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Sunday, 20 May 2018

The Closer I Get To You

The Closer I Get To You (1978) by Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway

The closer I get to you
The more you make me see
By giving me all you've got
Your love has captured me

Over and over again
I try to tell myself that we
Could never be more than friends
And all the while inside
I knew it was real
The way you make me feel

Lying here next to you
Time just seems to fly
Needing you more and more
Let's give love a try

Oh, sweeter than sweeter love grows
And heaven's there for those
Who fool the tricks of time
With the hearts in love they find
True love
In a special way

The closer I get to you
The more you make me see
By giving me all you've got
Your love has captured me

Over and over again
I try to tell myself that we
Could never be more than friends
And all the while inside
I knew it was real
The way you make me feel

The closer I get to you
The more you make me see
By giving you all I've got
Your love has captured me

The closer I get to you
A feeling comes over me
(Me too)
Falling closer, sweet as the gravity

The closer I get (to you)

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Oslo thaws on UK joining EEA after Brexit (FT)

PM Solberg says London should reconsider Norwegian model despite its ‘political deficit’ (FT)

"Norway is open to the UK joining the European Economic Area, its prime minister has said, signalling a thawing in Oslo’s attitude to Britain taking the “Norway option” where it would be outside the EU but inside the single market. 

Erna Solberg told the Financial Times in an interview that the Nordic country was prepared to see the UK join the EEA, conceding that the option was “on the shelf” and readily available to London. 

“I think we will cope very well if the Brits come in. It will give bargaining power on our side too. And it would ease Norway’s access to the UK,” she said. 

The UK is Norway’s biggest trading partner thanks to gas sales to Britain. 

Senior Norwegian diplomats and business people have repeatedly warned that UK membership of the EEA would distort the small group — which includes Iceland and Liechtenstein — away from Norway’s priorities of protecting its agriculture and fishing. 

We would go from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in still a pretty small pond,” said the chairman of one large company close to the Norwegian government. 

The so-called Norwegian model is playing an increasingly significant role in the debate over Britain’s future relationship with the EU. The House of Lords voted last week in favour of British membership of the EEA once it leaves the EU, although Theresa May’s government opposes such an outcome and the House of Commons is likely to overturn the vote. 

Mrs May’s Brexit cabinet committee will meet on Tuesday as it continues to wrangle over customs options — including her preferred “customs partnership” — with the prime minister keen to finalise an agreed position before next month’s EU summit. 

What Theresa May can do about her Brexit woes Ms Solberg and other Norwegian politicians have previously warned that it would be difficult for London to join the EEA because it involves both agreeing to free movement of people and nearly all rules from Brussels as well as continuing to pay into the EU budget. 

One of the main reasons Mrs May opposes continued single market membership is because long-term free movement of EU nationals is seen as politically unacceptable. 

“You have to accept a couple of things that were difficult in the discussion before Brexit,” Ms Solberg said, adding there would be “costs and benefits” to UK membership of the EEA. 

She acknowledged what some have termed the EEA’s “political deficit”, in which members have to accept rules decided in Brussels. 

Oslo, in principle, has a veto over EU laws but has never used it due to the fear of how Brussels might respond. It agreed to adopt controversial plans for energy union several weeks ago despite widespread public opposition and concern over the impact on electricity prices. 

The EU as a whole accounts for almost three-quarters of trade with Oslo. 

Ms Solberg pointed to rules that she said Norway was forced to adopt despite being unsuited to them. They included regulations for slides in kindergartens, which Ms Solberg said were more appropriate to protect children from burns in relatively hot countries such as Spain, and several rules on how livestock are kept. 

“Of course there are limits [to being in the EEA]. It shows that small countries like Norway are dependent on stable rules. But I won’t speak it up as a big problem,” the prime minister said. 

Ms Solberg also warned that Norway was increasingly worried about being caught in the crossfire of a US-European trade war. EEA membership puts it inside the single market but outside the EU’s customs union, leaving it potentially exposed in trade battles between Washington, Brussels and elsewhere. 

Norway has not received the temporary exemption from US tariffs on steel and aluminium that the EU has, and policymakers in Oslo said they were even more worried about counter-measures from the EU. 

“What we are most afraid of is the secondary effects, how it increases the tension on trade, how it introduces new types of tariff barriers,” Ms Solberg said. 

Ine Marie Soreide, Norway’s foreign minister, said in a separate interview that the US tariffs “undermine the whole rules-based trading system.” 

But she noted that Oslo had still more at stake should the EU increase trade barriers in response to the US move: “Our main concern is that most of our exports go to the EU . . . We are an EEA member: we should be exempt from any tariffs and safeguards that the EU might have.”"


Big Four accountancy firms plan for forced break-up (FT)

"The Big Four accountancy firms have drawn up contingency plans for a break up of their UK businesses, an option politicians and regulators are increasingly pushing to solve conflicts of interest embedded in the industry.

The pressure on the four firms that dominate the sector — KPMG, Deloitte, EY and PwC — to prepare for a forced break-up has increased following high-profile corporate collapses that have called into question the quality of their work as both auditors and consultants for the UK’s largest companies.

Executives from all four and the next largest UK audit firms, Grant Thornton and BDO, said they had planned for a potential break up, in case regulators force them to spin off their audit from their consulting businesses.

A parliamentary report this week urged the competition watchdog to consider breaking up the four, saying they operated as a “cosy club incapable of providing the degree of independent challenge needed”. It followed a probe into the collapse of government contractor Carillion in January.

The investigation triggered sharp criticism of KPMG and Deloitte, Carillion’s external and internal auditors respectively over the past 19 years, and of EY and PwC, which had various consulting roles.

A break-up scenario could involve two options: either forcing each large firm to split into two smaller multidisciplinary firms; or making all of them spin off their consulting work to create audit-only businesses. This second option was backed by Stephen Haddrill, head of the UK accounting watchdog, in February as a potential remedy for the lack of competition in the market.

Bill Michael, chairman of KPMG’s UK business, said his firm had been thinking about break-up scenarios “for some time” as the current business model of the Big Four — which generate a growing portion of their revenues from consulting — is “unsustainable”.

“We are an oligopoly — that is undeniable,” he said. “I can’t believe the industry will be the same [in the future]. We have to reduce the level of conflicts and . . . demonstrate why they are manageable and why the public and all stakeholders should trust us.”

PwC said it had “a documented business continuity plan covering a range of scenarios that could threaten the existence of the firm”. EY said: “Working alongside regulators and standard setters, the profession can evolve to best serve business, investors and stakeholder needs.”

BDO, the UK’s sixth-largest auditor, has developed contingency plans in case regulators decide to “ringfence” audit work.

It has also planned for regulators deciding that “public interest” entities — listed companies and systemically important institutions — should be audited by audit-only firms. In this scenario, BDO would drop its 232 listed clients.

Other senior executives at the top six firms are deeply concerned that a forced break-up of their businesses would cause significant disruption for the firms and their clients, with one executive saying there would be a “bloodbath”. David Sproul, chief executive of Deloitte, told the FT in March that creating audit-only firms “would be to the detriment of the capital markets”.

Grant Thornton, the UK’s fifth-largest accounting firm, said: “We fundamentally do not believe that this is the solution to the existing systemic issues in the audit market.”

Accounting executives also argue that a forced break up of audit firms in the UK alone would be ineffective and messy without similar initiatives from international regulators.

Mr Michael said: “The [Big Four] are big beasts because there are big global companies. There will still be big, complex, hairy companies around the world [even after a break-up]. If you want to split the firms up that has to be done internationally, although maybe the UK could lead the way.”

But many academics, politicians and shareholders support calls for a break-up to tackle the dominance of the Big Four, which audited all but nine of the UK’s 350 largest listed companies last year, despite the introduction of sweeping reforms aimed at reducing their hold on the market.

Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the “only way” to improve competition was to break them up. “Unless you do that, three or four companies will continue to completely dominate,” he said.

Natasha Landell-Mills, head of stewardship at London-based asset manager Sarasin & Partners, who has previously called for a break-up, said: “In the past, the audit firms argued strongly that mandatory audit firm rotation would lead to weaker audits and potentially chaos. This has not transpired.

“[A break-up] would be difficult for the accountancy firms’ business, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it would be bad for the public interest.”


Friday, 18 May 2018

In sickness and in health

Since 2016, I have seen more hospitals than any other year before in my life. I'm not the patient, however. I’m the boyfriend, accompanying the patient. Like many other people, I don’t like hospitals. Hospitals remind me of sickness and of death, not of birth and/or life. There’s little doubt in my mind that the increased frequency of hospital visits relates to (my/our) ageing.

Since December 2017, I have been trying to contact my current girlfriend. She ignored me as she was abroad and recovering from a prior hospital admittance. In April 2018, she replied to my newest message. Our first phone call was emotional as she informed me that she was recently diagnosed with cancer.

The first thing that went through my mind was: “Not again!” Her words immediately reminded me of 2 other sick girlfriends, of whom one died in 2016. I’m not a saint and thus my mind briefly considered stopping this developing contact. It was not an option for me. Instead, I invited her to my home to assist her in her healing process.

Since 21 April, we are mostly together at my home. The surprise is on her side, not mine. Each working day, she visits the Amsterdam Academic Medical Center for radiation treatment. The chemotherapy is through daily pills, apart from the initial chemo. I learned that chemo is not an abbreviation for chemical (poison) but originates from plants: camptotheca and topotecan.

I am genuinely worried about how much time is left for her and me together, despite the regular jokes that we both make about her (not) getting better. In our case, humour and laughter works better than tears and sympathy.

The hardest part for me is emotional attachment. The rational Leon is keeping some distance in order to avoid (my) future devastation, like in 2016. Fortunately, she prefers the rational Leon as an emotional Leon would be a burden on her. The last thing she needs is helping me stay afloat. The rational Leon does create some guilt, however, for hardly showing the emotional Leon.

Recently, I said to her that we would probably not have met, let alone be still together, when she would not be sick. After some thought, she agreed with me. She likes this thought and so do I. Some how, it feels like that we were supposed to meet. Initially, I was immediately drawn to her picture. She reminds me of two very special persons in my life.

My girlfriend is optimistic about her recovery. She told me that she told her doctor that I deserve part of the credits. In my view, she’s the only one who is accountable and responsible for her healing. Like her other friends, I’m just facilitating and being supportive.

My concerns over her health occupy my mind and interfere with my writing. It’s hard to focus on "petty" topics, like Mrs May’s Machiavellian Moves (a.k.a. Brexit) or Trump’s revolution of disruption, chaos & destruction. The rising oil prices due to Trump’s abundant chaos are a major economic boost for his Russian friends but why should I care when my friend is ill?

Save Me (1976) by Joan Armatrading - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Caught up in a whirling motion 
Such a strange sensation 
The currents uncertain 
Like sails of a mill 
I spin 
Like wheels I move in a circle 
While you stand on the bank 
Immune or evasive

Tuesday, 15 May 2018


Morality is defined by our intentions, our words, and our actions/deeds. The law punishes bad deeds as there were bad consequences. Without consequences, bad words may easily avoid punishment. Bad intentions are difficult to prove in court. Sometimes, people experience “moral luck” when bad deeds fail to cause bad consequences.

Taking accountability and/or responsibility - for our intentions, words, and/or deeds - invokes 4 different basic attitudes: (1) Denial and blaming others, (2) blaming yourself for making errors or mistakes, (3) invoking Destiny or Fate, and redirecting accountability and responsibility to a Supreme Being (eg, inshallah), and (4) Acceptance, the least favourite of all.

For several months, Acceptance has become a new label in my list of topics. Remarkably, Blame was never a label within my blog topics - until today. Nevertheless, the issue of Blame (to others or self) has often been mentioned in my blogs but without adequate context.

A 2015 Psychology Today article, 5 Reasons We Play the Blame game, was helpful in finding this context. This article mentions the attitudes belonging to sub 1-3 above. It took me a while to realise that sub 1-3 are our attitudes in certain situations. These situations deal with not taking accountability and responsibility (for our intentions, words and/or deeds).

Taking accountability and/or responsibility for our intentions, words and/or deeds is often difficult. Also see my 2016 blog: Your own worst enemy. For many people, shifting blame is a preferred choice: to others, yourself, or even Allah-God-Yahweh. It should be stressed that acceptance and blaming yourself is not the same. The difference lies in (high versus low) self-esteem.

Making errors is human. However, making errors also affects the way we think about ourselves (ie, self-esteem). Making “many” and/or “stupid” mistakes is likely to affect our self-esteem in a negative way. Parenting, the way we raise our children and how we were raised as children ourselves, defines the (i) default self-esteem, and the (ii) default attitude when making mistakes.

In 2017, I wrote a blog on self-forgiveness and one on self-acceptance. Forgiving yourself for your (unintentional) mistakes is required for moving on to self-acceptance. Self-acceptance is required for moving on to self-love, which might be the final stage of Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs-Wants-Beliefs. Also see my 2017 blog: Feel the need in me.

Excerpt of my 31 August 2017 blog: "Acceptance, including self-acceptance, may be the "last resort" that we try in our lives, when all other options have failed. I think, feel and believe that this last resort relates to the last A in the DABDA model by Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross: Denial (my blog), Anger (my blog), Bargaining (my blogs), Depression (my blog) and - finally - Acceptance (my blog)." This may explain the current burnout and depression epidemic (eg, BBC, HuffPost, SA).

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.” A quote by August Wilson (1945-2005), American playwright.

Self Esteem (1994) by The Offspring - artists, lyricsvideo, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Note: all markings (bold, italic, underlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

Monday, 14 May 2018

Slavery of the mind

The African Holocaust Society defines slavery of the mind as follows: “Mental slavery is a state of mind where discerning between liberation and enslavement is twisted. Where one becomes trapped by misinformation about self and the world. So someone can claim to be conscious, they can read all the books they can recycle the popular rhetoric but still be unable to balance real-world priorities and self-interest.”

The concept of mental slavery came to my mind after reading about Kanye West’s recent remark. Many people condemned his (abbreviated) words “Slavery is a choice”, while conveniently omitting that the musician actually said that “400 years of slavery is a choice”. Essentially, both Kanye West's remark, and the condemnations by his opponents, refer to slavery of the mind.

A few days ago, I visited a hospital with a friend. We had a friendly chat with the female black receptionist. She didn’t believe me when I stated that European people only turned white some 5,000 years ago due to a gene mutation (my 2016 blog, VK-2018). This DNA change was extremely successful as most Europeans are white by now.

The disbelief that white people were once also black people, is another example of mental slavery. A gene mutation adapting black skin to weak European sunlight is beyond people’s belief. The receptionist did however acknowledge that her black skin is more pale in Europe.

Skin pigmentation protects the fragile skin against harsh ultraviolet sunlight. The skin of white sailors is often worn and torn by excessive sunlight. Black skin, however, remains youthful: “black don’t crack”. Skin cancer (eg, melanoma) is a serious problem in the West rather than in Africa.

Skin colour is also (much) whiter at birth: “Most African American and biracial infants have sensitive skin that's prone to dryness and dark spots (hyperpigmentation). At birth, your child's skin is likely to be a shade or two lighter than her eventual skin color. The skin will darken and reach its natural color in the first two to three weeks.” (babycenter)

Despite the above, skin colour has been defining (cultural) identities more and more (my 2016 blog: Identity and skin colour). Whites have claimed superiority. Blacks have claimed the victim role. In my view, this is what Kanye West was telling people. After 400 years, claiming to still be a “slave” is - indeed - a matter of choice.

Slavery of the mind is a generic issue. Many people claim that they must work. Usually, I reply that you are entitled to work. Work used to be my hobby and passion for which I got paid handsomely. In my view, work is (much) more of a right than a duty. Since 22 May 2013, I haven’t worked. Initially due to my 18 month burnout. Later, it became my preferred choice.

The tragedy of victim roles is that they feel comfortable and offer an effective defence against criticism (eg, ageism, anti-semitism, racism, sexism). Leaving a victim role exposes someone to daily reality and requires new defence mechanisms (eg, success). However, success is earned, not inherited (eg, American “white trash”).

"Ignorance is the greatest slave master in the universe." A quote by Matshona Dhliwayo.

Slave to the Rhythm (1985) by Grace Jones - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Note: all markings (bold, italic, underlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

Sunday, 13 May 2018

You've Got a Friend

You've Got a Friend (1971) by Carole King - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

When you're down and troubled,
And you need some love and care,
And nothing, nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me,
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night.

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I'll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I'll be there
You've got a friend

If the sky above you grows dark and full of clouds
And that old north wind begins to blow
Keep your head together and call my name out loud
Soon you'll hear me knocking at your door

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I'll come running, running, yeah, yeah, to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I'll be there
And I'll be there, yes I will.

Now, ain't it good to know that you've got a friend
When people can be so cold?
They'll hurt you, yes, and desert you
And take your soul if you let them,
Oh, but don't you let them

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I'll come running, running, yeah, yeah, yeah, to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I'll be there, yes I will.
You've got a friend

You've got a friend
Ain't it good to know, you've got a friend?
Ain't it good to know?
Ain't it good to know?
Ain't it good to know, you've got a friend?

Oh yeah, now
Oh, you've got a friend
Yeah, baby
You've got a friend
Oh yeah...
You've got a friend