So I Goofed

Putin at Kremlin 2022 Victory Day Parade (Reuters)

I had thought that Vladimir Putin was going to make a major announcement at today’s Victory Day celebration in Moscow. In fact, other than making a number of the usual comments regarding the United States and NATO, Putin did not make any major announcements. He did not declare victory. He did not declare war. He did not brandish his nukes.

He is still keeping tight control over Russian media. By now, most of his people know that he his fighting Ukrainian Neo-Nazis that have threatened Russian security (by not wanting to be invaded?).

In a way, all he is doing is doubling down on his mistakes. Is he waiting for an elite Spetsnaz team to assassinate Zelensky? Does he think he could win by converting all of Ukraine to microscopic rubble?

At some point, I still suspect that Vlady will reap the whirlwind. But when or how is not something I can venture to guess.

Victory Day?

Gosh, I Hope No One Throws a Firecracker at Them

Monday, May 9, is the anniversary of Russia’s winning the Great Patriotic War—or, as we know it, World War Two. The news media have been speculating for weeks that Vladimir Putin will make some sort of announcement of victory tomorrow. Or, he just might decide to declare war on the “Neo-Nazis” that have been depriving his troops of anything approaching victory.

There will, of course, be a big military parade. But does Putin have enough working tanks and armored personnel carriers to impress the crowds on Red Square? I am eager to see what that madman plans to do for an encore.

I have young friends who for the first time in their lives are afraid of a nuclear confrontation. There may be one, but only on a small scale because it would cause widespread outrage around the world (but not in Russia). Perhaps Putin has more to fear than my young friends. His Ukraine invasion made the Rodina (Motherland) look not only bad, but downright cheesy. It would be no surprise if the FSB replaced Putin with a new stooge and put Vlady in a psychiatric nursing home “for his benefit.”

That’s the way things are done in Russia.

A Gas Station with Nuclear Weapons

Was this the same Russia that manhandled the Nazi menace at Stalingrad, Kursk, and all the way back to Berlin? Stalin was no more a sweetheart than Vladimir Putin, but I feel that—after some initial losses—he made better wartime decisions.

In an interview with Salon.Com, Colin Clarke had the following assessment of the war in Ukraine:

One of the big stories I see, in terms of international relations and diplomacy and statecraft, is the concept of great power competition. With that language we are thinking about the United States, China and Russia. The war in Ukraine shows us that Russia does not belong in that conversation anymore. Russia is not a great power, it’s essentially a gas station with nuclear weapons. The Russian military has performed so poorly, far worse than anyone could have expected, including many defense planners in the United States, who built the Russians up to be 10 feet tall.

We must never forget, however, all those nuclear weapons. Granted that most of their ICBMs may be pretty dodgy, but even one or two direct hits on a major U.S. population center would be truly horrifying. Living in Southern California as I do, I am sure that L.A. would probably be one of major targets of the Russian nuclear warheads.

The Neverending Story

If your prime source for news is the boob tube, prepare to be not only misinformed but bored out of your skull. Under the pretext of imparting late-breaking news, you will have to put up with endless repetition—to such an extent that you will be unsure that this is an entirely new mass shooting or the same old one that everyone is deploring. Those bodies in the streets in the Ukraine—are they new, or the same old bodies? I mean, how can you tell?

This is particularly a problem when there is a BIG STORY, such as the Ukraine War, the January 6 Insurrection, the New York subway shooting, or Donald J. Trump’s latest con.

I am going to propose something radical to prevent you from not only wasting your time but getting so tense that you can’t sleep. It consists of one word: WAIT.

Avoid being tied to the 24/7 news circle jerk from the corporations that run the major news channels. WAIT and READ when the news becomes available in newspapers, or, even better, weekly or biweekly or monthly periodicals. The best news stories I ever read were typically in The New Yorker or The New York Review of Books. By the time the story reaches the print media, some of the dross that takes up so much time is shaken out and you are able to better understand what is happening.

Avoid getting your news from YouTube, FaceBook, or most other Internet sources. There, the news is more frequently coated with a thick, indigestible layer of opinion like a fried chicken leg that is all breading. You want to understand what is happening, not what some Internet influencer wants you to think. Avoid getting stuck in some Internet news bubble. You’re here to learn, not to get force-fed by someone who has an axe to grind.

The Pause That Doesn’t Refresh

We as a species are particularly susceptible to our technologies. Each commonly used technology is associated with a series of behaviors. I am particularly aware of what the smartphone has done—particularly since I have chosen not to adopt this particular technology. (Tiny screens are not kind to my aging eyes.)

I thought I would mention some of the behaviors I have observed, beginning with this basic root behavior:

When using a smartphone, stop everything else you’re doing.

On the roadway, a particularly annoying corollary is the tendency to play with your smartphone when stopped at a traffic signal, yield or stop sign, and to not move until other motorists beep at you.

In the supermarket parking lots in my neighborhood, approximately 30% of the spaces are occupied, not by shoppers, but by smartphone users checking e-mail, FaceBook, or other social media applications. This makes it more difficult to find parking spaces at busy times.

In the aisles of a store, one finds shoppers stopped dead in an aisle while fingering their smartphones. I have to come up behind them and say BEEP BEEP to get them to be aware of their surroundings.

As a corollary of this corollary, you frequently finds smartphone users annoyed to be interrupted in their use of their digital drug. It is as if they now have earned the right to stop dead in their tracks and that people who attempt to “disturb” them in the exercise of this right are being rude.

I am reminded of the bad old days when half the population smoked most of the time. It was inevitable that when I sat at a restaurant counter, a human chimney would sit next to me burning a particularly foul rope. That, too, was a right that was assumed. Fortunately, no more.

Escalation

Russian Fuel Dump at Belgorod in Flames

The war in Ukraine just escalated. Two Ukrainian helicopter gunships flew 25 miles (40 km) into Russia and blew up a Russian fuel dump. It was yet another embarrassing moment for the Russian military, which neither detected nor prevented the incursion.

I only hope that none of the helicopters were of American manufacture, which would give Putin the opportunity he needed to say that the Ukrainians were just acting as a proxy for NATO. Of course, he could say that even if the helicopter attack had never happened. It’s one of those irksome imponderables involving the thinking processes of Vladimir Putin.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky keeps saying that, if peace negotiations with Russia do not take place, it will be the beginning of World War Three. It is a sobering thought: If that happens, millions will die, myself included. I happen to live in one of the prime nuclear target areas, namely, Los Angeles.

Pundits keep referring to the search for an “offramp” from the war. Given Putin’s stubbornness and bloody-mindedness, I cannot see how the war would end. Or rather, all the options I see are rather grim.

Slap-Happy

Will Smith Wacks Chris Rock at the Oscars

I’m not going to get involved in the Will Smith/Chris Rock imbroglio at the Oscars, except to say that there is a time and place for everything. Perhaps the Academy should send Will Smith to Moscow to slap the Bejeezus out of Vladimir Putin for his savage war against the people of Ukraine.

Drag Queen RuPaul

Perhaps it would be even better to send RuPaul to slap Putin, given Putin’s aversion to any sort of gender bending.

Anyhow, somebody’s got to get to that man before he makes the world unlivable.

They Were Expendable

Photo Taken by New York Times Photographer Tyler Hicks

If you were to fight in one of America’s wars and happened to die, your next of kin would be informed; and your body would be flown back to the U.S. for burial. Apparently, if you are one of the 15,000 Russian dead in Ukraine, the existence of your body is an embarrassment to Vladimir Putin, who would just as soon say to the parents and family that their Ivan or Dmitri is “missing” and leave it at that.

That way Russians who believe the lies that Putin is slinging would not be surprised at the large number of dead bodies filling trucks and trains heading to cities and towns across the Motherland. The Russian dead serve only to make Putin look as bad as he really is.

Now imagine how that makes the Russian troops invading Ukraine feel. They know it’s a war. They know that Putin is lying through his teeth. The morale of the Russian Army must be at low ebb, such that I would not be surprised there isn’t some sort of mutiny like the one that occurred on the front lines during World War One while the Russian Revolution of 1917 was taking place.

Yes, I know that Putin is evil. But to that I will also add that he is stupid and is likely to be overthrown.

By the way, the Ukrainians are collecting bodies of the Russian dead and using facial recognition software to identify them and notify the families themselves. I saw this news item on BBC’s website today. Oh oh.

To Whom Is Putin Answerable?

Did you ever wonder what happened to the old Soviet KGP? Apparently, it went the way of the Cheka, the NKVD, the OGPU, and the MGB. It just changed its name to the FSB (ФСБ in Cyrillic) or Federal Security Service and it continues its usual depredations on the Russian people.

Do you remember what happened to Nikita Khrushchev after the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962? He was sent to do gardening in the Ukraine and replaced by Brezhnev and Kosygin. I do believe that Vladimir Putin is risking the same sort of coup by the FSB and other Russian state security services—all because he squandered Russian resources in a madcap attempt to take over Ukraine.

Putin comes from the Russian state security services. He was a top officer in the KGB and spent time heading up security in East Germany. So he knows that the main threat to his rule over Russia is not the voters, not the oligarchs, not even the military, but actually the Federal Security Service (or Федеральная служба безопасности Российской Федерации) and its allied agencies. They made Putin, and they can just as easily unmake him.

Consider the following actions which make Russia look bad in the eyes of the world, and particularly in the eyes of the FSB:

  • Putin assumed the invasion would be met by welcoming Ukrainians bearing candy and flowers, and not stinger missiles and Molotov Cocktails.
  • After three weeks, the ground invasion has stalled.
  • Some 5,000 Russian soldiers are dead—twice the number of American deaths in 20 years fighting in Afghanistan.
  • The Russians are unable to supply their advance units with gasoline, food, trucks, tanks, or ammunition.
  • Putin has reportedly asked China for help in quelling the Ukrainians.
  • There are rumors of Putin employing mercenaries from Syria and elsewhere to shore up the depleted ground forces.

In the end, Ukraine may fall to the Russians, but only at an exorbitant cost.

Putin: Required Background Reading

If you really want to understand what Vladimir Putin is doing to Ukraine, you should read about what he did in Chechnya shortly after he attained power. Anna Politkovskaya was a brilliant Russian journalist who was unafraid of speaking truth to power. She wrote a number of criticisms of Putin that were so to the point that he had her murdered in front of her apartment in 2006.

Oh, there was a murder trial, to be sure. And Putin, in true Caligula fashion, tsk-tsked at the crime. (You can read his lying words here in a post I wrote eight years ago.) Several people were sentenced, but they were no doubt thugs who had outlived their usefulness to the Motherland and were disposed of to protect the presidente.

Anyhow, this is the book I recommend you read. It is called A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya. I doubt that it is still in print, but you can likely find it in a good library or order it on the Internet from a used book site like Abebooks.Com or Addall.Com. What Putin is doing to Ukraine now is what he did to Chechnya in the First and Second Chechen Wars.

If you are hoping that the bloodletting will end soon, don’t bet on it. When things don’t go his way, Mr. Vladimir thinks nothing of widespread rapine and destruction and certainly doesn’t care what YOU may think.

I was thinking of adding a picture of Putin, but you surely know by now what that ugly mother looks like. I would rather honor Anna Politkovskaya because she was brilliant, brave, and fearless. Not to mention beautiful.