22, 2013
Crisis: Snowden, Obama, Alexander, Washington's Blog, Kriss
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone.

  1. Edward Snowden is no traitor
  2. Barack Obama calls François Hollande following NSA
       revelations in France

  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 
About ME/CFS


There are today five sections, although the fifth is about the DSM-5, but this is - this time - quite funny and wholly deserved.

1.  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 menace.

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, such as:

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 Guardian:
This starts as follows:

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.

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.

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 interceptions.
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 4.

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:

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 the 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.
She also writes (among other things):
Last year, 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 warned 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 themselves.
And since the NSA also has done much to make de-encrypting easier for them:
Metaphorically, 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)

As Supreme Court Justice Breyer elaborates:

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.

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.

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:

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.

Next, he lists an interview with William 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:

Similarly, Edward Snowden said:

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 wrongdoer.

Here is the conclusion:

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.

Get it?

Mass surveillance is incredibly dangerous … and no one is immune.

Quite so.

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.

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 classification system:

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 disorders":

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.

There is quite a bit more, but the satire is kept up all the way and ends thus:
DSM-5 describes 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


[1] 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 Greenwald:
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. 1979:

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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