Monday, May 4, 2009

Catching up...

It's been a while since I felt like sitting down and typing: swine flu, torture memos, American Idol... ok, I pay exactly zero attention to American Idol. But still, maybe it's time to catch up with a few random thoughts, all crammed into one posting.

First, I finally got to see the Jacksonville Zoo's new pair of Komodo "Dragons." They are impressive animals, as you can see:



The "dragons" (Varanus komodoensis) are at present Earth's largest lizards, reaching a length of around ten feet (about the size of the one in my photo). They are interesting for a number of reasons. One is their method of killing large prey such as deer, water buffalo, or even humans, by biting them and then leaving them to die from massive infection caused by the bacteria present in their mouths. Another interesting thing about them is that they are capable of sustaining a high energy output, such as pursuing prey, for a longer time than most reptiles. And, finally, captive dragons have been observed "playing" with objects in their enclosures; play behavior is more common in mammals.

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And then there's the torture thing. We have memos written by former Cheny/Bush administration officials declaring waterboarding and other "harsh interrogation techniques" to be legal and usable by US personnel, even though we ourselves have prosecuted people who used these techinques on our own military, and even though they are not allowed under the United Nations Convention Against Torture. We even have on-camera semi-admissions (or in the case of Cheney, bragging) about the approval of and use of torture on people captured in Afghanistan and Iraq from Bush, Cheney, and Rice. And yet, President Obama seems not all that eager to pursue prosecutions of these and other people who clearly broke international law by committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. The usual statement is something like "mistakes were made, but we need to put the past behind us and ensure that those mistakes will not be repeated."

Bullshit. When someone murders somebody, we don't set the murderer free and tell the murdered person's family and friends that "a mistake was made," but "we have to put that behind us and move forward." When a crime of this magnitude is committed, the criminal(s) must be made to account for their behavior. The Cheney/Bush administration committed egregious crimes in our name; we cannot afford to allow them to go unpunished, leaving the pursuit of justice to courts in Spain or elsewhere.

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Another thing. May 1, "May Day," came and went pretty quietly, as it usually does here in the USA. Out in the rest of the world, there were demonstrations, parades, speeches, and so on, in recognition and celebration of working people: International Workers' Day. Here in the US, we do have a Labor Day, but it's held the first Monday in September and has lost, over the years, most of its original content as a celebration of workers and their unions. Indeed, we are among the least unionized of the industrial nations; here unions are suspect as socialist or even communist. This is certainly explainable as an outcome of the US emphasis on independence training.

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Finally... Summer classes at UNF start on Monday, May 11, and I will be teaching a section of Peoples and Cultures of the World (ANT 3212). Let's hope the "swine" flu doesn't cause us to postpone or cancel classes. I need the money.

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