The shame and sham in Turkey . . .

There’s nothing like a failed coup to boost the standing of a dictator, especially one who is slowly disassembling a democracy.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is certainly making the most of the inept coup aimed at his regime last week. Today the Turkish president declared a “state of emergency” for three months; this after starting to purge the military and schools, presumably of anyone who may pose a threat.

Very sad to see such a proud country with a rich heritage and great potential being slowly strangled by a regime that has struggled to help it live up to its potential. Hopefully the people won’t have to go back out on the streets to bring real democracy back.

Spy vs. spy . . .

. . . takes a bizarre turn in Russia - weirder even than the Cold War.

BRUSSELS — An executive with NBCUniversal said he had been denied entry into Russia and detained for several hours on Wednesday, raising the prospect that a growing spy and diplomatic confrontation could now be tipping into the world of business.
The executive, Jeff Shell, who oversees the motion picture unit, said he was traveling to Russia on business when he was detained briefly and ordered to leave the country. Mr. Shell said NBCUniversal had a movie operation in the country. He is also the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal agency that oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and other government broadcasters that are not well liked in the Kremlin.
Story is here - Make sure to read at least as far as the dump - and I'm not talking about an info dump.

Speaking of home . . .

It's good to be back. Posting some outtakes of my research trip for a book on the Pony Express (due out next year) on Facebook, here.

World to China: Go back home . . .

. . . and stop building sand castles in everyone else's backyard.


A tribunal at The Hague ruled in a sweeping decision Tuesday that China has no legal basis for claiming much of the South China Sea and had aggravated the seething regional dispute with its large-scale land reclamation and construction of artificial islands that destroyed coral reefs and the natural condition of the disputed areas.
China "does not accept or acknowledge" the tribunal or the ruling, China's state Xinhua news agency said. The nation has long maintained that the tribunal did not have jurisdiction over the dispute.

The question is what anyone's going to do about it.
Medals again (???)

I understand from a reporter’s email overnight that the Navy is contemplating issuing a new DD214 for Chris Kyle, revising his medal total downwards. I have yet to find out exactly what or why or how they made that decision.

Chris's memory of his medal totals agreed EXACTLY with the original discharge documents issued independently in 2009 by the Navy and reported by us in American Sniper. In revising the discharge documents, the Navy is now admitting to sloppy record-keeping, either in 2009 or today. I find it difficult to believe their records have become MORE complete in the years since the discharge papers were first issued.

I don't know who or what or why things got fouled up, but the bottom line is this: Chris saved countless lives on the battlefield, was awarded numerous medals for valor, and should have gotten even more.

Coming this August . . .

Dale and I are launching a new series, with bots, AI, and damsels in distress . . .
Old bones . . .

. . . for the Corps. Item:

The Marines are looking for a few good planes, and their search has taken them to an Arizona boneyard where the Corps' old F/A Hornets have been gathering dust and rust for years.
In the bizarro world . . .

. . . of North Korea, the fact that they want war justifies them wanting war.

"It's the United States that caused this issue," Han Song Ryol, director-general of the department of U.S. affairs at North Korea's Foreign Ministry, said in his first interview with an American news organization since assuming the post three years ago. "They have to stop their military threats, sanctions and economic pressure. Without doing so, it's like they are telling us to reconcile while they are putting a gun to our forehead."


The real question is when  does Japan decide to implement an offensive capability to meet the threat. Because even with the best defensive shield in place, retaliation will be seen as necessary. And especially after the recent launchings, they have to feel they're the ones in the bull's eye.

VR - don't listen to the critics . . .

Farhad Manjo, the technology writer for the NY Times, has an article today on virtual reality that is going to come off like the stories about the Wright brothers and their new-fangled, never-gonna-work contraption, the aeroplane. We’re seeing a lot of these lately because of the alleged “failure” of the first generation of VR devices to be runaway commercial hits.

You can read the article here; he’s absolutely right about the improved controllers that are coming out soon – they radically alter the experience. And additional technical improvements in the hardware, sure to be available commercially within the next few years, will improve it as well.

But  what Manjo is really reacting to – which he seems unable to fully articulate, or perhaps perceive – is the fact that the art form – yes, VR is an ART FORM – is so new that the VR artists have not yet arrived to develop the medium. The examples that we’ve seen – in the labs where Manjo played and even in the VR “experiences” his own newspaper is pioneering – don’t fully engage the user or exploit the medium. Critics are looking for Charlie Chaplain when the "Great Train Robbery" hasn’t been shot yet.

I’m writing this while out West researching a book on the Pony Express, but as I’m writing this, I’m thinking of how the VR experience – which would not only interactive but multi-participant – would be. (No, this isn't a pitch . . . but . . .)

The medium is an exciting but demanding one, one that demands collaboration as well as vision. But when the artists get a good handle on it, the world will not be the same.