The Goliath Arab Propaganda Machine

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “The Goliath Arab Propaganda Machine.”

It has been 71 years since the founding of the modern State of Israel, and while Israel is thank G-d strong militarily, it continues to be seriously threatened by a relentless Arab propaganda war, which they are winning. This War of Words manifests itself on college campuses, protests and rallies against Israel, “progressive politics,” BDS, and the endless stream of anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations.


Please G-d, He will help us not only militarily to defeat the enemies of Israel, but also to prevail in the battle for truth and justice, identity and history, and ultimately for the Promised Land of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Ruediger)

On The First Night Of Chanukah

Please see my article in The Times of Israel called, “The Lesson of the Candy Lane Menorah.”

It was a beautiful ushering in the first night of Chanukah by Chabad of Bethesda, Maryland. The “candy” menorah that they were going to use was somehow destroyed, but Chabad came with a spare–they are terrific…even when things go wrong, miracles can happen, but we have to be prepared like Chabad was tonight.

Happy First Night of Chanukah to everyone! 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Russia Seems To Have A Strategy, Why Don’t We?

Bomb Pop

Russia upends the U.S. and NATO once again, now carrying out a third day of a devastating bombing campaign that shows no sign of letting up in Syria. 


Russia is leapfrogging us to pursue their goals of keeping dictator Bashar Al Assad, tightening up on a renewed cozy relationship with Iran and Iraq–in what is the prime oil basin of the world–and reestablishing their place on the world stage as a superpower (apparently, Crimea wasn’t the end, but just the beginning), and at the same time killing U.S.-backed Syrian rebels


But what about our efforts…


Well, we’ve had “dismal results” after dilly dallying around in Syria for the better part of its 4 1/2 year civil war that’s killed over 250,000 people and created 5 million refuges streaming across the Middle East and Europe, and we keep having to “rethink” our strategy there. 


At the same time, as to our war to defeat the terrorist ISIS caliphate–who vows to smuggle nukes into America and plans a “religious cleansing” of hundreds of millions–uh, they continue to grow!


What about our more than 10 year investment in Iraq–where we spent over $2 trillion and in which almost 37,000 of our service members were either killed or wounded?  –Iraq is now cooperating with…Russia!


How about Iran–for whom we went to the mat with a controversial deal to relieve their sanctions and provide them hundreds of billions of dollars to funnel into their economy as well as global terror? –Iran is allying themselves with Russia (and Hezbollah), deepening their foray into Syria, and continue their threats to annihilate Israel and chants of death to America!


Then to hear yesterday that not only don’t we have a strategy as has been the reframe for months, but that we are not going to play chess or get into a proxy war in the Middle East with Russia…well gee, the world game of strategy and brinksmanship is not going to stop for us. 


Just because we don’t have a (good) strategy and don’t want to play global chess anymore doesn’t mean Russia, Iran, China, and others aren’t going to forge ahead with their dangerous strategies and gains. 


We are a wealthy, mighty, and innovative nation–surely, we have a strategy in this country of over 319,000,000 people, somewhere. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Nothing Is Something AND Something Is Nothing

Uber Commodities

So the world financial markets continue to go haywire. 


The Uber glorified taxi service and app (with an almost half billion dollar operating loss) is now valued at–get this–over $50,000,000,000!


And commodities–you know the precious materials that REAL things are made off (gold, silver, copper, aluminum, oil, gas, coal, wheat, cotton, corn, soybeans, cotton, cocoa, coffee, sugar, beef, and more) hit a 13 year low. 


When the nothings of this world like a basic cab service become invaluable and the real things that power our homes, technology, transportation, and manufacturing become valueless–then we know a day of painful financial reckoning is coming. 


The markets can stand on their head for only so long before the blood rushes in and people become dizzy and see spots.


A reversion to the mean is the one something here that is inevitable, along with a pretty decent recession to boot. 😉


(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

Happy Hanukkah

Hanukah
Happy Hanukkah everyone!


Hanukkah is the holiday of lights and miracles. 


It has special meaning for me as it was many years ago now on the first night of Hanukkah that I went on my first date with my lovely wife, Dannielle.


When I came home, I said to my parents, “This is the one!”


And so it began…


On another note, many of you are probably aware of the famous miracle of Hanukkah that in the ruins of the Jewish Temple, which had been desecrated by the Greeks more than 2,000 years ago, a single vial of oil was found, and although it would normally only last for 1 day to keep the menorah lit, instead it lasted for 8 days (the time it took to prepare a new supply).  


Apparently, the oil supply shocks of the 1970’s really weren’t that new a phenomenon after all…


Similarly, I recently saw a funny comic that said that the miracle of Hanukkah today is that the smartphone battery that normally last 1 day (or less if you use it a lot during the day) lasts for 8 days.


Clearly, the miracles of ancient times are still fresh with us in modern times as well. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>It’s About More Than Money

>

Profit is the typical motive of corporations around the world. However, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is becoming more a part of our consciousness as we recognize that life is much more about what we leave behind than how much money we make.

With oil gushing into the Gulf for the last two months now, and doing G-d knows what ultimate damage to our environment, we are reminded that our actions do matter and that we must put our ideals, values, and generosity first and foremost.

Certainly, some companies disregard social responsibility. For example, BP with their slogan of “Beyond Petroleum” and their logo of a helios—a lovely environmentally-friendly green and yellow sunflower—seems to have hidden the true extent of their unsound environmental and safety practices.

In contrast, other companies are getting it right when it comes to CSR. For example, eBay has launched a charitable program called “eBay Giving Works” in which “sellers can commit to donate a percentage of their listing final sale price to the nonprofit of their choice.” Additionally, “shoppers also can donate to a worthy nonprofit at eBay checkout.” According to eBay, more than $150 million has been donated already!

One organization on the eBay charity list is called Save A Child’s Heart (SACH) foundation. According to their website, this Israeli-based charity has performed lifesaving heart surgery on 2000 indigent children in 30 countries around the world and “every 29 hours, we save a child’s life.” They have been certified as Best in America by the Independent Charities of America. Their work is inspirational and the children they save is truly moving. And this is one of many good organizations around the world.

As much as I am repulsed by BP and other such organizations that seem to function with near-complete disregard for fundamental principles of human decency in the name of the “almighty dollar”, I applaud others such as eBay, SACH, and many more that are working to “give back” and do genuine good for people around the world.

Many years ago, when attending Jewish day school, I remember a teacher telling us that “one day when you are on your deathbed, you will look back at what you have done in your life— make sure it’s meaningful and noble (and more than just about money).” I believe this is a valuable lesson personally and professionally.

Perhaps the oil gushing out from the depths of the sea can be a metaphor for charitable giving that can gush out from the hearts of people and organizations. We can counter greed and destruction with selflessness and caring for others.

>A Postmodernist Approach to Enterprise Architecture

>It’s a crazy world out there. Just about every argument a counter-argument, every theory a contrary theory, every point a counter-point: whether we are watching the Presidential debates, open session on Capitol Hill or at the United Nations, The Supreme Court or Court TV, bull or bear on the stock market, religious and philosophical beliefs, and more. Even what some deemed scientific “facts” or religious doctrine are now regularly debated and disputed. Some examples: Creation or “Big Bang,” global warming or cyclical changes in the Earth’s atmosphere, peak oil theory or ample supplies, right to life at conception or at some point of maturation, cloning and stem cells or not, criminal punishment or rehabilitation—it seems like there is no end to the argument.

So what are we to believe?

For those who are religious, the answer is simple, you believe what you have been taught and accept as the “word of G-d.” This is straightforward. However, the problem is that not everyone adheres to the same religious beliefs.

For those that believe in “following their hearts”, gut, intuition, then we have very subjective belief systems.

For those that only “believe what they see” or what is “proven”, then we are still left with lots of issues that can’t be proved beyond a doubt and are open to interpretation, critical thinking, teachings, or which side of the bed you woke up on that day.

Fortune Magazine, 27 October 2008, has an article on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco, “the state-owned national oil company…it’s daily profit is 21/2 times that of Exxon Mobil, the world’s most profitable publicly held company.” Aramco’s annual report contains details about “daily oil and natural gas production, the number of wells it drills, exports, refinery outputs, and more. The only problem: Since it contains no audited financial numbers, it’s hard to know what to believe.”

Similarly, “it warms readers not to listen to scaremongers spreading the ‘misperception’ that future supplies may not meet global demand. The world’s resources, it says are sufficient for well over a century—and when technological advances are factored in, for another 100 years after that.”

It’s hard to know who and what to believe, because usually those presenting “a side” have a vested interest in the outcome of a certain viewpoint. Hence all the lobbyists in Washington!

For example, Aramco and OPEC have a vested interest in everyone believing that there is plenty of oil to go around and stave off the research and development into alternatives energy sources. At the same time, those who preach peak oil theory, may have an interest in energy independence of this country or they may just be scared (or they may be right on!).

From an enterprise architecture perspective, I think the question of getting to the truth is essential to us being able to plan for our organizations and to make wise investment decisions. If we can’t tell the truth of a matter, how we can set a direction and determine what to do, invest in, how to proceed?

Of course, it’s easy to say trust but verify, validate from multiple sources, and so on, but as we saw earlier not everything is subject to verification at this point in time. We may be limited by science, technology, oppositional views, or our feeble brain matter (i.e. we just don’t know or can’t comprehend).

When it comes to IT governance, for example, project sponsors routinely come to the Enterprise Architecture to present their business cases for IT investments and to them, each investment idea is the greatest thing since Swiss cheese and of course, they have the return on investment projections, and subject matter expert to back them up. Yes, their mission will fail without an investment in X, Y, or Z and no one wants to be responsible for that, of course.

So what’s the truth? How do we determine truth?

Bring in the auditors? Comb through the ROI projections? Put the SMEs on the EA Board “witness stand” or take them to a back room and interrogate them. Perhaps, some water boarding will “make them talk”?

Many experts, for example, Jack Welch of GE and other high profile Fortune 500 execs, including the big Wall Street powerhouses (Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Fannie/Freddie) call for asking lots of questions—tearing this way and that way at subordinates—until the truth be known. Well look at how many or most of these companies are doing these days. “The truth” was apparently a lot of lies. The likes of Enron, WorldCom, HealthSouth, and on and on.

So we can’t underestimate the challenge of getting to truth and planning and governing towards a future where argument and questions prevail.

Perhaps the answer is that truth is somewhat relative, and is anchored in the worldview, priorities, assumptions, and constraints of the viewer. From this perspective, the stock market crashes not necessarily or only because businesses are poorly run, but because investors believe that the bottom has fallen out and that their investments are worthless. Similarly, from an enterprise architecture perspective, the baseline/target may not be an objective set of “where we are” vs. “where we want to be,” but “how we perceive ourselves and are perceived by others now” vs. “how we want to be perceived in the future.”

This approach is not wholly new—this is the postmodern attitude toward the world that academics have been preaching for decades. What is unique is the application of postmodernism and relativism to the IT/business world and the recognition that sometimes to understand reality, we have to let go of our strict addiction to it.