“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” - George W. Bush

All The Best


I want to thank everyone who participated in the Elephant Bar over the past twelve years. We had millions of visitors from all around the World and you were part of it. Over the past dozen years, two or three times a night, I would open my laptop and some of you were always there. I will miss that.

My plans are to continue my work with technology and architecture. You know my interests and thoughts.

At times, things would get a little rough in the EB. To those of you that I may have offended over the years, I apologize. From all of you, I learned and grew.

An elephant never forgets.
Be well.

Deuce, 21 June 2018

Friday, October 03, 2014

Hong Kong matters because it is a microcosm of the world’s ideological conflicts — between democracy and authoritarianism, pluralism and nationalism


Americans are caught up with the Ebola crisis and the Secret Service lapses in protecting the White House and the president’s family. But what is transpiring in Hong Kong may be of far greater consequence.
Last weekend, Hong Kong authorities used pepper spray and tear gas to scatter the remnants of a student protest of the decision to give Beijing veto power over candidates in future elections.The gassing was a blunder. Citizens poured into the streets in solidarity with the protesters. Hong Kong police lacked the nerve or numbers to remove them. The People’s Liberation Army stayed in its barracks. Crowds clamoring for democracy controlled the city.
Now, on Beijing’s orders, authorities have adopted a “wait-them-out” strategy, assuming the silent majority in Hong Kong will get fed up with the Occupy Central protesters, as the Americans did with the Occupy Wall Street protesters.
Beijing, however, is understandably nervous.
To allow students to block the city center and impede traffic shows weakness. Hong Kong’s reputation as a financial center and tourist attraction will suffer. And Beijing cannot permit this to go on too long without risking supportive protests erupting on the mainland.
Nor can the students be allowed to force Hong Kong to give up Beijing’s veto of candidates. To capitulate would expose President Xi Jinping as a leader who can be broken by street action. To permit that perception would imperil Xi’s standing with Beijing’s hard-liners, and potentially the regime itself.
Thus if the protesters do not vacate Hong Kong’s streets soon, they may have to be removed. And Beijing is not a regime to recoil from force if it has run out of other options.
The last democracy protests, 25 years ago in Tiananmen Square, were crushed by tanks, with hundreds dead. The Falun Gong religious movement was crushed. Protests by Tibetans and Uighurs demanding autonomy have been met with force and massive neo-Stalinist population transfers of Han Chinese into Tibet and Xinjiang.
Xi Jinping is no Mikhail Gorbachev. The people do not decide in his China. The party does. He does. He is more in the mold of the Leonid Brezhnev of 1968, who ordered Warsaw Pact tank armies in to put an end to the Prague Spring.
Hong Kong is also a microcosm of the world’s ideological conflicts — between democracy and authoritarianism, pluralism and nationalism.
American elites may sing psalms to multiculturalism. But in China, on the 65th anniversary of the revolution where Mao declared, “China has stood up!” nationalism is surging.
China’s claim to all the islands, shoals and rocks in the South China and East China seas, her warnings to Vietnam, Japan and the United States to stay clear, are cheered. Xi Jinping is seen as a nationalist and unyielding defender of China’s historic rights.
Vladimir Putin, a Russian nationalist, is the most popular foreign leader in China for taking back Crimea after a U.S.-backed coup in Kiev.
Putin’s campaign against NGOs in Moscow, which he sees as U.S.-financed centers of subversion, is being watched in Beijing, and similar charges are being made against U.S.-backed NGOs in Hong Kong.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has appealed to Japanese nationalism with his defense of the Senkakus against China and his call for the return of the southern Kuriles seized by Stalin at the end of World War II.
While Abe has suspended his visits to the Yasukuni Shrine to the spirits of Japanese warriors, including Hideki Tojo, his party members still make the visitations.
This week, President Obama hosted the new president of India, the hugely popular Hindu Nationalist Narendra Modi, who for a decade was denied admission to the U.S. for failing to halt a Muslim massacre in his home province of Gujarat.
The Arab Spring of 2011 has produced sectarian and civil wars, with Egypt, the largest Arab country, succumbing again to the rule of a soldier and authoritarian nationalist.
For the eighth year, Freedom House has reported a decline in freedom with “modern authoritarianism” a global growth stock.
Hong Kong may tell us which way the wind is blowing in the 21st century. Either the city is going to move toward a democratic future as the protesters demand, or it is going to be clasped more tightly to the bosom of the Motherland and absorbed into China.
And it is hard to be an optimist about the outcome of this struggle.
Consider this: For the Chinese Communists to adopt a U.S.-style Constitution would be suicidal. The people would use free speech to criticize and castigate the regime. They would use a free press to expose its incompetence, injustice and corruption. And they would use free elections to be rid of the regime and party.
Either democracy, or the Communist Party, has no future in China.
For they are irreconcilable, mutually exclusive. Democracy will either kill Communism, or the Chinese Communists will kill democracy.
Whatever happens in the short run in Hong Kong, that climactic battle is coming.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.” 


  1. The Iraqi army is suffering badly from what locals describe as the “astronaut phenomenon”. That is, soldiers who pay money to superior officers so they can leave the world of the military and stay out of danger, far from the battle field. This means that sometimes when a general sends a battalion to fight, only half the soldiers are there. And recently, with attacks by extremists, this phenomenon has been getting worse.

    Last week a confidential meeting was hosted by Iraq’s Parliamentary committee on security and defence and one of the guests was Rasheed Flaih, the Lieutenant General who is in charge of the Iraqi army’s operations in the province of Anbar.

    At the September 27 meeting the military men and politicians discussed the ever-increasing absence of soldiers from their units in the province.

    “Participants in the meeting discussed the number of different sieges of the Iraqi army in the Anbar area and how many soldiers were being killed by members of the terrorist organisation, the Islamic State,” one of those who attended the meeting told NIQASH on condition of anonymity.

    “Also discussed was the fact that there had been an increase in the number of Iraqi soldiers who were leaving areas where they could expect to see action – such as the provinces Anbar, Salahaddin and Diyala. This means that there are fewer than expected soldiers on the battlefields,” the source said.

    One of the incidents mentioned was from earlier in September, when fighters from the Sunni Muslim extremist group, the Islamic State, or IS, had managed to besiege an Iraqi army base and after cutting off their supply lines, launched an assault on the base. Although reports vary, it seems that most of the thousand or soldiers at the base may have been captured or killed. Only around 200 managed to escape.



  2. {...}

    The source who attended the meeting also said that some of the judgments made by senior military commanders were not based on accurate information. For example, he said, the military leaders would send a certain battalion somewhere to fight but in reality half of the battalion would be missing – which meant that there were far fewer soldiers fighting than their commanders thought.

    This phenomenon – where soldiers are not present within their assigned units – is not a new one in the Iraqi military. Many soldiers bribe their way out of danger zones, paying a hefty part or all of their salary to their superior officers in return for the superior not reporting them absent. Locally, these absent soldiers are known as “astronauts”, in that they are floating around elsewhere and not involved in real life in Iraq’s military. And recently there have been more and more astronauts, mainly due to soldiers’ concerns about gains made by the IS group.

    “The astronaut phenomenon is destroying the Iraqi army,” one officer, Kadhim al-Shammari, told NIQASH. “There are senior officers who are making deals with dozens of their men, giving them vacations for months in return for part or all of the men’s salaries.”

    Abbas al-Saadi is a soldier and by rights he should be stationed near Tikrit, where his unit is involved fighting the IS group. But instead he works as a taxi driver.

    “If I was killed, who would look after my wife and three children?” he asks. “I love the military but I am worried about the IS group. They not only kill soldiers in battle, they behead them and burn them. That’s why I decided to give all of my salary to the officer in charge of our unit so that he would register me absent with leave.”

    Al-Saadi makes his living by driving a taxi while his salary goes to his military senior. Soldiers like him say they will return to duty but that they are just waiting for their units to be shifted into other, less dangerous areas before they do.

    According to the Parliamentary committee on security and defence there are thousands of soldiers like al-Saadi. Astronaut soldiers also include the men who escaped during raids or battles with the IS group and other forces, and then never returned to their units. They went home instead.

    “A military unit should number 500 men but instead the astronaut phenomenon might mean that it only numbers 300,” says al-Shammari. “This means that the workload on other soldiers increases and that they have less vacation time and more responsibility.”

    For example, he noted, some soldiers now only get a week’s vacation after 40 consecutive days on duty. Usually they should get a week’s vacation after only 21 working days.

    It is almost as though corruption in Iraq’s army has worsened since a new military penal code was introduced in 2007. Although the military law sets strict penalties for soldiers who are absent without leave, especially during times of war, it is barely ever enforced.

    “Our security forces have a big problem when it comes to non-enforcement of military law,” MP Mathhar al-Janabi, a member of the Parliamentary committee on security and defence, told NIQASH. “This makes members of the military unafraid of doing illegal things – such as being absent without leave, illegal killing and otherwise not carrying out their military duties.”

    As battles with the IS group continue and details of the group’s barbaric practices continue to emerge, this problem is unlikely to improve anytime soon.

    And even if they wanted to, other soldiers cannot notify the authorities about the astronaut soldiers who are no longer in their midst. If they were to tell anyone about those absent without leave, they’d have to report this to their officers – and more than likely, it is their officer who is benefiting from the bribes being paid to turn a blind eye to the astronauts.

    1. Happy New Year

      Read the genocidal sermon a notable Atlanta rabbi gave this past Rosh Hashanah

      US Politics Adam Horowitz on October 3, 2014

      Last Thursday Rabbi Shalom Lewis of Congregation Etz Chaim outside Atlanta gave what can only be understood as a call to genocide in his Rosh Hashanah sermon to welcome in the Jewish new year. The sermon calls for a war on Islam and Muslims worldwide. Lewis says a “holy crusade” against Islam is needed to”exterminate it utterly and absolutely.” Lewis is no fringe figure. He has served this popular suburban congregation for nearly 40 years and was given a commendation by the US Congress

      - See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/#sthash.rj0dSO6q.dpuf

  3. Paying for the caliphate: when extremists become bad bank managers in mosul

    | عربي | کوردی
    niqash | Khales Joumah | Mosul | 04.09.2014 Dinar worries: some Mosul locals fear that extremists will take all of their money.

    Up until now, locals in Mosul, the northern city under the control of Sunni Muslim extremists, have not been able to withdraw their money from their bank accounts. That changed last week. However every withdrawal comes with conditions, including a three-person committee that asks where the money came from and a compulsory tax for funding the Islamist’s Caliphate.

    Locals in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul have been allowed to enter neighbourhood banks for the first time since Sunni Muslim extremists took over the city. Before this fighters from the group now known as the Islamic State, or IS, have been guarding the banks and not allowing anybody inside.

    A day after the official IS radio station in Mosul, Al Bayan, broadcast the message about the banks being re-opened, there was a long queue outside Branch 112 of the Rafidain Bank.

    “The instructions that the IS group gave were shocking to anyone who has a bank account,” one of Branch 112’s employees whispered to a cement merchant, Abdullah al-Jibouri, who had come into the bank.

    To withdraw money the holder of any bank account has to submit a statement to a three-person committee, all of whom are members of the IS group. The members of the group are allegedly experts in finance.

    The committee would also check that the accounts did not belong to, or was connected to, any government institution. Nor could it be in the name of any wanted individuals that the IS group was seeking, or in the name of any Christians, Yazidis, Shiite Muslims or Sunni Muslims that the IS fighters considered an enemy – for example, members of the security forces or local politicians.


    1. {...}

      If all of these conditions are fulfilled and the account holder gets the committee’s approval, then money may be withdrawn.

      “But the real problem is the amount that the IS group allows people to withdraw,” the bank employee explained to the merchant. “People who have approvals are only allowed to withdraw 10 percent of the balance in the account, on the condition that the withdrawn amount isn’t more than IQD10 million [around US$6,500].”

      “It’s just all deception and fraud,” al-Jibouri said, folding up his papers and leaving the bank without withdrawing any money. “Most of the people who have larger amounts in their accounts are taking their time about this. They don’t want to reveal how much they have in case they are asked to pay money to finance IS fighting,” he explained to his family when they asked him why he had returned empty handed.

      As some reports have suggested, although the IS group has a big budget from various sources, this is still not enough to fund their many military and social activities currently.

      Despite all of the concerns that locals have about withdrawing their money from the IS-controlled institutions, there were still long queues in front of Mosul’s banks.

      A local farmer, Ali al-Rashidi, was one of the first to be able to withdraw some money. He got IQD2 million (US$1,200) from his account, which held IQD20 million (US$12,000) in total.

      “No matter how small the amount, something is better than nothing,” al-Rashidi told NIQASH. “And there are no guarantees that there will be money here in the future. Maybe the banks will all be robbed and any relevant documents destroyed – especially as the IS is incurring losses,” he suggested.

      According to al-Rashidi and the other Mosul people who were waiting in line, getting money was a long and difficult process. The trickiest part was going before the IS’ financial committee and answering their question: “how did you acquire these funds?”.

      Additionally when lining up to see the committee and get permission to get money out, the IS fighters always get priority, locals say. Often they also jump the queue.

      One local tried to protest when fighters broke into the line ahead. But the gunman turned and stared at him, telling the crowd angrily that, “we don’t have time to waste standing in line, we are fighting on the front lines”.

      One engineer who works in the city’s power department was surprised to see that the salary he hadn’t received for a long time was smaller than usual; about 5 percent had somehow gone missing.

      The IS group has already confiscated the salaries of local Christians and Shiite Muslims but it seems that now the Caliph’s hands are stretching out for more cash. The engineer asked about the missing money and was told that 5 percent was being deducted from all salaries and being deposited in the group’s “Bayt Al Mal”, a traditional Islamic treasury where funds for social welfare and other public purposes are stored.

      Not everyone earning money has become a victim of the IS group’s dubious accounting practices. Some employees, of institutions like Mosul’s courts, provincial government and universities, have been being paid in secrecy.

      The money is transferred from Baghdad to one of the nearby cities that are not under the control of the IS group, such as Kirkuk. After this the money is smuggled into Mosul in cash and salaries are then distributed to the different heads of department in secret, and they in turn pay their employees in secret.

      One accountant who was involved, and therefore could not be named, said this was being done because otherwise the IS group would confiscate the payments.

      “Optimistic people say that the percentage that the IS group takes will go up,” the accountant commented. “Pessimistic people say that this is the last time anybody here will be paid.”


    Although the Turkish Parliament approved a motion authorizing the government to send troops abroad on Thursday, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) continued to approach the outskirts of the Syrian border town of Kobani on Friday.

    Parliament gave the government powers on Thursday to order cross-border military incursions against the extremist group, and to allow forces of a US-led foreign coalition to launch similar operations from Turkish territory.

    US-led forces have been bombing ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq, but the action has done little to stop their advance in northern Syria toward the Turkish border, piling pressure on Ankara to intervene.

    Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said Turkey would do what it could to prevent Kobani from falling to ISIL but stopped short of committing to the sort of military intervention that Kurds have been demanding.

    "We wouldn't want Kobani to fall. We'll do whatever we can to prevent this from happening," Davutoğlu said in a discussion with journalists broadcast on the A Haber network.

    But Davutoğlu appeared to hold back from any suggestion that this meant Turkey was planning a military incursion, saying such a move could drag Ankara into a wider conflict along its 900-kilometer (560-mile) border with Syria.

    "Some are saying, 'Why aren't you protecting Kurds in Kobani?' If the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK] enter Kobani and the Syrian Turkmens ask, 'Why aren't you saving us?' we would have to go there as well,” he said.

    "When the Arab citizens across from Reyhanlı say, 'Why don't you save us as well?" we’d have to go there too."

    Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz was also quoted as telling reporters that it would be wrong to expect immediate military action after the parliamentary motion passed.



    1. {...}
      Ankara fears military intervention could deepen the insecurity on its border by strengthening Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and that it could bolster Kurdish fighters linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state.

      Imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan said on Wednesday that settlement talks between his group and Turkey would collapse if ISIL militants are allowed to carry out a massacre in Kobani.

      Davutoğlu said it was wrong to link the two issues. "If Kobani falls, Turkey is not at fault. If Kobani falls, this shouldn't be tied to the settlement process."

      Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Co-chairperson Sebahat Tuncel responded to Davutoğlu, saying the settlement process is related to Kobani since it is not possible to have “real peace” unless peace is ensured in Kobani as well.

      Kurdish fighters defending Kobani warned on Friday of a likely massacre by ISIL insurgents as the Islamists encircled the town with tanks and bombarded its outskirts with artillery fire.

      Esmat al-Sheikh, head of the Kurdish forces defending Kobani, said the distance between his fighters and the insurgents was now less than one kilometer (half a mile).

      "We are in a small, besieged area. No reinforcements reached us and the borders are closed," he told Reuters by phone. "My expectation is for general killing, massacres and destruction. ... There is bombardment with tanks, artillery, rockets and mortars."
      ISIL has earned a reputation for extreme violence, carrying out widespread killings including beheadings in the Syrian and Iraqi territory it has seized.

      Two large clouds of smoke rose up to the east of Kobani and there were several loud explosions from further inside the town as shelling continued and gunfire rang out, a Reuters correspondent on the Turkish side of the border said.

      Fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) tried to push the insurgents back, firing missiles lit up by bright red tracers from the town and striking ISIL targets in a village a few kilometers to the east.

      Idris Nassan, deputy foreign minister in a local Kurdish administration, said the YPG had been able to blunt ISIL gains over the past two days on the southeastern front.

      "There are clashes every minute of the day. The YPG pushed ISIS [another name for ISIL] back yesterday in the southeast of Kobani. ISIS was two kilometers from Kobani (to the southeast), but they are now four," he said. "From time to time, there are shells by ISIS that reach the center of the city. Three hours ago there was a bomb that landed in Kobani. I haven’t heard about casualties."

      The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the eastern, western and southern fronts had not seen significant changes since Thursday, when ISIL fighters tightened their grip around Kobani.

      It did say that at least 25 shells had hit the town, coupled with heavy clashes on the eastern and southeastern fronts on Friday.

      No cake walk reported as of yet

  5. Israel’s move to construct new housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has drawn criticism from Turkey, which has called on the country to call off its settlement activities.

    “We condemn the decision by Israel to implement the plans for the construction of 2,610 new housing units at the Givat Hamatos settlement area in East Jerusalem,” said the Foreign Ministry in a written statement released on Thursday. The statement added that Israel should take into account the calls of the international community and without delay stop steps that undermine the basis of the two-state solution -- meaning an independent and democratic Palestinian state living alongside Israel.
    Turkey is an outspoken critic of Israel and the two countries have been at odds since a Gaza-bound aid flotilla was attacked by Israeli forces in May 2010, resulting in the deaths of nine Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American.
    Israel has come under intense international criticism over its settlement activities, which most countries regard as illegal under international law and a major obstacle to the creation of a viable Palestinian state in any future peace deal.
    The administration of US President Barack Obama warned Israel on Wednesday that plans for the controversial new housing project would distance Israel from "even its closest allies" and raise questions about its commitment to seeking peace with the Palestinians.
    Calling on Israel to drop its settlement plans, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius joined the criticisms. "One cannot claim to be advocating for a solution while at the same time acting against it, without conclusions being drawn from that, particularly within the European Union," he was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

  6. October 02, 2014, Thursday/ 10:58:13/ TODAYSZAMAN.COM WITH REUTERS / ISTANBUL

    Jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan has warned that peace talks between his group and the Turkish state will come to an end if Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) militants are allowed to carry out a massacre in a predominantly Kurdish town on the Syrian border.

    ISIL militants have besieged the border of town of Kobani for more than two weeks, sending more than 150,000 Syrian Kurds fleeing to Turkey and piling pressure on the NATO member to intervene.

    “If this massacre attempt achieves its goal it will end the process," Öcalan, leader of the terrorist PKK, said in a statement released by a pro-Kurdish party delegation which visited him in jail on Wednesday.

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan initiated the peace process with Öcalan in 2012 with the aim of ending a 30-year-old Kurdish problem in Turkey. The conflict between Turkish troops and the PKK terrorists has killed 40,000 people.

    “I urge everyone in Turkey who does not want the process and the democracy voyage to collapse to take responsibility in Kobani," Öcalan said in the statement, released on Thursday.

    Kurdish forces allied to the PKK, the People's Defence Units (YPG), are fighting against the ISIL insurgents attacking Kobani. The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

  7. And here I thought this post was about Hong Kong, where dad went once and returned with a couple of nice suits.

    I wish the British were running Hong Kong. The locals would be better off.

  8. I like city-states.

    And states with no big cities.

  9. At the time of the Greek city-states, one's identity was so tightly tied to one's city that even in the other world one's place was in one's city, your position there according to your deeds for your city-state while on earth.

    1. So the world was conceived by many Greeks.

  10. Editor's note: Tom Frieden is the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The views expressed are his own.

    (CNN) -- The U.S. health system has been preparing since late March for the news we announced Tuesday: the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States.
    Tom Frieden
    Tom Frieden

    In this age of global travel, we anticipated that a traveler from a country with an Ebola outbreak would come to the United States and develop symptoms once they arrived. But from everything we know now, there appears to be no risk that anyone on this patient's flights from Liberia to the United States was exposed to the virus.

    Can you catch Ebola on a plane?

    Clinicians on the front lines have been one key to our safety: identifying patients with both a history of travel and symptoms indicating they might have Ebola, immediately isolating them, consulting their local or state health departments, and getting the patients tested as needed. Indeed, since the outbreak began in Africa, CDC has consulted with state and local health departments on almost 100 cases in which travelers had recently returned from West Africa and showed symptoms that might have been caused by Ebola. Of those cases, 14 were considered to be truly at risk. Specimens from 13 were tested and Ebola was ruled out in all 13 cases.
    Relative: He did not know he had Ebola
    Dallas mayor: Safety is first priority
    Medical experts answers Ebola questions

    But now CDC labs have confirmed our nation's first U.S.-diagnosed Ebola patient.

    I understand this can be deeply troubling news, especially after what we have witnessed Ebola do in West Africa. But there are distinct differences in what will happen here.

    The United States has a strong health care system and dedicated public health professionals -- all hard at work right now -- to make sure this case will not threaten the community at large, or the nation. A person who is sick from Ebola virus disease can be cared for in U.S. hospitals when the patient is isolated in a private room with a private bathroom and contact with them is highly controlled. Every health care worker must meticulously follow every single infection control protection we recommend.

    How the Ebola virus spreads

    Public health officials, meanwhile, are also identifying people who have had close personal contact with the newly diagnosed patient and will follow up with them for 21 days, the longest known incubation period for Ebola. If they develop any signs of the disease, those people will be isolated, tested and cared for.

    The fact is that CDC has been preparing for this day, working around the clock with local and state health departments to enhance surveillance and laboratory testing capacity, provide recommendations for health care infection control and other measures to prevent disease spread, and deliver guidance and tools for health departments to conduct public health investigations.

    Your Ebola questions answered

    I'm not going to promise that we can stop this at just one case, but I can tell you we have the advantage because the right steps are being taken, and I am therefore confident we will stop Ebola in its tracks here in the United States.

    And there is one final thing to remember, even as the first case here grabs the headlines: We must be relentless in stopping its spread in West Africa. After all, after all is said and done here, that is the only way to truly and completely protect the health security of America -- and the world.

  11. Real Median Net Worth Continues to Fall - Matt O'Brien, Washington Post


    And not just under Obama.....but from 1989.

    Only Quirk's wealth increases, and one wonders how he does it.

  12. Commie goons attack pro-democracy protesters -