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Kleptocracy masquerading as meritocracy

Some election thing is going on in Hungary. Not with ballots mailed to voters to be voted at designated polling places but some declaration of allegiance to one of the opposition candidates expressed at tents set up for this purpose by each candidate. Not really understanding the whole thing, I have refrained from exercising my civic right.

I was asked at a recent dinner with good friends what the greatest problems and potential solutions are. Well, it is complicated, so I laid out my thoughts in bullet form. If you need clarification, you know where to find me.

  • Radical humanism

    • More that unites than sets apart
      • We have far more in common with each other than differences between us
      • Focusing on our common goals works better than exploiting our differences
    • Love is the answer
      • No, Sex? is the question and Yes! is the answer
        • Is a joke spread in singles’ bars
        • Deeper truth: life works better when approached with love and compassion
        • Not with enmity, ill will or malicious intent
      • How love manifests in behaviors is what elevates us
        • The key is what motivates action
        • To do the right thing for the wrong reason
          • “The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason.” — T.S. Eliot
          • “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
          • Do NOT avoid doing the right thing
          • Ensure your intentions, motivations and aims are clear and noble
        • Look at problems and opportunities from a higher plane of thought
          • Put the problem in context
          • Know its sources, inputs, environment and effects
        • Problems can only be solved where (context) they are defined or created
          • Social problems with legal means?
          • Health issues with regulatory enforcement?
          • Ideological problems with military means?
        • Stifle ego-driven demands and urges, avoid judgments
          • Ego makes demands (more: not enough; better: not good enough)
          • Based on false assumptions of scarcity and perfection
        • Find the proper role for the ego
          • Who is running your life, making important choices? Ego? Higher Self?
          • Expressed as: rational mind (thoughts), heart (feelings), gut (intuitions)
          • Or some other, undefinable part of Self?
          • Role for the ego: to assess, analyze and advise – not decide
        • Make choices, decisions for the greatest good, fully accepting responsibility for consequences
          • Extra bonus: this is the path to self-confidence!
          • Mean well: Have clear and noble intentions, motivations and goals.
        • Tune out rationalizations, biases and false narratives
          • Powerful ego can rationalize the most senseless acts
          • Everyone has biases, e.g.: confirmation bias, selection bias, information bias
          • The media is full of false narratives: ALL narratives are false, abstractions
          • Influenced by the biases of writers, editors, publishers
        • Be constructive, be a resource, create value and be of service, help each other
        • Educate by being, enlightening and inspiring
          • Being: set an example, act in ways you want to be treated
          • Enlighten: teach how to think, not what to think
          • Inspire: paint an inspired, evolved vision of how things could be


A simple question, "Should the US and NATO troops withdaw from Afghanistan?" has no simple answer, but a rather complex one. The simplistic answer is, "Of course, because we should have never been there in the first place." But as one might expect, simplistic answers are often without merit.

So why were we there in the first place? President Joe Biden said to fight terrorism. Therein lies logical fallacy number two: one cannot wage a war on terrorism any more than a war against lying and cheating. Terrorism is not an enemy but a tactic an enemy might use against us and one cannot win a war against a tactic. The source of terrorism is a difference in ideology: Islam vs. Judeo-Christiandom.

This leads us to fallacy number one: a problem can only be solved in the domain in which it is defined, where it is created. One cannot solve an arithmetic problem with a hammer any more than an ideological conflict with military means or a health crisis with legal means. We simply must stop fighting wars that cannot be won.

A military must have a clear mission: an indentifiable and identified enemy as well as a crisp vision of victory. In the absence of these, winning is not possible. Is it possible that the purpose of the wars in Aghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other countries was not victory but to just wage wars at a cost of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars?

Yes, we should have withdrawn from Afghanistan. (America doesn't lose wars, we just withdraw.) However, the withdrawal should have been painstakingly planned to ensure the protection and security of evacuees and the assets deployed, which was clearly lacking. This is not to assign blame, because when faced with something having gone awry, I am only interested in three things: how to fix it, how to prevent it from happening again and what we can learn from the experience.

How to fix it? Forget about some arbitrary deadline someone pulled out of the air. Use all available resources to protect and secure the evacuees and resources deployed. How to prevent it? Should a similar situation arise, painstakingly plan the process of evacuation for the safe removal of personnel and materiel. What have we learned? I hope this post answers the question.

If you liked the post — weather you agree with it or not — would you post a link to it far and wide so I may learn form insightful comments? I would appreciate it.

From Data to Wisdom

Never have so many been interested in data mining, machine learning, BIG data and artificial intelligence. The phrases have become the linchpins of many a successful career. Yet, the deeper understanding of how data becomes wisdom often eludes us. I will attempt to add a bit of clarity.

6. That is a piece of data. Meaningless, right? Six what? What does it mean? Data becomes information with context. If we add context, as in "There are six chairs in this conference room," it gains meaning, it becomes information. Perhaps not very useful info, but info nonetheless.

Information becomes knowledge when experience is added to it. If we add to the above information the experience expressed as the average number of people attending meetings in this room over the past two years is eight, the highest number was 11 and the lowest was two with a standard deviation of 1.8, then we have some knowledge that may lead to a decision to order two or three more chairs.

Now for the tough part: how does knowledge become wisdom, especially actionable wisdom? There are many knowledgable people in the world but very few wise ones. It might be educational to ponder the reasons for this, but that is not my goal. Knowledge becomes wisdom when it is used to achieve some noble and worthwhile goal. Knowledge for its own sake is like traveling without a destination. It might be enjoyable and fun but devoid a higher purpose.

Enough said. I'll see you in a year unless I have something to say sooner.

The crystal ball remains opaque

We live at a time when science and logic fail us. We experience events and consequences which can be supported by neither reason nor science. We need to better understand the context and gestalt before reacting.

Tensions have been gradually rising in societies during the past two decades, primarily a consequence of rising income and wealth gap. Further segmentation caused by the rapid evolution and adoption of technologies created a digital divide, adding to tensions. Of course, there is generational tension; we all blame our parents for our problems. Add to the mix preexisting racial tension and the stresses caused by the financial crisis of 2008. The situation could be called volatile. Then come the widely disseminated videos of police brutality and tensions reach a boiling point. Virtue signaling politicians want to be seen "doing something" which again lead to unforeseen and often unpleasant consequences.

To start at the beginning, there was growing inequality of income and wealth.Maybe this is the core issue we should be focusing on because all the upheavals may not really be about race or religion, cops vs. robbers. I have great respect and admiration for LEOs, most of them are really good people. There are some bad apples and they are sorted. We can let rhetoric or dogma divide us or a greater purpose unite us. The time to choose is now.

The traditional response to inequality was usually a raising of the income tax with the rise of income. This approach has two unintended consequences. One is to stifle innovation and investment, to drive new business formation to countries with friendlier income or wealth taxation. The other is the result of a new influx of tax revenue into the hands of governments with a ravenous appetite for spending. The result is the increase in the reach and growth of government.

Another institutional approach to inequality was antitrust legislation purported to limit the range of control one firm or one person can exert on an industry. During the past two decades antitrust laws have been weakened by many loopholes. Global companies with deep pockets can easily skirt the intricacies of regulation. The greater the regulation, the greater the power the government has over us.

The cost of a smaller, more responsive government is self-responsibility. We can find ways to shift from a culture of dependency to a culture of opportunity. Just at a time when social structures crumble, when the pillars of civil society, religion and government lose faith and support, we must envision structures that serve us as people, as a nation, as a society and not as black, brown or white, Christian or Muslim, democrat or republican.

Such a Utopian society will have extinguished corruption in all forms, will have imposed inviolate limits on the growth of government as well as its power to borrow or print money, taught, encouraged and actively supported entrepreneurship, removed all barriers to new business formation, specified the objectives and constraints of the executive, legislative and judicial branches ensuring their complete independence, free and independent media devoid of government ownership, influence or control.

Making a Uie

What on Earth would happen if instead of focusing 90% of our attention, energy and reactions on what is happening to us, on how the world treats us, we would spend all that on how we treat the world around us?

Although the 90/10 ratio and suggested inversion is based on anecdotal evidence – my impression of what people around me talk about, deal with and react to – it must hold some water. If for no other reason than its commonality, its ubiquity, having permeated every aspect of daily life.

People talk much about how their environment treats them – prices are going up, the roads are getting worse, the weather is getting weirder, people are getting ruder and more aloof, and so on without end. Very little attention is paid on how we treat the environment, our world and each other.

Would it change anything if we were to invert that ratio, pivoted 180 degrees, made a U-turn, or in the new street vernacular, made a uie? Would you then have a different experience of life than the one you keep harping on? Could the experience of “not enough” become an expression of gratitude for all that we have?

It seems that we create the world we see, get to experience. We keep expressing, in so many ways, that we are separate from it, when in fact we are a part of it. Shakespeare wrote in As You Like It, All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players”. Yet, so many of us behave as if we were the audience.

Detached, separate, looking on, sitting quietly in the rows and pews of the theater of our mental construct, watching and reacting to the unfolding events. Mostly complaining. It is safer out here. I don’t want to get involved. One could get hurt in all the drama, why take the risk? Where is the benefit in that?

The benefit of experience is self-confidence, which is the first essential ingredient of our relating to our world in a new way. It is key in all relationships. Self-confidence means that we are comfortable in any situation, with anybody, under all conditions. We feel just fine in our skin and we actually like who we are. We make it clear what is okay with and for us and what is not.

Before we return to how we relate to the world around us in more specific ways, there is another premise to be addressed. We cannot change anything we are not willing to accept. What we resist (and give energy to) persists. If we do not accept the few extra pounds or kilos on our body, we cannot lose them.

This all-encompassing acceptance includes ourselves, of course. We must accept ourselves just the way we are or there is little hope of change. We even have to learn to love ourselves unconditionally. Without self-love, there is little chance of truly loving another. I am talking more about self-respect than narcissistic love.

The next step is self-responsibility. Self-confidence comes from making our own decisions and taking full responsibility for the consequences. Once we accept all responsibility for everything we create, there will be no need to give up the power over our emotional reactions to someone or something external.

The person we are and the way we behave affects the world we experience. A loving person lives in a loving world, a kind person lives in a kind world, an honest person… you get the point. If we approach every experience with “I am going to enjoy this” and “I am going to like this person”, perhaps we will encounter more kindness.

What sort of world would we find if acted with more kindness, concern, and compassion towards people, places and things? If we became more willing to genuinely express who we really are? If we were so self-confident that we were even willing to be vulnerable? I can already hear you say, “Everyone would take advantage of me”.

Would you take advantage just because someone is vulnerable, just because you could? Probably not, at least not if you are sufficiently evolved as a human being, if you see yourself as a part of a greater whole. Perhaps this is exactly the behavior we must model to others; this is what we need to teach our children.

Self-confidence also gives us the strength to define and defend our personal boundaries, what we can accept and what we cannot. I don’t envision a world of “doormats”, the “anything goes and nothing matters” society popularized by the western world but one of self-confident, self-responsible, loving people.

Visualize such a world. See yourself making fewer judgments and accepting more, being kinder to others. How does it feel? Now, I didn’t say the transformation is easy or quick. I am only saying that it is really worth it.

Solving the Migrant Crisis

It has been a long time since my last post. Finally, I have reached the point when I am so fed up, so sick and tired of an issue that I feel compelled to vent, to post on my blog.

What got me going is the incessant chatter and inane actions to address the so-called migrant issue. All of Europe is abuzz about it and now the US is similarly engaged in harmful, venomous rhetoric.

Are there effective solutions to the problem nearly everyone is aware of? If so, why don't they come up, why aren't they being implemented?

There are two kinds of migrants and migrations: economic and martial (war related) and thus there are two kinds of solutions that need to be applied.

The solution to migration from war-torn countries is to stop bombing and to start rebuilding. It is not hard to understand that if your home, business or workplace is leveled by bombs, you would sooner or later decide to move on. The countries that took part in such military intervention need to take the lead in cease-fire negotiations and the rebuilding, with contributions from countries most affected by migration. It would cost significantly less than having to support the migrants at their destination.

Economic migration is caused by the developed world's zero- or low-interest rate policies, the unintended consequence of which was to export inflation to the developing countries. There, the cost of basic staples has risen to the level where most people are unable to afford them. Faced with the same circumstances, you would want to emigrate too! This has deepened the famine in Africa, reduced living standards in Latin America, brought about the riots of the Arab Spring and widened the economic gap between developed and developing countries. Creating wealth from the misery of others is unsustainable. The solution is for the developed world to provide economic aid (not money, primarily, but education, systems, and opportunities) to developing countries. This would also cost less than having to support the migrants in the developed world.

Yes, the migrants are different from us. They do not know which fork to use with their salad. They do not have forks where they come from, often no dining table or dining room either and many have never eaten a salad. This does not mean that they are not human, that they cannot learn. We have nothing to gain by calling them uncivilized or barbaric but a lot by understanding and compassion. If we don't want them here, then we must create circumstances there that would cause them to want to remain.


Well, perhaps not entirely disillusioned but certainly disappointed.

The Philippines is such a spectacularly beautiful country, blessed with endless beaches and the tropical climate to enjoy them, populated by kind, friendly and joyful people. Then how come it has become such a third-world hell-hole where sewage flows in the streets, the air thick with the noxious fumes belched out by decrepit trucks and jeepneys and the landscape littered with the detritus of modern "civilization"?

How can it be that here in Europe we have had sewage and rainwater run-off systems built over 2,000 years ago (the Roman Acquincum), yet the Philippines, a country in the monsoon belt where heavy rains predictably fall six months out of the year, there aren't many and thus floods are so common that people expect them?

How can people care so little about their surroundings as to destroy them with continuous air, water and noise pollution and incessant littering? How is it possible to tolerate the dirty, hungry, homeless children sleeping in the foul debris in front of crowded fast-food stores and spending their waking hours begging for leftovers?

How can it be that the people do not demand the very basic necessities of reliable infrastructure like clean water, electricity, roads and bridges, public transportation, sanitation? How can a large and populous country like the Philippines which has some natural resources, not learn from its more successful neighbors, like Singapore?

I love the people of the Philippines and also its many scenic splendors. But I find it increasingly difficult to accept its many shortcomings. I have limited this post to only the most glaring irritants and in a future missive I might address some others, like its rampant corruption and steadfast resolve to refuse to evolve.