zero. I suspected the blog was being blocked, but now I'm reading a report in The New Yorker to more or less confirm my suspicions.  Moreover, the Profiles article, "Remote Control: can an exiled oligarch persuade Russia that Putin must go?", by Julia Ioffe (The New Yorker January 12, 2015, p.48-61) describes how President Putin routinely blocks all critical bloggers and puts them in prison.  Ouch!!!!  I take this information personally.

Although I've obviously never met the focus of Ioffe's report, being the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, his vicarious efforts to take Putin's job while operating in Paris, has echoed the precarious economic issues I've identified in my blogs.  

In other words, Putin's government is in economic collapse. Khodorkovsky supports my hypothesis that Putin's days in power are numbered. Nevertheless, Khodorkovsky and I might, also, be victims to fanciful thinking. Unfortunately, Putin continues to be immensely popular with the native Russians who are, more or less, trapped inside Russia, while decades of emigres have drained the nation of progressive reformers.

What the Ioffe report affirms, however, is how social media is a powerful influence for change. Social media is how evil ISIS (Islamic State - which is no state but a terrorism group) recruits sympathizers In my opinion, it's how the US Republican party won the 2016, mid term elections. 

Therefore, this article in The New Yorker offers information for those involved in impacting reform....for good or otherwise.

The New Yorker reports (note- enjoy reading the litany of Russian names LOL):

It's been a year since the guards at a prison camp just below the Arctic Circle told Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oil tycoon and once the richest man in Russia, to pack his things. They put him on a plane to St. Petersburg; there they handed him a parka and a passport and put him on a flight to Berlin. Since that day of release and exile, Khodorkovsky has been living outside Zurich and travelling to capitals throughout the West, making speeches, accepting awards, and hinting broadly at a return to Russia. He will tell anyone who asks that, after a decade in various prison camps, he would not mind displacing the man who sent him there—Vladimir Putin.

One warm, drizzly evening this past September, Khodorkovsky was in Paris, speaking to an audience at the Opéra, on the Place de la Bastille. He is fifty-one now; he’s become stockier since his release, and his graying hair has grown out of the prison buzz cut. He was dressed casually, as always, in jeans and a sweater, and spoke in a quiet, well-mannered voice. Still, as he took questions onstage from a journalist from Le Monde, he displayed none of the modesty of his forebears in dissent. Andrei Sakharov would never have spoken of taking up residence in the Kremlin. “It wouldn’t be interesting for me to be President of the country when the country is developing normally,” Khodorkovsky said. “But if the issue becomes that the country needs to overcome a crisis and undergo constitutional reforms, the main aspect of which is the redistribution of Presidential power to the courts, parliament, and civil society, that part of the job I would be willing to do.”

When it came to Putin, his remarks were sly, glancing. “It’s hard for me to say that I’m thankful,” he said of his release. “But I am glad.” It was quite the understatement from a man who, once estimated by Forbes to be worth more than fifteen billion dollars, had been reduced to a life of manual labor. In the camps, Khodorkovsky never knew if he would ever be released. And when he finally was, in December, 2013, it was as a public-relations gesture before the Sochi Olympics—when Putin still cared about the West’s opinion of him.

That evening in Paris, the audience was thick with Russian émigrés. For more than a century, Paris has been home to waves of Russians in flight. At the end of the nineteenth century, Lenin lived there unhappily; he called the city a “foul hole.” After 1917, he was replaced by the White Russians who had fled his Bolshevik regime. The Russian authorities estimate that nearly two hundred thousand people have left the country in the past year, a record for Putin’s Russia. The figure does not include the unofficial émigrés escaping the increasingly authoritarian atmosphere of Moscow and the deepening economic crisis. They cluster in London, Paris, and New York, and in nearby capitals like Riga and Prague.

When it came to Putin, Khodorkovsky's remarks were sly, glancing. “It’s hard for me to say that I’m thankful,” he said of his release. “But I am glad.” It was quite the understatement from a man who, once estimated by Forbes to be worth more than fifteen billion dollars, had been reduced to a life of manual labor. In the camps, Khodorkovsky never knew if he would ever be released. And when he finally was, in December, 2013, it was as a public-relations gesture before the Sochi Olympics—when Putin still cared about the West’s opinion of him.

That evening in Paris, the audience was thick with Russian émigrés. For more than a century, Paris has been home to waves of Russians in flight. At the end of the nineteenth century, Lenin lived there unhappily; he called the city a “foul hole.” After 1917, he was replaced by the White Russians who had fled his Bolshevik regime. The Russian authorities estimate that nearly two hundred thousand people have left the country in the past year, a record for Putin’s Russia. The figure does not include the unofficial émigrés escaping the increasingly authoritarian atmosphere of Moscow and the deepening economic crisis. They cluster in London, Paris, and New York, and in nearby capitals like Riga and Prague.

In 2011 and early 2012, while Putin was Prime Minister, pro-democracy forces in Moscow staged a series of mass demonstrations, but once he returned to the Presidency, in May, 2012, he cracked down on political opposition and independent media. He has made plain that there is not much room anymore for dissent––not from a former billionaire with political ambitions, like Khodorkovsky, and not from the urban middle class, which had dreamed of transforming Russia into a European-style democracy.

These days, many of those who still agitate for a freer Russia assemble abroad. The editor of, once the most popular news site in Russia, was pushed out because of the site’s reporting on the war in Ukraine; most of the editorial staff resigned in protest. Part of the team moved to Riga, where it has established a new Web operation, called Meduza. Ilya Ponomarev, once a vaguely oppositional figure in the Russian parliament, is now living in San Jose, California. Anna Veduta, the press secretary of the opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner Alexey Navalny, is studying at Columbia University. Navalny’s lieutenant, a banker named Vladimir Ashurkov, is in London, having fled a set of trumped-up criminal charges. Leonid Bershidsky, one of Russia’s most prominent columnists, is writing about Russia’s ills from Berlin. Sergei Guriev, an economist who once advised both the Kremlin and Navalny, now teaches in Paris, at the Institut d’Études Politiques. Rustem Adagamov, one of Russia’s leading bloggers, is in Prague. Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia, a loose affiliation of journalists and activists, has its nerve center there, too.

There is a long history of opposition figures pondering and trying to influence the Russian condition from abroad. In the nineteenth century, Alexander Herzen, a liberal populist living in exile in London and Geneva, published essays in his journal, Kolokol (The Bell). (The tsar, Alexander II, was an ardent reader and eventually agreed to free the serfs.) Leon Trotsky edited Pravdawhile living in Vienna. Lenin, who, after Paris, lived in Zurich, not far from where Khodorkovsky lives now, began publishing his Communist newspaper, Iskra (The Spark), in Germany.

Today, according to one study, Russians spend more hours on social media than does any other nationality. Operations like Meduza and Open Russia can reach many millions, despite the Kremlin’s attempt to shut down access to opposition sites. Khodorkovsky believes that he is well positioned to affect the course of Russia, even from abroad. For one thing, he is rich. Of his original fortune, he is said to have about half a billion dollars left (he himself insists that it’s a hundred million). And although he remains physically cut off from the ferment of Moscow, he has taken to Twitter and Facebook to rally Russians both inside and outside Russia’s borders. The question is whether anyone is listening.

After Khodorkovsky’s talk, I ran into Arina Ginzburg, the wife of the late Alexander Ginzburg, a Soviet-era dissident who, in 1979, was exchanged for two Soviet spies imprisoned in the U.S., and eventually settled in Paris. She had gone to the talk even though she was ill and had been housebound for months. She was surprised by Khodorkovsky’s declaration of intent, but also pleased. “It’s the opening of a second front,” she said. “And I support it.”

In an office near the Bastille, Khodorkovsky was making an attempt––a digital attempt––to lay the groundwork for his political return. Sitting at a desk, he tried to make effective use of a Microsoft tablet and a MacBook Air. He typed awkwardly and read aloud from the tablet, looking up occasionally into a camera that beamed his voice and image to activists in Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Yaroslavl, Yekaterinburg, Barnaul, and other Russian cities via Google Hangout. None of these technologies had been in wide use when he went to prison, in 2003.

The way forward, Khodorkovsky said, was to form a horizontal network among like-minded, Western-leaning Russians—Western “adaptants”—which the state could not easily destroy. He was counting on the ten or fifteen per cent of Russians who fit this category. In some cities, like Moscow and St. Petersburg, he believed, it could be as high as a third. This amounted to a “minority within a minority,” he conceded, but in Russia a progressive, or radical, minority has always been the engine of political change. “It is this network movement for a law-based government, one that is open to its citizens, that I propose to call Open Russia,” he said. He was arrested during a tour for the first iteration of Open Russia, in 2003. He founded the organization, in 2001, as a way of fostering European values in Russia.

The first activist to speak on the Google Hangout was Sergei Aleksashenko, a former deputy finance minister and deputy head of the Russian Central Bank, who fled to Washington in 2013. He warned the virtual attendees that they needed to work toward the “political enlightenment of the population,” not simply talk among themselves. Fyodor Krasheninnikov, the head of the Institute for the Development and Modernization of Public Relations, emphasized, from his office in Yekaterinburg, that it was “impossible to achieve this inside Russia. . . . It has to be done from the outside.” He cited the unfortunate example of the post-Soviet nineteen-nineties, when almost none of those who had emigrated in the seventies and eighties returned home to share with their countrymen what they had learned abroad.

Dmitry Gudkov, a young opposition deputy in the Russian parliament, rattled off a list of the challenges that the activists were facing: Russia, after the annexation of Crimea, had become an international pariah; Western sanctions were stifling economic development; emigration was again bleeding the country of its most educated citizens. “We risk losing as many people in ten, fifteen years as we gained by annexing Crimea,” he said, speaking from Nizhny Novgorod. Russia, he added, was moving toward “catastrophe.”

Then the screen went dark. The connection had been severed––almost certainly by the authorities. Out of a national population of a hundred and forty-three million, about fifteen thousand people were watching the conference. Few were tweeting about the event or writing about it on Facebook. Khodorkovsky pressed on, but almost every other city faced some sort of obstacle. In the second hour, the studio in Nizhny Novgorod was stormed by a few dozen pro-Kremlin activists who had been bused to the event by local police escorts.

The authorities’ exertions made the conference seem far more threatening than what it was: a digital version of the traditional dissident kitchen table, with everyone asking the old familiar questions: Kto vinovat? Chto dyelat’? Who is to blame? What is to be done? Other classics were reprised, too: Is Russia Europe or Asia? How do we enlighten the population? Can we blame Russians for wanting to emigrate? When will the regime collapse?

Activists in Moscow reacted to the Hangout with embarrassment. Maxim Katz, who had been the deputy chair of Navalny’s 2013 mayoral campaign, sent in a question, which Khodorkovsky’s co-host read out loud. “What I see now is a home video recorded on a Web camera with the participation of all the same people that I’ve been seeing for many years, who are saying all the same things,” Katz said. “When are we going to stop whining about our difficult life and the impending collapse, and do something well—for example, a teleconference?”

Khodorkovsky later told me that if he’d seen the same level of chaos and technical incompetence at his old oil company he “would’ve fired everyone.”

Over the past few years, the Russian opposition has grown accustomed to defeat and disarray. On May 6, 2012, a probable police provocation turned a peaceful pro-democracy protest in the center of Moscow into a violent confrontation between unarmed demonstrators and riot police. In two days, nearly a thousand people were arrested, some plucked from cafés and metro stations. Several dozen of those protesters are still in prison.

Putin has taken an aggressively revanchist course. At his direction, the Russian parliament passed anti-gay legislation, a law prohibiting Americans from adopting Russian children, and measures restricting protests and the ability of foreign-funded N.G.O.s to operate inside Russia. One law restricts bloggers and has blocked many anti-Putin Web sites; these are now accessible inside Russia only through proxy servers. Another requires Western Internet companies to store their user data inside Russia—and to turn it over at the government’s request. Still other laws propose to keep critics out of Russia, and a recent measure restricted foreign ownership of media companies. Several editors-in-chief of publications that are critical of the government have been pushed out, and, last January, the Kremlin began what has become a war of attrition against TV Rain, Russia’s last independent national television channel. Putin continues to threaten the preëminent liberal radio station, Echo of Moscow. Navalny, the opposition movement’s de-facto leader, was sentenced to indefinite house arrest, largely banned from using the Internet, and swamped with trumped-up criminal charges. On December 30th, a court in Moscow sentenced Navalny and his brother Oleg to three and a half years in prison. However, it suspended Alexei’s sentence, a maneuver that most believed was intended to deny him the status of a martyr while sidelining him from politics and forcing him to suffer as he sees his brother go off to the camps.

After the Sochi Olympics came the Russian sallies into Ukraine and, with them, the increasingly jingoistic rhetoric from the Kremlin and from state broadcasters. This anti-Western tilt has met with widespread approval among average Russians, and has left Khodorkovsky’s Western “adaptants” feeling increasingly isolated. The state press—following Putin’s lead—refers to them as “national traitors” and as an unpatriotic “fifth column.”

It is unclear to what extent the current economic crisis in Russia will affect politics, Putin, and public opinion. Westernized, urban Russians are watching their high standard of living melt away. Slammed by low oil prices and Western sanctions, the ruble has plummeted to record lows, causing runs on stores. Food prices have spiked; the demand for foreign currency has increased as Russians turn in their rubles and spirit money out of the country. Many are using that cash to buy apartments in European countries that provide residence status for homeowners. The mood in Moscow is verging on desperate, particularly among the elderly and the poor and those who long for new leadership. Navalny certainly can’t lead a movement anymore, at least not for the time being. But can Khodorkovsky?

Now that he is out of prison, he no longer has martyr status or immunity from criticism. “The moment he disappeared from Russian life as a victim, interest in and attention to him waned,” Masha Lipman, an independent political analyst in Moscow, told me. Khodorkovsky hasn’t been a part of daily Russian life for more than a decade. His closest advisers are in exile, too. As Lipman put it, “He doesn’t live here—he doesn’t have a feel for what it’s like. It takes away from his ability to be an alternative authority.”

Still, Khodorkovsky is preparing for a revolution, convinced that Putin, despite his overwhelming popularity and his support inside the military and the security services, will soon fall from power. Khodorkovsky’s efforts may seem quixotic or irrelevant to almost everyone in Russia who bothers to pay attention, and yet he persists. He has people inside Russia organizing activists and preparing them for the 2016 parliamentary elections, even though he doesn’t believe that they will have an effect on real politics in the country. He has launched a Web site where Russian journalists write about the government’s many sins. One of his allies is busy working on a post-Putin constitution. Less than a year out of prison, Khodorkovsky has grandly declared that he would guarantee Putin’s safety if he left power peacefully.

“When the moment comes, the leftists will be organized, the neo-Nazis will be organized, and Putin will have the special services at his disposal,” an Open Russia activist told me. “And, when it’s go time, we want to have our hundred thousand people in the mix, too.”

At a press conference held by Putin on December 18th, a day before the one-year anniversary of Khodorkovsky’s release, a journalist asked Putin if he regretted the decision. In a letter to Putin last year, Khodorkovsky asked for clemency, and volunteered that he wouldn’t get involved in politics should Putin let him out. Had Khodorkovsky violated the deal? “It is true, Mr. Khodorkovsky applied for clemency,” Putin said. “And it seemed that he wasn’t going to get involved in politics.” But that wasn’t why Putin released him. “I made the decision on humanitarian grounds. He wrote then that his mother was seriously ill,” Putin went on. (Khodorkovsky’s mother had been given a diagnosis of terminal cancer; she died in August.) “And, you know, a mother—that’s sacred. And I say that without the least bit of sarcasm.”

As for Khodorkovsky’s political ambitions, well, “that’s his choice,” Putin said. “He has the right, just like any citizen of the Russian Federation.” He added, “Godspeed. Let him work.”

After a long day in Paris spent talking to Russian activists and discussing his Presidential ambitions, Khodorkovsky and a few members of his team made their way to Brasserie Lipp, the French establishment’s old standby across town, on Boulevard-Saint-Germain. Khodorkovsky skipped the Bordeaux and foie gras, ordering instead a large glass of vodka and herring with potatoes. He was happy and relaxed. His thoughts were turning to an upcoming trip to New York and Washington. Since he’d already declared his desire to run Russia, someone at the table asked him a question posed to all contemporary politicians: how did he feel about gay marriage? “You know, people are like lemmings,” Khodorkovsky said, his eyes twinkling behind rimless glasses. “Whenever there get to be too many of them, they always find ways of limiting their reproduction.”

Khodorkovsky offered opinions on a number of issues that evening. He thought Obama was too much of a lawyer. He told a couple of salty stories from tyuryaga, “the clink.” He recalled with fondness an old acquaintance, the unfortunate Kenneth Lay, the late C.E.O. of Enron, who was, in Khodorkovsky’s estimation, a thumbs-up kind of guy. The whistle-blowers in that case outraged him: why did people glorify cowardly spies and traitors, and put them on magazine covers?

Maria Logan, one of Khodorkovsky’s lawyers, who was in charge of dealing with foreign reporters, looked increasingly pained as her eyes darted from Khodorkovsky to me and back again. “Mikhail Borisovich,” she said, with a strained laugh, “we need to talk—especially before your trip to America!”

For a prisoner of conscience, Khodorkovsky did not have an especially principled youth. Born in 1963, he grew up in a communal apartment in Moscow. He studied at the Mendeleev Institute of Chemistry and Technology, where, like nearly everyone else, he joined the Komsomol, the Communist Youth League. Many of his peers who are now in the opposition merely tolerated the Komsomol, mainly to keep from being expelled from university. Khodorkovsky saw it as a career opportunity and rose to become the deputy head of the Komsomol at the institute. “If I had met him in the eighties, I would’ve crossed the street,” Natalia Gevorkyan, a well-regarded Russian journalist, told me. She got to know Khodorkovsky when she was covering the emerging class of oligarchs in the nineties. Khodorkovsky has since hired her as a consultant.

He didn’t see the problem, and still doesn’t. “I believed in the Party without cluttering my brain with ‘ideologies,’ ” he says, in “Prison and Freedom,” a memoir on which he collaborated with Gevorkyan while he was in prison.  He compares political ideology to a computer’s operating system—what’s the difference, really?—and says that in his youth he “didn’t know about the dissidents.”

Khodorkovsky told the journalist Chrystia Freeland that all he ever wanted was to become a “red director,” the manager of a large Soviet factory. His father is Jewish, so that career path was unrealistic, but Khodorkovsky learned how to exploit a loophole in the changing way that the Soviet Union financed itself, and that was how he made his fortune. The scheme was described by David Hoffman, then the Washington Post’s Moscow bureau chief, in his book “The Oligarchs.” In 1987, a year after graduating from the institute, Khodorkovsky used his Komsomol connections to get seed capital and open a small business. It took the largely useless virtual credits that the central planners issued to Soviet factories and converted them into highly valuable hard currency. By 1988, when the average salary in the Soviet Union was around a hundred rubles a month, Khodorkovsky’s firm was raking in millions. With two and a half million rubles, he founded Menatep Bank.

By 1989, he had opened an offshore bank account in Switzerland, one of the first of the Russian oligarchs to do so. (Khodorkovsky denies this, saying that he didn’t open his first personal account in the West until 1997.) Through Menatep, Freeland writes, in her book “Sale of the Century,” Khodorkovsky and his business partners bought computers abroad and sold them at home for many times their original value. He also began to import other goods—fake Napoleon cognac, stonewashed jeans—with which he laundered Soviet credits, transforming them into cash. He was exploiting the very system he had served as a Komsomol leader.

In 1992, just after the Soviet Union fell, Khodorkovsky and his partners published a manifesto called “Man with a Ruble,” which declared, “Our compass is profit. Our idol is the financial majesty, capital.” In an interview with the Miami Herald, he said that although he had once been a fervent believer in Communism, he had undergone a “total rethink.” He said, “If the old Mikhail had met the new one, he would have shot him.”

Boris Yeltsin’s post-Soviet government implemented radical market reforms but instituted almost no legal structure to control them. Khodorkovsky was perfectly positioned to take advantage. Menatep became an official bank for the Russian Ministry of Finance. Here, too, Khodorkovsky identified a lucrative loophole. One of his lieutenants at Menatep bragged about the scheme to Hoffman. The Ministry of Finance would deposit, say, six hundred million dollars in Menatep Bank, to be disbursed to pay salaries in the regions. Menatep would delay those payments and funnel the six hundred million into high-yield investments for three weeks. In that time, salaries in the regions went unpaid, but Menatep earned millions on the investment. (Khodorkovsky denied this, saying that three weeks was a normal amount of time for a transfer in those days.)

Khodorkovsky began to amass the bulk of his wealth in 1995, when the oligarchs devised a scheme by which their banks lent money to the Yeltsin government, which was desperate for cash. In exchange for the loan, the banks would hold shares of handpicked state enterprises as collateral. If the government defaulted on the loans, as everyone involved knew it would, the banks would be allowed to sell off the collateral in order to recover their money. Khodorkovsky, who had set his sights on the oil enterprises that were unified under the name Yukos, lent the government $159 million in exchange for forty-five per cent of Yukos. When the government inevitably defaulted, Menatep organized an auction to sell off the collateral––Yukos. With some maneuvering, Khodorkovsky was able to shut foreign investors out of an initial auction, and then disqualified a troika of domestic participants. When the auction was over, Hoffman writes, a Menatep affiliate was the owner of a controlling stake in Yukos that it had purchased at an extreme discount. Khodorkovsky disputes this account, claiming that he turned a rotting Soviet enterprise around: two years later, Yukos, a company that Menatep had effectively sold to itself, was valued at nine billion dollars.

Khodorkovsky was thirty-four. After acquiring Yukos, he sent his enforcers to establish control of the extraction companies. Then, according to an article published in Foreign Affairs, in 2000, by Lee Wolosky, who was at the time the deputy director of the Economic Task Force on Russia at the Council on Foreign Relations, Yukos began using a tactic called transfer pricing. Yukos would buy oil from the extraction companies at an artificially low price and sell it abroad at the much higher market price. In early 1999, Yukos bought two hundred and forty million barrels of oil from its subsidiaries for $1.70 a barrel. It sold the oil abroad for fifteen dollars a barrel. In the first half of that year alone, according to Wolosky, Yukos made eight hundred million dollars. Khodorkovsky says that this was not illegal under Russian law at the time, and that these estimates don’t take into account duties and other costs.

Very little of this wealth was making it back to the parts of the country that were producing it. Instead of paying taxes, which could have been used to repair the decaying Soviet infrastructure, Khodorkovsky and his colleagues were depositing the funds in an offshore network.
“Whole regions of Russia are being impoverished” by such tactics, Wolosky wrote.

Vladimir Petukhov, the mayor of Neftyugansk, where Yukos had its main production facility, appealed to the Kremlin to investigate Yukos’s practices. In May, 1998, he led a protest in Neftyugansk that disrupted a Yukos shareholders’ meeting. Several weeks later, he was shot to death on the street. Police labelled the murder a contract killing. Khodorkovsky has consistently denied any role in Petukhov’s death and has never been charged with the murder. His former chief of security, however, is serving a life sentence for it, as well as for one other murder and two attempted murders. Leonid Nevzlin, a former business partner of Khodorkovsky’s, who moved to Israel in 2003, was convicted in absentia in 2008 for Petukhov’s murder, among others. Nevzlin dismisses the convictions as charades—a reasonable claim, given the political nature of the cases.

When, in 1998, the Russian government defaulted on its debt, provoking a severe economic crisis, Yukos barely survived. According to Hoffman, Khodorkovsky was deeply in debt to Western banks, and he dodged his creditors. One of his tactics involved the transfer of almost all Yukos’s assets to obscure shell companies, which left his American shareholders and his Western creditors holding only the company’s debt. Another involved flooding the market with millions of new Yukos shares, diluting Western shareholders out of existence.

The 1998 financial crisis pushed Khodorkovsky to another “total rethink.” He realized that he had to insulate himself and insure that he would be able to keep his wealth. He decided to sell Yukos to one of the big Western oil companies. To do that, though, Yukos had to become the kind of outfit that a publicly traded company like Shell or BP could buy. Khodorkovsky began to peel back the layers of the company that he had designed to be inscrutable. He opened Yukos’s books, distributed dividends to his investors for the first time, and paid his taxes.

He also began to try to change the context in which Yukos existed, to make Russia more transparent and predictable to Western investors. While engaged in talks with Chevron, Khodorkovsky launched Open Russia. To this day, he is not shy about his motives. “Our position was that, in order for our capitalization to grow, we needed a more transparent political system,” he told me.

Although Putin came to power promising to rein in the oligarchs, he disliked Khodorkovsky’s new direction, according to Natalia Gevorkyan, who helped conduct the interviews with Putin that make up his autobiography, “First Person.” After being elected to the Presidency, in 2000, Putin began to surround himself with K.G.B. alumni and friends from St. Petersburg, men who had fallen behind in the nineties. Now that they were in power, the imposition of legal structures and transparency was not in their interest; it would only prevent them from amassing the sort of wealth that Khodorkovsky had.

By 2002, Putin had driven two powerful oligarchs––Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky––out of the country and seized their media assets. According to Nevzlin, Khodorkovsky didn’t understand the signals the Kremlin was sending: show fealty or leave. On February 20, 2003, at a business round-table with Putin, Khodorkovsky pointed to a questionable deal that had caught his attention as an oilman. He implied that Igor Sechin, an old friend of Putin’s who was also in the K.G.B., had enriched himself through the deal. When Khodorkovsky asked Putin to look into it, Putin snapped, “Yukos has excess reserves, and how did it get them?” The message was clear: you got yours, now stay out of the way as we get ours.

In the months that followed, Yukos’s offices were raided by the prosecutor general’s office. That summer, shortly after Khodorkovsky’s fortieth birthday, his lieutenant Platon Lebedev was arrested. Yukos employees fled the country, and Khodorkovsky’s friends and lawyers advised him to do the same. He refused. “Hiding, weaving conspiracies, sitting in the bushes, perhaps that was the right course of action,” he writes in his memoir, “but I don’t know how to live like that and I don’t want to.”

When secret-police commandos stormed his private jet at five in the morning during a refuelling stop in Siberia, Khodorkovsky told me, he felt “total relaxation.” He was charged with fraud and tax evasion that had allegedly cost the state billions of dollars, and was facing a possible ten-year prison sentence. Within a few years, the Kremlin dismantled Yukos and handed it over to Sechin, who became Russia’s new oil czar. At a hearing the day after Khodorkovsky’s arrest, the judge ordered him held without bail. The eventual trial, everyone knew, would be stage-managed from the start by Putin. Khodorkovsky turned to his lawyer, handed him his watch and his wedding ring, and said, “It’s O.K. This is an important experience, too.”

Khodorkovsky was sentenced to nine years in prison, and was sent first to a labor camp near the Chinese border. The camp is situated on a blustery, dusty steppe where temperatures can drop to -30° centigrade. The Russian prison system has changed little since the days of the Gulag, an observation that Khodorkovsky made in “Prison and Freedom.” “The prisoner is not quite a person,” he writes. “Rather, he is chattel whose value to its ‘owner’ has increased markedly from the first half of the last century. That is, you shouldn’t kill him, but you can and should beat him. You shouldn’t starve him, but neither should you spend too much time thinking about the quality of the food.”

Despite the dubious business dealings and the less than altruistic push to democratize Russia, Khodorkovsky became Russia’s most famous political prisoner. For years, his lawyers smuggled to Russian and Western newspapers high-minded treatises that he had written. Khodorkovsky also funded an effective public-relations operation, with representatives all over the world. He exchanged letters with well-known liberal intellectuals such as the novelists Boris Akunin and Lyudmila Ulitskaya and the Polish dissident Adam Michnik. Whenever Khodorkovsky’s lawyers had a hearing in Moscow, crowds of supporters showed up to rally at the courthouse. Suddenly, the man who nearly everyone believed had fleeced the country of billions had become for Russian liberals a symbol of Kremlin persecution.

In his memoir, Khodorkovsky describes how, even in prison, he was the master of his fate and his surroundings. When he arrived, the camp administrator addressed him using the informal ty. “I didn’t say anything, and just looked at him, puzzled,” Khodorkovsky writes. The administrator quickly switched to the formal vy. Khodorkovsky claims to have had good relationships with every rank of prisoner—from the shadow “authorities” to the snitches. He fought camp administrators by making official complaints and going on hunger strikes.

On instructions from Moscow, Khodorkovsky was put to work in the sewing factory, making uniforms for Russian officialdom. The modern Gulag produces a billion dollars’ worth of goods annually, using inmates as slave labor. The daily quotas are often too big to fill, even when prisoners work around the clock. (Unfilled quotas result in punishment, often corporal.) “I looked at the equipment and decided: it’s a trap,” Khodorkovsky writes. “You can’t fill the quota on these machines, the quality of the stitch is crap. It’s a setup.” So he wrote an official complaint and purposely failed the sewing exam. He was transferred to a job on the loading docks, a position that he found acceptable.

Once, while Khodorkovsky was asleep, his cellmate stabbed him in the face. “Boy, was there a lot of blood,” Khodorkovsky writes. This kind of stubborn persistence and nonchalance impressed his admirers. “The penal colony isn’t scary,” he observed. “It’s full of average people, and your place in that world depends on you, and more on will than on strength. You can’t be scared. The result is a vile and filthy life that is worse than death. And death, well, what is death? The risk is low, just two or three per thousand inmates a year.”

He began to observe the prison colony from the vantage point of an anthropologist. “I didn’t have strong emotions, not for the prosecutors, not for Putin, not for Sechin,” he writes. “It was all like autumn rain: an unpleasant phenomenon of nature, nothing more.”

At one point, he notes that, while repatriation after five years in jail would be difficult, after ten it would be impossible: “In most cases, the human psyche is distorted irreversibly.”

The day after his appearance at the Opéra, Khodorkovsky met with Vera Krichevskaya, the well-known Moscow television director and one of the founders of the independent TV Rain. Slowly squeezed out of the business for her oppositional views, Krichevskaya is effectively blacklisted in Moscow and now lives in London. She corresponded with Khodorkovsky while he was in prison and, after his release, gave him a crash course in what he had missed. He kept asking about newspapers. She explained Huffington Post and BuzzFeed. He wanted to create a television channel; Krichevskaya insisted that he do something digital. O.K., he liked BuzzFeed, could they do a BuzzFeed Russia? Krichevskaya got in touch with BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed politely declined.

In Paris, they discussed a new media startup, sources present at the meeting confirmed to me, but Krichevskaya and her team were uneasy: Khodorkovsky wanted to be part of the editorial process.

Earlier this year, Khodorkovsky opened negotiations to become an investor in Meduza, the new media outlet based in Riga. The staff feared that his involvement would get them branded as an opposition organization, rather than as an independent publication. One person close to the project said, “He’s a toxic investor.” It is a worry that others have expressed privately as Khodorkovsky has tried to recruit them for Open Russia: when you’ve spent all this time fighting for independence from the Kremlin, why become the pawn of a man with such obvious ambitions? Some complain that his views of journalists haven’t changed much since the nineties, when reporters could be bought and sold, and “hit” pieces could be ginned up for the right price.

If the Russian majority has been trained to think of Khodorkovsky as a fat cat who robbed the nation, the liberals who supported him while he was in prison feel free to criticize him now that he is out. Some are wary that his old business habits could leach into his organization. When Open Russia hosts an event in Russia, for example, it makes local activists pay for the space. Open Russia also doesn’t pay most of the people who work for it, insisting that they are volunteers.

Even Khodorkovsky’s allies are concerned that, for someone with such grand political ambitions, he does not yet have an entirely firm grasp of the issues. According to one adviser, Khodorkovsky believes that the United States is a parliamentary democracy, nor does he seem to understand with any real precision how democracies and their institutions work. He doesn’t speak or read any language but Russian with any fluency, which helps give him a narrower, and sometimes inaccurate, view of the world. He doesn’t fully understand modern politics and economics, but thinks he does, because he once ran a huge Russian company. “When he speaks about oil, he’s very sure of himself, and that’s not the case when he talks about politics,” Guriev, the exiled Russian economist, told me in September. He has tried, delicately, to steer Khodorkovsky in the right direction, suggesting books to read, correcting him when he’s wrong. And he has made progress, Guriev says.

The sense that Khodorkovsky is often out of touch, paired with his vaulting ambition, makes some of his supporters anxious. When I met with Krichevskaya at a Paris café after her meeting with Khodorkovsky, she was hesitant about the prospect of building a media portal on the terms that he proposed. “I don’t want to do propaganda,” she told me. “I have no desire to participate in the war.” In the end, she pulled out of the project.

A couple of weeks later, in early October, Khodorkovsky went on a political tour of Washington and New York. He gave the keynote speech at a meeting of Freedom House, in Washington. He dined with Washington’s foreign-policy establishment and complained about what he saw as the Obama Administration’s weakness in the face of Putin’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy. 

In New York, at the Council on Foreign Relations, he appealed to the U.S. to return to a position of moral strength, recalling the simple verities of the Cold War, when Russians saw in the West “a sort of moral example for ourselves.”

One morning, I joined Khodorkovsky as he travelled from Washington to New York, on the Acela. The speech he had given at Freedom House was getting some play in the Russian blogosphere, and he was pleased that he had said some “non-politically correct things” to the famously sensitive Americans.

It was 10 A.M., and Khodorkovsky had already polished off a can of Red Bull. He was lively, charming, and vague. What did he have in mind for Russia? He was looking for “points of consolidation.” He wanted to unite the ten or fifteen per cent of Russians who are Western “adaptants,” without alienating the other hundred and forty million people in Russia.

I asked Khodorkovsky if he was hatching a coup. The Russian people, he said, “are not ready for a coup.” He sounded both resigned and disappointed. He would try to help keep things from getting worse in Russia, but that was not the way to improve the lot of Russian liberals. “The only way to improve things is through violent methods,” he explained, smiling, as if he had reached the satisfying end of a mathematical proof. “You—we all—are not ready for these methods. So then let’s agree that we’re going to use the methods we can use in order not to worsen our situation.

He went on, “The key question that the Kremlin is posing to society is: If not us, who? And society, spooked by the nineties, is afraid of not having an answer to this question.” He added, “ It’s spooked by the fact that, because of the crisis of management, we got what we got.”

I asked him if he felt at all responsible for what happened in the nineties. “Oh, come on,” he said. “This theme of ‘feeling guilt’ or ‘you’re not feeling guilty.’ Let’s drop to our knees and start repenting. Look, I was not part of the system of management, for understandable reasons.”

If Khodorkovsky has a political future, it will depend both on the clarity of his vision and on whether people feel that he has been cleansed and changed by a decade in prison. 

Almost everyone in Russia associates him with the chaos and exploitation of the nineties; many blame him for degrading the idea of private enterprise and for helping to create a popular desire for a strong hand—a Putin. And yet he is unapologetic. “When people say, ‘It was impossible to live back then without violating the law,’ I say, ‘Come on, don’t make me out for a fool,’ ” he said, with a sneer. “When there are so few laws and they’re so imperfect, you have to be a total idiot not to be able to find a way to do what you want without violating the existing laws.”

He had only taken colossal advantage of a nearly lawless landscape. “Back then, I didn’t grasp the fact that people of a slightly older generation than me simply couldn’t adequately assess the opportunities in front of them,” he said. “In this case, we are—or I was—also victims of the same problem. Because we got property but in a flawed way.”

When I asked him about Putin, he replied, “There were a couple of instances in prison when I said, ‘It’s better for you to not do this, because if you do this, you’d better kill me.’ ” As he spoke, his voice diminished nearly to a whisper. Employees of Yukos used to say that, when you can barely hear Khodorkovsky, that’s when he is at his angriest. “I just don’t like games without rules. Either you play by the rules or you play without rules. There’s no middle ground.”

Khodorkovsky believes that his life may be in peril. 

“I am the personal enemy of Putin, and he is the only one who can give that command,” he said as the train approached Penn Station. Khodorkovsky’s tough speech in Washington had been published, and there had been threats. 

The fact that Khodorkovsky felt danger so keenly himself removed any compunction about asking other Russians to risk something. His pattern of remaking himself was unchanged. He was ready for revolution, even if few others were ready to join. “O.K., I did ten years—it’s not the end of the world,” he said. “I’ve started from scratch several times. It’s not the end of the world.” ♦

Julia Ioffe has written about Russia for many publications, including The New Yorker, where she published a profile of Alexey Navalny. 

Khodorkovsky went on, “We weren’t the Rockefellers, but we weren’t modern Americans, either.”

As for his sins, he said, “My answer is very simple: ‘Guys, I’ve done my time. And other people’s time. And done time for all your notions of morality.’ And, to those who say I should’ve done more time, you try doing ten years. But I have the kind of experience that a lot of people don’t. I have managerial experience, I have the experience of managing in a crisis, I have the experience of surviving in a complicated situation, and look: success, success, success, success. Yes, in the confrontation with the machine of state, I lost. I apologize for that.” He looked at me, pleased with his answer, and crushed the empty Red Bull can.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Mosquitoes - being from Maine this subject is a big deal

:....but some residents are frightened..." Florida MySuncoast WWSB Channel 7.

An article titled "The Mosquito Solution", by Michael Specter, published in the July 9, 2012 edition of The New Yorker naturally raised my awareness. Ferocious Maine bred mosquitoes have a reputation for being big and ruthless. Thank goodness for our outdoor "mosquito magnet", because, otherwise, we simply couldn't enjoy the state's slogan, "the way life should be", unless we showered daily in summer bug repellent. 

Here's a succinct "twitter" type synopsis of Specter's article: European scientists reduced the incidence of mosquito born sicknesses in developing countries with genetically modified insects, but many affluent Floridians are fearful of the frankenbugs.

Now, Florida is reporting how the state's beautiful Keys proposes to implement the science described by The Mosquito Solution

What's blog worthy about this story and the proposed implementation of the technology to kill mosquitoes are how the story is reported as not, necessarily, a good thing to do. 

Ba-humbug! News reports about mosquito killing technology are setting people up to be more fearful of being bitten by genetically modified mosquitoes than they are of becoming infected with dengue fever! 

Here's how it works. Scientists figured out a way (described in The New Yorker) to genetically modify particular species of mosquitoes so they're unable to reproduce.  Tadaaaaa! 

Communities in developing countries, like Brazil, for example, embraced this experimental technology with positive outcomes. Yet, affluent Floridians say "not so fast". Weirdly inverse correlation.

Florida's ABC affiliate MySuncoast WWSB Channel 7 reports:
Associated Press
KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — Millions of genetically modified mosquitoes could be released in the Florida Keys if British researchers win approval to use the bugs against two extremely painful viral diseases.

The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District is waiting to hear if the Food and Drug Administration will allow them to run an experiment in Key West to see if the modified bugs can suppress the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which spread dengue and chikungunya.

Mosquito controllers say they're running out of options because most approved insecticides are no longer effective against Aedes aegypti.

The British company Oxitec has built a breeding lab in Marathon and hopes to release its mosquitoes this spring, if approved by the Food and Drug Administration. But some residents are frightened at the thought of being bitten by genetically modified organisms.

Hey! Listen up readers! Side effects of anti-mosquito chemicals are likely more toxic than the venom from genetically modified mosquitoes. 

I can't, for the life of me, understand why anybody would want to protect chemical death for mosquitoes, rather than support their genetically modified extinction. "There has never been a more effective killing machine," reported Specter.

If Florida's Keys can eliminate the risk of mosquito born illnesses carried by the Aedes aegypti, which is endemic to the region, then I predict tourism will become even more of an attraction. Obviously, property values....well....could become the most expensive place on earth to live.  

Nevertheless, the next scientific achievement for the Florida Keys would need to figure out a way to prevent hurricanes. But, first, let's get those affluent Floridians to accept one scientific advancement at a time.  

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Evil ISIS is determined to incite a declared World War

Evil Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists are consumed by desperation and anger. As if this horrific extremist group doesn't have enough world enemies, they've now targeted 2 captured Japanese citizens for execution. BBCNews claims Haruna Yukawa, sadly, has already been murdered.  

It's impossible to understand how the evil ISIS leadership expects to achieve the group's sadistic goals, when they're desperately alienating peaceful Japan against them, by executing Japanese non-combatants.

Meanwhile, where is the evil ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi?
A few weeks ago, it was rumored he was wounded in an air attack. Certainly, his grossly flamboyant presence hasn't been seen since the reports of his injuries were reported.

On 4 October 2011, al-Baghdadi was listed by the US State Department as a global terrorist. A reward of up to US$10 million for information leading to his capture or death was offered. Only the leader of al-QaedaAyman al-Zawahiri, merits a larger reward (US$25 million). It seems to me, if evil ISIS is seeking ransom, money out of desperation, because they're obviously running out of innocent non-combatant hostages to execute, they ought to sell off their now invisible leader. He isn't of much use, anyway.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denounced a video of Yukawa's killing as "absurd and unforgivable", following an emergency cabinet meeting. Mr Abe said Japan "will not give in to terrorism".

If ISIS has really executed an innocent Japanese citizen, the ramifications will be to raise the ire of the peaceful nation to spark a true World War.  There's certainly an innate trueism in the slogan about fighting ISIS in the Middle East or fighting them at home.  

In other words, fighting them at home now includes Canada, the United States, England, Australia, France and now Japan.

Therefore, we might as well muster the collective energies of these nations to destroy ISIS where they are located.  We can no longer worry about civilian casualties because ISIS certainly will not give any clemency to any allies who oppose their nefarious zealous objectives. 

It's time for the world to declare war on ISIS and wipes them out, regardless of how many civilians are caught up in the turmoil.  

In fact, I suggest mustering an army from among the million plus Syrian refugees, who are living in tents, while suffering the loss of their homes and families. 

Our world will be consumed by evil ISIS until they are eradicated. 

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

"....this is not ISIS" said Tom Brady- US News Media should report on ISIS


Here's the news! ISIS fighters are being taken out, CNN reports.

Probably, the most honest response from Tom Brady about the under inflated footballs used during the January 18th win in the AFC Championship came when he said the story "is not ISIS".

Professional football's integrity is obviously being questioned with the breaking story about deflated game footballs during the American Football Conference (AFC) championship game in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Nevertheless, the media frenzy is truly misplaced. It's difficult to believe the game's footballs were tampered with, after NFL referees inspected the balls. In my opinion, maybe the referees were complicit in this situation.  

Meanwhile, quarterback Tom Brady put the story about 11 under-inflated footballs into perspective. "This isn't ISIS," said Brady in a news conference. He said the deflated footballs came as a complete surprise to him until the news broke on Monday (January 19th) morning. Patriots Coach Bellichick said likewise.

While American news media created a brouhaha about the under inflated footballs, no evidence was put forth about who or what could've happened. Referees were supposed to examine the footballs. Were those footballs under inflated when they were examined? No one is saying anything, yet, about how the referees were involved in the under inflated footballs.  

But, as Tom Brady said, the ISIS threat to world peace continues to grow, while the news media is frenzied about footballs. 

He's right. Now the evil ISIS is raising the ire of the peaceful Japanese, by cruelly threatening to kill two of their citizens, if ransom money isn't forthcoming. Obviously, the ISIS threat is more important than football.

CNN reports: Washington (CNN) The coalition fighting ISIS has killed more than 6,000 fighters, including half of the top command of the terror group, U.S. diplomatic officials said Thursday.

The number of fighters killed has not been publicly discussed before but was disclosed by the U.S. ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones, who told Al Arabiya television earlier in the day that an estimated 6,000 fighters have been killed. Jones said the military effort was having a "devastating" impact on ISIS.

The estimate was calculated by U.S. Central Command and finds ISIS fighters have been killed in Iraq and Syria by coalition airstrikes, according to a U.S. military official. Apparently, CENTCOM keeps a running estimate of fighters killed, but has not made it public.

U.S. intelligence estimates that ISIS has a total force of somewhere between 9,000 to 18,000 fighters. However, it is also believed the group can draw on thousands of other fighters whose loyalty shifts and could muster a force upwards of 31,000 total.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, would not confirm the 6,000 deaths estimate, instead saying "thousands" have been killed.

On whether the body count is a sign of progress, Hagel said, "It's a measure but I don't think it's the measure."

"I was in a war where we did body counts and we lost that one," Hagel said, referring to his service in Vietnam.

Until now, the Pentagon has stayed away discussing the matter, other than to estimate that thousands of fighters may have been killed. Speaking to reporters Thursday, Rear Admiral John Kirby was adamant that the US is not keeping a "body count," and said it would be wrong to state that there is such a count. He called it a 'tally" and said the notion of a body count suggests Vietnam War era statistics. In that war the Pentagon offered body counts as a measure of its success against the Viet Cong. Kirby said the tally was not aimed at showing any metric of success against ISIS.

All of this comes after Iraq has criticized the U.S. for not doing enough to help their fight against ISIS. The U.S. has long said airstrikes are aimed at degrading ISIS as a threat, but would not by themselves get rid of the organization.

Secretary of State Kerry, speaking to reporters in London, echoed the U.S. ambassador in saying the strikes have "halted" ISIS momentum, and reclaimed "more than 700 square kilometers" from ISIS in Iraq.

In Iraq, airstrikes around Mosul have been stepped up significantly in support of Peshmerga fighters on the advance in the region. The effort now is to cut a key ISIS supply line into Mosul, a US military official said.

Although I'm not trying to exonerate Quarterback Tom Brady or his Patriots coach Bill Bellichick, the fact is, this brouhaha needs more evidence. While the professional football investigators are silent about who might be responsible for the under inflated footballs, the ISIS terror continues to threaten millions of innocent people in Syria, Iran and Iraq....and beyond.  

Media attention should be focused on facts, rather than the air pressure in footballs.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Global warming and climate change is a health care issue

While politicians are debating whether or not global warming is real, the fact is, scientists are putting forth evidence of how humans are being impacted by the realities. Health care is among these important considerations.  This is an excellent editorial published in Modern Health Care but posted on #twitter in response to President Obama's support for the impact of Global Warming while Republicans harrumphed:

"No one has tied the African Ebola outbreak, or the sudden reappearance of enterovirus D-68 after a half century hiatus, to climate change. But in the latter case, there may be a correlation with the spike in pediatric hospitalizations because of the disease."

Our misplaced disease preparedness priorities

By Merrill Goozner | September 13, 2014

For years, infectious-disease specialists have warned public health officials to begin preparing for unexpected outbreaks of microbial infections due to climate change. The spate of outbreaks this summer is a stark reminder to the political leaders, who control the government's purse strings. The time for ignoring these warnings is past.

The prolonged drought in California has triggered a major outbreak of West Nile virus, where there have been nearly 200 documented cases this year and at least three deaths attributed to the vector-borne disease. Droughts drive birds, which carry the virus, and mosquitoes, which spread it, to mingle at a reduced number of watering holes, which under drought conditions are often found only in crowded urban and suburban settings where people also happen to gather.

Dengue fever, another mosquito-borne virus that was eliminated in the U.S. over 70 years ago, has been reintroduced here with outbreaks reported in South Florida, along the Mexican border and in Hawaii. Incidence of the painful disease is booming across the globe, according to the World Health Organization, with between 50 million and 100 million cases and 12,000 deaths reported in 2012, a 30-fold increase over the previous year.

Malaria has long been one of the major scourges devastating the poorer sections of the developing world. A global campaign to eradicate the disease has made major inroads in recent years using new drugs, bed nets and other public health and mosquito-control measures. But the disease is now showing up in parts of the world—such as the highlands of East Africa—where it had never appeared before.

No one has tied the African Ebola outbreak, or the sudden reappearance of enterovirus D-68 after a half century hiatus, to climate change. But in the latter case, there may be a correlation with the spike in pediatric hospitalizations because of the disease.

Asthmatic children infected with EV-D68 are most at risk of severe breathing problems that can lead to emergency department visits and hospitalization. The incidence of asthma has increased by 17% over the past decade and now affects 1 in 12 Americans. Many experts attribute rising asthma incidence to the increase in airborne pollutants from fossil fuels and higher pollen levels, which are the cause and an effect of climate change.

Given this spate of infectious disease outbreaks and the growing resistance of “superbugs” to our aging armamentarium of antibiotics, it's clear the U.S. needs to beef up its public health infrastructure to prepare for an era when major and minor pandemics are more common. Yet that is not where the government's main attention has been focused.

Last week, the nation paused to remember 9/11, which led to a permanent war on terror. Less remembered from those days is the nation's reaction to an anthrax attack that followed the twin towers attack within weeks and turned out to be the work of a rogue scientist whose motives remain unclear (he took his own life in 2008 as the FBI closed in on solving the case).

But that domestic terrorism incident had its own enduring legacy: the nation's war on bioterror. Since the early 2000s, Congress has authorized more than $8 billion to procure drugs and vaccines to counter potential bioterror agents, including $5.6 billion for stockpiles to fight diseases including anthrax and smallpox, which have been largely eradicated except in chemical labs.

Last year, Congress reauthorized spending another $2.8 billion over the next five years on those and similar targets. The list of priorities was dominated by countermeasures aimed at anthrax, botulism, smallpox, cyanide, nerve gas and nuclear agents.

While the legislation also allowed for spending money on fighting “emerging infectious diseases,” the only two listed in a Government Accountability Office review of the program issued this year were pandemic flu and viral hemorrhagic fever. It was this element of the program that funded research into the few experimental drugs that are now being tested on Ebola patients.

HHS' overall “preparedness and response” budget, meanwhile, totaled about $1 billion, with nearly half for countermeasure development and only $382 million for hospital preparedness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was given just $228 million to spend on maintaining its “early warning system to rapidly identify new infectious disease threats.”

The government doesn't have to go deeper in the deficit hole to substantially improve its response to emerging infectious diseases. It needs only to rebalance its priorities by ending spending on nonexistent threats and concentrating on real ones.

Follow Merrill Goozner on Twitter: @MHgoozner

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Richest people must face up to their responsibility to share the wealth

Dolly Levi said in the entertaining musical "Hello Dolly!"
"Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It's not worth a thing unless it's spread around, encouraging young things to grow."

For decades, I listened to Republicans complaining about tax money "wasted" on welfare programs.  

I often asked these Republicans how they recommended we care for the people who cannot care for themselves? Consistently, their high minded responses were to summon private charities to care for the needy. These same Republicans were nobly supportive of charities like United Way and the Salvation Army. Now, with the United Ways, and the Salvation Army and others in the position of being swamped with requests for funds, these same Republicans are still denying the need for government to provide support for those who cannot care for themselves.

Now there's a widening disparity of wealth distribution throughout the world. But instead of the rich extending their wealth to help the poor, many have been unwilling to support improving the human condition by advocating for increases in minimum wage and cost of living increases, based upon inflation, for social safety nets like Social Security and military pensions. Americans must be dedicated to supporting rising incomes for everyone who works to earn economic security.

An excellent academic paper about income inequality is at this site:  Global Income Inequality by the Numbers:
in History and Now

Rather than hoard wealth, Republicans must share wealth. If they really believe charity, not government, should care for those who need access to economic security, then, they should lead the way. Republicans should support policies whereby they will engage in sharing their wealth by increasing the minimum wage and supporting child care, access to health care, and social safety nets for the retired and disabled. Sharing wealth will improve the economy of our nation because hard working people will have access to middle class status. When the middle class grows, the economy prospers. Evidence of this is the post World War II economic boom.

Wealthy people have an ethical responsibility to share their money. Income redistribution is the best way to prevent government programs from becoming welfare and charities from going broke trying to help the less fortunate. Let's enjoy Dolly Levi's wisdom and thrive on the economic results.

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