Funny sometimes how little changes in this world. Today’s article concerns the modern re-imagining of the World War Two era Soviet (Russian) use of the Shtrafbat, created by Stalin’s Order No. 227.

This piece could be considered as the antithesis of my previous post, The Good Fight.

No, this time I’m not talking about Ukrainians fighting for their homes and freedom.

I’m going to discuss the Russian Army’s use of convict recruits against hard targets. It seems that Putin has resurrected the practice of using Punishment Battalions, or the old Soviet Shtrafbat, as a means of reducing losses to his regular troops. Recruiters have been going around to Russian prisons and penal colonies in an effort to round up cannon fodder. This has met with a fair amount of success, as the prisoners have been promised a commutation of their sentences and cash if they fight.

Of course, it’s well known that hundreds of thousands of Russian military age males have fled Russia to avoid conscription for the war effort. I guess not everyone buys the idea that the Russian Army is fighting to liberate Ukraine in a just war. So, the Red Army has to find the bodies somewhere.

Why not turn to the old concept of the Punishment Battalion?

It is a twisted sort of genius. You have men who are poorly armed and trained. There are unconfirmed reports of “conscripts” using the old M1891/30 Mosin rifles and the venerable M40 steel helmet, and I do not doubt that the tales of their slip-shod training are true. The “soldiers” get pointed at a target and they are told “go.” If they have any questions, they are issued cheap tablets with maps, and their advance is monitored by drones.

Apparently, these bullet-sponges get pointed at the hardest targets, and they are told that success is their only option. The Wagner Group, a Russian government mercenary proxy, enforces discipline with summary executions. In one gruesome and well-publicized case, a deserter was killed with a sledgehammer on video.

This is a win/win for Vladimir Putin. By using Wagner to form and employ these modern Punishment troops, they never enter the rolls as official members of the Russian Army. Any promises made to them are worthless if they survive. Also, this eases the strain on the Russian Goverment’s budget, as there are less mouths to feed in the prisons and camps. In addition, using the Punishment troops against difficult objectives allows the Reds to conserve their trained manpower and maintain some vestige of morale among their regular troops. Finally, as the cherry on top of this excrement sundae, the Punishment troops succeed from time to time, and they soak up lots of scarce Ukrainian munitions.

This. This is the very definition of treachery and cynicism. It is the opposite path of the true warrior, or professional soldiering.

Using the coercion of the Russian State, tens of thousands are being sent to fight and die for undisputed tyranny with the false promise of freedom. If every single one of these convict fighters dies in battle, Putin could care less.

Of course, there are downsides to this cynical approach. First, you have armed dangerous and desperate men with nothing to lose. This can backfire in many ways. Only by using the most brutal methods can these Punishment troops be brought to heel, which is a resource and morale sink. Second, by raising the profile of the Wagner Group, Putin has created a shadow army whose goals may not pair with the regular Red Army, or in the long term, with Putin himself. Finally, you are begging for a slew of war crimes with these people, especially if they are left to forage off the local population. Now, I doubt Putin cares about this, but it will harden the Ukrainian resistance and world opinion past the degree where it is now; that’s really saying something. Regular Russian troops have already left a trail of torture rooms and mass graves behind them. Heaven help the occupied locals when Punishment troops are garrisoned nearby.

If regular Russian troops have done these atrocities, imagine what the Punishment troops will do. I guess there has been a preference for convicts with violent convictions, or HIV and Hep C infected prisoners. Seriously. Does it get any worse? Probably, sadly, in time.

Stay tuned, because every time I think Putin has hit the bottom of the barrel, he cuts a new hole and falls a bit farther.

Strength to the Ukrainians. The warriors.

Defeat for the Russians. The pawns and hapless cannon fodder.

No wonder the smart military age males, or the ones with a little money, fled by any means necessary.

What a shame about Russia, a land cursed with awful government. There is so much human potential in that resource-rich land. But no. Yet another bloodthirsty tyrant holds sway, and look at what’s happened.

No surprise that the Shtrafbat has been resurrected from the darkest pages of history, to be used in a part of the world known as the Bloodlands. BTW, if you want to be sickened by human depravity, read that book.

Enough for one day. My head hurts just writing this.

The Good Fight

Image courtesy Euronews. IMO it’s probably staged, or a training exercise. It doesn’t matter. Here is a Ukrainian woman approaching middle age with a rifle in her hands, in the uniform of her country. If she’s not in immediate danger, she will be (or has already been). It doesn’t matter what her background is, or her Military Occupational Specialty. If a bullet finds her, or shrapnel rains from the sky, she’s in deep shit.

Look, I’m not a pro-war guy. If any of you have read my books, you have probably figured this out.

War is disgusting. War is a large-scale loss of resources and lives. War is the destruction of all you hold dear.

Sadly, it is also occasionally necessary. The fight against fascism in World War Two is a great example. Live on our flatscreens in our comfy living rooms, we are seeing another.

It’s not hard to see the bad guy here. For no plausible reason, the Russian Army invaded Ukraine. They proceeded to terrorize the civilian population and engage in behaviors that are unworthy of modern military professionals. You don’t have to believe a damn word I say, every creditable news source on the planet will give you reams of almost unbearable information on this front. But sure, if you want to tune into the mouthpieces of the Russian regime or Communist China, I’m sure you can get another perspective. Just like you can find people who will sell you some bill of goods anywhere.

A quick aside as to the validity of NATO hordes pouring across the Russian frontier to threaten the Rodina. If you think NATO was indeed a serious threat to Russia (for example, the fearsome German Army, with somewhere between 200-300 serviceable main battle tanks), I’d suggest you do some light reading into Flat Earth Theory, or some other bullshit.

But hey, the point of this article is not to convince you of anything. What you choose to believe is up to you, even if we disagree.

No, I’d like to talk about the obligation of a warrior.

What is a warrior?

I’m sure there’s textbook definitions. I’ll give you my take.

Simply put, a warrior is someone who places themselves between the people and harm. A person who willingly chooses the path of sacrifice and danger for the greater good. (BTW, this doesn’t just have to be with feats of arms. There are many forms of courage.)

Yes, war is terrible. Conflict is undesirable. Violence is best avoided.

However, sometimes the path to conflict is the only choice. The whole idea that “no war is justified” is crap, refuted by any study of history and kindergarten logic.

My dad used to always say that I was never to pick a fight. However, he added a coda. If he found out I had run from a fight, I had a problem. He said “you’ll never be in trouble for defending yourself, or someone who deserves help.” He put action to words.

There was a boy who bullied me terribly when I was eleven or so. I dreaded riding the bus because of this kid. He was bigger than me, and he tormented me. One day when we got off the bus, I had enough. He started his routine. I punched him in the nose, breaking his glasses. We fought a few minutes and then he ran home. So, I left for the old farmhouse with the taste of blood in my mouth from a split lip.

My father soon received an angry phone call from the boy’s mother. She berated my dad and demanded that we pay for the glasses. She threatened to sue.

Dad knew this kid had been giving me a hard time. He laughed at her and said “Go ahead. And send your husband over here to collect payment for the glasses.”

The fellow never showed up. It was probably for the best. Dad, the product of a rough edged working class family, would have beaten the shit out of him.

He never said a word to me, and I’m pretty sure he bought me a fudge sundae at McDonalds. I wore my fat lip to school with pride, and that asshole kid never bothered me again.

Yeah, it’s a minor childhood incident. But it left a strong impression.

When someone gives you or someone you care about a problem, you do what you need to do.

The woman in the photo above? I’m sure she’d rather be doing something other than laying in the mud with an AK-74 in her hands. But she’s doing what she needs to do. She is a true warrior, who has chosen to stand for the people. Maybe she’s dead. If so, she has earned her place in Valhalla. Every generation has those who will dare to answer that terrible call to the colors. God bless them.

There is such a thing as a good fight.

Fully Operational Death Star

Guys, this has been a long time coming.

I finally got off the dime and purchased a dedicated laptop for my work. For years, I have shared a computer with the fam, and it’s been OK most of the time. However, over the course of the past year demand for the old workhorse increased, and I’ve been pressed to squeeze keyboard time in with others to write my books.

This had to stop.

Also, something that happened with regularity was that screenshots from retail outfits would magically appear on what I was trying to use as a workspace, and at times I would leave a file open and somehow it disappeared. Little things. But they added up, like water torture. The desktop was littered with files, and I like to keep things tidy.


Not so much, with a laptop used by at least three adults, occasionally four. I got by, but it was a PITA.

Then Black Friday happened, and there was a tremendous deal on a shiny new MacBook Air.

799 bucks, all I had to do was click a button. My spouse was cool with it.

Was it the latest, greatest M2 chip badassmobile? No. However, it seemed to be a solid workhorse with more than enough power for me.

Of course I clicked the yellow button on Amazon. Within two days, the plain brown box arrived and I ripped it open. Within an hour, I had it all set up. This included downloading Word (an industry standard), and importing my files.

Now, I’m not a guy who asks a lot out of a machine. I don’t spend hours gaming, I don’t really do video editing or anything else crazy. I just need a computer to make books. This MacBook fits the bill.

The pure luxury of a near empty desktop. A bookmarks page that doesn’t have a thousand icons. No more disappearing documents.

This has made a profound difference. I find that it’s much easier to write without the knowledge that others are waiting on screen time. Or that I can leave a doc open, and no one will victimize it. That I can organize and store files as I see fit. The list goes on.

The new MacBook has been everything that I hoped for.

It is my fully operational Death Star.