No Pursuit of Justice

Reading this article about the Obama administration’s decision not to pursue the Bush administration’s government lawyers who wrote the CIA “torture memos” or those officials who participated in carrying out those acts is, in my mind, a terrible failure for the new president. While I can appreciate that the man has his hands more than a little full – a massive global recession, climbing rates of unemployment, the near-collapse of our financial system, America’s auto industry teetering on the brink, a health care system that is corrupt and broken, and a very angry Mother Nature…well, that’s a lot for a new politician to address before he’s even up to his first 100 days in office. However, I don’t believe that the egregious measures taken in these “CIA prisons” like Bagram in Afghanistan are any less worthy of outrage, revulsion, or proper justice than those acts committed by military personnel at Abu Ghraib.

The example given in the article, Lynndie England, was dishonorably discharged after her part in the humiliation practices at Abu Ghraib was confirmed and served a year and a half in a military prison and the same amount of time on probation; of course, she was not the only individual in those involved to serve time, others did as well. It is not that I don’t believe that they should have their dishonorable discharges reversed, or that I think it is unfair they had to serve time in prison, what I believe is not only unfair and unjust is to only punish those who were lowest on the military food chain. Sure, these acts were not explicitly ordered nor was she ‘forced’ to commit them; however, the implied notion was that these practices were not just allowed or condoned, but encouraged. To punish the “underlings” but not to insist that the actions of those higher up, or those who were instructing, ordering, or actively encouraging these actions be held responsible for their grossly reprehensible behavior. No one should be above the law, national or international law – if certain persons can get off with not even a slap on the wrist just because of their privileged positions, then what point is there in making laws to abide?

It saddens and angers me that we have not reached a point where we are willing to prosecute and sentence those who commit horrible crimes just because they are in an elite and privileged position of power.


No Stricter Gun Laws After 10 Years?

r217576_849287Of course there has to be a post on the 10th anniversary of the Columbine shooting. I was trying to watch the news all day, especially for this, on what different updates there were about if there were going to be any news on the gun laws from the shooting that happened at Columbine. Obviously there was not, especially in the 2007 attack of Virgina Tech, which I believe is the Columbine of the new millennium, sadly. I even read a news report that a kid even brought a gun to his own school on the 10th anniversary of the shooting and went to jail for it. Also the fact that it was loaded made it even worse. I am not surprised whatsoever that gun laws will be put to rest just because there are so many people with so many guns already that I find it hard to believe that not every single person will get searched for it. On the brighter side, the Columbine shooting gave students a new found lease on life and have successful careers becuse of this incident. This shooting was a reminder that people should not take life for granted.

World’s Oldest Marijuana Stash Totally Busted

Happy 420! In the Gobi Desert, archaeologists unearthed the grave of a 2,700 year old man who had 2 pounds of still-green marijuana buried with him.

2,700 year old marijuana found in grave in Gobi Desert

2,700 year old marijuana found in grave in Gobi Desert

The researchers believe the individual was a shaman from the Gushi people, who spoke a now-extinct language called Tocharian that was similar to Celtic.

Scientists originally thought the plant material in the grave was coriander, but microscopic botanical analysis of the bowl contents, along with genetic testing, revealed that it was cannabis.

The analysis of the cannabis from 2.700 years ago showed that it was psychoactive, not only used as hemp for making clothes and ropes. There is still a lot of debate today about the legalization of marijuana. Federally, it is still against the law, but many states have legalized posession of a small personal amount or the growing of a certain number of plants for personal use.  Comparitively, if a shaman 2,700 years ago smoked marijuana, and died with riches, why is there still such a debate about marijuana. There are many cultures who don’t think it should be illegal, and some, the Rastafarian, use it as a part of their religious ideology.

The Alcan Hwy


Who knows what Alaska would be like today if not for the events of WWII.  Seen as a stategic, as well as an extremely vunerable corordor of the North American continent durring the war, the U.S. military spent billions carving up the landscape so “people could use it,” as well as defend North American from the Japanese.  One of the many projects at this time was the Alaska-Canada Highway.

Said to be the greatest engineering feat durring WWII, the Alcan was completed in less than nine months using seven U.S. Army Corps of Engineer regiments.  Because the army was still segregated and blacks could not fight in combat, four of the seven regiments were “CLD” (colored).  The other three were white and in some cases durring construction they would work towards eachother in competition; at least one observer said that the black regiments would often win.  There is a picture in John S. Whitehead’s “Completing the Union,” that shows a black man and a white man shaking hands at the joining of their opposite stretches of road.  It is quite powerful!


Battling subzero temperatures, permafrost, frostbite, gail-force winds, horifying clouds of mosquitoes, and the occasional brown bear encounter, these regiments (mostly trained in the deep south) completed the Alcan in record time.  Using aerial surveys and local guides, the regiments cut an artery through the Northern Rockies and Yukon so that Alaska could be supplied.  Work was able to go so fast because the D-8 “dozers” they used could knock down 100-year-old spruce trees in seconds; then the troops would come in and limb the trees and lay them tightly perpendicular to the course of the road to establish a foundation called “corduroy.”  Then feet of gravel and rock would be laid on the corduroy and a you would have a road.  Bridges and culverts seemed to be the time consumer.

Just thought this might blow yer skirt up.

Denali or Mt. McKinley?

Picture of Denali

Picture of Denali

I was invited on Facebook to join a group who wants to properly rename different land marks in our nation. Mt. McKinley or Denali is one of the places they want renamed. I never knew the history before; I only knew Denali was the native name. Mt. McKinley was named by a gold miner who was showing support for the 1896 presidential election of William McKinley, who never visited Alaska, and William Jennings Bryan. McKinley favored gold while his opponent liked silver.

The State of Alaska officially recognizes Mt McKinley as Denali, and the US government acknowledged the name when Denali National Park was created in 1980. Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK, retired) introduced multiple bills to officially rename the mountain as Denali, but was constantly opposed by Representative Ralph Regula (R-OH, retired), who represented an area of Ohio that contains Canton, William McKinley’s hometown. Though Regula has retired, two other Ohio congresspeople, Betty Sutton and Tim Ryan have pledged to continue obstructing attempts to rename Denali.

Alaska State House Representative Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks) recently introduced a resolution (HJR-15) to urge the US congress to finally change the name to Denali. Denali (or Dinale) translates to “The Great One” in Athabascan dialects common to native peoples north of the mountain, and is known as Doleika to the Dena’ina people in the south. By recognizing the prominent feature by a traditional name, Denali, the US government would take a step toward reversing years of cultural genocide of Alaska Native peoples.

I have always wondered what was with the two names, but having two names myself, never got interested enough to find out the reason. I am now considering how many other national monuments or land marks are binomial. Is it right for a place that is known as one name to its native people to be changed for political reasons?

The Queen Anne’s Deception

When I went to school at the University of West Florida at Pensacola, FL in the Fall of 2007, one of the classes I took there was a Shipwreck Archaeology class. My professor, a fairly young guy, had worked on some fairly significant projects, including a massive effort made in the early 1990s to excavate the La Belle in the Gulf, below the nearby mouth of the Mississippi River. We talked a lot about that particular dig in class, as well as projects pertinent to Florida – some right in Pensacola Bay (which we never left the classroom to check out; can you guess why I left?) and some further south in the Florida Keys, particularly wrecks popularized by the infamous Mel Fisher. One of the other most significant wrecks in the south is the supposed wreck of Blackbeard’s (real name: Edward Teach_last ship, The Queen Anne’s Revenge. The wreck is supposed to be near the coast of Beaufort, North Carolina, and is quite a contentious site among archaeologists. This piece from National Geographic’s website (it’s not really an article, to be honest) talks a little bit about some new artifacts that have been recently discovered and at least partially conserved/restored by the nautical archaeologists working for the NC Dept. of Cultural Resources. Because it’s such a high-profile wreck if it actually is Blackbeard’s Queen Anne, there is a lot riding on this for the state of North Carolina, especially in potential tourist and investment dollars.
Unfortunately, this National Geographic piece does not bother to mention the fact that there is not a whole lot of physical evidence that has been found thus far to support the idea that the wreck these archaeologists are working on actually is Blackbeard’s Queen Anne. While it’s true that it was his last ship (a former French ship by the name of Le Concorde he captured in 1717) and that he had ground when he was ‘caught’ by Lieutenant Robert Maynard of off NC’s coast in 1718 and killed, it is not as though Blackbeard’s Queen Anne was the only ship to meet her demise in those waters. While a ship’s bell (one of the best sources for validation of a ship’s name and age for archaeologists) was found shortly after excavation began in 1997, the bell was well worn by its time spent in the salty coastal waters and the dates on the bell are unclear. The best potential reading of the ship’s bell’s date actually puts the date of the bell years after The Queen Anne’s Revenge was long gone. Other than a few items, such as this new apothecary’s weight, that have been found that contain French markings (fleur-de-lis), there is almost no evidence to support the origin or ownership of this ship. What’s more, even French markings on items are not particularly solid evidence since trade for items such as these would have been commonplace during this period.
I chose to write about this because archaeology is particularly susceptible to sensationalism, and this (as well as Mel Fisher – can I just tell you that Mel Fisher is a bad man? He is. He’s a low-down, dirty, greedy treasure hunter) is a perfect example of how a lot of pomp and excitement are generated not over facts and honest archaeological work, but in order to raise more tourist and investment dollars.

In Dirt and Secret

I tend to pick up most of the articles I post on here via, since they post a few of the most interesting archaeology/anthropology related links each day, and this article about “Hush-hush Archaeology” is another winner. I’m sure most people can recall the hullabaloo over the new fence at the Mexican-American border, and perhaps even the monumental distaste for the RealID Act (everyone would be required to have a federal-issue ID, very different from something like a passport, in lieu of or in addition to a state ID). I do not personally recall that part of the RealID Act allowed the Homeland Security Secretary (at the time, Michael Chertoff) to waive both federal and state laws dealing with environmental and archaeological protections – even to waive mere surveys, much less excavations – in order to put the new border fence in place. While the article tends to focus more on the coming together of archaeologists, Native American tribes in that area, as well as some government agencies in order to not prevent the building of the fence but prevent the decimation of prehistory, the ability to waive all of these hard-fought protection laws is incredibly important and terrifying to boot. These groups worked together in order to survey, assess, excavate, and document as much of the area (which is right outside of San Diego, CA) that was scheduled to be built upon as possible.

Another important point that the article brings up was the uncertainty of legal action that the archaeologists of the Native American tribes (or even the state of California) could take against the federal government to stop the total destruction of these sites in order to expedite the building of the fence. Would they be able to sue? Even though Chertoff had expressed “keeping with the spirit” of the laws and protections that he’d been given the ability to waive, “keeping with the spirit” is undefined and not nearly good enough when the knowledge of our human history is about to be obliterated. The disrespect and outright flouting of incredibly significant laws that protect not only our environment but our material history is disgusting and also unnecessary.

The article talks a little about how the groups worked under a “gag order” of sorts in order to keep media attention and subsequent protest or potpickers (thieves) away from the site. This was not only to preserve to efforts of the excavation but also so that the government could retain its ability to sell the border fence as a sterling measure of Homeland Security – there was enough bad press as it was. In spite of it all, it is truly inspiring that these archaeologists and Native American groups came together with the (at first, reluctant) help of the Army Corps of Engineers in order to excavate, document, and save as much of the archaeological information that this area of land held.