Author Archive | Aaron Dames

Advocacy Groups Plan Day of Protest Against NSA Surveillance

Pic: DWFB (C)

Pic: DWFB (C)

As football season gears up for its climax, many people are overlooking a much bigger game that is being played at the moment.  Grant Gross for PC World reports on the Day We Fight Back protest:

A group of activist groups and Internet companies are planning a coordinated protest of U.S. National Security Agency surveillance on Feb. 11, with the hope that millions of people will join them.The protest, called the Day We Fight Back, comes a month after the anniversary of Internet activist Aaron Swartz’s death. Swartz committed suicide last January while facing a 35-year prison sentence for hacking into a Massachusetts Institute of Technology network and downloading research articles.Among the organizations participating in the protest are Demand Progress, an activist group Swartz co-founded, as well as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Press, Reddit and Mozilla.”Today the greatest threat to a free Internet, and broader free society, is the National Security Agency’s mass spying regime,” David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, said in a statement.… Read the rest
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Examining Natural Disasters

Aaron Dames writes for Divided Core:

The death toll from Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines on November 7th, currently stands at 5,500 people.  Haiyan was the fourth strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded and is the deadliest in Philippine history (the second-deadliest was Tropical Storm Thelma, which killed around 5,080 people in 1991).  To compare, here are some mortality figures from other large-scale natural disasters that have taken place in recent history.

Typhoon Bopha, Philippines, December 2012 – 1,146 dead
Hurricane Sandy, U.S Eastern Seaboard, October 2012 – 286 dead
Earthquake and Tsunami in East Japan, March 2011 – 15,800 dead
Earthquake in Haiti, January 2010 – 159,000 dead
Hurricane Katrina, Gulf Coast, August 2008 – 1,833 dead
Earthquake in Kashmir, Pakistan and India, October 2005 – 100,000 dead
Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami, December 2004 – 250,000 dead

In addition to the number of victims, there are certainly many other factors to consider when assessing the impact that natural disasters have on humanity.  The magnitude of a disaster can be measured in absolute terms, such as the aforementioned mortality rate, as well as the physical extent of the area affected, the volume of infrastructure destroyed, and the financial cost of reconstruction.

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On the Slow Kill of the World’s Oceans

Picture: speakupforblue.com

Picture: speakupforblue.com

Aaron Dames writes for Divided Core:

It is probable that every major ecological pillar however tenuously stabilizing the structure of the oceans is crumbling.  Although some endangered fish populations and coral reef systems are being protected and restored, the seas overall are in deep shit.  Overfishing and pollution are reducing biodiversity by killing-off larges swaths of ocean life.  The destruction of vast marine habitats will have catastrophic repercussions for humanity.  [According to some earth scientists, oceanic ecocide poses a greater threat to the existence of humanity than climate change.  Higher global temperature averages which melt icecaps and glaciers will lead to higher sea levels and the inundation of a plethora of coastal industries, cities, and urban centers that are responsible for contributing to environmental destruction and the mass production of excessive, heat-trapping, carbon-dioxide emissions. As in times of major economic depressions or financial stagnation, the inundation of coastal megalopolises will result in a decrease of industrial activity which may subsequently benefit nature as a whole (until industrial activity is resumed), but would have horrible consequences for humanity, especially for those hundreds of millions of impoverished coastal inhabitants who already live in deprivation, and who would become environmental refugees in the event of a significant increase in sea levels.  (Click here to view an interactive map from National Geographic which depicts how coastlines would change if all glaciers and icecaps on Earth were to melt.)]

Not that there’s anything wrong with them, but human beings have caused a lot of trouble for life in the world’s oceans.  The process in which the destruction of sea life occurs is largely two-fold.  Large-scale destructive events like oil spills (Deepwater Horizon) and nuclear power plant disasters (Fukushima) can cause serious damage to the affected aquatic areas.  Damage from such disasters is often immediately evident, such as the deformed and eyeless fish and shrimp that appeared in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, or the dying sea lions pups and seals with bleeding lesions that have washed up on beaches in California and Alaska the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant meltdown.  Yet as grave and harmful as they are, explosive, headline-making disasters are less deleterious to life in the seas than the cumulative, synergistic effects of routine human activities such as oceanic commerce, commercial fishing, and pollution.  For example, a 2002 study by the National Academy of the Sciences found that the 85 percent of the 29 million gallons of marine oil pollution originating from North America derives from runoff from cars and oil-based machines and accessories (like lawnmowers and household robots) – and the sum of these tiny releases of oil, carried into the ocean by streams and storm drains, is equivalent to an Exxon Valdez oil spill every eight months.  [As additional food for thought: there are apparently 90,000 cargo ships in the world.

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Hypocrisy on the Moral High Ground

obomberPlease enjoy Aaron’s full article rather than the small excerpt we previously ran yesterday – thanks Aaron!

Aaron Dames writes about the absurdity of war with Syria.

From Divided Core:

Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

-George Orwell

When it comes to making the case for bombing Syria, the US military, government, and mainstream media have taken the moral high ground, where they probably have a house or condo.  In justifying launching a possible attack against Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry accused the Assad regime of crossing a red line and committing a “moral obscenity” by using chemical weapons which have resulted in “the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders.”  Though the killing of civilians by any means is a sin regardless of how they are killed, if chemical weapons delineate a red line, then it has been crossed before.  On top of the conventional weaponry that was used to kill hundred of thousands of innocent civilians during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States used depleted uranium, which has lead to a massive surge in birth defects among a generation of Iraqis and Afghanis.  NATO air forces also used depleted uranium munitions during the bombing of Serbia in 1999.  As part of its chemical warfare program in the Vietnam War, the United States sprayed millions of gallons of Agent Orange – an herbicide manufactured by Dow Chemicals and Monsanto – across Vietnam which resulted in deaths of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, as well as in birth defects in half a million children.  Days before John Kerry made the moral obscenity remark, the CIA declassified documents which revealed that in 1988 the United States provided Saddam Hussein with satellite images of Iranian military positions, knowing full well that Iraq would attack the Iranians by using chemical weapons such as sarin gas – a nerve agent similar to that which the U.S now accuses Syria of having used.  (On the topic of recently disclosed CIA files, earlier this month the CIA formally acknowledged its involvement in ousting the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, sixty years ago.)

The U.S is no stranger to chemical warfare.

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NSA pays £100m in secret funding for GCHQ

gchq-logoNSA has been funding the UK’s largest intelligence agency to the tune of $100 million over the past three years…

Nick Hopkins and Julian Borger report for the Guardian.

Via The Guardian:

The US government has paid at least £100m to the UK spy agency GCHQ over the last three years to secure access to and influence over Britain’s intelligence gathering programmes.

The top secret payments are set out in documents which make clear that the Americans expect a return on the investment, and that GCHQ has to work hard to meet their demands. “GCHQ must pull its weight and be seen to pull its weight,” a GCHQ strategy briefing said.

The funding underlines the closeness of the relationship between GCHQ and its US equivalent, the National Security Agency. But it will raise fears about the hold Washington has over the UK’s biggest and most important intelligence agency, and whether Britain’s dependency on the NSA has become too great.

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Letter from North County Jail

Picture: Dylan Oliphant (CC)

From Divided Core:

A writer friend of mine is serving some time in a Northern California jail and wrote an insightful letter which sheds some light on his experience behind bars.   With his permission, I’ve transcribed his letter to share with others.  For those who are interested, here’s what he wrote:

Dear Aaron,

Thank you for the reading material – the books made it in, but the pornographic magazines, I am told, did not get past screening and were confiscated by the guards (I suspect they’ll be making paper mache of those pages forthwith).  Good show though; The Thought Gang will suffice for now.

Here at the North County Detention Facility there is an extensive library for the inmates in our compound: Building 101, which houses around 200 people.  We share a large “day-room” with tables, games, and televisions.  There are ten dorms that sleep roughly twelve people each, and we are generally free to move from our bunks to and from the day-room, or into the sunny courtyard as we please.  “The Farm,” as some here call it, is summer camp compared to where I was confined three days ago.

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The Day of the Drones

Picture: US Air Force (PD)

For those who may be interested, here’s a  short story I wrote about drones kicking ass in the future.  Enjoy!

Tolerance has never brought civil war, intolerance has covered the earth with carnage.
-Voltaire

We have guided missiles and misguided men.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Day of the Drones

Monday, August  10th, 2020

The father and son sat in the air-conditioned car during heavy morning traffic outside of downtown San Diego.  Through the smog the silver skyscrapers of that sweltering city could be seen snaring and pulsating in the haze.  Swelling the freeway were thousands of cars that crept along like termites in the heat of a vast mirage.  The hot sun rose high above the Cuyamaca mountain range as hoards of vehicles inched along the fuming, concrete inferno.  The searing traffic was unbearable.

“Jesus Christ,” the father sighed, “we’re stuck in a parking lot.”

From the back seat his son let out a moan of frustration, having expected that they would have reached their destination by now.  “How much farther?” his son asked.… Read the rest

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