Alaska Notes

 Smoking ban in Anchorage

 Come next summer it will be illegal to smoke tobacco in any bar in Anchorage.  The prohibitionists claim that banning smoking is necessary to protect the health of workers and patrons in these businesses.  They fail to acknowledge there is a much simpler, and entirely voluntary, method of avoiding the risks, both real and perceived, of inhaling smoke from others’ cigarettes.  That is staying out of bars, bingo halls, and the small number of other places where people are still allowed to smoke.

But acknowledging people’s freedom to choose conflicts with the authoritarian impulse of both politicians and voters to push other people around, as well as the tendency of so many americans to view themselves and others as helpless victims who require the government to protect them and make their choices for them.  In victim nation, someone else is always to blame for any bad outcome or inconvenience that people experience.  And expecting people to take responsibility for themselves is just blaming the victim.

Those who enjoy a cigarette with their cocktail will soon be allowed to indulge themselves only out of sight of the busybodies who are coming to dominate more and more of our lives.  Puritanism is slowly but surely conquering the last frontier.

 …we don’t need no thought control

 In 2002, a student was suspended from high school in Juneau for holding a banner reading “BONG HITS 4 JESUS” on a public street.  The student filed a lawsuit against the school board and principal, and after some conflicting decisions in lower courts, the united states supreme court agreed to hear an appeal by school officials after a lower court ruled in favor of the student.

This case demonstrates (once again) what is really important to  the government education authorities–maintaining control over students and enforcing compliance with consensus social attitudes.  While we regularly hear school officials complain of lack of funds for education, and teachers claim they are trying to teach students critical thinking skills, the schools in Juneau apparently have more than enough money to pursue a vendetta against a free-thinking student all the way to the supremes in order to teach other students the lesson that they should just sit down and shut up during their twelve year sentence.

New mandatory minimum

 And speaking of twelve year sentences, the authorities are planning to make it more difficult for alaska students to get early release from their compulsory commitment to educational institutions.  A democrat legislator from Anchorage, with the support of the city’s school superintendent, will introduce a bill in the next session to raise the mandatory school attendance age from 16 to 18.

Although anchorage has a high dropout rate, the authorities have chosen not to look at the horrid schools they run to see if they can be made more worthwhile and appealing to students who see no reason to continue their schooling once they are no longer forced to attend.  Instead they want to artificially improve their lousy graduation statistics by forcing students to continue coming to school, whether they want to or not.  But we wouldn’t expect any other strategy from an institution run by the government, which understands only the language of force and compulsion.

Schooling for success in a police state

Students at a middle school in North Pole were recently provided with free laptop computers, supposedly to enhance their educational experience.  But before being given the computers, students and parents had to sign a contract which provides that, since the computers remain government property, they cannot expect privacy in their computer usage.  While in school, all the computers will be linked to a monitored server so that anything students do on the computer can be watched by the authorities at any time.  And every day, when the computer is brought to school, it will upload to the server a record of everything the user did with it at home.  As the school district’s technology boss told students, “So we will know what you do.”  There was no reported opposition to this new surveillance system from parents, who are probably just jealous that they don’t have the means to monitor their children as efficiently as the schools now can; nor from students, who have grown so used to being followed and pestered 24/7, that this new system probably doesn’t seem the least bit out of the ordinary.

New tax in Fairbanks

Working people in Fairbanks will have to pay a new $20 per month tax to support the parasites running the city government there.  This protection money will be taken from their checks by their employers to ensure no one tries to “cheat” the extortionists.  This tax was imposed after voters passed measures to cut property taxes and temporarily prohibit a sales tax.  Democracy at work: voters cut some taxes and the government just goes ahead and imposes others.  Military personnel, many of whom live in and around Fairbanks, will be exempt from the tax, apparently to reward them for their unquestioning subservience to the principle of authority.

Due process?

      They just can’t let it go.  Even though a federal judge ruled that the state of alaska must allow DNA testing of evidence in a 1993 Anchorage rape case, the prosecutors are appealing to a higher court to stop it.  They are so convinced of their own wisdom and rectitude, that they are exhausting all means at their disposal to prevent the person convicted of the rape, who is currently in prison and due for release in 2007, from having the opportunity to prove his innocence.  Not only are they trying to block DNA testing through the courts, but state prosecutors also lobbied against a bill in the state legislature which would have established a formal procedure for testing of DNA after trials are over.

One of the prosecutors defends the state’s action by saying the victim needs “closure.”  But he ignores the fact that the government may well have victimized an innocent person who has already spent years in one of their jails for a crime he did not commit.  The state has shown that truth is not the concern of the criminal justice program.  The real interest of state officials is preserving their monopoly on social control and they fear that if it can be proven they have imprisoned an innocent person, their legitimacy in the eyes of their subjects may be threatened.  As one of the prisoner’s lawyers naively said of the prosecutors, “[T]hey should be more interested in justice, not in their reputation of infallibility.”

Ignorance is bliss

       The national geographic society has funded a project to track people’s migration patterns as far back as their first excursions out of eastern africa.  In order to do this, they are seeking DNA samples from people all over the world, especially from so-called indigenous people.

But they are running into some difficulties with the project in alaska, because they are confronting the generally unspoken fact that, outside of africa, there is no such thing as an indigenous person.  Whether in europe, asia, north america, or anywhere else outside of eastern africa, everybody is descended from immigrants.  Some of these migrations happened earlier than others, of course, but this does not change the fact that the lapps, the ainu, and the aleuts are no more “native” to the places the live than are black or white residents of Anchorage.

Although a number of DNA specimens were collected in alaska, the researchers have transferred them to a specimen bank pending resolution of a dispute between the geographic project and a group called the alaska area institutional review board.  This organization opposes the project because they feel that the “risks” of participation (ie, donating DNA samples) have not been adequately disclosed to the people they claim to speak for.  These perceived risks appear to be that people might be forced to reconsider the inaccurate stories they have been told about their ancestry, and/or that they might find that their genetic make up may not really entitle them to the special programs some are currently eligible for based on their “official” ethnicity.

The review board, not surprisingly, is a creature of the federal government’s indian health service (IHS).  Since IHS funding and power is based on maintaining the myth of racial differences, primarily to the advantage of IHS employees, it comes as no surprise that an organization that it has created would try to prevent anyone from challenging the myths that justify their jobs, income, and influence.

Board members believe that it could be “disturbing,” if not injurious, if the people they claim to speak for learned that the stories they are familiar with about where their ancestors originated are in fact untrue.  They would apparently prefer that those they “represent” remain in ignorance of how the world and humanity really work and have worked, so long as they preserve their “cultural identity.”

This principle is at odds with that applied to most other people when it comes to discussing science and history.  Attempts to ban evolution from school curricula are generally either opposed or laughed at, and revisionist history books, like Zinn’s People’s History, that try to tell a more accurate, or at least different, story about historical events are widely read.  Christians are expected to accept that humans and apes share a common ancestor, and white supremacists are ridiculed for believing their own bizarre theories of human development.  But the self-appointed guardians of traditional “native” people believe their charges are incapable of hearing and living with the truth.  This is bigoted nonsense.

As for the special programs people are sometimes entitled to based on their “indigenous” identity, they should go the way of other institutions based on ethnicity like separate but equal schools.  Whether it is segregated health care, “native” corporations, or tribal governments, such institutions are discriminatory and conflict with the view that people are worthwhile individuals in their own right, regardless of their ethnicity.  Any discrimination based on color or ancestry is, at best, illiberal.  If people need health care, or jobs, or other things, there is no reason these cannot be obtained or provided without regard to where one’s ancestors came from.  But the government and the institutions it creates are so riddled with patronage systems based on their clients’ superficial characteristics that people are encouraged to assume whatever identity will gain them the most spoils.

Such corrupt, and corrupting, ethnic politics are part and parcel of federal agencies, whether republicans or democrats are in control.  In 2000, the democrat interior secretary, who oversaw IHS’s parent agency, the bureau of indian affairs, decided to turn over the remains of Kennewick “man” to a group of american indian people who have no apparent ethnic or historical connection to the body, because their claim to the remains was consistent with their stories, stories which are largely myths like that of Adam and Eve.  While it would be seen as preposterous for a government official to claim that humans originated in the garden of Eden, it was acceptable for Bruce Babbitt to endorse the belief that some “native” people had always lived in the american northwest.  But for a bureaucrat, the considerations of politics outweigh science, history, and the truth.

As is typical of governmental bodies, the review board will not allow individuals to make their own decision.  The DNA specimens originally collected were freely given by alaskans, and a number of those who have done so support further research using this material.  But tough luck for them.  Big Brother has said no, so the project is stopped for now.

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