David and Lili's World Tour

USA

February 2010 - California and Hawaii

One of the nice things about living in New Zealand is that Hawaii is on our way home. Once again, we visited Hana, Maui, where we camped in Embe's yard (we would never stop in Maui if we had to stay in the overpriced, touristy hotels on the other side of the island). There are no night clubs or coffee shops, but the nature is perfect, with three of our favorite beaches, one black, one red, and one perfect for body surfing. The narrow road keeps most tourists at a distance, and forces everyone to go slowly. I love to bike up the hill to Pua'a Ka'a, jump in the refreshing waterfall, then bike down the hill - the perfect ride.

What a contrast with Los Angeles! Freeways and air pollution. Hollywood, baby. Oh yeah.

ALOHA, David and Lili

HAWAII PHOTOS: Hawaii Page

Los Angeles:

January 2010 - Colorado

Greetings. Upon arrival in the USA, the Department of Homeland Security confiscated Lili's green card. The document said, "Expires in 2018," but we were away for more than a year, so it was no longer valid. This process took so long that we missed our next flight. Thus, Lili is no longer a 'resident' but instead a 'tourist' in the USA. And I feel like one.

I notice the cars. Lots of cars. Big cars. And super-freeways. And super-stores that can only be accessed by car. It's a good thing for the American economy that gas is still cheap. I notice that the USA's focus is still dominated by terrorism and internal security. Contrast this with China's focus on strategic investments in natural resources, renewable energy, and infrastructure. I notice people clinging to bad jobs with a fear of unemployment that I never noticed before. I notice more beggars. I notice disappointment with Obama's reform efforts to date, a fading hope. We are glad that we moved to New Zealand, except for being so far from friends and family, but that's why we're here! It has been a wonderful visit.

December 2009 - New York City, Rochester, Cleveland

The holiday shoppers are out in force in New York. Crisis? What crisis?

December 2009 - St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, Philadelphia

Greetings. We were in Washington DC the day Obama received his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. He says that Afghanistan is a just war. We want to believe him; we hope that it is just. But that's exactly what they said about Vietnam and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Obama didn't convince me. Meanwhile, one in eight Americans is on food stamps (a welfare program that provides money for food). This includes our friend Ian whom we saw in Philadelphia. Certainly America has higher priorities now than a dubious war. But from what little we have seen on TV, it seems as if the media powers want us to be concerned primarily with Tiger Woods' marital problems. Sigh. The good news, according to my cousin Denise who lives near East St. Louis, is that racial tensions are down thanks to having a black president. Our subjective impressions have confirmed this. Good! It's great to be in America as a tourist. In Washington, we enjoyed the Smithsonian museums; they are excellent, and free.

November 2009 - the United States of America

One of our friends (Gary) is about to lose his house. He's a hard-working and talented guy, and he can no longer afford his mortgage. We are saddened that the government did not prevent this foreclosure. For Gary, the financial crisis is the foreclosure crisis. And the unemployment crisis. And the astronomical cost of health care. (Things like climate change, foreign wars, and government debt do not impact Gary's life directly.) His work depends on a gas-guzzling truck, and all indications are that his next crisis will be expensive fuel.

With so many urgent problems, why is the USA at war with Afghanistan?

Bush attacked. But why? September 11? OK. Where's Osama? The military-industrial complex? Of course. War is a racket, and we're talking about George W Bush. Freedom and democracy? Hmmm. Oil? Here's a brief history:

1998 - Dick Cheney says, "I can't think of a time when we've had a region ... become as strategically significant as the Caspian." The 25 billion barrels of crude oil will all go through Russia, Georgia, and Iran but for a new pipeline across Afghanistan. Here's a good map of the region.

1998 - John Maresca of Unocal testifies before Congress, "The territory across which the pipeline would extend [Afghanistan] is controlled by the Taliban, an Islamic movement that is not recognised as a government ... Construction ... cannot begin until a recognized government is in place."

2000 - The Bush White House secretly flirts with oil industry executives.

2001 - Unocal and Bush fail to reach a deal with the Taliban.

2001 - Al-Qaeda attacks New York and Washington.

2001 - Bush attacks Afghanistan.

2002 - New leaders quickly reach a pipeline deal. But...

2009 - Afghanistan is still too dangerous to build the pipeline, and all indications are that this condition will persist.

2009 - The war is not necessarily diminishing the threat from Al-Qaeda, either, as they have other safe havens such as Waziristan, Somalia, Mindanao, Yemen, and the Internet.

So why fight in Afghanistan's civil war? To feed the military-industrial complex? A chess move in the Great Game? A pipeline dream? Yes, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda suck, but...

America, you are no longer a superpower. The good news is that if you stop the neo-colonial warfare, you can slash your gargantuan military budget. You can use the ex-military engineers to research sustainable energy and agriculture, build infrastructure, and teach science.

America, you lost 58,256 soldiers in Vietnam before you admitted defeat. And how many Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians, Iraqis, and Afghans have died? Millions!

America, if you play nice and create positive karma, that's the best way to prevent another terrorist attack (that and leaving Saudi Arabia; get the UN to create a Muslim army to protect the oil); you should also pressure Israel to make the concessions required for peace. And you can cancel third world debt. You can prevent the collapse of global fisheries. You can ban land mines and depleted uranium ordnance. You can transform the International Monetary Fund into a democratic and transparent institution. You can regulate capitalism's institutionalized greed. You can help Africa. You can turn free trade into fair trade. You can fight against climate change. You can stop the misguided and ineffective war on drugs. You can abolish the outdated veto system at the UN and strengthen the International Criminal Court. Or at least you can try. You can leave Afghanistan. (Consider buying the poppy crop to make medicinal morphine.)

And Iraq? America, you might win. OK, maybe you are still a superpower.

Barack Obama, if you want to earn your Nobel Peace Prize, there's a lot you can do! We think history will judge you on this more than anything else. Good luck and good skill, David and Lili

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