"They who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin 
| "All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
Snowden is no traitor
2. Barack Obama calls François
Hollande following NSA
3. After General Alexander,
Obama should split the NSA to
make us all safer
4. You May Think You Have Nothing to Hide …
5. Book of Lamentations
There are today five
sections, although the fifth is about the DSM-5, but this is - this
time - quite funny and wholly deserved.
Edward Snowden is no traitor
The first article is by - I
quote - "Richard Cohen, Opinion Writer", who writes his opinions in the
Washington Post, weekly, and who wants to make amends, whence his title:
Indeed, he had
amends to make, and he starts as follows:
What are we to make of Edward
Snowden? I know what I once made of him. He was no real
whistleblower, I wrote, but “ridiculously
cinematic” and “narcissistic”
as well. As time has proved, my judgments were just plain wrong.
Whatever Snowden is, he is curiously modest and has bent over backward
to ensure that the information he has divulged has done as little
damage as possible. As a “traitor,” he lacks the requisite intent and
But traitor is what
Snowden has been roundly called. Harry Reid: “I
think Snowden is a traitor.” John Boehner: “He’s
a traitor.” Rep. Peter King: “This guy
is a traitor; he’s a defector.” And Dick Cheney not only denounced
Snowden as a “traitor” but also suggested that he
might have shared information with the Chinese. This innuendo, as
with Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, is more proof of
Cheney’s unerring determination to be cosmically wrong.
The early denunciations
of Snowden now seem both over the top and beside the point.
Yes, indeed. This is also
why Richard Cohen is quoted here. He says some other sensible things,
Those people who
insist he should come home and go to jail lack a healthy regard for the
rigors of imprisonment. After a while it can be no fun.
I agree, though I would not
have written it like this. And:
(..) my mouth is agape at
the sheer size of these data-gathering programs — a cascade of news
stories that leads me to conclude that this very column was known to
the National Security Agency before it was known to my editors.
He may well be right, given
the rate and the extent of the NSA's plundering of everybody's data. He
also correctly writes:
I also wrote that “No
one lied about the various programs” Snowden disclosed. But then we
found out that James Clapper did.
Then again, he ends thus:
I suppose Snowden needs
to be punished but not as a traitor. He may have been technically
disloyal to America but not, after some reflection, to American values.
This is not correct: the
rules which make him "technically
disloyal to America" are very
deeply flawed and are quite unconstitutional. But I agree he is
an American patriot, and he indeed is no traitor, and I appreciate
Richard Cohen's retraction, indeed also mostly on the basis of the
information provided by Snowden.
2. Barack Obama calls François Hollande following NSA
revelations in France
Next, there is more on the
NSA, in an article by Paul Lewis and Angelique Chrisafis, in the
This starts as follows:
The reason for Hollande's ire
are the recent disclosures in Le Monde, that the NSA has gathered 70
million French telephone conversations, in one
single 30-day period late last year.
The White House conceded
on Monday that revelations about how its intelligence agencies have
intercepted enormous amounts of French phone traffic raised "legitimate
questions for our friends and allies".
In a statement released
after a phone call between Barack Obama and his counterpart, François
Hollande, the White House made one of its strongest admissions yet
about the diplomatic impact of the disclosures by the former NSA
contractor Edward Snowden.
There is rather a lot more that I skip, but I do quote this bit:
Le Monde said the
unpublished Snowden documents it had seen showed "intrusion, on a vast
scale, both into the private space of French citizens as well as into
the secrets of major national firms".
And also the ending, to show
the insane extent of the spying, and I added the bolding:
Le Monde said one
document it consulted showed that between 8 February and 8 March 2013
the NSA collected, worldwide, 124.8bn telephone data
items and 97.1bn computer data items. In Europe, only
Germany and the UK exceeded France in terms of the numbers of
That is, over 220 billion
items. In just 1 month. As a matter of course, because Keith
Alexander and James Clapper have decided that they have the
"right" of "total information awareness". Also, see item
3. After General Alexander, Obama should
split the NSA to
make us all safer
Next, an article by Marcy Wheeler in the Guardian:
Note this seems mainly
inspired by the news that Alexander and his deputy Inglis are -
reported as - leaving the NSA witin something like half a year.
This starts as follows:
She also writes (among other
The NSA is one of its own
biggest adversaries in its fight to keep America safe from cyber
attacks. To fight this considerable adversary, the president should use
replacement of NSA Director Keith Alexander and his deputy, John
Inglis, as an opportunity to split off NSA's defensive function and
rebuild necessary trust.
Commentators have long
recognized the NSA had two conflicting missions: one to defend key
American networks, and one to collect intelligence on our adversaries.
Alexander donned a hacker costume and went to the computer security
DefCon convention to schmooze hackers. While there, he
made a series of misleading statements – denying the NSA collects
data on millions of Americans – that set up James Clapper's more famous
repetition of the same lie in March of this year. This year, Alexander
attended Black Hat conference (this time, without a hacker costume) and
of the "terrorist walk[ing] among us".
So who is "a
terrorist", in the opinion of general Alexander? Well, for example the
people who use Tor:
More recently, an
illustration on a slide (pdf) reviewing the NSA's efforts to crack
Tor – a sophisticated encryption system used by many security experts –
identifies Tor users as terrorists. In fact, the NSA's
minimization procedures allow it (pdf) to keep all encrypted
communication, effectively targeting those who try to protect
And since the NSA also has
done much to make de-encrypting easier for them:
the NSA has pursued its search for intelligence by partly disabling the
locks to all our front doors. Having thus left us exposed, it demands
the authority to be able to enter our homes to look around and see if
those disabled locks have allowed any nasty types to get in.
Yes, indeed. There is
considerably more in the article, and I am personally not much
impressed with Obama nor with what he will or may do, but that is just
my own judgment, based on such evidence as he produced: "Yes, we scan!".
4. You May Think You Have Nothing to Hide …
Next, a fairly long article in Washington's Blog, that seeks to make
clear that everybody does have things to hide, from "the authorities"
and from other people, both for good and for bad reasons:
This he does by trying to make
clear that "the American law" at present is not something anyone may
know all or most about, since it consists of some 27,000 pages, that
cover so many laws, by laws, and regulations, that nobody even knows
how many laws etc. there are, that are in force in the U.S., on federal
and state levels.
And he quotes an authority on US law (with his bolding)
Next, he quotes a quite large
sample of crazy laws in various US states - that nevertheless are laws,
and that may date back a long time, but have never been removed.
As Supreme Court Justice
The complexity of
modern federal criminal law, codified in several thousand sections of
the United States Code and the virtually infinite variety of factual
circumstances that might trigger an investigation into a possible
violation of the law, make it difficult for anyone to know, in
advance, just when a particular set of statements might later appear
(to a prosecutor) to be relevant to some such investigation.
The list is long and quite amusing, and also may not be wholly correct.
I leave it to you, and indeed it doesn't matter much whether it is
wholly correct. I do quote the conclusion:
Next, he lists an interview
Binney, and also lists the first interview, made by Greenwald and
Poitras in Hong Kong, with Edward
Snowden (and the last two links are links to these
video-interviews, that are both very well worth seeing), and Snowden
gets quoted, again with bolding added:
Do you imagine that it is
possible for you to go through life without violating a federal, state
or local law? It’s impossible.
As Stalin’s notorious
chief of secret police famously said:
Show me the man and I
will find the crime.
Here is the conclusion:
Similarly, Edward Snowden
Because even if you’re
not doing anything wrong you’re being watched and recorded. And the
storage capability of these systems increases every year consistently
by orders of magnitude … to where it’s getting to the point where you
don’t have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to
eventually fall under suspicion from somebody – even by a wrong call.
And then they can use this system to go back in time and
scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever
discussed something with. And attack you on that basis to sort to
derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a
Remember, it’s not just
the NSA which is spying on your. Numerous government agencies are
spying on all of your data, and sharing
that information with federal, state and local law enforcement, the
drug enforcement agency, the IRS and many others. So if any
of those agencies thinks – rightly or wrongly – that you might have
broken a law, they might target you.
Mass surveillance is
incredibly dangerous … and no one is immune.
And also note that one consequence of the NSA's uncontrolled and secret
dragnetting of any and all information they can get, is that people
will shut up, rather than say anything that they think may - eventually
- incriminate them, somehow, just as happened in the Soviet Union under
Stalin - and this seems to be happening already.
That is not a society I want to live in, indeed.
5. Book of Lamentations
Finally for today, something that does not - quite - belong to the
crisis series, and for which I have its own series, namely the DSM 5, although that seems
mostly terminated, since the DSM 5 got accepted, printed and published.
(By the way, the reason for my "- quite -" is that psychiatrists are
people who can lock you up and who can drug you against
your will, and they generally help the authorities, but all of
that is indeed, here and now, by the way.)
In any case, the following article by Sam Kriss is a - sort of - review
of the DSM 5 that insists on treating it, satirically, as if it had
been a novel:
Here is a bit of it, though I
should say right away you should read all of this, if you have any
interest in psychiatry:
It’s also not
exactly a conventional novel. Its full title is an unwieldy mouthful: Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. The
author (or authors) writes under the ungainly nom de plume of The American Psychiatric Association –
although a list of enjoyably silly pseudonyms is provided inside
(including Maritza Rubio-Stipec, Dan Blazer, and the superbly
alliterative Susan Swedo). The thing itself is on the cumbersome side.
Over two inches thick and with a thousand pages, it’s unlikely to find
its way to many beaches. Not that this should deter anyone; within is a
brilliantly realized satire, at turns luridly absurd, chillingly
perceptive, and profoundly disturbing.
This is about its
Just as Borges’s system
groups animals by seemingly aleatory characteristics entirely divorced
from their actual biological attributes, DSM-5 arranges its
various strains of madness solely in terms of the behaviors exhibited.
This is a recurring theme in the novel, while any consideration of the
mind itself is entirely absent. In its place we’re given diagnoses such
as “frotteurism,” “oppositional defiant disorder,” and “caffeine
intoxication disorder.” That said, these classifications aren’t
arranged at random; rather, they follow a stately progression
comparable to that of Dante’s Divine Comedy (...) It’s
unusual, and at times frustrating in its postmodern knowingness, but
what is being told is first and foremost a story.
And this is about "mental
There is quite a bit more, but
the satire is kept up all the way and ends thus:
The idea emerges that
every person’s illness is somehow their own fault, that it comes from
nowhere but themselves: their genes, their addictions, and their
inherent human insufficiency. We enter a strange shadow-world where for
someone to engage in prostitution isn’t the result of intersecting
environmental factors (gender relations, economic class, family and
social relationships) but a symptom of “conduct disorder,” along with
“lying, truancy, [and] running away.” A mad person is like a faulty
machine. The pseudo-objective gaze only sees what they do, rather than
what they think or how they feel.
a nightmare society in which human beings are individuated, sick, and
alone. For much of the novel, what the narrator of this story is
describing is its own solitude, its own inability to appreciate other
people, and its own overpowering desire for death – but the real horror
lies in the world that could produce such a voice.
Yes indeed - and having
produced my own series on the DSM-5,
that includes, in one file, the long review from 2012:
and also, since I am a
psychologist and a philosopher, even my own 2011:
I must say Sam Kriss is
definitely more amusing, and well worth reading for anyone
interested in postmodern psychiatry:
"One horselaugh is
worth a thousand syllogisms."
-- H.L. Mencken
 Here it is necessary to insist, with
Aristotle, thay the governors do not rule, or at least, should
not rule: The laws rule, and the government, if good, is part
of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn
It is more proper
that law should govern than any of the citizens: upon the same
principle, if it is advantageous to place supreme power in some
particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and
the servant of laws.
(And I note the whole file I
quote from is quite pertinent.)
About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.:
The "/CFS" is added to
facilitate search machine) which is a disease that I have since 1.1.