Monday, September 29, 2014

Matt 24 watch, 253: Israeli PM again warns the UN General Assembly, Sept 2014 . . . probably to the usual deaf ears

Courtesy RT, the full speech:

This evening BBC highlighted that Mr Netanyahu pointed out that to defeat ISIS at the price of letting Iran across the nuke line would be to forfeit the war to try to win a relatively small battle. [U/D, Oct 2] His words:
“Don’t be fooled by Iran’s manipulative charm offensive. Once Iran produces atomic bombs, all the charm will suddenly disappear. To defeat [the Islamic State] and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war.”

He warns of ISIS' global conquest ambitions, shows that Hamas has made almost the same declarations, and broadens the issue to militant Islam around the world. But, he is forced to note that -- as with a cancer that starts small then grows -- many may be tempted to not take the matter seriously from the first (and, presumably, nip it in the bud). 

He also took time to do a bit of show and tell on the recent clashes over rockets that also thwarted the planned Sept 24 hostage taking and mass murder attacks using tunnels:

Yes, a double war crime, in a context where an implication of the twistabout blame the targetted victim accusations is that the world has now -- ominously -- de facto endorsed human shield tactics and rocketing of civilians. 

  Mr Netanyahu (for all Israel's own sins and errors) is credibly right, but between short-sighted pols, superficial of biased journalists and those who in their imagination view the West as the "real" global problem and hope to see a powerful IslamIST bloc as a counter-weight I doubt his warning will be heeded. My deep pessimism about our global geostrategic situation continues. END

PS: Again, cf here for balancing perspectives on the history of modern Israel.  The RH column of this blog gives more.

PPS: Full text here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Matt 24 watch, 252: The Hamas Sept 24, 2014 Rosh Hashana mass murder and mass hostage seizing attack on Israel -- not

Had Israel not attacked Hamas in July (in response to rocketing attacks) and destroyed the 30 - 40 attack tunnels targetting Kindergartens and Kibbutzes, it seems that this morning world news headlines would have been dominated by a massive, mass murder and mass hostage taking terrorist attack by Hamas. 

The planned attack that should have been a major focus for regional news and commentary, because of the global significance of what it reveals about radical IslamISM. 

But, of course, this does not fit the preferred narrative for what is going on in the Middle East and wider world in light of the IslamIST tidal wave, and so there was a revealing widespread silence. 

Lost in the condemnation of Israel.

Let us remind ourselves, even as we awaken to what I expect to be an ordinary news day instead of the horror that was evidently planned and prepared for, for years.

An IDF map of six of the tunnels shows the effort and intent:

One of the tunnels:

Inside the tunnels -- revealing just what all that cement that was supposed to be building homes and hospitals (remember the protests on how those wicked Israelis were blocking building such peaceful buildings?) actually largely went into building:

Let me cite and augment Mordechai Ben-Menachem, who has compiled a stunning picture:
Multiple media outlets report that Hamas’s offensive tunnel network – now known to have been composed of over forty attack tunnels dug underneath Israel’s border with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip – was set to be activated during the Jewish High Holidays (September 24th) as a mass terror attack.

The attack was meant to generate as many as ten thousand casualties, men, women and particularly children and hundreds of captives.  Explosives were particularly placed underneath kindergartens to make certain that these “institutions” would be the first struck, even before any thing else . . . . [T]unnels were created in pairs, to empty out on both sides of nearby communities.  The known cost of the infrastructure – each tunnel costs upward of some $1 million – clearly shows that Hamas was planning a coordinated mega-attack . . . . 
Israeli security sources, citing information acquired in interrogations of [reportedly forty-eight captured Hamas operatives] . . . , described a scenario under which [up to] hundreds of heavily armed Hamas fighters [many dressed in Israeli uniforms] would have spilled out [from each tunnel] into Israel in the dead of night and within 10 minutes been positioned to infiltrate essentially all Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip.  Waiting then in hiding until schools and kindergartens were occupied, the terrorists would then attempt to kill the children first, and then kill and kidnap as many Israelis as possible . . . .
Israeli military officials reported that the tunnels are stocked with tranquilizers, handcuffs, syringes, ropes and other materials used for subduing abductees, civilians and soldiers.  The tunnels also had fantastic quantities of explosives and additional military materiel meant to be used in the up-coming mega attack.  Much of these explosives had already been placed underneath Israeli kindergartens.  Some of these tunnels were as deep as 30 meters underground . . . .

“Hamas planned these tunnels for years, and planned to use them to kidnap soldiers,” Israeli military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mordechai Almoz said. “[Now] they see the tunnels collapsing one after the other.”  For the last two years, the Israeli army has sought to develop skills and equipment to fight in enemy tunnels and bunkers.  Hamas and Islamic Jihad have used tunnels to operate command and control, to infiltrate Israel and abduct soldiers, to fire rockets and to conceal fighters amid invasion of the Gaza Strip., in addition to corroborating the above, reports on how a dozen retired US flag rank officers toured one of these tunnels:
Gen. James T. Conway, USMC (ret.) recently returned from Israel, where he was joined by a dozen retired U.S. generals and admirals, sponsored by Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). While there, the group toured a tunnel from Gaza recently discovered near an Israeli kindergarten. 

“Unlike tunnels that I had seen during the Iraq war that were designed for smuggling, this Hamas tunnel was designed for launching murder and kidnapping raids. The 3-mile-long tunnel was reinforced with concrete, lined with telephone wires, and included cabins unnecessary for infiltration operations but useful for holding hostages,” the retired General wrote in the Wall Street Journal
Let us ponder, long and hard, on what this points to, given the very direct parallel in Iraq and Syria with ISIS and similar Jihadist groups.

I will note that the underlying concept of the attack, mass murder, mass hostage taking and intimidation, was fatally flawed.

It would have made Israelis utterly clear as to the existential nature of the threat they faced and Israel would have made the iron decision that with millions of lives now in the stakes, thousands are horrible but necessary casualties. A massive counter attack would have launched within 24 - 48 hours, with intent to destroy Hamas and hold ground used in piratical mass attacks on the people and nation of Israel. Iran, obviously implicated, would have been on the target list (especially its nuke weapons programme), and had Hezbollah, the Iranian cat's paw in Lebanon moved a muscle, it too would have been targetted for massive retaliation.

 And, Israel would have been simply deaf to international demands, which would be viewed as discredited by longstanding track record and by the force of events on the ground. A nice eulogy is not enough when a nation faces the living memory genocide of 6 millions and has enemies sworn to complete the job under false colours of  divine mandate -- the notorious Gharqad tree hadith of Islam, which is a part of clause seven of the Hamas covenant; here from Hadiths as collected in Sahih Muslim, Bk 41:
Book 041, Number 6981:
Ibn 'Umar reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: You will fight against the Jews and you will kill them until even a stone would say: Come here, Muslim, there is a Jew (hiding himself behind me) ; kill him . . . .
Book 041, Number 6983:
Abdullah b. 'Umar reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: You and the Jews would fight against one another until a stone would say: Muslim, here is a Jew behind me; come and kill him.
Book 041, Number 6984:
Abdullah b. 'Umar reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: The Jews will fight against you and you will gain victory over them until the stone would say: Muslim, here is a Jew behind me; kill him.

Book 041, Number 6985:
Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.

 Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran as well as all others who follow such folly or ignore the evidence of hateful motive implied, are playing with fire. END

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Capacity focus, 92: Some first thoughts on Project Management 101 in a context of development and sustainability concerns

I have for over twenty-five years been of the view that one of the best start-points for learning basic management (and linked leadership skills) is to study basic project management. 
(Cf. the section on Planning and Management p. 105 ff here . . . NB: there's a spot of web site rot to address on the html side. Later . . . )
Multiplying this by issues linked to sustainable development and challenges surfacing in an in-process government transition here in Montserrat, I think a few capacity focus notes are in order on project management basics. Just, as a marker.

First, a useful view on what a project is, is:
PROJECT:  a time-framed cluster of linked activities towards achieving a goal, 
. . . such as this longstanding simple example I used from all those years ago:
EXAMPLE PROJECT: To make a cup of tea.
We start at the end, "cup of tea made," and work back to the beginning by asking "What must be done before this stage (technically, 'event') is reached"?  This specifies the activities, events, and their logical order, which we represent in a network diagram:
                        END:   Cup of tea made
                        1.         Fetch cup, saucer, tea, colander
                        2.         Boil water
                        3.         Fetch milk, spoon, sugar
                        4.         Put tea in colander
                        5.         Pour boiling water through tea into [cup]
                        6.         Remove colander and spent tea
                        7.         Add sugar and milk to taste and stir
                        8.         Clean up
In the network diagram, Activities are represented by numbered arrows and the resulting Events by circles.  The key rule is that an Event cannot occur until all activities which flow out of it can start, that is, all Activities pointing into it have been completed.  For instance, we cannot add sugar and milk to our cup of tea until the colander is out of the way, but we can fetch the milk and sugar at any time before we stir them into the tea.

Of course, one could go into elaborate discussions on network diagrams or linked Gantt charts, MS Project and similar software etc and resource allocation debates, budgeting and more, but that would rapidly go on to technical project management, suited to a major construction exercise or developing a software application. Whilst, just as ordinary people find Carpenter's tools very useful to do basic things, just so, a preliminary exposure to project management principles and concepts as well as linked skills and contexts will be helpful for us all.

So far, we have been looking at project planning, which is of course a basic example of planning

For which, let us borrow another diagram from the same linked primer:

The key idea here, is that planning and implementing are linked activities, pointed towards a definite goal, with deliverable results. But, as it is hard to keep on track, the management task includes monitoring and adjusting on the fly. This leads to moving along a progressive spiral path: analyse, plan, implement, monitor- evaluate- control; repeat until satisfied or until it is objectively clear that one ought not to further commit oneself to failure and has a better alternative.  

Much as, courtesy Wiki, we can see how a sail-boat heading upwind has to tack from one side to another in a zig-zag fashion in order to "beat to windward":

Sometimes, the challenges are so powerful that one has to re-visit one's analysis of the context and the SWOT picture . . . a good plan builds on strengths, to exploit opportunities, counter threats, and compensate for or correct weaknesses. (Indeed, just above a key challenge for a sail-boat is that it cannot generally sail straight upwind. So, by sliding off to one side then the other in the zig-zag we see, it can generally make upwind progress. But a steady knowing eye needs to be had on what is going on and how trends are developing, or such a boat can get into a lot of trouble fast. Especially in a race.)

So, by understanding and adapting to the situation, trends and shocks, we are able to make progress.

Generally, gradually.

That requires planning and executing a strategy, 
STRATEGY: a planned or emergent pattern of effort, activities and resource deployment to achieve goals in a situation
. . . which requires a focus on the objectives that indicate achievement of the goals [what you want], the "strategy" pattern of effort and activities [how to get there], and required resource inputs [what it takes . . . logistics].

In turn, this brings up the classic "Iron Triangle" of project management tradeoffs (here with a software development example, HT Scott Ambler):

What we want is, fast delivery of a cheap project with all the bells and whistles that so warm the cockles of our hearts. In reality, you cannot get all three maxed out, and must make trade-off compromises and sacrifices. Where, quality denotes fitness for purpose or function, and enduring satisfaction with benefits delivered, based on the right balance being struck.

Even, this blog post is a case in point. 

There's only so much time and effort that can be put in, to meet available time constraints and deliver a quality post: responsibly adequate on a big topic but not boring and overly long.

While I am at it, let me add a glance at one of my favourite planning tools, the logical framework or Log Frame . . . as I have adapted it for the needs of project implementers working with the project cycle:

[U/D Oct 4th] We may expand the project narrative logic into a planning model:

Another is the overview level Gantt chart, here adapted to look at a "stoplight" LED view of achieved vs planned:

The matrix based project team structure is a useful context for thinking about organising projects under a programme of action organisation home, too:

 While we are at it, there's the issue of people and performance, bringing up the situational leadership model of Hersey and Blanchard:

There is never a cut and dry one size fits all solution to leading and managing to achieve results while preserving enough harmony and teamwork to get the magical result that the whole is greater than the mere sum of the parts. 

Where also, groups classically go through challenges in a cycle of forming, storming, agreeing (norm-ing), working (and networking), and adjourning. Building a workable plan that there is enough support for to move the boat forward upwind is a problem, and more than one captain . . . leader . . .  has found him-/her- self demoted -- or even thrown overboard.

A tough, often thankless job.

By now, it should be clear how a basic look at and exercise in project management soon enough becomes a key start-point for growing in capacity to analyse situations, come up with strategies and plans, then put them to work successfully while working with, inspiring and mobilising people . . . leadership.

Where, of course, projects come in a cycle that can be looked at in terms of phased activities (and of course, linked paperwork it is not wise to rush over) -- here, courtesy the Gov't of Tasmania:

Closing the loop and highlighting project governance documentation and decisions:

For a first level quick look, I would suggest this slideshare slide show:

Then, for a bit more, this more elaborate one:

And, I think the Government of Tasmania has done us all a world of good by publishing this very useful project management primer. (And don't overlook the EU on managing the project cycle, here. Project cycle management is the strategic management, corporate or community governance look at projects and the programmes of action that sponsor and "cover" them. More on that, later.)

Where, all of this needs to be set in the context of sustainable development, SD for short:
SD: we must strive to better, more fairly meet our needs today – development, without undermining the ability of our children to meet their needs tomorrow – sustainability. (So, in our development efforts, we have to carefully husband our natural, socio-cultural and economic surroundings and resources – environment, in light of correctly understanding how development interacts with our surroundings.)
Readers in and around Montserrat should note that the UK International Development Act, 2002, that establishes the legal framework for DfID, our principal aid and development partner, in Sections 1 - 3, specifically defines development aid in terms of sustainability. 

This means that we must learn, understand deeply and make this ethics of development concept and axiom a key part of all our thinking and planning for development, which is already a good idea in its own right.

If you doubt its value and validity, consider that from the McGregor Royal Society Report was published in 1938 based on five years of volcano grumbling, Montserrat's development efforts should have been systematically redeployed away from putting all our eggs in the Plymouth basket. Then, after hurricane Hugo hit Sept 17, 1989, where the Wadge-Isaacs 1986 - 9 hazard studies were in hand,  that was even more vital. But, such were ignored, and we continued with development on a business as usual track that set us up for the disaster we are still trying to begin to recover from:

(That's the top of what IIRC is a 40+ ft church spire, since buried.)

Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to relive it.

SD and linked issues are central to understanding context, trends and risks, thus to sound leadership and planning. Of which project planning is such a key part.

As my Mom was so fond of saying: a word to the wise.

Okie, preliminary quick and dirty thoughts. 

DV, I will be working with partners on a workshop based course. 

Developing. END

PS: A survey video in light of the PMP PMBOK approach:


Friday, September 19, 2014

Scotland votes, 2014 -- NO . . .

BBC reports:

 Even so, this has significant implications for British policy-making, which have relevance for our situation here in the Caribbean. The world just got more complicated.

Again. END

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Scotland Independence referendum -- YouGov poll suggests No, at 54%:46 %

UK Independent reports:
. . . The YouGov survey put No on 54 per cent and Yes on 46 per cent.

With no exit polls conducted during the historic ballot, the survey by polling company YouGov was the only pointer for people eager for an early clue to the result, expected to be announced around breakfast-time tomorrow.

YouGov based its prediction on the responses of 1,828 people after they voted today, as well as 800 people who had already cast their ballots by post . . .
 Let us see what the official results will be. END

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Some implications of a Scotland vote to leave the UK -- sound policy is seldom sweet politics

I have been busy with the local election and transition to a new government here in Montserrat, but have had an eye on the Scotland referendum.


I can understand yearnings to be independent, and resentments over a history that has some pretty awful chapters.

However, more is at stake.

So much more that, as in material part a Scottish descendant, I express concerns on the implications.

Lignet has a useful short clip:
A breakup of Britain would weaken the international security posture and diplomatic clout of both England and Scotland. Moving the Trident submarines would make NATO more vulnerable. A ‘yes’ vote would also encourage Europe’s other separatist movements and change the political makeup of England by making it a more conservative nation without the leftist Scots.
The referendum would not lead to immediate independence. It would set the stage for 18 months of complicated negotiations between London and Edinburgh over the future of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, North Sea oil, monetary policy and other issues entwined in a union more than 300 years old . . . 
Britain is a significant, stabilising force on the global geostrategic scene. A materially weaker Britain has sobering implications.  Losing bases on the North Sea and the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap has consequences for the Atlantic Basin and the security of Europe. I also doubt that the local economic consequences for Scotland will be particularly rosy. A wave of separatist movements is not healthy either.

And a diminished Britain will face pressure to withdraw internationally and its power classes may not be able to stand against a tide of popular but unwise politics. 

Sound policy is seldom sweet politics.

In that context, I wish to suggest that well judged development aid and relief today is in the end far cheaper than being forced into a fight in the face of chaos.  Not, that I have any great hopes that that will ever become popular received wisdom.

So, I wait, and hope this will prove to be a storm in a teacup. 

Hope. END

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Web archive video from 9-11

Just found, here.

(No embed but the link is valuable for permanent record.)

Food for thought. END

Let us pause and remember . . . Sept 11, 2001 + 13 years

Today is the thirteenth anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks.

With the aid of a CNN tape, let us remember:

This, on inside the Twin Towers on that day will help bring the focus home further:

Let us reflect on the many lives lost, the survivors, families, and the wider world undergoing what can be seen as slow-burn World War IV. END

PS: The people of Montserrat go to the polls today. Pray for wisdom.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Rom 1 reply, 55b: A poem on why there is something rather than nothing

A reader has passed in the following poem, which I have permission to post under the author's name, as provocative -- and certainly not politically correct! -- food for thought:

By Billy Hall
Why should I believe in anything? 
Because I cannot believe in ‘nothing’!
For, logically, to believe in ‘nothing’ is
To believe in ‘something’ recognized as ‘nothing’.
Therefore, whether considered ‘measureless’ scientifically
Or even ‘meaningless’ semantically, the truth realistically
Is that ‘nothing’ is an impossibility in a world of infinity
For in such a world even concepts have perpetuity.
Therefore, logically it cannot then be denied,
Any claim of belief in ‘nothing’ is a claim of falsity;
Such a belief, definitely, contradicts rationality,
And so deserves ridicule except if claimed for fantasy.
Yet, there are religionists who claim belief in ‘Nirvana’;
An acclaimed achievement of profound ‘forgetfulness’;
Which adherents of such ‘deathlessness’ also call ‘nothingness’;
Such belief truthfully must be declared at best ‘foolishness’!

Worth the pause to ponder, whether or not you agree in whole or in part or not at all. END

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Rom 1 reply, 55: Why is there something instead of nothing?

This is yet another old, deep and hard -- thus, philosophical -- question. 

One, I need to take up as a response to someone grappling with it. Where, almost by definition, hard questions are hard because they have no easy answers. 

And where, we also face the consequent problem that if at first one accepts P1, P2, . . . Pn and draws out Q as a consequence but does not like Q, one can reject Q to deny one or more premises:

1: {P1, P2, . . . Pn} => Q

2: I reject Q, and argue:

3: ~ Q => ~ {P1 AND P2 AND. . . AND Pn} 
4: So, I say: Pi, Pj etc "beg the question" or the like.
(All, to escape the "bite" of Q --
. . . which may be a subtle question-begging itself.)

 The answer to this is of course to compare difficulties on coherence, factual adequacy and explanatory power . . . neither an ad hoc patchwork trying to stop the next leak nor simplistic . . . and to hold to a view that rests as far as possible on hard to deny premises and facts.

So, let us begin with some observations:
O1: It is a fact that something exists including us

O2: It is a fact that we exist as contingent beings in a credibly contingent world, one that is rich with functionally specific complex organisation and associated information in both the world of cell based life and in the fine tuning of the cosmos that is the framework for such life

O3: It is a fact that this is the ONLY world that we have ordinary physical experience of

O4: But also, we experience that world as self-aware, self-moved beings able to choose and act into the world in ways that make a difference. That is, we ourselves are causally effective and minded. Also, we are credibly under the moral government of OUGHT.

O5: Moreover, we have never seen anything that begins come into existence without a cause.
Now, let us consider the issue:

P1: We exist in a going-concern world

C2: Something patently exists, rather than nothing, per O1 - 4. (If someone denies this, ask: how can nothing -- non-being -- argue or assert claims?)

P3: Nothing, properly, denotes non-being

P5: Non-being has no causal power

C6: Were there ever nothing, there could not thereafter be something

C7: Therefore, there never was nothing.

C8: So also, there always was something.

 C9: For any possible world (which excludes non-being), there must always be something

C10: There is no possible world in which there is nothing

C11: In the actual experienced world, there always was something

C12: The world being credibly contingent, that always-something would be independent of on/off enabling causal factors antecedent to it, and so would be a necessary being

P13: Matter, being inherently composite, dependent on space and being convertible into energy, cannot be a necessary being.

C14: The necessary being at the causal root of our world is necessary and immaterial, and powerful enough to be the primary cause of the world.

C15: So, once we start from a going concern world perspective, we see that provided something now is, something always was.

C16: Where also, had there instead been nothing, there never would be something.

P17: So also, we reckon with the principle that, being independent of ON/OFF enabling factors, a serious candidate necessary being will either be impossible . . . having core attributes that stand in mutual contradiction (cf. a square circle) . . . or else will be in any possible world, including that which we are a part of.

C18: Therefore, once we stand in a world with something, there must be something that is a successful, serious candidate necessary being, with capability to be causal root of a cosmos fine tuned for C-Chemistry, aqueous medium, self-replicating cell based, code and algorithm using [thus, language using . . . ] cell based life.

P19: Where, it is not credible that language, codes and complex algorithms with associated execution machinery came about in our cosmos by blind chance behaviour and/or blind forces of mechanical necessity. 

P20: Where also, the fine tuned cosmos that enables such life, is rooted in physics and cosmology that equally reflect functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information.

P22: Where also, both experience of trillions of cases of the origin of such FSCO/I and the challenge to successfully blindly search vast configuration spaces within reasonably available resources point to purposeful, skilled intelligence as the only empirically and analytically credible source of FSCO/I.

C23: Therefore, the observed something, the cosmos we live in and the life we experience point to an intelligent designer of both cosmos and cell based life in it.

P24: where also, we find ourselves morally governed by binding force of OUGHT attested by conscience and the credible worth of others that are as we are, leading to a need for a world-foundational IS capable of sustaining OUGHT.

P25: Across many centuries, there has been but one serious candidate for such: the inherently good creator God, a maximally great and necessary being, the originating and sustaining root of reality.

C26: Thus, as God is the main serious candidate necessary being in view, one faces the choice: God is impossible or actual

C27: But, credibly, God is not impossible, so is actual.

GC28: Therefore, the best explanatory reason why there is something rather than nothing is that there has always necessarily been the inherently good creator God, a maximally great and necessary being, the originator and sustainer of reality.
Can one reject this argument?


But, then one has some serious explaining to do on why one's alternative is factually adequate, coherent and explanatorily powerful and balanced. In particular, one will need to tackle the issue of God as serious candidate necessary being and the challenge: impossible or actual.

That is where the pivotal challenge lies. END