David and Lili's World Tour


Spring 2016 - Arizona to New York by car

We began this American odyssey in Sedona Arizona, home of my mother. As a bonus, most of my extended family showed up too, for a major family reunion! My grandparents were avid world travelers and they passed along their wanderlust, so this reunion included citizens from the USA, New Zealand, Brazil, Chile, and Japan. Welcome to the USA, a country with a wonderfully diverse mix of foreign influences, despite the overwhelmingly corporate (not "liberal") media and mega-store strip-malls. Therefore to define American culture as a single thing is impossible. Indeed, especially with Donald Trump as the leader of the batshit-crazy wing of the country, America seems more divided than ever, but you knew that already.

In the USA one needs wheels, so upon arrival we bought a cheap car and two used mountain bikes. We drove to Colorado via the spectacular national parks of Utah, then, after visiting friends in Colorado, Lili flew back to Brazil. Fast forward six weeks... After selling that car in Philadelphia, I flew back to Brazil from New York. That's right. Lili and I split up for six weeks. After two years of backpacking together 24/7 (no couples do that) the logic of spending time with family and friends separately was compelling. I only wish that I scheduled more time in Boulder Colorado. I want to go back already. Visiting home is special.

I used to get more stressed out about America's dysfunction, but now that I live elsewhere, I see the presidential race as Earth's #1 spectator sport, just like concerned people everywhere. It's sad that corporate corruption is preventing the world's only superpower from solving problems (and we must solve problems urgently if we want to save the humans from institutionalized greed). The good news is that Bernie Sanders's historic campaign has proven that Americans really do want fundamental change in Washington, to encourage socialism and sustainability not inequality and destruction, but the Republican-controlled congress refuses to cooperate with reformers, and so this goal seems impossible.

Fortunately there is another way... It's time to tweak the US constitution. This has been done many times before, just not recently, and it is possible to convene a constitutional convention. Here are some proposals to help make the world a better place:

Amendment #28- Money is not free speech. The Supreme Court recently ruled that it would be unconstitutional to regulate the money that buys election campaigns, because that money is free speech (and thus protected).

Amendment #29- Corporations are not people. In 1886 the Supreme Court ruled that the 14th amendment provided personhood rights not only to recently-freed slaves, but also to corporations. This means that corporate cash can flow to politicians as "free speech". Wow. Because this perverse legal definition came from the Supreme Court, we can only reverse it with a constitutional amendment. By the way, we strongly oppose the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, because it would grant vast new powers to corporations, a sovereign right to profit that can trump national laws. We must move in the opposite direction.

Amendment #30- All campaigns must be financed with public money. The goal is to get better candidates into office by removing the need for vast amounts of cash from corrupt cronies. Then, once in office, these people can focus on their jobs which should be making laws, not raising money.

Amendment #31- Standardize and modernize voting. America's broken two-party system derives from its first-past-the-post voting system. Fortunately, a trivial change would encourage third-party candidates by allowing voters to rank their preferred politicians in order. Furthermore, a standard implementation of ranked-order voting nationwide would be a huge improvement over the current mess.

Amendment #32- Elect the president by popular vote, for party primaries too. Eliminate the whole "delegate" madness.

Amendment #33- Prohibit Gerrymandering. Why? Because (for example) in 2012 the Democrats received 1.4 million more votes than Republicans for the House of Representatives, but the Republicans still control the House by a 234 to 201 margin. Gerrymandering is a corrupt practice. Ban it.

Amendment #34- Prohibit systemic institutions such as banks from being too big to fail. Also prohibit them from gambling in the Wall Street casino. Ever since the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 passed, and especially after the Bretton Woods agreement of 1945 enshrined the US dollar as the world's reserve currency, and super-especially after president Nixon abandoned this agreement to replace the gold standard with the "petro-dollar", certain private banks have held too much power. It seems reasonable for the US constitution to have some language about how the economy is managed. Wordsmithing TBD.

This list could go on and on (did somebody say term limits for members of congress?), but first let's re-read the words of the 2nd amendment, especially the bit where it says that guns / militias should be "well regulated." Sigh. Finally, here's my favorite proposal that has no chance of passing...

Amendment #35- Guarantee a universal minimum income as a basic right (enough to pay for food and shelter in the future with more people and fewer jobs). This idea is gaining support from the right and the left worldwide because it neatly replaces most welfare and unemployment bureaucracies with a simple system that eliminates poverty, eliminates the disincentive to find work, and ensures that money flows throughout the economy. Crucially, this should be funded by taxing wealth (as opposed to income and consumption), because as the Panama Papers revelation has shown, there is plenty of money out there, if we could only tax it.

In summary, it was wonderful to visit so many great people across the USA. We hope to see you again soon! And we hope that you win your upcoming political fight and the one after that. The youthful enthusiasm of the Bernie Sanders supporters (coupled with the panicked retreat of the wealthy white elite) bodes well for some positive changes in the years to come.

Meanwhile, since Bernie is out, let's go ahead and elect the USA's first female President. But wait(!) you say, and I know what you're thinking... Hillary is corrupt! She used the wrong email server! She's in bed with Wall Street! Benghazi!!! Hmmm... We agree that Hillary is far from a perfect candidate (especially given her war-hawk accomplishments as Secretary of State in places like Libya, Yemen, and Honduras) but...

A) Trump is a dangerously-ignorant narcissist / racist asshole with horrible policy ideas. Therefore, the world's top priority in 2016 must be for this man to NOT become the world's most powerful guy. B) Trump's Republican Party has fact-free and shocking policy proposals too. Indeed, there are huge differences between the Democrats and Republicans, despite the popular meme to the contrary. Did somebody say global warming? More tax cuts for the rich? Teaching Biblical creationism in science class? C) There's an open seat on the Supreme Court, folks! D) The Clinton Foundation has done a lot of good work towards alleviating extreme poverty worldwide. Do you see how the media tries to make you think it's all corrupt? E) It should be funny to have Bill as America's first first man. F) The Republican media machine has been spewing hatred and lies about Hillary for 20+ years, so her "evil" image has been largely manufactured. G) Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are pushing the Democratic Party in the right direction, towards important reforms. H) Hillary's voting record (from her days as a senator) and her policy proposals are mostly OK (relative to her peers).

In summary, Trump?! . . . Go Hillary!

So if you want a third-party president (Green, say) then refer to the constitutional amendments suggested above. Meanwhile, we ask our American friends to vote for Democrats in November, thus delivering the humiliating, landslide defeat to Trump that he deserves. America has been described as the best and the worst of places, the Evil Empire and the Land of the Free. You decide. ALOHA

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