Posts tagged "absoluly"

KONY 2012 from INVISIBLE CHILDREN on Vimeo.

KONY 2012 is a film and campaign by Invisible Children that aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.

Invisible Children uses film, creativity and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war and restore the LRA-affected communities in central Africa to peace and prosperity.

We believe Invisible Children is not just a nonprofit, but a group of people choosing to live differently. We use the power of media to inspire young people to help end the longest running war in Africa. We make documentaries, tour them around the world, and lobby our nation’s leaders to make ending this war a priority.

invisiblechildren.com/

Fishing under ice from Juuso Mettälä on Vimeo.

Fishing under ice

by Juuso Mettälä

Some under ice views from beautiful lake Saarijärvi in Vaala, Finland.

Divers:
Fisherman: Eelis Rankka
Fisherman’s friend: Tommi Salminen
Boy with the balloon: Jukka Pelttari

Camera and editing by: J. Mettälä

Music: Stefano Mocini; The end of the doubs

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

by Barry Schwartz

I’m going to talk to you about some stuff that’s in this book of mine, that I hope will resonate with other things you’ve already heard, and I’ll try to make some connections myself, in case you miss them.

I want to start with what I call the “official dogma.” The official dogma of what? The official dogma of all western industrial societies. And the official dogma runs like this: If we are interested in maximizing the welfare of our citizens, the way to do that is to maximize individual freedom. The reason for this is both that freedom is in and of itself good, valuable, worthwhile, essential to being human; and because if people have freedom, then each of us can act on our own to do the things that will maximize our welfare, and no one has to decide on our behalf. The way to maximize freedom is to maximize choice. The more choice people have, the more freedom they have; and the more freedom they have, the more welfare they have.

This, I think, is so deeply imbedded in the water supply that it wouldn’t occur to anyone to question it. And it’s also deeply imbedded in our lives. I’ll give you some examples of what modern progress has made possible for us.

This is my supermarket:

(headings on slide, popping up one at a time at intervals: “285 Varieties of Cookies
75 Iced Teas 230 Soups
175 Salad Dressings
275 Cereals 40 Toothpastes”)

Not such a big one. I want to say just a word about salad dressing. 175 salad dressings in my supermarket, if you don’t count the 10 different extra virgin olive oils and 12 balsamic vinegars you could buy to make a very large variety of your own salad dressings, in the off chance that none of the 175 the store has on offer suit you. So this is what the supermarket is like. And then you go to the consumer electronics store to set up a stereo system: Speakers, CD player, tape player, tuner, amplifier- and in this one single consumer electronics store,

(popping up in the center of the supermarket list: “6.5 Million Stereo Systems!!!”)

there are that many stereo systems. We can construct 6 and a half million stereo systems out of the components that are on offer in one store. You gotta admit that’s a lot of choice.

In other domains- the world of communications. There was a time, when I was a boy, when you could get any kind of telephone service you wanted, as long as it came from Ma Bell. You rented your phone, you didn’t buy it. One consequence of that, by the way, is that the phone never broke. And those days are gone. We now have an almost unlimited variety of phones, especially in the world of cell phones.

(diagram of weird sci fi cell phones: “THE PHONES OF DR. MOREAU

PHONE
-DIGITAL CAMERA
-ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSH

PHONE
-MP3 PLAYER
-NOSE-HAIR TRIMMER
-CREME BRULEE TORCH

PHONE
-P.D.A.
-BLOOD-SUGAR TESTER
-CURLING IRON
-OYSTER KNIFE”)

These are cell phones of the future. My favorite is the middle one, the MP3 player, nose-hair trimmer, and creme brulee torch. (laughter) And if- if by some chance you haven’t seen that in your store yet, you can rest assured that one day soon you will. And what this does, is it leads people to walk into their stores asking this question:

(cartoon of woman in cell phone store: “Do you have a phone that doesn’t do too much?”)

And do you know what the answer to this question now is? The answer is “No.” It is not possible to buy a cell phone that doesn’t do too much.

So, in other aspects of life that are much more significant than buying things, the same explosion of choice is true. Health care. It is no longer the case in the United States that you go to the doctor, and the doctor tells you what to do. Instead, you go to the doctor, and the doctor tells you, well, we could do A, or we could do B. A has these benefits, and these risks. B has these benefits, and these risks. What do you want to do? And you say, doc, what should I do? And the doc says, A has these benefits and risks, and B has these benefits and risks, what do you want to do? And you say- If you were me, doc, what would you do? And the doc says: But I’m not you. And the result is- we call it patient autonomy, which makes it sound like a good thing, but what it really is is a shifting of the burden and the responsibility for decision making from somebody who knows something, namely the doctor, to somebody who knows nothing, and is almost certainly sick, and thus not in the best shape to be making decisions, namely the patient.

There’s enormous marketing of prescription drugs to people like you and me, which, if you think about it, makes no sense at all, since we can’t buy them. Why do they market to us if we can’t buy them? The answer is that they expect us to call our doctors the next morning and ask for our prescriptions to be changed.

(cartoon of two women talking on couch: “We don’t believe in pressuring the children. When the time is right, they’ll choose the appropriate gender.”)

Something as dramatic as our identity is now become a matter of choice, as this slide is meant to indicate. We don’t inherit an identity, we get to invent it. And we get to re-invent ourselves as often as we like. And that means that every day when you wake up in the morning, you have to decide what kind of person you want to be.

With respect to marriage and family, there was a time when the default assumption, that almost everyone had, is that you got married as soon as you could, and then you started having kids as soon as you could. The only real choice was who, not when, and not what you did after. Nowadays, everything is very much up for grabs. I teach wonderfully intelligent students, and I assign 20% less work than I used to, and it’s not because they’re less smart, and it’s not because they’re less diligent, it’s because they are preoccupied asking themselves- Should I get married or not? Should I get married now, should I get married later, should I have kids first, or a career first- All of these are consuming questions. And they’re going to answer these questions whether or not it means not doing all the work I assign, and not getting a good grade in my courses. And indeed they should, these are important questions to answer.

Work. We are blessed, as Carl was pointing out, with the technology that enables us to work every minute of every day from anyplace on the planet- except the Randolph Hotel. (laughter) There is one corner, by the way, that I’m not going to tell anybody about, where you actually- where the WiFi works. I’m not telling you about it because I want to use it. So what this means, this incredible freedom of choice we have with respect to work, is that we have to make a decision, again and again and again, about whether we should or shouldn’t be working. We can go to watch our kid play soccer, and we have our cell phone on one hip, and our Blackberry on our other hip, and our laptop, presumably, on our laps. And even if they’re all shut off, every minute that we’re watching our kid mutilate a soccer game, we are also asking ourselves- Should I answer this cell phone call, should I respond to this email, should I draft this letter. And even if the answer to the question is “no,” it’s certainly going to make the experience of your kid’s soccer game very different than it would’ve been.

So everywhere we look, big things and small things, material things and lifestyle things, life is a matter of choice. And the world we used to live in looked like this:

(cartoon of Moses holding the tablets, addressing the multitude: “Well, actually, they are written in stone.”)

(laughter) That is to say, there were some choices, but not everything was a matter of choice. And the world we now live in looks like this.

(cartoon of blank tablets, hammer and chisel by its side: “The Ten Commandments Do-It-Yourself Kit”)

And the question is, is this good news, or bad news? And the answer is “Yes.” (laughter)

We all know what’s good about it, so I’m gonna talk about what’s bad about it. All of this choice has two effects- two negative effects on people. One effect, paradoxically, is that it produces paralysis, rather than liberation. With so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all. I’ll give you one very dramatic example of this, a study that was done of investments in voluntary retirement plans. A colleague of mine got access to investment records from Vanguard, the gigantic mutual fund company of about a million employees, and about 2,000 different workplaces. And what she found is that for every 10 mutual funds the employer offered, rate of participation went down 2%. You offer 50 funds, 10% fewer employees participate than if you only offer 5. Why? Because with 50 funds to choose from, it’s so damn hard to decide which fund to choose, that you’ll just put it off till tomorrow. And then tomorrow, and then tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, and of course tomorrow never comes. Understand that not only does this mean that people are gonna have to eat dog food when they retire because they don’t have enough money put away, it also means that making the decision is so hard that they pass up significant matching money from the employer. By not participating, they are passing up as much as 5,000 dollars a year from the employer, who would happily match their contribution.

So paralysis is a consequence of having too many choices. And I think it makes the world look like this:

(cartoon of devil registering a new inmate of hell: “And lastly, for all eternity, French, bleu cheese, or ranch?”)

(laughter) You really wanna get the decision right if it’s for all eternity, right? You don’t want to pick the wrong mutual fund, or even the wrong salad dressing. So that’s one effect.

The second effect is that even if we manage to overcome the paralysis and make a choice, we end up less satisfied with the result of the choice then we would be if we had fewer options to choose from. And there are several reasons for this. One of them is that with a lot of different salad dressings to choose from, if you buy one, and it’s not perfect, then- you know, what salad dressing is?- it’s easy to imagine that you could have made a different choice that would have been better. And what happens is this imagined alternative induces you to regret the decision you made, and this regret subtracts from the satisfaction you get out of the decision you made, even if it was a good decision. The more options there are, the easier it is to regret anything at all that is disappointing about the option that you chose.

Second, what economists call opportunity costs. Dan Gilbert made a big point this morning of talking about how how much the way in which we value things depends on what we compare them to. Well, when there are lots of alternatives to consider, it is easy to imagine the attractive features of alternatives that you reject that make you less satisfied with the alternative that you’ve chosen. Here’s an example:

(cartoon of couple sitting on the beach: “I can’t stop thinking about all those available parking spaces back on West Eighty-fifth Street.”)

For those of you who aren’t New Yorkers, I apologize. (laughter) But here’s what you’re supposed to be thinking. Here’s this couple on the Hamptons, very expensive real estate, gorgeous beach, beautiful day, they have it all to themselves- What could be better? Well, dammit, this guy is thinking it’s August, everybody in my Manhattan neighborhood is away, I could be parking right in front of my building. And he spends two weeks nagged by the idea that he is missing the opportunity, day after day, to have a great parking space. Opportunity costs subtract from the satisfaction we get out of what we choose, even when what we choose is terrific. And the more options there are to consider, the more attractive features of these options are going to be reflected by us as opportunity costs. Here’s another example:

(cartoon of three men, one in office thinking of playing golf, one golfing, thinking about sex, one having sex, thinking about working)

(laughter) Now this cartoon makes a lot of points. It makes points about living in the moment, as well, and probably about doing things slowly. But one point it makes is that whenever you’re choosing one thing, you’re choosing not to do other things, and those other things may have lots of attractive features, and it’s going to make what you’re doing less attractive.

Third: Escalation of expectations. This hit me when I went to replace my jeans. I wear jeans almost all the time, and there was a time when jeans came in one flavor, and you bought ‘em, and they fit like crap, and they were incredibly uncomfortable, and if you wore them long enough and washed them enough times, they started to fit- feel OK. So I went to replace my jeans after years and years of wearing these old ones, and I said, you know, I want a pair of jeans, here’s my size, and the shopkeeper said do you want slim fit, easy fit, relaxed fit? You want button fly or zipper fly? You want stone washed or acid washed? Do you want ‘em distressed? You want boot cut, you want tapered, blah blah blah… on and on he went. My jaw dropped, and after I recovered I said- I want the kind that used to be the only kind. (laughter) He had no idea what that was, so I spent an hour trying on all these damn jeans, and I walked out of the store- truth- with the best fitting jeans I had ever had. I did better. All this choice made it possible for me to do better. But- I felt worse.

Why? I wrote a whole book to try and explain this to myself. (laughter) The reason is- The reason I felt worse is that with all of these options available, my expectations about how good a pair of jeans should be went up. I had very low expectations- I had no particular expectations when they only came in one flavor. When they came in 100 flavors, dammit, one of them should’ve been perfect. And what I got was good, but it wasn’t perfect. And so I compared what I got to what I expected, and what I got was disappointing in comparison to what I expected. Adding options to people’s lives can’t help but increase the expectations people have about how good those options will be. And what that’s gonna produce is less satisfaction with results, even when they’re good results.

(cartoon of couple in a travel agency, looking at a brochure for the trip they just purchased: “It all looks so great. I can’t wait to be disappointed.”)

Nobody in the world of marketing knows this. ‘Cause if they did, (gestures to cartoon) you wouldn’t all know what this was about. The truth is more like this:

(cartoon of family walking down the sidewalk: “Everything was better back when everything was worse.”)

(laughter) The reason that everything was better back when everything was worse, is that when everything was worse, it was actually possible for people to have experiences that were a pleasant surprise. Nowadays, the world we live in, we affluent industrialized citizens, with perfection the expectation- the best you can ever hope for is that stuff is as good as you expect it to be. You will never be pleasantly surprised, because your expectations- my expectations- have gone through the roof. The secret to happiness- this is what you all came for. The secret to happiness is low expectations.

(cartoon of couple getting married: “You’ll do.”)

(laughter & applause) I wanna say- just a little autobiographical moment- that I actually am married to a wife, and she’s really quite wonderful- I couldn’t have done better. I didn’t settle. But- settling isn’t always such a bad thing.

Finally- One consequence of buying a bad fitting pair of jeans when there is only one kind to buy, is that when you are dissatisfied, and you ask why, who’s responsible- the answer is clear. The world is responsible. What could you do? When there are hundreds of different styles of jeans available, and you buy one that is disappointing, and you ask why, who’s responsible? It is equally clear that the answer to the question is you. You coulda done better. With a hundred different kinds of jeans on display, there is no excuse for failure. And so when people make decisions, and even though the results of the decisions are good, they feel disappointed about them, they blame themselves. Clinical depression has exploded in the industrial world in the last generation. I believe a significant- not the only- but a significant contributor to this explosion of depression, and also suicide, is that people have experiences that are disappointing because their standards are so high, and then when they have to explain these experiences to themselves, they think they’re at fault.

(“Why Choice Makes People Miserable:
1. Regret and anticipated regret
2. Opportunity costs
3. Escalation of expectations
4. Self-blame”)

And so, the net result is that we do better in general, objectively, and we feel worse. So, let me remind you- this is the official dogma, the one that we all take to be true, and it’s all false:

(“The ‘Official Dogma’
-Maximize welfare
-This means maximize freedom
-This means maximize choice
-More choice means more freedom
-More freedom means more welfare

-NOT!!!”)

It is not true. There’s no question that some choice is better than none, but it doesn’t follow from that that more choice is better than some choice. There’s some magical amount, I don’t know what it is, I’m pretty confident that we have long since past the point where options improve our welfare.

Now, as a policy matter- I’m almost done- as a policy matter, the thing to think about is this. What enables all of this choice in industrial societies is material affluence. There are lots of places in the world, and we have heard about several of them, where their problem is not that they have too much choice, their problem is that they have too little. So the stuff I’m talking about is the peculiar problem of modern, affluent, Western societies. And what is so frustrating and infuriating is this. Steve Levitt talked to you yesterday about how these expensive and difficult to install infant-child seats don’t help. It’s a waste of money. What I’m telling you is that these expensive, complicated choices- it’s not simply that they don’t help, they actually hurt. They actually make us worse off.

If some of what enables people in our societies to make all of the choices we make were shifted to societies in which people have too few options, not only would those people’s lives be improved, but ours would be improved also. This is what economists call a Pareto-improving move. Income redistribution will make everyone better off, not just poor people, because of how all this excess choice plagues us.

(cartoon of fish talking to baby fish in a very small fishbowl: “You can be anything you want to be- no limits.”)

So, to conclude. You’re supposed to read this cartoon, and being a sophisticated person, say, ah! What does this fish know? You know nothing is possible in this fishbowl. Impoverished imagination, a myopic view of the world, and that’s the way I read it at first. The more I thought about it, however, the more I came to the view that this fish knows something. Because the truth of the matter is, that if you shatter the fishbowl, so that everything is possible, you don’t have freedom, you have paralysis. If you shatter this fishbowl so that everything is possible, you decrease satisfaction. You increase paralysis, and you decrease satisfaction. Everybody needs a fishbowl. This one is almost certainly too limited, perhaps even for the fish, certainly for us. But the absence of some metaphorical fishbowl is a recipe for misery, and, I suspect, disaster. Thank you very much.

Spain’s stolen babies and the families who lived a lie

 

Spanish society has been shaken by allegations of the theft and trafficking of thousands of babies by nuns, priests and doctors, which started under Franco and continued up to the 1990s.

I first met Manoli Pagador in Getafe, in a working-class suburb of Madrid. She was attending a meeting for people affected by the scandal Spaniards call “ninos robados” - stolen children.

She has three daughters and lots of grandchildren, but she has never got over the loss of her first-born - a son - nearly 40 years ago.

She had come to think she was crazy for believing he was alive, instead of dead and buried as hospital doctors had told her.

"Now," she said, gripping my hand tightly. "Look around the room at the other women here. All like me. The same background. The same experience. I’m not mad and my family finally believes me."

Continue reading the main story

Spain’s stolen babies

  • How many? More than 900 cases are being investigated, but new cases are still coming to light - lawyers say the total could reach 300,000
  • How long? Over a period of 40-50 years, beginning under Franco, up to the 1990s
  • Who benefited? Initially the Fascists by bringing up the children of their enemies - later children were taken from parents judged to be morally or economically deficient and placed with approved Catholic, often childless, families
  • Why did it take so long to expose? The Church and medical profession are highly respected, and Spanish law does not require the biological mother’s name on the birth certificate

In 1971 Manoli, who was 23 at the time and not long married, gave birth to what she was told was a healthy baby boy, but he was immediately taken away for what were called routine tests.

Nine interminable hours passed. “Then, a nun, who was also a nurse, coldly informed me that my baby had died,” she says.

They would not let her have her son’s body, nor would they tell her when the funeral would be.

Did she not think to question the hospital staff?

"Doctors, nuns?" she says, almost in horror. "I couldn’t accuse them of lying. This was Franco’s Spain. A dictatorship. Even now we Spaniards tend not to question authority."

The scale of the baby trafficking was unknown until this year, when two men - Antonio Barroso and Juan Luis Moreno, childhood friends from a seaside town near Barcelona - discovered that they had been bought from a nun. Their parents weren’t their real parents, and their life had been built on a lie.

Juan Luis Moreno discovered the truth when the man he had been brought to call “father” was on his deathbed.

Antonio Barroso and Juan Luis Moreno 

Antonio Barroso and Juan Luis Moreno took their story to the papers - and opened the floodgates

"He said, ‘I bought you from a priest in Zaragoza’. He said that Antonio had been bought as well."

The pair were hurt and angry. They say they felt like two dogs that had been bought at a pet shop. An adoption lawyer they turned to for advice said he came across cases like theirs all the time.

The pair went to the press and suddenly the story was everywhere. Mothers began to come forward across Spain with disturbingly similar stories.

'Approved families'

After months of requests from the BBC, the Spanish government finally put forward Angel Nunez from the justice ministry to talk to me about Spain’s stolen children.

Asked if babies were stolen, Mr Nunez replied: “Without a doubt”.

"How many?" I asked.

"I don’t dare to come up with figures," he answered carefully. "But from the volume of official investigations I dare to say there were many."

Lawyers believe that up to 300,000 babies were taken.

The practice of removing children from parents deemed “undesirable” and placing them with “approved” families, began in the 1930s under the dictator General Francisco Franco.

At that time, the motivation may have been ideological. But years later, it seemed to change - babies began to be taken from parents considered morally - or economically - deficient. It became a money-spinner, too.

The scandal is closely linked to the Catholic Church, which under Franco assumed a prominent role in Spain’s social services including hospitals, schools and children’s homes.

Nuns and priests compiled waiting lists of would-be adoptive parents, while doctors were said to have lied to mothers about the fate of their children.

The name of one doctor, Dr Eduardo Vela, has come up in a number of victim investigations.

Dr Vela is confronted with thallegations

In 1981, Civil Registry sources indicate that 70% of births at Dr Vela’s San Ramon clinic in Madrid were registered as “mother unknown”.

This was legal under Spanish law, and was meant to protect the anonymity of unmarried mothers. It is alleged that this was also widely used to cover up baby theft and trafficking.

Dr Vela stands accused of telling women their babies had died when they had not and handing over those newborn children to other couples for cash.

A Spanish magazine published photographs of a dead baby kept in a freezer at the San Ramon clinic, supposedly to show mothers that their child had died.

He refused to give the BBC an interview. But, by coincidence, I had recently given birth at a clinic he founded, so I was able to book an appointment with him.

We met at his private practice in his home in Madrid. The man painted as a monster in the Spanish media was old and smiley, but his smile soon disappeared when I confessed to being a journalist.

Dr Vela grabbed a metal crucifix which had been standing on his desk. He moved towards me brandishing it in my face. “Do you know what this is, Katya?” he said. “I have always acted in his name. Always for the good of the children and to protect the mothers. Enough.”

Dr Vela insists he always acted within the law.

Empty graves

After Franco’s death in 1975, the major political parties agreed an amnesty to help smooth the transition to democracy.

Continue reading the main story

Find out more

Juan Luis Moreno as a baby with his adoptive parents
  • This World: Spain’s Stolen Babies, BBC Two, 9pm, Tuesday 18 October
  • Assignment, BBC World Service Radio, 3rd November

But this amnesty law has never been repealed, so attempts to investigate Spain’s baby trafficking as a national crime against humanity have been rejected by the country’s judiciary and resisted by its politicians.

"Thirty-five years have passed since the death of the dictator… Evidently, we still have problems from the past. Social problems and personal or even cultural problems and the policy of this government has been trying to solve them," says the justice ministry’s Angel Nunez.

The Spanish government’s refusal to set up a national inquiry into the scandal has frustrated affected families, who in many cases are carrying out their own investigations, as best they can.

Babies’ graves have been dug up across the country for DNA-testing. Some have revealed nothing but a pile of stones, while others have contained adult remains.

Spaniards have flocked to clinics to take DNA tests in the hope of reuniting their families.

The first few matches have now been made between so-called stolen children and their biological mothers. But there could potentially have already been so many more. Data protection laws prohibit DNA banks from sharing or cross-referencing data and the Spanish government has yet to fulfil its promise to set up a national DNA database.

Manoli Pagador is still tortured by the events of 40 years ago. She told me she has been taking medication ever since.

"You can’t just say to yourself, I have to forget it and that’s it.

"It’s not something you forget, it’s with you for the rest of your life."

Katya Adler investigates in This World: Spain’s Stolen Babies on BBC Two at 2100BST on Tuesday 18 October and on Assignment on BBC World Service Radio on 3rd November. Watch (UK only) or listen online afterwards at the above links.

Gold

Gold

Boller Cph: cocktails e paranoia.

Bornholm ts on Flickr.

Bornholm ts on Flickr.

Long is Better

Long is Better

All about national pride and propaganda.

All about national pride and propaganda.

Branca from Juriaan Booij on Vimeo.

Branca, something of how they are made.

Branca is inspired by wooden branches that turn, twist, meet and branch off.
The result is comfort to the eye, to the body and to the hand.

Design: Sam Hecht / Industrial Facility, 2010 - www.industrialfacility.co.uk
Manufacturer: Mattiazzi SpA - www.mattiazzi.eu
Directed / Camera / Edit: Juriaan Booij - www.juriaanbooij.com

Branca, something of how they are made.

Branca is inspired by wooden branches that turn, twist, meet and branch off.
The result is comfort to the eye, to the body and to the hand.

ABSOLULY is now about collaborative consumption and Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing, that “is the process whereby a car owner makes their vehicle available for others to rent for short periods of time.” Please enjoy it!





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