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Friday, 30 September 2016

Russians but which ones??

On 28 September 2016, the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) presented its conclusions on what exactly happened during Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH-17) on July 17, 2014. To a large extent the who question was also answered and a group of some 100 people is under investigation. The most interesting question - why - is still unanswered.

The very detailed what answer suggests that there must have been a meticulous planning for the BUK missile attack and thus a why. It's extremely unlikely that a random Russian army truck, carrying a sophisticated Russian BUK missile, drives from Russia into Ukraine, fires a BUK missile, and then retreats back to Russia that same day.

Civilian airliners - whether cargo or passengers - have publicly known flight schedules. Military flights are unlikely to have these. The downing of a cargo or military plane would have created little attention. Therefore, it seems likely that the Russian army truck carrying a Russian BUK missile and the subsequent downing of MH-17 and the killing of 298 people is no coincidence. This tragic event will haunt Moscow for many years.

Knowing the what and to some extent the who still does not offer a why. The who answer now blames "Russians" but Russian politics is far too complicated for being able to start blaming the Russian government and/or its President. Knowing the why answer may also answer the who question.

Any why answer is extremely unlikely to blame Ukraine, as Russia still claims. Moreover, if Ukraine would have been involved then Russia would have provided the Dutch-led JIT with insurmountable evidence on this alleged Ukrainian involvement. Russia did not for obvious reasons: you cannot prove something that does not exist.

The absence of compelling evidence that Ukraine was involved and the existence of insurmountable  evidence that Russians were involved, still leaves an important question: which Russians?? Even the involvement of the Russian army does not necessarily involve the Russian government and/or its President. Russian politics is far too complicated for that assumption.

Perhaps the why and the which question can be answered simultaneously by an analysis of the pros and cons of the downing of MH-17. The downside for Russia has been clear ever since 17 July 2014. What could be the upside of intentionally shooting a BUK missile at a commercial airliner and killing 298 people from various nations?? Honestly, I fail to see any serious motive that involves the Russian government and/or its President.

There is however a group of extreme nationalist Russians that does have a motive. These Russians are fighting in East Ukraine with some support of (a part of) the Russian army. Without full scale support they cannot win. That full scale support has been lacking and probably for a reason. I suspect that the downing of MH-17 was to tip the scales in favour of these Russian extreme nationalists.

The Russian government will never be able to acknowledge to the world that a part of their army is operating semi independently from Moscow. This may also explain the April 2016 revision of the Russian army structure in which the Russian President has created a personal National Guard that will exceed 15% of the Russian armed forces (eg, BBCBloomberg, Wiki).

Sting - Russians (1985) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
What might save us, me, and you
Is if the Russians love their children too

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Accounting, Auditing & AI robotics

The impact of Artificial Intelligent (AI) robots on society and also on human jobs has been the focus of several of my blogs (eg, 17 Feb 2016). Today I'm zooming in on Accounting and Auditing as I am reading opinions that are far too gloomy. The graphic below outlines my scope.

Based on my graphic above, it's unlikely that Accounting and/or Auditing can be taken over by AI robots. The workload will however shift in nature, scope and volume.

The main area for AI robots is the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) with suppliers and customers. EDI reconciliation - or the use of blockchain technology - between companies would indeed minimise a human workload regarding tangible and bilateral transactions involving goods and money.

Accounting also involves non tangible and unilateral entries that relate to information and time (eg, accruals, adjustments, depreciation, provisions, reclassifications). I do not expect AI robots to assume such entries in the foreseeable future. A 2013 Oxford University study states: "the decline of employment [is] in routine intensive occupations – i.e. occupations mainly consisting of tasks following well-defined procedures that can easily be performed by sophisticated algorithms."

Another approach comes to a similar conclusion. The Financial Statement (FS) assertions (see midst of graphic above) ultimately require humanmanual involvement, both in Accounting and Auditing. I doubt that AI robots can ever be made responsible for certain FS assertions and for human processing leaks like fraud, theft and waste.

The audit opinion on a company's FS makes clear that management is responsible for the FS. There is however a distinction between accountability and responsibility. An auditor cannot claim being an expert in auditing and similarly deny being accountable for FS errors.

The real threat to the audit profession doesn't come from AI robots but from within. The fear for making professional errors (ie, accountability) is preventing auditors from delivering added value to their clients. It's a mistake to believe that the audit opinion is creating enough added value to clients. It's mostly a legal must-have and a requirement in credit facility agreements by banks.

The current "risk-free" attitude by auditors is a dead-end street and potentially undermining the entire audit profession. Auditing is not in the same field as science and technology which would indeed enable a hand-over to AI robots. Auditing is a human skill - and to some extent even an art - based on known-knowns (facts), unknown-knowns (intuition), known-unknowns (beliefs), and unknown-unknowns (imagination). Also see my 3 April 2016 blog.

Visage - Fade to Grey (1980) - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Aaah, we fade to grey (fade to grey)
Devenir en gris

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Driverless car insurance

In 1897 Gilbert L. Loomis is said to be the first person to buy car insurance (source). Technically he used a "horse and carriage" policy as car insurance did not yet exist in those days. Accidents by/with cars however frequently happened. In 1927, Massachusetts passed the first law making it mandatory to have liability car insurance (source).

Today, we are again in a similar situation. Accidents with driverless cars (eg, Google, Tesla) are likely to end up in courts all over the world (eg, China). If a human was unable to cause the accident then the car manufacturer and/or the software developer may be held liable. Google's financial situation is however very favourable compared to the one of Tesla.  

The difference between a "horse and carriage" policy and car insurance is rather small compared to the new situation. Humans cause random accidents. Driverless cars operate on default operating software. The probabilities with respect to driverless car accidents are very different. Existing car insurers may not even be interested in such potentially extreme probabilities. 

It is quite conceivable that the probabilities of driverless car accidents will be far lower than existing car accident probabilities, especially once all cars are driverless. It is also conceivable that car operating software will contain coding errors. These errors will then be included in all driverless cars. The probabilities of driverless car accidents may be far higher in such an instance. Significant product liability errors are rarely easily acknowledged by manufacturers.

The various global driverless car accidents will soon require existing car insurers to reconsider their car insurance coverage and terms with respect to cars that offer an autopilot function. If existing car insurers would stop offering coverage then car manufacturers must offer alternatives or end this potential technology breakthrough. 

I think, feel and believe that global court cases and subsequent international legislation will force autonomous car manufacturers to include car liability insurance as part of the car purchase price. Only driverless car manufacturers are able to assess the reliability of their car operating software. Existing car liability insurers will never be fully able to assess that risk.

Today's technology developments are partially financed by liability insurers without their explicit consent. I doubt that these insurers will consider subrogation and the right of recourse at driverless car manufacturers. Investopedia: "Subrogation is the right for an insurer to legally pursue a third party that caused an insurance loss to the insured. This is done as a means of recovering the amount of the claim paid by the insurance carrier to the insured for the loss."

Today, driverless car manufacturers are quite eager to put the blame on the driver or anything else but the car. Nevertheless, the timing of some car software updates is interesting (eg, link 1, link 2, link 3). Without the implicit protection of existing car liability insurers, start-up driverless car manufacturers would most likely not even be able to flourish and survive. 

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Quote by Lao Tzu.

Gino Vannelli - Black Cars (1984) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Mr. Sniffles

There is a Twitter storm going on about sniffles. Apparently, Donald Trump distracted a lot of viewers in yesterday's first presidential debate due to his continued sniffling. The Guardian claimed that Trump was "apparently suffering from an itchy or stuffed-up nose". Considering that Trump usually surrounds himself with conspiracy theories, the explanation for his lacking health might be very different.

After the debate Trump claimed that his microphone was defective: "And they also had, gave me a defective mic. Did you notice that? My mic was defective within the room. No, but I wonder, was that on purpose? Was that on purpose? But I had a mic that wasn't worked properly, with, working properly within the room." A lousy explanation for his sniffles but another interesting conspiracy theory.

A much more interesting explanation for continued sniffling is this one: "4. Note any sinus changes. Unusual or excessive sniffles or frequent nosebleeds could mean that an individual is snorting drugs. Cocaine, heroin, meth, ecstasy (when crushed), and many other drugs can be snorted up the nose. By snorting drugs, they enter the bloodstream through sensitive nasal membranes, which respond by producing excess protective mucous and sometimes bleed." (WikiHow)

WebMD mentions the following feelings caused by the use of cocaine: "an increasing sense of energy and alertness, an extremely elevated mood, a feeling of supremacy, irritability, paranoia, restlessness, anxiety, high levels of energy and activity, and lastly an excited, exuberant speech". This information gave me a weird déjà vu feeling. 

Like many other people, I have changed my mind on Donald Trump - several times in fact. Initially, I defended him, mainly for his wise Main Street vs Wall Street comments. Subsequently, his erratic and insulting behaviour made me think he is just the fool on the hill (blog). Then I saw him as a false prophet. Lately, I have regarded him as an extreme believer on at least 5 out of the 7 Belief systems, and especially on White Supremacy.

Donald Trump's attacks on other people typically reveal more about himself than others. That phenomenon is called reverse psychology. Some typical examples are him calling Hillary Clinton a pathological liar while his own pants are on fire, and comparing the sacrifices of Khizr Khan and "himself". His attacks and conspiracy theories on Clinton's health ("something's going on") have always surprised me. Now I wonder whether these attacks on Clinton's "mental and physical stamina" are just another example of Trump using reverse psychology to describe himself.

The idea that Trump could be some kind of Tony Montana (IMDb, Wiki) is frightening. Still, I am not alone. Stephen Colbert's Late Show noticed the same (video > 3.5 minutes). There is also an internet quiz: Who Said It: Donald Trump, or Tony Montana From “Scarface”? My score was just 66%. Apparently, I have some difficulty in separating their statements. Why would that be??

J. J. Cale - Cocaine (1976) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

If you want to hang out, you've got to take her out, cocaine
If you want to get down, get down on the ground, cocaine
She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie, cocaine

If you got bad news, you want to kick them blues, cocaine
When your day is done and you got to run, cocaine
She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie, cocaine

If your thing is gone and you want to ride on, cocaine
Don't forget this fact, you can't get it back, cocaine
She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie, cocaine

Dillinger - Cocaine in my brain (1977) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki

Hey Jim! Jim!
Where is Jim, man?
Jim, I want you to tell you somethin'
I want you to spell for me, New York, Jim
Come on Jim, how you spell New York?

A knife, a fork, a bottle and a cork
That's the way we spell New York, right on
Out of sight man, right on, uh
Right on, yeah, right on

Man oh man I'm on the run
I've got to meet the setting sun
'Cause I've got cocaine
A whole lot, a whole lot of cocaine man
Running around my brain
Running around my brain
Cocaine, cocaine, running around my brain, yeah

Monday, 26 September 2016

Gezocht: dood of levend

Op dinsdag 13 september 2016 nam de Tweede Kamer met de kleinst mogelijke meerderheid (75-74) een wetsvoorstel aan inzake orgaandonatie. Dit wetsvoorstel moet eerst door de Eerste Kamer bekrachtigd worden voordat er uiteindelijk een wettelijke basis kan komen. Het voorstel gaat uit van het “Ja tenzij” principe: iedereen is orgaandonor tenzij je expliciet aangeeft dat je geen donor wilt zijn. Sinds enkele dagen ben ik een “Nee”. Deze blog legt uit waarom.

Al jarenlang ben ik in principe positief over orgaandonatie. Mijn recente “Nee” registratie heeft die opvatting niet veranderd. Ik bewonder mensen die hun organen bewust afstaan om andere mensen te helpen. Zelf heb ik altijd een ambivalent gevoel gehad. Ik begrijp daarom ook die mensen die tegen orgaandonatie zijn. Het is zeker geen eenvoudige keuze.

De beslissing van de Tweede Kamer noodzaakte mij om eindelijk een keuze te maken. Ik wil niet dat de achterblijvers geen weet hebben van mijn mening. Ik wil ook niet dat de achterblijvers onder tijdsdruk zo’n ingrijpende beslissing moeten nemen over mijn lichaam. Als gevolg van mijn positieve mening over orgaandonatie overwoog ik een “Ja” te registreren. Op dat moment las ik een Facebook post over dit onderwerp van iemand die ik vertrouw.

Ik schrok me rot na het lezen van de bijlagen bij deze Facebook post en kon me nauwelijks voorstellen dat die informatie waar was. Anderzijds was die informatie echter wel logisch. Ik bleef beducht dat die informatie een Broodje Aap was en ging daarom rond vragen. Helaas bleek die informatie te kloppen. Ik voel me inmiddels belazerd door de politici die dit voorstel goedkeurden. Uit protest heb ik daarom mijn “Nee” geregistreerd.

Ik vraag me af hoeveel mensen niet volledig op de hoogte zijn van de consequenties van orgaandonatie. Er wordt altijd slechts 1 kant van dit onderwerp belicht: de ontvanger. Dit lijkt logisch omdat de verstrekker van organen dood zou moeten zijn. Helaas is de werkelijkheid veel complexer. Waarschijnlijk is die werkelijkheid de reden dat erover gezwegen wordt.

De kern van de discussie betreft de definitie van “dood”. Voor de meeste mensen zal het antwoord heel simpel zijn: het hart klopt niet meer en het lichaam voelt geen pijn. Helaas is dat niet de medische werkelijkheid. Er bestaat namelijk nog een medische definitie van dood: hersendood. Bij een “hersendood” klopt het hart en voelt het lichaam pijn. Bij voorkeur vindt orgaantransplantatie plaats in het stadium van hersendood.

De consequenties voor de orgaandonor en de achterblijvers zijn verschrikkelijk. Heel weinig mensen realiseren zich dat organen getransplanteerd worden terwijl het hart van de donor nog klopt en de donor bovendien veel pijn voelt omdat transplantatie niet onder narcose plaats vindt. Bovendien kan de periode van orgaantransplantatie geruime tijd (lees: weken) duren. In die tijd kan geen begrafenis of crematie worden gepland. Bovendien mag het lichaam meestal niet thuis opgebaard worden.

De informatieverstrekking rondom orgaandonatie is eenzijdig en onvolledig, en mogelijk zelfs bewust misleidend onder het Machiavelliaanse motto: het doel heiligt de middelen. Het is onmenselijk om deze informatie voor potentiële donoren en achterblijvers achter te houden. Het overgaan van een “Nee tenzij” naar een “Ja tenzij” systeem, is daarom momenteel volstrekt onverantwoord.

Ik verzoek de Eerste Kamer daarom tegen dit voorstel van de Tweede Kamer te stemmen.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Cold Little Heart

Cold Little Heart

Did you ever want it?
Did you want it bad?
Oh, my
It tears me apart
Did you ever fight it?
All of the pain, so much power
Running through my veins
Bleeding, I'm bleeding
My cold little heart
Oh I, I can't stand myself

And I know
In my heart, in this cold heart
I can live or I can die
I believe if I just try
You believe in you and I
In you and I (3x)

Did you ever notice
I've been ashamed
All my life
I've been playing games
We can try to hide it
It's all the same
I've been losing you
One day at a time
Bleeding, I'm bleeding
My cold little heart
Oh I, I can't stand myself

And I know
In my heart, in this cold heart
I can live or I can die
I believe if I just try
You believe in you and I
In my heart, in this cold heart
I can live or I can die
I believe if I just try
You believe in you and I
In you and I (7x)

Maybe this time I can be strong
But since I know who I am
I'm probably wrong
Maybe this time I can go far
But thinking about where I've been
Ain't helping me start

Michael Kiwanuka - Cold Little Heart (2016) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Dead or Alive

In my 16 September 2016 blog, I made an assumption, a fatal assumption. I was dead wrong. I should have listened to that tiny little voice in the back of my mind that asked me to check my assumption. I ignored that hunch as I just couldn't imagine that my assumption would be incorrect. It was beyond my belief. Subsequently, I registered my "NO" at the Dutch donor register.

Yesterday, I discussed my "NO" with my mother (1934). Again I assumed she was a "YES" and again I was wrong. She is a "NO". She told me that she was aware of that information for many, many years. Her statement made me wonder whether I have been living in some kind of a cave, denied of relevant information. Still, I don't consider myself as ignorant. So, what went wrong?

The most simple answer is that I just didn't want to know - the ostrich approach in view of danger. Another possibility is that the information didn't feel relevant to me as I felt young and "immortal". Another viable possibility is that this topic is a taboo. It's not a taboo in the medical field according to my mother. She claims that organ donation is even the subject of medical jokes.

The registering of my "NO" was a protest, and possibly an emotional overreaction as I felt betrayed. This information is not part of the public debate about donor registration. Revealing this information may shock people and is likely to give more "NOs" - like mine. Revealing this information is also a Machiavellian approach: the end justifies the means.

This proverb from Machiavelli's The Prince implies that "morally wrong actions are sometimes necessary to achieve morally right outcomes; actions can only be considered morally right or wrong by virtue of the morality of the outcome" (Wiki).

The above also reminds me of a John le Carré quote: "Love is whatever you can still betray. Betrayal can only happen if you love". The intensity of the organ donation debate makes me think, feel and believe that emotion (eg, love) has won from ratio and that beliefs won from facts.

The medical definition of death is different from people like you and me. We would say: if a heart is still beating then the person is alive, and also when a person still feels pain then the person is still alive. Let me be very blunt now: when people are considered to be "brain dead" and the heart is still beating then organ donation may and will commence and even without anesthesia. This information came with total disbelief to me. As President Ronald Reagan once said: Trust but verify.

For days, I have been considering whether or not to write this blog and also in which language - Dutch or English. Given the large number of countries that use a "Yes unless" organ donation principle, I have decided to aim for the largest possible audience. I am not against human organ donation. I just hate being lied to. Especially when politicians try to change a very sensitive, voluntary, and very personal choice into semi-mandatory legislation.

Dead or Alive - You spin me round (like a record) - 1985 - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki

Friday, 23 September 2016


On 20 September 2016, Hillary Clinton addressed the Tulsa police shooting. She said that while there are "good, honorable, cool-headed police officers" working across the country, "we can do better. We have got to tackle systemic racism. This horrible shooting again. How many times do we have to see this in our country? This is just unbearable. And it needs to be intolerable." (eg, CNN)

A month earlier, on 21 August, the Philippine President used his colourful language to say the same: “Why are you Americans killing black people there, shooting them down when they are already on the ground? Answer that question because even if it’s only one or two or three it’s still human rights violation, goddamn – you tell that to that American there.” (eg, CNS, the Hill, NBC)

I am glad that Hillary Clinton used the word "unbearable" as I feel it the same way. I don't know the statistics but it feels to me that these killings of black people have never been higher than during Obama's Presidency (2009-2017). That feeling also makes me - reluctantly - wonder if these systematic killings are part of something entirely else. 

In a weird way, my perception is shared by Kathy Miller. Until her taped video remark became public, she coordinated Donald Trump's Presidential Election campaign in Mahoning County, Ohio: “I don’t think there was any racism until Obama got elected. We never had problems like this. Now, with the people with the guns, and shooting up neighborhoods, and not being responsible citizens, that’s a big change, and I think that’s the philosophy that Obama has perpetuated on America.” (Guardian)

Kathy Miller's observation is factually incorrect but her perspective (or: belief) is intriguing. I think, feel and believe that the 8 years of Obama Presidency changed the perspective of white Americans on black citizens. Essentially, Donald Trump's campaign leverages on that white perspective. 

For many decades, white voters have dominated American elections. Several news media reported that the 2016 Presidential campaign is probably the last one as a result of changing US demographics. On 13 May 2016, US News released a telling article, called The decline of the white male voter: "Nationwide, 16 percent of eligible voters were minorities in 1980. That percentage has grown to 30 percent this year and will be 50 percent by 2052. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the country as a whole will be majority-minority by 2044." Alternative sources: link 1.

The ferocity of the 2016 American Presidential Election campaign, and Donald Trump's in particular, most likely also relates to this white last straw. The belief in White Supremacy is at stake. On 20 September 2016, the WP used this headline: "You can sleep tonight knowing the Klan is awake. Fliers like these are showing up on lawns across the U.S." One 30 June 2016, the NY Post reported an AP article that "The Ku Klux Klan is slowly rising again". The "unbearable" coin clearly has 2 sides, like most stories have. 

White Supremacy is neither a fact, nor an opinion, and certainly not the Truth. It is a Philosophical Belief system, firmly rooted in its past achievements, guarded by a continued separation between Politics and Religion, pushed by Money and Science, and only threatened by Greed, Ignorance and a lack of Love for people and planet

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) - IMDb, video, Wiki

Thursday, 22 September 2016

A new belief: man-made climate change

Recently, former French President Sarkozy told a panel of business leaders that “Climate has been changing for four billion years. [] You need to be as arrogant as men are to believe we changed the climate.” (eg, Marianne, Politico). Politico also stated: "French presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy suggested climate change isn’t caused by man []." Note: italic markings are mine.

The debate about climate change is slowly changing from acknowledgement versus denial towards human accountability and responsibility. On the one hand this is progress as some facts are no longer denied. On the other hand, this discussion is still obscured by opinions and beliefs rather than facts. I still remember the shock I felt when I first read about the non-human contributors to climate change. For details, see my 9 May 2015 blog: Climate change - trust but verify.

The 8 scientifically known causes for climate change are: (1) strength of the sun, (2) changes in the Earth's orbit, (3) changes in the orientation of the Earth’s axis of rotation, (4) quantity of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, (5) carbon dioxide content of the oceans, (6) plate tectonics, (7) ocean currents and (8) vegetation coverage on the land (British Geological Survey).

In a certain way, Mr. Sarkozy is indeed right by arguing that "You need to be as arrogant as men are, to believe we changed the climate." In my view, Mr Sarkozy should have added that there is little doubt that humans have contributed to climate change. The extent of this contribution seems more of a blame game than a serious debate aimed at resolving anything. 

The belief that humans are fully or largely accountable and responsible for climate change will prevent any political solution because simple historical facts contradict this belief.

Sea levels have been rising for at least 20,000 years following an interglacial period (a.k.a. "global warming") which "occurred from c. 110,000 to 12,000 years ago" (a.k.a. the Last Glacial Period). 

The famous city of Ephesus (1000 BC - 1500 AD), in which the gospel of John is said to be written, was totally deserted after the sea level decreased by several meters and its commercial function (eg, harbour) became fully irrelevant. 

A further increase of post-glacial global sea levels is potentially a major threat to the world's largest cities that were often built near the oceans and seas, as humans have done for thousands of years. See my 18 January 2016 blog.

President Obama's recent warning at the UN about the impact of climate change on future mass migration is indeed a very interesting one (eg, Scientific American).

Bob Marley - Exodus (1977) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Consumerism - More is Better

Consumerism seems deeply ingrained in our human behaviour. In a way, we still behave like the hunter-gatherers of human evolution. Now we hunt for bargains and collect (gather) stuff for our homes. Often we buy things we don't need (with money we don't have) to impress people we don't even like, a Dave Ramsey quote.

Each additional good we buy contributes to our overall satisfaction. Yet the relative – or marginal - increase in our overall satisfaction decreases. Boosting our overall satisfaction becomes more and more difficult. The simplest example is eating a delicious slice of pie. Each additional slice contributes less to our appetite. At some point the “increase” even becomes negative and our overall satisfaction decreases (eg, stomachache). This is the Law of Diminishing Returns in Economics.

A similar impact is known in psychology. Learning Mind: “A series of studies published in the journal Motivation and Emotion showed that as people become more materialistic, their sense of wellbeing and purpose is reduced and if they become less materialistic, it rises. [] In many ways, this is a logical correlation. Consumerism and materialism often involve comparisons with others and, if it is perceived that others are doing better, resulting feelings of deficiency are understandable.”

The reasons for breaking with consumerism are twofold: either it's a voluntary choice or it's forced upon by external events (e.g., divorce, sickness, unemployment). I think, feel and believe that the consequences are very, very different.

My quitting of consumerism was – and is - forced upon by external events. Initially, I resisted this change. My resistance was similar to Denial, the 1st stage of processing grief. The other 4 Kübler-Ross stages followed subsequently: Anger, Bargaining, Depression and then Acceptance. I doubt my Acceptance is definitive. I miss certain good things in life, like buying a ticket and visiting friends abroad. I'm now looking for opportunities to tweak my Less is More approach with some aspects of consumerism that will boost my overall satisfaction.

A voluntary choice for halting consumerism brings 2 basic alternatives: a choice for Needs versus Beliefs. Both choices ultimately involve a belief but only the second one of these beliefs is extreme and potentially dangerous. The first group believes in Back to Basics (ie, basic Needs) and is represented by – for example - the Amish.

The second group radicalises from facts to opinions to Beliefs and often turns against consumerism, including the people and nations that represent consumerism. Their Beliefs are often in the Power domain (i.e., Money, Politics, Religion) of the 7 Belief systems. They are eager to “change the world” and force their new Beliefs upon other people as the new Truth. That force often brings violence. This group is also known as freedom fighters or terrorists, depending on your perspective (and who is winning). See my 15 March 2016 blog for historical international examples.

Consumerism is ultimately nothing more than a belief that More is Better. Any belief (or Belief) can change. It just takes time and the 5 Kübler-Ross stages of processing grief over losing a belief (or Belief): Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

Teddy Pendergrass - The more I get, the more I want (1977) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

The 7 Belief systems - Religion

Out of all the 7 Belief systems, the one about Religion took the most time to write. I failed to see from which angle I should be approaching this. Recently, I got a most intriguing comment to my 15 September 2016 blog on Faith vs Religion: "God hates Religion". 

This comment finally made me realise that Religion is a human concept. Before I wasn't able to separate Faith and Religion in my mind. I just felt and knew that I had to delay writing this blog until mental clarity would arrive. 

To illustrate the above comment that God hates Religion, I received two supporting Bible quotes: Matthew 15:8-9 and Isaiah 29:13. These quotes may not support the word hate but they do support a sincere dislike for this concept of man-made Religion. Both quotes make clear that the human emphasis is too much on man-made Religion and not (enough) on Faith in a Supreme Being or Deity (eg, Allah, God, Yahweh).

It would be (too) easy to disregard these Bible quotes by stating that these comments just/only refer to the Jews escaping Egypt. Humans have even worsened the situation by creating religious split-offs: first Judaism, then Christianity and ultimately Islam. Within these main derivatives further split-offs emerged: eg, Catholics vs Protestants and Shia vs Sunni. Yet all these religions claim to worship a Supreme Being. Any claim that there is more than 1 Supreme Being would be genuine blasphemy

My key criterion for any Belief system is the willingness to sacrifice your own life for that Belief. The concept of man-made Religion has provided many examples of that willingness, the most prominent being the Christian Crusades and the Islamic Jihad. This religious violence is essentially man-made despite any claim to the contrary. 

The leaders in any religious institute are just humans looking for opportunities to expand their (institute's) power. The pyramid like structure in Money (businesses), Politics (parties) and Religion (eg, churches, mosques) is a typical representation of the Power dimension in any human organisation. 

This human need for creating copies of a military command structure is however contrary to nature. Quanta Magazine: “Self-organizing mechanisms are present everywhere in nature, from the development of an embryo to the organization of large animal populations,” said Simon Garnier, a biologist at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

The main difference between the various species on this planet (see Nature's Tree of Life), is related to yesterday's breakthrough about the 3 levels of awareness: Needs, Wants and Beliefs. Only humans have expanded beyond the Needs level. The level of Beliefs is by far the most dangerous one.

Nowadays, many people support Richard Dawkins' claim that Religion is the root of all evil (Wiki). Before, the root of all evil was the love for Money (Bible). I am inclined to say that 6 of the 7 Belief systems (ie, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science and the Truth) are the root of all evil. And I am not sure about Love. Latter is a paraphrase of a famous Albert Einstein quote.

Charles & Eddie - Would I lie to you? - 1992 - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Monday, 19 September 2016

Chelsea - Clinton - New York

Hours before the police voiced any public conclusions, Donald Trump declared the explosion to have been caused by a bomb: “Just before I got off the plane, a bomb went off in New York and nobody knows exactly what’s going on. But boy, we are living in a time, we better get very tough, very very tough. [] And we are going to get tough and smart and vigilant.”

The Donald conveniently forgot to mention that his buddy David Duke, the former head of the Ku Klux Klan, had informed him about Chelsea and the Afghan patsy. Both had had a good laugh about the location's name and the usual suspect. Chelsea and Hillary Clinton were both prominent New Yorkers and both would not miss the "coincidence" of the name of the location.

The use of a pressure cooker had also seemed a jolly good idea for the 2016 American Presidential Election. Quite recently The Donald had further raised the pressure on Hillary by stating: "I think her bodyguards should drop all weapons. Disarm immediately. Take their guns away, let's see what happens to her. Take their guns away, OK? It'll be very dangerous."

The use of bombs ahead of an election had been advised by Russia and Turkey. It was a useful tool to deflect people from the ballot to the bullet. Even Obama had recently acknowledged this when he said that Republicans are “apparently more afraid of a ballot than a bullet.” Fear is an excellent manipulator of the human mind.

If anything would have gone wrong with the 1st bomb, The Donald would just blame the Clintons - as he always did. His remarks on Clinton's health had not been random at all. He had a mole in her campaign. They just relied on her obsession with privacy. Hillary's public collapse was a genuine gift. Another tick mark on his To Do list.

The Donald's greatest joy is how he has been able to play the press in every single instance. For years he has accused President Obama of being of Kenyan descent. Some 50 days before Election Day, The Donald makes another one of his (in)famous flip-flops and blames Hillary Clinton for starting that birther conspiracy theory. If she denies then The Donald will focus on her alleged 2008 role in the rumour that Barrack Hussein Obama is a Muslim. The Donald will make her bite the bullet and especially when he doesn't win the ballot.

The Donald is slowly warming up his believers for violence against the Clintons. His initial 9 August 2016 remark on gun related violence against a newly elected female President caused widespread criticism. His 16 September 2016 remark on gun related violence against Hillary Clinton only caused a brief stir. The recent release of John Hinckley Jr., the would-be Reagan assassin, was another gift to The Donald. This guy might be another excellent patsy.

The Donald's love for boxing made him aware of a Joe Louis quote: She can run (for office) but she can't hide. Ballots or bullets. What a joke, The Donald thought and put a tick mark in his mind.

Massive Attack - Protection (1995) - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

I stand in front of you
I'll take the force of the blow

Inspired by Andy Horowitz and his satirical Horowitz Report

Legal disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

The 7 Belief systems - Needs, Wants and Beliefs

About a week ago, I had an epiphany relating to my concept of the 7 Belief systems. I finally realised how Beliefs fit into a much bigger concept. Essentially, humans have 3 levels of awareness: Needs, Wants, and finally Beliefs. The Needs have been thoroughly described in Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. Wants are better known as “consumerism”. The concept of Belief systems has been described in many of my blog articles.

When I now look back at the previous paragraph, I wonder why I didn't see the beautiful simplicity of these 3 obvious layers before. Probably as the things that are closest to us, are also the hardest to focus on. The epiphany arrived when I was again looking at Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs for guidance. I suddenly remembered a repeated remark on some of my draft blogs: “This is not applicable in Africa.” The word "needs" in Maslow’s hierarchy finally hit me.

Similar to the animal world, the first layer of human awareness is Needs. Our most essential human needs include food, water and shelter (physiological needs). Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs also recognises 4 subsequent layers of human needs: (2) safety, (3) belonging and love, (4) esteem, (5) self actualisation and self-transcendence.

The distribution of global wealth is the key reason why countries differ between Needs, Wants and Beliefs. Beliefs are indeed not very relevant to Africa where Needs are all that matter. Dreams about Wants are the reason for migration, as migrants are looking for a better life. For refugees, it's all about the need for safety. The key difference is in motivation.

In the Western world, basic Needs are often fulfilled and Wants are the main goal in life: a bigger and/or better car, education, house, job, sound system, TV, vacation, etcetera. For many people, the stage of Wants is the final stage. Only a few move to the next stage: Beliefs. The tipping point for the previous transfer – from Needs to Wants - was dreams. The tipping point for this move – from Wants to Beliefs – is related: shattered dreams.

This feeling of disappointment and disillusionment is represented by a familiar line: “Is this all there is??” Is Life just about fulfilling Needs and chasing dreams about Wants?? There must be something more in Life. Beliefs fill that vacuum. My concept of the 7 Belief systems represents the extreme versions of those beliefs. The key criterion is the willingness to sacrifice your own life for your Belief(s). In that context, Beliefs are likely to represent the ultimate stage.

My Google search on the words Needs Wants Beliefs didn't reveal any useful link to an existing thesis on this subject. I have always felt that my concept of the 7 Belief systems was part of another concept. I think, feel and believe that I've finally found what I've been looking for. The elegant simplicity of this concept of Needs, Wants and Beliefs is its most appealing part. The best things in life are often “simple” - at a first glance.

The above also provides an explanation why the 7 Belief systems seem to be so relevant in our Western societies, whereas Africa is still largely in the stage of human Needs. Consumerism – or Wants – can easily bring spiritual emptiness. In that vacuum, radicalisation from facts to opinions and from opinions to beliefs is the result.

Doe Maar – Is dit alles (1982) - artists, Dutch lyrics, video, Wiki

Ga zitten want ik wil eens met je praten / Go sit down I wanna have a talk with you
Ik ben allang niet meer zo blij als toen / For long I haven't been as happy as then
Nee schrik maar niet ik wil je niet verlaten / Don't worry I don't wanna leave you
Er is iets en ik kan er niets aan doen / There's something and I can't help it

We komen niets te kort we hebben alles  / We have plenty and lack nothing
'N kind 'n huis 'n auto en elkaar / A child, a home, a car and each other
Maar weet je lieve schat wat het geval is / But darling do you know
Ik zoek iets meer ik weet alleen niet waar / I'm looking for something more but I don't know what

Is dit alles / Is this all
is dit alles / is this all
is dit alles wat er is (2x) / Is this all there is

We zijn nu net een stuk in dertien delen / We are like a play in 13 parts
Aan het einde zijn we allemaal de klos / At the end we are all screwed
We leven trouw het leven van zo velen / We faithfully live the lives of many
Ik wil iets meer ik wil 'n beetje los / I want something more, I want some freedom

Is dit alles / Is this all
is dit alles / is this all
is dit alles wat er is (2x) / Is this all there is

Note: translation by LO

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Doctor my eyes

Doctor my eyes

Doctor, my eyes have seen the years
And the slow parade of fears without crying
Now I want to understand

I have done all that I could
To see the evil and the good without hiding
You must help me if you can

Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what is wrong
Was I unwise to leave them open for so long

'Cause I have wandered through this world
And as each moment has unfurled
I've been waiting to awaken from these dreams

People go just where they will
I never noticed them until I got this feeling
That it's later than it seems

Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what you see
I hear their cries
Just say if it's too late for me

Doctor, my eyes
Cannot see the sky
Is this the prize
For having learned how not to cry

Jackson Browne - Doctor my eyes (1972) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Changing my belief

I'm in a process that I never expected: changing my belief. Unfortunately, the change is about a person and not a concept. That makes the impact emotional rather than rational. These doubts I have made me sad. Part of me is arguing that I have wasted my time. It doesn't help that others have said to me that I have made a mistake.

I do not commit easily but when I do it's for the long-term. Admitting to myself that my choice was wrong is hard. There were only 2 people in my life about which I'm still not sure today. A third person may have entered that remarkably small number of people in my life. The last time I had this doubt, it took me many months to recover from my grief. I experienced all 5 stages of the Kübler-Ross model: Denial, Anger, Bargaining/Begging, Depression and Acceptance.

While writing the former paragraph, I notice a striking similarity between 2 episodes in my life. I think I've just realised which stage I may have entered. It's difficult for me to stop caring about a person. Loyalty is my strength and my weakness. Giving up on someone is only easy if I hardly know that person. Once there's a bond, it's a long-lasting one.

The 5 stages of the Kübler-Ross model are not time-boxed. In some cases, these 5 stages may be very short and you may hardly recognise that you've already passed them. In such a case, it's likely that the person wasn't really that important in your life. When people were (very) important then you may not recognise the relevant Kübler-Ross stage because of the (very) long duration of some stages.

Now that I've finally approached the Acceptance stage, I recognise the earlier stages. A long period of Denial, which was sometimes accompanied by Anger. A short period of Begging, as begging is not really my thing. Depression or sadness found its way when I was feeling vulnerable. Perhaps Acceptance started in June when I was finally able to listen to the “truth” and no longer fighting it (i.e., denial).

Another observation is that these 5 Kübler-Ross stages may be sequential in straightforward cases but may be fluid in complicated cases, like mine. The fluidity relates to a temporary relapse to a previous Kübler-Ross stage. It might be something like testing the waters: Are you really ready for the next stage?

I think, feel and believe that changing your belief is like learning. You can learn new facts about a topic but you can also learn new facets of a person's character (personality). Facts are either (angrily) denied or (reluctantly) acknowledged. Disappointment in new facets of a character relates to expectations about a personality. The higher the expectations, the greater the disappointment.

For several years, I've put this person on a pedestal. Initially, I assumed that I had lost my respect. I sincerely doubt that is true. Somewhere there are still good memories. I now realise that I'm just removing the pedestal that I had once given. I need to digest this as I'm not sure how this will affect me. Probably indifference just entered my life. I suppose Indifference is the flip side of Acceptance.

Ace – How Long (has this been going on) - 1974 - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Friday, 16 September 2016

Yes unless

Last Tuesday, the Dutch Parliament (“2nd Chamber”) adopted a resolution by 75 against 74 with 1 absentee. Apparently, that person would have voted “No” but was being held up in a train (eg, Dutch News). Now this draft legislation will face scrutiny by the Dutch 1st Chamber. This draft bill is quite controversial as it deals with an ethical, medical and religious issue: human organ donation. The controversial aspect is the change from a “No unless” to a “Yes unless” principle.

Like many other people, I have not been able to decide on (my) organ donation after my future demise. Hence, I haven't registered a choice on the government site. This draft legislation will now force me to think and decide about my choice. A “No unless” legal principle was much less worrisome than a “Yes unless”. The current legislation always allowed the descendants to decide upon organ donation in the absence of a registered choice by the deceased.

Now I need to face my own "fears", I suppose. It's not easy to determine the origin of my hesitation. I suppose it's a struggle between emotion and ratio. On the one hand, it seems quite noble helping others to survive. Also, you don't need your body after passing away. Nevertheless, it feels weird that people start cutting in your body when you're barely dead and still warm. The notorious What-If questions are just around the corner.

I suppose that our religious thoughts about the hereafter are quite relevant to our decision on voluntary organ donation (“No unless” principle). A “Yes unless” principle makes a distinct move towards mandatory organ donation. What if (!) “they” fail to register or find my “No”??

The irony is that people voting “No” probably wouldn't mind receiving human organs. That is also the reason why I never registered anything. It seems weird registering a “No” against giving organs, and also be on a waiting list for receiving an organ.

The draft legislation addresses that asynchronicity to some extent as it implicitly assumes that everybody is willing to accept human organs in case of personal survival. Medical reciprocity thus requires a “Yes unless” principle. Still ethical questions remains. The history of harvesting human organs also comes with some cruel examples (eg, organ traffickingprisoners, trade).

One of the reasons for the shortage of human organ donors is the rapid development of medical science. The opportunities for saving human lives will only advance. In a few decades, there may well be some kind of “human recycling” in which many parts of human bodies will be re-used to improve – or save – the lives of other humans. This idea has already been used in several Sci-Fi movies like Soylent Green (1973, IMDb) and The Matrix (1999, IMDb).

The initial outcome of the draft legislation on human organ donation may be indicative of its future. Within a few days after this news became public, almost 4,500 people have cancelled their previous acknowledgement for organ donation (eg, NL TimesNRC). I suppose this relates to a very sensitive, voluntary and very personal choice becoming semi-mandatory legislation. 

Groucho Marx: "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." 

Bram Vermeulen - Politiek (1980) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki

Als ik niet kijk
Heb ik het niet gezien
Heb ik het niet gezien
Wist ik er niets van
Kunnen ze mij niets maken
Dus ik kijk niet

Als ik niet praat
Heb ik het niet gezegd
Heb ik het niet gezegd
Wist ik er niets van
Kunnen ze mij niets maken
Dus ik praat niet

Politiek, politiek
Ik ben er niet, ik ken ze niet
Politiek, politiek
Ik kijk niet en ik zeg niets

Als ik niet lees
Weet ik het niet
Weet ik het niet
Wist ik er niets van
Kunnen ze mij niets maken
Dus ik lees niets

Politiek, politiek
Ik ben er niet, ik ken ze niet
Politiek, politiek
Ik kijk niet en ik zeg niets

Ik kijk niet en ik zeg niets
Ik praat niet en ik zeg niets

Als ik niet luister
Hoor ik het niet
Hoor ik het niet
Wist ik er niets van
Kunnen ze mij niets maken
Dus ik luister niet

Politiek, politiek
Ik ben er niet, ik ken ze niet
Politiek, politiek
Ik kijk niet en ik zeg niets

Politiek, politiek
Ik ben er niet, ik ken ze niet
Politiek, politiek
Ik kijk niet en ik zeg niets

Ik praat niet en ik zeg niets
Ik luister niet en ik hoor niets

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Faith vs Religion

On 13 July 2016, I read a newspaper article written by a Dutch Muslim. She stated that it's tiresome to be a Muslim nowadays. She feels she always has to defend her Islam religion. I suppose that Jews also feel this need to always defend the state of Israel. Defending my religion is too much work as ridiculing Christians has been common practice for decades in my country.

People are not able to separate faith from religion. Faith is what you think, feel and believe inside. Religion is an outside man-made representation of faith. From an auditing perspective: faith = substance and religion = form. Moreover, faith is subjective as anybody's faith is personal and thus different. Religion is formalised and thus – in a sense - objective.

The human involvement in religion has been the source of many conflicts: eg, Catholics vs Protestants, Shia vs Sunni. I think, feel and believe that it's safe to say that all current main religions are the result of man-made separations (or: derivatives) of even much older religions (eg, Zoroastrianism). A recent conversation with a Muslim showed him and me that our faith is much less different than our religions are.

I do understand the aversion against religion. In that same conversation, it appeared that his and my faith in – or respect for - our religion has been dented. I’m disappointed by the many (man-made) scandals in "my" Roman Catholic Church and I've lost respect for that institution. Yet I do separate my faith from my official religion. My faith has increased while my respect for religion - as a man-made institution - has decreased.

I think, feel and believe that the human aversion against all religions is accelerating. It's easy to label Religion as the new scapegoat for all today’s problems. Essentially, it's a new kind of antisemitism and this time by using the word Semitic in the correct way. Christianity, Islam and Judaism are the main 3 Semitic - or Abrahamic - religions.

Ironically, the continued fast growth of Islam may even save the concept of Religion and thus implicitly save declining religions in its slipstream like Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism. Remarkably, that would even confirm Matthew 20:16: "So the last will be first, and the first will be last." I feel a wink from somewhere now.

Some weeks ago, I watched a beautiful 2013 movie called The Physician (IMDb). One of the main characters is Ibn-Sīnā (a.k.a. Avicenna), an outstanding Persian academic during the Islamic Golden Age. The movie is also a beautiful illustration of the elements of my concept of the 7 Belief systems: Love, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science and the Truth.

Nowadays, lots of people call themselves either atheist or spiritual. The former group is distrusted by other people, according to scientific research; please refer to my 2 April 2016 blog for details. The latter group may not at all be that different from people carrying faith inside them. “What's in a name?”, a quote from William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet.

I cannot imagine being faithless, neither to our Deity (eg, Allah, God, Yahweh) nor to my friends. Being faithless feels like a deliberate absence of a moral compass in life. A society without a moral compass has no direction and is a lost society. Having faith also means that I sleep well at night after “Having my talk with God” (artistlyrics, video, Wiki).

Faithless - Insomnia (1995) - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Geriatrics in American politics

Several media have stated that Barack Obama (1961) is looking forward to his retirement. No wonder given his extreme facial ageing since 2008. My mother (1934) is of the opinion that there should be an age limit in politics of 60. Born in 1960 myself, I fully agree. Many Western countries show a rejuvenation in politics. Justin Trudeau (1971) of Canada was another recent example.

The geriatrics in American politics is demonstrated by Hillary Clinton (1947) and Donald Trump (1946). Given the stress of a presidential campaign, it's hardly a miracle that Clinton has physical issues (eg, dizziness, pneumonia). I’m more concerned about the sleep deprived Donald Trump. His erratic mental behaviour may well result from a chronic lack of sleep.

The call for a strong leader and the admiration for Vladimir Putin (1952) suddenly gets a different context. The Russian President indeed seems very fit compared to these overdue US pensioners. If Obama’s ageing is any indication of the stress of being President, the running mates of Clinton and Trump - Tim Kaine (1958) and Pence (1959) - better prepare for action.

The trend of geriatrics in American politics is intriguing. Bernie Sanders (1941) was another example. It doesn't help that younger candidates make terrible gaffes. Some examples: Gary Johnson (1953) – “What is Aleppo?” Or Marco Rubio (1971) and his Marcobot. Ted Cruz (1970) had a string of gaffes before he surrendered. The lack of knowledge in American politics is astonishing. This may be another reason for the rise of fact checking by agencies like PolitiFact.

The main difference between US politics and any other country’s politics is money. The cost of a US presidential campaign now runs in the billions of US$ and is far beyond any other country (eg, MJ). The financing of US political campaigns is the place where Money meets Politics. Apart from the usual average small political donations, Money only trusts Politics if it listens and wins.

Age might be a bonus to Money. Age has lost its youthful principles and gained determination and perseverance. A quest for history and legacy may also blind someone's ambitions. Youth and its principles may always turn around against Money. Age knows the art of loyalty.

The power of Money in US politics is demonstrated by Donald Trump. Firstly, by publicly refusing the strings attached funds of some billionaire political masterminds, and secondly by using his “own” money for buying his way into the US 2016 Presidential election. It's worrisome that Americans still view this process as evidence of “democracy”.

Perhaps my main issue with geriatrics in American politics is that you hardly know what you are voting for (eg, policies). The best – or worst – example is the ongoing flip-flopping by Donald Trump. Hardly anyone knows where he really stands for. The large number of Republicans who are now supporting Hillary Clinton is - to some extent - similar evidence.

The inexperience and the dogmatism of young politicians never appealed to me. I also don't like the vast pragmatism of seasoned career politicians. The distance between both couldn't be bigger.

Young Gun Silver Fox - Distance between us (2015) - artists, tumblr, video, Wiki

Note: no lyrics online