Category Archives: SPY Editorials

3-1-2015 Relevant Notes from Germany

NEWS FROM GERMANY

Richard von Weizsäcker, 94, Dies: First President of Reunited .Germany..

Richard von Weizsäcker, the patrician first president of the reunited Germany and a guardian of his nation’s moral conscience, has died. He transformed what had been a mostly ceremonial office into a political platform from which he helped lead German reunification while urging Germans to confront their Nazi past. He made several trips to Israel where his efforts at restitution and recognition were warmly welcomed. Weizsacker planted a tree in Jerusalem’s memorial garden. (So did the Hesse family) His comments about leaders swaying opinion and converting Germans, especially youth, are relevamt today as the world copes with youth by the thousands joining ISIS.

Mein Kampf

Incredible: a publisher plans to reprint Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Hopefully, the German courts will block publication. The Charlie Hebdo murders prompted global outcry defending freedom of speech, no matter how hateful. There must be limits!

 

Buchenwald and Dachau

Buchenwald, a Nazi concentration camp for political prisoners, was established outside the city of Weimar, Germany in July 1937. Unlike other camps that were extermination sites, Buchenwald was a source of slave labor. Now Buchwald and Dachau, which began as an internment center for political prisoners, are slated to be used by the Interior Ministry to house migrants and persons seeking political asylum, who have been flooding into Germany which does not have housing available for the large numbers who must be screened, etc. German officials say the camps have been modernized and the new arrivals will not be housed in former slave quarters. The decision to use these and other camps applies only to those within Germany and does not involve the many extermination camps in Poland, eg, Auschwitz.

 

 

2-25-2015 Clinton, Holder and Marc Rich

Eric Holder and Marc Rich
Spy intended to post this article on our alternative web site lifeonspy but it did not publish.

 

In 1995, I was passing through Moscow’s Sheremtyevo airport and after clearing immigration, I looked for the Embassy driver — and saw a limo driver discretely holding a small sign “Marc Rich.”

 

I have many complaints about Eric Holder, most flagrantly his waving the race card before local law enforcement had conducted their investigations of the Martin and Brown shootings.  Obviously, Holder was doing the bidding of his boss, Obama, whose umbilical cord to his black Muslim roots has never severed.  Similarly, this duo inserted the FBI into the shooting deaths of three Muslim students in Virginia, calling the shootings a hate crime  a hate crime while local police were doubting the cause.

 

Ironically, while Rich was alleged to have been involved in many nefarious dealings, I discovered while in Moscow he was no longer a person of interest.  But, when I told the FBI deputy director that I had seen Rich, he incredulously asked if I had followed him.  The next day, when I was meeting with the KGB at Lemontovo, a Colonel asked if I had followed Rich.  They suspected Rich was involved in black market sales of oil, and may have had a hand in money laundering.  (Much of the money laundering in Eastern Europe involved former KGB officers using stolen bank documents seized by the Red Army when Berlin collapsed; I have some of the bearer bonds bearing Third Reich stamps.)

 

A review of the Clinton-Holder-Rich affairs by Justin Peters in Slate.

 

“Marc Rich, the man who got away with it, died last week, and I would be remiss if I let his death pass without comment. Rich became internationally notorious in 2001, when, as a fugitive from justice, he was pardoned by Bill Clinton in the last hours of his administration. What many don’t recall is that Attorney General Eric Holder, who was then a deputy attorney general, was instrumental in securing Rich’s pardon.

Rich was a pioneering commodities trader who made billions dealing in oil and other goods. He had a habit of dealing with nations with which trade was embargoed, like Iran, Libya, Cuba, and apartheid South Africa. Rich also had a habit of not paying his taxes, to the point where one observer said that “Marc Rich is to asset concealment what Babe Ruth was to baseball.” The United States indicted Rich in 1983, hitting him with charges—tax evasion, wire fraud, racketeering, trading with the enemy—that could’ve brought life in prison. Rich fled the country.

He remained at large for almost 20 years. (Rich’s obituaries have said that, for much of that time, he was on the FBI 10 Most Wanted List, a claim that I have not been able to independently verify. A Lexis-Nexis database search reveals nothing; a call to the FBI’s press office was not fruitful.) Rich lived in a big house in Switzerland and spent lots of money trying to make the charges against him go away, giving money to American politicians and to various Israeli causes, motivated at least partly in the latter case by the hope that officials in Israel might petition the United States on his behalf.

Finally, in 2000, he saw some return on his efforts. Eric Holder was the key man. As deputy AG, Holder was in charge of advising the president on the merits of various petitions for pardon. Jack Quinn, a lawyer for Rich, approached Holder about clemency for his client. Quinn was a confidant of Al Gore, then a candidate for president; Holder had ambitions of being named attorney general in a Gore administration. A report from the House Committee on Government Reform on the Rich debacle later concluded that Holder must have decided that cooperating in the Rich matter could pay dividends later on.

Rich was an active fugitive, a man who had used his money to evade the law, and presidents do not generally pardon people like that. What’s more, the Justice Department opposed the pardon—or would’ve, if it had known about it. But Holder and Quinn did an end-around, bringing the pardon to Clinton directly and avoiding any chance that Justice colleagues might give negative input. As the House Government Reform Committee report later put it, “Holder failed to inform the prosecutors under him that the Rich pardon was under consideration, despite the fact that he was aware of the pardon effort for almost two months before it was granted.”

On Jan. 19, 2001, Holder advised the White House that he was “neutral leaning favorable” on pardoning Rich. But the U.S. pardon attorney, Roger Adams, needed to sign the pardon, too, and a background check needed to be done. The White House waited to contact Adams until slightly after midnight on Jan. 20, hours before Clinton would leave office. Here’s how a recent American Thinker piece described the scene:

Adams would be required to sign the pardons, and when he was informed by White House staff that night, a perfunctory check was done. Adams was stunned to learn that Rich and [Rich’s partner Pincus] Green were both fugitives. He tracked down Holder and called him at his home at 1 a.m. that morning.

Adams informed Holder that Clinton was giving serious consideration to pardoning the two fugitives. Holder told Adams that he was aware of that fact, and the conversation abruptly ended.

Later that day, Rich’s pardon went through.

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1-26-2015 Auschwitz and Muslim Terrorists

AUSCHWITZ AND MUSLIM TERRORISTS January 26 2015 A Spy editorial

 

Tuesday, January 27, the leaders of Germany, France, Belgium. The Netherlands, Austria and Denmark will gather at Auschwitz for the anniversary of the death camp’s liberation in 1945. More than 1.1 million died at Auschwitz and Birkenau, and more than 300 survivors of the Holocaust will remember and mourn the dead. The second largest group of survivors in the world reside in the United States, which will be represented by Treasury Secretary Lew, an Orthodox Jew.

When I visited in 1993, I was struck by a the symbolism of a group of young Israelis gathered in front of the infamous wall at Auschwitz, waving their Israeli flags. I reflected to friends that Jews were still dying in the Middle East because of their religion and the very existence of the Jewish state.

Israel’s existence is a fact, established in law and international agreement. But even as survivors gather to reflect on the Nazi Holocaust, Jews are still dying, not just because they occupy what was once the Palestinian-Jewish mandate, but for the same reason they died in all the years after Hitler came to power and launched history’s most cataclysmic genocide. The horrors of the Inquisition and Russian pogroms pale in comparison.

The Allied powers declared war on Germany and demanded unconditional surrender.

The United States cannot declare war against Islam, which is not a state but a religion, practiced in 64 countries. But, ISIS has declared itself to be a state, and Great Britain and France have declared war on this would-be caliphate. Why not the United States? Is it fair or even correct to say that our posture might be different but for Obama who seems to have trouble balancing the pull of his birth as a black Muslim pacifist against the compelling demands on the man who should be the world’s leader.

Last night I watched Schindler’s List. If you watch the captured Nazi films, which I watched at Auschwitz and again Berlin, the shocking cruelty happened – and it is mind-numbing. Many psychologists have examined the question of why so many flocked to the Nazi swastika were seemingly quite willing to dehumanize the Jewish population of Europe. Today, modern sociologists are wondering why so many Muslim youth, including Americans, are willing to lose their lives in blind adherence to a radical cause. They do not worship Mohammad; they defile his name and their religion.

The sponsoring groups are different only in name – the methods of Nazi goons and Islamic terrorists bear stark similarities, graphically punctuated by beheadings and bombings. Some defenders say the lack of jobs, educational opportunities etc drive Muslim youth to the black flag. Perhaps for some, but not for many; the tie which inarguably binds is their desire to kill Jews.

That reality was reinforced Sunday morning. The White House chief of staff, while absurdly claiming that our counter-terrorism strategy was not affected by the coup in Yemen, a key to the Obama strategy, overlooked the rallying cry of the Houthi: death to Israel, death to Americans. More, the press has been given assurances by Valerie Jarrett, who sits at the President’s shoulder for no apparent reason and had who has been dismissed as irrelevant, that Obama’s strategy is defeating Isis. Too much of the world is in turmoil.

Has Obama become a modern day equivalent of the British general Haig in World War I who was willing to accept 50,000 deaths at the Somme. Recall the Dylan lyric from Peter, Paul and Mary: how many deaths until he knows that too many people have died.

Is it fair to ask how many deaths will Obama tolerate? Syria and Iran crossed red lines and their leaders are still in power.

Israel and America, indeed the Western world, will not be safe until Isis, al-Queda and the Taliban have been liquidated as threats.

Germany only became whole again freed from the scourge of Nazism.

The process of protecting us from Islamic terrorism begins with Obama, when he however reluctantly publicly identifies the reality of the threat.

Occupying the world’s most powerful bully pulpit, Obama should call on all the heads of mosques etc worldwide which embrace Islam to denounce the radicals who bring shame to their religion, a fatwah against those who blaspheme in the name of Mohammed. Their problem is not so much cartoonists in Paris, who deliberately and foolishly compromise the very essence of freedom of speech, but those Islamics who are fanatically intolerant in their faith.

Next, the Western powers should drop enough troops, tanks and planes into the killing fields of the Middle East to subdue and if necessary kill the terrorists, who are quite willing to kill Jews for their religious beliefs. I am a Catholic; the Pope should offer a prayer for the terrorists – after they are dead. Several cartoons were unkind to the Pope, just as a cartoon in Time was insulting to the Virgin Mary. But, Catholics did not rampage.  I know many Muslims in the USA who wish us no harm.  But the images which persist on Muslim TV are of Muslims dancing in the streets after the killing of Jews and others.

Extreme? So is losing your head. So is throwing bombs onto school buses full of children.

Obama needs to respond to the challenge – or get out of the way.

 

1-26-2015 Auschwitz reprint

Spy first published this story after visiting Auschwitz in March 1993.  It is just as timely today, with the anniversary of the Russian liberation on January 27, 1945. A new story follows.

auschw1auschw2

AUSCHWITZ

Infamous train gate to crematoria at Birkenau

 

Auschwitz was liberated on January 27, 1945, effectively proving while ending the Holocaust. I’ve been to other concentration camps, and visited many of the most solemn places on the planet, like the Punchbowl, the cemetery at Normandy, Ground Zero, the Church of the Crucifixion in Jersualem, and Israeli’s Yad Vashem. Auschwitz grips the mind like no other – this was the penultimate killing field. Below is the story I wrote for State Department’s magazine after a 1993 trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau. As we confront terrorism around the world, we need to rethink the lessons of Auschwitz – created by the terrorists who swore their fealty to Adolph Hitler. RFH

 

A PLACE CALLED AUSCHWITZ

 

 

In 1943, when the Nazis crushed the rebellion in the Warsaw ghetto, the great mass of European Jewry that was sent to the killing camps like Auschwitz, Treblinka, Majdanek, and Sobibor included a teenager named Emanuel Fuchs. Given his good size and strength, he was made a “kapo” and put to work shuffling bodies from the gas chambers to the crematorium. But, the rate of killing had increased so rapidly that often the bodies were buried in mass graves, and Manny became a grave digger. One day, he buried his mother and father, and was imbued with a dread resolve to see justice done. He later assisted the 0SS in tracing and identifying former SS and other camp officials. In later years, Manny Fuchs became a well—known photojournalist with whom I worked during the Kennedy and Johnson campaigns. In the dark night of November 22, 1963, when we were flying back to Washington, numbed by the events of Dallas, and speculating on what kinds of stories we should write that would convey to readers our concern about man’s inhumanity to man, Manny told us of his internment during the Holocaust. Even the best planned assassination, his thesis went, cannot compare to the systematic qenocide practiced against the Jews and others whom the Third Reich considered undesirable. To understand man’s inner depths, he concluded, one must go to a place called Auschwitz.

 

He’s dead now, but I promised Manny that, should I ever visit Poland, I would travel to Auschwitz, and stand where he stood on that ramp where the sweep of an arm decided who would live and who would die.

 

I would walk the Walk of Death from the tracks at Birkenau, the major killing camp associated with Auschwitz, where the trains rolled through the arched tunnel (the Death Gate) of the command post, to the point where selections began, those women and children who would die herded toward the south end and the “showers,” where they were gassed, and then on to the crematoriums, which the Nazis attempted to destroy at war’s end in a clumsy effort to deny their savagery, and from the crematorium to the pits where they dumped the ash of more than three million people. One sees the rooms full of shoes, of eye glasses, the incredible piles of human hair, the stacks of luggage belonging to those who were told Auschwitz would be a new beginning —— including the luggage of a frail Dutch girl named Ann Frank. There are the photographs, so familiar to all of my generation and older, but somehow they no longer shock the senses.

 

Indeed, Auschwitz and Birkenau are so quiet, in the early morning hours of a Sunday, partly covered by the snow earlier in the week, so quiet that one cannot hear the inner voices that had been anticipated, so abandoned that one does not conjure up the visions of the millions who walked these streets between the bungalows, who lay cramped, six to a box-like shelf while they still lived, who eventually walked down that street to their death. Perhaps the sights are so familiar they no longer send the mind reeling. But, then, one retraces his steps to Bungalow Seven at Auschwitz where prisoners were tortured in solitary confinement, or hung from hooks until their bodies separated, or put against the Black Wall between Bungalows 10-11, and shot.   Bungalow 10 is where Dr. Mengele, the so-called Angel of Death, performed his macabre “scientific” studies.

 

And, it is there that the mind grasps the unthinkable. They simply could not shoot that many people. So, one walks a hundred yards to the right, and enters a bunker – whose door is in clear vision of the commandant’s house and his family- and enters the first gas chamber. Next door is the first crematorium, which could burn 1,500 bodies a day, far better than shooting 50 an hour, each of whom had to be buried. But, after Wannsee, even twin incinerators burning 3,000 bodies could not keep pace with the killing frenzy, and new ovens were built at Birkenau, where many of the Jews were being killed upon arrival, which could burn three to five thousand bodies a day. The madness escalated and ever-more efficient ovens were built, until Birkenau could burn 25,000 bodies a day. And, yet it wasn’t enough.

 

But, it is there, at the third and last set of crematoria, that the mind closes hard on the soul-piercing recognition of the diligent, systematic application of technology to eliminate the Jews of Europe. The thought then strikes, and one understands why it was so difficult upon first entering the camps to grasp the reality of the Holocaust, because the mind cannot envision murder on this scale. Yet, once consumed by that knowledge, one is almost overwhelmed trying to imagine the sheer terror that filled those hearts and minds so suddenly confronted with the stark realization that death was upon them, and you are subdued by the parallel realization that those images, once conceived, will endure.

 

The nightmare occasioned by that recognition is intensified by still another reality of Auschwitz and especially Birkenau . A hundred yards from the central crematorium, just beyond the double fence and guard towers, are the placid   neighborhoods of Oswiecim. The guide is your age, but was “away during the war, and knew nothing about the killings” although his family lived next to the wire. Your driver is even older, and also from Oswiecim, but was also “away during the war. ” One has seen the aerial photos taken during the war, when the camps were bursting with the living and the dying, and wonders whether the Allied leaders really knew. But, these people knew. Maybe not this driver or this guide, but people knew.

 

I took two friends to Auschwitz.

 

The three of us stood there, a Catholic, an Anglican, and a Jew whose family lived in Eastern Poland and died in the camps, watching a group of young Israelis who had just arrived, bearing their blue and white flags emblazoned with the Star of David, and as we were leaving, paused to hear them recite their Kaddish. My Jewish friend wept silent tears, as we all realized that where these young people live, Jews still die because they are Jews, just as Muslims die in Bosnia because they are Muslims, and Sikhs die in India because they are Sikhs.

 

When ethnic cleansing becomes a national policy in any region, whether the victim is a Jew or Azerbajani, or Muslim, we have not yet learned the lessons of Auschwitz. When the talk turned to moral responsibility I told my friends about George Heisler, who escaped from a Nazi camp in Mainz. Heisler, a political victim, said, “When they came for the Gypsies, I was not a Gypsy, and I did not protest. When they came for the Communists, I was not a Communist, and I did not protest. When they came for the Jews, I was not a Jew and I did not protest. But, when they came for me, there was no one left to protest.”

 

The question burns at the conscience: if we know, and surely we do, about all the atrocities man continues to commit, and we do nothing, are we really any different than the residents of Oswiecim? Perhaps they were powerless against the SS, Gestapo and Wehrmacht but are we? If we do nothing, or   too little, and refuse to step away from the jungle, which is seemingly never far removed from the core of civilization, no matter how technologically advanced, we condemn ourselves to membership in that long roll of “those who knew.”

 

Forty-eight years have passed since the last trainload of human beings passed beneath that arch, forty-eight years since men and women deprived of the last semblance of dignity marched under that cruel ironwork proclaiming Arbeit Macht Frei, forty-eight years and still part of our moral obligation to our neighbors is imprisoned at Auschwitz.

 

We must not forget, because a part of all that is good about mankind died at Auschwitz. We must react, and not just with sadness for the past but out of concern for the future. The killing has not stopped; only the venue has changed. If people want to understand the imperatives for stopping the atrocities of the modern world, let them come to a place called Auschwitz.

 

Rayburn Hesse

March 9, 1993

 

6-27-2014 Looking Ahead with Craig Cress

THE ROAD AHEAD WITH CRAIG CRESS

 

In a wide-ranging, 90 minute interview with Spy, on the margins of the Women’s College World Series, Executive Director Craig Cress sought to advance his positive outlook and to quell several rumors, particularly the rumor that he wants to return ASA to its slow pitch roots.  Not only is Cress a former baseball player who has played and umpired fast pitch, he says the future of ASA is with youth – and he sees youth fast pitch as the growth area for softball.  The main emphasis in the interview however was on the road ahead, and Cress, whom I have known for many years, is as always forward looking and optimistic.

 

 

The biggest challenge, says Craig Cress, reviewing his first year as the new executive director of ASA/USA Softball, is communications with a very diverse audience – not just with his Executive Board or the nearly 100 commissioners and directors who oversee vast parts of the domestic softball world, but with the players, coaches and managers who are the embodiment of the sport – fast and slow pitch.

 

There are so many levels and personalities, Cress sees a central task as ensuring that all ASA components receive and adhere to the same message.

 

Several observations are critical to this assessment.

 

Cress evinces a major change in ASA’s down-the-line attitude toward competition.  Cress considers competition good for all – ASA, PGF, USSSA, etc.  I reminded him of problems caused by ASA officials below the level of Executive Director (including remarks made in meetings observed by Spy).  A family illness kept him away from the 2013 NFCA national convention, where he had hoped to attend the travel ball caucus, but he affirmed his commitment to attend in 2014.  He wants to get to know the travel ball community.  His predecessor, Ron Radigonda,  attended to the benefit of ASA and travel ball.

 

While national team tryouts and participation will continue to be limited to players who have competed in ASA sanctioned tournaments, a major sticking point with the travel ball community, Cress said players can compete in ASA as well as other organizations and be considered for national team recruitment.

 

All those who sponsor tournaments, ASA included, have to offer a product people want, Cress added.  While he sees ASA appealing more to the masses, Cress said ASA will continue to reach out to elite players, eg, for Gold nationals.  And for the inaugural ASA 16 Gold.  He believes ASA has an advantage in central locations at all levels; he believes ASA has done a good job in his year aboard with ASA Gold qualifiers.

 

Cress agrees with many softball observers that tournaments have become too large, not just at the so-called exposure tournaments but in ASA and other competition.  A field of 96 teams is just too large, which is why 16 Gold will be limited to 48 teams.  And, 18 Gold will remain at 64.

 

Cress does not want any area to expand at the sufferance of another; he wants to see measurable progress in several areas which he concedes have been lagging. Like women’s majors.  We reminisced over a few great teams from the past of women’s majors, and showdowns which featured stars like Michelle Smith, Lisa Fernandez and Dot Richardson – plus a rafter of stars fielded by the Brakettes.  Cress evidenced an understanding of the hurdles faced by women’s majors – expenses, travel away from new jobs and families, facilities.  He showed no inclination to breathing new life into 23-Under.  ASA can provide facilities, umpires and balls for women’s majors, but will not pay stipends or travel costs, eg, a tournament in Mexico.

 

Cress is unsure of the participant ceiling on post-college softball – national teams, pro teams, women’s majors, ie, now many women want to play beyond college.  Cress is concerned that the product is diminishing.  He is determined to seek that level.

Many of those same challenges confront youth softball.    Cress realizes the financial burdens of youth softball are borne by parents – from the time their daughters play T-ball up to and usually including college –and by organized team activities.  And, he recognizes that travel ball is a path to college.  However, like many others, Cress is concerned that travel ball has gotten to be a big business, and worries about the quality of the product.  He has heard the concerns of college coaches about the time allocated to travel ball tournaments and the drain on budgets, and he understands why some college coaches prefer their own camps (which he is astute enough to realize that campus clinics transfer money from parents to colleges in lieu of travel ball tournaments).  The level of instruction, he realizes, varies from camp to camp and tournament to tournament, and urges greater focus on the quality rather than the quantity of instruction.  ASA did not take a formal position with NCAA on the various suggestions by some in NFCA who want to restrict the college/travel ball recruiting calendar, but would respond if asked.  There are other issues with respect to youth sports, eg, aggressive parents who cloud the picture with coaches and recruiting.

 

Cost is also very much a factor in international competition.  The budget for equipping the Bill Barber Park facility in Irvine for televising the upcoming IX World Cup is $300,000, almost all of it borne by General Tire and outside resources, with some contribution by ASA.  General Tire has come aboard as the principal sponsor but SPY does not know what expenses General Tire will cover.  SPY understands that the eight participating teams are responsible for their expenses.

 

Expenses for Team USA, which includes playing in Canada and Italy as well as the International Cup in the Netherlands, are traditionally paid in part by the USOC, and in part by funds earned through the tours and camps, and some ASA funds.  Team USA players receive daily per diem in addition to expenses.  Stipends were paid during Olympic years and USA winning teams were given $25,000 per player by USOC.

 

Cress participated in the inaugural congress of the World Baseball Softball Confederation, along with Dale McMann, the new president of the International Softball Federation.  Cress came back from Tunisia with a heightened sense of support building for softball and baseball to return to the Olympic program in 2020, not least because Japan is the host and both sports are wildly popular in Japan.  More, Japan has the facilities to host both.  A decisive vote on 2020 will be held by IOC in December. Some in IOC would like to add at least two more sports; Cress noted that IOC head Thomas Bach wants to keep the number of athletes level; more, Bach says some so-called winter sports should be moved to the fall, that the Winter Olympics should focus on events which require ice and snow.  Cress is encouraged that cities in the US are considering bids for the 2024 Games.

 

The IOC now recognizes WBSC as the spokeman for both sports; and they will no longer have separate seats at the IOC table.  But, McMann is the vice president for softball and will be heard.  Baseball and softball will continue to receive separate non-government organization allotments from the International Olympic Committee, which in the past has not directly benefitted the USA program budget but does support the international tournaments played by the USA.  Don Porter is out of ISF and WBSC but could be an informal liaison.  Cress said ISF headquarters will remain in Plant City, Florida.  No plans have been finalized for an executive director to manage day-to-day ISF activities.  (Recent Spy inquiries have been rerouted to Lausanne, where WBSC has its headquarters.)

 

Cress intends to travel with Team USA to the international tournament in Holland (we discussed my many trips to Holland which was used as a base for other kinds of activities).  Cress is fully aware of Spy’s repeated assertion that there should be a different director of national teams; we did not discuss personalities but Cress did say all employees are subject to review.

 

All in all, a pleasant free-wheeling discussion between two old friends.

 

As much as anything else, I appreciated his openness to competition, and his belief that the challenge for ASA is not to limit or squelch that competition but to offer a better product.

 

Rayburn Hesse