American Elephants


We are not their subjects. They work for us. by The Elephant's Child

A House Republican has introduced the SCOTUSScare Act which would make all nine justices and their employees join the Affordable Care Act’s healthcare law exchanges. It would only allow the federal government to provide healthcare through the exchanges.

Not going to go anywhere, but the policy of not applying laws inflicted on the rest of society, but not our representatives in the federal government, is problematic. Our elected representatives, including the president and all his appointees work for us. We are not their subjects. Ours is a government “of the people and by the people,” and when  you vote — keep that in mind.

Hillary’s refusal to answer questions, and rude telling one of the people to “just go to the end of the line” should give you pause.

Any law passed by Congress and signed by the president should apply equally to those in the government.



It Is Way Past Time to Call a Halt to this Pathetic Search for a Nuclear Deal. by The Elephant's Child

Obama’s Iran nuclear negotiations are coming down to the final days before a self-imposed deadline expires. The administration is desperately seeking support for its effort to make a deal at any price. Five of Obama’s closest advisers, members of his inner circle of advisers on Iran have signed a letter urging him to stand his ground for once. Iran’s parliament has voted that they will accept no inspections, none of their military sites will be open to inspectors at any time, and generally thumbed their noses at the U.S.

Obama came to office with an array of really big accomplishments he expected to make to place him in the list of the greatest presidents. Health Care was one. Ending the Iraq War, closing Gitmo, a Two-State Solution between Israel and Palestine, renewing relations with Cuba, and a nuclear deal with Iran. His list seems remarkably short on history and anything but the shallowest understanding of world affairs.

He badly wants a deal with Iran, and seems open to any concession that might enable him to get “a deal.” Sanctions have put Iran’s economy in a bind, exacerbated by the advent of “fracking” and America’s abundance of oil and natural gas — which, in turn, has significantly brought down the price of a barrel of oil, to less than the break-even cost for Iranian oil. It was the sanctions and pressure on Iran’s economy that brought them to the table in the first place.

The administration has long insisted that any nuclear deal will have no effect on American determination to stop Iran’s support for terrorism, their drive for nuclear weapons, and their regional ambitions. From Mr. Obama’s public statements, he apparently believes that the Iranians are just people like us, who essentially care about their families, and their claims of “Death to America” are just public relations ploys to keep the locals happy, or something like that. From Michael Ledeen:

The central theme in Obama’s outreach to Iran is his conviction that the United States has historically played a wicked role in the Middle East, and that the best things he can do for that part of the world is to limit and withdraw American military might and empower our self-declared enemies, whose hostility to traditional American policies he largely shares.

Obama has already lifted most of the sanctions that brought Iran to the table. Now he is ending some funding that annoys Iran. According to the Wall Street Journal, a Dubai-based Sri Lankan businessman was cited by President GW Bush as the :”chief financial officer and money launderer” for the nuclear-proliferation network of Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan,  In 1994 or 1995, Mr. Khan asked Mr. Tahir to ship uranium centrifuges to Iran. The Bush Administration put Mr. Tahir on the U.S Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) list of sanctioned persons. The Treasury Department removed his name from that list on April 3, exactly one day after the framework agreement was announced.This delisting is intended to whitewash Iran’s illicit acquisition of centrifuges as having anything to do with a nuclear weapons program. Nothing to see here, just move on.

Iran’s ballistic missile program has long been considered as the most effective way to deliver a nuclear weapon, and the Administration pushed for U.N. sanctions on Iran’s missiles in 2010. When it came time to negotiate, however, the Administration gave in, as they did to most everything else, to Iran’s insistence that it would accept no missile limitations, thus separating the missile program and the nuclear program.

As the shape of the nuclear deal becomes clearer, it looks like a betrayal of our friends and a gift to a repugnant dictatorship, not to mention a real threat to America.

The Obama administration is unlikely to return to the previous goals of requiring Iran to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure or cease, even temporarily, its uranium enrichment. Nor is it likely to insist that Tehran alter non-nuclear policies such as support for terrorism and destabilizing regional activities in connection with a nuclear accord or as a condition for sanctions relief. These facts alone ensure that any nuclear deal will fall well short of longstanding U.S. goals and face significant opposition in Washington and among allies in the Middle East.

Today Iran is insisting the United States and world powers deliver more concessions at the negotiating table, including consenting to demands that any final nuclear agreement last less than 10 years.

Iran’s bid to pressure Western powers came amid reports that the United States promised in secret documents to deliver to Tehran “high-tech reactors and other state-of-the-art equipment” that would modernize and improve its nuclear program. This portion of the agreement appears to reverse decades of U.S. policy towards Iran.



About the Racism Inherent in the Stars and Bars of the Confederate Battle Flag. by The Elephant's Child
June 24, 2015, 7:47 pm
Filed under: Freedom, History, Media Bias, The United States | Tags: , , ,

After the dreadful racist murders of nine black members of Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, some member of the media called attention to the Confederate battle flag on the South Carolina Capitol grounds, and the media was off and running. Unable to adequately express their dismay, which I assume — they went for the flag.

The flag did not fly over the capitol, but over the Confederate memorial on the Capitol grounds. The conversation quickly moved from the nine murdered church members to the flag as a ‘symbol of racism.’ Governor Nikki Haley promptly said they would take down the flag to end any offense from its presence. It had been placed over the Confederate memorial by a Democrat governor and a Democrat legislature at the time of the Civil War Centennial and would take a 2/3 vote of the legislature to remove.

That wasn’t enough for some members of the media, who began advocating for the removal of Confederate flags everywhere. Retailers said they would no longer sell the flag. Then they went for the statues of Confederate heroes.  Monuments were defaced, names of streets and towns named after Confederate heroes should be changed, and some nitwit from CNN even suggested that the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. should be torn down because Jefferson owned slaves.  Congratulations! You have managed to match the tactics of ISIS and the Taliban.

The Civil War is over. The South lost and surrendered unconditionally. History is a record of the past, things that actually happened. The Civil War, (The War Between the States), was a dreadful war, the most deadly ( 620,000 dead) in our history. It was a war over the Union and the South’s right to secede. It was a war over the institution of slavery — but to the South it was a war over their entire economy which depended on producing cotton for English textile mills. Sixty percent of American exports at the time were cotton for the mills of Britain — and some 440,000 workers in Britain were employed in the textile industry.

Slavery was a great evil, but it was the norm all over the world, and most people just accepted it as the way things were. The British killed the slave trade between Africa and the new world, and we followed suit. It is estimated that about 88 percent of the transatlantic slave trade went to the sugar islands and South America, and only about 12 percent came to America (per Wikipedia) Am I apologizing for slavery? Certainly not. It has taken a long time to get over the Civil War, a long time for the Southern economy to recover. and a long time for blacks to become full and valued participants in every segment of society. It’s all just a lot more complicated than those who are squawking about the symbolic racism inherent in any display of the Stars and Bars. Read some history. Please!



Why Do They Seem To Be Barbarians from the Sixth Century? That is Their Aim! by The Elephant's Child
June 23, 2015, 9:27 pm
Filed under: History, Middle East, National Security, Terrorism | Tags: , , ,

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ISIS has released a new video showing the organization using new methods of killing its prisoners. They seem to be striving for the utmost in brutality, and of course, terrorism is supposed to strike terror in the hearts of its opponents. In the first segment, a group of men wearing orange jumpsuits are led into a desert clearing, and locked in an Opel car.  A masked jihadi appears carrying a huge grenade launcher. Fired from close range, the car bursts into flames, the car and its passengers are immolated.

In the second segment,the prisoners are interviewed, where they “confess” to their crimes. The five men are shown locked into an iron cage and slowly lowered into a swimming pool to drown. Underwater cameras capture them thrashing before falling unconscious. ( I hasten to add that I did not see the video, but report from descriptions)

In the third segment, the prisoners are interviewed, then led into a field, where explosive cables are tied around their necks. Seconds later the explosives are detonated. Several of the men are clearly decapitated while other suffer horrific, fatal upper body injuries.

Separately, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Monday that two boys well under the age of 18 were crucified by the Islamic State in the streets of the Syrian city of al-Mayadin for not observing the laws of Ramadan. Observatory founder Rami Abdul Rahman said the boys had been caught eating. The children were charged with the crime of “not fasting on Ramadan.” Their bodies had placards around their necks announcing their crime was committed “with no religious justification.”

Captured women have been offered as sex slaves as prizes for learning the most verses of the Koran. Westerners understandably find this almost impossible to comprehend. Why would anyone want to  return to the barbarianism of the sixth century? When the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeinei returned to Iran in 1979, the Peacock throne fell, and the exiled Shah was invited to take up residence in Egypt. The Ayatollah reframed the debate.

The establishment of the state of Israel was a shock to the Muslim world. Then came the 1967 war with Israel. After years of rhetorical attacks on Israel, Nasser demanded the removal of UN peacekeepers in the Sinai and then blockaded the Strait of Tiran to Israeli shipping.

Israel responded with an overwhelming preemptive attack that destroyed the entire Egyptian air force in two hours. When Jordan, Iraq and Syria joined the war against Israel, their air forces were also wiped out that same afternoon. In the next few days Israel captured all of the Sinai, Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights, while crushing the forces of the frontline Arab states. It was a turning point in the history of the modern Middle East. The speed and decisiveness of the Israeli victory in the Six Day War humiliated many Muslims who had believed then that God favored their cause.They had lost not only their armies and their territories but also faith in their leaders, in their countries, and in themselves. The profound appeal of Islamic fundamentalism in Egypt and elsewhere was born in this shocking debacle. A newly strident voice was heard in the mosques; the voice said they had been defeated by a force far larger than the tiny country of Israel. God had turned against the Muslims. The only way back to Him was to return to the pure religion. The voice answered despair with a simple formulation: Islam is the solution. …

The voice in the mosque said that the Arabs had let go of the one weapon that gave them real power: faith. Restore the fervor and purity of the religion that had made the Arabs great, and God would once again take their side. …

Islamists say the Sharia cannot be improved upon, despite fifteen centuries of social change, because it arises directly from the mind of God. They want to bypass the long tradition of judicial opinion from Muslim scholars and forge a more authentically Islamic legal system that is untainted by Western influence or any improvisations caused by the engagement with modernity.*

   *Excerpts from The Looming Tower  by Lawrence Wright



Democrats Voted For the Iraq War, Changed Their Minds When Combat Ended, Launched a 5 Year Propaganda Effort to Discredit Bush. by The Elephant's Child

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I usually have the radio on in the daytime, because I can listen and get other stuff done. This morning I was startled by a caller who said: “I’m 22, and the people my age would never vote for a Bush because of the stigma attached to his name.” He added something to the effect that he didn’t dislike President Bush personally, it was the stigma. Stigma.

Liberals were as shocked and horrified as everyone else at the events on 9/11, the first attack on America since Pearl Harbor.  The 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, (before 9/11) under Clinton, calling for regime change in Iraq, and supporting a transition to democracy passed the House 360-38 and unanimously in the Senate. Under the Bush administration, and after 9/11, there was a 1991 Resolution for the Use of Military Force against Iraq which passed the Democrat-controlled Senate 52-47 and the House 250-183. That was followed by the 1992 Iraq War Resolution that authorized military force against Iraq which also passed Congress with significant margins.

The invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003, Baghdad fell on April 10, Coalition forces moved into Baghdad ending the 24 year reign of Saddam Hussein. On May 1, President George W. Bush declared major combat operations in Iraq over.

That month the Democratic Party launched a national campaign against America’s commander in chief, claiming that he had lied to the American people to lure them into a war that was “unnecessary,” “immoral, and “illegal.”

Until that moment, the conflict in Iraq had been supported by both parties and was regarded by both as a strategic necessity in the war launched by Islamic terrorists on 9/11. Saddam Hussein had launched two aggressive wars in the Middle East, murdered three hundred thousand Iraqis, used chemical weapons on his own citizens, and put in place a nuclear weapons program, thwarted only by his defeat in the 1991 Gulf War. Over the next decade, his regime defied sixteen United Nations Security Council resolutions attempting to enforce the Gulf War truce and stop him from pursuing weapons of mass destruction. In September 2002, the Security Council added a seventeenth  resolution, which gave Saddam until December 7 to comply with its terms or face consequences. When Iraq failed to comply, Bush made the only decision compatible with the preservation of international law and the security of the United States by launching a preemptive invasion to remover the regime. Two days prior to the invasion, the Iraqi dictator was given the option of leaving the country and averting the war.

In June 2003, just three months after the fighting began, the Democrats turned against the war and launched  a five-year campaign to delegitimize it, casting America and its Republican leaders as the villains. This betrayal of the nation and its troops on the battlefield was unprecedented. Major press institutions following the Democrats’ lead conducted a propaganda campaign against the war, blowing up minor incidents like the misbehavior of guards at the Abu Ghraib prion to international scandals, which damaged America’s prestige and weakened its morale. The New York Times and the Washington Post leaked classified documents, destroying three major national security programs designed to protect Americans from terrorist attack. Every day of the war, there was front-page coverage of America’s body counts in Iraq and Afghanistan designed to sap America’s will to fight.  (David Horowitz: Take No Prisoners)

There’s your “stigma.”

Did you read the newspaper accounts of the doubling of the death toll in the war in Afghanistan under Barack Obama? Thought not. “Bush lied, People died,” was the chant. Propaganda designed to discredit the American president, who they were still furious with  for defeating Al Gore, illegally, they were sure. A five year long propaganda campaign to be sure Bush got no credit. The ends justify whatever means you have to use. Americans are inclined to like Presidents who win wars. Can’t have that. Remember Bill Clinton complaining because he didn’t get to be a wartime president?



Lockheed Martin’s Hybrid Airship — the Next Revolution. by The Elephant's Child

You learn something new every day. I had no idea they were working on this. I’ve long been familiar with dirigibles.  Used to drive by the hangar near the freeway just north of San Jose, fairly frequently. The working model pictured is 1/3 scale, so Lockheed Martin’s Hybrid Airships — the real ones — would be huge.  Able to go to areas with little transportation and no highways or runways.  The possibilities seem endless. Fascinating.



It’s All Falling Apart. Chapter Ten. by The Elephant's Child

The hack of the Office of Personnel Management is far more massive and problematic than has been publicly acknowledged, and not only that, it went undetected for more than a year.. The hackers are believed to be from China. It started with an initial intrusion into the OPM systems more than a year ago, and once they had successfully intruded, they were able to work their way through four different “segments” of OPM’s systems.

At first the breach was said to expose the personal information of approximately four million people, such as Social Security numbers, birthdates and addresses of current and former federal workers.

It’s far worse than that. The hackers accessed what are called SF-86 forms, documents used for conducting background checks for worker security clearances. The forms can contain sensitive data about workers seeking security clearances, but also about their friends, spouses and family members. They can include information about the applicant’s interactions with foreign nationals, information that could be used against those nationals.

Homeland Security initially claimed the government’s EINSTEIN detection program was responsible for uncovering the hack. Not so. The EINSTEIN system failed. The Wall Street Journal reported the breach was actually discovered during a sales pitch demonstration by a security company named  CYTech Services showing the OPM its security program.

This is not just someone accessing your credit card number, but blackmail, diplomats with access to classified information are required to list their contacts.The OPM actually had no IT security staff until 2013. They’re not sure that they have discovered the full extent of the intrusion.

The Wall Street Journal pointed out that that local unions made it harder to protect files. “In early 2011 ICE noticed a significant uptick in “mail infections and privacy spills” in its networks The spike was due to ICE employees accessing their personal webmail accounts from office computers. Senior managers terminated webmail access in September 2011 as a security precaution.

The American Federation of Government Employees promptly filed a grievance with a federal arbitrator, claiming that any change in access to private email must first be collectively bargained with the union

ICE argued security, dangers, Federal Information Security Management Act, security threats, usual arguments, arbitrator said “the Agency may not take any action to reduce security risks to its IT systems without first providing the Union an opportunity to bargain. (the arbitrator’s italics.)

The White House late Friday tried to catch up by launching a “30 day Cyber Security Sprint” to beef up cybersecurity protocol across the government. (Fix everything right now!)

Those steps include: to fix any cybersecurity vulnerabilities immediately; tighten policies and practices for privileged users who can access sensitive information; implement multi-factor authentication procedures for accessing federal networks; and employ electronic “indicators” provided by the Department of Homeland Security that show when there has been a malicious cyberattack.

Well, it’s only fourteen million current and former government employees. This is the same government that could not manage to roll out their health care program, They’ve had a remarkable number of hints that their computer  programs were not up to snuff,  that security procedures were not being followed.Think of all those missing emails and supposedly destroyed hard drives that prevent information required to be produced by Freedom of Information Act requests and nobody can find it. Departments that have installed hugely expensive new computer systems only to find that they don’t work. You would think that someone might notice that they’re not technically apt, and not half as smart as they think they are.

In Britain, the Guardian reports that “Downing Street and the Home Office are being challenged to answer to claims that Russia and China have broken into the secret cache of Edward Snowden files and that British agents have had to be withdrawn from live operations as a consequence.”

Snowden, a former NSA contractor, handed over tens of thousands of leaked documents to the Guardian in Hong Kong two years ago. He left Hong Kong with flights booked to Latin America but was stopped in Russia when the US revoked his passport, and has been living in Moscow in exile since.

He has repeatedly said he handed over all the documents to journalists in Hong Kong and no longer has access to them, making it impossible for either China or Russia to get to them through him. The Sunday Times and BBC do not say where China or Russia allegedly gained access to the files.

A “senior Home Office source” claimed that Putin didn’t give Snowden asylum for nothing. His documents were encrypted but not secure and British agents are being targeted. A British “intelligence source” said Snowden has done incalculable damage, and Russian and Chinese officials will be examining Snowden’s material for year to come.

That’s all very iffy and unconfirmed, but interesting if true. There is a battle going on both in Britain and here between privacy zealots and government secrecy. It would be nice to think that there could be no secrets, but we don’t live in that kind of world. In the real world, the bigger the federal bureaucracy gets, the more it wants to protect itself from embarrassment and from the living proof that it is not composed of smarter, kinder people who are working assiduously on our behalf.

Everybody wants to know the other guy’s secrets. The dividing line between what can be public and what cannot is very fuzzy. The government needs to seriously protect that which will harm the public if released, and to stop trying to make everything that might embarrass a little into a state secret. Clearly a case of wishful thinking.




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