Thursday, September 30, 2010

To All You Israel-Bashers

I noticed this item on Jonathan Turley's website:

"In Ramallah, West Bank, Palestinian police say that a family hanged a 15-year-old boy because they believed that he might be a collaborator with Israel. The police doubt that he was a collaborator due to his young age.

Police report that the boy was hanged by his own father, uncle, and cousin. One account says that the boy was tortured before being hanged."

This is in line with other incidents I have heard about where Palestinian authorities charged people with treason and then executed them for "collaboration" with Israel.

I am reminded of an article I read recently, about a journalist who spent months living in an Arab town, getting to know the people, and writing about their life there. She wrote of one family with ten kids, in which the mother was chagrined that none of her children had become a "martyr". The mother lamented, "We need a martyr to uphold the family honor". (Yes, I know this is incredible, but this is how these people think.) Then one of her sons went to Iraq to fight in the "insurgency", and was killed. The mother mourned for an hour, then changed into white and started celebrating.

I suggest that any of you bleeding hearts mourning about "the plight of the Palestinians" keep in mind that this is a group which has waged war on Israel since the day the partition was decreed in 1948. Israel accepted the partition, but Palestine did not, and vowed to drive the Jews into the sea and destroy Israel. They have been waging war on Israel every day since, up to and including today, and their methods involve killing as many innocent Israeli people as they can, however they can.

And I don't want to hear any bullshit about "collective responsibility". The suicide bombers are revered as heroes in their hometowns, their pictures get put up in the town square, and their families get taken care of for life. If this isn't sufficient to assign "collective responsibility", I don't know what is.

On Instant Gratification

A conservative friend of mine, never known for his reticence, recently asked me "how's that hope and change working out for you"? My response is that it will take *way* more than two years to undo all the damage done by the Bush administration in 8 years of blundering and mismanagement.

Upon pondering why anybody in their right mind would think otherwise, I got to thinking about how the need for instant gratification permeates our politics as well as everything else. It seems voters have no ability to think in terms of what is best for our long-term interest. They focus on short-term only, and worse than that, it's not even the short-term interest of the country, but of their own personal lives. Reagan got elected by asking "are you better off now that you were four years ago", and that has set the stage for the degeneration of our politics where voters vote their narrow self-interest, as they (usually mistakenly) perceive it, rather than who would be the best person for the job.

The childhood obesity epidemic in this country certainly reflects the need for instant gratification, to the exclusion of any thought of longer-term self-interest.

I think an interesting study would be to look at lottery winners. I've heard enough to know that a fair number of them go through their winnings rapidly and end up back in poverty. People used to spending everything they have, don't lose that habit simply because they win the lottery.

On the other hand, people like Ken Jennings, the big Jeopardy winner, are used to thinking long-term, and I seriously doubt that Ken has spent a penny of his winnings. It is being saved for his kids' college educations. Ken's Morman background has prepared him to think long-term, and eschew the temptation to gratify today. Would that there were more like him.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

On Throwing Stones

There is a poker saying that it takes a better hand to call a bet than it does to make a bet. This is similar to politics where the apostles of negativism constantly criticize but offer no solutions. In other words, it is a lot easier to sit back and throw stones than it is to try to actually solve problems.

In this regard, it was heartwarming to see Obama yesterday delivering a greats stump speech on Labor Day in Wisconsin. He departed from his prepared text to deliver the line that "They treat me like a dog". If he will do this between now and election day, a la Truman in 1948, the Democrats might have a chance to hold onto the Congress.

The lesson learned in the 1988 debacle, when George H.W. Bush ran his despicable campaign against Michael Dukakis, and Dukakis declined to respond forthrightly and promptly to the allegations, was that allegations need to be met head-on. Clinton took this lesson to heart and in the 1992 campaign his staff had responses ready even before the allegations were made, understanding the Hitler maxim that a lie repeated often enough will be accepted by people as the truth.

These thoughts came to mind yesterday as I was working on organizing my chess materials from past decades. I came across a newsletter sent me by Don Schultz in 1988 about his dispute with the right-wing, represented by GM Larry Evans.

To set the stage, the 1980's were a horrible time in U.S. chess politics. In fact, "chess politician" became a disparaging way of referring to those who had decision-making power in U.S. chess. I argued that "chess volunteer" was a better term, as we were talking here about those who donated their time and energies to chess, not paid staff people.

Don Schultz was one of these people, a distinguished gentleman who I encountered at the 1984 U.S. Open in Ft. Worth. He served for over 30 years as a chess volunteer, and for much of that time served as a USCF delegate to the world chess federation (FIDE). Larry Evans was an American GM who had a Q&A column in "Chess Life" for many years, but who never held any office. His thing was to sit back and criticize the powers that be, and he sure did plenty of that.

The ugly politicization of American chess had been going on for many hears, probably dating back to an Interzonal in the '60's when Bobby Fisher played and accused the Sovets participants of throwing games to each other to ensure that Americans would be excluded from the list of qualifiers for the next stage of the world championship cycle.

To set the stage, I quote from a mailing I received from Evans, dated 2/13/87: "It is no secret that FIDE president Campomanes has exerted intense pressure on American officials to fire the current editor. He has been trying to get the job done for 2 years. But we all believe American chess policy should be made in America--not in the murky intrigues of faraway places like Dubai, where Campomanes virtually bought an election with Arab money behind him, This was revealed in Chess Life, March 1987, page 23. Don't be fooled. If Larry Parr goes, we won't be getting this kind of honest chess journalism anymore in Chess Life."

The actual facts are these: Campomanes worked night and day to make chess a truly worldwide sport, and he did everything he could to reach out to Third World counties in this regard. The fact that he didn't cater to American wishes is taken by people like Evans to be a sign of weakness, when in actuality it was an asset.

The Chess Life editor in question, Larry Parr, was blatantly political in his reporting and editing, and in the worst way, in that everything was tainted with a right-wing bias. For example, he published an article alleging that Karpov was a member of the KGB. This was blatantly false, and is a pretty good example of how low USCF sunk during those dark days. Karpov's "crime" was that he was declared world champion when Bobby Fischer refused to take part in the 1975 world championship match, for reasons to be discussed shortly. His further crime was that he was a Soviet citizen, anathema to folks like Parr and Evans. Evans writes that "Larry Parr is the best editor Chess Life has had since I started writing for it six editors ago". This is totally ludicrous; Parr created more enemies for US chess and published more false and libelous articles than the others put together.

Another issue complained of by Evans is the FIDE decision to raise all women's ratings by 100 points. He writes: "The USSR was embarrassed to discover that their women's world champ Maya Chiburdanidze was rated behind Hungarian prodigy Susan Polgar. How to solve the problem? Simple. Vote to raise all women's ratings by 100 points--all except Polgar, who was frozen at 2495 while the Soviet star surged past her." He then compared this to the action stripping Bobby Fischer of his crown in 1975.

The "Great Debate", as it was called, took place in early 1988 over the Leisure LINC, apparently an electronic town meeting type of thing which pre-dated the Internet as we know it today. In his opening statement, Evans repeats the same garbage he had been spouting for years, stating, "I'm concerned about America's lax moral leadership and puppet role in FIDE....I submit that our editor was fired for reporting facts instead of suppressing them. His ouster is another victory for Campomanes, another ignoble surrender to he Soviet-dominated world body that stripped away Fischer's title." Rather than reporting further, suffice it to say the dialogue is a really dreary give-and-take with previous false assertions being made again by Evans, and Don trying manfully to set the facts straight. But like the Tea Party folks today, these people really do not care about getting the facts right, it is a certain emotional state which drives them.

When Eisenhower was asked why he did not respond to McCarthy's allegtaions, he responded, "I refuse to get into the gutter with that guy." So which is best, responding, which Ike certianly could have effectively done and ended McCarthy's reign of terror much sooner, or ignoring? I doubt there are any easy answers here.

There have been long, mathematical analyses published of the title match issues surrounding Fischer's abandonment of his title. I'll try to give a thumbnail sketch. Until 1963, a world champion who lost his title had the right to a rematch the following year. In addition, he kept his title in the event of a drawn match. This meant the challenger had to win two matches to wrest the title away, a huge advantage for the champion. (One of my favorite chess trivia questions is, "of the five title matches which Botvinnik played while world champion, how many did he win?" The surprisng answer is none of them. He drew two matches, keeping his title, lost two and then regained it each time in the rematch, and then finally lost to Petrosian after the rematch provision was eliminated.)

When Fischer won the title from Spassky in 1972, the match consisted of 24 games. Fischer insisted that a better system was to play untl one player won a certain number of games; he preferred 10, though precedent was for 6. FIDE went along with this and voted in the 10-win condition Fischer wanted, but what they didn't go along with was Fischer's proposal that the champion would keep his title in the case of a 9-9 tie. This meant that the challenger had to actually win by 2 games, 10-8, and seemed too much of an advantage. Fischer abdicated his crown over this issue.

For 1978 the 6 win provision was enacted, but the rematch clause was reinstated, allegedly giving Karpov "a bigger edge than anything Fischer had sought", according to Evans. This system blew up in FIDE's face when in 1984 neither Karpov nor Kasparov could win 6 games, and Campomanes stoped the match after 48 games, as the match had turned into a bad joke. FIDE then went back to the 24-game match system, which provided good drama in succeeding matches.

A "review of the bidding", as we say in bridge, shows that FIDE made many concessions to Fischer to accommodate him. He did not even qualify for the 1972 world championship cycle, as he had not participated in his Zonal, which was the U.S. Championship. FIDE ruled he could still play in the Interzonal if one of the three American qualifiers would give up his spot, which Pal Benko magnanimously did. Then when the match with Spassky came about, Fischer made numerous demands which were accommodated. The most noteworthy is that after Fischer forfeited the second game becuase he felt the cameras were making noise, FIDE could have declared the match forfeited then and there; noise meters were put in the playing room and registerd zero--there was no noise whatsoever from the cameras. Yet, the cameras were removed and the match was able to be continued. These are examples of many concessions made to Fischer, both before and after he became world champion.

Despite all this, the American mindset is to blame the Soviets and worship Fischer as a hero. He is anything but a hero, though certainly was a great player, and neither the Soviets nor FIDE is to blame for Fischer's peccadilloes. It is time the US stops playing "the ugly American" role and starts respecting other points of view. This is what our FIDe representatives tried to do, at that time Don Schultz and the highy respected Arnold Denker, and what did they get for it? Nothing but stones thrown at them. For shame.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Best football game I've ever seen

Awesome Bluffton High game last night. Playing Carey, a team which went to the playoffs last year while BHS struggled through a losing season, both sides had trouble running into the line. First two touchdowns for b oth teams were on long pass plays. Carey missed the 2nd extra point, after the first just barely squibbed through the goalposts, so on their third touchdon they went for 2 and made it, to go up 21-14.

BHS then scored but the extra point was blocked to make it 21-20. Then Carey went up 28-20, and it looked bleak for the Pirates. But the Bluffton quarterback put up a long pass, which I just knew was going to be dropped by the receiver, but the receiver made a great catch, and faked first one way and then the other, and then went down the sidelines for the score. A beautiful 2-point conversion tied it. The offense faked going left, then the q-back rolled out right and all of a sudden there was a receiver open to the right and he shoveled it in for the tieing score.

On another Pirate pass play the ball was off, and this time two defenders were covering the reciever, J.D. Stratton, but Stratton alertly banged into the receivers just as they were about to catch the ball and it fell incomplete. Stratton was shaken up on the play but I think is OK.

The Pirates had the ball with 4 minutes left and if they had any kind of ground game, they had a chance to grind it out and score with too little time left for Carey to retaliate. But with no ground game they gave up the ball and Carey got it but went 4 and out and the Pirates had it with less than a minute to go. They ran it into field goal position and alertly lined up and spiked the ball, showing good coaching IMO. With 6.5 seconds left, they tried the field goal and missed woefully short, but the Carey end crossed the line of scrimmage early trying to block the kick, and the offsides penalty gave the Pirates another chance 5 yards closer. This time the kicker nailed it with a beautiful kick, and the Pirate bench swarmed onto the field and created a dog pile congratulating the kicker. However, there was still 1.4 seconds left, and, sitting near the press box, I could hear the Pirate assistant in the press box screaming into his headphones saying "Get them off the field, get them off the field. We haven't won anything yet!"

Fortunately the refs called no penalty on the Pirates, choosing to motion them off the field instead, and on the ensuing kickoff the kicker aptly kicked a line drive kick, instead of a long kick which would have risked a return, and the Carey player who fielded it was tackled immediately and the celebration now could take place unimpeded.

Worth mentioning is the Pirtae punter, who kicked high, booming kicks ever chance he got, the best high school punter I've ever seen by far. All in all, a memorable game.