January 22, 2014

Crisis: NSA * 3, Snowden * 2, journalism, enormous inequality, psychiatry* 2

   "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.
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton

Prev- crisis -Next  

NSA files: Snowden says 'I acted alone' and rubbishes
     Russian spy claims

2. Human Rights Watch annual report 2014 criticises NSA
     mass surveillance

3.  Jon Stewart: ‘These [NSA] Reforms Are Weak, but Don’t
      Worry, They’ll Never Take Effect’

4.  Snowden: If 'Country Is Helped,' Ending Up in Ditch
     'Worth It'

5The Golden Age of Journalism?
6.  There Are 85 People Who Are As Wealthy As Half The
      WORLD, Oxfam Reports

7.  Psychiatry Gone Astray
8.  open letter to the APA…

About ME/CFS


This is yet another
crisis issue, though the last two items are about psychiatry, which also is in crisis, though far fewer know this. Also, while there are more important items, item 3 is the funniest - and indeed Jon Stewart, like me, did not find Obama's speech (I quote, from several journalistic authors) "forceful".

1. NSA files: Snowden says 'I acted alone' and rubbishes Russian spy claims

To start with,
an article by Reuters in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden said he acted alone in leaking US government secrets and that suggestions by some politicians he might have had help from Russia were "absurd'', the New Yorker magazine reported on Tuesday.

In an interview the magazine said was conducted by encrypted means from Moscow, Snowden was quoted as saying: "This 'Russian spy' push is absurd."

Snowden said he "clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no help from anyone, much less a government".

"It won't stick. ... Because it's clearly false, and the American people are smarter than politicians think they are," the New Yorker quoted Snowden as saying.

Yes, I would suppose so - and the originator of the slur is the intellectually sub-normal Mike Rogers. There is more there, but this is also treated below.

2. Human Rights Watch annual report 2014 criticises NSA mass surveillance

Next, an article by Philip Oltermann in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Surveillance overreach by the US government could have a disastrous long-term effect on internet freedom and free speech, Human Rights Watch warns in its latest report.

The US-based organisation says in its 24th annual survey that there is a danger some governments with poor human rights records, like China or the Gulf states, will use the NSA scandal as an excuse to "force user data to stay within their own borders, setting up the potential for increased internet censorship".

Human Rights Watch's 2014 report is the first in its 36-year history to include a warning about data protection. Previous reports had focused on internet issues mainly in relation to China, where the government has censored internet searches and arrested bloggers who have criticised the government online.

Further down there is this:

Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth told the Guardian that his organisation had chosen to concentrate on data protection because "serious missteps by the US government compelled us to speak up".

"The Snowden revelations have made clear that there has been an intrusion on our right to privacy of unprecedented scope, yet the government is dismissing any complaints about our right to privacy as irrelevant."

Roth said that from a human rights perspective, one of the biggest missteps the US administration had committed was to insist that there was a difference between the content of private communication and "metadata" – information about where, when and between whom the communication takes place. This distinction was based on a 1979 court case from the pre-digital era, which Human Rights Watch described as "troglodyte".

Yes, I quite agree - but the bitter point is that the US government surely knows it is lying to the public, and this lying includes referencing 1979 court cases as if these were relevant to today's PCs (etc.)

Finally, there is this:

To assume that only the listening in, not the collection part of surveillance constituted an intrusion of privacy was "a fallacy", Roth said. "Imagine the government putting a video camera in your bedroom and saying 'don't worry, the feed will only go into a government computer, which we won't look at unless we have reason to believe that wrongdoing is taking place'. Would you feel your privacy is being respected? Of course not. But that's exactly what the government is doing."

Yes, quite so - and besides, you only have "the word" of thoroughly dishonest people to go by.

Roth also correctly notes this:

Human Rights Watch had taken little solace from President Barack Obama's speech last Friday, Roth said. "Obama said there will be no more spying on Angela Merkel. Great! But what concerns us is the US government spying on ordinary people. He didn't say we have a right to privacy. He just said: we'll tread more carefully. What use is the government promising to restrain itself if it doesn't give anyone the chance to challenge that restraint in court?"

Yes, precisely: the former professor of constitutional law talked as if he doesn't know the law, or as if he feels laws do not matter: all that matters is trust in him (and his successors).

3.  Jon Stewart: ‘These [NSA] Reforms Are Weak, but Don’t Worry, They’ll Never Take Effect’

Next, an article by Natasha Hakimi on Truth Dig,

that starts thus:

“Daily Show” host Jon Stewart offers a hilariously annotated version of President Obama’s long-winded, contradictory speech on the surveillance state. Watch as he takes out his Red Bull and a snack just to get through the tedious beginning of Obama’s attempt to “address the American people’s very real concerns about privacy without upsetting the people who apparently know everything about us.” Spoiler alert: He does neither.

One reason to quote this is that when I read the initial reactions to Obama's speech I was amazed to find how many described it as "forceful", whereas in fact it was a "long-winded, contradictory", irrelevant speech that did not address nearly all of the issues, and also consisted of far too many odd long pauses.

Anyway... you'll find two videos there, both of a little over 4 minutes, that shows Jon Stewart in excellent form - and in case you doubt: I don't merely think he is funny, I think he is right.
4.  Snowden: If 'Country Is Helped,' Ending Up in Ditch 'Worth It'

Next, an article by Jon Queally on Common Dreams, that also deals with Snowden:

This starts as follows:
Edward Snowden says that even if he ends up in "a ditch" some day, if his acts help his country, then it will all have been worth it.
He also denies the charges of Mike Rogers, that are also more or less supported by Feinstein, that he worked for anyone, and cites in support that real spies are much better treated than he was.

There is considerably more, but I only select this sample, that was sampled from the interview:

On the media coverage

“It’s just amazing that these massive media institutions don’t have any sort of editorial position on this. I mean these are pretty serious allegations, you know?”

“The media has a major role to play in American society, and they’re really abdicating their responsibility to hold power to account.”

On leaving Russia

“When we were talking about possibilities for asylum in Latin America, the United States forced down the Bolivian President’s plane.” If he could travel without U.S. interference, “I would of course do so.”

On personal sacrifice versus the greater good

“At least the American public has a seat at the table now. [...] “It may sound trite, [but if] I end up disgraced in a ditch somewhere, but it helps the country, it will still be worth it.”

I only comment on the first point: He is clearly quite right on the media, and that is indeed also one of the major problems of this day - that there are only a few handfuls of decent papers and good shows, and that almost all of the rest is not only "bad shit" (to quote Bill Maher) but also often is carefully and intentionally very slanted.

5. The Golden Age of Journalism?

Next, an article by Tom Engelhardt from on journalism:

Tom Engelhardt is a few years older than I am, and tells the story of the papers as he knew these through his life, until many of them started falling apart, mostly because of the internet and falling incomes due to fewer advertisements. The story is interesting and well told, but he ends with a - qualified - paean on the present day, from which I only cite one brief bit:
I’m in awe.  Despite everything, despite every malign purpose to which the Internet is being put, I consider it a wonder of our age.  Yes, perhaps it is the age from hell for traditional reporters (and editors) working double-time, online and off, for newspapers that are crumbling, but for readers, can there be any doubt that now, not the 1840s or the 1930s or the 1960s, is the golden age of journalism?
Actually, I think there can be: Firstly, it all depends on what you wish to understand by "journalism", and secondly, while I grant there is - on the moment - more available than there ever was, and cheaper too, the great increase in quantity was not combined with an increase in quality.

But you can read it yourself - I only say that I am less in awe than Engelhardt is, and also that there is no more any really good paper left in Holland.

6. There Are 85 People Who Are As Wealthy As Half The WORLD, Oxfam Reports

Next, a brief report on the Huffington Post:

Here are two of its paragraphs:

Oxfam's "Working For The Few" report looked at Credit Suisse's "Global Wealth Report 2013" and Forbes' list of the world's billionaires from 2013 to conclude that 1 percent of the global population controls half of the world's wealth.

The report also found that the world's 85 richest people own the same amount as the bottom half of the entire global population.
That last statistic shows you how honest and democratic power and riches are distributed in this modern enlightened world.

7. Psychiatry Gone Astray

Next, an article by Peter Gotzsche on Dr. David Healy's site:
First note that Dr Healy is a psychiatrist who lives and works in Wales, and who is one of the few honest and decent ones (which gave him a lot of trouble), and Dr Peter Gotzsche is a Danish internist.

This is a really good article, that I review by quoting the myths - about all of which Dr Gotzsche is right, to the best of my meanwhile fairly extensive knowledge - but leave it to you to find the text, except for this introductory part, in which I also have added a link to the Wikipedia:

At the Nordic Cochrane Centre, we have researched antidepressants for several years and I have long wondered why leading professors of psychiatry base their practice on a number of erroneous myths. These myths are harmful to patients. Many psychiatrists are well aware that the myths do not hold and have told me so, but they don’t dare deviate from the official positions because of career concerns.

Being a specialist in internal medicince, I don’t risk ruining my career by incurring the professors’ wrath and I shall try here to come to the rescue of the many conscientious but oppressed psychiatrists and patients by listing the worst myths and explain why they are harmful.

Now the myths - and I quite them as I find them, but without any explanatory text (that is good):
Myth 1: Your disease is caused by a chemical
              imbalance in the brain

Myth 2: It’s no problem to stop treatment with    

Myth 3: Psychotropic Drugs for Mental Illness are
              like Insulin for Diabetes

Myth 4: Psychotropic drugs reduce the number of
              chronically ill patients

Myth 5: Happy pills do not cause suicide in
              children and adolescents

Myth 6: Happy pills have no side effects
Myth 7: Happy pills are not addictive
Myth 8: The prevalence of depression has
              increased a lot

Myth 9: The main problem is not overtreatment,
              but undertreatment

Myth 10: Antipsychotics prevent brain damage
All I should add here is that the full text is under the link; that I never used any antipsychotic; that "happy pills" are anti-depressives that I have used, though far too long, which did undo a major depression I couldn't talk or reason myself out of; and that my own psychologist's view of psychiatry is that it is - still, as always - a pseudoscience: if you need psychological help, go to a psychologist (though do not expect any miracles: they also do not know what psychiatrists do not know, but they very probably will listen to you a lot better, while any medicine can just as well, and a lot cheaper, be gotten through your GP).

Incidentally, having just linked the Wikipedia on pseudoscience, here is its first paragraph, that is also useful for the next item (minus one note reference):

Pseudoscience is a claim, belief or practice which is presented as scientific, but does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status. Pseudoscience is often characterized by the use of vague, contradictory, exaggerated or unprovable claims, an over-reliance on confirmation rather than rigorous attempts at refutation, a lack of openness to evaluation by other experts, and a general absence of systematic processes to rationally develop theories.

A field, practice, or body of knowledge can reasonably be called pseudoscientific when it is presented as consistent with the norms of scientific research, but it demonstrably fails to meet these norms.
I am a psychologist and a philosopher (and as such a scientific realist), who graduated in both with only A's, and also has an M.A. with only A's, and I say that the above fits psychiatry as if it were written for it. Indeed, modern psychiatry since the DSM-III insists it does not do theories at all [2]: it only diagnoses - currently 400+ "disorders" (socalled because they are not diseases, and nobody knows what causes nearly all of them) - and these "diagnoses" are put together in secret processes by members of the American Psychiatric Association, who also are the first to profit from them.

Well... that is not medicine: that is pseudoscience. But it does have a good cause: it serves the happiness, the status and the great incomes of members of the APA quite well indeed, albeit totally fraudulently.

8. open letter to the APA…

Finally, an article by one of the very few other psychiatrists who is not a liar and who can and does think clearly (unlike most of his psychiatric colleagues), namely by 1 boring old man, on his site:
This starts as follows, and is dated January 21, 2014:
It has been a dark time for psychiatry. Since the investigations of Senator Grassley exposed significant corruption and unseated three chairs of Psychiatry in 2008, there has been a series of disturbing exposures involving widespread ghost writing, guest authoring, and questionable clinical trial reporting; escalating widely publicized settlements by pharmaceutical companies involving psychoactive drugs and implicating prominent psychiatrists; charges of overmedication and entrepreneurialism; the drying up of the pharmaceutical pipeline; recurrent charges of ubiquitous Conflicts of Interest in high places; and an ongoing and divisive process that spanned the DSM-5 Revision process. Besides the gravity and frequency of the problems, their handling by the administrative levels in our specialty have played poorly in the eyes of the public and our currency is at an all time low.
Yes, indeed. I add that the reputation of psychiatry is deservedly low; that it should be a lot lower than it is; and that I do not myself see any reason to keep psychiatry as a science, because it never was one, and still it isn't one: it only is an excuse for prescribing expensive pills and locking up people, all without any decent knowledge of how the human mind produces its many miracles and distortions, and also without any decent knowledge about what their pills do.

However, I am willing to grant that this last paragraph probably does not agree with 1 boring old man, which is indeed also why he wrote his open letter.



[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.)

[2] In fact, this is sufficient to remove psychiatry from the real sciences: Any real science, faulty, partially faulty, or mostly correct, is so only because it does have theories. Then again, the claim that psychiatry doesn't do theories is - like most psychiatric claims - partially nonsensical: There are theories, but these are almost all without any secure or credible foundations. In fact, leading psychiatrists tend to feel, and have felt, since the 1980ies, very warmly for "the future of scientific medicine" which they predicted, falsely as always, would support their theories, guesses, constructs or diagnoses. That is, psychiatrists are confident science fictionists, and indeed their "science" is no science because it lacks the knowledge on which it could be rationally founded. That is no shame, but it is a great shame to pretend to be a scientist while one isn't doing science.

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komarof

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)[2]

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)

       home - index - summaries - mail