Memory is not what I thought it was

“Many people believe that memory works like a recording device. Memory works a little bit more like a Wikipedia page: you can go in there and change it, but so can other people”

So says Elizabeth Loftus an American cognitive psychologist and expert on human memory*. And she walks her talk with an impressive array of research.

She was consulted by Harvey Weinstein who asked her: ‘How can something that seems so consensual be turned into something so wrong?’

Memories are reconstructions; they are not literal representations of what actually happened … (memory) is highly malleable and open to suggestion.

She has also shown that false memories can be embedded by leading questions and psychotherapy.

In a 2013 TED talk entirled “How reliable is your memory” she reported that one project had identified some 300 people who were convicted of things they didn’t do, based on DNA analysis. Three quarters of the cases were due to faulty eyewitness memory.

The implications for eyewitness based testimony and the validity of repressed memories are huge. It means that single witness evidence should not be regarded as sufficient evidence of truth, unless there is other direct evidence to support it.

In the US, some states refuse to prosecute cases based on recovered memory testimony and some insurers decline cover to therapists on recoved memory malpractice suits.*

Testimony from Professor Lucas in the two headline inquiries in Australia into rapes by a Minister or in a Minister’s office may well be enlightening.

But sadly, the outcomes of those inquiries have already been decided, without the need to hear evidence.

In my view, the sooner we get rid of juries, eyewitness evidence and judges the better: we need to promote universal surveillance, compulsory truth serums and lie detection and use a computer to evaluate the evidence.

*Wikipedia – Elizabeth Loftus

A Magistrate’s curse in colonial times

Story suggested by Louis Boshoff Tuesday 23 March

In small towns in the colonies, the magistrate is often one of two senior government officials, the other is the District Commissioner. 

They are required to reside in large houses with large grounds, which if you are a young bachelor is a curse.

When I was appointed as Resident Magistrate in Mtoko in the North East corner of Rhodesia, the only furniture I possessed was my bed; my bedside table was a beer crate. I also had a hi-fi player.

I was given three weeks ‘ notice to move. All of a sudden I was required to furnish a 3 bedroomed house with a large sitting room and dining room. Then there were two acres of garden to keep neat. I was given three weeks’ notice and a day off to shop for furniture.

What to do? I didn’t have a girlfriend to advise me and Mum was still in Swaziland. My friends were beer drinkers and rugby players.

I went to an auction and bought a lounge suite, dining room suite, a bed, some bedside cabinets, some crockery and a tray full of cutlery.  There was also a set of Impressionist prints on boards which were quite good, so I took them to add colour to the walls.It took about an hour. 

Next door was a drapery shop where I bought some calico material for curtains, orange and green for the Irish flag. 

So I arrived in Mtoko and was taken on a grand tour by the departing magistrate: Police, Prison, District Commissioner and army HQ. Ex officio, I was appointed as Chairman of the local Sports Club. This was awkward as until then in the city, I had enjoyed the anonymity and freedom of an ordinary man in the street beer drinker…

The best advice I had been given was to engage a reliable man of all trades. Thankfully, I was introduced to John, a regal grandfather who introduced himself as Tickey (I am embarrassed to say I have forgotten his surname; I called him Baba which means father).

He was a real gentleman’s gentleman and cared for me as if I was a prince and not a dissolute bachelor with paltry, shoddy possessions and no woman. I gave him money and he bought food and fed us, telling me when we needed more. He fed the dogs and cleaned the house, removing the occasional reptile and washing and ironing. He took my curtain material to the local tailor and I had curtains in two days.

He would not do the garden, but fortunately a gang of prisoners would come up occasionally to cut grass and weed. Some became quite familiar and greeted me in a friendly fashion, even though I had sent them down.

So there were blessings to accompany the curse.

What is Treason?

I was saddened some time ago when I saw report  about the Saudi Shi’ite woman facing beheading for protesting against government  policies.

Horrified, yes; surprised, no.

Apostasy (forsaking, criticizing or attacking religion) was the original treason and the penalty was a horrible death. It was extended to monarchs, as they were considered to be ordained by God. Parliaments have now been similarly hallowed. In Dante’s Inferno, the ninth and lowest circle of Hell is reserved for traitors (i.e. those who commit treason).

In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed 47 prisoners including … a revered Shiite cleric and government critic  who had been convicted of sedition and other charges.

The Muslim world still practices what we would regard as extreme sanctions against dissent.

In England, high treason was punishable by being hanged, drawn and quartered or burnt at the stake if you were a woman. (Tsk! tsk! Blatant discrimination even then!)

After the execution of Lord Haw Haw in 1946, the penalty was changed to life imprisonment. Even now in Australia, the only permissible penalty for treason is life imprisonment.

It is clear that a priority of those in power is self protection and extreme action is sanctified.

But mass protests are permitted in many countries – such defiant and disrespectful acts as burning the national flag or effigies of politicians, the burning of property and tossing of Molotov cocktails and other violent assaults on police forces are tolerated. Sedition and incitement to violence  are commonplace and tolerated.

Where is the line drawn and how do we see it? As always the choice remains with the government  and that will always be weighed in the scale of political popularity, not the interests of public morality or common decency or established principle.

Public morality and common decency are currently being dictated by social media mobs who lynch any defiance of the fashionable viewpoint. These mobs are currently moving to re-define history and compel obedience to their views.

Even parliaments have been seen to take a knee!

Treason is now any defiance of the twitterati.

I am going to cancel my account – is that treason or just defiance or maybe just a senile snit?

Justice fails

It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer“,  known as Blackstone’s ratio.

Avoid legal punishments as far as possible, and if there are any doubts in the case then use them, for it is better for a judge to err towards leniency than towards punishment”  is a statement attributed to Muhammad.

These are fundamental precepts in the administration of justice.

But the systems in practice fail terribly:

On the one hand, most crimes are undetected and unreported. Because of the above precepts an extremely low percentage, possibly less than 5% of reported crimes result in prosecution.

Where is the justice for victims?

jail birdsOn the other hand,  many people are apprehended by the justice system, processed, imprisoned and almost invariably degraded, dehumanised and criminalised by that experience.

This article was prompted by a TED video presentation by Robin Steinberg on the injustice of the bail system in the US.

The statistics presented were horrifying: on any day in the US, 75% of people charged cannot afford the bail set.

There are over 400, 000 people in custody awaiting trial, unable to pay bail.

jail life

We are talking of one of the wealthiest countries in the world, where bail is rarely refused. Imagine what it must be like in less sophisticated societies!

  • If you can’t pay bail, you likely can’t afford a lawyer, are unemployed and struggling to feed your family.
  • If you are employed you will likely be fired, your family .evicted from your home. In jail there is a high risk of assault and rape;
  • you are exposed to hardened criminals and gangs who enforce their demands. You have limited contact with your loved ones.

Jail is an ugly and terrifying place to be.

The bail project is an organisation which pays the bail of those who are unable to do so.

  • 96% of people sponsored in this way, return to face trial
  • Over 50% of these cases are dismissed
  • Less than 2% of those charged  receive jail sentences.

Of those that remain in custody, 90% plead guilty, many just to get out of jail.

The criminal justice system is a cruel failure where most crimes are undetected and many innocents plead guilty to avoid prolonged incarceration.

 

What are the options?

Probably some subordination of individual rights to community interest as universal surveillance becomes the norm..

Can you see that getting through existing Parliaments in western democracies?

nice day for rev

That is a topic for another day.

 

Swift Justice

Ping!! – I checked the message on my wristphone.

It was from the Department of Justice: You have been identified as the perpetrator of an offence against the reputation of the State. Report to the Cleveland Magistrate at 10h00 today, failing which your digital access will be suspended.

In 2058, there is no alternative: the System always knows where you are; if your access is suspended, you will not be able to use transport systems, transact cryptocoin or even call anyone; every public building will bar your entry. You can’t even run into the forest as your embedded microchip will broadcast your location.

What have I done? I was pretty sure it related to an old 2012 article I had quoted from in my most recent sillysocksonfriday blog, on the consequences of the welfare state. The article cited increased costs, making labour markets too inflexible, with unintended moral consequences reducing the will to work and any sense of self-responsibility. It suggested that comprehensive social programs diminished informal caring relations and social networks, fostering social isolation and self-centredness.

The State is very sensitive to criticism and this is its way of suppressing dissent.

So I called my virtual solicitor, updated him and requested a barrister’s presence at my online meeting with the Magistrate. I advised that I believed it would be the same issue relating to civil liberties as my previous case. As this was not my first such clash with the State for criticism of their smothering welfare policies, they were again trying to silence me, despite the overthrow of my last conviction by the Global Appeal Court.

The universal Justice system was amazingly efficient and in this modern digital age, an issue could be decided and if necessary, appeal to national and global levels could be concluded within 3 days!

future judge Of course, all evidence was immediately available to the Magistracy (nicknamed RexRegina) as were all laws, precedents and customs. There was still a need for representation as local knowledge was essential to ensure that the State was consistent in its prosecution of the laws.

That was its weak point – some State Security information analyst equated criticism with sedition: the District Prosecutor had to react to all complaints and often issued a summons to try to pressure a plea out of accused parties which enabled a settlement. If RexRegina threw the charge out, his/her butt was covered (or so he/she thought!) I believe it’s time for this function to be digitised too!

It is remarkable that the main attributes of a courtroom lawyer no longer required a quick mind and a smooth turn of phrase; digital magistrates are unmoved thereby.

The most common complaint and effective defence was victimisation. This had been so since the emancipation of women, demise of apartheid, legalisation of homosexuality and the #metoo outcry of the minorities in the late 1900’s and early 2000’s. The sensationalism and emotionalism provoked by the media had led to major distortions of value systems and virtual lynch mobs. The System reaction had been the required verification of media reports by blockchain and the institution of the digital Justice system.

At 10h00, I and my barrister reported online in the virtual Courtroom in hologram. The virtual Magistrate ascertained that we could proceed immediately, heard my not guilty plea, found there was no offence committed and re-iterated that criticism was part of the freedom of expression. 

freedom of speech is a responsibility

The District Prosecutor was ordered to review his system to ensure that it contained details of my previous appeal case. 

I was awarded costs and ₿1000 compensation for malicious prosecution, which I donated to the Home Farming University.

To celebrate the endurance of the principle of freedom of expression, I ordered a tuk-tuk drone to fetch me from home to take me to lunch at the Lighthouse Restaurant. As a centenarian pensioner, one can’t afford a Jagjet! My virtual barrister joined me at no extra cost but of course did not dine…

drone-taxi

Kissing Frogs: is lynching the antidote?

 

 

The Heavy Winestain saga is one describing a nasty bully, who is a famous, rich and successful movie producer. On 5 October 2017, the New York Times published a story detailing decades of allegations of sexual harassment. More than 90 women including leading actresses and people of great talent and influence, have made accusations of sexual harassment, assault or rape; reports go back as far as the 70’s.

The frenzied reaction has been incredible: after conviction by the media, despite protestations of consensual participation, he was pilloried. Vengeance has been sanctified and the lynch mob been swift and savage:

  • Without benefit of trial he has been condemned, castigated, ostracised;
  • had all his honours and awards withdrawn and
  • the man and his company and other organisations with whom he worked have been slapped with claims for $ millions in damages.

wild dog frenzyIn a snowballing reaction many women and some men who allege unwelcome propositions or harassment by other men, have raised their voices saying #MeToo! More people have had their careers and reputations shattered by lynch mobs with untested allegations.

The outrage has been so holy that women have been castigated for expressing some hesitation over condemnation on the basis of mere allegations of ancient conduct.

It seems that the principles of justice like due process and the statutes of limitations are not applicable.

Winestain was someone who could grant access to stardom: he must have been besieged by many people willing to give their all for a break … one has heard about the casting couch after all.no-bully.jpg

A number of women said NO! to unwanted advances and nothing happened. Some women suffered more than one instance of unwanted attention – why did they expose themselves to that risk again? … and why the delay in reporting…? why were they there in the first place….?

Would it be that they didn’t get what they wanted after they kissed the frog a second time?

He has never been criminally charged for crimes of a sexual nature. Even Saddam Hussein had a trial!

 

Don’t get me wrong: I deplore the abuse of power in order to achieve personal advantage – I also hate bullies. But I get very suspicious when I hear that over 90 intelligent, talented people were cowards – I smell more than one rat. It seems bullying begets bullying!

 

In all of your life there are are going to be some people bigger or stronger, richer or more powerful, or cleverer and meaner than you.

 

timid brave mouseHow do you survive?

  • Avoidance is a good idea;
  • so is shouting No! leave me alone!
  • a slap in the face or a kick in the nuts can be deterrent
  • walking away and calling for help;
  • reporting and drawing attention are all clever things to do… or
  • … you could trade for something he wants…. (just make sure you get before you give!) 

The main thing is: be clever about it: tell others, warn them and stand by them in their time of need, make a noise, shine a light … run fast!

stand_up_dont standby.png

Special Courts

(This is an extract from my book “Rough Justice” which records some of my experiences in Rhodesia and Zimbabwe during and after the liberation war. –Available on Amazon)

Part of the strategy for combatting the war against terror, was the establishment of Special Courts, which travelled into rural centres to try offences against the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act.

Offenders were people who carried arms of war – active terrorists; those who gave aid and support to terrorists and / or failed to report the presence of terrorists, which were capital offences with a mandatory death sentence  upon conviction.

The death penalty was a very strong part of the judicial armoury in Africa up to the 1970’s. As was corporal punishment – a light cane for juveniles and a heavy cane for adults.

sten gunJudges’ Clerks were required to act as Chauffeurs and Bodyguards for our Judges and we were issued with Sten guns, 45 calibre sub machine guns, produced in WW2 for 2/6d, which usually jammed after the second round.

The best part was driving the big Mercedes Benz car merited by the judge.

The administration of Justice was very swift, with most of the accused admitting the facts, notwithstanding the mandatory death sentences and despite the efforts of their appointed defence barrister.

On one sad day we passed the death sentence on four people: two in Inyanga in the morning and two in the afternoon in Umtali.gallows noose

After the accused were found guilty, it was the duty of the Judge’s Registrar to address them were as follows:

You have been found guilty of the crime of contravening the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act by giving support to people bearing arms against the State: do you know of any reason or have anything to say as to why sentence of death should not be passed upon you?”

My repugnance for what we were doing grew after one dignified old gentleman replied: “My Lord, when a man bearing a rifle tells me I must report anyone who carries weapons who comes to my village or I will be hanged, and then later, another man also carrying a rifle tells me if I report his visit I and my family will be killed, what must I do?

He was duly sentenced as the Act required, but I know the judge recommended clemency. That evening was the only time I saw a judge get drunk.

He resigned after that.

In fact, most if not all mandatory death sentences which did not include murder or acts of violence were commuted to life imprisonment and these people were released on independence.

It’s a topsy-turvy world we live in

Do not for one moment think that the Establishment exists for your benefit or that the government or the opposition or doctors or bankers are right.

 

Check the facts – make your  own mind up.

 

With that as a theme I reviewed some articles I had saved and these are a few quotes that I found thought provoking from an article called Intolerant Liberals by Tucker Fitzgerald 

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”Isaac Asimov

Do not accept everything you are told by the Man:

There is no such thing as an outright political lie. Instead there’s distortion, exaggeration, misrepresentation,deception, half-truth and overstatement. The assumption is that the risk is worth it.

Because democracy isn’t the only value we hold. We don’t accept the 51% enslaving the 49% by popular vote. Because Hitler was brought to power by a democratically elected government. Because American slavery was legal.

lenin deception

The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”

Gary Kasparoff

Now  – getting closer to the point I want to make:

More people are recognizing that the economic paradigm that guides our global system today is deeply misaligned with a thriving future.

The Neoliberal economic system is a cultural construct. It has a particular history and espouses a cogent set of core beliefs, social values, and organizational practices. There is a narrative coherence to notions of “freeing” markets from regulation, letting wealth “trickle down” from the coffers of the rich, and a “rugged individualism” that pays too little attention to the social factors that shape economic outcomes.

Joe Brewer

Soreefersmetime last week Queensland news was filled with the successful busts by police of numerous marijuana growers who had rented suburban houses and converted them to grass growing hothouses. A number of serious statements were made about these heavy criminals.

 

There have been over twelve million cannabis arrests in the United States from 1996 until 2013.

35.6 percent of 12th graders in US and 67% of medical students had used marijuana during the year prior to a recent survey

Also last week, I received an article from an investment advisor heavily tipping investment in marijuana projects listed on stock exchanges.bank of ganja

The United States Marijuana Index (a stock exchange index) has jumped from a level of 48.39 a year ago to the current level of 70.83, an increase of 46%

Enjoying a growth rate of 77% over the last few years and an estimated 700% growth rate by 2018, it’s bigger than corn, bigger than cotton, and bigger than wheat.

In fact, according to UN data, it’s valued at about $142 billion. To put that in perspective, the global coffee market is valued at about $80 billion per year.

Possession and cultivation are Federal offences but lawful in over half the states in US. It will be totally decriminalised in Canada next year. Possession is lawful in South Africa and Netherlands. Medical marijuana can be lawfully prescribed in Australia.

Now how about that for a disconnect in values?

I am not a recreational user (yet), but I may well become an investor.

How does one reconcile that with being a law abiding citizen?

 

And just to see if you are awake and did read this to the end, I have included a quotation which should make most of my African readers grin.

This is a gentleman’s affectionate description of his donkey:

“most fokkin fency-schmency blerrie fokkin perd on the whole of the Cape-Flats, eating epples from fokkin Woolwurths.”

donkey grin

Would Jesus have escaped his fate in 2017?

The manner of Jesus’ death was not unusual for the times, in a conquered country ruled by powerful Roman overlords, who would have required Hebrew authorities to maintain a peaceful and calm populace.

Pilate washHowever, the attempts to evade responsibility for the decision to execute Jesus, suggest some uneasiness.

Jesus preached radical views and evicted the moneylenders from the Temple in Jerusalem and defied the Pharisees and Sadducees. He gathered crowds around him and had clearly attracted quite a following. He also defied the Sanhedrin – these were the power brokers of the times.

There would have been some who recalled the 12 year old boy Jesus,
who had displayed advanced scriptural knowledge in discussion with the elders in the Temple and who even then said he was about his Father’s business.

As a man, in accordance with custom, he read the scripture of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth, and claimed to be the fulfillment of that scripture. No doubt there were reports about miraculous cures and the wonderful feeding of thousands and other miracles. Certainly 1000’s gathered to follow him and listen to what he said.

The Pharisees and Saducees were obviously sceptical and disbelieving and examined him. He remained obdurate and popular – a clear threat to the hegemony of the local government of the times, who had also caused the execution of John the Baptist who had announced the coming of the Messiah.

PalmSundayIn the book of Zachariah it was written: “The Coming of Zion’s King – See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey”. It suggests that Jesus was declaring he was the King of Israel to the anger of the Sanhedrin when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, to great popular acclaim.

revol doctrineNow these are acts which are of a political consequence. Here was a potential challenge to existing authority. The claim to be the Son of God was surely false.

coming of christ

Surely, God would inform his priests and give heavenly indication of His Son’s arrival,  by attending Him with Archangels, Seraphim and Cherubim?
So a political decision was made to remove the radical upstart who had attracted a large following and threatened their autonomy. The execution was conducted, comparatively humanely for the times, as his legs were not broken to hasten his demise, but he was stabbed in the side with a spear.

In modern times, rumours of poisoning of citizens in Syria, have attracted swift retribution from powerful military overlords. Yet the decimation of rural population with murdered citizens being thrown down old mine shaafrican-tyrantsfts by an African tyrant, did not even attract condemnation from the same military overlord who had installed the tyrant in years gone by.

Politics is a dirty game, in which compassion and tolerance are hindrances, not given any countenance.

Not much has changed. Even now, I wouldn’t be surprised at the same thing happening again to Jesus – save that His miracles would have gone viral. Mind you they would probably be written off as fake news !

Unstoppable

A very elegant wife of an advocate objected strenuously to a $15 fine for failing to stop at a stop sign. She was represented per amici by a colleague advocate, who rolled his eyes but called her to give evidence.

The woman agreed she had not stopped completely but had slowed right down and checked carefully to see that the way was clear.

She argued that she had complied with the spirit of the law and felt she should not be penalised. I disagreed.

A magistrate could not allow autonomy in selection of which laws to comply with and the choice of when it was suitable to do so.

I confirmed the fine, regretting that I could not treble it to shake her blinkered views. She was incensed and wanted to appeal.

(extract from “A Rough Justice – Reminiscensces of a Rhodesian Magistrate”)

I suppose she was unstoppable..?