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

The drowning of rational debate

(This is a shortened version of an article by Chris Kenny which I endorse. I am somewhat guilty of irresponsible utterances and hereby undertake to try to be better)

Twitter digitises and broadcasts the public debate equivalent of a teenage graffiti and vandalism rampage. And yet it shapes debate; our mainstream media and politicians look to the digital world for instant opinion polling and guidance about where to take their narratives and policies …

It is amplifying and weaponising the crudest and most inane elements of society and inviting them to dumb down our public square.

Our battered and impoverished public debate will not improve unless we learn to talk to each other. For a civil society to exist and political debate to be useful, people need to be able to hear ­alternative arguments, avail themselves of all relevant facts, and learn to deal politely with people who do not agree with them.

Far too many people waste their time shouting digital abuse at each other, or regurgitating views they agree with from accounts chosen by the faceless match­makers of the Facebook algorithms, instead of reading, discussing or learning.

The digital revolution was going to democratise the media, personalise democracy and mobilise the truth, but instead it has polarised and emaciated the media, dragged politics into the mire of anonymous bullying, and fostered deceptive memes, fake news and pile-ons.

At its core is a lack of accountability. The enticement of being able to post widely and often about anything — without submitting to editors, curators, lawyers or peers — encourages bravado and aggression, and it fosters an impetuousness that ­values gut feelings over facts, and devalues the time and effort required to get across the facts.

This freedom could liberate debate; but instead of letting a thousand flowers bloom, it shares the scrawls of a thousand dunny doors. People are unthinking enough about what they post without the added shield of anonymity — requiring people to post under their real names, with proof of identity, would not eradicate the problems but it would improve the situation.

The headline or the topic is enough for these people to slur or condemn; often egged on by hysterical opinion leaders such as Kevin Rudd …

…. thanks to social media; more conservatives are forced underground. … social media has weaponised the assault against anyone right of centre.

The woke love the following and adulation of social media …. until they cross a line, make the mistake of speaking sense or asking a salient question, then they experience the rule of the leftist lynch mob.

Public debate becomes coarser, more out of touch from the mainstream, and less tolerant of differing points of view. Soon the stage is vacated by all but the screaming green left, and those who will appease them.

Chris Kenny Weekend Australian 13 March 2021 

Rational debate drowning in the social media swamp

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/politics/rational-debate-killed-in-the-sewer-of-social-media/news-story/bd066d99571f6d35b67d95ae1c494b4a

Rant

Arrant twaddle and waffle.

She had suicidal thoughts but was told it wouldn’t look good for her to seek help .…. oh poor baba, the wannabe princess nor her gallant prince couldn’t arrange it themselves? Mind you they didn’t even teach her the national anthemn – she had to learn it herself! How absoloutely shocking and racist!

Innuendo and subjective hypotheses, allusions that raise the racist spectre: “concerns and conversations about how dark” the baby would be. Somebody probably wisecracked that a black prince would vary the royal family array on the balcony. Horrors ! That’s even worse than the rapist aspersion currently popular in Australia.

It seems to have been all about what people didn’t do for the TV starlet and what she couldn’t get her snappy, sharpwitted prince to do. He has had to jump through a lot of hoops for his woman. I mean, she has had to tolerate critique about her bridesmaids dresses, how incredibly tragic!

Most of it seems to be about who was going to pay for security. They needed security because of all the loony death threats and horrible letters they had been getting. Selflessly, Her Grace said, if not for me or my baby Archie, just for my Prince… ohh what a squeeze to my heart!

No wonder Oprah is so successful, she knows how to milk scandal and innuendo for headlines. She must be gutted that she didn’t get who said “how dark will the baby be?”. That would have have been the cherry on this sad wedding cake.

Mind you she managed to get in racism, Diana, Daddy didn’t want to take my calls and lots of pregnant (oops!) innuendo and a coy revelation of the sex of the next baby to be. She didn’t get much if anything on Duchess M’s Daddy or Mummy or her previous husband or her apparently estranged siblings. They would make interesting follow-ups I am sure! Oh how exciting! This could go on for years, like “Married at First Sight”.

Enough of that Bollywood B-grade soapie!

The silly cow saga in Canberra just defies belief; if it wasn’t so sad, it would be a comedy. There seem to be quite a few lying cows there! And some real dogs….

An eager, bright young thing, full of wine, is persuaded by a smooth talking serial shagger, to take a ride home with him but a they first go to the Minister’s office. Security is easily negotiated (Heads should deservingly roll there), she passes out and access is gained, if you get my drift. She protests and he eventually desists and abandons her. Security discover her in disarray.

She reports later that she has been raped, then dithers and withdraws her allegations, despite advice to tell the cops. The cad appears to have been fired.

No further action ensues until a serial scandal generating journalist (are there any other types any more?), gets wind of the story a couple of years later. She plans a Cardinal Pell like journalstic bombshell, knowing the cancel culture and a desperate opposition party is fertile ground for vivid reponse and sensational headlines to follow.

And do they jump in, boots and all! Then even better, a sad story of a woman with a history of mental illness, who claims she was sodomised by the Attorney General who promised to marry her when he was 17.

Mud sticks in this day and age of focus on salacious ‘love’ stories .

I am saddened that supposedly intelligent people like the Leader of the Opposition and his desperate crew, seize advantage for media prominence by using such flimsy and shoddy stories to attack the credibility and bona fides of the Prime Minister.

As for the former Prime Minister… how desperately nasty can you get?

We live in a sad and sick society: not even a plague or a possible global war with China can shake our fascination with the sludge of life!

The occasional cloud

I am my own doctor

(* click on the underlined texts for some vibes, ek sê)

I discerned the easy embrace, the clinging infiltration.

It was easy and almost soothing, maybe like drowning…?

Then I looked up and saw the blue sky and felt the fresh day.

And it slunk away, spurned like a jackal in the face of a lion.

It will return for a sniff once or twice; such is the beast.

But I have its measure and offer scant sustenance for its cloying ploys.

I rejoice that it was sooo easy – all I did is look up and breathe!

The cur crept in on the tail of some lazy thoughts:

what a drag it is getting old and the pursuit of happiness is just a bore.

Mick Jagger sang it in 1964, would you believe!

Anyway, mother’s little helpers have been discredited.

But it isn’t really a drag, because you don’t feel old, (unless you fall over).

You may be gray and slow and can’t run, but that’s just your body.

You are your own doctor, because you choose how you feel!

Some easy ways for good health:

Never forget blue sky

Sleep is the single most important thing your brain needs for optimal functioning.

Exercise – all regular physical activity increases blood circulation and levels of many different neurochemicals and hormones in the brain

Sunlight: It is known that sunlight can affect serotonin levels …and may also influence dopamine.

Massage – boosts serotonin levels by as much as 30% and increases dopamine, activates endorphins, improves sleep, and decreases the stress hormone, cortisol.

Meditation –  can increase concentrations of dopamine in the brain’s cortex.

Deciding – The act of intentionally making any decision has been shown to cause positive changes in attention and increase dopamine rewarding activity..

Setting and achieving goals – When you achieve a goal, dopamine is released. Dopamine is not only released when you cross the finish line. You get dopamine boosts at each step along the way, which helps to keep you motivated.

Habits – Habits, both good and bad, become the routine in your brain through repetition and dopamine release. Unfortunately, bad habits are the ones that often give you lots of dopamine. However, when you perform a habit – even a good one – you get a dopamine reward and it gets further wired into your brain, giving you more motivation to do it next time.

Petting a dog – Studies show that simply petting a pooch increases dopamine and endorphins.

Yoga – Yoga has been shown to increase dopamine levels – plus it reduces stress, increases oxygen to your brain with deep, slow breathing, and ups soothing GABA. Yoga helps ease depression and stress in many ways.

https://www.thebestbrainpossible.com/

snoopys secret

Passion

I hope that this title got your attention. Getting sneaky is how we get buy!

This is about resurgence of my passion.

My pre-passion mulling over period came to an abrupt end when I buttered my toast this morning. I was smiling in anticipation of a great gobbet of our New Zealand made lemon curd on top. Never smile at a crocodile, it will get there first! The cupboard was bare! I had to make do with Anchovette fish paste.

This obviously called for immediate action to avoid any further disappointment.

We are blessed in Queensland by an abundance of passion fruit; so many that even friends and neighbours are full up. So I have essayed into beneficiation – Clem Sunter’s answer to South Africa’s reliance on primary industry; Australia should consider it.

I sprang into action: to Google for a recipe and the cupboard and fridge for ingredients.

Now Baby Boomers men will understand that the challenge before me was of some magnitude. Particularly we who originated in the Dark Continent were not equipped with culinary skills of any sort. The more progressives had mastered making a cup of tea and operating a toaster quite successfully.

In my retirement I have taken steps to avoid stagnation by writing blathering blogs and amazing autobiographies. But now I have experienced… YES, I will confess – a new passion which has brightened my life appreciably.

I am talking about the kitchen arts: those that our wives and daughters absorbed from an early age from their mothers and grandmothers. Whereas when Mum was cooking, boys’ focus was who got to lick the bowl and the biggest slice; girls noted utensils and spoon sizes, pot size and the advantages of butter and how to whisk eggs… the list is long.

So, Dear Readers (those who are still with me), you may agree that the challenge facing me to ensure never having to endure another disappointment in much anticipated indulgence, was great. It may even have daunted some.

By googling “passion fruit curd” I was blessed with about 4,230,000 articles… I read the first three and being health conscious, I chose the one with only 1/4 cup of sugar.

The recipe required in addition:

4 egg yolks

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter

juice of 2 lemons

1/2 cup of passion fruit pulp

What could be easier than that?

Huh! Have you ever tried to separate egg yolks from the limpid, runny stuff, without getting egg shell in the mix? … and pips out of lemon juice after it has been added to the sugar?

What’s a double boiler?

What if you have no unsalted butter AND no whisk, which you discover only after you have started mixing the stuff …

In my passion, I took the bit between my teeth and combined pulp and sugar and warmed it over a bowl in a pot of boiling water (ingenious, I know).

I managed to separate most of the yolks and whipped them with the lemon juice (only a few pips remained) and I mixed it with the passion fruit, then added the cubes of butter slowly, while whisking the mix until they melted…To demonstrate my nonchalance at my new found prowess, I made a cup of tea and sterilized an old coffee jar at the same time. Multi- tasking I believe it is called.

A prime aspect of this curdling process is whisking, which is required to be continuous. Imagine my horror when someone knocked on the front door! I had to remove the pot from the flame, attend the inquiry (can I clean your gutters ?) and dash back to resume my whisking.

New-fangled culinary technology does not faze me – I even managed to take the temperature of the cooking curd as I whisked.

Once it reached 160 deg F, I whipped it off the stove and jarred it! I tell you now whisking for about 20 minutes requires perseverance and some endurance.

But I did it … and I got to lick the bowl and the spoon.

I am passionate about cooking …

Beware! Beware! 
His flashing eyes, his floating hair! 
Weave a circle round him thrice, 
And close your eyes with holy dread 
For he on honey-dew hath fed, 
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
*

*Samuel Taylor Coleridge

We are history makers

I must confess to being addicted to Downton Abbey, which my wife and I have binge-watched over the last few weeks.

I revel in the furnishings and costumes and displays of the times. The fashions and the cars have been wonderful. The treatment of the themes and developments of the day and the changing technology, culture and traditions has been well done.

In perspective, the series covers approximately the period from my father’s birth year in 1910 to just before the Great Depression. To think that at the start, there were no telephones and motor vehicles were new-fangled.

How lucky students of history have this rich live display of the times to better understand the context and concepts of values and societal change … and how close we are to history as it happens.

Yikes!! That is a sobering thought! So much has happened since my Dad was born … 

In his lifetime:

  • the horse largely disappeared
  • there were two world wars, his father served in one and he in the other.
  • the atom was split
  • a man stood on the moon
  • telecommunication enslaved the world
  • the degradation of the world was accelerated by oil.
  • the balance of power moved eastwards

I think what we are left with is that change is constant and it is better to anticipate it and embrace it, rather than resent and deny it.

Martin Luther King was wrong: we are the makers of history; we are not its product. Its time we accepted this.

 

The poisons we love

Imagine if chocolate was found to be the cause of a major proliferation of diabetes in children. smarties

Revolting image – sorry! (It will probably kill me too! I love Smarties…).

Would we stop eating chocolate …?

So, what’s my point? Well, it’s the poison we all have built into every aspect of our lives, surrounding us and almost indispensable! I am talking about plasticplastic in all of usPlastic affects human health. Toxic chemicals leach out of plastic and are found in the blood and tissue of nearly all of us. Exposure to them is linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other ailments.

It doesn’t decompose, it breaks down until we can’t see it and has entered every water system in the world.  Plastic soup anyone?

It is simple. The continued production of plastic must be prohibited – like dangerous drugs are. But plastic is so useful and efficient! Can you imagine your kitchen without Tupperware type containers? Or your house or your car …?

But plastic is very new technology. Its not even a hundred years old. Our parents and grandparents did without it. It’s certainly not essential, it’s useful …. and we are lazy, spoilt and indisciplined. We continually deny what we know is bad for us, because it makes our life easier, more fashionable, funky (think tattoos and body piercing).

I mean dogs lick cane toads for the buzz, for heaven’s sake, why can’t we be stoopid like them?

Plastic producers made plastic functional, fashionable and pervasive. It can’t be their fault – they were doing us all a favour, producing such cheap and useful stuff. But now that they know… it is all different.

In a 2014 Florida USA Court judgment, a tobacco producer was ordered to pay damages of $23 BILLION to a chain smoker’s widow. Think of the damages payable by plastic producers for all the harm caused to the population of the world by pollution and carcinogens in their products!

So next election, vote for the party that produces the best plans to:

  • educate our children about the fact that plastic is poisonous
  • ban the production of plastic
  • generate programs to eradicate or recycle plastic into less harmful products
  • funds research which enables widespread bio-degradation of plastic.

Yeah! I know this is a daydream and if the billions wiser than me can’t see it happening, it is not likely to happen…

plastic scavengeBut how would one dispose of these formerly loved poison lumps? Dump them in the bin, to be a treasure discovered by some Third World scavenger? (Yeah, refuse is exported to people rich, poor countries.)

 

Or chuck them in the river when no-one’s looking?

plastic wave

 

                                                              Apply your mind to save your future!

Reality Check

This video eloquently expresses the future shock boomers and later generations (people just like us who you know) are facing.

It sounds almost poetic; it is quite long, but stick with it (I know it’s hard for you) – it is a major life lesson:

TED video: retirement reality check

Remember that this woman is from affluent America!!

Swallowing our pride and coming out are the hardest thing to do if you’ve grown up in the Consumer Age, keeping up with the Joneses. Downsizing and offloading all that hard earned stuff is not easy.

when I get older

Relying on the State is just foolish. Age pension will shrink as longevity increases.

Check out your parents – they will hide their plight from you; it is anathema for you to help them out!

  • Show them this video
  • Talk to them;
  • ask them to show how they are coping
  • suggest ways for downsizing and trimming sails
  • consider more communal living if it reduces living costs and increases income

If you are young, start now to work out how you are going to live after you retire (probably at age 72).

when I get older i will

My view is that families should combine on rural land and produce as much food as possible.

 

A Patriot

I spell the word with a capital letter. A Patriot to me has always been a person worthy of the highest praise, possessed of the highest virtues.

Until yesterday, when I saw the title of a photograph in an exhibition that I visited with my daughter. It was one of a series of photographs depicting the “unite the right” rally in Charlottesville, USA. The picture was of a bearded older man in camouflage, clutching a rifle with a sort of blank fervour in his eyes.

I am conservative, a white male (oh dear!) with, I hope, a modicum of balance and perspective. But I didn’t like that label, nor could I criticise it. I talked with my daughter, a teacher, about it. I mentioned that I had once written about the need for the institution of learning about the cardinal virtues and the need for iconic models for our youth and that my view had been criticised. What virtues could beat Courage, Prudence, Temperance and Justice, as proposed by St Thomas Aquinas?

courage  temperance prudence (2) justice for one side

She responded obliquely in the way of the New Age; not contradicting but offering a different viewpoint. She felt that diversity was the key and that inclusiveness and tolerance would yield a good basis for future societal foundations. I felt my gorge rise with hot words of … watering down values and standards to reach a common denominator that would suit all which would not be a standard at all, which was the fault of liberal democracy and… and …  

But I stifled them, stumped by the thought that she was probably right and that I was a dinosaur, out of time and that my steam would be obsolete and silly.

Anyway Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao Ze Dong, Pol Pot and Robert Mugabe were probably Patriots too!

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.