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April 7, 2014
Franz Krüger, Wikimedia Commons

The idea that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to revive the relative glory (and territorial conquest) of czarist Russia has its own niche in foreign policy circles. While Hillary Clinton and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble are comparing Putin to Adolf Hitler, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says Putin sees himself as "a new czar" and Finnish graduate student Anneli Portman did a textual analysis of the pronouncements of Putin and Czar Alexander I, finding striking similarities (via Bloomberg's Peter Coy). For fun, try an image search for Czar Putin.

Presumably, if Putin aspires to be a latter-day czar, he would prefer to follow in the footsteps of one of the "great" ones — Peter I (1682-1725) and Catherine II (1762-1796) — or even the formidable Ivan the Terrible (1547-1584). Robert Service, a Russian history professor at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, has someone else in mind, as he explains in The New York Times:

Putin himself is much more like another czar, Nicholas I, who stumbled into military conflict with the British and French and rejected calls for the basic reforms needed to enable Russia to compete with the world powers of the day. Nicholas had a cramped perspective and arrogant personality. Always attentive to the armed forces and the secret services, he overlooked the broader necessity to modernize Russia's economy and society. His country paid dearly for this when his army was humbled in the Crimean War of 1853-56. Russian foreign policy under Mr. Putin displays an equally gross lack of foresight. [The New York Times]

Service goes on to explain the probably unintended consequences of Putin's annexation of Crimea and feints (so far) at peeling off other parts of Ukraine. But Service fails to mention that despite Nicholas' defeat in Crimea (1825-1855) — his son, Alexander II, negotiated the peace in early 1956 — Nicholas I gobbled up Poland and won the east shore of the Black Sea, helping expand Russia toward its greatest size, 9.2 million square miles, in 1864-65. Peter Weber

11:18 a.m. ET

In a video about as nerdy as the "May the 4th be with you" joke, John Kasich celebrated Star Wars Day on Tuesday by depicting himself as "the only hope" for the Empire…er, America.

Written in the classic scrolling yellow font of the Star Wars films, the trailer describes a dystopian future in which Hillary Clinton beats Donald Trump in "the largest landslide since Reagan" and is busy preparing to name her Supreme Court nominee, Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

"Only one candidate can defeat Hillary Clinton in the fall," the trailer warns at the end (you'll never guess who). Watch below. Jeva Lange

11:07 a.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Donald Trump, the Republican Party's presumptive nominee, doesn't seem to know exactly how long he'd be in office if he's elected president. In an interview Wednesday morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe, he told all the Trump haters in the GOP that they're going to have to wait "16 years" — exactly eight years over a U.S. president's term limit — before they rejoin the party.

"I don't think it's imperative that the entire party come together," Trump said, brushing off Republicans who refuse to embrace him as their nominee. "I don't want everybody. I don't even want certain people who were extraordinarily nasty. Let them wait eight years. Or let them wait 16 years or whatever."

We're still waiting on Trump's explanation for why those "certain people" would have to wait not the maximum two terms, but four. Becca Stanek

10:59 a.m. ET
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Beyoncé's recently released "visual" album Lemonade dished on her marital drama with husband Jay Z — and now the "Empire State of Mind" rapper has decided to tell his side of the story, sources told US Weekly.

Beyoncé and Jay Z have been married for eight years and allegedly went through a rough patch in 2014, which publicly culminated in leaked video footage showing Beyoncé's sister attacking Jay Z in an elevator while Beyoncé stood by. But on Lemonade, Beyoncé tellingly describes the pain of being cheated on and watching her husband slip away to be with "Becky with the good hair."

"Jay is working on an album telling his side of things," the source told US Weekly.

However, Beyoncé's father and former manager has said that Lemonade is not autobiographical. "People want to make it about her," Matthew Knowles said. "Maybe she dug deep and made it about something we all could relate to." Jeva Lange

10:24 a.m. ET

Recreational marijuana sales have been legal in Washington State for about two years now, and during that time, the price of weed has plummeted. Down from a post-legalization high of about $25 per gram on the retail market, the same amount of pot now costs less than $10.


(Washington Post)

The economic explanation for this price drop is simple and predictable: The drug war makes the marijuana business dangerous and expensive because, as The Washington Post summarizes, black market drug sellers "must operate covertly, forgo advertising, pay higher wages to compensate for the risk of arrest, and lack recourse to civil courts for resolving contract disputes."

Once marijuana is legalized, these added costs of doing business disappear, making for a cheaper product and safer industry. Similarly, the Prohibition era of the 1920s and '30s caused the price of liquor to roughly triple before the Twenty-First Amendment, ending Prohibition, was passed in 1933. Bonnie Kristian

10:11 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Many Republicans are reeling Wednesday with the knowledge that Donald Trump is their presumptive nominee — and at least one major conservative publication is already looking to make the best of a bad situation. RedState urged Congress on Wednesday to confirm President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, as soon as possible in order to avoid a much younger, much more liberal pick when — as they see it — Hillary Clinton inevitably takes office next year:

Republicans must know that there is absolutely no chance that we will win the White House in 2016 now. They must also know that we are likely to lose the Senate as well. So the choices, essentially, are to confirm Garland and have another bite at the apple in a decade, or watch as President Clinton nominates someone who is radically more leftist and 10-15 years younger, and we are in no position to stop it. [RedState]

RedState takes the warning even further, cautioning Congress that, "The fact that Merrick Garland still exists as an option right now is a gift that should not be squandered." Read the whole piece over at RedState. Jeva Lange

10:04 a.m. ET

It may have taken Adele a full week after Beyoncé's Lemonade was released to sing the visual album's praises, but she swears she's not late — the album had just left her "speechless." On Tuesday, however, the British songstress finally found her words:

Unsurprisingly, Adele — who has already proclaimed herself "Queen Bey to the day I die" — absolutely adored Beyoncé's latest record. If that caption isn't evidence enough of Adele's serious Beyoncé fandom, that photo of her literally bowing down next to Queen Bey should be. Becca Stanek

10:00 a.m. ET

Following the news that Donald Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee, many Republicans who aren't ready to jump on the Trump train are casting about for other Election Day options.

After Ted Cruz dropped out of the race last night, Google Trends showed a sudden spike in searches for "Libertarian Party," suggesting that the 16 percent of Americans who say they'll vote third party in a Trump vs. Clinton contest are preparing to do just that.

Meanwhile, a number of prominent Republicans took to Twitter to announce their support for Hillary Clinton — or at least their exit from the GOP. Washington Examiner editor Philip Klein tweeted a picture of his voter registration change form, while Free Beacon writer Lachlan Markey shared a photo of his registration card in flames.

Former John McCain strategist Mark Salter declared that if "the GOP is going to nominate for President a guy who reads the National Enquirer and thinks it's on the level," he's with Clinton. Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum predicted that 2016 would see "Former Republican presidents & presidential nominees for Clinton." Bonnie Kristian

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