How the Russian Army rolls




Fig. 1. “Destroyed Russian military vehicles located on the main street Khreshchatyk are seen as part of the celebration of the Independence Day of Ukraine in Kyiv, August 24.” Photograph by Gleb Garanich for Reuters, August 24, 2022,[1] fair use.

After apparently completely misjudging the outcome of the Wagner mutiny for protagonists Yevgeny Prigozhin and Vladimir Putin, Julia Ioffe is back with a harsh assessment of the widely heralded Ukrainian counteroffensive. Low morale and incompetent leadership in the Russian Army, she argues, is just how the Russian Army rolls: Miserable soldiers get drunk and go back to fighting.[2]

Ioffe does present the evidence for a case that widespread hopes for the counteroffensive were unreasonable,[3] but I think she still underestimates the peril that Putin faces—surely nobody can really skate by with the kind of performance the Russian Army we saw in the last year—in the wake of the mutiny and I think she’s right that many expectations for the counteroffensive have been set too high, too soon.

For me, there’s some dissonance here. First, everybody underestimates the Ukrainians. Now, everybody overestimates them. To which I would say, come on now, get a grip. I think the far smarter thing would be to withhold judgment. We need to be patient. And frankly, that goes for Ioffe as well.

Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Daniel Victor, and Ivan Nechepurenko, “Russia Pulls Out of the Black Sea Grain Deal,” New York Times, July 17, 2023,

Nicolas Camut and Veronika Melkozerova, “Blasts reported on key bridge linking occupied Crimea to Russia,” Politico, July 17, 2023,

Fredrick Kunkle, David L. Stern, and Mary Ilyushina, “Ukraine hits Crimean Bridge, but railway undamaged; Russia halts grain deal,” Washington Post, July 17, 2023,

Shaun Walker and Emma Graham-Harrison, “Two dead after explosions on Kerch Bridge linking Crimea and Russia,” Guardian, July 17, 2023,

Julia Ioffe, “Ukraine’s Summer War of Attrition,” Puck, July 18, 2023,



Fig. 1. The ruins of a terminal at the Gaza airport. Image by Said Khatib (Agence France-Presse) on September 9, 2018, via the Times of Israel,[4] fair use.

Some of us remember when “pc” or “politically correct” speech was a right-wing bugaboo. Now, white Christian nationalists have their own version in which, 1) of course, anti-Zionism is equated with anti-Semitism; and 2) recognition of the existence of the Palestinian people—a demographic fact—let alone that they are human beings entitled to human rights is anti-Zionist, and therefore anti-Semitic.[5]

Ishaan Tharoor sees this as showing Republicans rather than Democrats as radical on Israel. But when so-called “moderate” (read neoliberal) Democrats join Republicans in a denial that Israel is a racist state,[6] it’s going to be hard to sustain that view politically.

Ishaan Tharoor, “It’s the Republicans, not the Democrats, who are radical on Israel,” Washington Post, July 19, 2023,



Century III Mall

Fig. 1. “The exterior of the closed Century III Mall taken from a drone . . . in West Mifflin.” Photograph by Benjamin B. Braun, May 11, 2023, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,[7] fair use.

Michael DiVittorio, “West Mifflin Council unanimously condemns former Century III Mall,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, July 18, 2023,


Academic repression

Student loans

Fig. 1. Unattributed and undated image via James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal,[8] fair use.

Ryan Cooper, “President Biden’s Most Powerful Student Loan Tool,” American Prospect, July 17, 2023,

John Brooks, Brian Galle, and Adam Levitin, “The solution to Biden’s student loan problems is right before his eyes,” Washington Post, July 18, 2023,

  1. [1]Reuters, “Ukraine puts destroyed Russian tanks on display in Kyiv,” August 25, 2022,
  2. [2]Julia Ioffe, “Ukraine’s Summer War of Attrition,” Puck, July 18, 2023,
  3. [3]Julia Ioffe, “Ukraine’s Summer War of Attrition,” Puck, July 18, 2023,
  4. [4]Agence France-Presse and Times of Israel, “20 years after its opening, destroyed Gaza airport embodies grounded peace hopes,” Times of Israel, September 12, 2018,
  5. [5]Ishaan Tharoor, “It’s the Republicans, not the Democrats, who are radical on Israel,” Washington Post, July 19, 2023,
  6. [6]Ishaan Tharoor, “It’s the Republicans, not the Democrats, who are radical on Israel,” Washington Post, July 19, 2023,
  7. [7]Neena Hagen, “The fall of the Century: Once a retail shopping jewel, the West Mifflin mall has been left to rot,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 21, 2023,
  8. [8]Richard K. Vedder, “Eliminate or Radically Restructure Federal Student Loans,” James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, September 16, 2020,

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