Quote of the day

“I feel for those guys,” said Mr. Elleman, who visited the factory repeatedly a decade ago while working on federal projects to curb weapon threats. “They don’t want to do bad things.”

- about the Ukrainian engineers suspected of supplying North Korea with its rocket technology, and thereby taking the world close to WWIII.

Story.



Charlottesville

I’ve been trying for more than twenty-four hours to come up with an adequate expression of my outrage at the events perpetrated by the nazis on the people of Charlottesville, Va. and all good Americans Friday and Saturday. There is so much wrong that starting in on one aspect seems to distort all the others. Evil has come out of its hell to mock us all.
Maybe it’s just ironic, but the most optimistic conversation I had about Charlottesville and what it represents came with a black friend who took the events almost in stride. It’s like chemo working on cancer, he said; the country has to suffer before the evil is completely beaten off. We’re sick, but eventually getting better. Without this struggle, without seeing evil and facing it directly, we can’t ever get to that better place.
I hope so. And if a person who was born in South Central L.A. can find a way to be hopeful, surely everyone should be. But at just this moment, the battle seems overwhelming to many.
This country was founded on brave ideals. Its greatness has come not because it achieved those ideals, but because it has striven toward them. We’re not there yet; some of us may never be.
But we fight on.
More on Dieppe . . .

The Rangers book is being reissued soon, which has given me the opportunity to correct some of the dumb mistakes that got past me the first time around. (Submarine rather than Supermarine? Ouch! And let's not get into the M1 fiasco! But as I always say, the only original thing I own are my mistakes.)

I appreciate people pointing out the mistakes, especially when they are polite and forgiving. But I've always been amazed at the sharp reactions to things that aren’t in the book. For some odd reason, (an admittedly tiny percentage of) readers seem to believe that a book focusing on the small contribution that Americans made to the battle denigrates the larger Canadian effort and sacrifice. And then there are the folks who think I said the newly formed Ranger unit was the equivalent of the British Commandos. (Eventually, yes, as one of the surviving commandos told me when I worked on the book. But at the time of Dieppe, they were still very much learning.)

I could view it as some people looking for a fight. But I prefer to think of it as another riff on one of the book's themes: History is always filtered by the framework we bring to it. That is, after all, one of the main themes of the book.

Many brave men died on that city beach, and many others were captured. Most were Canadian, who were mentoring part of the Ranger contingent. Three Americans died alongside them, and others were awarded medals for bravery. For the small but brave contingent of Americans involved, it was an important baptism in fire, the first American blood-letting in Europe. The lessons learned were applied immediately in Africa, then Sicily, Italy, and beyond.



Honoring the brave . . .





This is the 75th anniversary of Operation Jubilee, the assault on German-held Dieppe, France.

I’ve been honored with an invitation from the Canadian embassy and the mayor to attend ceremonies commemorating the bravery of the Canadian, British, and American troops who fought there.

I'm humbled to be able to add my prayers and thoughts to the memory of those brave men.


Say, what?

Here’s a lesson in critiques –

I’ve been working on a particular screenplay for a while now. Gave it to my film agent/manager, who came back with one note in particular: No one wants flashbacks.

Hmmmm….

Revised the script without flashbacks. Everyone is happy, until . . .

Feedback from (famous) director: Try doing this with flashbacks.

Just goes to show. . . .


Baseball . . .


One of the worst things about sports “reporting” is the manufactured hype around baseball’s trade deadlines. The endless and breathless speculation is bad enough, but giving the teams “grades” on them is idiotic.

I understand why commentators – I won’t call them reporters – do it. Fans and even team officials buying into it, though . . .

Speaking of winning and losing, one of the worst possible pseudo-statistics floating around these days are the “chances of making the playoffs” guesstimates. I’m a big believer in real statistics – with the caveat that they are not a substitute for actually watching the players and games, but rather a tool for enriching that process. But predictions based on what other teams have done in the past . . . this is baseball, not bingo.

All of which is to say - the Yankees' acquisitions at the July trading deadline will not give them the pennant, and their value won't be apparent for several years.

And I wouldn't have made the trades, but then nobody asked . . .


Syria shutdown

From an op ed:
Syria adds another chapter to the star-crossed history of CIA paramilitary action. These efforts begin with the worthy objective of giving presidents policy options short of all-out war. But they often end with an untidy mess, in which rebels feel they have been “seduced and abandoned” by the promise of U.S. support that disappears when the political winds change.

Article.


Most important point (low in the piece): you need a geo-political plan for the military component to make any sense. But we knew that, right?




John McCain


Whatever other achievements, etc., he has had since, John McCain is a hero and example to all of us. His endurance and fortitude during his imprisonment in North Vietnam is an example for all of on how to persevere under the most horrible circumstances. His politics are irrelevant; his resilience is everything.

Article:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee known for political independence during more than three decades in the Senate, has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, his office said on Wednesday.
The 80-year-old lawmaker and former Navy pilot, who was re-elected to a sixth Senate term in November, has been recovering at home in Arizona since undergoing surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix last Friday to remove a blood clot from above his left eye.





The next war . . .


From the NYT:

“I don’t pursue every attacker, just the ones that piss me off,” Mr. Ben-Oni told me recently over lentils in his office, which was strewn with empty Red Bull cans. “This pissed me off and, more importantly, it pissed my wife off, which is the real litmus test.”

Story.
Memorial Day



When you’re a kid, a lot of things that are real don’t seem real. War is one of them. Movies and TV shows about war, books and comics about combat, all exist in some place other than “real.” You get some of the emotion maybe, but you don’t really understand the depth of what fighting and sacrifice truly mean.
I first began to realize how much there was to learn when a friend’s older brother died in Vietnam. I was far too young to truly understand what had happened, let alone comprehend how great a sacrifice he and his family had made for our country, but this first shock of realty has stayed with me.
These many years later, I am grateful for his sacrifice, and for all the thousands and thousands of other young men and women, stretching back to the Revolutionary War, who have made my life of freedom possible.
I’ve learned a lot of things over the years, witnessed and felt sacrifice and sorrow myself. I know a lot more about the “real” world and its entertainment analogue. But the willingness of others to give their lives so unselfishly continues to fill me with awe.



Projecting power



The Chinese launched their first home-grown carrier today. It will likely take two years (or more) to be fully operational, but it's a critical piece in the drive to increase Chinese presence in the South China Sea.

While the ship's function (and expected air arm) is more akin to, say the Italian Cavour than to American supercarriers, published reports of its dimensions show it's larger than the Cavour, and in terms of length - not necessarily a good measurement - it's close to the Nimitz class vessels.

Reuters.

(A fictional version of the carrier and its still-building sister ship make brief appearances in the Red Dragon series.)

AI and the news . . .

. . . not "in" the news, writing it:

The dispatch came with the clarity and verve for which Post reporters are known, with one key difference: It was generated by Heliograf, a bot that made its debut on the Post’s website last year and marked the most sophisticated use of artificial intelligence in journalism to date.




Dictatorship . . .

. . . AI's break-through app.

Riffing off Maciej Ceglowski at Philly Ete April 18:
A question few are asking is whether the tools of mass surveillance and social control we spent the last decade building could have had anything to do with the debacle of the 2017 election, or whether destroying local journalism and making national journalism so dependent on our platforms was, in retrospect, a good idea.

Essay/talk.
What the United video really shows


Jacob Silverman in the WP:

We are told that this is the era of the empowered consumer . . .This vision is a lie. Air travel is the most concentrated version of an essentially authoritarian experience that can be found throughout today’s economy. We live, work, shop, and travel under a system of grossly asymmetric power relationships, in which consumers sign away most of their rights just by purchasing a ticket and companies deputize themselves to enforce contracts with hired goons.

Essay.

Spies & lies that changed history  . . .


. . . The Zimmermann letter, America's entry into WWI, and some thoughts on What-If: Great entry by John Schindler:

Counterfactual history is a hazardous game, but it’s easy to imagine a very different Europe coming to pass without American intervention in April 1917. Some sort of peace would eventually have emerged out of the Great War stalemate that was broken by the Americans. It would have been a German-dominated Europe, but we have that now anyway. Importantly, it would not have given prominence to murderous madmen such as Bolsheviks and Fascists, while Adolf Hitler might have died, penniless and forgotten, as the aspiring artist-manqué he really was.

Article. 
If you're traveling overseas . . .


. . . do it before the reprisals kick in. Because once the U.S. adopts these idiotic policies and applies them to allies, no one's going to want to travel at all.

From the WSJ:

Trump Administration Considers Far-Reaching Steps for ‘Extreme Vetting’
Foreigners entering U.S. could be forced to hand over phones, answer questions on ideology; changes could apply to allies like France and Germany

. . .
“We want to say for instance, ‘What sites do you visit? And give us your passwords,’ so that we can see what they do on the internet,” Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said at a congressional hearing in February. “If they don’t want to give us that information then they don’t come.”

Story.


Everybody's business

Web surfing has never been entirely "private," but now it's everybody's business.

Item:

In a party-line vote, House Republicans freed Internet service providers such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast of protections approved just last year that had sought to limit what companies could do with information such as customer browsing habits, app usage history, location data and Social Security numbers. The rules also had required providers to strengthen safeguards for customer data against hackers and thieves.
The bill now goes to the president, who is expected to sign it.

Story.
A day in the life . . .


People ask what it's like fighting iSIS. This little documentary is far more eloquent on the subject than I can be:

https://thecorrespondent.com/4151/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-sniper-fighting-isis/234058286-d881d610
Meanwhile, back in the real world . . .


Item:

Russia has secretly deployed a new cruise missile despite complaints from American officials that it violates a landmark arms control treaty that helped seal the end of the Cold War, administration officials say.


Story.

A little more information about the missile family here.



Happy Valentine's Day . . .

Spy vs. spy


More speculation from Russian sources on the hacker arrests:

However, according to two Moscow Times sources, the treason charges and the men's supposed link to America are likely a cover story. Politically, the loss of Shaltai Boltai is a big blow to the FSB’s reputation. The U.S. connection makes it easier to explain to an external audience what is, in fact, an internal power struggle, they said.

Story.
Thinking about getting a new car . . .





. . . but first I have to take and pass this course.


Six more weeks?




No one thought of blindfolding the f@#fdjng little b@#$agd????
How reassuring . . .


Item: Iran test fires ballistic missile. But don't worry:

[Foreign Minister Javad] Zarif said that his country's missiles are "not designed for the capability of carrying a nuclear warhead".

Story.

On a technical note, fitting a nuclear weapon a missile this size is not easy and is probably beyond Iran's current or very-near-future capabilities. But a) the best way to get get there is from here, b) ballistic missiles are by their nature offensive, not defensive weapons, c) what are the odds that Iran wants to be the first country in the world to design medium-range ballistic missiles to deliver conventional, rather than nuclear, warheads?

If you want to know a nation's intent when it comes to nukes, watch what they do with delivery systems.



Toasted?

Tostitos got ya covered . . .


This chip bag can not only detect alcohol, but call Uber for you.

Story.
In North Korea...

Item:
The North Korean elite are outwardly expressing their discontent towards young leader Kim Jong Un and his government as more outside information trickles into the isolated country, North Korea's former deputy ambassador to London said on Wednesday.
Thae Yong Ho defected to South Korea in August last year and since December 2016 has been speaking to media and appearing on variety television shows to discuss his defection to Seoul and his life as a North Korean envoy.
"When Kim Jong Un first came to power, I was hopeful that he would make reasonable and rational decisions to save North Korea from poverty, but I soon fell into despair watching him purging officials for no proper reasons," Thae said during his first news conference with foreign media on Wednesday.
"Low-level dissent or criticism of the regime, until recently unthinkable, is becoming more frequent," said Thae, who spoke in fluent, British-accented English.


Details.

We have seen stories like this before, though.

Happy birthday, Edith . . .

. . . One of America's greatest novelists wrote many of her works in bed - not a bad gig if you can get it.


More on Edith Wharton.
Trident . . . down?

A British test of a Trident nuclear missile failed dramatically this past summer, with the missile veering significantly off-course. The British parliament is focusing on the government's lying - or as the British would say, "lack of candor" - about the issue, which is serious in itself. But if I were an MP, I'd sure want to know to know why the system, which is the heart of Britain's nuclear deterrent, failed.

And given the system's importance to America as well, Congress ought to be asking the same questions.

(BBC on test's failure. And make no mistake: claiming the Navy successfully tested the missile when it went wildly off course - that is a lie.)

Everyone is good . . .




Maggie Roche dies the other day after a struggle with cancer.

Meanwhile in Syria . . .

Two famous ancient structures in the city of Palmyra have been destroyed by ISIS forces, Syria's antiquities chief says.
The Tetrapylon and the facade of the city's Roman theater have both been almost completely demolished, the official says, according to NPR's Alison Meuse.

Story.

(These were pretty famous and beautiful ruins around an important archaeological site. They play a minor role in the next Puppet Master, which takes place just before the initial Syrian recapture last year. Since then, ISIS moved back in.)


Getting there fast . . .

As in, speed of sound fast.




Boom's plans to bring supersonic flight back to commercial passenger air travel is huge. Now Boom is one step closer, as it reveals the XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator, a 1/3-scale prototype of its Boom supersonic passenger aircraft, which will be doing its first supersonic test flights later this year.

Full story.

Goes without saying, I want one. Santa????

Venezuela undone . . .


Excellent summary of the horror that has become Venezuela here:

http://interactives.ap.org/2016/venezuela-in-tweets/