December 28, 2011

The U.S. Constitution has been a model for other countries since its inception more than two centuries ago. Our Bill of Rights is considered one of humanity’s finest achievements. People from many nations have sought refuge here  to enjoy those freedoms. Yet, our current government has suspended important protections in the name of terrorism. A dangerous precedent via the Rave Act, the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act. With those and U.S. drug policies we are the most controlled and monitored society on earth.  There are cameras watching our every move on practically every street corner, every store, every mall. From the satellite above, every vehicle can be tracked by GPS  devices; there is one in every cell phone. Big Brother Is Definitely Watching. And, we’ve allowed it to happen.

Legislators are toying with interfering with our Judicial branch of government, by making laws against the court’s  unpopular decisions. Whether we like them or not we must not give up our checks and balances because they are currently unpopular. Let them stand the test of time.

We must give thought to what is happening in our country and become involved. It has swung out of control, prosperity evades us, and anarchy approaches, carried in a flag with a cross. Thomas Jefferson was famous for the Virginia Statute as much as for writing  the Declaration of Independence. He organized a Virginia  colony that separated Church and State, the very choking environment the colonists left behind in England,  the new colonies wanted to reinstate in “their” particular view of God. Thanks to the Virginia Statute we didn’t have to fight that  same nightmare all over again. And now, religionists are pushing strongly for laws that inject their morality into our laws on same-sex marriage, abortion, doctors rights to counsel, planned parenthood, and other bills slipped by us by both Democrats and Republicans.

With idyllic frenzy we’ve made laws that affect our country negatively. Two million Americans are incarcerated in the U.S., most of them for non-violent drug crimes.  Billions of dollars have been spent building prisons to house all of the Americans convicted of drug crimes. For carrying a half ounce of marijuana, a man who works and supports his children can go to prison for life in California and Texas.  Now Oklahoma is considering a similar law.

We are living in a police state not only from the surveillance, and the drug wars, but an increase in Police over-reaction. Nevada police have skipped free after killing an American Woman who came to the aid of her husband whom they had just killed when they asked him for identification and he reached into his jacket for his wallet. Such things should not happen in America. Protestors tasered, more police attacks on unarmed citizens.  America  imprisons more citizens  than any other nation. The government cannot afford to pay lifetime care for people who could and should be working and paying taxes. It is  insanely expensive and yet, they are willing to pay an informant, even a convicted felon, up to $250,000 to testify against someone charged with a drug crime. Of course, what convicted felon would lie to receive that kind of cash?

America’s prohibitionist policies have eliminated freedom all over the globe and the high money paid for drugs crossing our borders has helped fuel the terrorists instead of our tax purse. It is draconian.

Now, I read where the Occupy Wall Street protests are bothering the government enough to instigate a huge anti-public relations move and that the FBI will penetrate large OWS  groups to sabotage their effectiveness, make petty arrests and harass them.

Beware!  We don’t lose our freedoms, we give them away.


January 11, 2010

In Thailand we are pushing north for Chaing Rai. We stop and visit this Indigo Dye Works, a family run enterprise that has lifted this old craft from obscurity. At one time everyone wore Indigo dyed work clothes and it became unpopular as a working class clothing. The woman below, Yellow, revived this old craft using the batik process for fancier items. She supports 3 families with her cottage industry.
Demonstrating, she mixes the leaves and stems of the indigo plant in water, then mixes in lime-ash, dips a piece of cloth in the mixture, and in a matter of minutes, the cloth hits the oxygen and turns from a pale green to a beautiful, deep blue.
We watched the workers dip iron molds into a vat of wax and stamp the cloth. Many beautiful patterns find their way onto table cloths, jackets, shirts, scarves, handbags and just about anything you can make with cloth. I might mention that these many stops in our travels are arranged to educate us and to provide a “Happy Room” stop since we don’t always have convenient roadside rests.
The batik process allows the dye to cover the cloth everywhere the wax is not. The wax is cooled and then chips off the material.
old stove-top iron was in her workshop and I photographed it. Several of us discussed among ourselves the marvelous antiques still in use in places we’ve visited, like the old sewing machines in the market. If they only knew how much someone in the states would pay for one of their old machines, they would sell them and we’d be poorer for the transaction.
Mason was interested in buying a sword to bring home. Panu stopped at this rudimentary roadside blacksmith shop.
Here is a sample of an amazing array of farm tools they produce. And, he did find a sword after the drivers pulled his luggage from the bottom of the bus to see what would fit in it.
Our next stop was a more glamorus place. This woman gave us a tea tasting. She cooled the little clay baby she is pouring the tea over and he peed on everyone within range much to our surprise as we howled with laughter. Here Panu bought a bamboo tray of deep fried worms to try. They were surprisingly good, a snack something like popcorn that you could munch by the handful. Not everyone tried them, but later on the bus, when Panu stopped and bought a cake and some fruit, Roberta and I agreed the worms were better tasting than the cake. They were grubs, not angle worms.
After lunch we loaded into songtaew (trucks) for a hillly drive to visit the indigenous Akha people who wear elaborate, colorful costumes for our visit. They wear their costumes for festivals and celebrations. This woman’s teeth are stained by the betel nut leaves they chew.

We wandered the village and watched them at work and leisure. Some men were making sticky rice in an outdoor tub, a very muscular task.  In front of another thatched hut, men were butchering what looked like a wild pig. Children run around with the chickens, dogs and cats and play happily as all children do. They are probably unaware that they are poor since their village is quite remote. Fruits and foodstuffs dry on the rooves, they have little gardens between huts and clothing hangs on the lines. Old men watch the village activities from their hammock or chair.

A simple life style, but it wasn’t always so. We are close to the Golden Triangle. Many of the hill tribes were induced by drug lords to grow opium. Not that they benefited much from the trade. The government established programs for them to benefit from legal crops and tourism, a safer alternative. The women danced for us with their children on their backs. Some of the mothers appeared to be 15 years old, children themselves.

OAT supports several indiginous tribes. Government efforts to halt the slash and burn of the jungle have been pretty successful. But, tourism has its problems too. The Karen tribe are called long necks because they begin putting brass rings on the necks which eventually stretches their neck, yes, but it breaks their shoulder bones and cripples these women. From this tribe of great beauty, children were often sold into prostitution. That has been halted but tourism is so popular that the tribe has begun putting brass rings on young girls to earn money from tourists. OAT has polled travellers such as we about supporting the people or not supporting the people because they are exploiting their children. Without exception all of us agreed we should not visit the Karen because it resulted in exploitation of children.
The history of these various peoples was explained to us in detail. The Lishu, we will meet later at the Elephant Camp.
Our hotel today is a couple kilometers from an Opium Museum as we are at a beautiful hotel in the Golden Triangle.

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