During the summer of 1981, I played quite a bit of recreational tennis at the Boyle Park Tennis Courts in MillValley, California, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, and I became friends with George Zahorsky there. George won the Northern California section of the Men’s “A” amateur division over the next few months, but that’s another Remembrance.
Sometime shortly after we got to be friends, George mentioned to me that a girl of 12 or 13 from nearby Tiburon, California, hit her ground strokes harder than he did, and that the girl’s father paid him to rally with her from time to time.Her name was Elly Hakami.A month or so later, George took me along -- to an inside court in Mill Valley, or Larkspur or Strawberry or someplace near Mill Valley – for a practice session with Elly which George had scheduled with Mr. Hakami.When we got there, George introduced me to Mr. Hakami and to Elly, and I just sat down with Mr. Hakami and watched.Sure enough Elly hit the ball harder than George, a lot harder.In fact I’d never seen a woman hit the ball that hard and keep it in the court.
My impression was that Elly was not only a phenomenon physically but was also mentally mature way beyond her years.Mr. Hakami, an Iranian who spoke with a strong accent, seemed understandably very protective of his young daughter, but also seemed to be far less committed than Elly was to her pursuing a professional tennis career.So Elly seemed to be dealing with her father’s reaction to my very presence at the practice session as well as with George’s consistent returns.I sensed that my presence might have created an uncomfortable situation for both of them, the session not being public like a tournament but not being completely private either.I also sensed that George may not have explained to Mr. Hakami that the friend he was bringing to the practice session was not a professional player or teaching pro.
In any case, after the session I bid goodbye to the Hakamis and never had an opportunity to talk with Elly again.I followed her amateur career distantly, because I moved away from MarinCounty in 1982.I may have seen her in an amateur tournament in Marin in 1981 or 1982, but I may have just dreamed it. I know it wasn’t until the 1990’s that I heard she had turned professional in 1987 as well as achieved a world-ranking in the 30’s for a time that year.
Now, I’ve literally forgotten the names of almost all the guys I ever watched and played against in and around San Antonio in the middle 1950’s, a few of whom grew up to became successful professional players.I’ve forgotten because I was 13 and 14 years old at the time. Fortunately I was 39 in 1981, and I'll never forget my momentary acquaintance with truly extraordinary tennis in the person of Elly Hakami that summer.
Two Tales of Tennis Friends and Booze
In my junior year in high school, I was number two on the tennis team and a senior named Bill Bailey was number four. It was a military high school in San Antonio, Texas, and at the beginning of the year Bill had been favorite to make battalion commander, highest-ranking student officer. But the military passed Bill Bailey by, basically for excessive individuality and strangeness. In reaction Bill grew his left thumbnail the rest of the year.
In the spring, the team's coach and first four players all drove down to south Texas for a statewide schools tournament. Bill played his first match Saturday morning and won. Then in the afternoon in his second match Bill got mad about something and wouldn't stop arguing, so his opponent called over a tournament official. The ensuing intense discussion between Bill and the official ended when Bill proposed the official perform the famous physical impossibility, turned, and stomped off toward the baseline to resume play. By about the third stomp, our team was disqualified from the tournament.
Since there wasn't time to drive back to San Antonio before dark, the coach decided we'd spend the night as planned. Late in the afternoon, Bill and I and a third player from the team got together for sympathy over beers with some players from the local high school hosting the tournament. Afterwards the three of us ate woozy suppers at the homes where we were staying. Then we met up again with the local guys for more beers and some Saturday night pool-shooting. Two or three hours later, we were cruising town and feeling much better about everything. To arrive by fate in front of the host high school's deserted and dark main building. There we parked drinking, clowning, casing the situation. Until unnoticed by anyone, our anger and self-pity had dissipated in a haze of besotted well-being. I lobbed my empty beer can at the flag pole in front of the school. Clanking on the concrete walkway, it fell about twenty feet short. We drove off.
We'd been back at school in San Antonio for a couple of days when the four of us who'd gone to the tournament were called into the headmaster's office. No one was very apprehensive. Bill didn't seem much concerned -- more like, by now he expected to be punished for following his own honorable code of behavior. The rest of us of course were just innocent victims. Innocent, and if we'd had time to think about it, a little curious. What were we there for? Certainly not to be vindicated by witnessing the inquisition. But anyway, I figured, it was a team thing. After some preliminaries, the headmaster asked Bill his version of the incident. Doubtless Bill's version was factually virtually identical to the tournament official's. The headmaster having heard him out asked, simply, "Why, Bill?" Bill helpfully provided the usual military explanation – "No excuse, Sir." After which, a silence. Then the headmaster said, "OK, Bill." And he asked all of us, "So who threw the beer can into the school yard?"
The thing about our school at just that time was that after years of trying, it had almost succeeded in re-creating itself. A military correctional facility for well-off delinquents was being reborn as an academically respectable, college preparatory school. And in fact out of the thirty-five students in my senior class the next year, six were admitted to Ivy League colleges, probably not a great many fewer than in the school's preceding fifty-year history: one to Harvard, one to Columbia, one to Yale, two to Princeton, and one to Dartmouth. I was the one to Harvard....as a result, I think, of the fact that in total disregard of the school's least flexible and most draconian disciplinary policy – regarding students and alcohol -- no official punishment whatsoever befell me as a result of my tossed beer can.
I took the game and changed courts without a thought. Worse, it was years before it occurred to me that the match was even close, and that if Bill Bailey had thrown the beer can – and his family hadn’t reputedly owned half of West Texas – he likely would have been expelled.
The Year George Won Northern California...
I was thirty-nine in the summer of 1981, the summer George won northern California, and deeper into the vodka than I’d ever been before. Really deep, and out of desperation I’d started spending weekends at Boyle Park Tennis Courts, in Mill Valley across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. So I wouldn't be drinking all day and night Saturday and Sunday in addition to five nights a week after work. I hadn't played in years, but there I'd be at the courts early in the morning, banging away at the wall before the crowd showed up. Eventually, I'd hack out a couple of sets, watch play a while, hit the wall again, watch some more and maybe play again. Then I'd eat lunch, come back and do it all again.
George was in his middle twenties and the best regular player at the courts, which had a reputation for the best "pickup" games in the San FranciscoBay area. Already a couple of weeks before I met him, George had won a Northern California "A" tournament. “Northern California” was an organization within the U.S. Tennis Association and ranked players every year based on the results of tournaments it sanctioned in northern California. Professionals all competed together, but because the amateurs were so numerous, their rankings were based on their results in tournaments for different groups based on different levels of play. The summer George won, the amateurs played in four groups -- from strongest to weakest – "A" to "D." A lot of the younger players at the Blythdale courts were B, or strong C, players and several regulars in addition to George were legitimate A's.
Pretty soon George and I got to be friends, and I went with him to an “A” tournament he was playing. I was almost the only fan there. Amateur tournaments usually had very few fans, and usually only in later rounds or the finals. But George won the tournament. And then he won every one of the five or six subsequent “A” tournaments he played that summer; I'm sure of that, because beginning with that first win I went to, I was George's fan-in-the-stands and companion at all of them. As a result of his string of tournament victories, George won the northern California “A’s” going away. And I felt like, if not his manager, at least and indubitably his one truly constant friend and fan.
The high point of the summer for George was probably winning the San Francisco “A” Tournament toward the end of the season. But the tournament I remembered best was sponsored by Beringer Wines in the town of St. Helena about 60 miles north of MillValley. It was a popular tournament with players not only because it was sponsored by a winery, but because Beringer gave prizes to the semi-final winners – free bottles of its excellent wine! George and I finished off his bottle early Saturday afternoon and we just kept drinking. We shot pool and partied for a couple of hours, and before we got back to Mill Valley George was totally smashed. It was the only time I ever saw him drinking, much less drunk.
Very hung over the next morning, we got together again and drove back up to St. Helena for the final. George was not unimpaired, but he won in straight sets.
Soon afterward, I moved to another part of the Bay Area and lost touch with George completely. I heard he’d played a season on the professional tour in Asia and was world-ranked in the three hundreds. A couple of years later I heard he’d come back to MarinCounty and was a teaching pro somewhere. Somehow I got out of the bottle. And as the years drifted past, I gloried in the memories of those tournaments and the summer of my wonderful vicarious championship tennis. Then one day, I decided to stop just thinking about it and actually look George up. So I went back to the old courts at Boyle Park and found out a couple of places he might be. And the first place I looked....there he was! The consummate personable tennis professional running the municipal tennis program of Larkspur, a town adjoining MillValley, and giving a most attractive lady a late-morning lesson on serves. George was obviously surprised and happy to see his biggest fan again after all those years.
The real reason I'd finally looked George up was that I'd been mulling over writing a story about our glorious summer. A story of winning like you'll never lose, but also the story of a price. Because I thought I remembered that while we were headed home that late Saturday afternoon after the Beringer Tournament semi-finals, George in his drunkenness had revealed a very true and personal truth about a price. About a toll for winning sometimes taken from the human soul by the gods of tournament tennis. Or in my own enormous inebriation, had I interpreted some blubbered banality that way? Like now, I think I pretty surely had.
But I didn’t think that then, standing in the bright morning sun by the court in Larkspur. And trying to ease George toward that remote revelatory episode I hoped would be the center of my story, I asked him if he remembered the prize bottle of wine and how drunk we got after he won his semi-final at the Beringer Tournament. George said yes of course, he remembered very well. How could he forget? He still hadn't forgiven me for getting him so smashed. And so hung over the next day in the final, he got beat for almost the only time that summer
By memorandum dated August 10, 1981, the Washington Office approved Region 5’s request to experiment with 24-hour fireline workshifts during the 1981 and 1982 fire seasons.The closing paragraph of that memorandum read:
“Project Proposal #7021 (the 24-Hour Workshift) has been reviewed by
the W.O. Personnel Management staff.Their opinion is ‘the decision
to establish a 24-hour work shift versus a 12-hour work shift would not
require Union negotiation in and of itself.’On the other hand, the Union
probably would request to be involved in determining how the trial test
would be carried out on the Forests with organized unions.”
This opinion that establishing 24-hour fireline workshifts is a management right not subject to Union negotiation is doubtful (a challenge to management on the point, however, must await R-5’s decision to establish such shifts as policy, if it so decides, sometime after the 1982 fire season).That the experimental use of 24-hour shifts in R-5 is a matter of “impact and implementation” and subject to Union negotiation was obvious, even to the W.O.The only question the W.O. left R-5 to decide in this regard was whether the experiment would involve Regional Fire Teams, and hence be subject to regionwide negotiations, or involve only smaller fires suppressible at the Forest level, and hence be subject to negotiations only if involving a Forest with a union local.
For good reasons, R-5 decided on the regionwide alternative.By Speed Memorandum dated September 4, 1981, R-5’s labor Relations Specialist officially notified R-5 NFFE Vice President Vela McBride of the proposed 24-hour Fireline Workshift Experiment, and said the experiment would be used only on large fires involving Regional Fire Teams.This Speed Memorandum, containing the first draft of R-5 Fire Management’s directive to the field on implementation of the experiment, ended with the following request for “Union input”:
“UNION INPUT: We would of course like your input as soon as possible,
recognizing that this is an experimental program and that we will again
seek your involvement in the evaluation of the experiment and possible
future revisions.Please contact (Fire Management) to discuss any
questions, concerns and suggestions which you may have, and give us
your final input by September 18 if at all possible (we’d like to give a
try on the next big fire that comes up, so the sooner the better!)”
Of note in this initial notification from management to R-5 NFFE were two things.First, as usual, management was in a big hurry to get the show on the road.And secondly, although management was following Article 9 of the Master Agreement (“Negotiations”) and notifying the Union above the Local level in writing of a proposed change in working conditions subject to negotiations, the memorandum contained no reference to the Master Agreement and no use of the word “negotiations” anywhere.Instead, NFFE was asked for “input” and “involvement in the evaluation.”“Discussion with NFFE” at the regional level was referred to.
Of note in the first draft of Fire Management’s field direction on the experiment, accompanying this initial notification of the Union, was the complete absence of any provision for breaks during the 24-hour workshifts.
By letter dated September 24, 1981, Vela McBride responded to management’s Speed Memorandum, beginning: “I must request the opportunity to impact bargain on the ’24 on 24 off’ proposed policy.The amount of input I have received is rather extensive.”This was a clear and simple request for formal negotiations following the procedures of Article 9 (“The Union at the appropriate level will advise management that they wish to negotiate a policy or the impact and implementation of that policy”).
When management received Vela’s written request for negotiations, it was the last week in September and well into R-5’s 1981 fire season.At any moment a big fire appropriate for experimentation with 24-hour workshifts could have broken out.Management’s first priority, then, was to avoid formal negotiations, and further, to get R-5 NFFE to agree the experiment could proceed immediately.So instead of responding to Vela’s request, management simply ignored it and responded to her concerns, by telephone call on October 5, 1981.Management’s written summary of this telephone conversation records a classic in negotiation avoidance:
“The Region recognizes that you have legitimate concerns and desires
to include the Union’s input into the experimental guidance.We
anticipate receiving your locals’ concerns, either typed or hand-
written, from you ASAP, and will address as many of them as we can
at this time in the current experimental guidance.Others, including
any which may not be apparent now but which maysurface after
some experience with the system will be addressed when the
experiment’s progress is examined before the start of the next fire
season.The Region will furnish the Union with the results of any use
of the 24-hour experiment during the remainder of the calendar year.
Recognizing that the experiment will be evaluated both prior to and
after the 1982 fire season, with Union involvement in the evaluation,
the Union does not object to the Region’s experimental use of the
24-hour system during the remainder of 1981, so long as the results
of any such use are shared with the Union.”
The request for written concerns from Vela in the second sentence of this summary would have been appropriate if made in preparation for formal negotiations.Instead, the request was made in the course of avoiding formal negotiations.Consider: the subject of negotiations is mentioned nowhere in the summary and was never discussed during the conversation (as Vela subsequently verified); mentioned again, however, were Union “input” and “involvement.”R-5’s Labor Relations Specialist was most accommodating in assuring Vela that the second draft of Fire Management’s field directives on the experiment (then in preparation) would address her concerns; and in return for those assurances, according to management’s written summary, Vela okayed going ahead with the experiment.Finally, by mailing Vela a written summary which recorded “. . .the Union does not object to the Region’s experimental use. . .etc.” (see italicized portion of the summary, above), the Union’s request for formal negotiations prior to experimentation was rendered completely inoperative, as far as management was concerned.
Vela’s memory of the October 5 telephone conversation differed, however, from that of R-5’s Labor Relations Specialist.She heard management say that there would be no experimentation until further agreement was reached over her concerns, including rest period during the 24-hour workshifts.And by memorandum dated October 10, 1981, Vela recorded her summary of the October 5 telephone conversation as it related to immediate implementation:
“Per our telephone conversation, the Union wants no experimental use
UNTIL rest periods are agreed upon.Some of the concerns surfacing
are the safety of the personnel: the fatigue factor is of great concern to
most of those calling me.They feel the 24 on/off is just too much.Also
great concern concerning what one individual called ‘security.”He felt
the 24 hour off was too much.The employees would get restless and
bring liquor, etc.Fights would erupt.Another thing not clear to me is
the treatment of overtime.Also holiday.”
Although she did not revive her demand for formal negotiations, by writing and mailing this memorandum, Vela put the ball back in management’s court in the event of a big fire in R-5.Instead of one written record (management’s) that NFFE had verbally authorized the experiment on October 5, there were two written
records.And NFFE’s written record of not authorizing the experiment was the later one in time.
(At some point between October 5 and October 14, 1981, R-5 Fire Management completed the second draft of its field direction for the 24-Hour Fireline Workshift Experiment.This draft more clearly addressed NFFE’s concerns – as management had verbally assured Vela that it would. . . .)
Vela McBride’s October 10 memorandum to management also appointed me, Gentry Rowsey, to be R-5 NFFE’s representative for dealing with management on the 24-Hour Experiment.I saw the issue as getting good direction about rest periods into the third draft of Fire Management’s field direction.Specifically, I picked up the communication with management by writing R-5’s Labor Management Specialist: “I regret it if you have told Fire Management personnel that they have a green light from the Union on the experiment as long as they furnish us information.Our position is (still): no agreement on work periods, no experiment. . . .the current direction contains no minimum duration times for rest periods and no maximum duration times for work without rest breaks.To repeat Vela’s last statement, the Union wants no experimental use UNTIL rest periods are agreed upon.The sooner we can get such agreement, the sooner will we endorse the experiment.”
This was dated October 21, 1981, six weeks after the original notification to R-5 NFFE of the proposed 24-Hour Fireline Workshift Experiment.Discussions followed between Fire Management and myself, one outcome of which was (the third revision). . .of the field (rest period) directives. . . .There was also agreement reached in these discussions on the wording of the Regional Forester’s formal notification of all R-5 employees of the 24-Hour Experiment; . . .and there was agreement reached that the experiment would not precede receipt of the Regional Forester’s notification by the field.What there was not, then, before then, or after then, was formal negotiations over the 24-Hour Fireline Workshift Experiment in R-5.
What are the lessons in all this?Certainly the first lesson is that management will go to great lengths to avoid formal negotiations, including being very accommodating informally while completely ignoring Union initiatives toward formal negotiations.Why?Obviously, because formal negotiations take time and money and elevate the status of the Union in the eyes of employees.The second lesson is also clear: NFFE representative must demand formal negotiations in writing every time we are notified of proposed substantial changes in working conditions.And we must not let management avoid formal negotiations by “settling the issues” informally.Why?The answer is the real lesson in all this: in the time frames management gives us to respond to their proposals informally, it is not possible to represent our membership adequately.Only by requiring formal negotiations can we gain the time and stature necessary to do our duty as NFFE representatives.We flatter ourselves to think we have good and representativeideas, and can do our representational duties informally.We flatter ourselves, fool ourselves, and behave like management.
With the US Forest Service - On Revising Our Golf Group's Handicap System (1995)
THE FINAL FRONTIER - DISCRIMINATION IN FAVOR OF ABILITY
As you may or may not know, the handicap system we use for the tournaments is a modified gross-score handicap system.It is a gross-score handicap system modified by stroke adjustments.
Under a gross-score handicap system, if you shoot a 100 on a 72-par rated golf course, your score for purposes of calculating your subsequent handicap is simply your gross score of 100 minus the course’s rating of 72, or 28.So you have a 28-handicap-round for purposes of calculating your subsequent handicap, and that 28 is independent of your strokes on each individual hole of the round.
Under our modified system using stroke adjustments, the same 100 on the same 72-par rated gold course may not count as an 18-hole score of 100 for purposes of calculating your handicap-round and your subsequent handicap.It could be counted as less than 100 (but never more) if a stroke adjustment modification is applied.And a stroke modification is applied when your score on any of the 18 individual holes (say a 12 on a 5-par hole) exceeds the amount the stroke adjustment table allows you to shoot, based on your existing handicap when you began the round.
Still using the 100 stroke round example, say your handicap when you teed off was 30, and say the stroke adjustment tables require a 30 handicap golfer to adjust down to a 9 any score higher than a 9 on any 5-par hole, and say you shoot the 12 on one of the par 5’s, and your 18-hole score is the 100.Under our stroke adjustment system, your score on that 5-par hole is reduced from a 12 to a 9, so your 18-hole score is reduced from a 100 to a 97, giving you a 25-handicap-round rather than a 28-handicap round, for purposes of calculating your subsequent handicap.Consequently, your subsequent handicap is lower under the modified (stroke adjustment) system than it would have been under a simple, gross-score handicap system.
Compared to a gross-score handicap system, our system penalizes inconsistent golfers who blow up on individual holes, and it rewards consistent golfers who may shoot exactly the same stroke total for all 18 holes but record a higher handicap-round because they did not blow up on individual holes.(You have been “penalized” relative to another golfer, if you both have identical 18-hole totals, but your handicap-round score is lower than his/her handicap-round score because of stroke adjustments.Because with the lower handicap-round score, your future handicap will also be lower.)Despite its obvious adverse effects on inconsistent golfers, our modified gross handicap system is the system used by the United States Golf Association, and our club has always followed the USGA’s system for calculating handicaps.
However, it occurred to me that the modified gross handicap system we use not only penalizes inconsistent golfers relative to consistent golfers, it probably also penalizes higher handicap golfers relative to lower handicap golfers since inconsistency is often a factor in poor rounds.But is that true?Do our higher-handicap golfers actually have more stroke adjustments applied to their gross scores than our lower-handicap golfers?
To answer that question, I looked at the results from four Tournaments in 1991 to compare stroke adjustments with the sizes of golfers’ handicaps.I tallied the stroke adjustment applied to every 18-hole round recorded for the four tournaments, and compared it with the golfer’s handicap when he teed off for the round.The four tournaments were the Sonoma National, Los Positas, Blue Rock, and Kennedy.Copies of all the stroke adjustment data and calculations are available to any member upon request.
Based on those four tournaments combined, 20 rounds were played by golfers who teed off with handicaps ranging from 13 through 18, and their average stroke adjustment (for those four tournaments) was 1.00 stroke per round; 36 rounds were played by golfers who teed off with handicaps ranging from 19 through 25, and their average stroke adjustment was 1.69 strokes per round; 36 rounds were played by golfers who teed off with handicaps ranging from 26 through 32, and their 18-hole scores were reduced an average of 2.78 strokes; 12 rounds were played by golfers with tee-off handicaps ranging from 34 through 43, and they lost an average of 4.00 strokes off their 18-hole totals; finally, 12 rounds were played by golfers with tee-off handicaps ranging from 43 through 58, and they suffered an average of 4.58 strokes subtracted from each of their 18-hole scores.To summarize:
# of Golfer-roundsHandicapRangeAverage Stroke Adj.
Golfers with handicaps ranging from 45 through 58 averaged almost 2 more strokes subtracted, because of blow-ups on individual holes, from their actual 18-hole scores than golfers with handicaps ranging from 26 through 32, over the four tournaments.A difference of 2 strokes is not a lot, but with tournament prizes awarded on the basis of net (handicap-determined) scores, stroke adjustments will almost certainly change who wins prizes – compared with who would have won prizes using a simple, gross handicap system – in every tournament.
Of course, prizes at our tournaments are not based on comparing the net 18-hole scores of all golfers – because there are multiple flights each with prizes.But the correlation between higher handicaps and higher stroke adjustments should also exist within each flightTherefore higher handicap golfers within each flight – who have been penalized with more stroke adjustments to their gross scores than the lower handicap golfers in their flight – may be expected to win prizes less frequently in tournaments.Do the lower handicap golfers within each flight in fact win more prizes than the higher handicap golfers within each flight?
With that question in mind, I looked at the prizes awarded in the same four tournaments in 1991 – Sonoma National, Los Positas, Blue Rock, and Kennedy – to determine if the prizes tended to go to the lower-handicap golfers in each flight.Copies of all prize result data and my summaries are also available to any member upon request.
The results of the four tournaments combined were: a total of 44 golfers won prizes in the men’s high and low flights, 27 of the prize winners (61.4%) were in the lower-handicap half of their flight, and 17 of the prize winners (38.6%) were in the higher-handicap half of their flight.By individual tournament, the results were:
So the better golfers in each flight won prizes more than half again as often as the poorer golfers in each flight (the flights were halved by equalizing the number of golfers in each half).Which is really the bottom line.We all contribute an equal dollar amount to the prizes.Should the prizes go disproportionately to our better golfers?Certainly, there’s no ethical or moral issue involved; it’s only a question of what club members want.And certainly also, the decision to have a handicap system that disproportionately rewards our better golfers should be a conscious decision, not one made by default because it is the system used by the USGA.
REPLY TO FOUR OBJECTIONS
Because I’ll be in Minnesota and can’t attend the club’s meeting to discuss my “Study of the Handicap System,” I would like to reply briefly to four objections to the study.
(1) Occasionally, higher handicap golfers have won more prizes than any of the lower handicap golfers in their flights, over a substantial time period.For example, Ernie T. was the single, biggest winner of prizes all last year, while in the higher handicap half of his flight.
Comment.The Study is based on statistics and averages.Of course, individual examples can be cited that contradict the Study’s conclusions, which is the nature of statistics.Nonetheless, the main effect described in the Study exists: the stroke adjustment feature of the club’s handicap method systematically worsens the chances of higher handicap golfers to win prizes, compared to the chances of lower handicap golfers.Individual golfers may have good years or improve enough to overcome the effect, but that does not mean the effect is not operating.
(2) The highest handicap range of golfers (handicaps 44-58) in the Study is composed of female golfers.
Comment.I’m not sure why this fact is supposed to undermine the validity of the Study. To my thinking, the Study’s applicability to both male and female players is a strength, and it shows that the same factors operate to determine good and poor golf scores whether the golfer is male or female (a fact that is not really surprising).
(3) The club’s using stroke adjustments may penalize higher handicap golfers relative to lower handicap golfers.But the high handicap golfers of today are the low handicap golfers of tomorrow, and what you lose when you have a high handicap, you recover when you lower your handicap in the future by improving your game.
Comment.The answer to this objection was stated succinctly by Bob H. when I discussed it with him: “We may not live that long.”In fact, (the objector) admitted that he feels bad about the effect of stroke adjustments on the prizewinning prospects of some of the club’s older, higher handicap golfers whose games have already peaked.Other higher handicap members who won’t improve enough to overcome the adverse effect of stroke adjustments are: (a) members who play tournaments for only a short time relative to how long it takes to improve their games, and (b) members who lacked the foresight to be born with the athletic ability or the temperament to improve their high handicap games significantly, regardless of the number of years they play.I didn’t ask (the objector) how he feels about these golfers.
(4) The club’s using stroke adjustments may penalize higher handicap golfers relative to lower handicap golfers.But stroke adjustments are necessary to discourage “sandbagging” by golfers – intentionally inflating handicaps by intentionally making high scores on individual holes.
Comment.To not try to play one’s best in a golf tournament evidently violates no rule of golf, but it certainly invalidates any handicap system intended to equalize competition between golfers of differing abilities.There are (at least) two questions, however.Will sandbagging occur in the absence of stroke adjustments in a private club like ours where members know each other personally, and where playing groups know each others’ golf games well enough to detect sandbagging and discourage it by unofficial means?And even if the answer to the first question is yes, does the value of using stroke adjustments to discourage sandbagging outweigh the negative effect of stroke adjustments on higher handicap golfers?
These two questions do not seem to me to have simple answers.Moreover, a rational approach to the sandbagging issue evidently requires an accurate perception of how serious the sandbagging problem is.Whereas, apparently perceptions of the problem vary greatly and are very subjective.But if we can’t agree on how much sandbagging there is or how much it can be discouraged unofficially, isn’t that another argument against stroke adjustments?Or an argument at least for dropping stroke adjustments for a trial period, to see whether without them our higher handicap golfers win more prizes while the prizewinners generally are no more suspected of sandbagging?
The first time I remember that I saw my father cry was when we were living on a small ranch in the south-central Texas hill country, when I was seven or eight. There was a pond about half a mile from the ranch house where my father and his friends shot doves late summer and early autumn evenings. Beside the pond was a raised platform with a roof, and the shooters would stand on the platform in partial concealment, drinking beer, talking, and waiting for the birds to come winging in to water for the night. When someone knocked a bird down into the pond, the dogs raced to retrieve it; and the man whose dog swam back first with a downed bird won a bet, as of course did the man who downed the bird. Across the pond from the platform, there was a telephone pole standing in long grass and weeds.
I’d been begging my father for what seemed like an eternity to let me come to the pond when the men were shooting. He always said no, it would be too dangerous. Then one day he gave me an old 410 shotgun of his, took me out, showed me how to load and unload, aim, and shoot. And he must have told me that the men would hold off shooting until I’d got a bird and gone back to the ranch house.
Which was how I came to be sitting by a pond, in the early evening of a hot September day, in long grass by a telephone pole waiting for a dove to land on a wire. But I had buck fever and missed the first two birds, just sitting there no more than thirty feet from me. To the great amusement and guffaws of the men across the pond. I had better luck with the third dove and knocked it off the wire. It fluttered down into the grass where I found it immediately, not dead but alive and looking me directly in the eye. Its head and neck were beautiful and incredibly graceful, its coloring an astonishing grey. I called out, “Dad, he isn’t dead.” He said, “That’s all right, son. Pick him up and pull his head off.”
At first I simply did not believe my dad had said that. But I realized he did say it when he repeated with implacable and irrefutable adult logic: “The bird is suffering, son, pick it up and pull its head off.” So I picked the bird up. And I said, “I can’t, Dad.” I could tell dad’s anger was rising, and this put me on the edge of tears. He said, “Pull the goddam bird’s head off, G.L., or you’re going back to the house.” In tears now, I repeated that I couldn’t. “Pull the bird’s head off, and put it out of its misery, or you’re going back to the house and you’re not coming back to shoot with the men.” By this time my face was crimson with tears and shame and the only thing I could hear or see was a noise inside my head. I stood underneath the wires with the dove in my hand, bawling. Then I was running back to the ranch house.
I’m sure my mother and sister must have consoled me when I got back to the house, but I don’t remember. The first thing I do remember was dad coming into my bedroom hours later, and he was crying. He told me he was sorry for getting angry with me. How he could understand why I didn't want to pull the bird’s head off. And that when I got used to pulling the heads off sparrows that I knocked out of trees with my BB gun, I could come back to the pond and shoot with the men.
Someone said something like, “Childhood is an eternity; all the rest passes in an instant.” During the part of my eternity when I lived on a ranch in Texas, three brothers lived on an adjoining ranch. Jim was my sister’s age, a couple of years older than I was; Johnny was about my age; and David was several years younger – so young he usually was excluded from our games and horse-riding adventures. Johnny and I were eight or nine and although we weren’t best friends, we were close. He was a year behind me in school, which at our ages ordinarily precluded close friendships, but Johnny was old for his class and I was young for mine.
One day Johnny invited me to a Saturday birthday party for one of his classmates who lived on another ranch adjoining ours; I didn’t know him but Johnny got the OK. The invitation was unexpected, and ultimately I regretted accepting it. The prospect of cake and ice cream and excitement was fine, but I found out soon enough that my parents had decided to not drive me to the ranch house where the party was being given and pick me up afterwards. Instead, they expected me to ride my bike, although I’d never been to the ranch, much less to the ranch house. So Johnny drew me a map.
The part of central Texas where we lived was low hills and rocks, plus extreme heat in the summer. So by the time I’d ridden my bike to the ranch where the party was, by the back way following Johnny’s map, the sun was high and the August heat was extreme. Now, “rocks” on ranches where we lived are too small to be boulders but large enough to be immovably embedded in the ground, turning the parallel paths considered roads on ranches into very uncomfortable rides except for very comfortable vehicles. Many hills are too low for the roads to wind around them, so it’s up one side and down the other. Going up a hill on a bicycle was hard not just because of gravity but because the embedded rocks were best avoided. And gravity could be exploited going down a hill only by riding so fast that the embedded rocks were frequently unavoidable, making the ride so bumpy that keeping the bike upright was a challenge When Johnny’s map directions became obviously inapplicable to my physical surroundings, I realized I’d missed so many unmarked forks in the road that I’d become totally lost. With each hill, I resolved to continue past the next one, and if I didn’t see the ranch house from there, I’d go back by tracing each fork’s handle, as it were.
The sweat was running down into my eyes, but there was never a ranch house to be seen. Just more low hills and parallel paths with embedded rocks. The afternoon sun cooked my bare head unbelievably and reflected off the whiteness of the road and the rocks. I hadn’t the foresight to bring a water bottle, and the thirst was killing me. My father had repeatedly lectured me on the ignominy of quitting, but at last I did just that. I stopped, turned around, and headed home – not even attempting to fake it by wasting time on the way back.
Jim and Johnny and David had dark black, curly blond, and indescribable orangish hair respectively, and their hair colors fit their personalities. (Many years later my sister told me they were all three adopted.) Jim was taciturn, Johnny was always laughing and extroverted, and David was, well, David was just strange and quiet little David. Our different ages and distinct personalities pretty much left Johnny and me sharing the most times together of the five of us – exploring, competing, playing hide and catch-up games on horseback, fishing, and on and on. But the idyll ended when I was ten years old in 1952 and our family moved from the ranch to the city, in order for my sister and me to go to “good schools” and because the polio scare had passed. And we never saw our erstwhile neighbors again. But five years later, I was getting drunk on beer at a typical Texas-teen party in Austin, and I heard the last thing I’d ever hear about Johnny.
Evidently Johnny had gone to a good school too, in Austin, a special school for boys with “behavioral problems.” One of the guys at the party had also gone to the school, and he heard me mention Johnny’s name in connection with it. He butted into the conversation I was having and asked me if I’d heard what Johnny did last semester. I said I hadn’t. “He hanged himself,” the guy said, “He was a queer, you know.”
The second and last time I remember that I saw my father cry was when we were living in the city, in south-central Texas. I was fourteen and I’d finished my second year at a military school after leading my class both years in scholastics, military leadership, a sport, and everything else I was interested in. Two years before, dad had transferred me from a public school I’d been attending because I was only an average student there, and he decided I needed “the discipline.”
I remember seeing him cry a few minutes after he hit me with his belt for the last time. There had been an argument at the dinner table, and I got up while it was in progress, went up to my room and slammed the door. Then I heard him coming up the stairs, and then he was standing in the doorway taking off his belt. A while later, he came back to my room and said he wanted to talk to me downstairs. In the dark guest room, I saw his figure sitting on one of the twin beds and I heard him weeping. I sat on the bed beside him and he talked to me. I might have expected him to apologize for what had just happened, but he didn’t, and he didn’t apologize for the years of hitting my sister and me that went before. Instead, I only remember him saying through the tears, “Son, you can be anything in this world you want to be...”
For almost my entire life since I stopped feeling so horrible for so long in my twenties, I’d thought that dad’s hitting had irreparably damaged my self-respect. And I still think the hitting predisposed me to depression, but I’ve identified two decisions – a good one overlooked and a bad one made – which I believe triggered my horribles in the summer of 1960, and I’ve finally stopped thinking about what being hit when I was growing up has to do with who I am. But for more than twenty years now, I’ve returned to thoughts of whether all the hitting damaged my mother – the physically uninjured witness who didn’t intercede. She never intimated to my sister or me that she had tried to convince dad to not hit us, or even that she had disapproved of it. But if she had opposed him, how could she have talked about it to us while we lived together as a family, which we did as long as she lived?
She lived for more than thirty years with the knowledge that my sister and I would construe her reticence as continuing complicity. And of course we did. Wasn’t it just that?
Introduction.Information is power.In a society organized according to principles of rationality and justice, information will be universally available and widely diffused, permeating the social order with power.In a society organized according to capitalist principles, information will be concentrated in the hands of a ruling class and its agents, augmenting and even displacing the force required to maintain capitalist inequities. The burden of the following essay is to argue that differences in information – information differentials – are intrinsic to the capitalist mode of production; and that under free market capitalism this mode of production is reproduced in the post-investment redistribution of profits among corporations, itself largely determined by information differentials; and finally, that in America the corporate sector as a whole maintains its hegemony only by concealing from the public the most basic features of domestic politics, foreign affairs, and the system of criminal justice. In short, information differentials both define and critically conceal the distribution and exercise of power throughout the American political economy.
Information and the Capitalist Mode of Production.According to Braverman the essence of the capitalist mode of production is its transformation of working humanity into an instrument of capital, a transformation achieved by the separation, within each labor process, of conception from execution.This separation has always characterized the capitalist mode of production and, with the advent of "Taylorism" or "Scientific Management" after 1890, was itself conceptualized and verbalized as a theory of management.Braverman describes the theory of "Scientific Management":
. . .the first principle (of Scientific Management) is the gathering and
development of knowledge of labor processes(;) the second is the
concentration of this knowledge as the exclusive province of
management – together with its essential converse, the absence of
such knowledge among workers – (;) the third is the use of this
monopoly over knowledge to control each step of the labor process
and its mode of execution. (1)
"Scientific Management" is predicated on differences in knowledge about labor processes – information differentials.To the extent industries are managed "scientifically," the role of unemployment in the disciplining of the labor force is subordinated to that of "Scientific Management."And the scale and intensity of the exploitation of labor is increasingly determined by how effectively management monopolizes its "knowledge to control each step of the labor process and its mode of execution."
Information and the Redistribution of Capitalist Profits.The magnitude of the exploitation of labor under capitalism determines the initial distribution of capitalist profits.Under free market capitalism – still the predominant form of capitalism – this initial distribution is only temporary, however, because the dynamics of the accumulation process compel corporations intending to augment profits to invest the fruits of exploitation, most significantly in the financial markets and in technology. (2)And according to how successfully they are reinvested, corporate profits are redistributed.But how successfully corporate profits are reinvested in the financial markets and in technology, under free market capitalism, is a function of information differentials.
Financial Information Differentials.A redistribution of corporate profits results whenever an event occurs having predictable consequences for the profits of corporations, if different investors learn of the event's occurrence at different times.A most notorious example of the phenomenon was the Rothschilds' killing on the London Stock Marked in 1815, made possible because they learned, some hours before the rest of England found out, that Napoleon had been defeated at Waterloo.
Even better than knowing before other investors that an event has occurred is having prior knowledge that it will occur.Prior knowledge of the planned activities of corporations themselves constitutes the single greatest source of financial information differentials in America's free market economy, and where not obtained by conspiracy, bribery, or coercion, such information is sought by corporate espionage. (3)
Technological Information Differentials.A redistribution of profits results when any corporation increases, vis-a-vis competing corporations, the output of labor and materials by technological improvement. (4)Such improvements may be patented and so legally, though seldom for long effectively, protected from expropriation by other corporations.Patents are both licenses to profit from technological information differentials and schematizations of the differentials themselves.Because the latter feature renders patents so easily infringed, most technological improvements are not patented; they are protected by secrecy only.
Free Enterprise.The capitalist economic system predicated upon the redistribution of corporate profits according to differentials in financial and technological information – "free market" capitalism – is commonly called the "free enterprise system."In the American free enterprise system, corporate espionage does a greater volume of business yearly than the housing construction industry.
Information and Corporate Power.Under modern free enterprise capitalism, profits are extracted from workers and then redistributed among corporations in processes predicated upon information differentials.These processes are sanctified by capitalist ideologues in the names of efficiency and private initiative, but their real significance lies in their providing "successful" paradigms for valuing outcomes predicated upon information differentials in the political sphere.In fact the power of the entire corporate sector in America is based on activities effectively concealed from the public.
Three areas are critical to the maintenance of corporate power in America: domestic politics, foreign affairs, and the system of criminal justice.The salient feature of each of these areas of activity is its inaccessibility to public consciousness.
Domestic Politics.The fundamental proposition underlying domestic politics in the United States is this: the free enterprise economy distributes national wealth, and it does so independently of the political system.The widespread acceptance of the validity and desirability of this proposition is critical to the hegemony of the corporate sector because its consequence is a depoliticized public – if politics is supplemental to the economic system, then politics has an inferior claim on the public's attention – when political power is the only force capable of controlling the corporate sector.
The fundamental proposition is only half-true, however.Indeed, the free enterprise economy distributes national wealth in America, but it does not accomplish this result independently of the political system.The main business of domestic politics in America is the maintenance of the free enterprise economy, and this requires continuous and substantial governmental expenditures.Without these expenditures the free enterprise economy would collapse. (5)
That the free enterprise economy requires political underwriting for its survival and is not a self-sustaining, beneficent, efficient, and impersonal allocator of national wealth, is the great secret of domestic politics in America.If the secret were not kept from the overwhelming majority of Americans, they would realize that government is necessary rather than peripheral to their welfare, and they would become interested in domestic politics, to the inevitable detriment of corporate power.To maintain the secret, corporate interests have kept domestic politics effectively closed to public consciousness.
Consequential governmental proceedings have always been conducted in complete secrecy in the United States, in "executive session." [And virtually all governmental proceedings are effectively secret, due to the exclusion of live television from their coverage.This ban on live television coverage of even inconsequential governmental proceedings is justified as necessary to protect "the integrity of the deliberative process;" it is also justified on the grounds that live television coverage would be biased toward the politics and politicians favored by television program directors.But beneath these excuses resides an awareness in the minds of corporate politicians that opening up inconsequential governmental proceedings to live television coverage could lead to a demand for similar coverage of consequential government proceedings; and this would result in a political education of the public of such proportions as to threaten the continuance of the primary domestic political activity itself – the maintenance of the free enterprise economy.(6)]
Foreign Affairs.If the insulation of domestic politics from public consciousness is both necessary to and validated by the myth in America that business is what matters and politics is too unimportant for public attention, the insulation of foreign politics (foreign affairs) from public consciousness is both necessary to and validated by the myth that they are too important for public attention.According to the strong version of the latter myth, public influence upon foreign relations is pernicious, a thesis which pervaded the American foreign policy establishment long before Walter Lipmann concluded, at the high tide of the cold war, that it was jingoistic public opinion in England in 1914 and pacifistic public opinion in the 1930's that brought about the world wars. (7) A similarly blatant expression of the anti-democratic attitude shared by American foreign policymakers – an attitude so common it is almost always assumed rather than elaborated upon – was Henry Kissinger's justification of secret Egyptian-Israeli negotiations in 1977 on the grounds that secrecy permits negotiators to be more flexible and not locked into positions their constituencies support.
Such anti-democratic attitudes derive mainly from the fundamentally anti-democratic foreign policy which American foreign policymakers pursue.Hence the broadening of the class origins of the foreign policy establishment from a narrow Eastern elite before World War II to a diversified national group – corresponding as it did with America's attempt to consolidate a global corporate imperium – had no democratizing effects.And the essential activities required to maintain America's global corporate hegemony – the systematic force, bribery and manipulation that have come to be subsumed under the heading "covert CIA activities" –are kept secret not primarily because otherwise the American public might disapprove of them, but because revealed in the victimized countries they would lose much of their effectiveness.
That secrecy is righteously and routinely justified by American foreign policy-makers as necessary to the conduct of foreign affairs should be appalling.That the justification is swallowed whole by the American public simply demonstrates the effects upon the public of forty years of foreign policy being formulated and carried out in the shadows.In the words of Adam Yarmolinsky, "There are surprisingly few operationally significant questions for the policymaker as to which any public opinion, in my view, exists at all.” (8)
Secrecy in the formulation and conduct of American foreign policy – necessary to its ends and reflecting the deep-seated anti-democratic biases of foreign policymakers – has rendered the public inert and thereby given American foreign policy great stability and a probably even greater appearance of stability.It has also done more.Secrecy has played a further critical role in the selling of particular foreign policies, enabling policymakers to describe foreign situations in ways at variance with reality in order to command support for specific, usually military, policy options.This bludgeoning function of secret foreign intelligence may be beginning to come under the scrutiny of scholars of American history. (9)
The System of Criminal Justice.Trials of persons accused of violating the criminal law are public in the United States, but the trial stage is the only part of the system of criminal justice that is public.Secrecy is justified in pretrial stages – the investigative and indictment stages – to protect police "informant systems" and to insure defendants "a fair trial."The questionable primacy of the first justification and validity of the second aside, the main result of pretrial secrecy in the system of criminal justice is the concealment of illegitimate police activities – the infiltration and harassment that comprise the initial measures of political repression.Secrecy is justified in the post-trial stage – the incarceration state – by "custodial considerations;" convicted criminals, and indicted persons who cannot post bail, lose their right to free speech.The result is capital punishment without public cognizance, the final measure of political repression.
Consequently, only a tiny fraction of the system of criminal justice is public in the United States, and only a tiny fraction of the whole is non-violent and non-abusive.And the contours of the American war on political dissidents remain effectively veiled.
The Myth of the Open Society:Secrecy and the Newspress.In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.Upon the newspress falls the responsibility of sustaining the myth that the United States’ political economy is fundamentally open, with pockets of secrecy, rather than fundamentally defined by information differentials, with apertures of openness.But in fact the newpress is required by law, directly or indirectly, to respect all of the political eoconomy’s major concealments.These laws enact the least cumbersome form of censorship – prior exclusion – and deny the newpress access to four areas of conflict whose exposure would drasticallyundermine corporate power vis-a-vis the rest of American society.These four areas, with the paramount interests said to justify the exclusion of the newspress from each, are:
·Labor processes and corporate business practices (proprietary information).
·The system of criminal justice (integrity of police procedures, fair trial and custodial considerations),
·Domestic governmental proceedings (integrity of the deliberative process).
·Foreign affairs (national security)
In addition to its legal exclusion from forbidden areas, because the newspress' profits depend on the profits of its corporate advertisers, it has a financial interest in self-censoring reportage that would lessen its advertisers' profits.Since coverage of forbidden areas would undermine corporate power and wealth, the newspress does not provide such coverage.
Non-coverage of forbidden areas by the newspress is explained then, by three factors: (1) the power of the dominant participants to legally exclude the newspress; (2) the newspress' financial interest in not undermining advertising revenue; and (3) the newspress' acceptance of both the pre-eminence of the paramount interests justifying non-coverage and the incompatibility of those interest with coverage.What coverage of forbidden areas there is requires espionage and betrayal.But it should not be surprising that the newspress is required to resort to these methods to pierce the pervasive and doctrinal secrecy surrounding consequential governmental and corporate activities; in such cases, the ends define the means.
Credibility in Crisis?If the resiliency of American politics reflects a capacity to define issues having structural causes by construing them as questions of personalities, the Pentagon Papers and Watergate cases are perfect examples of the process at work.The villains of both pieces have been almost universally identified as particular politicians who lied, rather than a secrecy system that makes such lying inevitable because profitable.So reform assumes the character of a "post-Watergate mentality", and a new President declares "I will never lie to you."
"Credibility," of course, is a personal trait; and the credibility gap is simply the most recent and egregious testament to the enduring strength of the myth of the open society.Since all lies, except those referring to states of mind, are predicated upon objectively discernable differences in information, the credibility gap has always rested upon "information gaps."Much else also rests thereupon.
1. Harry Braverman, Labor and Monopoly Capital (New York, 1974), p 119.Italics in the original.Braverman also writes: "A comprehensive and detailed outline of the principles of (Scientific Management) is essential. . .because. . .(they are). . .nothing less than the explicit verbalization of the capitalist mode of production."Ibid., p 86.
2. "Free market" capitalism refers to the form of capitalism characterized by markets in which profits are distributed relatively free of governmental direction.("Fascism" is the form of capitalism characterized by governmentally mandated profit distribution."Free market" and "fascist" capitalism are end points on a spectrum, of course, to which no existing capitalist system fully corresponds.)
3. A not insubstantial fraction of the redistribution of corporate profits through financial markets is random.See Lester C. Thurow, "Tax Wealth, Not Income," in The New York Times Magazine (April 11, 1973).To the extent it is not random (which is what is of interest to rational investors), the redistribution is largely determined by information differentials.
4. By means of the price mechanism in a price competitive environment, or by means of increased promotional efforts otherwise, profits are redistributed from corporations which have not adopted improved production techniques to corporations which have.
5. The acceptance by the business sector in America of the fact that public investment must supplement private investment, in order for the economy not to stagnate, constitutes the essence of the "Keynesian Revolution."That public investment is not justified as maintaining the free enterprise economy – but rather as necessary to national defense, public transportation, health, welfare, etc. -- in no way alters its maintenance effects or the fact that such effects are understood and accepted by the business sector.
6. Possibly still intoxicated by the television coverage of Watergate, here I obviously underestimated the powers of legislators to limit television’s coverage of legislative proceedings to only those of symbolic significance.(Footnote added in 1995.)
7. Walter Lippmann, The Public Philosophy (Little, Brown & Company, 1955).For an even more telling source of the cold warrior thesis that public pacifism in England let to World War II, see John Kennedy, Why England Slept (Funk & Wagnalls, 1961).
8. Quoted in Bernard C. Cohen, The Public's Impact on Foreign Policy (Little, Brown & Company, 1973), P 82.An excellent book limited to non-military aspects of foreign policy; its conclusions belie its title.
9. Richard W. Steele, "Franklin D. Roosevelt and His Foreign Policy Critics," in Political Science Quarterly Spring, 1979), 15.Also see the book reviews by Barton Bernstein in recent issues of Inquiry magazine.