Friday, February 27, 2009

Krauthammer 2/27/09

What Obama Wants: Part 1

My take on Charles Krauthammer's latest. His column was published in the Washington Post.

Summary: Yesterday's speech laid out Obama's main goals: (1) Universal health care; (2) Universal education; and (3) Government regulated and funded green energy economy. These changes will be a major change in American society.

. . . the current crisis gives Obama the political space to move the still (relatively) modest American welfare state toward European-style social democracy.

My Views: The problem with government regulation and control is that while it limits economic downturns, it also limits economic upturns. Despite these downturns, the economy has expanded rapidly over the long term. Limiting upturns will slow that long term expansion. We will be less well off in the future because of this.

Charles Krauthammer is a more establishment columnist. He came to punditry by way of psychiatry (at Massachusetts General Hospital) via the New Republic Magazine. He appears on TV where you never see his wheelchair. Here's his Wiki bio.

He wrote a book which is pictured at the right. I am drawn by the substance and the thinking than any particular writing flair.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Krauthammer 2/20/09

Lower Profile Diplomacy

My take on Charles Krauthammer's latest. His column was published in the Washington Post.

Summary: He lists the foreign policy reverses that various countries hit the US with since the new President took office. Every new President is tested but while Obama's tests have been small ones, he has not stood up to them well.

I would like to think the supine posture is attributable to a rookie leader otherwise preoccupied (i.e., domestically), leading a foreign policy team as yet unorganized if not disoriented.

My Views: I'm not sure I agree with K's conclusions. A chess game may start with a slow, passive plan. The player uses a passive layout because he wants to build up for the middle game. Obama may have calculated on sacrificing a few reverses early on in order to disipate ill will. Once he has revamped America's diplomatic position, he may want to get more aggressive later on.

There's also a good arguement that America ought to lower its profile for awhile. First, to regroup its economy and second, to encourage other friendly countries to take up some of the slack in foreign obligations.

Charles Krauthammer is a more establishment columnist. He came to punditry by way of psychiatry (at Massachusetts General Hospital) via the New Republic Magazine. He appears on TV where you never see his wheelchair. Here's his Wiki bio.

He wrote a book which is pictured at the right. I am drawn by the substance and the thinking than any particular writing flair.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Grammar Answer 2/17/09

The answer is 1!

The rule is:

After a phrase, clause, or sentence with high emotion, use an exclamation point for emphasis. Do not use any other commas or periods together with it.

Answer 2 has a comma but this was not a mild interjection

Answer 3 combined the exclamation point with a period.

Answer 4 combined the exclamation point with a comma.

  1. “Halt!” shouted the corporal.

  2. “Halt,” shouted the corporal.

  3. “Halt!.” shouted the corporal.

  4. “Halt.!” shouted the corporal.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Chess Blog Carnival 2/09

It's here! The February edition of the Chess Blog Carnival is at Chessvine. See some of the best chess bloggers out there.

This time, it was operated as a sort of contest. Only the best entrants of each category won and were presented. Congratulations to the winners and condolences to the loosers.

In the future, we will return the Carnival to the regular format.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

USCF Finances - A Summary

Yesterday I vetted my summary of the financial issues facing the USCF. The below is based upon what that, modified by pertinent critiques.

Appreciate the kind thoughts expressed in another thread about my summarizing the accounting issues facing the USCF.

I like the legal summary that Wick Deer put on his blog:
It would be nice if someone (like Jack LeMoine, for example) with an accounting background would post a summary of the financial issues facing the USCF.


Just off the top of my head are:

1) The accounting reports have improved since I saw them a couple of years ago.

2) The main problem accountingwise that the USCF faces is the inability to know how ahead or behind we are during the course of the year. However far behind we are mid-year, management always responds with first, "The second half of the year is always better" and "The auditors always make year-end accruals that could vary the bottom lines by many thousands of dollars".

3) The members badly need to know how much the average rate of increase the second half revenues are over the first half. This gives you an historical, verifiable, and measurable benchmark to project the annual result.

4) I wouldn't depend too much on comparing first half results with prior years. It is like comparing middle-game positions in a game of chess. You may have fewer pieces but still be ahead. There are other factors than just how many and what pieces you have. The same is true for comparing dollars to dollars mid-year. It is the end of the year that counts. Management is correct to point to annual results instead of interim results.

5) The problem of membership accruals at year-end needs to be addressed. I note that Mike Nolan has come out in favor of a database for this.

6) Various audit issues have been discussed at very great length on this forum. Amid all the drek, there's been some legitimate points raised. I have pointed out (see some of my earliest posts) that we have independent auditors and these issues ought to be taken up with them. I favor the Executive Board meeting with the auditors on an annual basis to discuss matters that have come up and to ask questions. Such questions could relate to findings that did not rise to the level of financial statement disclosure but that people would still be interested in knowing. (e.g. the infamous Susan Polgar laptop computer incident. Did the auditors look into this or did they not? If they did, what did they find? Another audit mystery is the documentation of the Crossville land and building valuation. Did the auditors examine them or did they not? How did they verify the valuations used?) Bill Goichberg opposed this; Randy Bauer hasn't taken a position.

7) Sevan Murdian brought up the subject of operational/internal audits about a year and a half ago. He offered his services for free and I had said I would help. Mike Nolan was right to say that these would only work if people did the work in Crossville. At this point, I'm unclear how this would help but perhaps it is worth looking into.

8) The unpaid post-employment money owed remains a critical issue. I am unsure why the USCF hasn't been sued over this. The money owed ought to be paid ASAP.

9) The invite to me to summarize the accounting issues was kindly appreciated and this was a quick and dirty response. The proper person who ought to summarize these issues is Randy Bauer, the USCF's Vice-President of Finance. Recently, we exchanged views on this forum on the matter. RB was quite adament that he no longer feels responsibility for discussing USCF Finances because of the lawsuits and because he is just a volunteer. (From his statements, I infer that he won't address USCF finances in any other manner, either, but I could be mistaken. He could still be functioning in some way. - Or not.) I believe he ought to reverse his position on this issue.

Note: After publication of the above on the USCF’s Forums, the VP-Finance broke his silence on USCF finances. His major points were:
USCF finances, through the first 8 months of the fiscal year, are remarkably on track with the budgeted amounts on the revenue side. In fact, the differences are so not material in almost every major category to be, well, remarkable.

That said, one expenditure area has a large variance from budget: professional services - i.e., legal fees. This is about $129,000 over budget.

The overall picture through 8 months has us about $246,000 ahead of budget, of which almost $400,000 is bequests. The difference between the two numbers is almost entirely additional legal fees.

Wow, that sounds like some serious mis-management. Got a blog post ready to go on that, Jack?
- Post 127870

And this:
I don't see any "accounting issues" to "clean up" - I think our current accounting processes are just fine and are now a lot more straightforward with reports developed straight out of the Peachtree accounting system.
- Post 127927

Management’s annual demurs about unknown year-end membership accruals usually comes around April and May. These accruals throw the final bottom line off by many thousands of dollars. The USCF looks to the auditors to calculate. This means that the USCF doesn’t know how it is doing until after the year is over.

Until then, the accounting is just fine. This has been management’s story for several years now.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Last Call for Feb. Chess Blog Carnival

The February Edition of the Chess Blog Carnival is just days away. Deadline for bloggers to submit their best article is February 15. Chessvine will edit and host this edition.

This is a tremendous opportunity for the chess fans to sample the best of the chess blogs that are active today. The internet contains many talented writers and analysts who are both famous and unknown. One of the exciting things about this project is that you may discover the earliest writings of one of the great players and/or pundits of the future. January saw a tremendous response. Even Susan Polgar was in on the action. Carnival articles include these categories:
  • Annotated Games
  • Book Reviews
  • Chess Culture and Politics
  • Chess Events
  • Endgame Play
  • Humor
  • Improvement
  • Opening Theory
  • Position Analysis
  • Strategic Concepts
Click on the logo for previous editions of the Chess Blog Carnival.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Jack on the Net 2/13/09

Things I've done on other sites/blogs on the internet in the last few days.


War: The Cyber Front - Der Spiegel [GER]

This is what an officially appointed hacker looks like: A man with gray hair and a moustache, wearing a blue German Air Force uniform. His name is Friedrich Wilhelm Kriesel, and he's 60 years old, a brigadier general and the head of the Bundeswehr's Strategic Reconnaissance Unit.
Computer viruses, hacking, worms - oh, the possibilities! Just wondering about cold wars, trade wars - or even just attacks on another country's computers in lieu of recall of ambassadors. You and me - we could find our computers down. This is known as "collateral damage."

Iran’s Election: Back to the Future? - The Economist [UK]
MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, Iran’s president, faces a disgruntled people, an election in June, and now a strong new challenger for his job. This week Muhammad Khatami, a jovial, 65-year-old reformist cleric, who is more softly spoken and gentler-looking than the incumbent, finally decided to throw his turban into the ring. He previously served two terms as president, from 1997 to 2005.
I don't believe this. Iran was on the Axis of Evil before MA came to power. MK may be marginally better than MA but will the difference matter much? When it comes to the Middle East, the Brits have such a blind spot!

S. Africa's Uncertain Future - The Economist [UK]
With business confidence at a six-year low, GDP growth forecast to slow to around 0.75% in 2009 (down from an annual average of 4.5% over the previous five years) and the government promising more populist policies after this May’s presidential and parliamentary elections, South Africa’s investment image is taking a battering.
I like the article's last paragraph. Just how is increased taxes and more government intervention supposed to increase private sector investment?

Chess Discussion

These lawsuits are a waste of time and money.

How to run for USCF Office

Old NW Chess Articles

The USCF's Forums

Old Chess Life Articles

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Kindle's Significance

I'm not recommending this product but only because of the price.

As a device, it is delivers books, magazines, newspapers, and blogs far better than paper. It is smaller and lighter than a paperback book; the screen is easier to read than a paperback; and the fonts are adjustable. Most importantly of all, it can hold thousands of books in memory. Its wireless capability allows periodicals (such as newspapers) to be constantly updated.

As a business model, it is a device to drive sales of books, magazines, newspapers, and blogs. To the consumer it offers convenience (instant purchase from anywhere), portability (Kindle's small size), and price (no ink or paper). The convenience and pricing solves the problem that newspapers and other periodicals (including blogs) face from the internet: advertising alone does not produce enough revenue. Consumers have to pay to get their favorite periodicals on their Kindle. T

In the future, these subscription revenues can and eventually will be the salvation of the publishing industry, especially the periodical sector of it. In the same way tha manufacturers of computer printers make more money from the sales of ink cartriges than they ever do from the initial sale of the machine, so will it be from electronic book readers such as Kindle. They just have to realize that Kindle is a marketing machine, not an end product.

And this is why the asking price is too high.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Jack on the Net 2/11/09

Things I've done on other sites/blogs on the internet in the last few days.

This is my favorite news site on the net. I posted these articles to it.

Bailout May Top $1.5 Trillion - Washington Post

The gravity of the financial crisis confronting the Obama administration will come into stark focus today when officials unveil a three-pronged rescue program that may commit up to $1.5 trillion in public and private funds, and possibly more, lawmakers and other officials said.

Note that figure. This is a whole new world.

Despite Slump Economy Grows 7.1% - Times of India
NEW DELHI: Indian economy is holding its head high amid a global doom. In the current financial year (2008-09), the country's economy is expected to grow at 7.1%, according to data released by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO)on Monday, the second highest in the world, only next to China.

Obama: Failure to Act = "Catastrophe" - New York Times
WASHINGTON — President Obama took his case for his $800 billion economic recovery package to the American people on Monday, as the Senate cleared the way for passage of the bill and the White House prepared for its next major hurdle: selling Congress and the public on a fresh plan to bail out the nation’s banks.

Russia Forces US Base Closure - The Economist [UK]
The Kyrgyz Republic, having been promised $2.3bn in Russian aid, says it will force the US to close its airbase in the Central Asian republic, which supports US forces in Afghanistan. For the Kyrgyz side, the motivation is primarily financial—although closure of the base will have some popular appeal. Russia, meanwhile, seems set on using the airbase to exert leverage over the new US administration, in the hope of getting concessions elsewhere.
This may grow into Obama's first big foreign policy test.

Israelis Vote in Volatile Contest - International Herald Tribune [FR]
JERUSALEM: Israeli voters went to the polls Tuesday with public opinion polls showing many still wavering until the last minute in deciding whom to support. Benjamin Netanyahu's conservative Likud Party has led in many of the polls, with the centrist Kadima Party, led by Tzipi Livni, the current foreign minister, following close behind.

First Extinct-Animal Clone Created - National Geographic
An extinct animal has been resurrected by cloning for the first time—though the clone died minutes after birth. Findings revealed January 23 in the journal Theriogenology describe the use of frozen skin in 2003 to clone a bucardo, or Pyrenean ibex, a subspecies of Spanish ibex that went extinct in 2000. Scientists had cloned endangered species before, but not one that had officially died out.
Jurassic Park anyone?

Europe Extends Missions to Planets-
The European Space Agency (ESA) on Tuesday announced mission extensions for three spacecraft currently exploring Mars, Venus and the Earth's magnet field. The extensions will allow Europe's current Mars Express and Venus Express probes to continue their missions at their respective planets through Dec. 31, while ESA's Cluster spacecraft will continue to do the same at Earth.
Amid all the gloom and doom here on Earth, mankind is making progress in Space. Someday we may achieve a true space-faring civilization.

Popular Rage Grows as Global Crisis Worsens - Der Spiegel [GER]
As the global economic crisis deepens, tempers around the world are getting shorter. French and British trade unions are organizing strikes, Putin is sending troops into the streets and Beijing is trying to buy itself calm. [Snip]About 50 million jobs could be lost worldwide in the next 11 months and more than 200 million people could drift into total poverty, warns the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
Glen Beck on Fox News tonight was warning of impending world revolution. I am skeptical. Can things really get this bad?

Rival Israeli Parties Claim Victory - Al Jazeera [ARAB]
The leaders of the centrist Kadima party and the right-wing Likud party have both declared victory in Israel's general election. {Snip} Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian peace negotiator, told Al Jazeera that no matter who formed the next Israeli government, the election results were bad for the Middle East peace process.
This is how the main Arab news reported the election. I was surprised how evenhanded this piece was.

Monday, February 9, 2009

An American Carol

This movie has something completely different. Humor from a conservative point of view. We're used to humor from the left wing point of view. One does not have to be a conservative to appreciate something that is different.

I saw this movie when it was in the theatres. Because of the EXTREME leftwing slant of the mainstream media, this movie passed unnoticed. Newspapers and other critics such as the successors to Ebert and Roper that review movies, refused to even mention this one.The one thing that I require from a comedy is that it be funny. I don't need to agree with the movie's political point of view, which is a good thing because otherwise Colbert, Letterman, Stewart, Mahr, and so many others would be inaccessable to me and millions like me.


Now I'd like to see Muslims produce a comedy. That would be fun to watch.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

With Korenman

I'm on the left; Mikhail Korenman is on the right.

Mikhail is a candidate for the USCF Executive Board this year. I hope he wins. He's been on the Scholastic Committee and he has some great ideas.

This is another picture from last year's National High School Championships that I just discovered.

Bill Hall and Mike Mulford

That's Bill on the left and Mike on the right.

Another picture from the National High School Championship last year. Bill Hall is the Executive Director of the US Chess Federation. Mike Mulford was a friend of mine back in the 1970's. We played a match in his college dorm room in Seattle. He hired me for my first accounting job in 1983.

Mulford goes by the handle "Mulfish" in his internet chess postings. This picture was taken just after an impromptu meeting with us and Hal Bogner. Bill and Hal led Mike and me through the whole FSS/Mottershead Report scandal, how it first came to their attention and what they did. They were very nice and informative. They answered my questions as best as they were able to do, given the legal constraints that they were under.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Hal Bogner and Me

That's Hal on the left and myself on the right.

In the next few days I shall post some pictures from last year's National High School Championship. I was new to the digital camera game and I had thought that I had lost my pictures. I did find a few. Also, because I was a newbie, the date and time stamp are not reliable. I think it was on the 16th not the 14th that the picture was taken.

Hal Bogner has been active in chess for all his adult life. He was in on the ground floor of the Chessmaster computer playing program, ChessBase, the database program, General Manager of the Internet Chess Club, and currently a partner in The Chess Magnet School. We spent a great deal of time together. While we're in opposite camps as far as USCF politics goes, I don't see why he's such a bad guy.

I recommend his Chess Magnet School. Tell him Jack sent you!

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Great Ages of History

How to classify the historical eras in a way that makes sense? Of course, there's the big 3: Ancient, Modern, and The Middle Ages but as I try to keep historical cultures straight in my poor little brain, more detail is needed. My trouble is that as I look to how other historians classify historical eras, their nomenclature does not make sense. - What is archaic about the "Archaic Era" anyway? As for the "Age of Enlightenment", well.

What precipitated this essay was prehistory. How to make sense of it all? One is overwhelmed by the sheer mass of time and the evolution of both life and the planet. Scientists classify time into epochs, eras, and ages but these classifications confuse more than help. They seem to describe geology rather than help comprehend the significant attributes of the period.

While a decent classification of prehistory ought to include the interesting changes in the planet (e.g. the changes in climate or the movement of the continents), the historian's perspective emphasizes the changes in life. So, herewith is my modest attempt to keep history straight - all of history - from the time of the Big Bang to the present day.

20 B - 4.6 BAge of Cosmology
4.6 B - 600 MAge of Geology
600 M - 400 MAge of Fish
400 M - 250 MAge of Animals
250 M - 65 MAge of Dinosaurs
65 M - 200,000Age of Mammals
200,000 - 110,000Age of Early Man
110,000 - 20,000Ice Age
20,000 - 10,000Warming Age
10,000 - 3000Agricultural Age
3000 - 1000Bronze Age
1000 - 500Iron Age
500 BC - 1 ADClassical Age
1 - 500 ADRoman Age
500 - 1000Dark Age
1000 - 1500Medieval Age
1500 - 2000European Age
2000 -Information Age

The 500 year intervals of recorded history do seem to fit. I do not believe in the traditional dividing dates (such as 476 A.D.) because they imply an exactitude that is not real. I like to use traditional names as much as possible but I departed when there's a name that more appropriately describes the age. I also like to use just one description, "age" in the interests of simplicity.

I explain my thinking on these various ages in other places on this blog. Click on the titles.

The picture is Herodotus, the first great historian.

In the dates, "M" = Million Years Ago; "B" = Billion Years Ago.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Information Age, 2000 -

Computers have been around for a couple of decades but if one were to designate a dividing line across history, where would it be? This illustrates the problem with dating and classifying history. Just like all my other dating divisions, the century mark is close enough - and more easy to remember, too.

While the naming of this age is more prognostication than history, I think that it is a pretty safe bet that the greater greater ability to get and to share information worldwide will be an even more determining factor than the development of agriculture, bronze, and iron was in earlier ages.

Information sharing is not just computers but satelites communication, cell phones, cable television, and digital photography/video/audio. All of these technologies combine to become a driving force for our age. As of this decade, it only seems that the information tech will become even more important as the decades goes by.

Previous AgeMaster ListBack to the Start

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The European Age, 1500 - 2000

Both the name and the time period really fits. There is a coherence to this previous period of history. Starting with the decades just before 1500, the Europeans were embarking on voyages of discovery that eventually covered the whole world. No other civilization had ever conducted an effort that was as sustained and as far reaching as the Europeans did over the past 5 centuries.

This effort morphed into an imperialism that dominated the world. Entire continents (the Americas, Australia) became extensions of European civilization. The United States of America became dominant in the 20th. Century but its cultural roots were from Europe and its language came from England. European culture dominated world civilization long after defacto European power receded. The history of the third world in the last half of the 20th. century was largely reactions to the aftermath of European colonization.

Even figures from civilizations that sought to counter the European/American culture adopted philosophies that originated in Europe. For example, Mao Tse Tung of China, Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam, Fidel Castro of Cuba all adopted Marxism, a philosophy that originated in Europe. While other cultures (The Middle East) clung to their roots, they featured reactions to the dominant European culture.

The last decades of the 20th. Century saw European power and influence wane. Demographic contraction opens questions as to whether the European culture will still be around, at least in Europe, by the end of the 21st. Century. The Europeans unified and dominated the history of the last 500 years.

Previous AgeMaster ListNext Age

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Medieval Age, 1000 - 1500

Ah, yes! Knights, castles, monasteries and crusades. And that's just in Europe!

This age saw the Mongols conquer much of the Middle East and all of China. The Turks destroyed the Byzantine Empire, forcing Gibbon to end his long book "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire".

Marco Polo made his epoch journey across from Italy across the Mediterranean to the Levant and then across Asia to China. He met Kublai Khan and governed a province. But even more significantly, he made it back to Italy and wrote a book of his experiences.

Will Durant calls this period "The Age of Faith" but I think that this term is a stretch. This period saw the Cluny Reforms but also the Great Schism in the Catholic Church. The rest of the world seemed to be just as faithful and unfaithful as they were before and since.

This period did differ significantly from the prior 500 years in one major respect: the general decline in learning, culture, and commerce was arrested in this period. While civilization did not advance as much in this age as it did in the Classical and Roman Ages, certainly not as much as in the Renaissance (The European Age), it did stop declining. All in all, a good middle period, a Medieval Age.

Previous AgeMaster ListNext Age

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Dark Age, 500 - 1000

With the fall of the Roman Empire, Western Europe fell into a period of sharp decline. In every aspect of life - commerce, culture, public safety - the quality of life declined. Every decade, every century, new generations grew to expect life to get harder and harder. Writing and other basic skills retreated to a few monasteries. As Kenneth Clark said in his epic TV series, Civilization, "Civilization survived by the skin of its teeth."

This was not true of the rest of the world. The Eastern Roman Empire survived but did not prosper. From the sands of Arabia, the followers of Mohammad erupted. They took most of the lands of the Empire and the Persian Empire to the east. The Mohammedans were no respecters of learning during this period. They destroyed the Great Library of Alexandria upon the grounds that if the books did not agree with the teachings of the Koran, then they were pernicious and if they did, then they were superfluous.

This wasn't true of the whole world, of course. China reached a peak in the 8th. Century. These were good times for India and Japan, too. In the 10th. Century, the Mongols invaded China in the east and the Vikings rampaged throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. While "the skin of its teeth" figure of speech may be too much, this age was not civilization's best.

Previous AgeMaster ListNext Age

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Roman Age, 1 - 500 AD

The Roman Empire never dominated the world like the Europeans did 1500 years later but they certainly put on the best show. The great migrations across the northern Eurasia landmass was held up at the frontiers of Rome's Empire. This impacted the rest of the civilizations: China; Persia; and the rest of the civilized peoples of Central Asia.

Roman influence penetrated deep into Africa. Their influence and outright conquest penetrated deep into the Middle East. Iraq was briefly a province of Rome; Egypt, permanently. Had the Persian Empire not been so embroiled with Rome, it could have pressured the other civilizations to its south (India) and east (China).

This was the age of the spread of Christianity, accelerated greatly by the stability of the Roman Empire.

Even 2 millenia later, no empire has held such a hold on the public imagination as the Roman.

Previous AgeMaster ListNext Age