human decency 101

Fischer Wells just wants to play field hockey. The State of Kentucky says she can’t. I’m not making this up. Kentucky passed a law to make sure this twelve-year-old girl won’t be able to play field hockey at her middle school. Think about how fucked up that is.

You know what? It’s more fucked up that you think. Consider the process of passing a law in Kentucky (or any other state, for that matter). It’s a time-intensive process. You have to cobble together the language of the bill you want to become law, including defining all the elements. Then you have to present the bill to…wait. Here, look at this:

This is the amount of effort the State of Kentucky went to in order to keep 12-year-old Fischer Wells from playing field hockey at school. Note Step 11: “If bill is vetoed, it goes back to each chamber. If approved by a constitutional majority in each chamber, the veto is overridden and the bill becomes law.” That actually happened with this particular bill.

Andy Beshear, a Democrat and the Governor of Kentucky, vetoed the bill because it “most likely violates the equal protection rights afforded by the United States Constitution.” The Republicans, who control both legislative chambers, voted to override the veto.

Why would Republicans go to so much fuss and bother to pass this law? Because Fischer Wells is a trans girl. She’s the ONLY known trans girl playing in middle or high school sports in Kentucky. She’s in the 8th grade. She’s not much of a threat.

12-year-old Fischer Wells

A number of states have passed similar laws designed to prevent trans students from participating in middle school, high school, or college sports. They claim they’re doing it in the interest of ‘fairness’. Their reason can be summed up in this comment by Robby Mills, the Kentucky law’s GOP sponsor:

“Boys have athletic advantages even before puberty in cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, speed, agility and power tests. A lot of time and effort is put into achieving a certain level of mastery in a sport and it would be crushing for a lady to train her whole career to have it end up competing against a biological male in the state tournament or state finals.”

Sure, that would be tough on a ‘lady’. But Mills and his fellow (should I call them bigots? I mean, the law is bigoted, to be sure. And it’s supported by anti-trans bigots. But it’s possible, I suppose, for a legislator to support the bill NOT because they’re a bigot, but because they want the votes cast by a bigoted public. But fuck that, if you vote for a bigoted law, you’re a bigot) bigots seem to be under the insane impression that there are guys out there in the sports world who consider themselves male BUT are so insecure in their ‘mastery in a sport’ that they’re willing to temporarily identify as female simply in order to win a high school sports championship.

And that’s fucking ridiculous. You have to be astonishingly stupid to believe that.

At the college level, where sports participation starts to really pay off, they’ve already taken steps to insure fairness. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has a complete policy outlining transgender student-athlete participation. In theory, it applies to both trans men and trans women; in practice it’s directed primarily at trans women. It says trans women have to be taking hormonal treatment for gender transition for a certain period of time in order to participate in women’s sports. Trans men, on the other hand, don’t have to be taking testosterone in order to participate in men’s sports.

I’m not entirely convinced the NCAA actually needs to do this, but at least it’s an honest and sensible approach to ‘fairness’ regarding trans folks in college sports.

But the ‘fairness’ issue is really just a mask for all trans-related fear and hatred. Banning trans athletes isn’t just unfair to openly trans athletes, it actively discourages trans kids from even considering participating in sports. It actively discourages trans kids from letting their family and friends know they’re trans. It actively encourages trans kids to hate themselves. It actively increases the likelihood of trans kids self-harming or killing themselves. It actively encourages transphobic people to bully trans kids or find other ways to harass trans people. It normalizes trans fear and hatred.

On the surface, this seems to be a partisan political issue. Republicans pass anti-trans laws, Democrats try to protect trans rights. But some (how much, I don’t know–maybe a lot, maybe a little) of GOP anti-trans legislation is an aspect of their performative politics. It gets their base motivated, so they don’t give any thought to the repercussions. And yet at least one GOP governor demonstrated some basic human decency.

Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah vetoed an anti-trans sports bill passed by his own party–a bill that, like the Kentucky bill, only affected a few kids. Cox wrote this in his response:

“Four kids and only one of them playing girls sports. That’s what all of this is about. Four kids who aren’t dominating or winning trophies or taking scholarships. Four kids who are just trying to find some friends and feel like they are a part of something. Four kids trying to get through each day. Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few. I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live.”

I want them to live. There it is. I don’t understand what they’re going through or why they feel the way they do. BUT I WANT THEM TO LIVE. You don’t have to understand (though it would be nice if you tried). You don’t have to agree with their choices. Just refrain from cruelty. Just let other folks live and be comfortable in their bodies.

There have been thousands–tens of thousands–of Fischer Wells, who’ve grown up afraid. There are lots of adult Fischer Wells out there, trans women who worry about going out in public, who wonder if they look fem enough to avoid harassment, to avoid assault, to avoid being targeted and killed.

If you vilify a 12-year-old trans girl who only wants to play field hockey, you create the social conditions that can keep her scared and uncertain and anxiety-ridden and alienated her entire life.

Just let Fischer Wells play. Let every Fischer Wells play. Just stop being assholes. Just make some attempt at some basic human decency. That’s really what this is about. Letting other people get on with their own lives. Letting people be themselves. It’s really not that hard.

loathsome, feculent

The good news? Ketanji Brown Jackson will be sitting on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States. Light the fireworks, cue the herald angels singing, hand out tissues for the tears of joy.

Then remember that loathsome, feculent pillocks like Judge Trevor N. McFadden are also sitting on Federal courts. Before he became a judge, McFadden specialized in defending white collar criminals–including people accused of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (which prohibits people and businesses from bribing foreign officials) and money laundering. There’s nothing wrong with that; every person accused of a crime deserves to be represented by a good attorney. The problem, of course, is that people and entities who can afford to bribe foreign officials and need to launder money can also afford really good attorneys while people caught shoplifting Oreo cookies generally can’t.

Judge Trevor N. McFadden

But that’s not what makes Judge McFadden a loathsome, feculent pillock. Neither is the fact that he was appointed to the court by Comrade Trump (also a loathsome, feculent pillock). No, what makes him a loathsome, feculent pillock is that as soon as he put his pale ass on the bench, he began doing exactly what Trump expected him to do: protect Trump.

For example, back in 2019 Trump, pissed off because Congress wasn’t giving him the money he wanted to build his stupid wall on the border of Mexico, decided to divert US$6 billion from military construction and from counter-drug operations and piss it away on his stupid wall. Congress sued to stop him. McFadden, being loathsome and feculent, dismissed the suit, saying Congress lacked standing to sue POTUS (although a couple of years earlier, when the GOP controlled Congress and Obama was POTUS, the court agreed Congress DID have standing to sue POTUS…go figure).

Another example: when the House Ways and Means Committee tried to get Trump’s tax returns as part of his first impeachment, McFadden (loathsome and feculent) slow-walked the matter, making it impossible to get the tax information in time to press the impeachment.

But wait, there’s more. When Aleksej Gubarev, a Russian “internet entrepreneur” sued BuzzFeed News for libel after they published his name in connection with the investigation into Comrade Trump’s Russian connections, feculent and loathsome Judge McFadden was assigned to rule on a subpoena seeking information. The defendant asked McFadden to recuse himself, since 1) he was appointed by Trump, 2) he’d donated money to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and 3) he’d been a volunteer on Trump’s presidential transition team. McFadden refused to recuse himself, saying there was no reason “to question my impartiality.”

But wait again, there’s still more. Despite expressing his belief that the January 6th Insurrectionists were being treated more harshly than the rioters in the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, the loathsome and feculent McFadden has been assigned to some of the cases resulting from the insurrection. Yesterday, McFadden became the only judge to issue an outright acquittal of one of the Insurrectionists. Matthew Martin argued that he believed the Capitol police had allowed him into the Capitol, so didn’t realize he was trespassing. Prosecutors argued that the broken windows and blaring alarms should have given Martin a hint. McFadden said, “I do think the defendant reasonably believed the officers allowed him into the Capitol.”

But wait one more time, because Jesus suffering fuck, there’s still more. One of the Insurrectionists, Jenny Cudd, who was indicted on five federal counts, including one felony, had requested she be allowed to leave the jurisdiction in order to attend a company retreat at a resort in Mexico. McFadden allowed her to go. Cudd eventually entered a plea agreement–she would plead guilty to one misdemeanor (entering and remaining in a restricted building) and the other charges (including the felony count, which was punishable by up to 20 years in prison) would be dropped. The misdemeanor is punishable by a year in jail and a US$5000 fine. Although Cudd has said she was proud of her part in the insurrection, McFadden loathsomely and feculently sentenced her to two months probation.

But lawdy, wait one more fucking time because yeah, there’s more. One condition of Cudd’s probation forbade her to own or possess any “firearm, ammunition, destructive device, or dangerous weapon.” That’s a common probation condition. Today, Judge McFadden (feculent, loathsome) restored Jenny Cudd’s right to possess firearms.

So yes, we should absolutely celebrate soon-to-be Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. And we should keep celebrating her, because she deserves it and we deserve a celebration too. But let’s not get too starry-eyed; let’s not forget that Comrade Trump (with the help of a loathsome, feculent Republican Congress) installed a metric shit-ton of Judge McFaddens throughout the Federal Court system. And they’ll continue to stink up the judiciary for years.

ukraine, let my memory of you be like a blade in my soul

Sometimes fiction and reality collide in unexpected and horrifying ways. A couple of days ago, the war in Ukraine crashed into a fantasy novel written in 1990.

Years ago I had a friend who kept encouraging me to read fantasy fiction. I’d read Tolkien, of course, but I was generally uninterested in the genre. She gave me a novel by a writer with the unlikely name of Guy Gavriel Kay. If a friend gives you something to read, the laws of friendship require you to at least try to read it. So I dutifully read the prologue (I’m also generally suspicious of prologues), then put the novel on a shelf with other novels I’d probably never finish.

The prologue was beautifully written, although the prose was more elegant than the fiction I was accustomed to reading. The characters were engaging and the situation they were facing was powerful. It was largely a nighttime conversation between two men–a prince leading an army facing certain destruction in the morning and a sculptor/friend who was a volunteer in that army. They both acknowledged they were probably going to die in a few hours and wondered if the war was a cause worth dying. This is part of their conversation.

“Oh, our pride. Our terrible pride. Will they remember that most about us, do you think, after we are gone?”
“Perhaps. But they will remember. The one thing we know with certainty is that they will remember us…. We will leave a name.”

Very powerful, emotional, dramatic stuff, right there. My problem was the heroic speech. I’ve done my time in military harness. So did both of my brothers. So did my father and most of my uncles. I’ve been around military men all my life. That’s not how they talk, especially when it comes to really important stuff, like killing and dying. Combined with my basic dislike of the genre, it was enough for me to stop reading.

Now, you may be saying, “But Greg, old sock, it’s fiction…and fantasy fiction at that. Give the writer some slack.” And you’d be right (also, stop calling me ‘old sock’). I’d made a mistake by putting that novel on the shelf. A few years later, another friend–also a fan of fantasy fiction–handed me another novel, also by Guy Gavriel Kay (it’s not a name you’re likely to forget). Again, the laws of friendship required me to try it. The Lions of Al-Rassan. It was amazing and has become one of my favorite novels. I was so taken by it that I went back to the shelves and pulled out the novel I’d abandoned before.

Tigana. That’s the title. It’s also the name of the independent province in which the two men in the prologue lived. The story takes place after the battle referred to in the prologue. Here’s a thing Kay does extraordinarily well–he doesn’t just inform the reader, “Yeah, these guys? They live in Tigana.” Instead he quietly, slowly, subtly adds layers of history, art, tradition, music, cuisine–layers of a unique, believable culture–so that Tigana isn’t just a place on a map. It becomes an indelible aspect of a character’s identity.

This is critically important to the story, because the battle referred to in the prologue destroys all that. The invading sorcerer/king was so enraged by the Tiganan resistance against his army and so grief-stricken by the death of his son (killed in the war) that he wasn’t content with merely conquering and ruling Tigana. He had his army kill women and children, he burned their fields and razed their villages, he flattened their cities. Not content with the physical destruction of Tigana, he eradicated their culture–tore down their statues, destroyed their art. He re-named the capitol city after his dead son. He renamed the province Lower Corte (Corte being the province’s traditional enemy; he wanted to insure the survivors understood they were lesser than their enemies). He killed almost an entire generation of people, and then (because this is the sort of thing sorcerer/kings do) he cast a magic spell that stripped the true name Tigana from the memory of every person NOT born in the province. Nobody else could even hear the name if it was spoken. This meant the few remaining Tiganans couldn’t even discuss with others what had happened to their land and culture. It was as if the kingdom of Tigana had never existed.

This is essentially what Putin and Russia planned for Ukraine.

A few days ago the Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti published an article called What Should Russia Do With Ukraine? (You can read a translation of the article here.) It’s grounded on the premise that most of the population of Ukraine are Banderite Nazis or Nazi sympathizers. Banderite refers to Stephan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist, Nazi collaborator, and anti-Communist leader who was assassinated by Soviet agents in 1959. The article suggests that Ukrainians have so internalized Nazism that they’re not even aware they’re Nazis. It’s part of their culture, their identity.

That’s complete bullshit, of course, but for Russia/Putin it’s necessary bullshit to justify the plan for Ukraine. When the author of this article says ‘Nazi’ he means ‘Ukrainian’. The article says Nazis must be killed.

Those Nazis who took up arms must be destroyed on the battlefield, as many of them as possible. No significant distinction should be made between the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the so-called “nationalist battalions,”

This also applies to ordinary citizens who support the government of Ukraine. Whatever happens to them during the ‘military special operation by the Russian Federation’ is a just punishment for that support.

They supported the Nazi authorities and pandered to them. A just punishment for this part of the population can only be possible through bearing the inevitable hardships of a just war against the Nazi system…. The Banderite elites must be eliminated; their re-education is impossible.

The survivors of the ‘war against the Nazi system’ will be re-educated and forced to engage in the manual labor of rebuilding the territory.

The further denazification of this bulk of the population will take the form of re-education through ideological repressions (suppression) of Nazi paradigms and a harsh censorship not only in the political sphere but also in the spheres of culture and education…. making the names of accomplices of the Nazi regime public, involving them in forced labor to restore the destroyed infrastructure as punishment for Nazi activities

The article acknowledges that wiping out Ukrainian culture would be a generation-long process.

The period of denazification can take no less than one generation that has to be born, brought up and mature under the conditions of denazification.

Obviously, this includes eliminating the very name of Ukraine.

[T]he name “Ukraine” cannot be kept as a title of any fully denazified state entity on the territory liberated from the Nazi regime…. Denazification will inevitably include de-ukrainization…. history has proved it impossible for Ukraine to exist as a nation-state, and any attempts to “build” such a nation-state naturally lead to Nazism. Ukrainism is an artificial anti-Russian construct that has no civilizational substance of its own.

In the novel, a group of rebel Tiganan conspirators disguise themselves as traveling musicians and merchants and plot to assassinate the sorcerer/king and restore the ability of the people to remember the province of Tigana. One of the characters repeats a sort of prayer: Tigana, let my memory of you be like a blade in my soul. The memory of lost beauty is painful, but pain keeps the memory of that beauty alive.

In the novel, the erasure of Tigana is done through brute force reinforced by magic. Putin doesn’t have any real magic; all he has is brutality and the weak magic of propaganda, like this article. It’s difficult to say how effective the propaganda is with the Russian populace. There are reports that around 70% of Russian people support Putin’s war. Those reports may also be propaganda. Or they may accurately reflect the opinions of people whose only source of information is purposely biased. (Yes, I’m looking at FOX News.)

In the novel, only those born in what was once Tigana can hear the name spoken. Only they can keep the idea of Tigana alive. In real life, all of us can speak about Ukraine, can retain the memory of Ukraine’s once-beautiful cities, can honor the ordinary people of Ukraine who’ve resisted Russia, can weep for those who’ve been tortured and killed, can celebrate the Ukrainian identity and keep it alive.

Ukraine, let my memory of you be like a blade in my soul.

Bucha

We knew this was going to happen. We knew it was happening. It happens in every war. Always has, always will. Where there is war, there will be war crimes committed against civilians. It’s usually impulsive; troops who’ve been under prolonged stress and ongoing fear sometimes strike out in rage and frustration, in a desire for revenge against the situation they’re in.

But what’s taking place in Ukraine is war crime as a matter of policy. It’s war crime as a strategy. The indiscriminate shelling of civilian apartment buildings, of shelters, of hospitals has been deliberate and intentional. It’s been a conscious, calculated attempt to terrorize the populace and the government of Ukraine and sap their will to resist.

What’s happened in Bucha is different. The shelling and bombing, as horrific as it’s been, was remote, impersonal. It was done at a distance, by troops who would never witness the destruction they were causing. You drop a bomb, you fire an artillery shell, and whatever happens will happen somewhere else to people whose bodies you’ll never see.

In Bucha it was personal. Individual civilians deliberately murdered by individual Russians. Civilians with their hands tied behind their backs, executed in the street. Random civilians riding their bikes, murdered for no reason other than a desire to kill somebody. Men and women shot while sitting in their cars. At least 40 bodies of civilians were scattered along the street. Reports of nearly 300 buried–or partially buried–in two mass graves.

Bucha is was just a small quiet town. A little more than 35,000 people. There’s a nice little municipal park and an international children’s center. Or at least there used to be–now, who knows? The town began as a railway stop back in the 1890s. The station house is still the town’s main landmark. Assuming it’s still there.

Bucha Railway Station

Maybe that railroad was the reason Bucha was a military objective. Russia is accustomed to moving troops and materiel by rail, and Bucha is on the doorstep of Kyiv. I don’t know.

What I know is this: Russia has turned Bucha into a graveyard. You may not want to look at this video of Ukrainian troops arriving in Bucha. You may not want to look at it, but you should. It’s awful, it’s gut-wrenching, but it’s important that the world–that YOU–see what Russia under Putin has done. What Russia is continuing to do in other towns and cities in Ukraine, because this isn’t going to stop until the Russian invasion has stopped.

The video refers to Russian troops as ‘animals’. It would be easy to dismiss the men who did this as less than human. But by doing that, we also diminish their responsibility. The horrifying truth is that the people who did this are almost certainly ordinary young men who’ve been traumatized by their situation. This is what war does; what it’s always done. It ruins everything.

Michael Herr, an Esquire magazine reporter who covered the war in Vietnam, wrote this about that war:

There was such a dense concentration of energy there, American and essentially adolescent, if that energy could have been channeled into anything more than noise, waste and pain it would have lighted up Indochina for a thousand years.

That’s true of any war in any place at any time. Had the energy, the money, the materiel, the humanity pissed away in this single month been applied to “anything more than noise, waste, and pain” Ukraine would be a garden. Bucha would still be a charming town.

Bucha

Now it’s a hellscape, littered with burnt out vehicles, destroyed buildings, the dead scattered like trash. And why?

Putin.

We can literally lay the responsibility of all this on one man. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. Fuck him. Fuck him in the neck. Fuck anybody who praises him. Fuck anybody who offers an excuse for him. Putin, may he rot in hell.

male ego masquerading as love

Look, in the grand scheme of things (wait…IS there a grand scheme of things? It doesn’t seem very likely, does it. But never mind, it’s too early for that sort of tangent.) Chris Rock getting slapped by Will Smith is pretty small beans. Who cares if a rich actor slaps a rich comedian?

Except it happened in front of an audience–a live audience and a really huge television audience. Except that it happened during an award ceremony. Except Smith, just half an hour or so later, said, “People do crazy things for love,” as if the slap–and let’s just call it what it really was: a violent assault–as if that violent assault was the result of love. Except that some folks interpreted the assault as a ‘defense’ of Smith’s wife, who was the butt of a tacky Chris Rock joke.

It’s ego that makes people do crazy things, not love.

Except that the assault was really a clear, public display of male ego, of male rage, of male privilege. Except that Will Smith felt he had the right to interrupt a ceremony to exact physical retribution for a perceived insult to somebody else. Except the assault had nothing to do with love. Except that Will Smith made the entire incident–the entire award show and the entire night–about him. “Keep MY WIFE’s name out your fucking mouth.” MY wife.

You know what would be a good way to defend your wife? A good way to turn that joke into something actually about love? A good way to truly demonstrate your love for your wife? Use your time in front of the camera to talk about alopecia. Use that time to educate folks about what it is. Use that time to discuss the weird and often unhealthy social relationship between women and their hair. Use that time to remind folks that humor doesn’t have to be cruel. Use that time to say love doesn’t depend on hair. That love doesn’t depend on appearance. That the Beatles were right, and love is all there is.

At the end of his acceptance speech, Smith said, “I’m hoping the academy invites me back.” Invites ME back. Me. This may be the saddest thing about the entire incident. Will Smith was given an opportunity–a truly unique opportunity–to demonstrate how love for another person works. Instead, he put himself in the center.

EDITORIAL NOTE: I’ve said this before, but it’s always worth repeating. Hell, it’s necessary to keep repeating. Burn the patriarchy. Burn it to the ground, Burn it to the ground and collect the ashes, and grind them into powder. Bury the powder deep in the earth, and salt the ground above it so nothing will ever grow there. Pour cement over the salt. Then nuke the entire site from orbit (it’s the only way to be sure).

can we please, for fuck’s sake, hold somebody accountable for something?

I see that the Senate committee investigating the January 6th Insurrection is considering issuing a subpoena to Ginni Thomas, the wife of SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas, after the public revelation that she was deeply and actively engaged in arranging the 1/6 demonstration AND ALSO actively encouraging the White House Chief of Staff to help overturn the legitima…wait, what?

The 1/6 committee is considering a subpoena? Are you fucking kidding me? The wife of a SCOTUS judge is plotting to scuttle a presidential election, and they’re CONSIDERING a subpoena? Arrest her. Charge her with a crime. What is wrong with you people?

And why is Clarence Thomas allowed to rule on cases involving his wife? Fuck that, why he he still on SCOTUS? Why hasn’t this malignant bastard been forced to resign? Why hasn’t he been impeached?

Why aren’t Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows and any of the other Republican assholes who’ve refused to answer a subpoena in jail on contempt charges? As far as that goes, why hasn’t the 1/6 Committee been holding public hearings like they said they would? Why hasn’t the 1/6 Committee subpoenaed Margie Greene and Gym Jackson and Lauren Boebert and Mo Brooks and that weaselly bastard Josh Hawley and any other seditious member of Congress who might have information about the insurrection?

Why isn’t Manhattan AG Bragg prosecuting Trump? Hell, why isn’t Attorney General Merrick Garland prosecuting…well, any of the Trumps? I know, I know, it takes time to build a solid criminal case, but Jesus suffering fuck, this is ridiculous.

This aggressively ignorant, arrogant, lying sack of shit ought to be behind bars.

And yeah, sure, it’s great that some of the fuckwits that actually broke into the Capitol Building to disrupt the election are being tried and sentenced. But does anybody believe that if BLM folks had broken into the Capitol, that they’d be given sentences of just a few months? No fucking way.

This is fucking infuriating. There are so many political pundits fretting that the US might be losing representative democracy. We’re not losing it; we’re pissing it away. We’re letting the authoritarian right take it from us. We’re allowing them to strip away voting rights, to ban books they don’t like, to criminalize trans kids and their parents, to eliminate safe and legal abortion, and so much other shit that it’s too long to list.

And ain’t nobody being held to account for none of it.

Can we please, for fuck’s sake, hold somebody accountable for something?

dead generals

Yesterday I wrote that I didn’t need to write about the war in Ukraine all the time. So this morning, what am I doing? Right; writing about the war in Ukraine. Specifically, all the dead generals. The Russian Army has lost five (and possibly a sixth, though that’s unconfirmed at the moment) generals in the last 25 days. They’ve lost three regimental commanders in the last 24 hours. When I say ‘lost’ I don’t mean they became confused and wandered off; I mean they were killed in combat.

Generals and regimental commanders (in the US military, RCOs are usually full colonels, the rank just below general) hardly ever get killed. They might die of a heart attack or liver disease or something, but they just don’t get killed in combat. They’re rarely close enough to the fighting to be at risk.

You may be asking, “Greg, old sock, why would these Russian generals and RCOs be so close to the fighting?” It’s a valid question (and c’mon, stop calling me ‘old sock’). The answer is, they’ve got to be close to the fighting because failures in their electronic communications equipment force the generals to be there in person to give orders.

You may be asking, “Greg, old…uh, these ‘failures in electronic communication equipment’ of which you speak…what are they?” Another good question, and the answer is both tragic an hilarious. The Russian Army developed a sophisticated, highly secure, cryptophone system called Era. It was supposed to allow secure communication in almost any situation–so long as there is at least 3G cellular telephony available.

What did the Russian Army do at the beginning of their invasion? They destroyed all the cell phone towers. So they basically knee-capped their sophisticated Era cryptophones; they just won’t work. That means the Russians have been reduced to using ordinary cellphones with sim cards to communicate with each other, and those calls are easily intercepted by Ukrainians. Now the generals and RCOs have to get close enough to the fighting to issue strategic orders. Which means they’re close enough to get killed.

Generals and RCOs getting killed plays hell with morale–both the morale of the troops, who hate not knowing who’s in charge, and the morale of the remaining generals and RCOs who now have to take their place close to the fighting.

To make matters worse for the Russian Army (and yeah, we want to make things worse for them), Russia accidentally acknowledged that almost 10,000 Russians have been killed in action, and more than 16,000 wounded. The WIA number is undoubtedly low. As a general rule of thumb, you can assume two to three times as many combat wounded as combat killed–so the number of WIA is probably closer to 20-30,000.

Here’s another thing to take into consideration: in combat, wounding the enemy is often more effective than killing them. A dead soldier can’t be helped, so troops can ignore them and keep fighting. A wounded soldier, on the other hand, is screaming (which has to be distracting) and requires aid, which means other troops have to stop and treat them and carry them off the battlefield–which further reduces the size of the fighting force.

Again, these casualty numbers are in just over three weeks of fighting. The US, in the 20 years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, had 7,000 KIA.

In an earlier post, I talked about the Russian Army running out of trucks. They’re also running out of generals and combat troops. They should load the remaining troops into the remaining trucks and get the fuck out of Ukraine.

Oh, and fuck Putin in the neck.

attrition

Every morning this week I’ve sat here at the keyboard and started to write a post about the situation in Ukraine. Every single morning I’ve put a couple hundred words in a row, and every morning I’ve deleted them all.

I mean, what is there to say? Well, obviously there’s a LOT to say–the military situation, the refugee situation, the NATO situation, the war crimes situation, and on and on and on. But the internet is awash in experts opining and analyzing all that. What is there for ME to say? Is there anything I can contribute that’s meaningful?

Not much. I can express opinions, but my opinions about Ukraine aren’t very much different from most folks. And as for those folks whose opinions support Russia and Putin–what is there to say to or about them? Not much, other than ‘Russian warship, go fuck yourself’.

The problem (for me) is that it’s hard to write about anything else at the moment. Everything else seems trivial. Art? Clarence Thomas in the hospital? Republican hypocrisy? Pickleball? The January 6th prosecutions? The arrival of Spring and getting back on the bike? Voter suppression? The latest research on crows? Today’s hearing on the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court? There are lots of things that occupy my mind and my time besides Ukraine. It’s just that none of them seem as important. None of them ARE as important.

What makes this all the more awful is that the war in Ukraine has become something of a stalemate. It’s turning into a war of attrition–the ugliest, cruelest, and most brutal form of war. A war of attrition isn’t about territorial control; it’s about imposing as much suffering as possible in every way possible in order to force the enemy to give up. It’s about wearing away at the very foundations of a sustainable life–food and shelter. It’s about reducing towns and cities to uninhabitable rubble.

But here’s the truly awful thing: I suspect–I fear–the American public will begin to treat the war of attrition in the same way they’ve treated the global pandemic. They’ll get bored with it. It’ll be normalized, in the same way they’ve come to accept a thousand deaths a week from Covid as normal. In the same way they’ve come to accept extreme weather disasters as normal. Instead of being tortured from a death by a thousand cuts, those cuts will be seen as routine. (By the way, if you google ‘death by a thousand cuts’ most of the results will refer to a song by Taylor Swift rather than lingchi, the ancient Chinese method of torture and execution–how’s that for normalization?)

NOTHING ABOUT THE WAR IN UKRAINE IS NORMAL.

So, what are we to do? What am I to do? Carry on as usual with this blog? I guess the only answer is to try to find some sort of balance. Write about the stuff that interests me, even if some of that stuff is trivial. But also keep talking about the suffering of the people of Ukraine, and about the deliberate cruelty of Putin, and about the policies of nations that support–or fail to support–Ukraine.

That’s what I’ve decided to do. But it feels a little like attrition.