“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

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The End of the New World Order

Let us find graceful ways to restore the trade balance

From Harold Seneker, Fair Lawn, NJ, US

Take a long-term look at the US trade deficit from 1950 onwards and you can see that US trade was in trivial deficit for many years.

Deficits began worsening in the 1980s, and have really plunged since the mid-1990s, when Nafta, other trade deals and the massive expansion of Chinese imports into the US took hold in earnest. Since then, deficits have ranged broadly around $500bn a year. The change is quite dramatic.

Two questions come to mind. First, does the world really think such a massive imbalance can continue forever? And second, what do China, Europe and other major creditors think they are going to do with the astronomical numbers of dollars they are piling up, aside from helping the US Treasury finance its budget deficit?

I understand this arrangement helps some nations’ internal political problems, from dealing with recalcitrant French farmers to finding employment for 1bn Chinese, but all things come to an end eventually, and this imbalance must too. After all, a half trillion here, and a half trillion there — after a while it begins to add up to real money.

Perhaps, just perhaps, it might be wiser to work with the US to find graceful ways to restore the trade balance with a minimum of pain, and perhaps even to mutual benefit, rather than act as though redressing an imbalance were an act of war heralding the imminent end of civilisation. One step, which would not hurt exports to the US, might be to buy more US goods and services, rather than block or discourage trade in them.

Really, I buy them all the time, and they aren’t all that bad!
Harold Seneker
Fair Lawn, NJ, US

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Trump renders G7 irrelevant

Europe’s vanishing calm


AVIGNON, France | The Rhone River Valley in southern France is a storybook marriage of high technology, traditional vineyards and ancestral villages. High-speed trains and well-designed toll roads crisscross majestic cathedrals, castles and chateaus.

Traveling in a Europe at peace these days evokes both historical and literary allusions. As with the infrastructure and engineering of the late Roman Empire right before its erosion, the Continent rests at its pinnacle of technological achievement.

There is a Roman Empire-like sameness throughout Europe in fashion, popular culture and government protocol — a welcome change from the deadly fault lines of 1914 and 1939.

Yet, as in the waning days of Rome, there is a growing uncertainly beneath the European calm.

The present generation has inherited the physical architecture and art of a once-great West — cathedrals, theaters and museums. But it seems to lack the confidence that it could ever create the conditions to match, much less exceed, such achievement.

The sense of depression in Europe reminds one of novelist J.R.R. Tolkien’s description of the mythical land of Gondor in his epic fantasy “The Lord of the Rings.” Gondor’s huge walls, vaunted traditions and rich history were testaments that it once served as bulwark of a humane Middle-earth.

But by the novel’s time, the people of Gondor had become militarily and spiritually enfeebled by self-doubt, decades of poor governance, depopulation and indifference, paradoxically brought on by wealth and affluence.

Europeans are similarly confused about both their past and present. They claim to be building a new democratic culture. But the governing elites of the European Union prefer fiats to plebiscites. They are terrified of popular protest movements. And they consider voters little more than members of reckless mobs that cannot be properly taught what is good for them.

Free speech is increasingly problematic. It is more dangerous for a European citizen to publicly object to illegal immigration than for a foreigner to enter Europe illegally.

Elites preach the idea of open borders. But people on the street concede that they have no way of assimilating millions of immigrants from the Middle East into European culture. Most come illegally, en masse, and without the education or skills to integrate successfully.

Oddly, less wealthy Central and Eastern Europeans are more astutely skeptical of mass immigration than wealthier but less rational Western Europeans.

Europeans claim to believe in democratic redistribution, but apparently not on an international level. They are torn apart over a poorer Mediterranean Europe wishing to share in the lifestyles of their northern cousins without necessarily emulating the latter’s discipline and work ethic.

Germany wishes to be the good leader that can live down its past by virtue-signaling its tolerance. Yet Berlin does so in an overbearing, almost traditional Prussian fashion. It rams down the throat of its neighbors its politically correct policies on Middle Eastern immigration, mandatory green energy, virtual disarmament, mercantilist trade and financial bailouts. Rarely has such a socialist nation been so hyper-capitalist and chauvinist in piling up trade surpluses.

The world quietly assumes that the rich and huge European Union cannot and will not do much about unscrupulous Chinese trade practices, radical Islamic terrorism, or Iranian and North Korean nuclear proliferation.

Such problems are left to the more uncouth Americans. That unspoken dependency might explain why many Europeans quietly concede that the hated Donald Trump’s deterrent foreign policy and his economic growth protocols could prove in the long term a better deal for Europe than were the beloved Barack Obama’s lead-from-behind and redistributionist agendas.

The European Union’s sole reason to be is to avoid a repeat of the disastrous 20th century, in which many millions of Europeans were slaughtered in world wars, death camps and the great communist terror in Russia.

Yet paradoxically, the European reaction to the gory past often results in an extreme Western sybaritic lifestyle that in itself leads to decline.

European religion has been recalibrated into a secular and agnostic political correctness. Child-raising, if done, is often a matter of having one child in one’s late 30s. Buying a home and getting a job depend more on government ministries than on individual daring and initiative.

Yet the more credible European lesson from the last century’s catastrophes is that too few 20th-century European democracies stayed militarily vigilant. In the 1930s, too few of them felt confident enough in Western democratic values to confront existential dangers in their infancy like Hitler and Stalin.

Atheistic nihilism and a soulless modernism — not religious piety and a reverence for custom and tradition — fueled German and Italian fascism and Russian communism.

Contrary to politically correct dogma, Christianity, military deterrence, democracy and veneration of a unique past did not destroy Europe.

Instead, the culprit of European decline was the very absence of such ancient values — both then and now.

• Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, is the author of “The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won” (Basic Books, 2017).

Friday, June 08, 2018

G6 plus Trump

Trump goes to G-7 and would rather not. The G-6 would rather he not as well. Real estate is all about timing. Trump has assessed that there is no better time to recalibrate the one sided trade deals that the previous administrations of Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama foolishly made with just about everyone. It will be a short meeting but Trump is holding the cards.

Trump Tweets:

Please tell Prime Minister Trudeau and President Macron that they are charging the U.S. massive tariffs and create non-monetary barriers. The EU trade surplus with the U.S. is $151 Billion, and Canada keeps our farmers and others out. Look forward to seeing them tomorrow.Tweets, current page.  Tweets & replies  Media
Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump

Why isn’t the European Union and Canada informing the public that for years they have used massive Trade Tariffs and non-monetary Trade Barriers against the U.S. Totally unfair to our farmers, workers & companies. Take down your tariffs & barriers or we will more than match you!
Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump

Prime Minister Trudeau is being so indignant, bringing up the relationship that the U.S. and Canada had over the many years and all sorts of other things...but he doesn’t bring up the fact that they charge us up to 300% on dairy — hurting our Farmers, killing our Agriculture!
Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump


Europe’s economy is looking like the weak link in the global expansion after a slowdown in the first quarter.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said on Monday that its composite leading indicators show “signs of easing growth momentum” in the eurozone as a whole and its three biggest economies—Germany, France and Italy, Bloomberg reported.
In comparison, the 35-member OECD area and the US show “stable” growth and China’s index points to “tentative signs” of the economy gaining speed.

FRANKFURT--German industrial production and exports declined in April compared with March, giving yet another sign that Europe's largest economy is struggling to gain momentum following a weak start to the year.

Industrial output dropped 1.0% from March while exports slipped 0.3%, the Federal Statistical Office said Friday. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast a small increase in industrial production.

"Following a moderate first quarter, industrial production had a weak start to the second quarter," said the economics ministry.

A separate publication on Thursday showed that German manufacturing orders dropped for the fourth straight month in April, signaling that the economic slowdown is stretching into the second quarter.

Germany's economy has started to cool, reflecting similar developments elsewhere in the eurozone. Germany's annualized growth rate slowed to 1.2% in the first quarter from 2.5% in the fourth quarter of last year.

Deutsche Bank AG's DBK, -1.36% DB, +1.41% Chairman Paul Achleitner is considering a merger with rival Commerzbank AG CBK, -2.42% and is speaking with top investors and government officials about the potential tie-up, Bloomberg reported late Thursday. 

Sources told the news outlet there have been no formal talks yet between the two German banks and that a deal isn't seen as imminent. Deutsche Bank said in a statement that the chairman is constantly asked about this matter. "His answer is always the same: 'All the pro and contra arguments can be read in analyst reports and the media. So what do you think? He sees no reason to actively raise this issue." A representative from Commerzbank wasn't immediately available for a comment. Deutsche Bank shares fell 1.5% in Friday's trade, while Commerzbank shares were down 2.8%. The Deutsche Bank stock is down more than 40% year-to-date following a string of bad news. Last week, the U.S. Federal Reserve designated DB's U.S. business in "troubled condition," while S&P Global Ratings downgraded the company over concerns related to its restructuring plans.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

The Eagle has landed and Sam is up and running!

The Eagle Saloon 

I will be participating and look forward to checking in. Please give it a go!


Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Bob's Elk Bar?

Obama-era State and Treasury Department officials discreetly issued a special license for the conversion to a major Omani bank and unsuccessfully pressured two U.S. banks to partake in the transaction, all while misleading lawmakers about the activities.

Obama hid efforts to aid Iran's windfall

Team approached U.S. banks for cash conversion after signing of nuclear deal

The Obama administration — despite repeatedly assuring Congress that Iran would remain barred from the U.S. financial system — secretly mobilized to give Tehranaccess to American banks to convert the windfall of cash it received from sanctions relief under the 2015 nuclear deal into dollars, an investigative report by the Senatehas revealed.

A copy of the report, obtained by The Washington Times, outlines how Obama-era State and Treasury Department officials discreetly issued a special license for the conversion to a major Omani bank and unsuccessfully pressured two U.S. banks to partake in the transaction, all while misleading lawmakers about the activities.
The document, compiled by the Senate’s Republican-led chief investigative subcommittee, began circulating Tuesday, just as the Trump administration issued its harshest warnings to date to foreign governments and companies to avoid doing business with Iran or find themselves in the crosshairs of Washington’s reimposition of sanctions as part of Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal.

“Companies doing business in Iran face substantial risks, and those risks are even greater as we reimpose nuclear-related sanctions,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Department undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

She also called on foreign governments to harden their financial systems against “deceptive” Iranian transactions that ultimately channel money to terrorists.
The Iranian government “uses shell and front companies to conceal its tracks” as part of an elaborate scheme designed to procure cash for the Quds Force of Iran’s militant Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the U.S. designates as a terrorist organization, Ms. Mandelker said.

She issued the warnings in a speech at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank as Iran announced Tuesday that it was formally moving ahead with preparations to increase its nuclear enrichment capacities — the sharpest response to date by the Islamic republic to Mr. Trump’s pullout from the nuclear accord.

Iranian officials said the increase, while provocative, does not violate its commitments under the nuclear accord.

The president sent shock waves around the world with his May 8 decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear pact and begin reimposing U.S. sanctions, which the U.S., Europe, China and Russia had collectively lifted in 2015 in exchange for Iran’s promise to curb its suspect nuclear programs and allow international inspections.

While Iran told the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency on Tuesday that it plans only to increase enrichment within limits set by 2015 deal, the announcement came with threats from a top Iranian official that the activities could be quickly expanded. The warning put fresh pressure on European leaders to keep the nuclear accord alive despite Mr. Trump’s withdrawal.

The head of Iran’s nuclear agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Tehran is prepared to dramatically increase its capacity for enrichment but that the work so far is limited to building a facility for assembling the centrifuges. He made the comment a day after Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ordered the increase in capacity and vowed that Iran would preserve its nuclear program despite the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 accord.

Congress out of the loop
The Senate report focuses new scrutiny on the lengths President Obama’s team was willing to go to ensure the deal’s success as it was still being negotiated.
The Senate Homeland Security Committee’s permanent subcommittee on investigations probe contends that the Obama administration went out of its way to keep U.S. lawmakers in the dark about calculated and secretive efforts to give Tehrana back channel to the international financial system and to U.S. banks, facilitating a massive U.S. currency conversion worth billions of dollars.
“Senior U.S. government officials repeatedly testified to Congress that Iranian access to the U.S. financial system was not on the table or part of any deal,” according to a draft copy of the document obtained by The Times. “Despite these claims, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, at the direction of the U.S. State Department, granted a specific license that authorized a conversion of Iranian assets worth billions of U.S. dollars using the U.S. financial system.

“Even after the specific license was issued, U.S. government officials maintained in congressional testimony that Iran would not be granted access to the U.S. financial system,” the report said.

Sen. Rob Portman, the Ohio Republican who chairs the subcommittee, is set to outline his panel’s findings Wednesday.

Under terms of the nuclear deal, Iran was given the right to reclaim billions of dollars in state assets and bank accounts frozen by international sanctions, but it remained “illegal for U.S. persons, entities, and financial institutions to do business with Iran or parties on behalf of Iran.”

The ban included any “intermediary” transactions by U.S. banks to convert currency for Iran — a development that would have elevated the value of the Iranian assets on the global market and allowed Tehran to more easily move the money through the international banking system.

On the day the nuclear deal was implemented in 2015, Tehran had some $5.7 billion worth of assets at Bank Muscat in Muscat, Oman, according to Senate investigators, who said Tehran moved quickly to request access to the U.S. dollar.
On Tehran’s request, Bank Muscat contacted the U.S. Treasury Department’s office of foreign assets control.

According to the Senate report: “Muscat sought to convert $5.7 billion in Omai rials into euros. [But] because the rial is pegged to the U.S. dollar, the most efficient conversion was with an intermediary step through a U.S. bank using U.S. dollars.”

Obama Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in July 2015 that Iran would “continue to be denied access to the [U.S.] financial and commercial market” under the proposed accord, but the Treasury office went ahead with attempts to quietly allow the currency transaction sought by Iran.
“On February 24, 2016, OFAC issued a specific license to Bank Muscat authorizing Iranian assets worth roughly $5.7 billion to flow through the U.S. financial system,” according to the Senate report, which claims the move was made “even though U.S. sanctions prohibited it.”

Even as office of foreign assets control officials directly “encouraged two U.S. correspondent banks to convert the funds,” the Treasury Department continued to deny it was working to facilitate the currency transaction, said the report, which cites a 2016 letter from the department to Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, and Sen. Mark Kirk, Illinois Republican, that contended the Obama “administration has not been and is not planning to grant Iran access to the U.S. financial system.”

The catch, according to Senate investigators, was that neither of the U.S. banks approached by the office of foreign assets control would take on the Iranian currency exchange — in part because of political concerns over the prospect of being found out to have secretly circumvented the remaining ban on U.S. transactions with the Islamic republic.

Despite the Obama administration’s efforts, Iran was ultimately forced to convert its Bank Muscat assets to euros in small increments using European banks and without accessing the U.S. financial system, the Senate investigators said.
Mr. Portman said in a statement Tuesday night that “the Obama administrationmisled the American people and Congress because they were desperate to get a deal with Iran.”

“Despite claims both before and after the Iran deal was completed that the U.S. financial system would remain off limits, the Obama administration issued a specific license allowing Iran to convert billions of dollars in assets using the U.S. financial system,” Mr. Portman said. “The only reason this transaction wasn’t executed was because two U.S. banks refused, even though the administration asked them to help convert the money.”

Such sanctions, he added, “are a vital foreign policy tool, and the U.S. government should never work to actively undermine their enforcement or effectiveness.”
Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.