Saturday, September 24, 2022



It was a field mouse that ran in
as I described an edelweiss,
stem, leaf and petal
covered with dense plush.

Before hiding in the night,
the mouse stood up,
lifted his head, and for a hushed
eternity we stared —

I must have seemed a raptor —
an owl-like mask,
predator’s frontal eyes —
yet my nickname used to be

Little Mouse. I overheard
a student once: “Look how she
walks — not across the yard,
but along the wall like a mouse.”

Don’t you see the courage
of the mouse?
Its wisdom in keeping close
to the shadowing wall?

Not with doves and roses
the mouse and I claim our
survival, but with a starlike
flower tucked into rock.


Little mouse, little mouse,
I know you no longer exist —
your shoelace tail, pale feet,
your half-moon ears —

And I feel I have lived
several lives by now,
without needing to
die. Or rather, I have

died, meaning changed.
Mouse, in memory
of both of us,
I name you Edelweiss.

~ Oriana



~ Upon learning that Russian writer Ivan Turgenev had looked away at the last minute when witnessing the execution of a man, Dostoevsky made his own position clear: “[A] human being living on the surface of the earth has no right to turn away and ignore what is happening on earth, and there are higher moral imperatives for this.”’

Seeing the rubble of a theater in Mariupol, hearing of Mariupol citizens starving because of Russian airstrikes, I wonder what Dostoevsky – who specifically focused his piercing moral eye on the question of the suffering of children in his 1880 novel “The Brothers Karamazov” – would say in response to the Russian army’s bombing a theater where children were sheltering. The word “children” was spelled out on the pavement outside the theater in large type so it could be seen from the sky. There was no misunderstanding of who was there.

Ivan Karamazov, the central protagonist in “The Brothers Karamazov,” is far more focused on questions of moral accountability than Christian acceptance or forgiveness and reconciliation. In conversation, Ivan routinely brings up examples of children’s being harmed, imploring the other characters to recognize the atrocities in their midst. He is determined to seek retribution.

Surely the intentional shelling of children in Mariupol is something Dostoevsky couldn’t possibly look away from either. Could he possibly defend a vision of Russian morality while seeing innocent civilians – men, women and children – lying on the streets of Bucha?

At the same time, no reader should look away from the unseemliness of Dostoevsky and his sense of Russian exceptionalism. These dogmatic ideas about Russian greatness and Russia’s messianic mission are connected to the broader ideology that has fueled Russia’s past colonial mission, and current Russian foreign politics on violent display in Ukraine.

Yet Dostoevsky was also a great humanist thinker who tied this vision of Russian greatness to Russian suffering and faith. Seeing the spiritual value of human suffering was perhaps a natural outcome for a man sent to a labor camp in Siberia for five years for simply participating in a glorified socialist book club. Dostoevsky grew out of his suffering, but, arguably, not to a place where he could accept state-sponsored terror.

Would an author who, in his 1866 novel “Crime and Punishment,” explains in excruciating detail the toll of murder on the murderer – who explains that when someone takes a life, they kill part of themselves – possibly accept Putin’s vision of Russia? Warts and all, would Russia’s greatest metaphysical rebel have recoiled and rebelled against Russian violence in Ukraine?

I hope that he would, as many contemporary Russian writers have. But the dogmas of the Kremlin are pervasive, and many Russians accept them. Many Russians look away.


No writer captures warfare in Russia more poignantly than Tolstoy, a former soldier turned Russia’s most famous pacifist.
In his last work, “Hadji Murat,” which scrutinizes Russia’s colonial exploits in North Caucasus, Tolstoy showed how senseless Russian violence toward a Chechen village caused instant hatred of Russians.

Tolstoy’s greatest work about Russian warfare, “War and Peace,” is a novel that Russians have traditionally read during great wars, including World War II. In “War and Peace,” Tolstoy contends that the morale of the Russian military is the key to victory. The battles most likely to succeed are defensive ones, in which soldiers understand why they are fighting and what they are fighting to protect: their home.

Even then, he’s able to convey the harrowing experiences of young Russian soldiers coming into direct confrontation with the instruments of death and destruction on the battlefield. They disappear into the crowd of their battalion, but even a single loss is devastating for the families awaiting their safe return.

After publishing “War and Peace,” Tolstoy publicly denounced many Russian military campaigns. The last part of his 1878 novel “Anna Karenina” originally wasn’t published because it criticized Russia’s actions in the Russo-Turkish war. 

Tolstoy’s alter ego in that novel, Konstantin Levin, calls the Russian intervention in the war “murder” and thinks it is inappropriate that Russian people are dragged into it.

The people sacrifice and are always prepared to sacrifice themselves for their soul, not for murder,” he says.

In 1904, Tolstoy penned a public letter denouncing the Russo-Japanese War, which has sometimes been compared with Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“Again war,” he wrote. “Again sufferings, necessary to nobody, utterly uncalled for; again fraud, again the universal stupefaction and brutalization of men.”
One can almost hear him shouting “Bethink Yourselves,” the title of that essay, to his countrymen now.

In one of his most famous pacifist writings, 1900’s “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” Tolstoy presciently diagnosed the problem of today’s Russia.

“The misery of nations is caused not by particular persons, but by the particular order of Society under which the people are so bound up together that they find themselves all in the power of a few men, or more often in the power of one single man: a man so perverted by his unnatural position as arbiter of the fate and lives of millions, that he is always in an unhealthy state, and always suffers more or less from a mania of self-aggrandizement.”


If Dostoevsky would insist that one not look away, it is fair to say that Tolstoy would contend that people must act upon what they see.

During the Russian famine of 1891 to 1892, he started soup kitchens to help his countrymen who were starving and had been abandoned by the Russian government. He worked to help Russian soldiers evade the draft in the Russian empire, visiting and supporting jailed soldiers who did not wish to fight. In 1899 he sold his last novel, “Resurrection,” to help a Russian Christian sect, the Doukhobors, emigrate to Canada so they would not need to fight in the Russian army.

These writers have little to do with the current war. They cannot expunge or mitigate the actions of the Russian army in Ukraine. But they’re embedded on some level within the Russian cultural fabric, and how their books are still read matters. Not because Russian literature can explain any of what is happening, because it cannot. But because, as Ukrainian writer Serhiy Zhadan wrote in March 2022, Russia’s war in Ukraine marked a defeat for Russia’s great humanist tradition.

As this culture copes with a Russian army that has indiscriminately bombed and massacred Ukrainians, Russia’s great authors can and should be read critically, with one urgent question in mind: how to stop the violence. Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny noted during his March 2022 trial that Tolstoy urged his countrymen to fight both despotism and war because one enables the other.

And Ukrainian artist Alevtina Kakhidze cited “War and Peace” in a February 2022 entry in her graphic diary.

“I’ve read your literature,” she wrote. “But looks like Putin did not, and you have forgotten.”

Tolstoy in 1910, the last year of his life


~ Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” against Ukraine hit a turning point Wednesday—but not the kind the Kremlin wanted.

Instead, the Russian leader may have inadvertently put the final nail in the coffin of his decades-long reign with his bombshell announcement that hundreds of thousands of citizens will be called up to face likely death in the war next door.

While Putin’s most loyal allies rallied around the leader with calls for unity and defense officials bent over backward to provide dubious assurances to the general public, ordinary Russians rushed for the exits and took to the streets.

Airline tickets out of the country sold out within a matter of hours. There were myriad reports of men of conscription age being barred from buying bus and airline tickets, and human rights groups reported that draft notices were already being handed out to people at bus stations and train stops in some areas.

Street cleaners and homeowners associations were reportedly tasked with delivering the notices in other areas.

Anton, a manager at a Moscow-based IT company, was nervous while waiting in line for passport control at Vnukovo Airport on Wednesday morning. He was fleeing to Armenia just hours after the mobilization announcement.

“Unfortunately, this is my war, although I never asked for it: victims of this war are my people, I have been helping suffering people; and the bastards who started this war are my enemies,” he told The Daily Beast after passing through border control.

He was constantly checking a “Border Control” group chat on Telegram, made up of about 15,000 Russian middle-class professionals making plans to escape Moscow following the announcement.

Anton’s friend, 35-year-old Alexander Koryakin, another Russian IT tech, had also left for Armenia earlier on Wednesday. Koryakin said he was now “breathing freely and thinking straight” in Yerevan.

“This war, this is definitely not my war, this conflict has been artificially blown up, Russia does not need it,” he said, adding a message for others still stuck in the country: Run away, there will be nothing good in Russia for a long time. This is not a betrayal, this is your survival.”

Valentina Melnikova, the head of the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia, said the mobilization shows Putin only wants to escalate the war.

Today Putin mobilizes people, tomorrow he will employ nuclear weapons. Our job is to help those who do not want to serve,” she told The Daily Beast.

Hundreds of demonstrators were detained in Moscow as well as cities as far-flung as Ulan Ude, Izhevsk, Irkutsk, Chelyabinsk, and Perm, among others, according to the monitoring site Protests continued to erupt across the country despite prosecutors in the capital warning demonstrators they could face up to 15 years in prison for speaking out against the war.

Some of the protesters detained were subsequently given draft notices while in lock-up, according to and Mediazona. The wife of one jailed protester told Mediazona that authorities filmed as they presented her husband with a draft notice and told him he had to take it “because he is a citizen of the Russian Federation and is obliged to appear tomorrow at the commissariat.”

Outrage only intensified amid reports that some public workers had already begun receiving draft notices en masse. Medical staffers in Moscow have already been called up, according to human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov, who also called BS on the Russian defense ministry’s claims the mobilization would only be “partial.”

The Insider reported that doctors and nurses at one private clinic in Moscow had also received draft notices.

The actual text of the decree declaring mobilization puts no cap on the number of people to be called up and does not limit the draft to reservists, as defense officials claim. The document also contains one “classified” clause that keeps the number of those to be mobilized concealed.

The backlash was swift: “The crazy old man is going all in, his bets are our lives. They promised us to take Kyiv in three days. The Ukrainians took in three hours what we took in three months. Now there is a mobilization for ‘fresh meat’ in order to bomb civilian sites,” hackers wrote in a statement posted on the homepage of St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport.

“Ukraine already won. The question is how badly we’ll lose,” the statement read.

Protests also broke out in unexpected places, with customers of one jewelry store chain reportedly receiving a message that read, “Today Vladimir Putin announced a general mobilization. This means your husbands, children, and fathers can be sent by force to fight in Ukraine at any moment. Into the war that Putin started and he is losing…”

The company, 585 Gold, later blamed the messages on hackers.

Meanwhile, anger seems to be growing over Russian lawmakers who cheer on the war but let ordinary citizens do the dirty work.

Dmitry Vyatkin, a lawmaker in Putin’s United Russia party, raised eyebrows with a speech Wednesday claiming it’s “easy” to decide to head to the frontlines in Ukraine – but arguing that he and other lawmakers can’t do it because they’re too busy explaining the “importance” of the war to people.

The family of Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, was also put on the spot over their apparently untouchable status during the mobilization.

A reporter for Popular Politics, a news program created by allies of imprisoned Kremlin foe Alexei Navalny, phoned up Peskov’s son, Nikolai, during a Wednesday broadcast and impersonated a military commissar, telling him he was being called up for military service in accordance with the mobilization.

“You must understand, if you know I am Mr. Peskov, how entirely wrong it is for me to be there,” Nikolai responded. “Basically, I will decide this on a different level.” ~

Misha Iossel:

This broken, finally derailed tyrant threatens to destroy the entire world.

The world will destroy him.


What's going on in Russia seems more and more like a catastrophe in progress. The whole world watches as the state devolves under the weight of systematic lies, corruption, incompetence and the propaganda that smothers truth in fantasies about history and power. It seems as hopeless and ridiculous as the habit of all those out of favor folks falling out of windows and down stairs to their oh so convenient deaths. It is hard to imagine a positive future for the Russian state.

Russian-Georgian border after Putin's "partial mobilization"


~ Anastasia Shevchenko left Russia for Lithuania after her son was asked to write a letter wishing Russian soldiers victory.

In the center of the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, a large banner is taped to a tall building, above a Ukrainian flag, that reads: "Putin, the Hague is waiting for you."

This play on reflections reminds me of the sign in Moscow that said to Putin, "You are not Peter the First. You are Adolph the Second."

On city buses, electronic displays flick between announcing their destination and declaring "love" for Ukraine with little hearts.

"What is going on in Russia now is like total fear," Anastasia tells me, in Vilnius. "So many people are frightened because we know they can do anything. It's not only prison, or fines: you can be killed or poisoned. It's like a huge prison. The whole country."

Since we spoke, Vladimir Putin has declared a partial mobilization of Russian reservists — the first real test of support for his invasion. The early signs do not look good.

Protesters came out in several cities shouting "no to war!" and even "Putin to the trenches!".  

More than a thousand people were detained and some were then served with call-up papers at the police station.

But even more Russians are heading for the border by any route left to them.

While queues to enter Finland are growing, Latvia and Estonia both say escaping enlistment is not grounds for asylum. Lithuania will consider cases individually, but the prime minister clarified that it was "not the duty of other countries to save Russians fleeing mobilization”.
Ukrainians have no sympathy with those now protesting against the draft, if those same people did not come out against the killing of Ukrainian civilians.

September 21, 2022. 2000 cars from Russia waiting to cross into Georgia

Some see even the most persecuted Russian activists as cowards, because the risk they face for resisting President Putin is nothing compared to being bombarded by his military.

Those activists, however, insist that it is not that simple.

"Of course, we feel this responsibility. We should have used the opportunity to change our country," former opposition MP Dmitry Gudkov accepts.

"Putin is a war criminal, he is killing people. But how can Russians inside Russia stop Putin? It's not possible."

Mr Gudkov left Moscow well before the war, saying he was warned to go — or go to jail. Today, all prominent Russian opposition figures are either in custody, dead or in exile.

Many are actually now looking to Ukraine to do what they could not achieve peacefully inside Russia: defeat Putin.

"I think the West should ramp-up military assistance to Ukraine, that's the only option," Mr Gudkov says.

Alexei Navalny's team agree, but go further. Since the opposition politician was imprisoned, dozens of his team have moved to Vilnius to escape prosecution as "extremists" themselves.

"No-one attacked Russia, no-one needed these separations and these deaths," Mr Volkov wrote on Twitter. "But on 24 February, a maniac led his country down a dead-end.”

Mr Navalny's team have been trying to undermine support for the war via YouTube. The audience for their shows, made in Vilnius, has doubled since the invasion.

They are also pushing for more Western sanctions — not visa bans against a whole nation.

They want Ukraine's allies to look beyond President Putin's near-circle and sanction those whom Mr Volkov calls "war enablers" — a list of over 6,000 names, from judges to state journalists.

"Our call to Western governments is to sanction all those people and present them with an exit strategy: tell them what they have to do to get off the list," Mr Volkov says.

"This will create splits. Many will start to jump ship, and Putin's system can't work without them," he adds.

Russian troops have since been forced into retreat from large areas of Ukraine and President Putin has responded as usual: by escalating.

Russia's president has staked a huge amount on this campaign and things could well get much worse.

That leaves activist Anastasia Shevchenko struggling with a sense of guilt that she could not do more to stop him.

"I blame myself and it's not a good feeling, believe me," she admits.

But her decision to leave Russia was sealed when her son had to write a letter at his primary school to the soldiers, wishing them victory.

Instead, he told them they had no right to fight their neighbors.

"I think all we can do now as Russians is say sorry — and protest against Vladimir Putin," Anastasia says. "Because Putin personally is the reason for what's going on. Why so many people are dying.”

The banner says: Peace to Ukraine, freedom to Russia


From another article: Another man, from Kaliningrad, told the BBC he would do anything to avoid being drafted: "I will break my arm, my leg, I will go to prison, anything to avoid this whole thing.”


~ The sole goal of the national mobilization in Russia is to prolong Putin’s presidency.

This will be achieved through shifting the death toll into a higher gear, from 200 dead husbands, fathers and brothers per day to about 500 men. They will be drafted from the support base, i.e. those whose sense of reality has been debased with propaganda and ideology.

From now on, the goal of their lives is to die for Putin’s and his friends’ mansions and yachts.

And it’s not an oft-repeated figure of speech. They are going to sacrifice their lives to double down and win time for Putin to avoid a potential revolution staged by the disappointed patriots who will realize that they fought and suffered absolutely in vain.

To stem the breakup of the faltering frontlines in Ukraine, holes will be plugged with fresh cannon fodder, while Yuri Kovalchuk, Putin’s money manager and his chief geopolitical advisor, is prepping a plan for oligarchs to keep their assets and wealth post-war through negotiations with the US.

Putin’s support base will get maimed and wounded and lose the war anyways, while Putin’s super-wealthy friends will negotiate conditions on keeping their billions in exchange for conceding the territories those idiots have been fighting for.

On the day of the announcement of the illegal mobilization (state of war was not declared, war was no declared either, therefore mobilization cannot be legally conducted, neither full nor partial), Putin traded his buddy billionaire Medvechuk for 200 Azov fighters. Zelensky quipped that they’d trade Medvechuk for just one Azov fighter.

Russian secret police FSB gave Ukrainian deputy Victor Medvechuk one billion dollars to prepare the ground in Ukraine for the invasion.

Medvechuk spent the money on a super-yacht, mansions, apartments, cars and other expensive toys. He ratted out all the FSB agents while in captivity but Putin is not mad at him as he would’ve done the same if he were him. He’s a relative and a dear friend. Mafia don’t leave their own behind.

This is not a slap, but a sucker punch in the faces of Putins’ support base. They are in shock and deeply traumatized. To them, this is nothing short of treason. Putin has done it deliberately to punish ultra right-wing Z patriots who blamed him for not being tough enough in Ukraine.

To Z patriots, Azov fighters are evidence that Ukrainians are Nazis and terrorists. Azov battalion is their excuse to brag about why it’s important to eliminate Ukraine as a country.

Azov fighters have killed thousands of Russian professional servicemen. Muzzarusha patriots have welded caged in Mariyupol for a show trial, and Putin snatched the terrorists away from them at the last moment and they returned home to Ukraine so that they could kill thousands newly drafted soldiers.

Russian patriots storming recruitment centers? No, men desperate not to be drafted crowding Vnukovo airport in Moscow to escape from Russia.

Fleeing Russians are lining at the borders with Mongolia, Georgia, Finland. A line of cars at the border crossing with Georgia is five miles long.

Finland, Poland and Baltic states don’t want to let in Russian men preferring them to stay home to stage protests and topple Putin.

This is a mistake. For one, protesters are handed summons to go to war in Ukraine. Therefore, every Russian man they turn away at the border will be potentially shooting at women and children in Ukraine.

For the demonstrations to achieve its objectives, Russia being Russia, a revolution would need to happen and it would most certainly drown the country in blood for there are so many yummy assets to divvy up and it inevitably will destabilize Europe.

Therefore, I would not advise in helping Putin’s regime shoving the cork down the bottle neck.
Second, when Putin runs out of cannon fodder option, he would not hesitate to drop a nuke on one of the Russian cities, maybe as a practical joke on Voronezh (the expression “bombing Voronezh” means when Putin fails in his geopolitical ambitions he vents out on his own citizens), then he’ll tell Russians that NATO did it.

Guess which countries the zombie army will be heading to next? ~ Misha Firer, Quora

Albina Grinute:

This has been the case for… well, for as long as Russia existed. Kill locals, bring lots of Russians to settle in the homes of the murdered locals, and then accuse that country of discriminating the Russian minority. Excellent excuse for harassment, blackmail and even invasion.

Alan Kabakoff:

Assume you even have enough personal gear available for that many new service members, there are all the things you need to process, house, train, feed, arm, and transport. Then how do you command, control, manage and lead that many new recruits? There seems to be no battle plan or logistics planning, just reacting to the events of the moment without a plan or consultation.

Matt Clark:

I think it’s coming to light that this mobilization is very much more than 300,000 men. If the numbers are as high as is being reported (up to one million) it would give Russia a terrific numerical advantage.

Even poorly trained cannon fodder is terribly effective when you have enough of it. Although Russia appears to be totally inept at managing logistics and supply chains, I think everyone should be very concerned by this latest move.

Thomas Anderson:

I get your point, but I will dispute your assertion that “Even poorly trained cannon fodder is terribly effective when you have enough of it”.

Poorly trained cannon fodder is exactly that — literally waiting for a shell to land on them. Offensively, they will be almost useless. Think of the battles of 1916, where poorly trained conscript armies first made an appearance in the modern era of warfare. The tactics they used were very basic, as the troops were poorly trained and not experienced, with the result that they suffered a huge amount of casualties.

Combine poor training with poor logistics (there are only a certain amount of troops that can be sustained in one location) and lack of good weaponry and leadership, and those troops will be a hindrance to any attack. Put them on garrison duty by all means, but try and attack with them and it will be a disaster, no matter how many there are.

Dima Vorobiev:

The critical factor is not the discontented mass of commoners or financial strain because of sanctions and war expenses. The threat is the radical nationalists in the military, FSB, and the State. They increasingly think that Putin “isn’t doing it right”.

Misha Iossel:

I believe the countdown to Putin's downfall has begun in earnest now.

A sign in Vilnius


~ If you still in doubt that Special Military Operation Z is World War Thee, consider this.
Russian state in its various forms each more ridiculous that the preceding one has called mobilization only three times. Russian Empire for Wold War 1 on July 18 1914; The Soviet Union for World War 2 on 21 June 1941, and The Country Hitherto Known As The Russian Federation on September 21, 2022.

One thing is clear, Putin has started off as a useful idiot to Xi to sow chaos in the West, then quickly deteriorated to useless idiot, and fast becoming dangerous useless idiot.

Back in the good old days of the Soviet Union, we used to take advantage of other countries to fight proxy wars agains the US for us in Korea Vietnam, Afghanistan. And due to special genius of Putin we are the proxy in the conflict between the US and China.

Russian men are requested to fight not only for their oligarchs’ yachts and mansions, but for the prosperity of their new Chinese masters.

Indeed, Putin has lifted Russia off its knees to throw it face down into a pile of shit.

A question many ask how come cowardly Putin has started a war and does not fear escalation.

The answer lies with the national psyche. Russians have been taught to go all the way to the end, without plan B. In fact, to have a contingency plan is identical to the confession that you’re a coward.

Russians have the Cult of Victory. That's why the deliberate lack of backup plans; due to the worship of victory, Russians cannot be defeated, even in fact they are defeated.

That’s how barrier troops came to be, millions of Soviet soldiers thrown under the German tanks to stop their advancement, and why you see all those interviewed people on the streets of Moscow who say that their army is the strongest in the world and it cannot lose.

They fail to conceptualize a defeat at war, because their education and propaganda didn’t allow them to have room for that in their heads.

That’s how Russian Empire collapsed peasants pushed back at the tsar who drove them to death like cattle, and after that the Soviet Union broke up that spent half of the budget on building super weapons to match America’s until its economy went down the toilet, and now the Russian Federation is going to repeat their fate — they kept piling on and piling on and piling on they didn’t see that were falling off the cliff and then it was too late, and they fell into the abyss.

As an individual Putin is a coward and doesn’t care that he gets beaten as long as he makes it out alive. However, as a Russian tsar he must be a victor.

Putin is trapped by the nationalist mindset, and when he started losing big time in Ukraine, he had to call up more troops. How did this mindset come to be?

Russia is the largest and sparsest populated country with hundreds of subjugated and Russified nationalities.

Not long ago, Russians had controlled territories from Berlin, Germany to Ulan Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, from the Arctic Ocean to the Caspian Sea. An empire that was third largest at their greatest extent in the mankind’s history. To acquire so much territory, Russians were required to go all the way, never looking back.

If Russians want to have a stable, happy country they need to kick this habit and learn to negotiate, and strike win-win deals, and every time thwart themselves from falling off the cliff. ~ Misha Firer, Quora


In Putin's rambling I am reminded of Hitler declaring war on the US in 1941. Pick a fight with the entire world and expect underlings to figure out the details. Always be escalating. Exemplary lunatic leadership.


~ Russia’s setbacks in Ukraine have emboldened a small but growing number of dissidents to speak out. More than 40 local elected officials have signed a petition demanding that Putin resign. A Russian pop star has criticized the war to her 3.4 million Instagram followers. Yesterday, Russian police detained more than 1,200 protesters; in Moscow, crowds shouted, “Send Putin to the trenches!”

Some Putin supporters have also grown frustrated and have called for a more aggressive war effort. My colleague Anton Troianovski, The Times’s Moscow bureau chief, says that some of these hawks were particularly alarmed by the unsolved assassination in a Moscow suburb last month of Daria Dugina, a pro-Putin television commentator, viewing her killing as a sign of Putin’s weakness. These hawks were even more alarmed by the Russian military’s stunning retreat in northeastern Ukraine this month, Anton said.

During a face-to-face meeting last week with Xi Jinping, China’s leader, Putin acknowledged that China had “questions and concerns” about the war. The comment suggested that Russia’s most important global ally had grown less comfortable with the war.

India, which has longstanding military ties with Russia, has also grown more critical. “Today’s era is not of war,” India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, told Putin during another recent meeting [ in another version: Now is not the time for war]. India’s discomfort, in turn, gives China more reason to be concerned about the war: If India moves diplomatically closer to the U.S. and Western Europe, it would create a more powerful bloc to counter China’s rise.

Western officials called the move an act of desperation and noted that Russia may need months to train and equip the troops. But Julian Barnes, who covers intelligence agencies in Washington for The Times, says that the troop mobilization does help address one of Russia’s biggest military problems. “Russia has the equipment but not the manpower,” Julian said. “Ukraine has the manpower but not the equipment.”

Julian added: “The potential countermove for the West is going to be to send more artillery tubes and tanks to Ukraine.”

One question is whether the U.S. would be willing to send longer-range missiles and more modern tanks to Ukraine than allies have previously sent. So far, the West has chosen not to, partly out of a desire to avoid making Putin believe that an invasion of Russia was plausible. In that scenario, Putin might choose to escalate his attacks. Without more tanks, however, Ukraine would likely be at a military disadvantage.

Amid all of Russia’s problems, has anything been going well for Putin lately?

“Militarily, not much has gone right since the summer, when Russia took control of most of the Donbas, in eastern Ukraine,” Julian said. “That said, Russia’s economy is doing better than expected. The sanctions have not totally ground things to a halt. High energy prices mean they can keep the economy going and discontent down. But will the partial mobilization unleash that unrest?

~ New York Times newsletter, September 22, 2022


~ It’s not quite fair to criticize Russian anti-war protesters since Russian office plankton have spent their lives in the university lecture halls, offices, cafes, and playing intellectual games with a glass of wine or a joint in the living room. They don’t know how to make molotov cocktails, nor fist fight with riot police.

More importantly, this is not their country. They’re guests here. The locals also known as vatniks aka “hurray-patriots” are the backbone of Putin’s regime. The new mobilization targets discriminately them, not office plankton. Office plankton are doing vatniks a favor although loathe and despise them.

In Russia, service in the army is a prerogative of the unwashed, rural and small working town populace. They are the ones whom Putin sent to die and get maimed in Ukraine, but at least until now that was mostly on a volunteer basis. Putin now signs up the next 300k batch for mobilization to be drawn from the same gene pool. He’s trolling them big time.

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes is Putin’s life’s philosophy.

Office plankton protested so they stay home. “You, guys, have waved Z swastika from every street corner and car window, off you go to die for me in Ukraine.” It’s only fair.

Putin’s core supporters experience cognitive dissonance big time. They have been pro-war, pro-Z, kill all Ukrainians, Ukraine is not a real country, and now they must put on a uniform, grab the gun and go join the war effort.

Recruits are handed rusty Kalashnikovs and after a week-long training are sent to die in Ukraine.

They are racking their brains to balance those two opposing thought constructs and fail. I am pro war. I must fight in the war. I don’t want to fight in the war.

How…can…that…be. I need more vodka. I can’t figure it out without a glass of vodka. Maybe I call Vanya. Vanya and I get drunk and we fix it in our head. Ahhhhhh.

The cogs are very, veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery slowly turning in their heads for the inevitable conclusion that if you are really so pro-war, then you must go to war.

And if you really don’t want to die in the trenches of Kherson then all your pro-war bravado was make belief. It was a cosplay. But not to Putin. Oh no. To him it’s all real. And he is trolling you.

And when those hurray-patriots, the Z bearers will hit the streets in protests they will confront Rosgvardia fighters who according to the new law can all be sent to the trenches of Kherson. Therefore Rosgvardiya will be beating the crap out of the people for the privilege of fighting and dying in Ukraine.

The darkly comic genius of Putin is unparalleled in the world’s history.

He has managed to hoodwink everyone.

He’s hoodwinked the state leaders and politicians of the US, China, Europe, office plankton, hurray patriots, his friends, his elites.

And even mobilization is a lie. There is no state of war. There is no war. And yet there’s a military mobilization. Putin has terminated every law in the land. And he turned Russia into a mafia state ruled by mafia laws that he invents.

Everything that Putin has ever said was a lie. He has swindled all of the world because he always knew that a man is weak and their weaknesses can be exploited.

And for the coda, Putin readied to throw Russia down the abyss. That’s because as State Duma speaker said “No Putin, no Russia.”

And he was right. Russian Federation will die with Vladimir Putin.

He’s grown so tired of running Russia, and balancing various groups of interests and forces, all on his own that he felt relieved to sacrifice the whole country to enjoy this show of one actor for a few more months.

Office plankton did all they could, and if the core populace, the unwashed, the vatniks don’t make a cameo appearance on streets and squares and protest, Putin will flush their country down the toilet, well then, and then, well, they won’t have any country left.

The gates of hell are open. To fall in or not is their choice.

They have to exercise free will possibly for the first time in 22 years. ~ Misha Firer, Quora

Richard Taylor:

300,000 raw recruits who barely know the butt from the barrel, or will it be like Stalingrad, one in ten get a rifle and the rest have to pick up the rifles of the fallen. Welcome to Puttler’s version of Hell.

Robert Hartman:

Russian TV says:

“Denazification and deukrainization of Ukraine. Ukraine will be erased from the map. 5% of Ukrainian population - 2 million people - have to be destroyed. The rest will be thrown in concentration camps, will be reeducated and STERILIZED.”

But if they are in danger of being drafted they run away like cockroaches when you switch on the light.

At the border between Russia and Finland


~ Finally, a courageous Russian soldier tells all about the war against Ukraine. Pavel Filatyev is a 33-year-old paratrooper who wrote an explosive memoir, “Zov” (Call), that appeared in early August. Filatyev exposes the war as an act of Russian aggression, shows that most Russian soldiers are hungry, dirty and demoralized, and savagely criticizes the Russian generals and officers. His exposé rings true, if only because it is identical to the one proffered by Ukrainian and Western policymakers, journalists, analysts and generals.

Filatyev starts by describing the first “two months of filth, hunger, sweat, and the feeling of being next to death. It’s too bad that they don’t allow reporters to us in the front lines, since the entire country could then admire the hairy paratroopers, dirty, filthy, thin; it was unclear who they were angrier at — the stubborn Ukrainians who don’t want to de-Nazified or their own incompetent commanders incapable of providing supplies even during combat.

Half of my boys dressed and wore Ukrainian uniforms because they were of better quality and comfort, while ours were worn out since our great country was unable to dress, equip, and feed its own army.” He continues in this vein throughout the entire text, sparing no criticism of Russian military institutions. Unsurprisingly, morale is low: “An atmosphere of apathy rules over the contract soldiers, 90 percent of whom discuss ways to end their contracts as soon as possible.”

Filatyev dismisses the regime’s justifications for the war. It can’t be Ukraine’s NATO aspirations, because Russia wages no war with its other NATO neighbors. It can’t be that Ukraine would have attacked if Russia hadn’t, he says, since “how could a country that has difficulty defending itself … attack us?” It can’t be that the Ukrainians are Nazis who oppress Russians, as he hasn’t heard of a single instance of Russians being persecuted for their language or culture in Ukraine. Nor, finally, can it be that the self-styled republics in Donetsk and Luhansk needed Russian protection from supposed Ukrainian Nazis hell-bent on destroying therm.

“Don’t we have enough territory?” Filtayev asks rhetorically.

Filatyev ends his memoir on a less than hopeful note:

I fought in Ukraine, and if I don’t have the right to say, ‘no to war,’ then who has the right to start it? I cannot return our army home, but I can relate my experience and my thoughts about participating in this war and call on my co-citizens to concern themselves with their own country, which has so many of its own problems. … The people are afraid and do not want to state their position and influence policy. It’s a vicious circle. We are all guilty, but it’s necessary to reach some conclusions and begin to correct our fall.”

Filatyev then assumes an almost pathetic tone: “Where is the breadth of the Russian soul? Where are our nobility and spirituality? I cannot believe that we have again become enslaved serfs. After all, our ancestors shed so much of their own blood for freedom. Perhaps nothing will change things, but I will not participate in this madness.

In an interview with a Russian opposition website, Filatyev emphasizes the lies on which Vladimir Putin’s war is based. “I don’t see in the trenches the children of Skabeyeva, Solovyov, Kiselev, Rogozin, Lavrov, and Medvedev” — the first three being Russian propagandists, the latter three being top policymakers — “even as I continually hear their calls to kill.”

Fortunately, the soldiers appear to understand the mendacity and hypocrisy of the regime and its spokespersons, he says. “The Russian army does not want to fight. Not because it’s afraid, but because it understands that the government has dragged it into a fatal war. It’s a problematic war, in which there is no truth. Most Russian soldiers don’t feel that truth is on their side.”

Filatyev then turns apocalyptic: “For many it will be hard to recognize the truth and the fact that we liberated no one, but simply destroyed cities and killed many people. But when they do realize this, then there’ll be a collapse.”

Of the regime, of course. ~


~ NATO has said they will consider it an attack against NATO members and trigger Article 5.
Most likely nuclear strikes will be launched at Russia’s nuclear silos and military facilities, even if located in urban areas.

Russia has inadequate missile defense systems so most will get through.

NATO will use the attack as an opportunity to neuter Putin and Russia. Putin knows that he will lose a nuclear war and is not going there.

He is making threats for leverage but will not go there. ~ Brent Cooper, Quora

James Metcalfe:

We hope based on our rational thinking. Too many people used “rational” thinking in evaluating the threats of Hitler & the Japanese. Nonetheless we should hope for the best while preparing for the worst.

Ronald Graves:

Russian actions, destroying civilian lives and infrastructure, must no longer be tolerated anywhere in the world! We either stand up against the actions of tyrants or we become their SLAVES and of no human value and end up in their ovens of repression.

Misha Iossel (Facebook)

Obviously, it would be a mistake to underestimate the sheer degree of Putin's insanity and desperation. After all, he has been exposed as an abject loser in front of the whole world and — which is even more unbearable for him
in the eyes of the people of Russia.

However, the less inadequate among his close advisers/co-criminals certainly must realize that
— the world perceives his nuclear threats, as well as the ongoing and already badly botched "mobilization" seven months into this war, as a sure sign that Russia is losing and indeed has already lost

— no tactical nuclear strike will change the course of the war, turning its tide and transforming Russia's loss into a win

— the use of a nuclear weapon — a global taboo since 1945 — will immediately turn the entire world, without exceptions, squarely and implacably against Russia

— Russia's use of a nuclear weapon will infuriate and galvanize Ukrainians even more in their determination to expel Russian Army from their land, and it will force the US and NATO to intervene, obliterating Russia's Black Sea fleet in a matter of hours (for starters; for instance) and generally making sure that Russian Army is critically and permanently degraded and bringing Putin's regime to the brink of collapse

— this war has been a strategic blunder of unprecedented historical proportions, and Putin's hysterical nuclear threats just confirm that undeniable fact.


The arguably strongest-yet nuclear threat, but above all the “partial mobilization” (which is not all that partial — they are going after any men they can get), are a strong wake-up call to those Russians who used to shrug off the invasion of Ukraine as a “special military operation.” Only an actual war calls for mobilization.

James Metcalfe:

The Russian military is I suspect too smart to follow such a launch order. It would be national suicide for Russia. On the other hand, cowering in the face of a Russian nuclear threat would inspire more than Russians to threaten to use & to use nuclear weapons. Iran & North Korea immediately come to mind.

Matt Donovan:

People’s hope seems to be for regime change. That would be lovely wouldn't it, but unfortunately I think the next 10 guys in the queue to take over are no better than Putin. With a country that is now feeling a huge bite from sanctions, ironically, war is the one thing that helps. It creates jobs, keeps people quiet, creates excuses for subjugation. Now we've entered this period, Russia actually wants a long drawn out conflict.

Whatever you do, the Russians will always view the Baltic states and Ukraine as “Russian”. The only thing that will stop them doing anything about it are garrisons of Nato troops on their doorstep.

Alex Piascik:

Well, the Russians fleeing have one thing right. They definitely don’t want to be fighting Americansky, which is what will happen if Zsa Zsa Putin drops a nuke on Ukraine.


~ My late friend Peter who served in the Berlin Brigade in 1970–72 told me that anybody who saw the Soviets up close and personal concluded that the Soviet Union was a giant Potemkin Village.

The Soviet military was beset with shoddy equipment that was prone to breakdowns -- trucks, jeeps, tanks, planes, etc all had issues with poor quality and lack of spare parts. As Peter put it, the Russians couldn’t build a good ballpoint pen so why would you expect them to build a good ballistic missile? Plus, they had trouble training soldiers to do their own equipment maintenance
while the average American boy of the 1950s-70s grew up around cars and often learned to fix and maintain a car, the average Russian boy knew nothing about cars because most Russians didn’t own a car.

American generals and admirals were not clueless about actual Soviet capability — even lower level officers — the colonels, majors, and commanders
weren’t exactly going to publicly spout off about what a bunch of incompetent clods ran the Soviet military. That would have hurt their career advancement. If a mere lieutenant like Peter could see how the Russians performed, then certainly a general or admiral could.

However, a general or admiral — along with any junior officer who wanted to rise to that level — had to be politically astute. How would it have looked if high-ranking generals and admirals publicly said that the Soviets were no big threat — their equipment stinks, their enlisted men are poorly trained, and their officers are beset with corruption and alcoholism? You’d have had a host of peacenik types demanding to know why we needed a big military budget — and the Pentagon might have had its budget cut. The military industrial complex would have been sunk — and a lot of military officers would have found themselves RIFed out of the service.

That said, back in 1980, Playboy had a very insightful article about a group of retired military officers who were promoting more intelligent and efficient military spending. They said the US had a huge edge in computer technology and the gap was expanding. That all the talk about Soviet numerical advantages was fallacious because they had lousy equipment. One retired general also remarked that if we put our military hardware on display like the Soviets, it would look pretty fearsome — we just didn’t do that because we didn’t need to. ~ Tom Ruigo, Quora

Greg Lukanuski:

I get what you're saying, but if you go more in depth, perhaps the answer is more complex. The Soviet 1945 campaign in Manchuria was remarkable. Even factoring in the poor state of Japanese forces, that offensive covered a lot of ground in difficult terrain in a short period of time. Similarly, a “subpar” military would not have made it to Vienna and Berlin. Therefore Russian military methods require of a lot of different arms (i.e. armor, infantry, artillery, engineers, etc.) all coordinated, and with effective logistics…which only work if forces have a high state of training and maintenance. So if you lessen the training, lessen the maintenance, then the coordination breaks down…just like we saw with the invasion of Ukraine.


~ Russian shortages of replacement equipment and munitions were growing severe even before the current counter offensives started: ““For Russia, six months of war have led not only to colossal irreplaceable losses in manpower, but also to a huge waste of weapons and military equipment: guided missiles are already very scarce, shells for artillery and armored vehicles will be exhausted by the end of the year, and the state of military aviation precludes a full-scale air campaign. Because of the sanctions, Russia cannot continue full industrial production of weapons and replenish its arms stockpiles, which are rapidly running out.”

Based on Ukrainian inspections of captured Russian equipment, the fighting vehicles in Ukraine are often patchwork jobs with obsolete or inadequate components. Just to list a few examples: T-80 tanks with T-64 turrets, reactive armor compartments filled with rubber blocks instead of explosives, sand and composite filled “skirt armor” protection inadequate against today’s anti-tank systems, etc. But the worst problem concerns Russian artillery.

The Russians make prodigious use of their artillery, so much so that it is often regarded as “routine shelling.” Pre-offensives, the best estimates were that Russians had already expended SEVEN MILLION shells in Ukraine. That is roughly one shell for every five Ukrainians remaining in unoccupied territory. Add to that the shells lost to Ukrainian indirect fire, special forces, partisan attacks and accidents before the counter offensives started. Then stack on top the losses and usage in the recent counter offenses and a conservative estimate would be ten to twelve million shells. And that doesn’t even address air dropped munitions, missiles and rocket artillery.

Nor is the problem simply the munitions. “Another issue is that artillery and tank gun barrels wear out after a finite number of rounds have been fired. Russian troops are not known for being diligent about the maintenance of these systems, so the most likely outcome is that the shortage of artillery rounds will be accompanied by a drop-off in the number of usable artillery pieces as well. A sign that the shortage of usable tubes has already begun may be Moscow’s recent increased use of Almaz-Antei S-300 and S-400 missiles in their secondary surface-to-surface ballistic missile mode rather than as air defense weapons.” In general, the Russians do a poor job of maintaining equipment once deployed, which shortens its useful life in combat.

So, why doesn’t Russia just ramp up production to replace expended hardware and munitions? 

Because they can’t. Here is a partial list of examples that show why they cannot do that:

1. Gunpowder, perhaps the most basic component of modern warfare, is manufactured in Russian plants that were built around Western systems that need Western parts and even Western chemicals to function. Visits by senior officials, including former president Medvedev, to Russia’s gunpowder plants in the last week of August indicate serious problems with production.

2. Seventy percent of the components of the vaulted Kalibr missiles are foreign made, mostly from the West, and Russia simply cannot restart production. Expecting a short war, Russia did not or could not (for financial reasons) lay in a stockpile sufficient to continue production.

3. The stockpile of older long range missiles to substitute for the Kalibr has been essentially exhausted and current Russian production is limited to less than ten a month.

4. Production of new combat aircraft has all but halted. The support of existing platforms in operation is also severely impacted by the same sanctions against the importation of foreign electronics that cripples Russian missile production.

Russia is definitely trying to secure new sources of supply for the components, completed equipment and munitions it needs – particularly through North Korea and China. But even there, it faces substantial problems. Sophisticated systems like long-range missiles are designed as an integrated whole and simply popping in any old microchip won’t work. Also, its inability to produce something as basic as 152mm rounds speaks volumes about how export controls have hurt Russia and its lack of even the basics of a strong, diverse economy.

And then there is an unexpected problem: “The difference between today and the Cold War period is that there is no nation more familiar with the tricks used by Russia to circumvent this technology export bans than Ukraine itself, which is determined to see Moscow thwarted. Its intelligence services have been able to procure detailed knowledge of Russian operations, including Russian defense industry’s high-tech “shopping list” of high-technology components.”

Good going Ukraine: if you can, capture it and use it. If you can’t, destroy it and keep the Russians from getting more. ~ Eric Redwine, Quora

captured Russian artillery on display in Kiyv



~ Imagine at the game of poker your opponent says “I’m raising. And I’m NOT BLUFFING.”

And he stares at you like that dude in the picture.

Putin basically did that when he said he was going to use nuclear weapons. He said that so many times like Peter who cried wolf that nobody believes him anymore. At least supreme leader Nikita Khruschev banged the table with his shoe when he threatened the world with nukes. This one clearly a light weight.

Russians always overestimate their capabilities as they assess them based on faith, not data.
They believe that Russia is an empire that fights against Collective West, and not at all a banana republic with a crazy dictator at the helm with an analogue army to boot.

Russians can’t tell facts from opinions. It’s a fact!

They still believe that propaganda are facts and that Putin says only facts (he likes to use random numbers in his speeches to pass for statistics). But when they are shown facts they say these are lies.

Russians really struggle with causality, which propaganda likes to exploit.

Published messages from Russians who ran off to Georgia to escape the draft read like a journey into the parallel reality.

“I was stuck in traffic for sixteen hours because Ukraine wanted to start a war with us. I don’t want American soldiers to kill me.”

Russians suck at planning. There is never any contingency plan nor plan B.

Putin did not have any plan for Ukraine apart from the one that he came up in his head.

Russians who arrive in Kazakhstan and Georgia go into a panic mode as they haven’t a slightest clue what to do next.

If you ask to tell directions on the street in Russia, the person would have patience for only one element (go straight or go right etc) and would rather walk and then ask someone else than memorize the whole thing.

A second grader at a UK school has a stronger grasp on reality and rationality than an average Russian adult with a university degree.

On March 8th, Vladimir Putin congratulated women the International Women’s Day and solemnly promised them that he wouldn’t call up their husbands and son. And today, women part with their husbands and boyfriends who say, “Let’s go kill Banderas and protect our Slavic brothers and sisters.”

Men put on khaki uniform, pack into buses and planes like a flock of sheep and head to the slaughterhouse to protect Slavic brothers and sisters who didn’t ask them for any protection on behalf of the man who’s lied to them for 22 years from TV screens.


“Hello, my Rusky brothers. My name is Mr. Taiclet. You can call me Zhaims [James]. I’m a Chairman, President and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation. I have confirmed information that the weapons designed by our corporation have killed 40,000 and maimed 100,000 of your comrades.

“I know you don’t believe me because you can’t tell facts from opinions. It’s all right. That’s precisely why we have this important job for you.

“We would like to test our ATACMS missiles on battlefields and we need 300,000 volunteers. Your propagandists have already explained to you that you’re fighting satanists who have enslaved your Slavic brothers and sisters in Ukraine to leave your wives and children behind and be of great service to Lockheed Martin.

“Don’t worry about expenses. You have paid for the weapons and missiles that will kill you from the frozen funds of the Russian Central Bank assets in Europe.

My Rusky brothers, we are waiting for you on the fields of Ukraine to provide invaluable data on behalf of our stakeholders. Good luck and thank you for being of service to the United States of America!”

Temple of War aka the Church of Satan outside of Moscow. “Don’t be afraid to die in war. Christ has risen and you will rise,” Patriarch Kirill mentally buried soldiers on their way to the special military operation.

Once soldiers get to the warfront and have bombs falling on their heads, eventually they realize that Putin has lied to them. That no brothers and sisters want any liberation, and that they’re dying for the super-yachts and mansions of Putin’s cronies.

Then soldiers grab guns and drive to Moscow making Mr. Taiclet very disappointed, and make a revolution.

Liberals will come to power to teach soldiers to use washing machines and toilets, but soon will be thrown out by a maniac like Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Then the maniacs unite and form another Russian Empire.

It will collapse after a few decades due to mismanagement and excessive repressions.

If you could travel to the future in a time machine, eight hundred years from now, you’ll see men with laser blasters heading abroad to defend their Slavic brothers and sisters because AI had told them so.

Winston Churchill knew that Russia is a madhouse, and put the Iron Curtain to protect the West from that peculiar group of Homo Sapiens.

Referendum in Luhansk on joining Russia. A soldier with an assault rifle waits outside to come in if the resident ticks NO by accident.

Robert Hartmann:

There’s a technique used by Putin extensively called “destabilized perception”. Putin thinks he's smart by lying more than anyone else. But the result will be a thoroughly demoralized nation. This in turn will lead to frustration, aggression and violence.

Rok Ružič:

Mind you, when Khrushchev was threatening the world with nuclear annihilation, he said the Soviets had a doomsday machine ready, and he said they had it on a deadman's switch sort of thing.

In reality, they had none of it. Neither the doomsday machine, nor the deadman's switch. He was bluffing 100%.

The reality at the time was, that while Americans had some hundreds of ICBMs, the Soviets had 4. While the Americans had a fleet of B52 bombers circling around the Soviet Union 24/7 (in DEFCON 2 and below), Soviets had nothing comparable.

Russians are known for bluffing.

Markus Brinkmanis:

Russians are certainly armed like in 1917.


Today's situation in Russia mirrors 1917. World War 1 exposed how weak the Tsar's regime was. War in Ukraine has exposed Putin's weakness. The former was the catalyst for revolution It's only a matter of time before it happens again and Putin is ousted.

The question is the amount of damage he does before he meets his fate. He's not going to go quietly and it seems that a bullet is going to be the only thing which will dislodge him. Hopefully, the planning and preparation for that eventuality is already going on in the wings. Otherwise things can only get worse.

Mats Andersson:

Russian recruits currently get ten days of training. This is worse than useless. They are going to be in the way of any skilled soldiers for a brief time, and then they'll be killed.

The Russian military will be worse off for the new conscripts.

Most armies give recruits three months of basic training. Then they get training for their specialization.

There is no way a Russian mobilization is anything but a disaster for Russia.

Richard Becker:

What soldierly skills can you teach in but ten days? That amount of “training” seems to me to be worse than useless…as some people…having received such a small amount of “training” might actually think they can function on a battlefield…and get themselves killed almost immediately! As I understand it…many Russian training specialists have already been thrown into combat…some have been killed, or wounded, and, on the front lines, are NOT available to train new recruits…so the training that the new “soldiers” get is even worse than normal in Russia…and it often wasn’t that good to start with!

Dominic Frasca:

And a massive troop call up needs to be fed, clothed, equipped, and transported. None of which the Russians are doing particularly well even now.

Ivor Somrak:

What is likely to happen:

DPR and LPR are formally annexed in the following weeks

Ukraine keeps their offensive

Kremlin declares a state of war on account of Russian territory being invaded, introduces limited conscription, war economy measures

Russia starts gearing up for a massive offensive in the summer of 2023. Say, 1–2 million troops and however many thousands of tanks they manage to derust by then.


~ The former rector to the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI) has died, according to a statement from the organization, amid a recent string of mysterious deaths among top Russian officials and executives.

Anatoly Gerashchenko "died in an accident" on September 21 and had served as the institute's rector from 2007 to 2015, according to MAI's website.

He spent 45 years of his life at the organization, working his way up the institute and was a "Doctor of Technical Sciences, Professor [and] Advisor to the Rector of MAI," it added.

The institute's website added that a commission is now formed to investigate the incident, which will include representatives from the Ministry of Education and Science, the State Labour Inspectorate and the MAI.

Gerashchenko is at least the 10th influential Russian to have reportedly died by suicide or in unexplained accidents since late January, with at least six of them associated with Russia's two largest energy companies.

Four of those six were linked to the Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom or one of its subsidiaries, while the other two were associated with Lukoil, Russia's largest privately owned oil and gas company.

Earlier this year, the company took the unusual public stance of speaking out against Russia's war in Ukraine, calling for sympathy for the victims, and for an end to the conflict.

Lukoil's chairman Ravil Maganov died at the beginning of September after falling out of the window of a hospital in Moscow, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

In mid-September, Russian businessman Ivan Pechorin, who is the top manager for the Corporation for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic, was found dead in Vladivostok, according to Russian state media. Pechorin drowned on September 10 near Cape Ignatyev in Vladivostok, regional media reported.

Anatoly Gerashchenko


An update:

~ The former head of the Moscow Aviation Institute has died after falling down "several flights of stairs," the institute reported Wednesday.

Scientist Anatoly Gerashchenko, 72, "fell from a great height," according to the university, which described his death in the Russian capital as an accident.

The institute also said paramedics were called to the scene but pronounced Gerashchenko dead in the same location. The place where he reportedly fell to his death is still unknown. ~


~ With Ukraine’s battlefield successes in the northeast and south and the routing of part of the Russian army, the tactical balance has shifted in Kyiv’s favor. Whether or not this success can be translated into strategic leverage is the coming test for Ukraine. After nearly seven months of war,  the terms “winning” and “victory” are no longer unheard.

But winning and victory have not been well defined, and there are reasons for that. First, Russian President Vladimir Putin has a vote. For the time being, no matter how badly his army is being battered, Putin shows no sign of looking for a Ukrainian equivalent of the Friendship Bridge over which the Red Army retreated from Afghanistan some 30 years ago. Second, it is unclear what Putin’s goals are and what he would accept or reject in any negotiation or ceasefire.

Third, Crimea and parts of the Donbas where Russophiles live may not wish to return to Ukrainian sovereignty. Fourth, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has declared the goals to be complete control over all of Ukraine; Russian reparations; and guarantees for its future independence and securityThus, for Ukraine winning is a maximalist position. 

Fifth, the Biden administration’s strategy is three “no’s”: no to transferring arms beyond allowing Ukraine to defend itself but not a full combined arms capability to drive Russia from Ukraine; no to provoking Russia to escalate; and a big no to allowing the war to become nuclear. Barring an extraordinary event, or events, some form of stalemate seems the most likely outcome.

Yes, Putin could mobilize and draft a larger military. He could use nuclear weapons to “shock and awe” Kyiv into surrender. But those and other options have the most severe consequences. So, a Putin who has shown timidity after committing military force in Georgia, Syria and Crimea and then not following up is likely to seek other options.

Under these conditions, what might be a successful strategy? Based on his extensive experience in the Balkans Wars, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe Army General Wesley K. Clark makes a powerful argument for diplomacy now to leverage and exploit the military gains Ukraine has made and may continue to make. The general is absolutely correct.

But a third leg for this strategy is needed. This leg would have three purposes. 

The first and most important is to give Ukraine more than only a defensive capability to protect itself. To deter future Russian aggression, it must have the capacity to retake lost territory. This is called combined arms. Second, as it will take time to build these capabilities, that may induce Russia to realize Ukraine has long-term viability. Last, this will reinforce diplomacy.

A combined arms capability for Ukraine would require advanced tactical aviation; more tanks and fighting vehicles; longer range missiles, notably ATACMs that have the range to strike Russia; more command, control, communications and especially intelligence; more naval strike systems; training; and, what makes this work, extensive logistics for maintenance, fuel, ammunition, water, rations, medical and replacements. 

To put this into play, the U.S. would begin training Ukrainian F-16 pilots; putting prospective M-1 tank and M-2 Bradley infantry fighting  crews, infantry and artillery personnel through the National Training Center; and funding these costs as well as equipment transfers.
NATO states should be providing similar support. The British army is already training 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers. NATO can and must do more, realizing that this effort is also intended to reinforce the diplomatic effort.

Obtaining this level of capability cannot be accomplished quickly. It will take six-to-eight months at a minimum. That would correspond to the beginning of good weather next year in Ukraine. 

Meanwhile, a strong, persistent diplomatic effort must start now. That effort need not be limited to Western states. India and China made interesting comments about Russia at last week’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Samarkand. And the United Nations could play a role.

What is needed then is a strategy. As noted, it is unclear what the White House’s strategy is beyond the three no’s. If successful, the war could be ended sooner rather than later. If diplomacy fails, Ukraine has the means to keep Russia at bay.


~ ‘Kaloprosopia’ means transforming your personality by living your life as a work of art. The term was coined in the late 19th century by the French writer Joséphin Péladan in reaction to the growth of capitalism and mass commerce, to people being herded into becoming consumers. Kaloprosopia – from the Greek καλός (beautiful) and πρόσωπον (person) – enabled one to stand out.

A century on, with so many of us on social media, the effect of such self-styling is diluted; it is hard to resist the impulse towards conformity. We are just as likely to adopt group personas as our own, creating bubbles and echo chambers, shaping our posts to glean Likes, and mimicking the language of our circle. But, in the past, self-creation was often an act of resistance. The adoption of a mask might be both protective and illuminating, allowing someone a chance to flout convention and explore aspects of their character that would otherwise remain repressed.

Oscar Wilde stands out in the annals of kaloprosopia, his self-reinvention beginning at university in Oxford, where he exchanged his Irish accent for an English one, became notorious for his wit, and decorated his room in the style of Aestheticism – ‘I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china,’ he quipped. In the previous century, we might think of Andy Warhol, whose skew-whiff wigs and nervous mumbling in interviews became as iconic as his Pop Art, or David Bowie, whose mercurial shifts from persona to persona – Ziggy Stardust to Halloween Jack to the Thin White Duke – became a game his fans delighted in, wondering who Bowie would become next. Madonna and Lady Gaga would adopt the same conceit, surfing the restless waves of a capitalist economy seeking the next best thing by perpetually recreating themselves as the next best thing.

Marlene Dietrich, too, devoted her adult life to the art of kaloprosopia. At the age of 11, Maria Magdalene became Marlene (a name that didn’t exist at the time), and not long after she determined to become an actress. Her breakout success came in 1930 with The Blue Angel, Germany’s first talking film. Directed by Josef von Sternberg, it cast Dietrich as an icily destructive femme fatale. Paramount executives, who’d been seeking a star to rival Greta Garbo, swooped down, enticing Dietrich to Hollywood with a seven-picture deal. Dietrich liked to pretend that The Blue Angel was her debut film when, in fact, while living in Weimar Berlin, she’d starred in nearly 20 silent films (which she later denied and disowned), looking very different from the glamorous blonde icon we know: dark haired, a little chubby and unpolished.

In each film that Dietrich and von Sternberg made together, she played variations on the femme fatale archetype: aloof, seductive, poised. At first, von Sternberg seemed to have the dominant hand: Dietrich claimed he was determined ‘to Pygmalionise’ her. But while Pygmalion breathed life into the female statue he created, von Sternberg performed the reverse on Dietrich, helping shape her as the star whose beauty – staged and lit to perfection – was almost statuesque. Insisting that his actors were ‘marionettes, pieces of colour on my canvas’, von Sternberg would give Dietrich precise instructions on where to stand, walk, talk and pause on set.

But Dietrich was no mere mannequin: Jean Cocteau called her ‘the most terrifying and exciting woman I have ever known’. Her real relationship with von Sternberg was collaborative. Each became a muse to the other, and they challenged each other, flinging down ‘artistic gauntlets like duelists’, according to the biography by Dietrich’s daughter, Maria Riva. Each character von Sternberg created was directly inspired by his infatuation with Dietrich, melding fact and fiction, mixing her character with his imaginative fantasy; in Morocco (1930), she wears what became her trademark tuxedo, top hat and tails, which were inspired by outfits he’d seen her wear in her Weimar days.

Google ‘Dietrich’, and you’ll be dazzled by images capturing her elegant, sultry beauty. She vetted every picture ever released of her. Dietrich learnt from von Sternberg exactly how lighting could accentuate every hollow and curve in her face. At one point, she had her molars removed so that her cheeks would sink in further.

By the end of 1930, Dietrich was world famous. She would sometimes refer to herself in the third person, as if her persona were a lifelong portrait she might layer and finesse, year on year. She cultivated a mysterious allure that wreaths her pictures like cigarette smoke from an elegant holder. ‘Each man or woman should be able to find in the actress the thing he or she most desires, and still be left with the promise that they will find something new and exciting every time they see her again,’ she declared in a press interview.

Carl Jung coined the term persona, derived from the Latin for ‘character’, to describe the protective masks that people adopt in their daily role-playing. Just as Dietrich devoted herself to kaloprosopia, Bowie – an avowed admirer of hers – adopted exaggerated personas, drawing attention to the theatricality of the compromise between self and society that we struggle with daily. He liberated fans who mimicked him, inspiring them to break with social constraints, particularly those of gender and sexuality. With Ziggy Stardust – a red-haired bisexual alien rock-star character – he helped thousands of gays and bis out of the closet. Dietrich had likewise embraced androgyny in her public dress, and was bi in her private life. Bowie paid Dietrich homage on his Hunky Dory (1971) UK album cover, a look inspired by a Dietrich photo-book that he took to the shoot. As the Thin White Duke, his silhouette echoed Dietrich’s classic pose.

The question of how wide is the gap between persona and true self fascinates the public: who is she/he beneath the mask? Bowie turned this into a game to tease and enthral his fans, allowing them to collaborate in the process; when it came to Ziggy, Bowie said: ‘other people reread him and contributed more information … than I put into him.’ Influenced by kabuki theatre, which draws attention to its own theatricality, he declared: ‘I’m Pierrot. I’m Everyman. What I’m doing is theatre, and only theatre.’ 

However, his fans suffered the paradox of enjoying his determination to be indeterminate while also wanting to pin him down. They felt betrayed when, at the start of the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s, he dropped the theatrical veil, declaring himself a ‘closet heterosexual’. Later, he told Rolling Stone that coming out had stymied his US career, and later still redeclared himself bi once more. Personas gave both Bowie and Dietrich the freedom to push societal boundaries – until society deemed they had gone too far, and tore up their masks.

Jung argued that a persona could become pathological if an individual identified too closely with it. When a persona is shattered – whether intentionally or not – the result is disintegration, chaos, collapse. For Dietrich, the collapse of her film persona was imposed upon her by the Hays Code. Introduced to Hollywood in 1930, it dictated that ‘no picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it.’ As cinema became increasingly popular, concern about its messaging intensified, particularly among religious and Catholic groups. The Hays Code was drafted by a Jesuit priest, Father Daniel A Lord. It comprised a list of rules about sex and violence, and banned sexual ‘perversions’ such as homosexuality. Adultery should not be shown; childbirth was banned; and morals had to be present, like a watermark, in plotlines that should promote wholesome American values.

We often imagine that the complex screen roles for woman we celebrate today – the ‘hot mess’ that Phoebe Waller-Bridge plays in the TV series Fleabag (2016-19), or the blackly comic, murderous Cassie (played by Carey Mulligan) in the film Promising Young Woman (2020) – represent a new evolution, but the early 1930s were a golden age for rich female roles, notwithstanding cultural fears about the corrupting impact on female viewers: Dietrich and other female stars of her age were considered a box-office draw for women rather than men.

Until 1934, the Hays Code wasn’t strictly enforced. Then came the clampdown. The Production Code Administration office vetted scripts before filming, making suggestions to sanitize and simplify them, often to disastrous artistic effect. Queer characters couldn’t be shown as sympathetic, so they appeared as caricatures: drag queens, child molesters, villains or cowards.

Dietrich built her career as a seductive, mysterious, transgressive star with androgynous appeal, but now her films – and von Sternberg’s artistic vision – were fatally compromised. In The Devil Is a Woman (1935), she played Concha, a seductress, in a story of erotic bedazzlement; the script censors wanted to punish Dietrich’s sexy character, and suggested she become a ‘scrawny, impoverished hag’, and that her love interest could choke her to death in its finale.

The film had to be cut from 96 minutes to 79, and the result was a terrible critical and commercial flop (though it later received critical recognition). Dietrich was labelled ‘box office poison’ in an ad that named and shamed Hollywood stars who’d lost their bankability. She made a comeback with the Western comedy Destry Rides Again (1939), where she consciously mocked her previous ice-goddess incarnation by playing a character who was likeable and down to earth – qualities she reprised throughout the 1940s but that lacked the complexity of her female heroines in the decade before. Then, in the 1950s, she reinvented herself once more as a glamorous cabaret star. Her final film, Just a Gigolo (1978), saw her sharing the screen with Bowie.

Dietrich spent her last decade shut away in her Parisian apartment, refusing to go out in public, so that her wrinkles and blackened teeth would not destroy the memory of her iconic beauty. Perhaps, as Jung warned, her obsession with persona became pathological.

She was the ultimate unreliable narrator, hiding her true sexuality and fictionalizing parts of her life if it enhanced the legend. ‘Her whole life has been built on a grand illusion,’ Fritz Lang feared. Bowie lived his final days with more flair. His producer Tony Visconti remarked that even his death was ‘a work of art’, after Bowie’s swansong album, Blackstar (2016), was released just two days before he died.

As Wilde had observed in the essay ‘The Critic as Artist’ (1881): ‘Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he’ll tell you the truth.’ Both Dietrich and Bowie were elusive legends but perhaps, as Wilde suggests, the shimmering personas they adopted give us glimpses of their truest selves. ~


~ Marlene Dietrich, one of the iconic stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age, dazzled with glamour. She embodied the kind of larger-than-life celebrity the silver screen adored. Her image resonated because as Dietrich herself noted: “glamour is not simply beauty. It’s appearing exciting, interesting.”

A new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery explores how Dietrich created that enduring perception during Hollywood’s heyday. “Marlene Dietrich: Dressed for the Image” is the first American exhibition about the actress. Curated by historian Kate Lemay, the theme is constructed around Dietrich’s self-proclamation: “I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men.”

Star quality was the magic that made the glitter factory hum, and Dietrich was one of the few to invent her own indelible personas. Director Josef von Sternberg, who discovered her in a Berlin cabaret and brought her to Hollywood, acted as the actress’ mentor.

Sternberg directed Dietrich in the 1930 German version of Der Blaue Engel, and her success as Lola Lola paved her way to Hollywood. Although homegrown platinum blondes like Jean Harlow and Carole Lombard were then among Hollywood’s biggest stars, audiences had loved the exoticism of foreign celebrities since Rudolf Valentino’s silent film reign as the “Latin Lover.” By the late 1920s, Greta Garbo was creating a sensation at MGM, and Dietrich’s arrival was touted as Paramount’s answer to the popular “Swedish Sphinx.”

Sternberg taught Dietrich how to curate her image, says Lemay. He was masterful at using light to sculpt the glamorous film star’s face from above, highlighting her cheekbones and creating a halo above her hair—techniques Dietrich absorbed meticulously and used long after she and Sternberg parted ways.

Taking a cue from her mentor, the star also began using full-length mirrors to check the lighting before scenes were filmed. Her 1930 debut in Morocco bolstered Paramount’s coffers and made Dietrich, who was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, a major star. Most importantly, Morocco created the lasting Dietrich image. Posed in top hat and tails smoking a cigarette, glamorous and beckoning, she gazes directly at the camera with an allure that somehow transcends sex.

Dietrich was born in Berlin in 1901. But by the 1930s, she was stridently denouncing the rise Nazi Germany; and after becoming a U.S. citizen in 1939 and making more than 500 appearances entertaining American troops overseas, she was awarded the Medal of Freedom, one of the highest civilian honors in the United States.

Lemay highlights another aspect of the Dietrich mystique, explaining that she “brought androgyny to the silver screen” and embraced bisexuality both in the masculine clothes she wore and in the risqué scenes like a same-sex kiss in Morocco. British film critic Kenneth Tynan’s assessment seems to agree: “She has sex but no positive gender. Her masculinity appeals to women and her sexuality to men.”

But the need to be discreet was paramount in the studio system era where contracts contained morals clauses and the Motion Picture Production Code strictly governed controversial film material. “The sanctity of the institution of marriage and the home” was primary, and any activity hinting at “adultery” or “excessive and lustful kissing” was explicitly banned. Morals clauses applied the Production Code to a star's personal life. Dietrich could be a fashion innovator by wearing slacks, but any public admission of bisexuality would be a firing offense.

By 1933, Dietrich was the highest-paid actor at Paramount Studios, receiving $125,000 per film. Her movies included Shanghai Express, Destry Rides Again, Witness for the Prosecution and Judgment at Nuremberg. She was also known for her husky singing voice, as popularized in “Falling in Love Again,” “Lili Marlene” and “The Boys in the Back Room.”

Dietrich was, as her grandson Peter Riva noted at the exhibition’s press preview, a creature of passion who conducted affairs with the numerous men and women who caught her eye. She married Rudolf Sieber in 1923. Though they had a daughter, the couple lived separately for most of their lives, but remained married until Sieber’s death in 1976. Dietrich called him “the perfect husband.” ~




~ Arden Fleming, 15, calls her grandmother Agneta Vulliet her “biggest role model.” Vulliet, the daughter of French immigrants, grew up in New York City, and she says she first learned about independence when she went to boarding school. Vulliet left school before graduation to get married, and ended up getting her high school degree at night school — while raising two kids. She studied art in college, where a professor was impressed with her determination and recommended her for a scholarship. Toward the end of their interview, Fleming asked her grandmother for advice.

“What I want you to know and keep in mind is that your 20s are very turbulent and that it does get better,” Vulliet says. “You want so much for yourself, you have such expectations, you have so many wishes to succeed, and there’s a lot of anxiety that goes with how all that will take shape. I never want you to get carried away with how hard it seems.” She adds, “Growing up is a lot like the weather. Every time you hit the big storms that seem like they’re going to snow you under, it will change and get better — and the sun will come out.”


Bill Janz traveled the world as a journalist, and wrote a column for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about ordinary people who’d shown remarkable courage. In a 2015 interview with his 14-year-old grandson, Jasper Kashou, the now-retired Janz shared memorable stories from his days as a reporter — of almost falling off an elephant into tall grass where a tiger was hiding while in India, and of crawling on his belly to avoid sniper fire in Croatia during the Bosnian War.

But when Kashou asked him about the person who’d impacted him the most, Janz spoke of someone closer to home. “A boy named Eddy helped me see a little bit about what life is all about,” says Janz. Eddy was a 10-year-old he’d written about whose leg was amputated due to cancer. “No matter what happened to him, he never gave up,” he recalls. “I called Eddy once at home, and the phone rang and rang and rang. Finally, he picked up the phone. I said, ‘Eddy. I was just about to hang up. Where were you?’ And he said, ‘Bill, I was in another room. My crutches weren’t near, so I crawled to the phone.’” Janz often finds himself thinking about that conversation. “He was only a young man, but he was teaching an old man to never give up,” Janz said. “I sometimes tend to give up and go do something else, and [he helps me] remember not to do that.”


Bennie Stewart, 80, got his first job at age 7 — he’d run errands for his neighbors and get paid in chicken eggs. In a 2015 interview with grandaughter Vanyce Grant, 17, he talked through his many jobs. Stewart chopped cotton for $3 a day in 115 degree heat; bused dishes; cleaned buildings as a janitor; sold insurance; and eventually found his passion as a social worker and, later, as a pastor.

Grant asked his grandfather about what led him to these different occupations. “I love talking to people,” Stewart says. “I’ve been told I have the gift of gab, so I can talk and I can grasp things real fast. I always took pride in being able to listen to instructions and pick them up quick.” What lessons did he learn from his work experience? “It taught me that I can have something of my own and provide for my family and get some of the things in life that I couldn’t,” he says.

These themes echo those in an interview that Torri Noakes, 16, recorded with her grandmother Evelyn Trouser, 59. Trouser worked in auto factories, first on the line and then as a welder. “My advice to everybody in my family: learn to take care of yourself. Don’t depend on anyone to provide you with anything,” Trouser says. She refuted any notion that her jobs were dreary. “I used to love going to work,” she said. “It’s the people you’re with that makes a job fun or not. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the people you’re with that make things different.”


Allen Ebert, 73, reminisced about his working days in an interview with grandson Isaiah Ebert, 15. Ebert first worked as a welder in an auto factory when he was young and said the experience helped him once he entered medical school. “If you understand how something works, when it breaks you know what to look for and how to fix it,” he said. “Even the body is mechanical.”

When Ebert spoke about his experiences as a doctor, he impressed one thing upon his grandson: look for mentors. “The stuff you’re doing right now in school, you’re learning from people who know something you don’t know. Continue that throughout your life,” he says.

To find mentors, you should look beyond your bosses and teachers. “Just develop relationships with people whom you can observe, even from a distance, and see how they accomplish things,” Ebert says. “The way I look at it: in life, we probably make 95 percent good decisions and about 5 percent messed-up decisions. A large part of our lives as adults is fixing the mess of those few wrong decisions, and you can minimize them by just having people in your life who will challenge you and make you think twice, who will say, ‘Well, that doesn’t sound right to me.’”


According to StoryCorps, many people use the Great Thanksgiving Listen as a time to ask about family recipes. Along with step-by-step instructions, they receive a slice of family history, as well as life advice.

Some of the stories highlight one of the secrets to a life well-lived: learning to make the most of what you have. Kiefer Inson, 28, talked to his grandmother Patricia Smith, 80, about her classic tuna noodle casserole made with canned tuna. “When I was 18, I was married and had a child and did not have an outside job, so I’d go to the library, bring home cookbooks, and try the recipes,” Smith says. “Back then, we were on a very limited budget. A pound of fish cost 69 cents, so I learned to cook a lot of things with that.”

Jaxton Bloemhard, 16, interviewed his mother, Bethany Bloemhard, 38, about Ukrainian pierogi. She told him how her own grandmother would make hundreds at a time. “She’d tell stories about how they kept the Ukranian people alive,” says Bethany Bloemhard. “The Ukrainians grew potatoes like nobody’s business, and as long as you had flour, water and some oil, you could make the dough.”

Other stories point to the need to keep trying until you succeed. June Maggard, 87, spoke to her granddaughter Emily Sprouse, 33, about the recipe book that she’s kept for 30 years. “People say they can’t make bread or biscuits, or anything really, but you just have to learn the feel,” Maggard says. “That comes by doing.” ~


Sure, you can learn just about anything if you are willing to give it time. But how you use your time is a very important question. If cooking is your passion, sure, “follow your bliss.” 

Otherwise you might want to learn how to prepare simple one-pan dishes. I try to eat healthy, but if I find something frozen that meets my standards, yes, by all means. You can always add leafy greens, mushrooms (of all kinds; I love the algae-like Asian wood-ears), sliced onions and olive oil.

“Finding a mentor” turned out to be “mission impossible” for me. Then I realized that a mentor need not be a living person. It can be a composite of your favorite literary authors and even fictional characters. But even the connection with literature didn’t turn out to be all that important. I learned a lot reading biographies. If I had to distill it to a one-liner, I’d say that my reading showed me how to be a dedicated person — someone who has a vocation, and prioritizes it. In fact Jung said that extraordinary people are that way because of their strong sense of vocation.

“What is it that tips the scales in favor of the extraordinary?

It is what is commonly called vocation: an irrational factor that destines a man to emancipate himself from the herd and its well-worn paths.

Vocation acts like a law from God from which there is no escape.

Anyone with a vocation hears the voice of the inner man; he is called. . . . He voluntarily sacrifices himself to his vocation.”

Yes, I know — it’s annoying to read those exclusively male nouns and pronouns, and, if you are a woman, have to “translate” the text so as to feel included. But Jung was an important mentor to me for confirming the priority of vocation.

And yes, I know, Jung went on to fuse vocation and individuation, and even identified individuation as vocation. But I prefer to stay with the common meaning of vocation as the kind of work to which you feel called, and usually show a gift for. It’s only partly what you are born with; talent takes years to develop.


~ Somewhat over two years ago I asked my 97 year old father, Doug, to move in with me, as he was living in a retirement village at the other end of the North Island, and it was difficult for the family to visit. He was quickly losing his sight, ironic for a retired eye surgeon, and it was either join me, or go into care. It helped that we liked each other.

We had 15 months together, so I have a pretty fair idea of what this particular 90s plus individual thought about.

Anything or everything he might have thought about when he was much younger, albeit with even more wisdom.

Each morning I gave him a précis of the world news and kept him up to date with the state of the coronavirus pandemic. Actually, he preferred a newsreader than me, and he would try to catch the news on the radio at least four times a day. Particularly the hour long current affairs programs at lunchtime and 5 pm.

For a while, early on, he would watch some Al Jazeera on TV in the evenings as he felt they covered issues with a more dispassionate manner. Eventually, we found it too gloomy, and he could no longer be bothered as he could not often understand the accents, or see what was going on.

I found a few podcasts for him to listen to before lunch, designed to stimulate his imagination. An hour a day was food enough for his brain. Later we moved to audiobooks. He enjoyed learning things, like the many Simon Winchester and David Attenborough books he went through, although also some Mark Twain. Roughing It was a mutual favorite. He could listen directly off the computer via Bluetooth. Of course he was unable to set anything up, although he could hit the pause button when he had had enough.

We watched a few movies that he could remember seeing and liking. I tracked down the first silent movie he had seen back in 1927. Doug couldn’t make out much, but he was aware that it was a strange situation re-watching a movie he had seen more than 90 years before.
He didn't seem to think about the people in the retirement village he has just left. To be honest, his best friends had already died. Well, at that age, almost all your peers and anyone older were generally long gone. Even many who were 20 years younger.

He couldn't stand listening to anyone talking about their medical ailments. "It's contagious. Go on about it, and quite shortly you will be dead."

He thought about anything anyone younger would think about. He was still 23 in his own mind, just trapped in a slowly deteriorating body. He just kept away from negative topics.
He had great recall of the details of his experiences, even 75 years later.

Most days he would come up with another of his life’s previously unheard episodes. One was a sad story of hearing a small plane crash at the nearby Wellington airport in February 1936. That caused the death of one of New Zealand's most famous fliers at the time, Squadron-Leader Malcolm C. McGregor.

And then being around a month later when a parachute failed to open in an exhibition jump when celebrating the earlier pilot's life.

As a medical orderly during the war, all his mates who he initially trained with in the artillery were killed, including his replacement, and later as a doctor, he had seen far too much death. He rather dispassionately recounted how he had to prepare autopsies for hepatitis patients he had been playing cards with the day before.

He did not seem to dwell on his demise. Today was enough. Who knew what tomorrow would bring?

Having seen death often enough, he had no real concerns. The most he said: "My body will know what to do when the time comes."

One night, shortly after turning in, I heard strange noises from Doug's room, and went in. His teeth were out, his hearing aids as well.

I'd thought he was crying.

No, he was laughing.

"I just remembered this joke."

I can't remember the specifics of the joke that he then recounted, but it did crack us both up.
For a while we both chortled away in the dark.

~ GJ Coop, Quora


Basically no surprises here. Past a certain age, future tense ceases to exists. As long as one is alive, one concentrates on the NOW, not on the inevitable end that nothing can prevent (no, there is not going to be a medical miracle). 

And of course there are memories — this dad was lucky to have his son listen to his reminiscences. But even if there is no listener, there is a little voice in out head carrying on about anything and everything. No grand thoughts about life and death and the meaning of it all — just the usual trivia, and some treasured memories. When there is no longer anything left to accomplish, one simply exists, hopefully still enjoying one’s own company — enjoying that little voice that keeps rambling on as if there is no tomorrow — because there isn’t. 

(Tangentially, this reminded me of a one-act play I once saw, "Inside a Killer's Head" [sorry, I forgot the author]. It was a monologue by a killer awaiting his execution -- in fact he's sitting in an electric chair. His thoughts consist of trivia, including how much he'd like to have a certain type of truck. The third or fourth time he mentions the truck, there is a blinding flash of light, and then a blackout. But the message of the play was how ordinary the killer's thoughts were, how they rambled on as if he were immortal. Maybe that's simply all we can manage: our thoughts carrying on about the daily trivia, maybe some details of the past that we've rehearsed over and over, for no particular reason, yielding no insight or reconciliation.)


In  my work as a nurse I was very surprised with the kind of things very sick and dying people said. Not because they were weighty and philosophical, but because they were so trivial and ordinary. It didn't seem right that a person who died had only a few hours earlier been all focused on getting a different flavor of jello on their lunch tray. It seemed like one's approaching death should be surrounded by things more serious, more Important. But life doesn't end like plays or novels do, there is no summing up, no great cathartic moment. Not for most of us, at least.

On the other hand, I do see death as an act, not a passive event. Not for violent and sudden deaths, like those in wars, or accidents, but for the usual, run of the mill kind. People seem often to control the timing of their deaths, who will or won't be there with them. Sometimes they wait for a certain date, or for someone to arrive, holding on until this happens. Or they wait to be alone. My parents were examples of this, my mom seemed to be in an unconscious state, but expressions would flicker over her face as she heard our voices. She seemed to "wait" until her grandson, the one who had been the "last baby" she cared for daily, made it in from out of state. He held her hand and talked to her, and she died shortly after. My dad, on the other hand, waited til my brother left and no nurses were around, and passed quietly on April Fool's day...a perfect exit for his character, always the Joker himself.

I think these styles of dying are very much a part of the persona people create for themselves. Not everyone goes as elaborately and thoroughly about this as Oscar Wilde, Marlene Dietrich, or Andy Warhol, but we all do it ...create a face to face the world, a mask, or series of masks we wear for our different roles and relationships. And I do believe that these masks, these constructs, do actually allow you extra freedom to express yourself and act in ways beyond your prosaic self. It's like, put someone on the stage, give them a microphone, and just watch. You may be astonished.


I can believe it. When a friend's friend was dying, his partner was at his bedside in the hospital. A nurse walked in and and asked her to leave, explaining, "He won't let go as long as you are in the room." And indeed, within a short time of her leaving to sit in the hallway, the nurse entered the room, then walked out and nodded. The grieving girlfriend understood. 

And I've heard similar stories, but the one I remember most is about Anna Akhmatova's father. He'd left the family, including the teenage Anna, for a mistress. The daughter could not forgive him. When he was dying, he seemed to be hanging on, as though waiting for someone. Anna  finally did come, which he understood as being forgiven at last. And he died peacefully.

I'm pretty certain that I'll die alone, walking alone toward some tiny light very far away -- but that too is my "happy loner" persona, as well as the part of me that believes in persistence -- my sole heroism, if I can reach for that word. I came to America alone, and I'll leave alone. It fits my understanding of America as loneliness. But that's the imagined poem, while reality is beyond control. But that's what I'd genuinely prefer, the persona of a poet, rather than have people around me, forcing me to put on another persona, perhaps one of courage rather than going gently. 

And my last words won't be poetic -- they'll concern some trivia. Maybe I'll be asking for another pair of socks. Or, even worse, they may be about some trivia made all the more irrelevant by my unraveling mind traveling into the past, trying to make sure dinner is ready for my husband when he comes home from work. Rummaging in the utensil drawer for the large fork, or the slotted spoon. Trivial and domestic, alas, as most life is. 

Except, indeed, in front of a microphone.


~ Swirling around the planet's equator, the rings of Saturn are a dead giveaway that the planet is spinning at a tilt. The belted giant rotates at a 26.7-degree angle relative to the plane in which it orbits the sun. Astronomers have long suspected that this tilt comes from gravitational interactions with its neighbor Neptune, as Saturn's tilt precesses, like a spinning top, at nearly the same rate as the orbit of Neptune.

But a new modeling study by astronomers at MIT and elsewhere has found that, while the two planets may have once been in sync, Saturn has since escaped Neptune's pull. What was responsible for this planetary realignment? The team has one meticulously tested hypothesis: a missing moon.

In a study appearing in Science, the team proposes that Saturn, which today hosts 83 moons, once harbored at least one more, an extra satellite that they name Chrysalis. Together with its siblings, the researchers suggest, Chrysalis orbited Saturn for several billion years, pulling and tugging on the planet in a way that kept its tilt, or "obliquity," in resonance with Neptune.

But around 160 million years ago, the team estimates, Chrysalis became unstable and came too close to its planet in a grazing encounter that pulled the satellite apart. The loss of the moon was enough to remove Saturn from Neptune's grasp and leave it with the present-day tilt.

What's more, the researchers surmise, while most of Chrysalis' shattered body may have made impact with Saturn, a fraction of its fragments could have remained suspended in orbit, eventually breaking into small icy chunks to form the planet's signature rings.

The missing satellite, therefore, could explain two longstanding mysteries: Saturn's present-day tilt and the age of its rings, which were previously estimated to be about 100 million years old -- much younger than the planet itself.

"Just like a butterfly's chrysalis, this satellite was long dormant and suddenly became active, and the rings emerged," says Jack Wisdom, professor of planetary sciences at MIT and lead author of the new study.


~ The flood is the prime example.

Was the water fresh or salt? Either way — one species is going to have a rough ride. If the water was salt, the ground would have been brackish for decades and nothing would have grown. If it was fresh, then the supposed 4,000 year lapse since the flood would not have made the sea as briny as it is.

Trees will not survive underwater yet the ark was afloat for almost a year. The weight of the water would have turned all trees and vegetation to pulp. Where did the olive branch come from?

The ground would have been meters thick in silt with the vast quantities of water that would have rushed over it. There would have been no seeds, no vegetation, no basis for an eco culture. The animals would have been released and starved.

A modest zoo requires a staff of 1 member to every 7.1 animals. The ark had at least 8,000 species (of course times two!) — that would require a staff of over 2,200.
The disposal of urine would have been a nightmare and the toxic fumes from the ammonia would start suffocating them.

Clearing the dung with only 8 people helping would be impossible. 8 people clearing 8,000 cages! Come on!

Insects — no vegetation — end of eco cycle.

The list is endless and makes a compelling case against the absurd notion of an ark holding a pair of each species (five in some cases) for a year with only 8 keepers. ~ Grant Davis, Quora


~ The Bible’s authors did not realize this, but there were already many languages spoken around the world hundreds of thousands of years ago—a period so long that the authors could not imagine it. The San people of southern Africa have, for a great many thousand years, preserved a unique language that involved clicking sounds. The Australian aborigines were largely isolated from the rest of the world for around 60,000 years, during which time they naturally evolved the many different aboriginal languages spoken in recent times. The Tower of Babel story is merely a Near Eastern myth that took no account of these things.

When the exiled Jews were taken to Babylon in the sixth century BCE, they were awestruck by the towering ziggurat they saw there. Noticing that this cosmopolitan city was host to many different people, speaking many languages, they associated this with the ziggurat and developed a myth in which God confused the one language of the world as a punishment for attempting to build a tower all the way to heaven. ~ Dick Harfield, Quora

Robert Theobald:

Also, linguists have proven that there never was a single language among humans to “confuse”.

Ray Negroni:

We can (and have been) tracking the birth and evolution of every language. Even Sumerian, Hebrew, and Aramaic are decently traceable. God simply did not even have the chance to create those languages.

In addition to that, the most advanced building techniques in the year 2022 (today) won't allow us to reach heaven with a building. Therefore we know that no ancient society would have been able to reach heaven with their archaic building techniques. You'd expect the god of the universe to know this and not be alarmed by their attempt to get closer to him. They were never going to reach heaven.

Lastly, don't allow yourself to be fooled into thinking that the only issue in the story of the Tower of Babel was the simple fact that the people “came together" because even if that was the actual moral of the story, more people exist in modern societies now, which literally means more can be done by the sheer number of members in each one of those communities.


~ During an embryo's development, a piece of the still-growing brain branches off to form the retina, a sliver of tissue in the back of the eye. This makes the retina, which is composed of several layers of neurons, a piece of the central nervous system. As evidence builds that changes in the brain can manifest in this region, scientists are turning to retinas as a potential screening target for early signs of Alzheimer's, an incurable neurodegenerative disease that affects an estimated six million people in the U.S. alone.

Initially clinicians could diagnose Alzheimer's only through brain autopsies after patients died. Since the early 2000s, however, research advances have made it possible to pinpoint signs of the disease — and to begin to investigate treatment — years before symptoms first appear. Today positron emission tomography (PET) brain imaging and tests of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the clear liquid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, aid Alzheimer's diagnosis at its early stages.

“There have been tremendous improvements in our ability to detect early disease,” says Peter J. Snyder, a neuropsychologist and neuroscientist at the University of Rhode Island. But these diagnostic methods are not always readily available, and they can be expensive and invasive. PET imaging requires injecting a radioactive tracer molecule into the bloodstream, and spinal fluid must be extracted with a needle inserted between vertebrae in the back. 

“We need ways of funneling the right high-risk individuals into the diagnostic process with low-cost screening tools that are noninvasive and simple to administer,” Snyder says. The retina is a particularly attractive target, he adds, because it is closely related to brain tissue and can be examined noninvasively through the pupil, including with methods routinely used to check for eye diseases.

One approach to retinal screening aims to search for signs of beta-amyloid, the peptide that amasses into damaging plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer's. Studies suggest this protein fragment also accumulates in the retina—and researchers have found evidence that it may be detectable there before the onset of symptoms.

In 2014 Robert Vince and Swati More of the University of Minnesota's Center for Drug Design first described how to use a method called hyperspectral imaging, which captures an image at many different light wavelengths, to identify amyloid aggregates (clumps of beta-amyloid) in mouse retinas. They then confirmed these clumps in the animals' brains at later stages of disease. Since first reporting those findings, the two scientists and their colleagues found that amyloid aggregates may act as an early marker in human eyes, too.

The team has since licensed the technique to a Canadian medical imaging company, RetiSpec, which combines it with a machine-learning algorithm that pinpoints amyloid clumps in hyperspectral images. Investigators at multiple facilities across North America are now conducting clinical trials to examine this technique's efficacy.

Preliminary findings from the trials, presented at a conference last November, included 108 participants who either were at risk of or had preclinical Alzheimer's or mild cognitive impairment, which can be an early sign of neurodegenerative disease. After comparing the retinal screening tests with PET and CSF results, the researchers found the technique correctly identified people with brain amyloid 86 percent of the time and correctly ruled out those without it 80 percent of the time. These results are promising, says Sharon Cohen, medical director at Toronto Memory Program and leader of the trial. More data are needed before this can be rolled out as an approved diagnostic tool, Cohen adds. “But I think that day will come.”

Other researchers have also reported amyloid in the retinas of people whose PET scans show amyloid plaques but who do not show signs of cognitive decline. University of California, San Diego, neuroscientist Robert Rissman and his colleagues are conducting retinal screens in participants taking part in a larger, ongoing trial of an investigative Alzheimer's drug for this population. The investigators measured retinal amyloid in a small feasibility study of eight participants, and they are now screening retinas among a larger number of patients—both before and after treatment. These data may illuminate how retinal amyloid changes over time and show whether their treatment reduces its levels, Rissman says.

Scientists are also focusing on other retinal signs of early Alzheimer's. In a study published earlier this year in JAMA Ophthalmology, researchers reported that retinal thickness was associated with certain aspects of cognitive performance. And Snyder's team has been investigating progressive changes in the retina's anatomy, such as shrinkage in certain regions; preliminary work seems to indicate a correlation with amyloid buildup in the brain. Snyder and his colleagues are now looking for these and other retina-based biomarkers, such as changes in blood vessels, as part of a longitudinal trial known as the Atlas of Retinal Imaging in Alzheimer's Study (ARIAS).

Although there are a variety of approaches to retina-based diagnosis, Rissman says that they remain unproved at this stage. He cautions that there are several open questions—including whether the protein aggregates that researchers detect are actually amyloid. Snyder points out that scientists are still debating the best method of identifying the substance in the retinas and that findings from imaging studies of these protein clumps have sometimes varied from one facility to another.

Cohen, however, says that “while additional confirmatory studies in different laboratories … are always welcome, there is sufficient evidence of amyloid deposition in the retina such that the finding should no longer be in dispute.”

Early detection and accurate diagnosis are key to getting people on the right care and treatment path — and tools such as retinal imaging can aid both patients and physicians in that journey, says Rebecca Edelmayer, senior director of scientific engagement at the Alzheimer's Association. Even though the full potential of retinal imaging has yet to be determined, she adds, “it's a really interesting time in this space.” ~


Alas, the biggest objection to early testing for Alzheimer's is the absence of any effective treatment. However, there is some evidence that a ketogenic diet may reduce symptoms. 

A lot depends on one's genome. It's possible that Alzheimer's is basically a genetic disease. Researchers estimate that between 40-65% of people diagnosed with Alzheimer's have the APOE-e4 gene. We can hope that as gene therapy is further developed, early detection will make sense. 

There are dementias other than Alzheimer's. And some people with a lot of amyloid plaque (as revealed later at autopsy) don't show symptoms. Given the current stage of knowledge, for now we are pretty helpless.  


~ A large population-based study in Sweden recently showed that individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were at a two-fold higher risk of all types of cardiovascular diseases than those without ADHD.

Among adults with ADHD, men, younger people, and those with comorbid psychiatric conditions exhibited increased cardiovascular risk.

The study underscores the importance of monitoring individuals with ADHD for cardiovascular risk and developing targeted strategies to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.

There is growing evidence to suggest a link between mental health disorders and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. Still, there is limited evidence to suggest a similar association between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and cardiovascular risk.

A recent nationwide study published in World Psychiatry shows that individuals with ADHD were at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those without ADHD, even after accounting for cardiovascular risk factors.

Dr. Carl Lavie, a cardiologist at the University of Queensland School of Medicine in Australia, not involved in the study, told Medical News Today:

“The study is huge with long follow-up and even considering potential errors in maintaining such a huge data bank, the study certainly suggests that ADHD is associated with possibly doubling the risk of CVD. Considering that this condition [ADHD] appears to be increasing, along with early drug use and physical inactivity, these data certainly raise red flags regarding long-term CVD risks in this patient population.”

ADHD is a mental health disorder characterized by deficits in attention, hyperactivity, and increased impulsivity. As one of the most common mental health conditions in children, ADHD also affects adults. Worldwide, the prevalence of ADHD in children is 2.2% and 2.5% in adults.

Individuals with ADHD often have co-occurring psychological conditions, such as anxiety and depression, and physical conditions, such as obesity.

Previous studies have shown that various mental health conditions, such as autism, anxiety disorders, and depression, are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. However, there is limited data suggesting an association between ADHD and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

There is also a lack of data on whether individuals with ADHD are at increased risk of specific cardiovascular conditions, including stroke, cardiac arrest, arrhythmias, arteriosclerosis, and heart failure. The preventive and treatment strategies for the different types of cardiovascular diseases can vary, making it essential to understand the association between ADHD and the different cardiovascular diseases.

Furthermore, the extent to which cardiovascular risk factors in individuals with ADHD influence the risk of cardiovascular diseases in these individuals is not fully understood. ~


There is also a link between ADHD and diabetes, and diabetes is a strong predictor of cardiovascular disease (and also of dementia risk).

Avoiding sugar-loaded junk food (this includes a lot of breakfast cereals) is the one sure piece of advice that covers it all.

ending on beauty:

The setting sun, and music at the close,
As the last taste of sweets, is sweetest last,
Writ in remembrance more than things long past

(William Shakespeare, Richard II)