American Elephants


Now It’s The IRS Again, With 334,000 Stolen Identities. If They Haven’t Got You Yet, They Soon Will. by The Elephant's Child

The news about our favorite bureaucracies just keeps coming. In this case it is the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS reported a wee break-in to its computer systems back in May. Now they have admitted that an additional 220,000 taxpayer accounts have been compromised.

So if the ObamaCare Hospital required computer breach didn’t get you, you have another chance to get your identity hacked by the IRS — that trusted organization that deals so efficiently with your taxes. There were also 170,000 instances of “suspected attempts that failed to clear the authentication processes.” whatever that means.

So the number of stolen identities now adds up to 334,000 , nearly three tunes the IRS original estimate of 114,000.

Why, it was only about a month ago that it was the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that admitted that Chinese-origin cyber attacks on its computer networks compromised the personal data of 22.1 million Americans who had been employed by the government.

And earlier this month defense officials said that Russia had launched a “sophisticated cyber attack” on the Pentagon’s unclassified email system used by the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the end of July. That breach affected approximately 4,000 military and civilian employees, including Chairman General Martin Dempsey.

The IRS break-in occurred in an online service called “Get Transcript” an application that helps taxpayers get their prior year return information. It has been shut down. The IRS will notify taxpayers who were potentially affected as soon as possible and provide them with support — such as free credit protection.

It would be reassuring to hear a strong voice from Washington, telling us that tech experts are already hard at work hardening off or rendering government computer systems impregnable from enemy attack. Instead, we hear the Democratic candidate for president insisting that she never received, saw, or heard of a classified document, and certainly never sent one. That server of hers was all yoga exercises and wedding plans and baby showers and messages to Bill, who has never sent an email message in his life.

Can we expect Cyber-Security from the folks who gave us ObamaCare?



The Encounter Between 9 Serious Men and One Large Ego. by The Elephant's Child

Donald_Trump__3158264bThe subject of the day is the debates, and Donald Trump. He does seem to suck all of the air out of the room.

My father would have described him with a rather old-fashioned word, “blowhard.” His candidacy can be summed-up as — I am Trump, I am very famous and very rich and you should vote for me.

Trump popped up just in time for the Republican Debates, loudly punching what is a hot button for many on the Right,  President Obama’s personal repeal, on his own “executive authority,” of the United States of America’s immigration laws. They have watched the trains with hundreds of illegals on top of the boxcars, they have watched them arrive, be sent all over the United States, and are inclined to blame it on Mexico.

Trump bellowed that he would build a big wall, a gigantic wall and make Mexico pay for it, and he might put in a big door for legal immigrants. Voilá, problem solved. Except it’s a shallow and superficial answer. Most of the immigrants have not been Mexican. It’s absurd to suggest that the Mexican government would pay for it.

It’s a huge and real problem, and nobody seems to know how to deal with it except to say that we must reform our immigration laws. Democrats want more Democrat voters, and their goal is to get them all registered to vote as quickly as possible. But this is not a column about immigration, but about Trump. He makes no serious effort in behalf of any issue, nor seems to have the discipline to master an issue.

Asked about ruling out a third-party run, he said if you nominate somebody I respect, then maybe he won’t. That sounds like somebody who has only been a Republican for the last few minutes.

(That’s not a nice picture, but I couldn’t resist. People always wonder — ‘What’s with the hair?’)



R.I.P. Robert Conquest by The Elephant's Child

Rob-conquest1_3397269b

The great historian of Russia has passed away at the age of 98. Robert Conquest spent 28 years at the Hoover Institution where he was a Senior Research Fellow. He has, perhaps, been best known for his landmark work The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties. Thirty-five years after its publication, the book remains one of the most influential studies of Soviet history and has been translated into more than 20 languages. It is a detailed log of Stalin’s assassinations, arrests, tortures, frame-ups, forced confessions, show trials, executions and incarcerations that destroyed millions of lives.

Conquest was the author of twenty-one books on Soviet history, politics, and international affairs, including Harvest of Sorrow, which exposed the terror famine in the Ukraine, Stalin and the Kirov Murder, The Great Terror a Reassessment, Stalin: Breaker of Nations and Reflections on a Ravaged Century and The Dragons of Expectation. The last two are treasured books of mine.

He wrote one science fiction novel, and lots of poetry for which he also received awards.

He had no shortage of awards, the Jefferson Lectureship, the highest honor bestowed by the federal government for achievement in the humanities (1930), the Dan David Prize (2012), Poland’s Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit (2009), Estonia’s  Cross of Terra Mariana (2008), and the Ukrainian Order of Yaroslav Mudryi (2005).

Educated at Winchester College and the University of Grenoble, he was an exhibitioner in modern history at Magdalen College, Oxford, receiving his BA and MA in politics, philosophy, and economics and his DLitt in history.

Conquest-2005-copyConquest served in the British infantry in World War II and thereafter in His Majesty’s Diplomatic Service; he was awarded the Order of the British Empire. In 1996 he was named a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George.

He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

( from the Hoover Institution, and Cynthia Haven)



Winston Churchill Had Advice On How to Deal With Vladimir Putin by The Elephant's Child
June 6, 2015, 5:52 pm
Filed under: Foreign Policy, National Security, Russia | Tags: , ,

From The Wall Street Journal’s “Notable and Quotable” column. The quotation comes from “What Would Churchill Do” by Mark W. Davis, a former speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush, Summer issue 2015 Wilson Quarterly.

During the Cold War, Churchill preached a stoic optimism equal to the long task of countering and containing Moscow’s designs. He said of the Russian people that the “machinery of propaganda may pack their minds with falsehood and deny them truth for many generations of time. But the soul of man thus held in trance, or frozen in a long night, can be awakened by a spark coming from God knows where, and in a moment the whole structure of lies and oppression is on trial for its life.”

The power of social media is the true “soft underbelly” of this regime. Putin himself revealed his fear of Facebook and Twitter when he signed new laws requiring social networks to store data on Russian users in Russia, subjecting them to censorship. The public murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemstov has opened the minds of young Russia, giving the West an opportunity to make the most of cracks and crevices in Putin’s firewalls. For the West, the best strategy is a policy of patience, firmness, and determination to undermine the Putin regime and frustrate its forays—for decades, if need be—until the day when the whole structure of its lies and oppression are put on trial by young Russians.

And we should remember Winston Churchill’s final bit of advice as he prepared to leave office: “Meanwhile, never flinch, never weary, never despair.”

ADDENDUM: Also in the Wall Street Journal, Holman Jenkins suggests that Russia’s president clearly seems to be lifting strategies from the Hitler playbook, likely deliberately so. Perhaps Obama is not alone in searching for a “legacy.”



Seventy Years Ago Today, Germany Surrendered Unconditionally. Long Live The Course of Freedom! by The Elephant's Child
May 8, 2015, 3:45 pm
Filed under: Russia | Tags: , ,

Winston Churchill Announces Germany’s unconditional surrender. One of those very special dates to be remembered.



They Called it “The Dragoon Ride”, 1,700 KM of Goodwill. by The Elephant's Child

DragoonRide

With Putin’s Russia increasingly threatening the Baltic States with new submarine activity, Russian Bombers that are making mock attack runs on NATO ships, and Putin’s admitted wish to restore the greatness of the Russian Empire, the eastern European states and the Baltic states are unsurprisingly nervous. They have been there and done that and they really don’t want a repeat.

American troops who took part in the Atlantic Resolve exercise to demonstrate NATO solidity, took the long way home to their base at Vilseck, Germany. They called it “The Dragoon Ride” starting from Estonia, and passing through Latvia and Lithuania before entering Poland on a 1,000 mile convoy of 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment Stryker Armored vehicles from March 21 to April 1, stopping in a new community each night. The people turned out in droves to wave and welcome the convoy.

“It’s helped us further develop our understanding of freedom of movement in Eastern Europe,” said Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the Army’s most senior commander in Europe, in an interview with Defense News and Army Times reporters and editors.

He called it a “tremendous opportunity” to practice and reassure allies in the face of Russian aggression. To pull it off, the Army is navigating diplomatic requirements and assessing infrastructure among Eastern European allies.”

“This is what the US Army does, we can move a lot of capability a long distance,” Hodges said. “I’ve been watching the Russian exercises … what I cared about is they can get 30,000 people and 1,000 tanks in a place really fast. Damn, that was impressive.”

The troops were warmly welcomed everywhere.

poland-us-convoy.jpeg-1280x960“This really means a lot to us. We see that we are not alone, that there is someone to defend us,” Zdzislaw Narel, 60, told The Associated Press. “This is really a historic moment.”

“You make us feel like movie stars,” a U.S. soldier was heard saying from atop a Stryker.

A lot of little boys got the thrill of a lifetime, being allowed to climb on the Strykers, and man the weapons.  The countries are beefing up their own defenses and training their own reservists.



Another Fine Day in the Middle East. Terror, Killings and Destruction, and a New Civil War in Yemen. by The Elephant's Child

Yemen

To Briefly Sum Up:

On Monday, the Obama White House dismissed the Ayatollah Khamenei’s “Of course Death to America” rhetoric, telling CNN that it was just something “intended for a domestic political audience,” and thus can reasonably be ignored. Josh Earnest had just explained that such rhetoric provided even more reason for negotiating a deal with Iran.

How does that work? Iran has been proclaiming themselves an implacable enemy of America ever since 1979 and the Iranian revolution. If you think that although they are a major oil-producing state, they just want nuclear energy to keep the lights on, ask yourself why they also have been developing intercontinental ballistic missiles.

In spite of every effort made by the White House to prevent Bibi Netanyahu’s reelection, the Israelis gave him a significant vote of confidence and reelected him resoundingly. Obama is furious.

Obama has a bucket list of accomplishments that he expects will prove to the world that he did too deserve that Nobel Peace Prize, and go down in history as one of the greatest presidents. It’s not going too well. Getting the troops out of Iraq was a big one, and that has gone sour. Closing Guantanamo has not gone well, but he’s still determined. He’s just given in a little on getting the troops out of Afghanistan, but only till the end of the year — politely letting the Taliban know just how long they have to wait, with his usual lack of understanding of basic strategy.

He was determined to be the American president who made peace between Israel and Palestine with a two-state solution, forcing Israel to give up their borders, their safety, and their future to a bunch of terrorists supported by the peaceful state of Iran.

And now he’s determined to make a completely worthless deal with Iran, and will obviously give up anything and everything to get a deal, any deal. Iran has no intention of accepting any restraint on their activities. They have refused surprise inspections, or any inspections for which they cannot easily prepare. Since Obama reduced the sanctions, they have no reason to agree to anything. They don’t need to.

We’re told in the meantime that they could probably have a nuclear bomb within 45 days, but the UN nuclear inspectors have said that there is not much that they are actually sure of.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is threatening the Baltic states with Russian submarine activity and a rising cruise-missile threat, Obama has been unable to find the time to meet with NATO’s new Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The new idea is that he only has time for our enemies, but not for our allies.

Stoltenberg was twice prime minister of Norway, and is well aware of increasing Russian bomber patrols that include mock attack runs on NATO members’ warships. Our nation is pledged, as a NATO member to defend other NATO members. A meeting with the prime minister might be in order, but then Obama has dumped the eastern Europe missile defense and refused to send lethal weapons to Ukraine. And Stoltenberg might remind him of America’s binding NATO pledge.

Yemen has melted down. We got our people out, but apparently left $500 million worth of advanced weapons for al Qaeda, along with secret files about U.S. counter-terrorism operations. Saudi Arabia has launched military operations against the Iran-backed Houthi Rebels in Yemen. The Royal Saudi Air Force has bombed the positions of Yemen’s Houthi militia and destroyed most of their air defenses. In a joint statement Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait will repel Houthi militias, al Qaeda and ISIS as the coup in Yemen represents a major threat to the region’s stability.




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