Category Archives: SPY Editorials

9-9-2016 A Spy Editorial: Stop Killing Children


Russian bombs or Syrian regime bombs? The end game for this 5 year old? His brother died.

Oman’s future like that of the Middle East is uncertain, prospects are fragmented.


Another attempt at a cease fire

The United States and Russia said early Saturday in Geneva they had reached a landmark agreement that would lead to a cease-fire in the five-year-old Syrian civil war and pave the way for broader military cooperation in the battle against the Islamic State and al-Qaeda terrorists.

Secretary of State John Kerry called the deal a potential “turning point” in the bloody conflict, which has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and forced millions to flee their homes. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced the agreement in Geneva, Switzerland where negotiators hammered out the deal.

The cease-fire is set to begin at sundown on Monday. It is seen as a first step in what could become a broader military pact between Russia and the United States that has so far remained elusive.

Citing a number of recent meetings with Lavrov, Kerry said: “The United States is going the extra mile here because we believe that Russia, and my colleague, have the capability to press the Assad regime to stop this conflict and to come to the table and make peace.”

“This is just the beginning of our new relations,” Lavrov said.

There are still formidable obstacles in the way of carrying out the agreement. Hundreds of factions are fighting in Syria and getting them all to cooperate will be a challenge. A previous ceasefire agreement in Syria collapsed.

This deal appears more ambitious, since it includes an agreement to seek broader military cooperation between Russia and the United States if the ceasefire holds.

The Pentagon said that a “cessation of hostilities” would have to hold for seven days before the broader military cooperation would go into effect.

“We will be watching closely the implementation of this understanding in the days ahead,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement. The Pentagon has been wary of Russian military actions in Syria.

Lavrov said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is willing to comply with the agreement, according to the Associated Press.

Russia and the United States are both conducting military operations in Syria. The Pentagon is backing local ground forces and conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State..

Russia is also conducting airstrikes, but Washington has accused it of carrying out operations aimed at propping up the Assad regime by striking members of U.S.-back moderate opponents of the Syrian president. The United States wants Assad to step down because of his brutal attacks on civilians with chemical weapons and other armaments.

Russia and the United States have agreed to hold regular talks aimed at ensuring aircraft remain at safe distances from each other, but are not cooperating on military operations.

A broad agreement to cooperate could mean the two sides would eventually share intelligence and agree on which targets to strike.


The Obama administration seeks to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad, but the White House has balked at making the necessary effort to do so. The lack of resolve was evident in 2012 and 2013, when Syria crossed Obama’s “red line” regarding the use of chemical weapons in the civil war and the U.S. response was to simply blur the line. Anti-Assad rebel groups have been given covert aid and arms by the CIA, but not enough to win. A separate Defense Department program seeking to train Syrian rebels from bases in Jordan collapsed.

The Kremlin showed how things should be done last fall when Russian forces intervened to defend Assad. Obama dismissed the move, claiming that it would make Russia weaker. But it decidedly made Assad stronger and changed the nature of the proxy war. The rebels were put on the defensive and pushed back into strongholds such as Aleppo. Diplomatic efforts to stem the bleeding have failed; it has been six months since Secretary of State John Kerry announced in Munich that a peace deal was on the horizon.

The U.S. failed to act when it had the chance. Now it’s just making the proxy war worse.

Omran Daqneesh in Aleppo, Syria, on Aug. 17, 2016.(Photo: Aleppo Media Center via AP)

Children suffer the most in war. Consider the compelling image of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh, sitting dazed and bloody in the back of an ambulance in Aleppo, Syria, after being pulled from the rubble of a building hit by an airstrike. His 10-year-old brother, Ali, wounded in the same bombing, survived a few hours before succumbing to his wounds.

Omran and Ali personify the suffering in Syria, in which an estimated 400,000 have died in the past five years. The siege of Aleppo has been one of the most brutal episodes in the war. Syrian troops and Iranian-backed Shia militia have pounded the city, supported by Russian air power. Rebel groups, including the U.S.-backed Nour al-Din al-Zenki, have mounted a desperate and probably doomed defense.

It raises the question: To what extent is the United States responsible for the continuing carnage?

The Obama administration seeks to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad, but the White House has balked at making the necessary effort to do so. The lack of resolve was evident in 2012 and 2013, when Syria crossed Obama’s “red line” regarding the use of chemical weapons in the civil war and the U.S. response was to simply blur the line. Anti-Assad rebel groups have been given covert aid and arms by the CIA, but not enough to win. A separate Defense Department program seeking to train Syrian rebels from bases in Jordan collapsed.

The Kremlin showed how things should be done last fall when Russian forces intervened to defend Assad. Obama dismissed the move, claiming that it would make Russia weaker. But it decidedly made Assad stronger and changed the nature of the proxy war. The rebels were put on the defensive and pushed back into strongholds such as Aleppo. Diplomatic efforts to stem the bleeding have failed; it has been six months since Secretary of State John Kerry announced in Munich that a peace deal was on the horizon.


POLICING THE USA: A look at race, justice, media (by USA Today editors)

The conflict is further complicated by the parallel effort the United States is making against the Islamic State terror group, which occupies swaths of eastern Syria. The U.S. is working directly with Kurds and other groups in operations that Washington sees as part of the War on Terrorism, not the anti-Assad fight. However, Damascus views any anti-Assad forces as fair game, and this week it bombed U.S.-backed Kurds in strikes that could have wounded or killed American advisers. The Pentagon warned Syria the U.S. would exercise the “inherent right of self-defense” for American troops, even those operating on Syrian soil in a legal gray area.

The potential is growing for a clash between Syrian (or Russian) warplanes and U.S. ground or air assets, which would represent a dangerous and pointless escalation.

If the covert war against Assad were succeeding, it might be worth the effort and the sacrifice. But it is not. In addition, Washington is failing to keep the anti-ISIL effort in Syria compartmentalized from the larger civil war, setting the stage for a much more perilous conventional conflict.

The U.S. did not make the necessary commitment to win in Syria years ago when it had the chance, and it’s now giving just enough support to a losing cause to keep the war grinding on. The result is more innocent deaths, more refugees and more misery.

It is time for the Obama administration to admit that its policies are doing more harm than good. The president should seek peace the only way he can, by bowing out of the anti-Assad fight.

James S. Robbins, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, is the author of This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive.


We can’t bow out of the Middle East, or even the Iran War.

But we can stop leading from behind, which is Obama’s answer. We helped create this mess by invading Iraq (Bush) and then pulling our punches (Obama).

Obama is seen around the world as feckless, and that is a kinder label than many. Personally, the man who proclaims he is a pacifist, and imposes his will on our military – and our global partners, is innately a coward. Perhaps not so much physically as psychologically. He will strike any bargain which averts any stain on his legacy.

Obama should borrow a page from Harry Truman, and lead a United Nations coalition which compels all the parties to stand down, or suffer the consequences – not just militarily, a last resort, but financially through sanctions that hurt. If we can’t remove Assad, isolate him in his palace. He and all the other belligerents have seven days. If the cease-fire doesn’t hold, there are two options. The allied nations can force a truce, or, as Bobby Kennedy said famously trying to end the fighting in Vietnam, if a cease fire doesn’t work, we can always go back to killing each other. Obama should doff his professorial robes and for once lead from the front.

Make all parties an offer they can’t refuse: lay down your arms, stand down your aircraft, or be treated as international pariahs.

Persuade through every manner possible all the nations of the world that the most fundamental belief in civilized rule begins with a simple agreement: Stop Killing Children.




7-11-2016 Sydney Schanberg

Sydney Schanberg was a journalist without peer, with whom I worked in the Sixties, a brilliant reporter whom I was proud to call my friend.

The following obituary is excepted from the Washington Post.


Sydney H. Schanberg, a New York Times foreign correspondent whose courageous reports about Cambodia’s takeover by the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in 1975 earned him the Pulitzer Prize and formed the basis of the Academy Award-winning film “The Killing Fields,” died July 9 at a hospital in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He was 82.

He had a heart attack on Tuesday, said his wife, Jane Freiman Schanberg.

In the early 1970s, while based in Singapore for the Times, Mr. Schanberg began to report from Cambodia, a onetime French protectorate across the border from Vietnam.

He provided the first major coverage of U.S. bombing missions that ravaged the Cambodian countryside, including a 1973 attack when a B-52 dropped 20 tons of bombs on a remote village, leaving about 150 residents dead.

Mr. Schanberg’s partner in reporting was Dith Pran, a resourceful and multilingual Cambodian who served as his interpreter and guide. They became inseparable reporting partners, even as a communist-backed insurgency known as the Khmer Rouge began to close in on the capital city of Phnom Penh in early 1975.

Sydney H. Schanberg in 1976. (The New York Times/AFP/Getty Images)

As civil war enveloped the country, the U.S. Embassy closed its doors on April 12. Mr. Schanberg refused orders from the Times to evacuate, choosing instead to take refuge with Dith at the French Embassy. As the only U.S. reporter remaining in Cambodia, Mr. Schanberg visited hospitals, where the blood of Khmer Rouge victims flowed down the halls.

On April 17, 1975, as Mr. Schanberg and Dith were about to leave the embassy on a reporting assignment, “some heavily armed Khmer Rouge soldiers charged in through the main gate,” Mr. Schanberg later wrote.

“Shouting and angry, they wave us out of the car, put guns to our heads and stomachs and order us to put our hands over our heads. I instinctively look at Pran for guidance,” he wrote, referring to Dith by his given name, which comes last in Cambodian usage.

“We have been in difficult situations before, but this is the first time I have ever seen raw fear on his face. He tells me, stammering, to do everything they say. I am shaking. I think we’re going to be killed right there. But Pran, having somehow composed himself, starts pleading with them. His hands still over his head, he tries to convince them we are not their enemy, merely foreign newsmen covering their victory.”

Dith’s quick thinking led the gunmen to release him and Mr. Schanberg. Days later, the Khmer Rouge ordered all Cambodians to leave the French Embassy. Dith became one of hundreds of thousands of people driven from Phnom Penh into an unknown future in the countryside.

As conditions deteriorated, Mr. Schanberg climbed onto a truck with other Westerners, crossing the border of Thailand on April 30. He made his way to Bangkok, where he wrote a firsthand account of the fall of Phnom Penh, complete with dramatic details of the terror of the Khmer Rouge.

When Mr. Schanberg was awarded journalism’s top honor in 1976, the Pulitzer committee praised him for his work “at great risk.” Mr. Schanberg accepted the award on Dith’s behalf, but he heard nothing about his onetime reporting partner for more than four years.

Journalist Sydney H. Schanberg in 1991. (Mike Albans/AP)

Finally, in October 1979, word arrived that Dith had turned up at a refu­gee camp in Thailand. Mr. Schanberg immediately boarded a flight, then took a six-hour road trip to the border near Cambodia.

In a 1980 article in the New York Times magazine, “The Death and Life of Dith Pran,” he described his friend’s ordeal. The story was adapted for “The Killing Fields,” which was released in 1984, with Sam Waterston playing Mr. Schanberg.

Mr. Schanberg graduated from Harvard University in 1955, then spent two years in the Army, mostly as a journalist in Germany. He joined the Times in 1959 and covered local and state governments before being assigned to the paper’s New Delhi bureau in 1969.

After Cambodia, Mr. Schanberg was an editor on the Times’s metropolitan desk. Dith joined the Times, where he had a long career as a photographer before his death in 2008.

Mr. Schanberg began writing a column about the city of New York in 1981, often on controversial subjects. His abrasive, headstrong manner served him well overseas, but in New York he often clashed with his bosses at the Times. After he criticized the paper’s coverage of a proposed highway project in 1985, his column was abruptly canceled. Journalist Pete Hamill denounced the move as “unspeakably shabby.”

Mr. Schanberg quit the Times, then became a columnist for New York Newsday for 10 years. He later wrote for the Village Voice and other outlets and ultimately settled in New Paltz, N.Y., where he taught at a branch of the State University of New York.


(Readers are urged to read the remainder of this obituary by logging onto the Post)


4-2-2016 Stolen bonds, the Gestapo and the KGB

Editor’s note: the following story has no relationship to softball, but is too long for Facebook.  It concerns people who play a different kind of hardball.

STOLEN BONDS, THE Gestapo, and the KGB

Among the many penalties imposed on the Weimar Republic were reparations sought by France and Germany for the costs of WWI. Lacking the millions in the Bundesbank sought by the Allies, the Bundesbank issued millions of dollars in bearer bonds, which were sold to investors in Germany and elsewhere in 1928. The offering raised enough money to pay the underwriting costs borne by J,P. Morgran.

In 30 years, the investors could redeem the bonds at face value. A major purchaser of the bonds was the bundesbank itself, bonds which lay in storage in Berlin throughout WWII.

The amount sought by Britain and France, who had not only carved up the oil bearing lands in the Middle East – British Petroleum and ELF were major negotiators at Versailles when the diplomats sought peace in our time (Chamberlain) but lay the groundwork for a second world war – were excessive and a major factor in the rise of the National Socialist Workers Party – Nazi.

This potboiler came to light in 1968 when investors began redeeming bearer bonds, which did not require proof of ownership.

But some bonds being submitted for redemption had supposedly never been issued by the bundesbank. The simmering pot boiled over when it was discovered that a number of bonds had been used as collateral for loans made by certain banks in Eastern Europe. When the Bundesbank balked, the creditors sued and the German courts ruled the Bundesbank had to pay because the bonds were made payable by the German government to bearer.

An investigation led German intelligence to conclude that the Soviet Army, when not raping every female from 6 to 90, and stealing all possible scientific and industrial machinery, had stolen all manner of financial instruments, including millions in bearer bonds. Investigaton revealed that some of the new entrepreneurs financing business in Eastern Europe were former KGB officers.

In due course, the West German government presented a demand in Moscow, The denials included “what Soviet Army; there is no longer a Soviet Union or Soviet army.”

Germany was able to thwart some of the East European deals and deny payment on some of the bonds.

The investigation also revealed that officials in Hitler’s Third Reich had also capitalized on the bonds. I have copies of three such bonds approved for payment with the Third Reich stamp. Given to me by a Bundesbank officials during a vodka-hued night at the old Adlon in Berlin, once a favorite of Nazis. I first heard the story from a retired official at his chateau in the south of France. And confirmed it through discussions with banking and intelligence people in Warsaw and Geneva, as well as Berlin and Moscow, where some discussions were held in an old dacha outside Moscow – you never know who is listening when meetings are held in ministry buildings, a Russian foreign service officer told me.


I thought of this matter and one other this past week reading in the Wall St Journal that the large US and European banks had declined to bid on bonds being offered by the Russian Cantral Bank. The publicly expressed concern was that the Putin government would use the funds to support actions in violation of US sanctions.

But I wondered whether some of this reluctance reflected a long-term reticence to get involved with Russian bonds.

There was an incident in the mid-90s when a Russian bank offered financial assistance to a South American country, which was widely hailed in that nation’s capitol – and by the US Ambassador. He was furious when I told bankers from that country that the Russian bank did not have the assets to perform. Our Ambassador flew to Washington, and stormed through the State Department accusing me of undermining the economy of a key ally. But, when I was challenged by the Under Secretary, I provided the secret financial data on the Russian bank. I refused to name my source but did inform the CIA of the identity of the Russian banking source who was known to them. We had one meeting at a hotel in McLean VA near CIA headquarters. We also met in the Lubyanka, KGB headquarters in Moscow. The Russians joked that I had been deeper inside the former Czarist prison than any American who was not in chains.


8-24-2015 Lacey Lee Baker Resigns


Lacy Lee Baker Resigns as NFCA Executive Director

August 24, 2015

After 21 years as the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Executive Director, Lacy Lee Baker has announced her resignation, effective August 31.


Baker, a 2014 NFCA Hall of Fame inductee, joined the Association in 1994 as its second full-time executive director, two years before a name change from the National Softball Coaches Association.


“I feel good about where the Association is now, and with an outstanding staff and continued board support, I’m sure the NFCA will continue to grow and succeed,” Baker said.  “I’m very proud of moving the Association to a permanent home in Louisville, Kentucky, and I feel with that stability, the NFCA and the sport can reach even greater heights. It has truly been my honor to serve fastpitch softball coaches all these years and be a small part of the tremendous growth the sport has achieved,” Baker continued.


Under her direction, the Association has expanded greatly both in services provided and membership numbers, going from a group of 1,372 members when she started, to the 3,800-plus members the NFCA serves today. The Association has grown from its founding as a college coaches’ organization to a group now that serves the needs of all coaches in the fastpitch community — from youth to high school to travel ball and college — as well as hundreds of affiliate members.


The annual NFCA National Convention has grown as well during her tenure, with last December’s edition in Las Vegas setting a record for both attendees (1,450) and vendors (130 companies).  She also started the NFCA’s monthly publication, Fastpitch Delivery, and was responsible for the NFCA’s first web site in the 1990s through the redesigned that launched this summer.


With the Board of Directors, she helped establish the Association’s written purpose: “To support fastpitch softball coaches in their quest for excellence, while uniting together to advance the sport we love,” and had been working at the time of her decision with the NFCA Board of Directors to spell out the Association’s vision for the future.


“Lacy Lee’s service and dedication to the NFCA has been unparalleled as she has invested her heart and soul into this organization for over two decades,” NFCA Board of Directors President Rhonda Revelle said. “She has been the driving force of positioning the NFCA where is stands today. Myself, and the NFCA Board of Directors are grateful and appreciative of Lacy Lee’s contributions to ‘advancing the sport we all love,’ and we wish her nothing but the very best in the next chapter of her life.”


Baker’s first job in sports was in 1978 as an assistant sports information director at San Diego State. In 1980, she became Director of Publications at Stanford University and she joined the staff of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee in 1983 as the project manager and editor of Olympic Record, the daily newspaper for the 1984 Olympic Games.


In 1985, she joined the staff at the NCAA, working first in publications, before moving on to assistant and associate director of championship positions, where she worked with the NCAA’s three softball championships and as the liaison to the National Softball Coaches Association.


Her husband, Jay Miller, a 2008 NFCA Hall of Fame inductee, is the pitching coach at the University of Louisville and their daughter, Nikki Miller, is an assistant coach at Wittenberg University

Spy Note: Neither the press nor Revelle indicated what that next chapter might be, or why the short time window.

7-4-2015 Signers of Declaration of Independence



Gary Hildrith

Have you ever wondered what happened to the fifty-six men who signed the Declaration of Independence? This is the price they paid:

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the revolutionary army, another had two sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or hardships resulting from the Revolutionary War.

These men signed, and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor!

What kind of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants. Nine were farmers and large plantation owners. All were men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty could be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers or both, looted the properties of Ellery, Clymer, Hall, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.

Perhaps one of the most inspiring examples of “undaunted resolution” was at the Battle of Yorktown. Thomas Nelson, Jr. was returning from Philadelphia to become Governor of Virginia and joined General Washington just outside of Yorktown. He then noted that British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headqurt, but that the patriot’s were directing their artillery fire all over the town except for the vicinity of his own beautiful home. Nelson asked why they were not firing in that direction, and the soldiers replied, “Out of respect to you, Sir.” Nelson quietly urged General Washington to open fire, and stepping forward to the nearest cannon, aimed at his own house and fired. The other guns joined in, and the Nelson home was destroyed. Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis’s Long Island home was looted and gutted, his home and properties destroyed. His wife was thrown into a damp dark prison cell without a bed. Health ruined, Mrs. Lewis soon died from the effects of the confinement. The Lewis’s son would later die in British captivity, also.

“Honest John” Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she lay dying, when British and Hessian troops invaded New Jersey just months after he signed the Declaration. Their thirteen children fled for their lives. His fields and his grist mill were laid to waste. All winter, and for more than a year, Hart lived in forests and caves, finally returning home to find his wife dead, his chidrvanished and his farm destroyed. Rebuilding proved too be too great a task. A few weeks later, by the spring of 1779, John Hart was dead from exhaustion and a broken heart.

Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

New Jersey’s Richard Stockton, after rescuing his wife and children from advancing British troops, was betrayed by a loyalist, imprisoned, beaten and nearly starved. He returned an invalid to find his home gutted, and his library and papers burned. He, too, never recovered, dying in 1781 a broken man.

William Ellery of Rhode Island, who marveled that he had seen only “undaunted resolution” in the faces of his co-signers, also had his home burned.

Only days after Lewis Morris of New York signed the Declaration, British troops ravaged his 2,000-acre estate, butchered his cattle and drove his family off the land. Three of Morris’ sons fought the British.

When the British seized the New York houses of the wealthy Philip Livingston, he sold off everything else, and gave the money to the Revolution. He died in 1778.

Arthur Middleton, Edward Rutledge and Thomas Heyward Jr. went home to South Carolin tight. In the British invasion of the South, Heyward was wounded and all three were captured. As he rotted on a prison ship in St. Augustine, Heyward’s plantation was raided, buildings burned, and his wife, who witnessed it all, died. Other Southern signers suffered the same general fate.

Among the first to sign had been John Hancock, who wrote in big, bold script so George III “could read my name without spectacles and could now double his reward for 500 pounds for my head.” If the cause of the revolution commands it, roared Hancock, “Burn Boston and make John Hancock a beggar!”

Here were men who believed in a cause far beyond themselves.

Such were the stories and sacrifices of the America revolution. These were not wild eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged: “For the support of this Declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”