Archive for the ‘CounterCurrents’ Category

Swiss Voters Approve a Plan to Severely Limit Executive Compensation

Monday, March 4th, 2013

– Imagine.  The business lobby said that this was a bad idea?   It’s hard to imagine why they said that, eh?   Greedy bastards.  It’s about time we had some sanity on this issue.

– dennis

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GENEVA — Swiss citizens voted Sunday to impose some of the world’s most severe restrictions on executive compensation, ignoring a warning from the business lobby that such curbs would undermine the country’s investor-friendly image.

The vote gives shareholders of companies listed in Switzerland a binding say on the overall pay packages for executives and directors. Pension funds holding shares in a company would be obligated to take part in votes on compensation packages.

In addition, companies would no longer be allowed to give bonuses to executives joining or leaving the business, or to executives when their company was taken over. Violations could result in fines equal to up to six years of salary and a prison sentence of up to three years.

– More…

– Research thanks: Jeremy B.

 

In Germany, workers help run their companies. And it’s going great!

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

– Bravo for some ‘new thinking’.

– dennis

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Think workers don’t have enough of a say in U.S. companies? Look to Germany, Boston College professor Kent Greenfield argues in the latest issue of Democracy.

Through a process called “codetermination,” large German companies are required to elect half their board of directors by a vote of their employees, rather than of their shareholders. And it’s “now the economic powerhouse of Europe,” Greenfield contends.

How much the latter is true is pretty arguable. Germany does not have the kind of widespread unemployment that plagues the rest of the continent, but it also has much moresevere wage stagnation. So it’s hardly a paradise. But Greenfield’s piece raises a good question: What have the results of codetermination been for Germany, both for growth and for workers’ share of that growth?

The best research on this in English-language publications has come from John Addison of the University of South Carolina. He, along with Claus Schnabel and Joachim Wagner, recently produced a literature review summarizing all 17 studies that have been conducted on codetermination to date. There have been three stages of research, each using better data than the last, but the most recent is almost uniformly positive toward the councils.

While there’s little evidence that they increase sales or overall employment, they do seem to have a positive effect on productivity, according to the two most recent studies on that question. One, from Bernd Frick, found that Western German firms saw a huge 25 percent spike in productivity, while Eastern German firms transitioning out of Communism saw an even bigger 30 percent jump. Previous research almost uniformly found that the councils increase wages.

– More…

 

Prominent scientists sign declaration that animals have conscious awareness, just like us

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

– Simple empathy should tell one this.   Anyone who has ever loved a dog would know this truth.

– It’s what Buddha was talking about when he mentioned compassion for all living beings.

– We take ourselves way too seriously and judge everything that is not human as lesser.

– But they feel, they love and they hurt just like we do.

– dennis

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– Read about it here and here.

– Research thanks to Sharon R.

 

A Spiritual Conspiracy

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

– A lot of what I publish on this site is dark.  The site takes a good look into the problems of the world and it is easy to conclude that this is all that is; darkness.

– But, there is more.  There is the motivation behind the urge to explore the darkness.  A desire to know it clearly and, by knowing it, to reveal its dis-functionality.  

– Not to revel in it but to expose it to the light of day so that we may all be motivated to reject it and to replace it with something better. 

– I found this anonymous piece on the web and I think it expresses what many of us feel.   It’s what we need to remember when looking into the darkness begins to pull us down.

– My deep thanks to my friends and acquaintances who, when they see me losing the plot, call me to remember this and to re embrace it.

– Dennis

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On the surface of the world right now there is
war and violence and things seem dark.
But calmly and quietly, at the same time,
something else is happening underground
An inner revolution is taking place
and certain individuals are being called to a higher light.

It is a silent revolution.
From the inside out. From the ground up.
This is a Global operation.
A Spiritual Conspiracy.

There are sleeper cells in every nation on the planet.
You wont see us on the T.V.
You wont read about us in the newspaper
You wont hear about us on the radio
We dont seek any glory
We dont wear any uniform
We come in all shapes and sizes, colors and styles

Most of us work anonymously
We are quietly working behind the scenes
in every country and culture of the world
Cities big and small, mountains and valleys,
in farms and villages, tribes and remote islands
You could pass by one of us on the street
and not even notice

We go undercover
We remain behind the scenes
It is of no concern to us who takes the final credit
But simply that the work gets done
Occasionally we spot each other in the street
We give a quiet nod and continue on our way

During the day many of us pretend we have normal jobs
But behind the false storefront at night
is where the real work takes a place
Some call us the Conscious Army
We are slowly creating a new world
with the power of our minds and hearts

We follow, with passion and joy
Our orders come from from the Central Spiritual Intelligence
We are dropping soft, secret love bombs when no one is looking
Poems — Hugs — Music — Photography — Movies — Kind words —
Smiles — Meditation and prayer — Dance — Social activism — Websites
Blogs — Random acts of kindness…

We each express ourselves in our own unique ways
with our own unique gifts and talents
Be the change you want to see in the world
That is the motto that fills our hearts
We know it is the only way real transformation takes place
We know that quietly and humbly we have
the power of all the oceans combined

Our work is slow and meticulous
Like the formation of mountains
It is not even visible at first glance
And yet with it entire tectonic plates
shall be moved in the centuries to come

Love is the new religion of the 21st century
You dont have to be a highly educated person
Or have any exceptional knowledge to understand it
It comes from the intelligence of the heart
Embedded in the timeless evolutionary pulse of all human beings

Be the change you want to see in the world
Nobody else can do it for you
We are now recruiting
Perhaps you will join us
Or already have.
All are welcome
The door is open.

– To the original posting…

 

Why Doctors Die Differently

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Careers in medicine have taught them the limits of treatment and the need to plan for the end

Years ago, Charlie, a highly respected orthopedist and a mentor of mine, found a lump in his stomach. It was diagnosed as pancreatic cancer by one of the best surgeons in the country, who had developed a procedure that could triple a patient’s five-year-survival odds—from 5% to 15%—albeit with a poor quality of life.

Charlie, 68 years old, was uninterested. He went home the next day, closed his practice and never set foot in a hospital again. He focused on spending time with his family. Several months later, he died at home. He got no chemotherapy, radiation or surgical treatment. Medicare didn’t spend much on him.

It’s not something that we like to talk about, but doctors die, too. What’s unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared with most Americans, but how little. They know exactly what is going to happen, they know the choices, and they generally have access to any sort of medical care that they could want. But they tend to go serenely and gently.

Doctors don’t want to die any more than anyone else does. But they usually have talked about the limits of modern medicine with their families. They want to make sure that, when the time comes, no heroic measures are taken. During their last moments, they know, for instance, that they don’t want someone breaking their ribs by performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (which is what happens when CPR is done right).

In a 2003 article, Joseph J. Gallo and others looked at what physicians want when it comes to end-of-life decisions. In a survey of 765 doctors, they found that 64% had created an advanced directive—specifying what steps should and should not be taken to save their lives should they become incapacitated. That compares to only about 20% for the general public. (As one might expect, older doctors are more likely than younger doctors to have made “arrangements,” as shown in a study by Paula Lester and others.)

Why such a large gap between the decisions of doctors and patients? The case of CPR is instructive. A study by Susan Diem and others of how CPR is portrayed on TV found that it was successful in 75% of the cases and that 67% of the TV patients went home. In reality, a 2010 study of more than 95,000 cases of CPR found that only 8% of patients survived for more than one month. Of these, only about 3% could lead a mostly normal life.

Unlike previous eras, when doctors simply did what they thought was best, our system is now based on what patients choose. Physicians really try to honor their patients’ wishes, but when patients ask “What would you do?,” we often avoid answering. We don’t want to impose our views on the vulnerable.

The result is that more people receive futile “lifesaving” care, and fewer people die at home than did, say, 60 years ago. Nursing professor Karen Kehl, in an article called “Moving Toward Peace: An Analysis of the Concept of a Good Death,” ranked the attributes of a graceful death, among them: being comfortable and in control, having a sense of closure, making the most of relationships and having family involved in care. Hospitals today provide few of these qualities.

Written directives can give patients far more control over how their lives end. But while most of us accept that taxes are inescapable, death is a much harder pill to swallow, which keeps the vast majority of Americans from making proper arrangements.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Several years ago, at age 60, my older cousin Torch (born at home by the light of a flashlight, or torch) had a seizure. It turned out to be the result of lung cancer that had gone to his brain. We learned that with aggressive treatment, including three to five hospital visits a week for chemotherapy, he would live perhaps four months.

Torch was no doctor, but he knew that he wanted a life of quality, not just quantity. Ultimately, he decided against any treatment and simply took pills for brain swelling. He moved in with me.

We spent the next eight months having fun together like we hadn’t had in decades. We went to Disneyland, his first time, and we hung out at home. Torch was a sports nut, and he was very happy to watch sports and eat my cooking. He had no serious pain, and he remained high-spirited.

One day, he didn’t wake up. He spent the next three days in a coma-like sleep and then died. The cost of his medical care for those eight months, for the one drug he was taking, was about $20.

As for me, my doctor has my choices on record. They were easy to make, as they are for most physicians. There will be no heroics, and I will go gentle into that good night. Like my mentor Charlie. Like my cousin Torch. Like so many of my fellow doctors.

– To the original article…  

10 Things Science Says Will Make You Happy

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

– How about some good news ?

– dennis

happy

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– Click here to go through to the article itself.

 

Bus boss gives his workers an $18m thank you

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

It was a heavy discussion, but Melbourne’s Grenda family had no trouble agreeing what they would do when they sold their bus business: hand out A$15 million ($18.2 million) in thank-you bonuses to staff.

Based on length of service, that means an average of A$8500 apiece, with some getting A$30,000 or so.

“You only get where you are by having very good people,” family head and business boss Ken Grenda, 79, said.

He told Melbourne Radio 3AW he sat down with sons Geoff and Scott to figure out what they would do when they sold the 67-year-old family business for A$400 million.

“We all had totally the same idea that we’d give something back to our people. So we examined a formula and we all agreed it should be done.”

Grenda Corporation staff were overwhelmed.

– More…

 

Supreme Court Shoots Down Warrantless GPS Tracking

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court might have delivered a big blow Monday to GPS surveillancetechniques used by law enforcement.

In effect, the justices ruled that long-term surveillance of a vehicle by attaching a GPS device without an extended warrant is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

In three separate opinions, the nine justices confirmed that law enforcement’s placement in 2004 of a GPS tracking device on the vehicle of accused drug trafficker Antoine Jones’ vehicle for a period of 28 days constituted a “search,” as defined by previous case law concerning the Fourth Amendment.

The justices differed, however, on the particulars of how the GPS technology was utilized.

A joint FBI-police team in Washington, D.C., had a warrant, but it was only authorized for use within a 10-day period and only in the District of Columbia. Officers waited until the 11th day to attach the GPS device and did so in Maryland, outside of the warrant’s jurisdiction.

Writing for a five-justice majority, Antonin Scalia, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor, believed that further justification was needed before using a GPS device in the situation.

– More…

 

A Sharper Mind, Middle Age and Beyond

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

– Having just finished with a job at a computer software company where the average age of the people must have been in the early thirties (I’m currently 64), I’ve had a good look recently at what sorts of software engineering activities I still felt competent at and which I felt weak on compared to my fellow workers.

– I don’t know if this would relate for others at my age in the same situation but I definitely felt slower at absorbing new technical skills like learning to program in PERL and in working out how to get things done in Linux (I’ve been a Windows person most of my career).  

– I also felt that my ability to retain the ‘big picture’ with regard to the large C/C++ program I worked on daily was less than I would have liked.

– But, when it came time to design a specific solutions to solve problems or add a new features or capabilities, I felt quite strong and confident of my abilities.

– One thing I believe, and I think the article, below supports it, is that by using my brain constantly in these sorts of pursuits, I am and have been doing myself a favor with regard to how successfully I will retain my cognitive abilities as I age.

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In 1905, at age 55, Sir William Osler, the most influential physician of his era, decided to retire from the medical faculty of Johns Hopkins. In a farewell speech, Osler talked about the link between age and accomplishment: The “effective, moving, vitalizing work of the world is done between the ages of 25 and 40 — these 15 golden years of plenty.”

In comparison, he noted, “men above 40 years of age” are useless. As for those over 60, there would be an “incalculable benefit” in “commercial, political and professional life, if, as a matter of course, men stopped work at this age.”

Although such views did not prevent the doctor from going on to accept a post at Oxford University, one he retained until his death at age 70, his contention that brainpower, creativity and innovation have an early expiration date was, unfortunately, widely accepted by others. Until recently, neurologists believed that brain cells died off without being replaced. Psychologists affirmed the supposition by maintaining that the ability to learn trudged steadfastly downward through the years.

Of course, certain capabilities fall off as you approach 50. Memories of where you left the keys or parked the car mysteriously vanish. Words suddenly go into hiding as you struggle to remember the guy, you know, in that movie, what was it called? And calculating the tip on your dinner check seems to take longer than it used to.

Yet it is also true that there is no preordained march toward senescence.

Some people are much better than their peers at delaying age-related declines in memoryand calculating speed. What researchers want to know is why. Why does your 70-year-old neighbor score half her age on a memory test, while you, at 40, have the memory of a senior citizen? If investigators could better detect what protects one person’s mental strengths or chips away at another’s, then perhaps they could devise a program to halt or reverse decline and even shore up improvements.

As it turns out, one essential element of mental fitness has already been identified. “Education seems to be an elixir that can bring us a healthy body and mind throughout adulthood and even a longer life,” says Margie E. Lachman, a psychologist at Brandeis University who specializes in aging. For those in midlife and beyond, a college degree appears to slow the brain’s aging process by up to a decade, adding a new twist to the cost-benefit analysis of higher education — for young students as well as those thinking about returning to school.

– More…

 

Time to end the war on drugs

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

– This is from Richard Branson’s Blog.   That’s Richard Branson of Virgin fame.  I say, “Bravo” for what he’s written here.

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Visited Portugal, as one of the Global Drug Commissioners, to congratulate them on the success of their drug policies over the last 10 years.

Ten years ago the Portuguese Government responded to widespread public concern over drugs by rejecting a “war on drugs” approach and instead decriminalized drug possession and use. It further rebuffed convention by placing the responsibility for decreasing drug demand as well as managing dependency under the Ministry of Health rather than the Ministry of Justice. With this, the official response towards drug-dependent persons shifted from viewing them as criminals to treating them as patients.

Now with a decade of experience Portugal provides a valuable case study of how decriminalization coupled with evidence-based strategies can reduce drug consumption, dependence, recidivism and HIV infection and create safer communities for all.

I will set out clearly what I learned from my visit to Portugal and would urge other countries to study this:

In 2001 Portugal became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines.

Jail time was replaced with offer of therapy. (The argument was that the fear of prison drives addicts underground and that incarceration is much more expensive than treatment).

Under Portugal’s new regime, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker, and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.

Critics in the poor, socially conservative and largely Catholic nation said decriminalizing drug possession would open the country to “drug tourists” and exacerbate Portugal’s drug problem; the country has some of the highest levels of hard-drug use in Europe. The recently realised results of a report commissioned by the Cato Institute, suggest otherwise.

The paper, published by Cato in April 2011, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.

It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the problem far better than virtually every other Western country does.

Compared to the European Union and the US, Portugal drug use numbers are impressive.

Following decriminalization, Portugal has the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the EU: 10%. The most comparable figure in America is in people over 12: 39.8%, Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana.

The Cato paper reports that between 2001 and 2006 in Portugal, rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1% to 10.6%. Drug use in older teens also declined.  Life time heroin use among 16-18 year olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8%.

New HIV infections in drug users fell by 17% between 1999 and 2003.

Death related to heroin and similar drugs were cut by more than half.

The number of people on methadone and buprenorphine treatment for drug addiction rose to 14,877 from 6,040, after decriminalization, and the considerable money saved on enforcement allowed for increase funding of drug – free treatment as well.

Property theft has dropped dramatically (50% – 80% of all property theft worldwide is caused by drug users).

America has the highest rates of cocaine and marijuana use in the world, and while most of the EU (including Holland) has more liberal drug laws than the US, it also has less drug use.

Current policy debate is that it’s based on “speculation and fear mongering”, rather than empirical evidence on the effect of more lenient drug policies. In Portugal, the effect was to neutralize what had become the country’s number one public health problem.

Decriminalization does not result in increased drug use.

Portugal’s 10 year experiment shows clearly that enough is enough. It is time to end the war on drugs worldwide. We must stop criminalising drug users. Health and treatment should be offered to drug users – not prison. Bad drugs policies affect literally hundreds of thousands of individuals and communities across the world. We need to provide medical help to those that have problematic use – not criminal retribution.

By Richard Branson. Founder of Virgin Group

– To the original…