Monday, August 25, 2008

Interview with Donna Alarie


I was impressed with Donna's comments at the Delegates Meeting in Dallas, and asked if she'd do an interview with me. It's long but meaty. Enjoy!


Thanks for doing the interview! First of all, please feel free to skip or reword questions if they are too tactless/ignorant/ridiculous.

No need to do so. If they were important enough for you to ask, they’re important enough for me to take the time to answer.

I heard your name in connection with the Mottershead Report from the very beginning. Regretfully, I’ve fallen a little behind in my reading on rec.games.chess and chessdiscussion. Can you describe your past and present involvement and or thoughts on the whole Sam Sloan / Paul Truong umm… affair?


In the past, my concern was to try to persuade USCF to obtain an independent expert’s opinion regarding the Mottershead allegations and to take the allegations by Mr. Sloan seriously. When it became obvious that USCF wasn’t going to try to address the situation as soon as possible and that it was going to take weeks and hopefully not months to resolve (according to one EB member), it seemed obvious that an independent expert report would be necessary so myself and others investigated how to best obtain same as soon as feasible which is what we did.
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By present, I would take that to mean the Delegates Meeting where I had put up motions to ask for Mr. Truong’s resignation and to have him recalled. My main regret there was expecting that the USCF office would have provided copies of the Mottershead Report in advance to delegates so that they could familiarize themselves with the issues before the meeting and not just making copies in advance myself. Also, I was unaware until that day that the USCF would have an attorney there making a presentation nor did I know anything about what he would cover until he did so.
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The presentation by the USCF attorney was not the tactic I would have preferred. Quite honestly, my preferred focus was exactly what was stated in the Delegates Call and that was on Mr. Truong’s decision not to deny in writing whether he was involved in the Fake Sam Sloan postings, that he would not provide consent for the Board to obtain IP addresses from the Internet Service Providers, and basically his refusal to co-operate with the USCF attorney in defending USCF from a multi-million dollar lawsuit.
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Many delegates have voiced their opinion that we should wait to see how the courts handle the actions. I expect we shall; I expect there will be more suits and counter-suits, and at the same time, I’m not so confident that USCF can withstand the financial hits to the pocketbook.
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My personal opinion is that much will come out in legal actions and filings and depositions in the next 90 days and as more delegates become more aware of the issues and the cost to USCF in legal fees, time, and energy, many will begin to regret the votes they made. Time will tell.

If you had to guess how many Fake Sam Sloans there are, and you had to lay odds on the potential candidates, what numbers and lines would you give?


There was at least one. I’d have no way to know whether there was more than one or not, but the USCF attorney stated that there was only one account which had IP matches between the USCF forum data records and the usenet posts and that belonged to the Chess Promotion account which is Mr. Truong’s handle.

I got the sense that the organization of the USCF is not optimally functional, and the problem was largely related to the way it tries to be a democracy. Agree or disagree, and what would you suggest should be done about reorganization?


USCF doesn’t really function as a democracy. There are 125 elected delegates and 125 alternate elected delegates. I did an analysis for 2007 which shows that only 40 delegates and 8 alternates were at the meeting to vote. That’s 48 out of 100 attending or less than 50% of the votes. I haven’t had time yet to analyze this year’s numbers. However, what the analysis clearly shows is that those elected to represent the membership aren’t doing the jobs they were elected to do.
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(Just as a footnote, there are also 23 delegates at large. 20 of them voted in 2007. However, those are delegates who were elected by other delegates or who were EB members, etc.)
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In order for USCF to become more of a democracy, it would need to become more connected to its membership and focus on ways to educate delegates on their responsibilities as directors of the organization. It would also need to engage more delegates into serving onto its committees. However, USCF’s current management does not seem to encourage transparency, volunteer involvement or encourage new members to learn about governance or to become involved in it. My personal opinion is that USCF is much more concerned about which faction will control its governance than it is about how to engage its membership into taking active ownership of its organization.
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I had proposed an EB of 14 members instead of 7 and making them the directors of the corporation. The concept was that USCF started out with a 14 member EB and probably should return to its roots. However, there was little support for this concept. Several delegates were not ready to hand “over the keys to the organization” to an EB where it was perceived that it was too easy to get a majority control of the board and then run wild with no oversight.
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Much of USCF’s problems are systemic which evolves from having EB members who have inherent personal conflicts of interest. Most non-profit organizations with which I work actively seek out Board members who will not have a vested interest in decisions made by EB members. However, trying to effect that change in USCF is probably much along the lines of asking a physician to heal thyself.


Do you think the USCF will go bankrupt? If yes, how long will it take, and what will happen afterwards? If maybe, what exactly does it depend on? And if no, why not?


My personal opinion is that it will. About a year ago, I predicted red ink this year, major cash flow problems this summer, and bankruptcy reorganization the following year. I think we’re still on target for that scenario although it was announced at the delegates meeting that there is a substantial cash gift coming to USCF in the next 3-6 months. That might buy USCF another 12-18 months.
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This year had better financial reporting than the prior year; however, it still has issues. The problem is that USCF has spent two years trying to not talk about the problems in the accounting department. I honestly don’t believe that the EB members fully understand how the financials work and don’t have enough of a background or perhaps it’s a lack of concern to ask the “right questions”.
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I cannot imagine another organization where the year end financials are drastically different from the unaudited financials, the red ink still flows, and instead of holding management accountable for the red ink, it’s just another shrug of the shoulders with comments of it was a bad year because… (fill in the blank)…
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If USCF was a private corporation with members holding stock options, those in management would have been asked to leave years ago. However, the membership and many delegates have developed a sense of the inevitable because they don’t realize that they really do have the power to effect change. My hope is that there are enough good people out there who will still do their best to stand up for the right things and to help USCF survive this mess and get back in the black. However, it’s a hope that is quickly fading.


So, I hear you got kicked off the USCF Finance Committee. How did you manage that?
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According to others, I’m not a “team” player. Starting in August, 2007, I wanted to know why USCF could not collect its accounts receivable from Chess Café. I questioned how the deferred memberships were calculated without a supporting schedule in the accounting system. I couldn’t understand how the multi-year dollars were increasing in numbers when the memberships sold numbers were decreasing. Answers weren’t coming from management. I was told on many occasions that the Finance Committee serves at the pleasure of the Executive Board and we were only supposed to basically get involved if EB members had questions which they would like us to look into. As a delegate/director, I did not accept this answer. In fact, I discussed some of the issues with my constituents and two of them asked for the financial documents. I provided same to my constituents and as of January, 2008, the Finance Chair of USCF stopped providing financial documents to me. Nobody on the Executive Board made a motion to remove me from the Finance Committee at that time or to instruct Mr. Unruh to provide the documents to me so in effect I went into Limbo. However, the documents were leaked to me by others. Also, notable in January, 2008 was a comment by the CFO that he had made a $92,000 “goof” as he called it in the deferred membership recognition.
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At the annual meeting, it was stated that Chess Café now owes USCF in the vicinity of $70-$80,000 for mailings that date back to 2007 and prior. That amount may now be going to arbitration.
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The fact that I found the above issues to be a real problem and that it was my opinion that the membership deserved to know about them has been a continuous source of disagreement between myself, EB members, and USCF management. It doesn’t make management look good. Well, USCF ended last year with a $71,000 loss and I personally believe it was avoidable. The problem is that if an organization does not have reliable financials and is provided financial information with $100k swings in them, then it is impossible to focus on the reasons for it and stop the red ink from flowing.
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There was a huge amount of irony in the fact that the Finance Chair and I spent four hours together on the Thursday night in Dallas at the bar analyzing the audited financials which he was receiving for the first time and trying to determine where the huge difference was between them and the unauditeds provided previously. We both worked in good faith to figure out what the issues were and at the Finance Workshop many solid answers were provided to many of my questions.
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I knew the chances of me being put back on the Finance Committee was probably one in a billion and the Finance Chair said that the answer was more like one in two billion. We both understand the politics. I want to know where the membership money is going and I have no tolerance for sacred cows. That’s not conducive to the political life of some politicians.
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In fact, another one of the ironies is that the delegates passed a $10k deficit budget in Dallas. I was at the podium trying to make a proposal on where to cut that deficit out of the budget (it would have been from the amount of money spent to send Youth and Coaches to the World Youth with the expectation that in order for funding to be restored, management would have to work with Scholastics to find a fund-raising mechanism or else send less youth or less coaches...). I didn’t get the chance to point out the negative budget because the question was called. So much for responsible management from USCF leadership…one would have hoped that someone on the Executive Board might have thought a negative budget to be an important point of information before allowing the question to be called.
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In the end, it matters little to me personally that I am no longer on the Finance Committee. All delegates are now able to get monthly financial reports upon request per a delegate motion that was passed. As I said to Mr. Unruh and USCF management, I’ll put just as much effort into getting my questions answered. However, I think the fact that I am no longer on that committee speaks volumes as to the character of USCF as an organization. It wasn’t that I was wrong in the issues I raised; it’s the fact that I called them out in public after months of no response from management.
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USCF has a long ways to go in getting into the mindset that the USCF members – and not EB members – are the true owners of USCF and they have an absolute right to know at any time where their money is being spent. If it was being spent well, there would be less questions. If the financial reports were accurate, there would be less questions. And if USCF ran in the black, there would probably be virtually no questions.


Tell us exactly what you think of Sam Sloan.

I think he loves chess, attention, and the USCF, not necessarily in that order. I think that there is a modicum of truth in almost everything he says but that sometimes one has to look quite hard for that modicum. He’s an interesting character. At the same time, having said all of that, as I said to him in person and to his face, as long as he had a website which contained an article on how to rape a woman, I will never have any respect for him. He didn’t write the article and contended that free speech allowed him to post it…an article which he found interesting although he might not agree with it. To my knowledge, he never removed the article and although I talk to Mr. Sloan on occasion, my level of respect hasn’t changed.

I read Susan thanked you on her site for objecting to a plan to accuse her of child molestation. Can you tell us anything about this: where it came from, who was behind it, anything like that?


I think my best answer would be the same one I gave when different individuals contacted me to ask if I heard of same…what the hell does that have to do with chess? When exactly did running for the Executive Board or being on the Executive Board mean that someone’s personal life became a source of scrutiny?
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There is a huge world of difference between asking if two individuals running for the EB are married (because of issues such as those currently facing USCF whereupon one says she will resign if her husband is recalled) and an issue like the one stated above.
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I told others that I didn’t think the above issue was USCF’s business, their business, or my business. Others disagreed. There are now legal issues regarding this and my position on the matter hasn’t changed. Others can explain their actions and what was their source of information. I wanted no part of it then and want no part of it now.

If you had to lay odds on the chances each of the three lawsuits has of succeeding, what would you give them?


There are four lawsuits not three…
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1. Sam Sloan – It hasn’t been dismissed yet. Legal opinions seem to indicate that the lack of a quick dismissal probably indicates that at least part of the lawsuit will go to depositions. Mr. Sloan put in way too many parties, extraneous issues, etc. A lot will ride on how pared down the lawsuit gets. I honestly don’t think USCF will be dismissed out of the suit and if it is, I fully expect that Mr. Sloan will refile suit in state court.From what I understand, Mr. Sloan’s objective here is not really money although the amount of money suing for does get the attention he desires. His main focus is the removal of Mr. Truong from the Executive Board and that Mr. Sloan be given another chance to run for the seat which he feels was denied him by deceptive means – whether one agrees with that premise or not is up to a jury to decide.If Mr. Truong resigned or was recalled or removed from the Board, it would trigger a new election and I honestly believe a quick settlement for minimal financial damages could probably be made with Mr. Sloan. I personally haven’t tried to negotiate same but am aware that others have.

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2. Ray Gordon Parker – This is another pro se lawsuit. Reading the suit, I can see some merits in it, but also there are way too many parties, extraneous issues, etc. Again, this will probably come to a 50/50 chance of being able to settle out at some time. From what I understand, Mr. Parker’s lawsuit is not really monetarily based either, but his objective is much more focused on USCF’s hiring practices which quite honestly could use an open review IMO.
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3. USCF vs. John Does. I don’t think this one will see settlement. This is the one which is most likely to be a real solid issue for several people and which will take a life of its own since the Secret Service is involved. It’s my personal opinion that someone is likely to see criminal charges come out of it and it’s only a question of who the John Doe will be. I have no guess as to who that will be or how long it will take for John Doe or Does to be named, but expect that something will materialize there probably before the other lawsuits have real effect.
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4. Susan Polgar vs. USCF et al. It’s my understanding that the suit is now going to be in Federal Court. I expect that either it will be dismissed or if not, it will result in a flurry of counter-lawsuits.Just like some of the other lawsuits, this one has way too many parties involved and too much extraneous issues. I don’t expect there to be a basis which will stick against USCF in them, but perhaps my opinion will change if it reaches discovery.
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The USCF attorney stated that the legal fees for USCF pertaining to all the lawsuits could hit $100,000 or more. I can easily see that to be a low estimate. IMO, the only chance USCF had to avoid this was for the delegates to remove Mr. Truong from the Executive Board and then try like heck to negotiate out of the mess with several of the parties. Obviously, I didn’t hold the majority view in Texas. As the pocketbook empties, I’m rather confident the delegate mindset will change.


Who do you think would win in a game of chess, Paul Truong, Sam Sloan, or Bill Goichberg?


If I recall correctly, Mr. Truong has the highest rating and hence, I would put some faith into that and say Mr. Truong. (This was actually something of a "trick" question-- sorry Donna-- but it's a little known fact that Bill is the highest rated at 2340 and used to be one of the top players in the US. -- EV)


Aside from the Sam Sloan imbroglio, what do you think the biggest issues facing the organization are and what would you do about them?


Finances, finances, finances. USCF needs accurate financial reporting…boring, but true. It then needs to analyze line item by line item which are necessary expenses and which are luxury items. A prioritization needs to occur particularly in light of the lawsuit expenses which are not going to be controllable to a large extent.
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A business plan. What is USCF’s mission? I know…to promote chess. Well, what does that mean exactly? Is it a tournament promotion organization? Is it an adult membership organization? Is it a scholastics organization? Is it a rating service? Is it worth providing for the US Championship if the top U.S. players don’t participate? Is it USCF’s goal to have FIDE events and be a FIDE representative? Is it a magazine publishing company? Is it a charitable organization out to promote chess in schools or libraries or prisons? How should it be structured? Should it be looking to increase membership in all factions or only be concerned with the adult membership numbers? USCF doesn’t have a plan. It just exists from day to day trying to survive. It has no goal and no objective. It takes in membership money and spits it back out. Until someone takes the time to prioritize what it believes are the objectives of USCF one cannot determine where to expend its resources and what it will take to make it “successful”.
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Lack of transparency which breeds a lack of membership confidence in management and a lack of pride in being a member of USCF. One affects the other. In the “olden days”, people would pay to be a USCF member even if they didn’t have the time to play a single game of chess or read the magazine because they wanted to support the national chess organization which was out there doing good stuff and they wanted to be a part of it. Now USCF is looked upon as a “dinosaur” of sorts. There are many other organizations out there eating USCF’s lunch because over the years, IMO, it has become obvious that USCF has become more concerned with power struggles than membership feedback or input.
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Quite honestly, myself and others don’t even bother going to USCF management with new ideas for the most part. We already anticipate the answer – either USCF has no money, no time, no resources, no personnel or no ability to do (fill in the blank). In short, the answer from USCF management is that it can’t do anything. Therefore, what many of us now see is a focus on local, state and regional chess. Expect to see declining USCF scholastics numbers in several states next year as well as declining attendance in the national events. One of the many discussions in Texas was about states pooling resources to form regional competitions to take up where USCF has left off.
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In order to change the above, USCF needs to change starting on the Executive Board. Where are the healthy debates? They don’t exist. There is nothing in BINFO to indicate that anything of substance has been discussed for quite some time. In fact, quite often it seems obvious that a debate must have taken place outside of BINFO and then folks just come to it to place their votes.
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How many EB members participate in the USCF Forums? Very few. There are a relatively small number of posters there, but there is a relatively large number of observers. USCF could do much more to engage its membership just by making members aware that the forum exists.
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Connect to the members. Actually try to get fresh blood on the committees. Encourage committees to submit motions to the Executive Board on a regular basis so that fresh ideas are put up for debate. Instead of once a year trying to get delegate input, try to encourage active participation throughout the year through a delegates forum. This means outreach – actively reaching out to members and delegates and asking for their participation and not just waiting for them to discover a way into “knowing somebody somewhere” in order to get into the “insider” group.


What three changes would you make to the organization? (This can be personnel, organizational structure, goals, priorities, etc.)


1. New CFO. The retirement plan issue has taken way too long to resolve. The monthly financial reports have had inaccuracies for way too long. The places where things don’t balance and which lead to $92,000 goofs should not happen at this level. The $70,000 due from Chess Café should have been resolved months ago – for good or bad.
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A CFO needs to be able to not only provide accurate reports but recommendations to change red ink into black with recommendations other than hoping that memberships improve. More analysis should be provided without asking as to why expenses are higher year over year in certain categories, etc. A professional CFO will ask these questions before he is asked because he will have wanted to know the answers for himself.
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2. Committees created by delegates – literally – any delegate (not alternate delegate) who wanted to be on any committee would have the ability to do so. If too many delegates signed up for a committee, then a subcommittee could be formed representing pools of delegates – say 1 rep for every 10. Chairs of the committees elected from within. This would break the lock on one having to go along with EB members in order to get along and by encouraging committees to put motions up to the EB, it provides a way for the members to contact their directors/delegates/representatives to try to have a real voice in governance.
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3. Business Plan. It can be created over the internet. Many people will not agree with it, but actually it would give a direction to the organization and those who didn’t agree with it would have the opportunity to run for the EB and change it….or get onto a committee to make motions to change it.


I see from MSA that you are a 1750 who plays chess all the time and has since at least 1993. I was embarrassed to be surprised--of course I make the assumption that women don’t play chess, but more than that, I make assumption that chess politicians don’t play chess. (So well done!) In that vein, how much do you think the current USCF situation is going to affect the average tournament player?


I’ve actually been playing chess since my Dad taught me when I was eight years old. I’ll admit that’s many, many, many moons ago. I stopped playing for about 7 years after high school. At one point within a few years ago, my rating was in the mid 1800’s and I had visions of shooting for a 2000 goal. Priorities change and I’ve never put in the serious study to make that happen.
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What you would also need to look at is ICC where my handle is dacp. I play internet chess there daily – okay, there’s a hole in the past week since I was away on vacation and took a computer break as well. Quite seriously, I periodically think about not playing OTB chess and just playing internet. I’m sure I’m not the only chessplayer out there to have those thoughts.
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Then again, you missed the part about me being a Local TD. I also run a chess club – Greater Worcester Chess Club and have a website – http://www.chesspals.com/. I haven’t yet figured out how one gets off the slippery slope of running a club once one starts down it although I’m working on it and have other club members starting down the slope.
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Sigh. I wish I could look back to the day when I became a chess politician and stopped becoming a USCF member who just wanted what was best for its members who happened to be players at my club. I think my life was a lot less stressful then.
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Okay, so affect the average adult USCF chess member. It will affect them the day the rumors increase that USCF is in financial trouble again. These articles in the NY Times are not without effect. People see them and think maybe yes, maybe no about renewing their memberships and then seeing their money go down the drain or think about whether this is the kind of organization which they want to financially support.
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Maybe it affects the chess member without knowing it. While USCF is busy defending itself against lawsuits, there’s not a whole heck of a lot of time to talk about co-op advertising with new chess clubs or running new chess events or publicizing new chess programs in areas or providing websites to chess clubs or state associations or even talking to members to find out what USCF could be doing in any area in the U.S.


How good do you think Chess Life, Chess Life Online, and Chess Life for Kids are, and what would you propose to do about them?


I don’t read Chess Life. I don’t have the time. I prefer to play chess rather than read about it.
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Chess Life Online has some good articles on it…the flipping articles grab my attention and I admit that I’ve read several of them on my way to the Issues Forum or when others have called them to my attention. I don’t honestly understand why there are separate articles for Chess Life and Chess Life Online…no other publication that I am aware of does that. Okay, well, I do understand why it’s like that but then we’re talking politics and is that mooing I hear?
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Chess Life for Kids isn’t written for kids. Sorry, but IMO it’s not. I’ve tried to find articles in there to use for kids I teach in the spring and fall. Quite seriously, I’ve found Ms. Polgar’s Training Program For Teachers much more helpful.
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I’ve watched kids get the Chess Life for Kids magazine and toss it aside in less than 3 minutes. I’ve asked kids what they think about it and it just is not written by kids for kids and it’s obvious. I understand that scholastics coaches think it’s great. I just don’t see how it hits the mark. I’d be really curious to do a test market response on it to see what the response was rather than just rely upon anecdotal evidence. Then again, I think I hear more mooing out there.
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Now what would I do about it? I think that a weekly lesson on the web in kid language would go a long way towards attacting younger members. I would encourage kids to write about their chess experiences for the magazine. And I would have it filled with lots of pictures of kids getting trophies and their thoughts during games. And I don’t mean all the experts. One of the best stories I read was published locally around here from a kid who won his first trophy ever. That story did more to promote chess and interest kids than Chess Life for Kids does IMO. And in all fairness, I’ll also say that I stopped looking at the magazine months ago so if it’s improved, I haven’t noticed and would be willing to take a second look and eat my words.


I get the sense that the only real reporting that is being done on the USCF conflicts is in the New York Times. Everything else is just internet posts from people involved, who clearly have their own agendas. Do you agree with that statement, and if so, do you think CL or CLO should get involved in reporting on it. Or do you think it’s impossible or unfavorable to do so given the complexity of issues/ height of emotions/ stupidity of the situation?


LOL, you asked me originally if you could do this article for CLO and I figured there would be a snowball in hell before that ever happened. The reality of USCF politics is that much is controlled via the EB whether directly or indirectly. IMO, USCF management has not been transparent for years and I don’t see that changing in the near future.
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Internet posts often involve several individuals having part of a story. What amazes me is that USCF virtually never has a statement of position on anything. The press releases may be about who won what event, but a statement as to what USCF intends to do to address any issue seems to be virtually non-existent (no pun intended). Other organizations have places where one can go to ask questions of management. Here, management gives off the impression that it’s too busy to answer questions. In fact, that is one of the main reasons given for quarterly vs. monthly reporting of the financials to the membership…no time for questions.
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I think Chess Life or Chess Life Online should have political issues in it, but then again, I believe that the members have a vested interest in the organization and that it’s their organization and the best way to get more members involved is to educate them on the issues.
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Issues don’t have to be emotional. Oftentimes, it’s the personal attacks that create the emotions. Change is hard on people and some will resist change at any cost. However, it will happen. There are several blogs now out there which discuss USCF issues so once again, USCF has the opportunity to take a leadership position but chooses to do nothing. Others will fill the void over time.

Who is your favorite board member and why?


I’ll answer your question and then rephrase into what I think you really mean to ask me. My favorite board member is Jim Berry because I honestly believe that he loves the essence of the game of chess, loves players who play chess, isn’t expecting to make money back from chess, doesn’t want anything from chess, and my personal opinion is that if he knew what he was getting into when he signed on to the board and had a chance to redo his action, he probably wouldn’t have done it.
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If an election was held today, would I vote for any of the current EB members?
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No. Whether I personally appreciate individuals or not has little to do with it. I see an organization which needs vision, leadership, and accountability for actions. While many of the EB members have personal strengths, I don’t see them applied into the management of USCF. I don’t see lots of EB motions or discussion showing that they are discussing how to stop the red ink, how to create a vision for USCF, or even basic communication with the membership showing that they are interested in the general membership’s opinions. My hope is that next year somehow, somewhere, there will be a crop of independent thinkers who will want to talk to the members and garner their ideas and support and then be willing to share proposals and status reports openly and honestly with the membership on an ongoing basis instead of just once a year when the annual meeting occurs.


Which other person in the US chess political world do you find yourself in agreement with most?

Leroy Dubeck. Oh, that explains everything. Why do I envision people out there saying that? I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone talking to Leroy in the past few years. Let’s just say that there’s an awful lot of USCF history that’s not public knowledge and it would be absolutely fascinating reading if someone did an article on his life while he was still around to tell it. If someone has, then I’d appreciate the link to it or tell me when and where and I’ll hunt down a copy.
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Leroy and I both look at financial numbers first and foremost. We both want a stable USCF and see a strong need for an organization to end the year in the black. We don’t agree on everything but Leroy doesn’t seem to hesitate to tell me when he thinks I’m wrong and he doesn’t typically utilize other people to deliver the message to me. I like people who can stay issues focused and can agree to disagree. It saves a lot of time in the long run.
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USCF has always had political issues and the history gets lost over the years. Those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.


Who do you think the most competent person at the USCF office is?


Pat Knight. She also is one of the friendliest and goes out of her way to try to find the right answers if she doesn’t have them.
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Judy Misner has also been a very strong go to person willing to help resolve any issue she can.If the USCF office had to go down to just two people before the lights went out, they would be the one’s I’d have leave last.

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Thanks for the opportunity to answer your questions. They were thought provoking and really forced me to analyze my own perceptions so it was well worth my while to take the time to do so.

Cheers,

Donna Alarie

17 comments:

Bill Brock said...

Leroy Dubeck? The gentleman whose endorsement of Sloan in 2006 was a proximate cause of USCF's current woes? And who made the endorsement to embarrass Goichberg by making him serve with his quondam dirty trickster? It is good to be fiscally responsible; it is even better to have a moral compass. So I'd have to disagree with Donna on that one....

Having said that, it's obvious that she cares. And USCF desperately needs people who care about the organization.

Anonymous said...

I don't have any opinion on anything Donna Alarie says. I don't have an opinion on anything a critic of Donna Alarie says.

Because the thing she says that is most spot-on is that there is no public information on any of this, either in statements from leadership or in CL or CLO. I have been a USCF member on and off for 30 years; I know that there are "factions" on the board who have their own "agendas" and "alliances." After 30 years, I could not tell you for the life of me what those factions, agendas or alliances actually are.

And if people rush in to answer this question and explain it to me, well, I won't know what to do with that information, because I won't know who they are, what their agendas are and what their alliances are.

Rick Massimo

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this article and the previous one - they were both enlightening and depressing. Once I did try to learn about things from Usenet, but stopped when many of the postings became vulgar and irrelevant to important chess issues like finances and the always interesting "follow the money."

It is probably naive to think there can be an easy solution. I still have faith in things which seem to be working - like the Denker and Susan Polgar tourneys for high school students.

Do any of the readers have any knowledge of how the federations of other democratic societies fare? (The lessons of the Kalmykian Chess Federation probably don't apply to the US) Anyone out there from Canada or Britain?

Mark Ginsburg said...

"Starting in August, 2007, I wanted to know why USCF could not collect its accounts receivable from Chess Café."

I've looked at Chess Cafe and noted a melange of miscellaneous ersatz chess, but what's this about the USCF not being able to collect a debt from them ("Russell Enterprises"). Why would the USCF advance a private outfit a lot of money?

Does anyone know the story of "Russell Enterprise" and how/why the USCF is being, as it seems, ripped off?

Bill Brock said...

Mark

We played at 1974? Atlantic Open (Hans x 2: Berliner, Böhm) ...Modern Benoni, Rd. 2--I played BxNa6 and you were kind enough to explain why that was positionally sucky.

***

USCF's books & equipment operations fell on hard times (Amazon, economy, poor management: a killer combo). In this changed biz environment, outsourcing made sense. Selling books is hard enough if you know what you're doing: since the Lawrence years, USCF has been clueless.

see http://www.checkmate.us/report.htm for Goichberg's take at the time

However, the deal with Chess Café was negotiated in nonstandard (= USCF standard) fashion. Let us say that there was at least the appearance of self-dealing by one then-sitting Board member who was a business partner of Chess Café. (I don't mean this comment to reflect negatively on Chess Café itself.)

CC did very poorly at inception (far below expectations) fell far behind on $$ due USCF, asked for & got a major restructuring of deal in return for owner's personal guarantee going forward.

From the outside (where I've been for 2+ years as a former member), it would appear that USCF is not the ideal ptnr for a biz deal. Perhaps there was not a meeting of the minds and CC thinks that USCF is not holding up its end of the bargain in 2007-08.

Or perhaps CC is reneging on the (already once reworked--I have a copy of it somewhere) deal & USCF is failing to enforce the contract.

We really don't need fiduciaries to tell us more than they already have, do we? Best they work this out in private with CC or take it to court/arbiter if they can't.

But in either case, it would appear that USCF is screwing up.

Anonymous said...

I think I will form the American Chess Organization (ACO). I have business experience, publishing experience and my strongest attribute is good character. It would be hard to do a worse job of running an organization than what has gone on for years in the USCF.
dnmuscg is my ICC handle, which is where my chess energy is spent.

david said...

Do any of the readers have any knowledge of how the federations of other democratic societies fare? Anyone out there from Canada or Britain?

The situation in Britain, more precisely England at least, is just as disspiriting. The ECF is very like USCF, but without the litigation.

The ECF is run by a gerontocratic clique of weak players, remote from the membership, unaccountable and arguably incompetent. Chess in England is held together by a good number of unassuming, long-suffering and selflessly professional individuals (press columnists, graders, local organisers, webmasters etc) who receive no serious support from ECF. In fact pretty much all entrepreneurial activity in promoting the game takes place independently of ECF. No one with quality professional skills would dream of putting them at risk in the service of ECF. The accounts I read of USCF could be cut-and-pasted straight into most descriptions of ECF. Matters are less rancorous in the other national territories (Scotland etc). And of course, we don't do litigation as often - yet!

David
Liverpool, UK

Brian Lafferty said...

You asked Donna the following question which contains an apparent inaccurate assumption. The question stated:
"I read Susan thanked you on her site for objecting to a plan to accuse her of child molestation. Can you tell us anything about this: where it came from, who was behind it, anything like that?"

I am aware of no "plan" to accuse anyone of child molestation. Sam Sloan obtained from Ms. Polgar's ex-husband a copy of a NY Family Court Order of Protection addressed to Ms. Polgar and her then paramour, Mr. Truong. Mr. Sloan made that available on rgcp and it was discussed at length. I spoke with Mr. Shutzman who confirmed what Mr. Sloan had been told regarding how the order came to be issued. The subject of hot saucing children as a form of child abuse was discussed on rgcp in general and it was noted by some that in certain cultures here and abroad, it is considered an legitimate form of child discipline.

As to Ms. Polgar, I sent her the following email on 12/20/2007 to which she did not respond:

Ms. Polgar,

I have been made aware of two Queens County, New York Family Court Orders that present issues of concern for scholastic parents such as myself. Let me make clear that I did not go looking for the documents referenced below. As Donna Alarie noted in a post to the USCF Issues Forum last evening, the substance of this matter has been known to other USCF members, including Joe Lux, for several weeks. Let me emphasize that I draw NO final conclusion as to the truth of the allegations raised by these court orders. I have litigated matrimonial and custody disputes and I know how vicious parents can be in seeking an advantage in court.

However, in this instance I must lend some level of credence to certain allegation as they were apparently made by the children themselves, in private, to a guardian ad litem appointed by the court to represent their interests in the custody/visitation dispute before the Family Court.

I spoke via telephone yesterday, 12/19/07, with Mr. Shutzman who told me that his children, during a private interview with the guardian ad litem, told the guardian that they had been beaten by Paul Truong for the purpose of making them study chess.

As a parent of a scholastic chess player, I ask you to present your side of this matter. I have spoken with parents of other scholastic players who find this matter troubling in-as-much-as you are both deeply involved with scholastic chess and working with children.

To reiterate, I make NO final conclusion or judgment as to the facts underlying these court orders. I’d like to hear your side of the story.

A copy of the initial court order can be found at
http://www.shamema.com/polgar-op-1.pdf

A copy of the second page of a subsequent court order can be found at
http://www.shamema.com/polgar-op-2.pdf

I would appreciate the courtesy of your reply.

Very truly yours,
Brian Lafferty

Ms. Polgar and Mr. Truong repeat many unsupported allegations in the apparent hope that if you say it often enough it will become factually real when it is not. Thank you for letting me clarify this matter here.

Bill Brock said...

The well-being of the children is paramount, and the court has a proper role in protecting their rights and the rights of the noncustodial spouse.

But why, Mr. Lafferty, should anyone discuss the details of private family matters with you?

Interesting contrast with the case of Mr. Sloan: courts have repeatedly & publicly taken steps to protect minors from him. Perhaps Mr. Lafferty could speak to Mr. Sloan's character in this space.

Our common goal should be to make USCF a better organization, not to destroy other people for sport.

Brian Lafferty said...

Mr. Brock, only Mr. Schutzman can explain why he chose to speak with others outside his immediate family.

There is no present reason for me to address Mr. Sloan's character here or anywhere else.

While the general topic of child abuse and hot saucing was discussed on rgcp, as you know, to my knowledge there was never anything written that in any manner implicated or even suggested an implication of either Mr. Truong or Ms. Polgar in molestation as defined by the NY Criminal Code.

Anonymous said...

Great interview. I'm surprised there aren't more comments. Obviously, having a husband and wife on the same Board is bad governance (can you say "conflict of interest").

Undoubtably, the whole thing is completely depressing. Its also suprising that with all the undeniable brain power in the US chess scene, this is what its come to.

I'm a newbie to the scene, but the blame has to lie somewhere.

Marty

Bill Brock said...

But only Mr. Lafferty is responsible for Mr. Lafferty's repetition of Mr. Schutzman's words....

Anonymous said...

Dear Elizabeth,

I would like to obtain permission from you to reprint this interview with Donna in the Western MA Chess Association's quarterly newsletter, "The Skittles Room". We have a submission date of 9/15/08 for the next issue. Please get back to me when you can.

Best wishes,
Frank Kolasinski
President
Western Massachusetts

Anonymous said...

Dear Elizabeth,

I would like to obtain permission from you to reprint this interview with Donna in the Western MA Chess Association's quarterly newsletter, "The Skittles Room". We have a submission date of 9/15/08 for the next issue. Please get back to me when you can.

Best wishes,
Frank Kolasinski
President
Western Massachusetts

Mark Ginsburg said...

Bill Brock wrote,

"However, the deal with Chess Café was negotiated in nonstandard (= USCF standard) fashion. Let us say that there was at least the appearance of self-dealing by one then-sitting Board member who was a business partner of Chess Café. (I don't mean this comment to reflect negatively on Chess Café itself.)"

That sounds pretty odious.

Anyway to make this 3rd party settle now for cents on the dollar just so the USCF recoups something? Or rig up a revenue recapture scheme so that if the 3rd party makes a few pennies the USCF can "lien" for a cent or two?

Is "Russell Enterprises" a going concern that can cough up a few iron men?

Bill Brock said...

Here's another Alarie interview with a better summary of the CC situation than the one I gave:

http://chessusa.blogspot.com/2008/08/q-with-former-uscf-finance-committee.html

Gadflies rub people the wrong way, and I do think Donna has a tendency to go overboard. But she, unlike Sloan, is an ethical gadfly. And jeez, what sane person wouldn't overreact?

Anonymous said...

A Modest Proposal for USCF Solvency. The USCF commissions a commemorative chess set through the Franklin Mint with miniature sculptures of Paul Truong and Susan Polgar as the White King and Queen versus Sam Sloan as the Black King with Brian Mottershead and Brian Lafferty as Black Rooks. Perhaps the lawyers in the currently pending lawsuits could be bishops for both sides. At the time I thought of this, I thought Donna Alarie might be the Black Queen, but perhaps she was not so much pro-Sloan as anti-EB. I gave up following the arguments and loyalties a long time ago, so I can't fill in all the characters. Some talented chess player/Broadway playwright could also turn this into Chess II: The Musical Rematch. Of course none of this would get past the first lawyer.