Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past"

From The Memory Doctor by William Saletan [Slate]

In 1984, George Orwell told the story of Winston Smith, an employee in the propaganda office of a totalitarian regime. Smith's job at the fictional Ministry of Truth was to destroy photographs and alter documents, remaking the past to fit the needs of the present. But 1984 came and went, along with Soviet communism. In the age of the Internet, nobody could tamper with the past that way. Could they?

Yes, we can. In fact, last week, Slate did.

We took the Ministry of Truth as our model. Here's how Orwell described its work:

As soon as all the corrections which happened to be necessary in any particular number of The Times had been assembled and collated, that number would be reprinted, the original copy destroyed, and the corrected copy placed on the files in its stead. This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs—to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance. Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct, nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary. In no case would it have been possible, once the deed was done, to prove that any falsification had taken place.

Slate can't erase all records the way Orwell's ministry did. But with digital technology, we can doctor photographs more effectively than ever. And that's what we did in last week's experiment. We altered four images from recent political history, took a fifth out of context, and mixed them with three unadulterated scenes. We wanted to test the power of photographic editing to warp people's memories.

We aren't the first to try Orwell's idea on real people. Elizabeth Loftus, an experimental psychologist, has been tampering with memories in her laboratory for nearly 40 years. Photo doctoring is just one of many techniques she has tested. In an experiment published three years ago, she and two colleagues demonstrated that altered images of political protests in Italy and China influenced Italian students' descriptions of those incidents. We wanted to see whether similar tampering could work in the United States.

[ ... ]

Forty years ago, when Loftus came out of graduate school, most people thought of memory as a recording device. It stored imprints of what you had experienced, and you could retrieve these imprints when prompted by questions or images. Loftus began to show that this wasn't true. Questions and images didn't just retrieve memories. They altered them. In fact, they could create memories that were completely unreal.

Most of the time, this didn't matter. If Uncle Pete hadn't really caught that 18-inch trout, so what? But in court, it mattered. Men were going to jail based on contaminated eyewitness testimony. Families were being ruined by charges of incestuous abuse drawn from memories concocted in therapy.

Loftus set out to prove that such memories could have been planted. To do so, she had to replicate the process. She had to make people remember, as sincerely and convincingly as any sworn witness, things that had never happened. And she succeeded. Her experiments shattered the legal system's credulity. Thanks to her ingenuity and persistence, the witch hunts of the recovered-memory era subsided.

But the experiments didn't stop. Loftus and her collaborators had become experts at planting memories. Couldn't they do something good with that power? So they began to practice deception for real. With a simple autobiographical tweak—altering people's recollections of childhood eating experiences—they embarked on a new project: making the world healthier and happier.

It was almost a kind of forgetting. You start doing something to show how dangerous it is. Pretty soon, you're good at it. It becomes your craft, your identity. You begin to invent new applications and justifications for it. In changing others, you change yourself.

To understand Elizabeth Loftus, I spent many hours reading her work and talking with her. I came away impressed by her thoughtfulness and curiosity. I was shaken, as others have been, by her research on memory's fallibility. But I was struck even more by Loftus herself. Something has happened to her. She is grappling with something nobody has fully confronted before: the temptation of memory engineering.

This is the story of a woman who has learned how to alter the past as we know it. It's a fantastic power: exciting to some, frightening to others. What will we do with it? How will it change us? In her story, we can begin to see what awaits us.

~ more... ~

The Story of Your Enslavement



We can only be kept in the cages we do not see. A brief history of human enslavement - up to and including your own. From Freedomain Radio, the largest and most popular philosophy conversation in the world. http://www.freedomainradio.com

Text: http://www.fdrurl.com/slavestory

Setting History Free (complete): Graham Hancock & David Wilcock



'Bringing together two inspirational investigators of our hidden past and uncertain future, this unique dialogue between David Wilcock and Graham Hancock takes us on a roller-coaster ride through the wonders of ancient civilisations and into the mysterious nature of reality itself. What is the Ark of the Covenant? Why is its loss the greatest riddle of the Bible? Has its final resting place been found? What do the Great Pyramids and the Great Sphinx of Giza teach us? What was the function of the Osireion and other awesome megalithic sites of unknown origin found throughout Egypt? Were the high knowledge and magic of ancient Egypt brought to the Nile Valley by the survivors of an earlier civilisation around 12,500 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age, an epoch referred to in the Book Of The Dead as Zep Tepi, "The First Time"? The possibility of a great lost civilisation Atlantis by any other name was the focus of Hancock's book Fingerprints Of The Gods and the dialogue considers the evidence for this exciting idea - including out-of-place artifacts and technologies, ancient maps of the world as it last looked more than 12,500 years ago, and the mysteries of the Mayan calendar. Is it a computer for calculating the end of the world? Or do its prophecies of a great change to come speak to us of a joyous rebirth of human consciousness after 21 December 2012? Join Hancock and Wilcock as they discuss Angkor in Cambodia, Baalbeck in the Lebanon, underwater ruins submerged by rising sea levels all around the world at the end of the last Ice Age, and the alleged monuments and a gigantic sculpture of a human face on the planet Mars. The dialogue concludes with a paradigm-busting investigation of parallel realms and universes, spirit beings, shamanism, visionary plants, and the role of altered states of consciousness in exploring and understanding the full mysterious spectrum of reality.'

Nightmare vision for Europe as EU chief warns 'democracy could disappear' in Greece, Spain and Portugal

Democracy could 'collapse' in Greece, Spain and Portugal unless urgent action is taken to tackle the debt crisis, the head of the European Commission has warned.

In an extraordinary briefing to trade union chiefs last week, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso set out an 'apocalyptic' vision in which crisis-hit countries in southern Europe could fall victim to military coups or popular uprisings as interest rates soar and public services collapse because their governments run out of money.

The stark warning came as it emerged that EU chiefs have begun work on an emergency bailout package for Spain which is likely to run into hundreds of billions of pounds.

A £650 billion bailout for Greece has already been agreed.

John Monks, former head of the TUC, said he had been 'shocked' by the severity of the warning from Mr Barroso, who is a former prime minister of Portugal.

Mr Monks, now head of the European TUC, said: 'I had a discussion with Barroso last Friday about what can be done for Greece, Spain, Portugal and the rest and his message was blunt: “Look, if they do not carry out these austerity packages, these countries could virtually disappear in the way that we know them as democracies. They've got no choice, this is it.”

'He's very, very worried. He shocked us with an apocalyptic vision of democracies in Europe collapsing because of the state of indebtedness.'

Greece, Spain and Portugal, which only became democracies in the 1970s, are all facing dire problems with their public finances. All three countries have a history of military coups.

Greece has been rocked by a series of national strikes and riots this year following the announcement of swingeing cuts to public spending designed to curb Britain's deficit.

Spain and Portugal have also announced austerity measures in recent weeks amid growing signs that the international markets are increasingly worried they could default on their debts.

Other EU countries seeing public protests over austerity plans include Hungary, Italy and Romania, where public sector pay is to be slashed by 25 per cent.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who visited Madrid last week, said the situation in Spain should serve as a warning to Britain of the perils of failing to tackle the deficit quickly.

He said the collapse of confidence in Spain had seen interest rates soar, adding: 'As the nation with the highest deficit in Europe in 2010, we simply cannot afford to let that happen to us too.'

Mr Barroso's warning lays bare the concern at the highest level in Brussels that the economic crisis could lead to the collapse of not only the beleaguered euro, but the EU itself, along with a string of fragile democracies.

But it risks infuriating governments in southern Europe which are already struggling to contain public anger as they drive through tax rises and spending cuts in a bid to avoid disaster.

Mr Monks yesterday warned that the new austerity measures themselves could take the continent 'back to the 1930s'.

In an interview with the Brussels-based magazine EU Observer he said: 'This is extremely dangerous.

'This is 1931, we're heading back to the 1930s, with the Great Depression and we ended up with militarist dictatorship.

'I'm not saying we're there yet, but it's potentially very serious, not just economically, but politically as well.'

~ more... ~

ICC makes waging war a crime

Following the devastation of the second world war, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremburg, established by the Allied Forces to try leading figures of defeated Nazi Germany, described aggressive wars waged against other nations as "[a] supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole".

Some 60 years later, history was made in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 12, 2010 in Kampala, Uganda, the site of the Review Conference of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

For the first time in the war stricken story of mankind, waging aggressive wars has become a prosecutable crime in international law and given precise meaning and teeth before the ICC - this on the strength of an unexpected consensus reached between member states of the Court (or in ICC terminology 'states parties').

The conference in Kampala concluded with the adoption of a resolution that at last defined the crime of aggression listed in Article 5 of the Rome Statute - the Court's founding treaty - using the UN General Assembly Resolution 3314 (XXIX) as a guide.

The resolution, in effect, criminalises the use of force (for example: blockades, invasions, bombardments) against another country in violation of the Charter of the United Nations; giving the Court the power to try future political and military leaders who plan, prepare, initiate or execute illegal wars, and to hold them (individually) criminally responsible for the commission of this new, and long-overdue, international crime.

Equally importantly, the Kampala resolution settled the conditions under which the ICC could exercise jurisdiction over the crime.

No Security Council monopoly

The final text of the agreement reflects a language of compromise - in part, proposed by Canada - needed to appease all sides of the debate on the highly complex and divisive issue of empowering the ICC to prosecute those who wage illegal wars.

It does not take much imagination to guess where the dividing line has traditionally been drawn on this delicate question.

In general, most of the rift has been focused on the level of nexus that should exist between the ICC and the Security Council in the prosecution of the crime.

Thanks partly to the inconsistent track-record of the Security Council and the politically driven exercise of the veto powers of the five permanent members of the Council, most Middle Eastern and African states, and indeed the majority of the Court's states parties, have insisted on limiting the Council's involvement.

The rationale behind this standpoint is nicely captured in the opening address of the Iranian delegation, which was present at the conference in an Observer capacity.

Headed by Jamshid Momtaz, the former president of the UN International Law Commission, Iran aligned its position to that of Egypt's (which coincidentally attended on behalf of the non-aligned movement), and articulated the following:

• It is not legally convenient nor does it serve the cause of justice to tie the functioning of the Court to the decisions of the Security Council and, in a sense, leave the Court at the mercy of the Council. The Security Council is, by nature, a political organ and as such cannot act as a judicial filtering for the Court. The Security Council's practice in the past six decades indicates how dominant the political considerations of the permanent members have been in its decision-making processes. This includes those decisions made under Article 39 of the Charter, in particular the determination of an act of aggression.

Iran while recognising that the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security under the UN Charter falls on the Security Council, nonetheless adds:

•[This] does not mean, however, that the Security Council can play a determining judicial role for the Court. The prior determination of an act of aggression can facilitate the work of the Court, but the absence of such determination should not handcuff the Court. Otherwise, the raison d'être of the Court, as a judicial body, would be undermined.

It must be said that the anxiety over granting exclusive control to the Security Council is overwhelming shared by human rights NGOs.

Richard Dicker, the director of the international justice programme at Human Rights Watch captures this shared concern in the following statement.

The "ICC as a judicial body must be independent from the political interference of the Security Council that is a political organ that takes decision for political reasons".

On the other side of the debate, the most robust resistance to the activation of the crime has come mostly from the five permanent members of the Security Council.

Benjamin Ferencz, a former prosecutor at Nuremburg, and one of the leading advocates of the crime of aggression suggests this is because: "… the Security Council members do not want to surrender their powers to the ICC."

The permanent five - the UK, US, Russia, China and France - amongst other states argue that the triggering, and certainly, the classification of the Court's jurisdiction over the crime must reside on the exclusive powers granted to the Security Council under Article 39 of the UN Charter.

~ more... ~

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