Wednesday, May 30, 2018

An American About His Country:

My friend from Germany says America is not the greatest country in the world. How can I convince him otherwise?

Kevin Dolgin, Entrepreneur, writer, musician, humanist
Updated 13d ago · Author has 561 answers and 1.3m answer views

No problem, I can help.

I’m not German, but I do spend a lot of time there (I’ll be there next week, in fact). I think it’s safe to say that German culture is pretty rational. If you’re going to succeed, you’ll need to be systematic and provide some hard facts. I’ve brought some together for you.

First, we need to establish what exactly we mean by “best”, otherwise we don’t know what data to provide. As I see it, our idea as Americans has tended to be that we’re the richest, most powerful, freest country in the world, the place where it’s best to live. So let’s focus there.

Let’s get right to it: we’re the richest. The United States has the highest GNP at over $20 trillion. China is second.

However, that might not be the best to lead with, because it’s more a question of GDP per capita. Unfortunately, the USA is only 20th by that measure. The top country is Liechtenstein. In fact, even Ireland is higher[1].

But then, it’s not just about wealth, it’s about the ability to better your situation. The United States was always about the “Cinderella story”, the ability to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. This is known as social mobility, and obviously the United States is tops in that, right?

’Fraid not. In fact, it comes out as 16th, after Argentina. Most of Europe, including the “socialist” Scandinavian countries provide better environments for “making it from nothing”[2].

But certainly, it’s not just that, it’s also about not being poor. So let’s consider the percent of people living in poverty. Unfortunately, the USA comes in at 42nd[3], right below Morocco.

But there’s freedom. The USA is definitely number one in freedom! Except that it isn’t. According to the Cato institute it comes in at 17th, which is all the same one better than Albania[4]. Ah, but there’s the United States’ vaunted economic freedom. The USA doesn’t regulate companies to death like so many other nations. Well, there it comes in at 11th, tied with Canada, and behind most other English speaking nations (UK, Ireland, New Zealand)[5].

But we’re healthy! We have access to the world’s best healthcare, right? Actually, the USA lags in just about every health indicator, including life expectancy (45th), where once again, we are just ahead of Albania[6], who we absolutely trounce when it comes to infant mortality… although we do only rank 56th[7], well behind pretty much all of Europe (and of course Cuba, which beats the US in most health measures).

But we can of course be proud of our history. The United States made the greatest sacrifice at the beginning of the 20th century and saved the world from tyranny in the second world war. 420,000 Americans gave their lives in that war. Their valor will honestly never be forgotten. It must, however, be put into context… the USSR lost between 20 and 27 million people in that war, China lost 15 to 20 million. In fact, among the allied nations, the United States came in 12th in casualties. Both the UK and France lost more people, and of course much higher percentages of their populations[8].

OK, but happiness. Down to earth happiness: where is the best place to live? Turns out it’s Finland. The United States comes in 18th[9].

There is one measure, though, that the United States definitely leads every single other country by: guns per capita. 1.01 guns per inhabitant. The number two country, Serbia, doesn’t come close, with only 0.58[10]. So, if your German friend is really into guns then that might sway him.

Or, you can perhaps just understand that the United States is a great country for people who like American culture. Some people would only feel comfortable there, nowhere else. Most people who were not raised there, though, would find very few objective measures by which the country is better than theirs, assuming they come from the developed world, therefore by definition it can not be “the greatest country” by any objective measure.

I would point out that pretty much every one of those measures shows the much derided, “socialist” Scandinavian countries outperforming the United States. Interestingly, Ireland does as well. So if you happen to be of Irish or Scandinavian descent, maybe you can take solace in that.


So, after about twelve hours up, this has received many comments and views, and a couple of things were pointed out, so I thought I’d add an addendum.

First, thank you to all the people who seem to have appreciated the post. I have in the past received rather scathing comments on a number of posts and support is always appreciated.

For those who stated that I cherry-picked, all I can say is that as a researcher I try very hard not to do that. I was aware of many of these stats before I looked for them, but I tried as hard as possible to find unobjectionable sources (the CIA is in there for many) and I always post the first, best source regardless of whether it is in line with my pre-established ideas. Perhaps the most contentious stat was people below the poverty line because yes, it is relative, but frankly, I’ve travelled to over sixty countries and it is very true that you can live a hell of a lot better on ten dollars a day in Cameroon than in Switzerland, that’s why I took that measure. If, though, you want to look at percent of the population living with less than $5.50 a day then the United States still comes out at 20th, behind pretty much all of Western Europe, Australia, etc[11].

A number of people pointed out that I didn’t say anything about safety, and that was an oversight. The United States has a higher incarceration rate than any other country save one, the Seychelles. The USA has 666 people per 100,000 in prison, the next highest country, El Salvador, has only 586[12]. As for the Seychelles, it’s not really that the country is all that keen on throwing its citizens in prison, it’s just that it’s a tiny country with a slew of Somali pirates in jail, since it’s the closest lawful country to where they tend to be captured, so the USA is pretty much alone in its incredible enthusiasm for jailing its citizens (typically on relatively minor drug charges)[13]. In comparison, France, where I live, has about 100 prisoners per 100,000 in people.

In terms of safety, the United States is far more violent than many other nations. The intentional homicide rate in the United States places it 99 out of 194 countries, once again, just edging out Albania! And, of course, every nation in Western Europe has much lower homicide rates[14].

As for those who pointed out that despite all that, it’s still the greatest country because “there aren’t long lines of people trying to get into Germany”…. well, nope. In fact, there are. It’s hard to get immigration figures, but asylum seekers are logged. Germany actually has more people asking for asylum than does the United States, many more, over 722,000 compared to 262,000. In fact, if you adjust for population, the United States comes in at 12th in terms of the most sought-after destination (i.e. asylum seekers per population) after Germany, Austria, Greece, Switzerland, Hungary, Sweden, Italy, France, Australia, the Netherlands, and Turkey, and just in front of Canada[15]. In case you’re tempted to say this is because of Trump’s restrictions I’m afraid not, these are 2016 data, before he became president.

Lastly, please keep in mind that I’m not saying the USA is a bad place. I love my home country, but this quasi-religious need to consider it superior to everyplace else, even for someone who is not from the States (as implied by the OP) is unique to the United States. Really, I’ve spent my life travelling, I’ve been to well over sixty countries (I kind of lost count) and have worked in many… even created companies in at least six or seven - the United States is unique in its citizens having this need to consider the country objectively superior. The only two objective things you can say that make it “superior”, though, is that it has the largest absolute GDP and the most powerful military. However, I’m sure you wouldn’t say that the most worthy person in school is the strongest and richest of the lot. If you as an individual think it’s best for you, then great, I have no issue with that at all, but don’t think that it’s some kind of objective nirvana that every other country should emulate.

The facts aren’t with you.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

America In The 21th Century

6 beliefs of right-wing Americans:

1. The earth is flat.  
     How could I  ever miss this important fact?
2. The waters of the oceans are rising because of all the rocks falling into the water!
      I must admit, I never thought of that! Why didn't we  learn that in school?
3. God chooses the President
     Is that election manipulation and why did God chose Obama?.
4. There never was any evolution.
    Another important information I missed in school.
5. Undocumented immigrants are animals.
    What kind? And Jews are animals too (A.Hitler)
6. White Americans are genetically superior.
    Just wondering why they hide in those costumes.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

It's All About Dixie

I am still busy, but by getting up early at (6am) I manage to have some fun with Dixie. This morning we went to the beach again and she had a ball with running around, sniffing up some old crabs and digging holes into the soft sand. The sun was shining brightly causing glittering reflections on the calm Bay of Fundy. Not another soul around, we had it all to ourselves. What a paradise, indeed!

We kept it going for nearly an hour and were back home shortly after 8am. Dixie was now ready to take another nap in the shade, while I had to get myself down to the wharf to welcome a speedboat with 5 international visitors from St.Andrews.

Next point on my agenda was starting re-shingeling part of a wall on a neighbour' s car garage. I kept at it until 2:30pm when I called it quits for the day.

Even though we had a sunny day, temps were remaining in the high 50s. At least it kept the black flies at bay.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Dixie Is Afraid Of My Old Lawn Mower

Being busy to the point that I can't get myself to write a new posting, I have neglected blogging for days. First of all my job on the wharf has taken on a life of its own. Getting ready for cruise ships and passenger boat arrivals, I am busy with building a fence along the float. 

But all that work and planning has already paid off as the wharf has now received a letter of compliance from Transport Canada, which means that we are in business with receiving commercial vessels at our wharf.

Then there is the yearly chore of producing enough firewood for the next winter.

Since I have been laid up for weeks with various painful foot injuries in February and March, I have not been able to cut down enough trees on our own property, so we ordered cut, but not split, wood from a local supplier. So when ever there has been some extra time, I have been splitting firewood. While I am doing all this, the grass is growing like crazy, and today I had to start the +35-year old riding lawn mower for the second time this spring.

As soon as the motor started Dixie made a beeline for the door. But then curiosity took hold of her, and very cautiously, she looked around the house corner, trying to find out what on earth made all this racket. Well, I have to admit that the old Craftsman isn't the quietest of all lawn mowers. Turning the key, it starts with a big bang, then coughing itself into working mode. Once operating RPM is reached, I hit the gear lever hard with the flat of my right hand, while I have my left foot on the clutch. However, it does happen that I accidentally end up in the wrong gear which means the clutch is not working in that particular gear, which makes the machine jump forward like some crazy billy-goat culminating into a wild ride across the lawn. Eventually, my frantic banging on the gearshift lever brings the gear down to the first, which is the substitute for the missing brake. Once I am rolling along in operating mode I cautiously raise the RPM again and start the mower blades, which causes the noise level to reach far beyond my neighbourhood. It clangs and rattles like one could think the knives are preparing for take-off on their own. Now, that I am actually cutting grass, I have to watch out that I won't maneuver the mower into a space from where I cannot make a turn-around. See, the reverse gear has also quit working, and lately I have even been unsuccessful in finding the neutral position of the gearshift lever, which further reduces the choice of stopping the mower.

Why am I still using this old machine and how did this monster of a lawn mower find its way to us? Well, first I have to say that I am "having a thing for old stuff", so that I have a hard time passing up an opportunity to drag more old machinery into our yard. (remember our 30-year-old Benz?) So this mower was offered to us by a neighbour who found out that time was ripe to drive a John Deere across his lawn. The Craftsman had served already under his father and even though much loved, had to make room for the "Deere". So I guess you can now understand why Dixie is afraid of our lawn mower. Some times I am afraid of it myself....f.ex. when barreling down on one of Bea's beloved ornamental shrubs.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

On The Roam Again

So what happened with our porch resident Raccoon? The short answer to that is, it is on the roam again. The 2. morning after the traps were set the raccoon was gone. We don't know what became of it, but it sure was gone. 
So life could go on the normal way, for us and for Dixie.
I am currently having a pre-season job of building a rail along the float at Welshpool Wharf, and I am working there until around 2:30pm. Then it's time to go to the beach.

We are enjoying a lot of sun lately and it warms up the dark beach sand, making it very inviting to just sit down and enjoy the scenery. Dixie comes along as well and the other day we met the dogs "Wilbur" and "Forest" coming in from the south side. Wilbur is a Beagle-Basset-Corgy mix and only 2 years old. He is full of energy and started to play with Dixie right away. Not so Forest, who is a Pug. Forest was extremely tired and took advantage of the situation by falling asleep in the warm sand. Meanwhile I was having a conversation with the lady who was walking the dogs for her family. Of course, dog stories were dominating the talk. 

Slowly we were walking back to our vehicles, Wilbur and Dixie letting out their energy.

Being back from the beach I thought how extremely fortunate we are that we are living in this lovely place and being able to enjoy this as our daily reality.

I am still set with my antique laptop, but are having hopes to receive the new one some time today. So pictures will resume shortly.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Raccoon Update

This morning I opened the door fully anticipating to see the raccoon inside one the traps - alas the traps were empty. Looking under the porch floor a little later, I saw that the creature was still in the same place - and it was breathing. This was not right. A healthy coon would have moved around, but it was still down in the heap of leaves.

The fact that we did not catch it set off a flurry of text messages and phone calls to wildlife authorities. We were instructed not drive the animal out from it's hiding place and not to shoot it where it was, but wait until it died by itself, got into the trap or moved away entirely. 

If the animal died we were advised to take on gloves and pack the thing into a double garbage bag, put it on ice and wait for transport to the mainland. Authorities would organize a boat arriving from St. George, NB.  

We were flustered about the attention the matter had gotten, but the wildlife office wanted to know whether rabies was present in this animal. The neighbourhood is following the raccoon story closely, so I thought you would like to know as well.

Sorry, still no pictures. Waiting for the new laptop.

Sunday, May 6, 2018


Yesterday evening we got a phone call from our neighbour. He reported a suspicious raccoon sighting along the road, saying that the animal was on the way up our direction and that we might want to keep Dixie inside or at least not without supervision. Bea sent this message out over a local Facebook page and soon other people reported their sightings. One islander said that a raccoon had been seen just on our side of the bridge. Obviously it had crossed the International bridge and become an alien to Canada. Normally, a raccoon sighting would not be so outlandish, but this one had exhibited some strange behavior like not being afraid of cars going by and pawing the ground. So could it be rabies? The danger of encountering rabid animals on the island is normally small, but in Maine Rabies is more common and obviously the Maine Department of Wildlife isn't doing much, if anything, to fight the spread of the disease.

This morning I was up bright and early and let out Dixie. I followed her out the door and she started sniffing the immediate area around our porch. I got suspicious right away, could it be the raccoon she was tracing? But she got back inside with me and all I did was telling Bea about Dixie's behavior.

Several hours later I went out again to start splitting some firewood. Dixie was with me and suddenly I heard a deep growl from her. Turning around, I saw that her attention was towards the porch. Our porch is based on deck blocks and open all around under the deck. But we have a hatch over the stairs down into the basement and I went and opened it. Looking into the dark area under the planks I saw an animal moving its head. The RACCOON! Dixie had been right. The raccoon in question has settled in dry leaves under our porch. 

The news spread around on the island and this afternoon the community secretary stopped by and brought a raccoon trap and a tin can of tuna! A 2. trap was acquired from our neighbour and both are baited up. If the raccoon should go into the trap over night, it will be shot and delivered to veterinary forensics to determine whether it is a case of rabies or some other disease. 

Check back tomorrow!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Crash, Bang, Kaputt!

It borders to a wonder that I am still able to make a posting tonight, because my laptop, a Toshiba crashed to the floor and broke up. And I really mean BROKE UP. The flimsy plastic body of it cracked along the hinges and there was no way to save it. Getting into a panic I used my cell phone to find laptop deals, but it almost drove me nuts. Every time I clicked on an item to see the details, I wasn't able to get back to the main sales page, and had to start it all over again. This morning we used Bea's Mac-Book and found a Lenovo with a 1TB HDD for $219. It was a Wally Mart deal but one had to order it. So I drove 60 miles to Calais to get to our closest Walmart.

It's gonna arrive on Wednesday.

Now, the reason I am still able to post tonight is my older than old 2005 Toshiba Satellite, which I have nursed back to life. This whole experience goes to show the degree of us getting more and more dependent of modern media. In fact, I am feeling amputated and frustrated. This old laptop may be good enough to make a simple no-picture posting, but as soon I go looking for something on the internet it will stall. The operational system is still based on WIN~XP.

Now, meanwhile the weather has changed to the better. Driving back from Calais today, I noticed several trees turning out green leaves. Our lawn changed from brown to green within 3 days, and I made sure our riding lawn mower is in operating mode as well, cause it won't take long now until I be riding this thing up and down the property. Also Dixie is obviously enjoying spring time.  Spring is definitely my favorite time of the year. The fresh green induces hope that nature will endure despite the many sins of human kind.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Dixie Got A Boy Friend

Our Dixie got a boy friend. His name is BEAU, and he's is about a year older than Dixie and about 20 pounds heavier, cause he is a retriever and retrievers eat a lot, at least if they get the chance. But Dixie stands a little taller than Beau. 

So quite often Dixie gets to romp around the beach and other open places with her friend. If biting into ears is a sign of love than we know Dixie is in love with Beau. And what's Beau doing? He rams Dixie from the side and she rolls around. Both explore the many ponds of standing water in the parks. It remains unclear why Beau is rolling in the mud, while Dixie prefers to stay away from the dirtiest business. Maybe it's because she is gal?
Bea has taken all those pics. It'll be a good memory once Dixie nears her older days.

  Hm... nice ear you got!