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Friday, 30 June 2017

Vaccines - the Truth as a Belief system

On 21 June 2017, a ruling on vaccines by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) caused worldwide attention. Pharmaceutical firms were disappointed because of potential lawsuits. The ruling has also been accused of undermining national vaccination programmes (eg, Telegraph). The CJEU ruling was an overdue victory for the French man who was vaccinated against hepatitis B in 1998, developed multiple sclerosis a year later, and died in 2011 (eg, CNN).

When I was born in 1960, my parents must have had little doubt in vaccination programmes as I received all of the recommended voluntary ones for children (eg, chickenpox, measles). As an adult, I renewed certain vaccinations considering my foreign travelling (eg, DTP, Hepatitis A, yellow fever). I did read about the risks and/or side effects. I made a conscious choice.

Vaccinations are generic while each human is unique. From a statistical point of view, it makes sense that on a population of billions of people, some people will suffer from severe side-effects. During my 2 visits to Kenya, I used the anti-malaria pill Malarone. Unfortunately, I belonged to the group of 5% with expected side-effects. Would I prefer running the risk of malaria? Not really.

Both sides of the debate claim that their truth is the Truth. Nobody accepts the ugly truth that both sides are right: many lives are saved and a few people could/will be killed. The Greater Good theory would know the answer: the morality - good or bad - is defined by the end result. Hence, many is better than a few. Utilitarianism would agree: 'the greatest amount of good for the greatest number'.

The CJEU ruling uses a statistical approach: if a significant number of healthy people - with a lack of history of the disease in their family - developed a disease shortly after receiving a vaccine then that would serve as enough proof to bring a claim (without a need for further scientific proof). However, this ruling makes a major flaw in its reasoning on cause and effect.

The CJEU ruling only blames the "defect" vaccine in certain exceptional cases. The alternative is not being considered: a "defect" human being. Once again, vaccinations are generic while each human is unique. A generic drug could never be tested, approved and marketed with a 100% reliability. An "expected performance of 99.98%" might be their best (eg, FDA).

Until the CRISPR-Cas9 technology optimizes our DNA, there is always a risk of a shoddy immune system and an inappropriate generic vaccine. I had no shadow of a doubt when my children were up for recommended voluntary vaccination. It's an easy choice between running the risk of 0.02% side effects and - increasingly - a 100% risk of (future) contamination. 

The bitter irony is that people refusing vaccines on matters of principle, were once quite safe because of the high rate of vaccination. Now that this rate is falling, they suddenly become the victim of people who also refuse vaccinations but based on ignorance (eg, Germany, Italy). 

The Greater Good (2010) by José James - AllMusicartist, FBlyrics, video, Wiki


Thursday, 29 June 2017

Male feminism and female sexism

I am not a feminist. At least that is what I think, as I have no clue how or what a male feminist would look like. Men describing themselves as feminist make me a little uncomfortable. A Dutch guy even claimed that men shouldn't talk about feminism as men do not experience sexism. Latter is factually wrong and that guy must be blind.

For many years, I was also blind towards female sexism. My former girlfriend had to wake me up from my hibernation. Since she explained its signals, I am now finally noticing them. I must admit that I have always seen these signals but never thought about their meaning. Female sexism is sophisticated and probably even an art - unlike male sexism.

The word feminism does not have a male equivalent (Quora). It's antonym is misogyny or hatred of women. The absence of a male equivalent for feminism is suspicious in itself. Hence, this (female) remark in Quora: "The term "feminism" is actually a vague label." I can only imagine that a male feminist must sound suspicious to women.

Loving a woman should make a man a feminist - by definition - but clearly this is not the meaning of the word. Men do not have an understanding how it feels to be a woman. The same applies to women. How could women know how it feels being a man? Men do not often talk about emotions which makes it even harder to understand what drives male behaviour.

I can't even be a feminist as I have no clue what women see in men. I suppose women see different qualities in men than men see in women. My former girlfriend never worried about my wellbeing and was confident that I would soon have a new girlfriend. I did not understand her. I am not an easy person. I am reclusive and don't meet many people. She was very right however.

I doubt that women look for male feminists. If this label is suspicious in male eyes then it must raise red flags in women. At the age of 57, I think women are looking for male authenticity. This might even explain the beautiful 1978 love song "Is she really going out with him?" by Joe Jackson (artist, lyrics, video, Wiki).

Explaining male authenticity may take some effort. Essentially, it means being yourself and stop pretending to be someone or something else. Being yourself is easier said than done. We all wear various masks to cope with our various roles in life (eg, family, love, sport, study, work). Women do however not appreciate the male mask in Love.

Being yourself requires showing your vulnerability. Without mutual communication, forgiveness, intimacyrespect, togetherness and trust, this will usually not happen (my 19 January 2016 blog). Men - and women - often mistake vulnerability for weakness. Making yourself small in the eyes of someone you trust, will make you a great person in her eyes. Greater than you feel yourself and perhaps even greater than you really are. It's just different for girls.

It's Different For Girls (1979) by Joe Jackson - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Humanoid sapiens, our future descendants (2)

Last monday's blog on the quest for human immortality needs a broader perspective. This quest is unique for human thinking and human beliefs. Life in Nature has 3 stages: Needs (all life forms), Wants (life forms using tools) and Beliefs (only humans). These 3 stages coincide with some other concepts, like Body (needs), Mind (wants) and Soul (beliefs), and also consciousness (all life forms), (self-) awareness (life forms using tools), and thinking (only humans).

The quest for human purpose - why we are here - is closely related to my concept of the 7 Belief systems and its answers: Love, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science and the Truth. These 7 are grouped in 3 domains: Knowledge (eg, Science), Power (eg, Religion), and Love. Faith belongs to the domain of Love: for a deity, for others, and (for/in) oneself.

Throughout human history, Knowledge and Power have been close and successful companions. In due time, Love for - and faith in - a Supreme Being (deity) changed into the man-made institute of Religion. Given the equation Knowledge = Power, Science (Knowledge) and Religion (Power) became each other's opponents. Also, Faith lost its meaning. For centuries, Science became the #1 enemy of Religion due to its promotion of atheism and its quest for human immortality.

In response to the human quest for purpose, Aristotle (384–322 BC) promoted eudaimonia which is the strive for happiness through a good (eu) soul (daimon). There is a clear link with the teachings of the Iranian-Persian prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathustra) in which good/bad souls are defined by good/bad deeds, words and thoughts (see my blog label Zoroastrianism).

Today, the human quest for purpose in the Western world is often in hedonism, which is a Philosophy (also in the Knowledge domain) that "argues that pleasure and happiness are the primary or most important intrinsic goods and the proper aim of human life". To some extent, the political Islam, radical Islam, and Islamic terrorism could be seen as a response to Western atheism and hedonism. It's like a renewed Crusades (see my 25 November 2015 blog).

The human quest for immortality now finally separates the human body, mind and soul. The body is replaced by an artificial humanoid. Its mind is an enhanced human download. The ancient and/or religious concept of a human soul has never been proven by Science and can thus be ignored. The quest for human immortality is an extreme belief in Knowledge (Philosophy, Science, the Truth), and Power (Money, Politics), and narcissism (self-Love). 

The human quest for immortality has an indirect and ironic answer to the human quest for purpose. The quest for immortality seems to dehumanise us and may thus remove the need for a human quest for purpose.

The above is loosely related to 2 new books and related interviews: Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari, and The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith.

Get a Life / What's the Meaning (1989) by Soul II Soul - artists, lyrics, videoWiki


Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Gone but not forgotten




She's Gone (1973) by Hall & Oates - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

She's gone
Oh why
Oh why
I better learn how to face it


R.I.P. Joan (30-4-1962 - 27-6-2016)

Monday, 26 June 2017

Humanoid sapiens, our future descendants

In Episode 5 of "The Mind of the Universe", Prof. Robbert Dijkgraaf states the following: "On the Temple of Delphi in ancient Greece, it was written: "Know thyself". However, if we hardly know ourselves, how could we then know our machines? It's a matter of time and these machines will beat what a human can and their reality is not ours. It's an illusion that we can then keep up with their thinking. Are our machines our descendants rather than the Mind of the Universe?"

Ever since its broadcasting on 4 June 2017, Robbert Dijkgraaf's question has bugged me. Is it possible that we are "creating" our "next of kin" without even realising it??

Our view on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics is largely based on Fear or Love. This makes sense given human firmware and emotions. Most Sci-Fi movies are rooted in Fear, like Alien (1979), Matrix (1999) and Terminator (1984). I only recall a few Sci-Fi movies based on Love: Bicentennial Man (1999), E.T. (1982), Ex Machina (2014), and Her (2013).

Scientists seem to be in the 2nd category: Love. Prof. Pascale Fung, one of the scientists in episode 5, is an example with her work on empathetic human-robot interaction. Another example is "Alice your personal care robot" (video) which looks like a favourite doll or a grandchild (my 19 July 2016 blog). Much to my surprise, the response of the elderly people is positive.

I am still puzzled why humans are so eager to develop humanoids, or AI robots resembling humans. Is it possibly related to our eternal quest for immortality??

In part 2 of the the documentary Why are we here, the Nigerian poet and novelist Ben Okri states that we feel inside like "an inward cathedral" despite our small size. Actually, our mind must feel trapped inside our body. Our mind seems limitless but our body has many limitations (eg, ageing). What if we could combine an artificial body with our - enhanced - mind??

In 1637, René Descartes wrote "je pense, donc je suis", which translates in English as "I think, therefore I am", or "cogito ergo sum" in Latin. Based on that reasoning, our mind is essential and our body is interchangeable. Transhumanism, "one of the world's most dangerous ideas", is also rooted in that thought (also see my 8 July 2015 blog).

The human quest for immortality is already documented in the "The Epic of Gilgamesh", originally a Sumerian poem (c. 2150-1400 BCE). Gilgamesh was a demi-god who was said to have lived an exceptionally long life (Sumerian King List126 years) and to be possessed of superhuman strength (Ancient). Despite his epic quest, he ultimately fails to win immortality.

Today, the quest for longevity and/or immortality is more serious than ever before, especially in Silicon Valley (eg, CNBC, Guardian, Newsweek, New Republic, New Yorker, Wired). We may once be able to tweak our body and enhance our mind but what about our soul ?? I believe in a Body-Mind-Soul concept. Soul with a capital S.

Soul With a Capital 'S' (1993) by Tower of Power - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Sunday, 25 June 2017

Right Where You Are




Right Where You Are (2015) by Lizz Wright featuring Gregory Porter

When you came here already running
Then I knew you couldn’t stay
All I could do is sit right beside you
I’d never stand in your way

Right where you are stop for a minute
Shimmering there in the sun
I’ve gone so far.. I’m so deep in it
My heart is already won

Come let me see those bright weary eyes
What gave you reason to cry
If you want to leave a story behind us
Don’t be so strong tonight

Right where you are stop for a minute
Shimmering there in the sun
I’ve gone so far.. I’m so deep in it
My heart is already won

So much time is lost in pride and noble regret
No regrets no regrets
Take one sweet night
To dance and forget

These working hands
Just like my door are open they never were closed
Yours for the taking
Ready and waiting
Let yourself in like you know

Right where you are stop for a minute
Right here in this amber light
We’ve come so far
We’re so deep in it
Don’t turn away til sunrise

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Islamophobia

After one incident at a London mosque, the meaning of Islamophobia suddenly changed from Phobia – or Fear - into Hate. Muslims were also quick to judge non-Muslims for their hatred towards Islam and Muslims. Suddenly, Muslims are the real victims of Hate rather than Western citizens. A classic case of reverse psychology and projection by people in a victim role.

The Western fear over Islamic terrorism will not change by redefining a word. Fear could indeed turn into Anger. Anger could indeed turn into Hate. Hate could turn into violence. This Islamic "violence" has been directed at many Western societies and its citizens. Some Western governments have been more successful in preventing Islamic terrorism than others.

The severe inequality in Anglo-American societies will keep triggering the sequence Fear-Anger-Hate-Violence, and at both sides of the aisle. Inequality is an eternal source of radicalisation, whether Black Lives Matter, Islamic terrorism, or White Supremacy. To them, there's no reason to assist authorities in their law-enforcement efforts as the Law is deemed biased and unfair.

The UK PM's redefining of Islamophobia will further enrage the people who already fear Islam. Some newspapers had difficulty in labelling the perpetrator (eg, CNN, News.au). After so many tragic incidents of Islamic terrorism, some people may - wrongly - see a white perpetrator as a vigilante. Allegedly, the perpetrator did so himself (Telegraph). However, a neighbour stated: "He’s always been a complete cunt but this is really surprising."

Redefining IslamoPhobia into IslamHate is dangerous as it may help triggering Anger towards politicians and news media, subsequently to Islam, and ultimately towards any Muslim. Denying the legitimacy of Western citizens’ fear over Islam and Islamic terrorism, is plain wrong.

The UK Muslims assume a victim role in which they deny any accountability or responsibility over Islamic terrorism towards non-Muslims. After one opposite incident, they accuse non-Muslims of hatred towards Islam. UK politicians were quick to assume accountability and responsibility for this "white hate" incident (Guardian). A sad case of political correctness.

Muslims must accept accountability and responsibility for Islamic terrorism, must denounce it, and must actively help authorities in preventing new acts of Islamic terrorism. Why? Simply because it's in their self-interest. A continued Muslim victim role is likely to flip Western Fear into Anger, Anger into Hate, and Hate into (more) violence.

On 11 June 2017, the Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen wrote an op-ed in Politico: “Muslims’ unique responsibility to fight terror". Gülen: “Across the world, Muslims need to strengthen the immune system of our communities, especially our youth, against violent extremism. We must ask: How did our communities become grounds for terrorist recruitment? Yes, external factors must be addressed, but we must also look within.”

Mad World (1982) by Tears For Fears - artists, FBlyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Friday, 23 June 2017

The 45th President - Follow The Russian Money

On 15 June 2017, the Guardian reported that special prosecutor Robert Mueller will take a “follow the money” (FTM) approach in the RussiaGate investigation. These words have been reiterated by other media (eg, BI). The FTM approach is also used in forensic auditing, investigative journalism and financial crime thrillers. This approach would usually be revealing unless cryptocurrencies (e.g., Bitcoin, ether) are used to conceal the sender.
 
There have been many news reports about RussiaGate but I have never seen a diagram about the players and their activities. In its continued absence, I have prepared one myself, based on the (very) many news stories and my 2 favourite blogs: Patribotics (Rep) and the Palmer Report (Dem). These two blogs are usually several weeks ahead of mainstream media.

The US (intelligence) agencies have known for many years about the Russian money-laundering activities in Trump's businesses. Most of the activities at the left side of my diagram are thus many years older than the activities at the right side. Trump's narcissistic expansion of his Empire was often at the expense of banks, business partners, customers, employees, subcontractors and suppliers. This resulted in a bad business reputation for Trump.

Casinos, golf courses, hotels and real estate have a high(er) risk profile (eg, credit, reputation) at banks. Trump's business reputation and the risky nature of his businesses must have caused a general unwillingness to lend money to Trump. Deutsche Bank might be Trump's "lender of last resort". Early 2017, Deutsche was fined for a $10 billion Russian money-laundering scheme (eg, BloombergCNN, Guardian, NY). 

The Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election is probably payback for the international sanctions following the 2014 Russian annexation of The Crimea.

The Russian interference is partly due to (i) the Electoral College system and (ii) the lack of proportional representation. It's possible to flip an entire presidential election by having marginal wins in several swing states through geographical and digital gerrymandering (my blog). National proportional representation would make this flip nearly impossible.

I suppose the main plan was to destroy the credibility of (i) the US electoral process and (ii) Hillary Clinton in particular. It seems that nobody expected Trump to win the presidency. Hence, there was no plan and Trump still has no plan. His goal seems limited to disruption, creating chaos, and destroying Obama's legacy. This would benefit Russia.

My diagram of RussiaGate reflects my imagination following news reports and the PB and PR blogs. My diagram does not pretend to be accurate or complete. Nevertheless, it appears to be far worse than any season of HBO's House of Cards. The Russia investigation is not about obstruction of justice. In my view, it's about high treason or "treason against the state". 

Finally, Trump may have been a Russian asset for years but he is a Russian liability now. Several media have recently been highlighting the high number of suspicious deaths relating to Trump's Russia scandal (eg, CNNIndependentPalmer Report, USA Today, WP). Trump should be worried for lots of reasons.


Thursday, 22 June 2017

Gerry What? Gerry Who? Gerrymandering !

On Monday 19 June 2017, "the Supreme Court declared that it will consider whether gerrymandered election maps favoring one political party over another violate the Constitution, a potentially fundamental change in the way American elections are conducted" (eg, WP). I have come to realise that gerrymandering is probably the most perfidious way to influence elections.

The issue of gerrymandering does not exist in proportional representative democracies. It's only relevant in elections that use districts and then favour its top candidates. Such elections are common in the UK and USA and - to some extent - France. Redistricting can make - or break - the odds of a certain party. Gerrymandering is an example of extreme partisanship.

Princeton University claims to have calculated the impact of gerrymandering. Princeton: "The redistricting of 2010 led to a jump of about a dozen seats away from recent historical trends. The suddenness of this change, along with my statistical analysis (Stanford Law Review) reveals how this jump arose from partisan redistricting efforts in a handful of states."

Gerrymandering requires political knowledge about the constituents in each of the electoral districts. Subsequently, you need an Analytics firm to calculate the impact of geographical gerrymandering, or redistricting. Finally, you need approval for redistricting (eg, state governor). Since a few years, digital gerrymandering is a hot issue (eg, FT, Harvard, New Republic, Paste, Wired). Both aim to favour a preferred candidate.

Last October 2016, Politico reported that "there is no current national database of voter registration because each state independently runs its own election. But TargetSmart, a Democratic political data firm, told POLITICO that the country passed the 200 million threshold in recent days []. The figure means more than 50 million new people have registered to vote in the past eight years. Only 146.3 million were registered as recently as 2008 []".

On 19 June 2017 (again!), security firm UpGuard revealed that "personal information of almost 200 million registered U.S. voters was accidentally exposed online due to an improperly configured security setting. The leaked information, compiled by Republican data firm Deep Root Analytics and two other Republican contractors, included names, birth dates, addresses, voter registration details and social media posts." (eg, CNN, Hill, InterceptUpGuard, ZDNet).

The 2016 Russian hacking efforts in state voter registration databases might be a new example of digital gerrymandering. Bloomberg: "In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. [] In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states []". Such hacking efforts might be directed to prevent certain people from voting which would then obviously favour the other party.

James Comey at the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election: “They’re coming after America. They will be back.”

I'll Be Back by Arnold Schwarzenegger - video


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Partisan

I am still wondering why the Russians succeeded in interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and did not succeed in Continental Europe. There may have been some successful interfering in UK's Brexit though (see my 1 June 2017 blog).

On 8 June 2017, the former FBI director told the Senate Intelligence Committee: “It’s not a Republican thing or Democratic thing — it really is an American thing. They’re going to come for whatever party they choose to try and work on behalf of. And they’re not devoted to either, in my experience. They’re just about their own advantage. And they will be back.”

The decrease of bipartisan cooperation and the increase in partisan obstruction, in both the UK and USA, is at the heart of James Comey’s observation. Neither party trusts the other. In a partisan environment, the equation Knowledge = Power gets a new meaning. The Trump Administration’s official guidance of 1 May 2017 to ignore oversight requests from the (Democratic) minority party is an extreme example of partisan obstruction (a.k.a. partisanship).

Partisanship in US Congress is reflected in American society. Without the Electoral College, the USA would be dominated by left-wing Democrats. The self-proclaimed biggest democracy in the world does not have proportional representation. Small differences on State level may change an entire election. The 2016 U.S. presidential election is the worst example ever as Democrats won by a record national margin of 2.9 million votes but lost the presidency (Wiki).

U.S. partisanship has created an American society dominated by the Arrogance of the Left and the Ignorance of the Right. Reading articles in Bloomberg, CNN, NYT, Time, and WP is increasingly annoying because of the self-righteousness of the American Left. The closed mindedness, ignorance and stupidity of American Right media is often enough to ignore them.

In countries dominated by extreme Arrogance and Ignorance, it must have been easy interfering their elections. Half of the population (including politicians) hates and distrusts the other half. Interfering in elections in favour of the Ignorant Right was a stroke of genius. The Arrogant Left are whining on details but can't see the forest for the trees: a nation under attack.

Obviously, it helps that the UK and USA are English speaking countries. Hacking in Dutch, French or German elections may result in a lack of translation resources. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will overcome this current human resource issue. The Internet of Things will further provide ample resources to future hackers.

Heather A. Conley, senior VP at the Center for Strategic & International Studies and an author of “The Kremlin Playbook,” recently stated in the NYT: “This is part of what the Russians call ‘new generation warfare’. It’s a strategy of influence, not of brute force.” (eg, Aspen, NGA).

Trump's demands that European NATO countries must spend 2-3% of their GDP on military defence conflicts with Russian "New Generation Warfare". Spending lots of money on military equipment (eg, planes, ships, tanks) would be a burden on NATO's cyber defence. This would only benefit Russia. Trump's demands may need to be seen in that context.

The Partisan (1969) by Leonard Cohen - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2Wiki-3


Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Grateful

I am grateful for my girlfriend's (dual) recovery within 10 days. I am less confused now as I am slowly understanding the message of 8 June 2016 and 2017. It's a hard one which I’m still chewing on. Joan’s death has affected me more than I realised. It triggered something unfamiliar. My friend’s (dual) admittance to the hospital’s emergency room, reactivated that trigger.

I am grateful for each new day since the recovery from – actually, more the survival of - my 2013 burn-out. It was worth the fight with myself. That fight has changed me a lot. I am not the same person as I was before. My priorities are different now: Less is More. My writing has become a journey inside myself with an unknown destination.

I am grateful for the good life that I have lived. Excerpt from my 9 August 2016 blog: “I am lucky. In fact, I have always been lucky, ever since my childhood. I was born under a privileged Zodiac, in a privileged country and with privileged parents.”

I am grateful for the talents that were given to me at birth. As a boy, I dreamt of writing a book and becoming an archaeologist. Instead, I pursued a successful career in Audit and then Finance. Everything that I've learned seems to have fallen in place by now: confidence, conscientiousness, curiosity, impartiality, independence, open mindedness.

I am grateful for having known Love, not only parental love and romantic love but also the hardest love of all: self-love. Our perceived flaws usually prevent self-acceptance and thus self-love. Our flaws may relate to Body (e.g., looks, weight), Mind (e.g., inferiority, jealousy), and/or Soul (bad words, deeds and thoughts).

I am grateful for having known adversity in my life. Most of my life, adversity was minimal. Success became “normal” in my life. In 2013, adversity hit my life on nearly all of its dimensions: career, family, health, love, money, relationship. A meltdown was the result. Understanding what had happened became my challenge. I survived, also because I refuse being a victim.

I am grateful for the friends who walked in - and out of - my life. It took me decades to separate acquaintances from friends. I used to think more friends is better and spent much time on networking. Friendship is the ultimate test in expectations: they build while mutual and fail while diverging. I "gained" many acquaintances following my 2010 divorce and 2013 burn-out.

I am grateful for having learned the importance of having no regrets in life. Postponing saying that you're sorry assumes having adequate time. The assumption is the mother of all mistakes, a quote by Eugene Lewis Fordsworthe (my 26 May 2015 blog).

I am also grateful for the girlfriends who entered my life. Some made an everlasting impression and others became distant memories. A few also became my best friend. Our good memories will always win and our goodbye will always hurt.

I am most grateful for the force of Faith that has accompanied me through Life. It's important to separate Faith from Religion (my 15 September 2016 blog). Faith is like surfing through the waves. Sometimes you will make a wrong decision and fall. There's always the rope that connects you and your surfboard. You climb back and surf on to the next wave.

You Want It Darker (2016) by Leonard Cohen - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Hineni, hineni
I'm ready, my Lord


Monday, 19 June 2017

The American solution: more guns, less healthcare

Within 10 days, Trump got what he wanted. On 4 June 2017, shortly after the London terrorist attack, Trump tweeted: "Do you notice we are not having a gun debate right now? That's because they used knives and a truck!" On 14 June, a US Congressman was shot and critically injured. The gun debate in USA is back. That debate is mainly whether a semi-automatic Colt AR-15 assault rifle is in line with US Constitution. Real gun control, like in Europe, is not an option.

The consequence is that few people are blaming guns and/or bullets for what happened. Democrats blame Republicans and Trump. Republicans blame Democrats' anti-Trump rhetoric, Obama and liberal media (e.g., Comedy Central). Few blame the American lack of gun control apart from people like former Congress woman Gabrielle Giffords, who "survived an assassination attempt that left her with a severe brain injury".

In most countries, having an AK-47 or AR-15 would make you a terrorist. In the US, it makes you a "concerned citizen". After each mass shooting, gun sales increase. Any attempt to control guns causes a surge in gun sales. Even people who object guns (or assault rifles) may be tempted to buy one given the phrase: "If you cannot beat them, join them".

The Second Amendment (Amendment II) to the United States Constitution protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms and was adopted on December 15, 1791, as part of the first ten amendments contained in the Bill of Rights (Wiki).

The word healthcare is not (explicitly) mentioned (source). This shouldn't come as a surprise as the word didn't even exist in 1791. The 1978 World Health Organization conference resulted in the Alma-Ata Declaration which stated that "health [ ] is a fundamental human right [ ]". 

In the 21st century, there is still an American debate whether health or healthcare is a fundamental human right or an entitlementMerriam Webster defines an entitlement as a "belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges". It's a shockingly different view: a fundamental human right versus a privilege (that you need to earn). 

Trump can't make up his mind about US healthcare. Before his election he was against Obamacare but in favour of an Affordable Care Act. Like many others, Trump may not have realised both are the same (NYT). See this overview of Trump's promises on healthcare.

Later, Trump praised the Australian universal health care system after the Republican victory of the Obamacare repeal in the House (CNN). Recently, Trump even called the proposed Republican House healthcare bill as "mean" (CNN, NW, NYT) which his fellow Republicans "can't believe" (AxiosBI) and/or deny (the Hill).

The American political chaos surrounding the Obamacare repeal is unnerving healthcare insurers, which are pulling back from the market (eg, Atlantic, CNN). Obviously, these "insurer exits bolster the Republican case for an Obamacare repeal" (the Hill). Hence, Trump is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy and more disruption, chaos and destruction.

The American solution of more guns and less healthcare is one of bitter, bitter irony.

Ironic (1996) by Alanis Morissette - artist, FB, lyrics, videoWiki-1Wiki-2

And isn't it ironic...don't you think
A little too ironic...and, yeah, I really do think...


Sunday, 18 June 2017

Be




Be (1973) by Neil Diamond - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2, Wiki-3

Lost
On a painted sky
Where the clouds are hung
For the poet's eye
You may find him
If you may find him

There
On a distant shore
By the wings of dreams
Through an open door
You may know him
If you may

Be
As a page that aches for a word
Which speaks on a theme that is timeless
And the one God will make for your day

Sing
As a song in search of a voice that is silent
And the sun
God will make for your way

And we dance
To a whispered voice
Overheard by the soul,
Undertook by the heart
And you may know it
If you may know it

While the sand would become the stone
Which begat the spark
Turned to living bone
Holy, holy
Sanctus, sanctus

Be
As a page that aches for a word
Which speaks on a theme that is timeless
While the one God will make for your day

Sing
As a song in search of a voice that is silent
And the one God will make for your way

Angels




Angels (1997) by Robbie Williams - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

I sit and wait
Does an angel contemplate my fate
And do they know
The places where we go
When we're grey and old
'cos I have been told
That salvation lets their wings unfold
So when I'm lying in my bed
Thoughts running through my head
And I feel that love is dead
I'm loving angels instead

[Chorus]

And through it all she offers me protection
A lot of love and affection
Whether I'm right or wrong
And down the waterfall

Wherever it may take me
I know that life won't break me
When I come to call she won't forsake me
I'm loving angels instead

When I'm feeling weak
And my pain walks down a one way street
I look above
And I know I'll always be blessed with love
And as the feeling grows
She breathes flesh to my bones
And when love is dead
I'm loving angels instead

[Chorus]

And through it all she offers me protection
A lot of love and affection
Whether I'm right or wrong
And down the waterfall
Wherever it may take me
I know that life won't break me
When I come to call she won't forsake me
I'm loving angels instead

[Repeat Chorus]

Saturday, 17 June 2017

PVV gedoogkabinet (2)

Nederland kent geen kiesdrempel zoals Duitsland (5%) of andere landen. Er is wel een kiesdeler omdat er maximaal 150 zetels te verdelen zijn. Tevens geldt dat de restzetel niet de 1e zetel mag zijn. De restzetel gaat dus naar bestaande partijen en niet naar een nieuwkomer. Dit geeft een effectieve kiesdrempel van 0.67%. In 2017 zaten alle gekozen partijen daar ruim boven en alle niet-gekozen partijen er ruim onder (Wiki).

In 2017 hadden zich 81 politieke partijen aangemeld bij de Kiesraad (KR). Daarvan deden er uiteindelijk "slechts" 28 aan de 2017 verkiezingen mee (KR). Uiteindelijk zijn er 13 partijen in de 2e Kamer gekomen (KR). Volgens de Kiesraad is dit het hoogste aantal partijen sinds 1974 (14).

Een kiesdrempel van 5% zou het aantal partijen in de Tweede Kamer direct terugbrengen van 13 naar 7 en indirect (na fusies) mogelijk naar 8 (bijv. CU+SGP = 5,3%). De overige 4 kleine partijen (50+, DENK, FvD, PvdD) - met in totaal 14 zetels of 9% - zouden dan opgaan in een grotere partij (bijv. GL en PVV) of verdwijnen. 

Het huidige "motorblok" (CDA, D66, VVD) - met 71 zetels - zou waarschijnlijk niets winnen. Het Linkse blok zou er via de PvD waarschijnlijk iets op vooruit gaan: van 37 (25%) naar 42 (28%). De PVV zou wellicht de zetels van 50+ en FvD kunnen incasseren: van 20 (13%) naar 26 (17%). De 3 zetels van DENK (2%) zouden waarschijnlijk geheel verdwijnen. De 8 zetels van CU/SGP (5,3%) en de 9 zetels van de PvdA (6%) spelen dan nog steeds een sleutelrol. 

De PvdA van Ahmed Aboutaleb zou direct kunnen aanschuiven bij het motorblok. Gezien zijn recente uitspraken in het Algemeen Dagblad over solidariteit en migratie zou de PvdA wel eens sterk kunnen gaan groeien omdat "Links" nog geen anti-migratie sentiment kent. Ooit vervulde de SP die baanbrekende en taboe doorbrekende rol. 

De PvdA van Lodewijk Asscher blijft in de oppositie. In de 2017 verkiezingen koos hij ervoor om 4 jaar gezamenlijk kabinetsbeleid met de VVD vervolgens af te vallen. Een nieuwe keuze voor de VVD zou hem ongeloofwaardig maken en zou zijn leiderschap ter discussie stellen.

Het afhaken van GroenLinks was en is verstandig. Ze hebben niets te winnen en veel te verliezen. Partijen zoals GroenLinks, PVV en SP zijn geboren oppositiepartijen. De breuk was voorspelbaar. Mogelijk waren de onderhandelingen voor GL een marketingstunt. Het maakt hun "sales-pitch" naar jongeren nog duidelijker. Roemer's SP is tenminste oprecht: nee = nee.

De 5 zetels van de Christen Unie zouden het motorblok inderdaad aan 76 zetels kunnen helpen. Ik verwacht niet dat het zal gebeuren. Het zou de (on)ethische en/of filosofische kroonjuwelen van D66 om zeep helpen (bijv. orgaandonatie, voltooid leven).

Nieuwe verkiezingen sluit ik uit want het zwartepieten is onvoldoende geweest. De lokroep vanuit Rotterdam naar Den Haag kan alles nog veranderen. Zo niet, dan komt er een CDA/VVD minderheidskabinet. De voorspelbare val daarvan zal een ongekend zwartepieten inluiden, gericht op de onverantwoordelijkheid en onvolwassenheid van diverse partijen. Een hernieuwd pleidooi voor een kiesdrempel hoort daarbij (RTL 12 December 2016).

Wat ruist er door het struikgewas (1980) door Toon Hermans - video


Friday, 16 June 2017

Stalemate

Recently, the FT wrote about the Anglo-American democracy problem. Both basically have a 2-party democracy and both countries are in serious turmoil. Continental Europe is based on proportionate representation rather than a complicated district system affected by gerrymandering and favouring and over-representing the top candidate. France is somewhere in between.

The Trump Administration’s main priority is destroying the 8 year Obama legacy. Promising to tear this down was easy. Replacing it with new policies is difficult because of internal party divisions. This makes sense as both parties have 2 wings: moderate and extreme. Essentially, these 2 external parties represent 4 internal parties. Their hate towards each other, unites them.

The UK has a minority government since their recent snap general election. Their PM wanted extra seats in order to overcome internal party divisions. Her surprise move made perfect sense given the favourable polls but her gamble failed. The Brexit debate that divided Britain, now divides UK Parliament. A hard Brexit becomes a soft Brexit and perhaps no Brexit after all.

After negotiating for more than 90 days, the Netherlands still has no new government. The difficulty lies in its multi-party system (2017: 13!) and the refusal of most parties to cooperate with at least 1 other party. Nearly all parties refuse cooperating with the Freedom Party of Geert Wilders (13%). Finding 76 seats (or 51%) requires at least 4 parties in the political center.

The main benefit of coalition governments is that they build on existing political legacy rather than tearing it down first and build later. The main drawback of building coalition governments is in its duration. Belgium still holds the record with 589 days in 2011.

France is interesting as it - essentially - used to have a 2 party structure: Conservatives/Right vs Labour/Left. Choices were rather limited. The surge of the extreme nationalists of Le Pen created more choice and a multi-party system. Then came Mr Macron. Within a year, he came, saw and conquered. France might soon be ruled by only one (1) party.

Does the outcome in France suggest a voters’ preference for a strongman, similar to autocratic regimes in China, Philippines, Russia and Turkey?? I like to think that Mr Macron is just the New Kid in Town (artists, lyrics, video). He offers Hope with a moderate view rather than an extremist view that conflicts with Equality, Fraternity and Liberty.

Perhaps the solution is in Germany: proportionate representation with a 5% election threshold. This removes extremist, protest, and/or “single” issue parties which are generally not willing to govern anyway, unless on their conditions.

The best defence for a multiparty system and a coalition government comes from Lord Acton: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.”

From the musical Chess - One Night in Bangkok (1984) by Murray Head


Thursday, 15 June 2017

Autonomy (2): Control vs Change

In my 6 June 2017 blog, I explained that Autonomy is an example of one of the 7 Belief systems, being Philosophy. Our belief in Autonomy explains why we want to be in control in/of our lives. However, Control conflicts with Change. Hence, we welcome Change when it creates order (and control) and we fear Change when it brings chaos and lack of control.

Change is a continuous cycle of 4 elements that govern our lives: Faith, Hope, Doubt and Fear. As François de la Rochefoucauld once stated: "Hope and fear are inseparable. There is no hope without fear, nor any fear without hope." Change has 2 main phases: Order (or equilibrium) and Disorder (or Chaos). Faith and Hope are part of Order & Control. Doubt and Fear are part of Chaos and lack of Control.

The 7 Belief systems are at the core of human beings. The Order & Control phase of Change rules over the Power domain of the 7 Belief systems (Money, Politics, Religion). The Chaos phase of Change rules over the Knowledge domain (Philosophy, Science, the Truth). Love, the 7th belief system, is impartial. The Power domain leverages on (profits from) Order & Control. The Knowledge domain fights Chaos.

The former paragraph made me realise that our belief in Autonomy was originally an example of the 7th belief system Love, and more specifically self-Love. Our views on Autonomy gradually changed from self-Love to Love for others (e.g., end of slavery, equality, fraternity, liberty). Nowadays, Autonomy has become a Philosophical Belief which is no longer connected to Love (others or self). This explains part 1 of this blog.

Our daily struggle to be in control in/of our lives will be successful as long as Change provides Order & Control. Our success will enhance our illusion that we can control our lives. Our illusions will be shattered, once Chaos enters our lives. This shattering will usually announce Grief and the 5 steps of the Kübler-Ross model: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

Chaos and Grief will challenge our core beliefs, including Autonomy. Both will bring a choice in our lives: clinging on to our old beliefs or finding new beliefs (e.g., Awakening). We always have a choice. There is no better or worse involved in this choice. There has to be a match: right time, right place, right person (e.g., Idries Shah quote).

The contemporary human belief in Autonomy conflicts with other concepts like ecology, interconnectedness, society, and - perhaps most of all - Love and caring for others. Autonomy promotes different concepts like being in control, egocentrism, independence, individualism, and being self-supporting.

Perhaps Chaos is our wake-up call that a philosophical - or political - belief in Autonomy is an illusion or – worse - delusion. Chaos teaches the benefits of caring and sharing through cooperation and reveals the weaknesses of individualism. Cooperation brings synergy (wealth) and "social interaction [which] is critical for physical and mental health" (NYT).

“As an actor there's no autonomy, unless you're prepared to risk the possibility of starving.” Quote by Ben Kingsley

Control (1986) by Janet Jackson - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

This is a story about control
My control
Control of what I say
Control of what I do


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Bargaining for Time

In my recent blog on Acceptance, I mentioned Bargaining as the 3rd step in the Kübler-Ross model of processing Grief. I have never written about this topic. Perhaps I couldn't envision this step, perhaps it was too personal. Since a few days, I was bargaining without realising it.

Bargaining is a common feature in our lives. Wiki: "Bargaining or haggling is a type of negotiation in which the buyer and seller of a good or service debate the price and exact nature of a transaction." There is also collective bargaining.

Bargaining for (extra) Time is deeply ingrained in our society. At work, we ask to delay a deadline. During sports, we ask for injury time. During exams, we ask for extra time to compensate a handicap like dyslexia. In families, kids may ask parents to postpone household chores. In relationships, we ask for extra time to think about important decisions.

In our prayers to Ahura Mazda, Allah, God or Yahweh, we may bargain for extra Time, either for ourselves or for our loved ones, while processing our Grief. I suppose that we are all willing to give time from our own lives to our loved ones. It just feels better growing old together. Time is the most precious gift that we can give each other anyway.

A negotiation with a deity may seem utterly meaningless, even for people who have faith or are religious. Nevertheless, we do it anyway. Not bargaining for Time feels even worse as if the person does not even deserve our bargaining. It's like a no show of a lawyer during the trial of his/her client. Without a defence, the client seems guilty before the trial ends.

My girlfriend feels guilty towards me and towards others. I had noticed before that she is easily susceptible to feelings of guilt. Guilt requires accountability and/or responsibility from her towards me. There is none. Hence, there cannot be guilt. On an emotional level, feelings of guilt are however quite complex and usually deep.

I didn't expect my girlfriend being back in hospital this quick. Based on her medical history, neither did she. I was already worried and now I am deeply worried after having seen her in hospital again. I don't want to lose another friend. Losing Joan in June 2016 was almost too much. Bargaining didn't make sense that time. The despair over the Why question hit me later.

I will be bargaining again for extra Time tonight, when I have my talk with God (see song below). It's the least that I can do for her. She deserves it, I know she does.

"Time is the most precious gift in our possession, for it is the most irrevocable. This is what makes it so disturbing to look back upon the time which we have lost. Time lost is time when we have not lived a full human life, time unenriched by experience, creative endeavor, enjoyment, and suffering. Time lost is time not filled, time left empty." A quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Have a Talk with God (1976) by Stevie Wonder - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

When you feel your life's too hard 
Just go have a talk with God 
When your load's too much to bear 
Just go talk to God He cares 
I know He does