The USCF has just come out with the first issue of a "new, semi-annual newsletter devoted to our most loyal members, our Life Members."  There are over 10,000 life members, so I imagine this six page publication, entitled "LM Notes," probably cost the federation at least $5000.  The main idea, of course, is an appeal for donations, which hopefully will more than cover the cost.

However, a number of questions arise regarding the new publication.  First, why has it been announced as semi-annual before the result of the initial fund raising effort is known?  Perhaps the first edition will produce sufficient donations to be profitable, perhaps not.  I would think it would have been more prudent to await the returns before promising future issues.  And even if this appeal does more than cover costs, a repeat of the same thing every six months may encounter diminishing returns.

Also, the first paragraph states, "In this issue, you'll hear from USCF President Tim Redman, Executive Board Member Helen Warren, and Life Member Assets Committee Chair (and Past USCF Treasurer) Tom Dorsch."  For many who are familiar with recent USCF history, this is not exactly a list of luminaries calculated to make everyone rush for their checkbooks.  It might have been wise to add another name or two to this list, especially those who are less enthusiastic about recent USCF policies.

Redman, whose photo appears twice in LM Notes, may be the most unpopular President in USCF history, due to his support for the huge TLA fee increases (enacted without consulting the Delegates), his now abandoned efforts to add "fiddle points" to the rating system (also without Delegate consultation), his claim that Board member Bob Smith was "paranoid" in response to a Smith email that was entirely correct, etc.  Warren has supported virtually all Redman policies, although she did eventually reverse herself on "fiddle points."  And Dorsch has made countless attacks on various USCF leaders in recent years, including six of the seven Board members he served with, resulting in his placing a distant 14th out of 16 candidates for the Executive Board in 1999.  Dorsch was once believed to be allied with Redman, but recently charged on the newsgroup that Redman had accepted a payoff to be silent about alleged improprieties, a claim that Redman called a "complete fabrication."

The appeal for funds from Executive Director George De Feis states, "Now, what would a Life Member newsletter be if it didn't contain an appeal for contributions?  But, this is not just any old appeal for funds, it's an appeal with a promise: if you like the new direction, new initiatives, and new approaches we're exploring, we'll promise to continue along this path and get USCF back to strong financial health..."  This seems a risky approach, as most members I hear from are opposed to USCF's "new direction" and want it reversed. Such "new initiatives" as outrageous TLA fees, drastic cutbacks in the profitable book and equipment sales program, a Games Parlor online play contract probably about to be renewed even though USCF has lost over $100,000 per year on its alliance with this company, and the rejection if no-risk sponsorship from KasparovChess, are not effective selling points to obtain donations.

LM Notes also contains some inaccurate USCF history.  An article by Tom Dorsch says, "The idea of selling life memberships was the brainchild of Lt. Col. Ed Edmonson, first USCF Executive Director, and was implemented during the presidency of Dr. Leroy Dubeck in the late '60s."  Dubeck was president from 1969 to 1972, when life memberships cost $200.  When I first joined USCF in 1961, they were available for $100, as stated on page 31 of the first Chess Life magazine ever published, January 1961, and some players said they had bought them for $50 in the 1950s.  I don't know who initiated the idea of selling life memberships- doubt that it was Edmondson, more likely Kenneth Harkness.  Also, Edmondson's name is misspelled "Edmonson" twice in this article.

Also rather misleading in the Dorsch essay is a list of current and former USCF leaders, whose photos also appear with the unstated implication that they helped to build the LMA, USCF's Life Member Assets fund.
Maxim Dlugy, USCF President from 1990 to 1993, is mentioned and pictured because "the buildup of assets continued" during this period.  However, Dlugy took no actions that affected this growth. It was Gary Sperling, who was USCF Treasurer during Dlugy's term, who argued successfully that the LMA should be invested in equities for the first time, and set up its investment account.  This switch proved highly profitable, and Sperling should have been mentioned in this article rather than Dlugy. homepage