Good news, justice served

Brittney Griner is free! The American basketball player had been sentenced to 9 years in a Russian prison for being caught with one gram of cannabis oil, and has now been swapped for a Russian arms dealer.

Now we just have to release all the prisoners held in American prisons for contrived cannabis-related offenses. It’s not just Russia that has unjust policies!


  1. moarscienceplz says

    First step is to make it illegal for a private corporation or other entity to own or run prisons.

  2. chrislawson says

    Glad she’s free. Let’s hope more people realise that countries run by regressive psychopaths are not great places to earn a quick buck, especially if you don’t conform to the relevant despot’s views on sexuality or drug use.

  3. Alverant says

    I doubt she was ever guilty. Putin is known for having people brought up on Trumped up charges to further his agenda. Notice they got an arms dealer out out of the deal.
    OT, the other day I heard about a cop who was growing weed, not to use but to plant on people so he could arrest them.

  4. says

    #2: How many bucks do you think you could earn by selling one tiny vial containing one gram of cannabis oil? About $50?
    Big time drug dealer there. Could have corrupted the whole nation.

  5. microraptor says

    Good that she’s free. Now what about the other Americans that are being held in Russian prisons? And also, how about we pay our female athletes enough that they don’t have to go perform in regimes that are not friends of the US during the off-season to survive.

  6. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 5

    Yes, but that one gram could poison and destroy the moral integrity of millions, spelling the doom of entire nations! Haven’t you ever seen that classic, irrefutable documentary Refer Madness? /s

  7. says

    Now what about the other Americans that are being held in Russian prisons?

    Putin chose not to offer them up at all; and that’s part of his ongoing strategy of divisive psych-warfare against the US: get us to pay for a good-looking young black lesbian athlete, then sit back and let white Republicans scream about the “preferential treatment” and discrimination against good standard white conservative Christians. And I’ll also bet that that’s exactly what Putin was thinking when he had her arrested in the first place. He’s a KGB veteran, and they don’t do random.

  8. says

    Above comments correctly point out soo many unfair elements of this topic. Consider the lyrics to the ’60s song ‘the Chimes of Freedom’; “and for every unharmful gentle soul misplaced inside a jail, we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.” which alludes to the endless atrocities that our foolish, malevolent human society commits everywhere.

  9. Artor says

    PZ@5, I think the comment you’re responding to was about Griner going to Russia to play ball for a quick buck, not to traffic a tiny amount of oil. Women athletes in the US get paid an insulting pittance.

  10. Akira MacKenzie says

    And the usual suspects on the right are SCREAMING on every media outlet that will listen.

  11. moonslicer says

    @ #11, Akira

    I’d be grateful if you could fill me in here. Right-wing websites are beyond me now. I simply haven’t got the stomach or the spine or whatever for them any more.

    What is it that the righties are screaming about now? The fact that a black woman, a woman married to a woman, was freed, rather than more deserving (white) prisoners?

  12. billseymour says

    moonslicer, I don’t follow the right-wing stuff either, but I’d guess that what you said @12, and what Raging Bee said @8, is correct.  The right don’t need cogent arguments; they just need to scare the base.

  13. moonslicer says

    @ #13, billseymour

    I know they don’t need cogent arguments. That’s why I gave up a long time ago trying to talk to any of them.

    For the life of me I can’t see what they actually want. It appears that some of them at least want to eliminate Obamacare and Medicare and Social Security, and they’re OK with cutting taxes for the rich, but what do they propose to do that would actually make the USA a better place to live in for your average man or woman? Give them the power to do anything they wanted, what would they do with it? Nothing good, as far as I can see.

    It seems like they’re always angry about something or other, and it appears to me they just want to hurt people they don’t like, and that’s a lot of us.

  14. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 12

    I’m operating on what other commentators are saying. Stonekettle is reporting that the right-wing-creep-o-sphere is pissing all over Griner. and has been getting comments complaining about her release. Don Jr. tweet-screamed about how “an awful American hating WNBA player” was released in exchanged for an “INTERTIONAL ARMS DEALER!!!” (Capitalization, punctuation, and hypocrisy are all Junior’s.) I’m sure you don’t need to dig deep enough to find other examples.

  15. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 14

    For the life of me I can’t see what they actually want.

    Having been on that side of the spectrum, I might be able to offer some insight:

    What they want is to get their way. They want the world they were promised after WWII with the monogamous nuclear family, the 2.5 kids and 1.5 cars in their garage, the ranch home, the white picket fence, etc. They want to be secure that everyone is like them: white (or acting “white”), heterosexual, Christian, and loyal and faithful to American supremacy and capitalism. They don’t want about sex to be mentioned in public. They want nonwhites to be subservient, women to be broodmares and homemakers, and LGBTQ+ people to be nonexistent. They don’t want ANYONE challenging how America got it’s wealth and power, or the existence of their god, or calling the morality or sanity of their Leave it to Beaver” world into question. They also want a massive military and heavily armed and buntal police forces to sic upon their perceived enemies and others who danger the “American Dream.”

    Oh, they also don’t want to pay taxes to fund this of Pax Americana too.

  16. moonslicer says


    OK. I’m aware to some extent of the personal abuse launched at Griner while she was still playing at Baylor. So I suppose this is basically more of the same. Some folks never take a rest.

  17. chrislawson says

    PZ, I wasn’t talking about big bucks from selling cannabis (which was clearly not her intention)! I was talking about her >$1M boon for playing pro basketball in Russia cf. her ~$220K salary in the US.

  18. chrislawson says


    That is precisely it. The current American conservative movement is about one thing only: making life miserable for anyone who is not a far-right lunatic like themselves. And the really stupid thing is they will agitate for laws that harm everyone, including themselves and their families, so long as it hurts the groups they like to hate.

  19. raven says

    Right wingnuts don’t need much of an excuse to hate anyone, anything, or any group.
    It’s all they have.

    I did put, “why do the right wingnuts hate Brittney Griner” into Google.
    They’ve always hated her. Getting caught in Russia was just icing on the cake.

    The Right’s Brittney Griner Obsession – The Atlantic › ideas › archive › 2022/09

    Sep 10, 2022 — Black athletes who bridge sports and social justice have always found themselves targeted by pundits for voicing dissatisfaction with the …

    She is Black, a talented basketball player, female, gay, and a social justice warrior.
    There are 5 good reasons for the right wingnuts to hate her right there.

    The bonus 6th reason is more obscure.
    Another American in custody is Paul Whelan, convicted of being a spy.
    The USA denies that he was ever a spy and given that this is Russia, he might not have been. It’s not like they do anything right or care to even try.

    They want to know why we traded Viktor Bout, an arms smuggler, for Brittney Griner and not the white guy ex-marine.
    Whichever choice Biden made, he would have had people screaming at him about it.

  20. moonslicer says

    Thanks to everyone for your comments. Something I’ve said about two people that I’ve known personally: “If you want to be an awful person and get away with it, be such a ridiculously awful person that nobody will believe it.” I saw a video about this business on YouTube. The righties had taken over the comments section, and it’s simply hard to understand how people can be so thoroughly nasty. It’s why I cannot understand them: they’re beyond my powers of imagination.

    @ #20, raven

    “They want to know why we traded Viktor Bout, an arms smuggler, for Brittney Griner and not the white guy ex-marine.”

    This is what the YouTube video I saw was explaining. A guy on Biden’s team said that Biden didn’t actually have a choice between Griner and Whelan. His choice was Griner or nobody. The Russians weren’t offering him Whelan. They’ve classed Whelan as a spy, and so apparently they want a spy in return.

    Maybe some will question whether this guy was telling the truth. I’ve heard that sometimes people are willing to lie on behalf of a president (sc. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Kellyanne Conway and Kayle McaNinny). But the righties I saw in the comments simply skipped right over this point without ever addressing it.

  21. milesteg says

    The Biden administration tried to get both, but Russia would not do that. What I’ve read is that Whelan’s family convinced Biden to go with the deal anyway.
    I think there’s a high degree of probability that Whelan is actually some kind of intelligence asset (and got caught) from what I’ve read, and if that is true (which is certainly an if) Russia is not going to let him go without the U.S. admitting to whatever was going on. The man is a pawn in a much larger game.

    I personally think it’s very, very bad to have done the deal unless the Biden admin is extremely confident that the arms dealer they traded can no longer pose any threat, unless it’s part of a larger scheme to target other criminal activity, or something else that would justify such a lopsided deal. You don’t trade an arms dealer for a basketball player no matter how railroaded she was. There are lots of other American’s being railroaded and rotting in gulags in Russia and elsewhere and we don’t trade high value prisoners for them.

  22. says

    Whelan is kind of an oddball. He was born in Canada, and currently holds Canadian, American, British, and Irish citizenship. He’s done some work in law enforcement, but one of the forces he worked for says he wasn’t a full time officer, and another has no record of employing him at all. He joined the Marine Corps Reserve in 1994, and served in administrative roles in Iraq between 20003 and 2008. But he was given a bad conduct discharge from the Marines in 2008 on charges that included attempt larceny, dereliction of duty, and trying to pass cheques with insufficient funds to cover them.

    When he was arrested in Russia he was director of global security and investigations for BorgWarner, an international car parts maker. Frankly I don’t think this guy is an intelligence operative, I think he’s some sort of wannabe whose attempt at being a “spy” got him into a real mess.

    As for Viktor Bout I doubt at this point he’s much use if any to Russia. He’s been in US custody for 12 years, and his arms selling organisation apparently no longer operates. Besides, he made his money by selling older Soviet equipment to countries in Africa and possibly terrorists, not acquiring modern arms for Russia.

  23. rorschach says

    “Now what about the other Americans that are being held in Russian prisons?”

    Well if memory serves, Mango Mussolini pissed away 5000 Taliban fighters for—exactly nothing, zip, zilch, nada. Not Whelan, not anyone else. With Whelan, he explicitly refused to swap him out.
    When you go to China or Russia or any other rogue state these days, you have to be prepared that this might happen to you. Closeup pics of you scared and big-eyed in cuffs in some small cage, meant to put pressure on your government to release some rogue element you managed to capture in exchange. I was in Russia once before the iron curtain fell, and in China fairly recently, but no more. Cannabis oil makes it easy, but it could as well just be “spying allegations” or some shit. Don’t risk it.