Playing Tourist

Chugach Mountains form a beautiful backdrop for this area.

Chugach Mountains form a beautiful backdrop for this area.

My early childhood was spent in the town of Chugiak, Alaska in the community of Birchwood. As I’ve mentioned before, it was a small rural area separated from the city of Anchorage by two military bases. Birchwood was aptly named for, yes, its birch lined roads. On a clear day you can actually see Mount McKinley if you’re on the right spot on the loop road. It’s a very picturesque place.

It still is, but today most of those 2.5 acre parcels on the loop have homes and the entire Chugiak area is but a short suburbian drive to the city. Many of my extended family continue to make this their home, including some, like my father, who live in their original houses.

For the next couple days we are staying with brother Tom and his son Cody. Not only is it nice to have a bed, shower and laundry all at the ready but we are also enjoying some of the 100 lb halibut Cody caught last week. Talk about delicious!

Remnants from the Independence Mine at Hatcher Pass. We saw people panning for gold at every creek along the drive.

Remnants from the Independence Mine at Hatcher Pass. We saw people panning for gold at every creek along the drive.

We took Tom up on his offer to serve as tour guide today visiting some of the local popular spots.  I realized that even though the area has grown and developed greatly, many of the early settlers were still around or at least remembered through street names. We hiked the trail to Thunderbird Falls, enjoyed the beauty of glacier fed Eklutna Lake and then drove to Hatcher Pass where we could view an old mine operation. Along the way we watched a moose munching in the marsh and saw to Wild Bill, a local legend apparently, who appears to be very anti-government everything. Thunderbird Falls is reached through a shaded path in the woods that invites mosquitoes this time of year. Today was another blue bird sunny days and the path was filled with families out getting their exercise. We saw similar groups at both Eklutna and the Independence Mine, everyone taking advantage of the weather. We’ll take credit for the weather… we heard that last June had rain every single day of the month.

A little cemetary at the Russian Orthodox church. The little burial houses incorporate their Native American heritage with Christianity.

A little cemetary at the Russian Orthodox church. The little burial houses incorporate their Native American heritage with Christianity.

A short post today as I catch up on laundry. Oh, and attention burglars: it sounds like everyone in this state takes advantage of their second amendment rights. If you’re coming by to rob us you might want know that I’m seriously thinking about picking up a new 45, maybe one with a scrimshaw ivory grip.

Where Do We Draw the Line

How much government intervention is too much?  When is too much of a good thing not so good?

Michelle Obama has made it her mission to combat childhood obesity.  No one argues that eating healthy and regular exercise is good.  Few argue the merits of providing nutritionally better school lunches or offering daily physical education programs.  But where do we draw the line?

Should schools be able to ban home packed lunches as in some areas of Illinois?  Does the school administration or board know better than mom what a child should eat?  What if a parent has concerns about processed foods, hormones in milk or meat as well as herb- and pesticides used on produce?

But what if a child is seen eating only chips and soda for lunch?  What if he throws the apple and carrots in the trash? Who takes responsibility?  Is is the school’s responsibility?  Is it still the parent? Where do we draw the line?
Mrs. Obama wants kids to exercise.  Today many schools have cut out Physical Education programs.  Only 8% of elementary schools still offer regular PE for the students.  Even more surprising 20% of the schools have removed recess from their schedule.  It seems the government wants to tell us what to do but isn’t following it’s own advice.

One of this week’s big stories is about a two hundred pound eight year old boy who was removed from his home.  He weighs too much and Child Protective Services decided his family is not working hard enough with him to lose weight.  “They say” while he has no imminent danger he could develop problems in the future. The child weighs three times as much as a typical child his age.  No one will argue that being obese, particularly to this extent, is not good.  But… Should the government take him from his home?  Because of privacy the public has limited information on this case.  We don’t know what the family tried; what the child’s genetics are; whether better food has been provided in the home or just suggested.  There are many unknowns.
Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that we agree this child should be removed and forced to exercise and eat healthy.  After all, we do agree that he will benefit by losing weight and becoming fit.  So the government is allowed to make the decision in this case.  But what about a child who weighs 50 pounds more than he should?  And it wasn’t that long ago that bulimia was a top issue…  Does that mean the school should be watching our young girls to make sure they are eating enough?  What if a child is too skinny?  What government assigned BMI number might cause your child to be whisked away to a fat farm (or an anorexia clinic)?  Where do we draw the line?

If the school or a health clinic reports to the Child Protective Services that they observe a child either not eating right or maybe testing anemic (not enough iron) can the government agency come in to your home and check the cupboards or your meals for nutritional value?  Aren’t we already seeing this in the push towards restaurant portion size and kid’s meal offerings?

My farmer cousin once showed me how he managed feeding his many cows.  Each cow had a digital chip attached to its ear and at the food trough there was a reader that could tell which cow had eaten and which had not.  Food would be released only to the cow which hadn’t yet had it’s allotment.  It seems a far fetch that this same method could be used on people.  But is it really?

Does the Constitution give government agencies the right to make sure we grow up eating our vegetables and skipping cake?  Does the government have the right to take our children if it decides they might have health problems in the future?  If we say yes here, where do we draw the line?