Monday, June 27, 2011

Human evolution, smoking, tribal sovereignty, and Republicans

Bob Newland got me thinking again about how humans developed a technology to ingest the smoke of native plants. ip converted to a pipe in 2003. Since then it has become obvious that smoking keeps flying insects at bay when i'm in the woods. Nicotine has long been used as an insecticide; my blood likely doesn't taste very good to mosquitoes. Birds react to my pipe. Predators and other animals in the woods know when i'm in their space.

The concept is simple enough: imagine seeing a horn or an antler smoking in a lightning-caused fire looking like a novel way to move fire from place to place:
East African sites, such as Chesowanja near Lake Baringo, Koobi Fora, and Olorgesailie in Kenya, show some possible evidence that fire was utilized by early humans. At Chesowanja, archaeologists found red clay sherds dated to be 1.42 Mya.
Smoking mixtures came with humans as they passed through Beringia:
Prehistory: In 2010, tobacco was found that dates to the Pleistocene Era 2.5 million years ago. Paleontologists from the Meyer-Honninger Paleontology Museum discovered the small block of fossilised tobacco in the Maranon river basin in northeastern Peru. 
Prehistory: As far as human use of tobacco, although small amounts of nicotine may be found in some Old World plants, including belladonna and Nicotiana africana, and nicotine metabolites have been found in human remains and pipes in the Near East and Africa, there is no indication of habitual tobacco use in the Ancient world, on any continent save the Americas. 
c. 6000 BCE: Experts believe the tobacco plant, as we know it today, begins growing in the Americas. 
c.1 BCE: Experts believe American inhabitants have begun finding ways to use tobacco, including smoking (in a number of variations), chewing and in probably hallucinogenic enemas (by the Peruvian Aguaruna aboriginals). 
c. 1 CE: Tobacco was "nearly everywhere" in the Americas. (American Heritage Book of Indians, p.41). 
470-630 CE: Between 470 and 630 A.D. the Mayas began to scatter, some moving as far as the Mississippi Valley. The Toltecs, who created the mighty Aztec Empire, borrowed the smoking custom from the Mayas who remained behind. Two castes of smokers emerged among them. Those in the Court of Montezuma, who mingled tobacco with the resin of other leaves and smoked pipes with great ceremony after their evening meal; and the lesser Indians, who rolled tobacco leaves together to form a crude cigar. The Mayas who settled in the Mississippi Valley spread their custom to the neighboring tribes. The latter adapted tobacco smoking to their own religion, believing that their god, the almighty Manitou, revealed himself in the rising smoke. And, as in Central America, a complex system of religious and political rites was developed around tobacco. 
600-1000 CE: UAXACTUN, GUATEMALA. First pictorial record of smoking: A pottery vessel found here dates from before the 11th century. On it a Maya is depicted smoking a roll of tobacco leaves tied with a string. The Mayan term for smoking was sik'ar
White Buffalo Calf Woman brought the pipe to the Plains cultures. Among the first pipes fashioned by the human hand depicted animal species important to tribes:
Today, state laws and legal precedents hold manufacturers more liable for the effects of their products. And the old legal defense of "contributing negligence" -- which prevented lawsuits by people with some measure of responsibility for their own condition -- is no longer viable in most jurisdictions. Instead, a defendant can be held partially liable and forced to pay a corresponding percentage of damages. Finally, the notion of "strict" liability has developed; this means a defendant can be found liable whether or not they are found negligent. If a product such as tobacco causes harm, the company that produced it can be held responsible, even if it wasn't aware of the potential danger.
Enforcing tax codes on tobacco is not about the money:
This media brouhaha is the result of a recent court decision out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, holding that Indian merchants selling cigarettes to non-Indians in Indian country have to collect sales tax for the State of New York. In its ruling, the Second Circuit purportedly weighed the state/tribal interests, finding that New York’s “valid interest in ensuring compliance with lawful taxes that might easily be evaded” outweighed the tribes’ interest in inherent sovereignty. In other words, the State would rather invade the sovereignty of tribal governments, in order to obtain less than one-tenth of the amount due to it, than to make efforts to enforce its own laws against its own citizens.
Big tobacco adds ingredients to its products that do not exist in most Native-produced brands. Now the health results of a century of corporate control over an essential part of indigenous culture has led to a crisis in hospital care in South Dakota. From this Garrigan piece in the Rapid City Journal:
The director of a community hospital in Martin says it will be forced to close its doors this summer if Indian Health Service doesn't pay at least some of the nearly $1 million in unpaid emergency room bills it has been sent since 2009. "The hospital is on the verge of closure," George Minder, chief executive officer for Bennett County Hospital and Nursing Home, said Wednesday. Closure would devastate the economy of Martin, a town of about 1,200 people, where the health facility's 100 full-time equivalent employees is the largest employer in the county, Minder said.
It should come as no surprise that the industrial tobacco companies are major campaign contributors to Republicans:
The two highest ranking leaders in the House of Representatives -- Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) -- are among top tobacco industry recipients.
Montana's Denny Rehberg is leading the assault on tribes in Montana:
The measure, introduced by Rep. Rehberg (R-MT), vaguely mandates that only “hard science” be used to justify agency rule-makings and imposes arbitrary exclusions on what the agency can consider in regulating health risks in food, medicine, cosmetics and tobacco products. The measure is so poorly written that it’s hard to tell exactly what it means, but lawyers here believe it could also be interpreted to prevent regulatory action when pharmaceuticals are determined to cause public health risks, unless those drugs are also shown to be ineffective.
Citing freedom of expression protection, the Supreme Court upheld the rights of minors to use violent video games but adults still cannot smoke recreational cannabis legally in most states.

The Hirbour Building in Butte is scheduled to receive new life:
A developer received $350,000 Friday in government grants and loans as part of a project to build seven upscale condominiums in the eight-story Hirbour Tower, 102 N. Main St., Uptown Butte. Nick Kujawa, who recently purchased the building, said Friday's approval of assistance from the Urban Revitalization Agency will help leverage other money for the project. "It's the first step of a long road," he said. The URA board approved a $150,000 matching grant and a $200,000 loan at 4 percent interest over 15 years. The $1.8-million project, which includes Kujawa's costs to purchase the building, includes windows, doors, roof, façade, an elevator and electrical, plumbing and heating improvements.
Kristi Noem votes with her party 94% of the time. Expect her to support big tobacco in their efforts to refuse to pay for crimes they committed by denying to pay for health care costs to Native Americans.

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