Do you think that, as a society, the United States has become a basket case? Well, join the club. I'm not just thinking of the country's dysfunctional Congress, pathological infatuation with firearms, addiction to litigation, crazy healthcare arrangements, engorged prison system, chronic inequality, 50-year-old military-industrial complex and out-of-control security services. There is also its strange irrationality about the use and abuse of computers.

Two events last week provided case studies of this. The first was Bradley Manning's conviction. Although acquitted of the most serious charge of "aiding the enemy," he was convicted of six counts of violating the 1917 Espionage Act and on two counts of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). In theory, he could face 136 years in jail for downloading secret government files and giving them to WikiLeaks.

Just to put that in perspective, cast your mind back to March, 16 1968, when a platoon of U.S. soldiers led by Second Lieutenant William Calley entered the hamlet of My Lai in what was then South Vietnam. They rounded up between 70 and 80 villagers and then shot them dead. In all, between 347 and 504 My Lai civilians were murdered that day by U.S. troops.