Budget cuts drive out the best people

After the end of this round of the Second Lebanon War, the Israeli newspapers are full of revelations and protests about the foul-ups in IDF. There are even calls for the current leaders to go home (but who can replace them in the helm?).

During the last few years, the defense budget was cut several times. There are several important programs, which were delayed or canceled due to the budgetary cuts. I “wonder” why the Arabs considered those cuts to be signs of weakness, rather than as indication of wishing to have peace. Those budgetary cuts were very popular among those, who wanted to emphasize economic development, social welfare and education. And if our neighbors were really peace lovers, they would have been right.

My conclusion from juxtaposition of the above two facts (and from another observation of the consequences of budget de-prioritization and cutting in other places) – is that if you cut the budget of an operation, the operation loses not only what it could do with the missing budget. This loss is a calculated risk, because you figure out that the money had better be spent somewhere else than on this operation.

However, the operation loses also its best people. The top people like to work on challenging problems, on pushing forward the envelope, on overcoming challenges. They do not like to struggle to solve problems caused solely due to budget cuts. This kind of drudgery drives them out.

Then few years later, it is found that the operation has deteriorated and no longer delivers a value for the money still budgeted for it.

Moral: managers need a better way to divert funds to other operations.

Maybe David Ben-Gurion had after all the right idea when he decreed that IDF, as the people’s army, do also various civilian projects, such as building settlements (NAHA”L), sending soldiers to educate illiterate people, and the like. This was a way to have the smart people in IDF continue to do challenging projects, and not feel the pain of budget cuts – yet to cut budgets to operations, which were no longer as essential as they were, once the War of Independence was over.

Another example – the practice of well-managed Hi-Tech companies not to lay off employees when business becomes slow. They transfer those employees to other projects, whose future is better.

A response to a Leftist in the wake of the Qana disaster

I participate in a mailing list with subscribers from all the world. The recent events in Qana provoked a discussion. In this discussion, a Leftist suggested to me that it would be a good idea if I were to write to some Tel Aviv newspaper editor and explain that it is immoral to bomb civilians.

My response:

  • How about writing to editors of Arab newspapers explaining that it is immoral to sacrifice oneself and one’s children in order to kill civilians?
  • How about writing to explain that it is immoral to be suicide bombers?
  • How about writing to explain that it is immoral to use people as human shields, the way Hizbollah are doing in Lebanon?

Not expecting better from the Arabs, I am not amazed anymore at their hypocrisy at approval of Israeli civilian deaths from rockets, yet crying foul when Arab civilians, who proclaim readiness to die in the war against Israel – get their wish and die – only because they die from Israeli bombs rather than from exploding themselves in middle of crowds of Jewish civilians.

HOW MANY ISRAELI CIVILIANS HAVE TO DIE IN ORDER FOR THE IDF TO REGAIN ITS FREEDOM TO ACT TO PROTECT THE REST OF US FROM HIZBOLLAH MISSILES?
Obviously one or two (the usual number of casualties of missile attacks) are not enough. How many of us do you, bloodthirsty Leftists, want to die before you reluctantly allow us to defend ourselves against enemies, who use human shields forcing us to kill civilians in any act of self-defense we commit?

Prayer

World of potential for mercy and compassion,
of room for grace and reconciliation,
teach all your children in the Middle East:
Jews, Muslims and Christians,
Bahai’s, Druzes and Buddhists,
Atheists and Agnosticians,
Palestinians and Israelis and Syrians and Iranians,
Let us value and love our fellow human beings
more than we value our beliefs, God or Gods.
Let hatred be turned into love, fear to trust, despair to hope,
oppression to freedom, occupation to liberation,
that violent encounters may be replaced by loving embraces,
and peace and justice could be experienced by all.
Let us swear that we shall never let Gods incite war and hatred among human beings.
Amen

A reliable way to estimate unemployment rate

Instead of using statistics of people who registered as job seekers and/or getting unemployment benefits to measure the real unemployment rate, I suggest that supermarkets and grocery shops honor coupons for giving discounts on foods and other basic needs.

According to Eric.Weblog() and Joel on Software, coupons are an effective way to segment the market into people who are well-paid and people who are poorly-paid. Those who are well-paid do not bother with coupons, and those who bother with coupons to save some money are the ones who are not well-paid and/or have too much free time on their hands.

Thus, a well-oiled socialist government should keep tabs on the rate of coupon usage and use it to switch on or off its socialist policies.

Preservation of Al Aqsa Mosque and other Muslim holy sites

Two interesting Web pages about non-preservation of Muslim holy sites:

Updated at Sept. 17, 2012:
The second link above is dead. See the following links instead:

It was not an April Fool Day news item

How to suppress display of the Israeli flag in Israel turned out to have been a serious news item.

According to news item in today’s Yediot Aharonot, the Israeli Ministry of Interior is still planning those imbecile regulations under misguided attempt to promote respect for the Israeli flag. The only change is that they are going to impose a fine rather than one year imprisonment.

There are fascist traits in some of the regulations. It was also mentioned that people are upset by incidents of flag burning by Haredi Jews.

My suggestion:

  1. Subject only government and organizations getting government funds to regulations.
  2. Everyone else is to be free to celebrate Freedom of Expression by burning the Israeli flag.
  3. Remove altogether regulations, which have fascist traits such as standing to attention when the flag is raised, or “proper disposal” of old flags.

Agility of small companies <i>vs.</i> inertia of big companies

It has been noticed again and again that small enterprises have agility advantages, which big and established corporations lost as they grew to their present size. Everyone realizes the advantages of small size, but seems to be unable to bring those advantages into a big corporation.

Maybe the following insight can resolve the dilemma.

Let’s consider the examples of building a small house vs. that of building a giant shopping mall.

The project of building a small house is easily-managed. There are few stakeholders to be consulted about designing the house. If plans need to be changed midway, they can easily be changed (of course, assuming that there is budget and the ROI figures are good enough).

On the other hand, when building a giant shopping mall, which involves also rerouting of roads around it, there are several stakeholders. The Electric Company needs to be involved with supplying electricity to the mall, and with re-routing electrical wires around it. Water and sewage systems need to have adequate capacity. Proper mix of shop sizes needs to be determined. Big construction loans need to be negotiated. Firefighting provisions are mandatory. You get the picture.

In the same way, small companies are agile, because they do not have a big network of external stakeholders, who need to be considered when changing corporate policies. On the other hand, if a big corporation wishes to make a small change in its policies, it is liable to find that several of the external stakeholders have an interest in the status quo, and will be damaged by the change.

My conclusion is that a big company may be able to regain the agility of a small business if it can reorganize itself to implement a business version of the Law of Demeter. Each decisionmaker and policy formulator should confine his interactions and influence to his immediate neighbors. Any policy changes should have an effect only on a small number of stakeholders. A stakeholder should be able to buffer another stakeholder, which interacts with it, from changes made by other interacting stakeholders.

If this policy is adopted, then stakeholders can be agile.

This runs against the empire building tendency of top level executives.

The ideal of democracy is relevant to countries, not to groups

Recently I had a discussion with someone, who bemoaned the loss of the principles of equality and democracy in Wikipedia, after cases of disputes and vandalism. I did not feel easy with the principles which he expounded. While democracy and personal liberty are usually related, there are some cases, in which they conflict. The Nazis came to power in Germany through democratic means. The Palestinians elected Hamas in certifiably democratic elections, as evidenced by the fact that Hamas got much less than 97% of the votes.

I was also involved with a nonprofit, which was formed to pursue certain goals. The nonprofit had a member, who used to troll the nonprofit’s mailing lists, and to advocate goals different from the nonprofit’s goals. Eventually he resigned from membership in the nonprofit, but his actions and claims need to be dealt with on a philosophical basis.

One day, I read A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy and now I can better express the premises behind the apparent loss of equality and democracy in groups of people formed to achieve a certain objective.

In Wikipedia, once upon a time, everyone was equal. Now, some people are more equal than others. My friend was not happy with this state of affairs. Personally I had no problems with this, because opinions, which oppose those of the “equal-more” people in Wikipedia, can be voiced in the wide Internet – only not necessarily in Wikipedia’s own Web pages.

When setting up a regime in a country, it should respect individual freedoms, and be as democratic as possible as long as it does not conflict individual freedoms. However, inside that country (and even across its borders), one of the freedoms is the freedom of association. It is the freedom of people to form a group to achieve a goal desirable by them (as long as it does not violate individual freedoms).

However! Once a group has been formed, if it has more than few tens of people, it needs some sort of government. It needs to be able to keep out people, who are opposed to the goal of the group’s organizers. It needs a mechanism for dispute resolution, to resolve disputes among people who agree about the ends but argue about the appropriate means for attaining those ends. It needs a mechanism for delegating certain tasks and responsibilities from all group’s members to some members, so that other members can concentrate upon other tasks (delegated to them).

All those mechanisms together conspire to discriminate among insiders and outsiders. Those people, who support the group’s goal, are insiders. People, who oppose the group’s goal or are ambivalent about it, are outsiders. All serious groups discriminate among them.

The dispute resolution and delegation mechanisms have the result of stratifying the group. Some people become leaders and make decisions in behalf of the entire group. Then equality among the group’s members gets lost.

BUT! If the group was properly formed, is properly managed, and its members understand the philosophy and the goals – the group achieves its goal. The group’s major purpose was not to practice democracy and equality. The group’s purpose was to achieve the goal, for whose attainment it was formed.

While acting inside the group, the personal freedoms of the group’s members are subordinated to the group’s goal. On the other hand, if they ever feel uncomfortable with the group, they are free to leave it any time (a group, which does not allow its members to leave it, is or should be illegal). Therefore this is not a real loss of freedom.

I have voted. How about you?

There is a ballot across the street from my home.
But I was not to vote there. I was to vote in another ballot, about 3 minutes walk from my home.
I knew about this fact beforehand, so I wasted time on the near ballot area only to admire the posters put there by some of the political parties.
As I approached “my” ballot location, I saw posters there as well and tried to guess which parties are better organized.

There was no queue at entrance to the room where I was to vote. Ordinarily I am happy when there are no queues. But in this case, it was alarming – indicative of low turnout.

When voting, I had grave dilemma. There is one party, which should have representation in the Knesset. Its representation is rather essential, in fact. But if it gets too many MPs, it is liable to go berserk like Raful’s Tzomet or last Knesset’s Shinui.
On the other hand, there is another party, which will probably do reasonably good work governing the country. It does not have the important platform the first party has. But it is a party which populated its list of candidates with seasoned politicians, who held all kinds of positions where they needed to have real responsibility. It is a party, which the more seats it gets in the Knesset (up to limit of 60, of course), the better it will be in the next few years.

At least none of those two parties made it to the black list of parties, which send spam to the electorate.

Eventually I made my decision and voted.