December 29, 2015
Crisis: Windows, Markets & Climate, Pentagon & Guantánamo, Drake, Suzy Chapman
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1. Recently Bought a Windows Computer? Microsoft
     Probably Has Your Encryption Key

2. Markets Cannot Solve the Climate Crisis
3. Pentagon Deliberately Thwarting Efforts to Close

4. After Paris, Be Careful What You Ask For: An Interview
     with Thomas Drake

Final post on Dx Revision Watch


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, December 29, 2015.

This is a crisis blog, with 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article that explains that most naive users (that is: most users) will hand their encryption key to Windows, which they have to do if they want to encrypt at all; item 2 is about a rather vague (though probably well-intentioned) article about markets, profits and capitalism; item 3 is about why the Pentagon (at least) does not want want to close Guantánamo; item 4 is about an interesting long interview with NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake; and item 5 is about the final post on Dx Revision Watch - a site for people with ME, and for people helping people with ME - which somewhat saddens me, but is probably definite.

1.  Recently Bought a Windows Computer? Microsoft Probably Has Your Encryption Key

The first item today is by Micah Lee on The Intercept:
  • Recently Bought a Windows Computer? Microsoft Probably Has Your Encryption Key

This starts as follows (and might give you an update on the goodness of Bill Gates):
One of the excellent features of new Windows devices is that disk encryption is built-in and turned on by default, protecting your data in case your device is lost or stolen. But what is less well-known is that, if you are like most users and login to Windows 10 using your Microsoft account, your computer automatically uploaded a copy of your recovery key – which can be used to unlock your encrypted disk – to Microsoft’s servers, probably without your knowledge and without an option to opt-out.
In other words: While - as a fairly naive computer user, which is what by far the most computer users these days are - you quite probably thought that your disk was encrypted, in fact it was not, in the sense that Microsoft has the key that will unlock everything on you hard disk (which it also may give to others, such as the police).

That is: It seems encrypted, but it really isn't. Especially in the USA, the police may get the key from Microsoft, and indeed anybody who can break in at Microsoft may get your de-encryption key together with many others.

To be sure (and the Clipper chip system was similar):

Users can choose to delete recovery keys from their Microsoft accounts (you can skip to the bottom of this article to learn how) – something that people never had the option to do with the Clipper chip system. But they can only delete it after they’ve already uploaded it to the cloud.
Which means that Microsoft simply can copy your key to some other place (with a single line of code), so that if you decide to delete the de-encryption key, in fact they still have it.

Here is what real encryption is:

“The gold standard in disk encryption is end-to-end encryption, where only you can unlock your disk. This is what most companies use, and it seems to work well,” says Matthew Green, professor of cryptography at Johns Hopkins University. “There are certainly cases where it’s helpful to have a backup of your key or password. In those cases you might opt in to have a company store that information. But handing your keys to a company like Microsoft fundamentally changes the security properties of a disk encryption system.”

Of course. And Windows is such a rotten system, that I would assume (indeed also if it were less rotten) that they do make copies of the encryption key you have to send to them if you want encryption at all. That seems to be the whole point of forcing you to give your encryption key to them: To make you believe your hard disk is encrypted, while it is in fact not, for anyone who has the right access to Microsoft.

Here is the difference between Windows and Apple:

After you finish setting up your Windows computer, you can login to your Microsoft account and delete the recovery key. Is this secure enough? “If Microsoft doesn’t keep backups, maybe,” says Green. “But it’s hard to guarantee that. And for people who aren’t aware of the risk, opt-out seems risky.”

This policy is in stark contract to Microsoft’s major competitor, Apple. New Macs also ship with built-in and default disk encryption: a technology known as FileVault. Like Microsoft, Apple lets you store a backup of your recovery key in your iCloud account. But in Apple’s case, it’s an option. When you set up a Mac for the first time, you can uncheck a box if you don’t want to send your key to Apple’s servers.

I am more than suspicuous enough to say that this also means relying on Apple, for all you have is mere faith that unchecking the box indeed does not send you key to Apple's servers: you definitely do not know.

But that is the amount of "security" closed source systems give you, and that is one of the reasons I am on Linux. (It also is the much better system. And free! And with almost everything open source! And easily installed!)

2. Markets Cannot Solve the Climate Crisis

The second item is by Valerie Brown on Truthdig (and originally on Climate News Network):
  • Markets Cannot Solve the Climate Crisis
This starts as follows:
It may not be polite to mention Karl Marx in America, but leading thinkers on the left think that capitalism may be the cause of climate change, and that to save the planet the system needs fundamental reform.

According to a new book the profit motive, which drives capitalism above all other considerations, forces it to extract everything from the planet that will generate a surplus, at the expense of real benefits to humans and ecosystems.

Fossil Capital: the Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming, by Andreas Malm, out in hardback from Verso in January 2016, analyses capitalism’s role in global warming by delving into its past.

This is in several ways misleading, it seems to me. I will limit myself to three points.

First, it is not true that "the profit motive" "forces [capitalism] to extract everything from the planet that will generate a surplus". What is true is that "the profit motive" disposes towards the extraction of anything on which a profit can be made, but there is no natural necessity (a "force") involved of any kind.

It is in fact a free and moral decision by specific people (generally CEOs) to extract oil, gas and coal. I grant that if they are in the business of extracting oil, gas and coal, and they think they can do it profitably, this will strongly dispose them towards extraction, but again: there is no need for them to do so.

Second, clearly capitalism is one of the main causes of climate change, and indeed neither Marx nor leftishness are necessary for that conclusion:

If all you care for is maximum profits, then you won't care for the consequences to the climate (and you may very well deny there are any serious consequences, not because you know this, but because you do know that what you propose to do is very profitable for yourself).

And third, a "fundamental reform" of "capitalism" may sound impressive, but does not say much. It may mean some sort of socialism or social democracy (of which there are many kinds), but it may also mean - as most versions of social democracy claim - that capitalism (in some form) is retained, but its more painful consequences are tied by laws.

What also would be true to say, talking about capitalism, is that the latest tendencies in - especially American - capitalism are and have been the last 35 years very strongly towards total deregulation, which means that capitalist firms can do as they please, and have all the freedoms that the richest have, but again
there is no natural necessity about this.

In fact, I am pretty certain that all of capitalism can be retained, provided that no one is allowed of making more than 300,000 dollars or euros a year - which is what 99% of the population never will make anyway, so merely this measure would harm very few and benefit all enormously. (But no one I know of is even considering this, while the very few but extremely rich billionaires will do anything to keep their personal riches. For more, see my On Socialism.)

There is considerably more in the article that I leave to your interests, but here is its ending:

Insisting that the real authors of the climate crisis comprise a tiny, all-male, all-white fraction of the planet’s population, Malm objects to calling this the Anthropocene epoch; he would rather call it the “Capitalocene.” And capital, he insists, is not capable of solving the crisis it created.

What we need instead, he writes, is a return to “the flow”: distributed solar, wind and water power. Moreover, in order to avoid severe damage to civilisation, we need to abandon carbon immediately, and this can be accomplished only by intentional and decisive governmental action.

The governments that are doing best at this, Malm observes, are state and city governments, which have no obligation to generate profits and are not owned by Big Capital.

Malm recognises that “socialism is an excruciatingly difficult condition to achieve.” He’s not envisioning a new Stalinist nightmare to replace runaway capital. For one thing, Malm observes, capitalist ideology is so deeply ingrained in society that, quoting Marxist theorist Fredric Jameson, “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.”

And I have four points, but will make them a bit briefer:

First, I am not much interested in how the epoch in which I live is to be called, nor do I care much that "the real authors of the climate crisis comprise a tiny, all-male, all-white fraction": Surely, it is a mistake to assume that blacks or females that can rise to these levels would do differently.

Second, "distributed solar, wind and water power" are nice, but I am pretty certain they will not solve the basic problem, which is essentially that there are now over 7 billion persons alive, about three times as many as when I was born, and they want for the most part most that the advertisements on their TVs makes them want. And the earth is not large enough to satisfy them all, or indeed most of them, with the present resources and population.

Third, while "state and city governments" are important, the extremist rich capitalists, who are in fact all for capitalism-without-a-human-face because they profit enormously from this themselves, have now a way to stop almost any "state and city governments", and indeed finish democracy. It is called the TPP, the TTIP and the TiSA. For more on these secret "treaties", see the crisis index.

Fourth, I think "socialism" is not a real option, in considerable part because socialism itself tends to have very mistaken notions about how the revolution it desires is to proceed, namely by expropriating all, and giving their property to the state. This - Stalinism in Russia and China have shown - makes the very few who are in government the absolute rulers of everything and everyone, which is a state of affairs that is only desirable to such absolute rulers.

For more, see my
On Socialism.

3. Pentagon Deliberately Thwarting Efforts to Close Guantanamo

The third item is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:
  • Pentagon Deliberately Thwarting Efforts to Close Guantanamo

This starts as follows:

President Obama's repeated pledges to close the Guantánamo Bay detention center have been routinely and deliberately undermined by his own Department of Defense, according to a damning new investigation published on Monday.

Citing numerous administration officials, Reuters exposed a "pattern" of bureaucratic obstacles imposed by the U.S. Pentagon which have successfully thwarted efforts to transfer cleared detainees from the notorious offshore prison.

"Pentagon officials have refused to provide photographs, complete medical records and other basic documentation to foreign governments willing to take detainees, administration officials said," according to the Reuters excluive. "They have made it increasingly difficult for foreign delegations to visit Guantánamo, limited the time foreign officials can interview detainees and barred delegations from spending the night at Guantánamo."

Such delays, Reuters notes, "resulted in four Afghan detainees spending an additional four years in Guantanamo after being approved for transfer."

I am sorry, but I do not believe president Obama on Guantánamo (and quite a few other things, except that he is a clever deceiver), though it may be true that
the Pentagon is playing games.

One of the best ways to understand the kind of games the Pentagon is playing, is to check out the Wikipedia lemma "Nacht und Nebel" (<- Wikipedia), which is German for "Night and fog", and refers to this, which is the beginning of the article (quoted without note numbers):

Nacht und Nebel (German for "Night and Fog") was a directive (German: Erlass) from Adolf Hitler on 7 December 1941 targeting political activists and resistance "helpers" that was originally intended to winnow out "anyone endangering German security" (die deutsche Sicherheit gefährden) throughout Nazi Germany's occupied territories.  (...)

Three months later Armed Forces High Command Feldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel expanded it to include all persons in occupied countries who had been taken into custody; if they were still alive eight days later, they were to be handed over to the Gestapo. The decree was meant to intimidate local populations into submission, by denying friends and families of seized persons any knowledge of their whereabouts or their fate. The prisoners were secretly transported to Germany, and vanished without a trace. In 1945, the abandoned Sicherheitsdienst (SD) records were found to include merely names and the initials "NN" (Nacht und Nebel); even the sites of graves were unrecorded. The Nazis even coined a new term for those who "vanished" in accordance with this decree; they were vernebelt - transformed into mist. To this day, it is not known how many thousands of people disappeared as a result of this order.
Incidentally, these disappearances were war crimes according to the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. But clearly, this is the sort of thing the Pentagon wants Guantánamo to be: A place where the American army can do what it wants, and keep people locked up for 14 years without any prosecution or any provable crime, often merely because they are Arabs, it seems.

There also are the - usual - denials both by Obama and the Pentagon:

Spokespeople for both the White House and Pentagon denied any "discord" over efforts to close the prison.

There is more in the article, which is recommended.

4. After Paris, Be Careful What You Ask For: An Interview with Thomas Drake

The fourth item is by Mary Fitzgerald on Raging Bull-Shit, and originally on Open Democracy:
  • After Paris, Be Careful What You Ask For: An Interview with Thomas Drake
This is a fairly long and decent interview of Thomas Drake (<- Wikipedia) that starts as follows:

Mary Fitzgerald: Thank you very much for being with us today. Some interesting polling data has come out of France since the terror attacks: 84 percent of French people would prioritise security over liberty now. Do you think that’s the right direction?

Thomas Drake: No it’s not. I’m having huge flashbacks to 9/11 in the US, post-9/11 when similar polls said, ‘oh yeah we need more security… I don’t mind if they’re listening in on my conversation, I don’t mind if they’re reading all my… I don’t mind, if that makes us safer, then I’m for it.’ Be careful what you ask for.

Mary: Why would you caution against that, based on your own experience?

Thomas: Because it’s a false dichotomy. To say somehow: I’ve got to choose one over the other. When we need both, right? This is not a case of choosing one or the other. If you choose one over the other, you’re gonna lose both, or erode both. That’s the false dichotomy.

The other thing is that just like 9/11 – I’m the first to acknowledge the barbaric nature of the attacks, the mass murders. We have to protect ourselves against those – and yet the government failed in Paris. It failed to protect the people and did not keep people out of harm’s way. Why is that? Why isn’t that question being raised?

Quite so. And indeed one of the main points Thomas Drake is going to make is that it is precisely the NSA's - very strong - desire "to get all" anybody does with any computer or cell phone that upset their ability to track specific terrorists.

I think Drake is right in that claim, but he doesn't answer the further question why the NSA - nevertheless - wants to know all that everyone does with any computer. My reply is: Because they want to control everybody, and the findings computers enable enormously transcend even the totalitarian powers of the secret services in Soviet systems.

That is: I say the NSA wants power over everyone more than anything else, and that is the reason they collect everything they can get. In fact, I have said so from 2005 onwards (in Dutch), but it seems that the desire for power is a concept that is so far removed from ordinary journalists that they cannot acknowledge it....

In fact, Thomas Drake does come close:

Thomas: So actually, Obama, in some ways, some might say is worse than Bush, because he’s now institutionalising what people thought was just an overreaction after 9/11, which in some ways was understandable. What the Bush administration did was quite egregious, but institutionalising it? This is the fear here. Once you start eroding away the core of your own democracy, then it really is hard to get it back, and this kind of power doesn’t yield willingly.
Precisely, and the more so since most of the free press - as there was until 1995 or so, when the free press started to collapse for lacking advertisements, that from then on were on computers rather than in papers - has simply disappeared, and has been replaced by nice and obedient recorders of the governments public plans, who almost never ask a critical question.

My last quotation from this fairly long and good interview is this:

Mary: 74 percent of French people polled said that they would put all people suspected of terrorism in a detention centre, including 64 percent of socialist supporters who now think that. Would you agree with that?

Thomas: If you want to throw away due process, throw away rights, yeah sure, gee, then we’ll just round up anybody that looks suspicious. Jesus, really, you know, we have detention camps, really camps. ‘Oh wow, really?’ Better wake up to European history and what happens when you start separating people out, the sheep and the goats. ‘We’re just going to define who’s acceptable and who isn’t really?’

I thought a democracy was multicultural by nature, right? And that you still don’t lose the essence and the fundamental principles and practices of who you are, right? There’s been a lot of sacrifice for liberty and security, a lot. The security is our liberty.

Fundamentally, if you lose that, in terms of history we are not much different from fascism… If you want to go down that path, I mean go ahead. It’s a dystopian democracy that you get. I don’t want to live in a dystopian democracy, whatever privileged position you have on the surface.

Yes, indeed. One good reference for "fascism" is in fact Nazism (<- Wikipedia).

And as to the "74 percent of French people" and the "64 percent of socialist supporters" who presently support the idea that "they would put all people suspected of terrorism in a detention centre":

I do not think they are all stupid (the numbers are too big, for one thing), but surely they are manipulated by their fears and by their relative ignorance of both Nazism and Soviet socialism.  As Goering put it (and I have quoted this before, simply because it happens to be true, in France as in Germany):

But I agree with Thomas Drake that it is quite frightening to see how many people may be manipulated and deceived into giving up all they do and all they know to the secret services of their and other governments, which will make them loose both their liberties and their securities - and that even while there is not much danger for major attacks.

Final post on Dx Revision Watch

The fifth and last item is by Suzy Chapman on Dx Revision Watch:
  • Final post on Dx Revision Watch

This starts as follows (in a report on other matters):

Final post on Dx Revision Watch

This is the final report I shall be publishing on Dx Revision Watch. At the end of the year, after 13+ years, I am retiring from advocacy. I shall cease reporting on the ICD-10 revision process and development of the ICD-11 Beta draft, in general, and with specific reference to the ICD-10 G93.3 legacy categories. This site will remain online for its archived content for several years.

I say. In fact, I said so before, over 1 1/2 years ago, in About Suzy Chapman  
when she wrote similarly, but less definitely, because she did update Dx Revision Watch afterward.

Here is what I wrote over 1 1/2 years ago:
On the one hand, she is the only advocate for people with M.E. who had a real brain, which she combined with an excellent style and much hard work, and so this is a real and great loss for people with M.E.; on the other hand, I can very well understand her choice, given the great amount of anonymous idiots who are everywhere these days, and who are there merely because they have a computer and are anonymous, which very many believe allows them to say anything about anyone, which they do a great lot, and which seems to be the only thing the vast majority can do really well: speak evil of their betters. [1]

To be sure: I am speaking for myself here, but I have been moved, in fact already in 2010, to shut up about M.E. on any site M.E.-patients frequent, and later to shut up writing about M.E. at all (nearly), namely after I had learned that my degrees (I am a psychologist and a philosopher, with degrees with only straight A's, all done while ill) and my intelligence are held against me, ordinarily, very much rather than that they are seen as an asset, indeed excepting the quite rare intelligent few.

Suzy Chapman has, for me, the distinction of being one of the very few who wrote about M.E. who did so very sensibly and very rationally, and she also is one of the very few writing about it who has a really fine mind.
I do know that people with M.E. have lost one of their strongest and most rational and extremely well-informed advocates - but again I am moved in two ways, for it seems also true that there is very little hope for patients with M.E. until the real cause of the disease has been identified, and Suzy Chapman has made two very fine sites, that will remain available, and will now be able to do other things.
I still think so. And she did work for patients with ME more than 13 years, while I suppose she stopped (I suppose because I do not know) because there are so many irrational, badly informed "advocates" whose many activities drown the rational contributions of the few.

Or at least: These would be (and are) my reasons to mostly withdraw from writing about ME. I do not know what her reasons are, and therefore you should not hold my opinions against her: I am merely guessing.

[1] I am speaking for myself, and like to add that my appreciation of ordinary men has drastically fallen after having acquired fast internet in 2009, which is in considerable part due to my readings of many of the posts of the anonymous ordinary members with ME, but also to other things I learned, mostly about what other ordinary people who are anonymous are capable of writing.

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