Category Archives: Analytics

Is Traveling Abroad Dangerous?

Kate and I have traveled to many places in Europe over the past year  like Paris, Barcelona, Seville, Athens, Sofia, Krakov, and Kiev, and we are surprised by friends and family who ask us “Is it safe to be there?”  My immediate thought is “Don’t worry about us – is it safe to be where you are?”   Part of this is quite understandable because the US government issues travel advisories (click here for the most recent example) which warn Americans to be on extra-special lookout because violence can occur in public places like nightclubs (Paris), shopping malls (Barcelona), school retreats (Norway), and open-air malls (Turku, Finland).   So travel abroad gets presented as though it is a dangerous affair.

But it isn’t.

I was talking with a friend in Phoenix about random violence in America that occurs in churches (Texas, North Carolina), schools (Sandy Hook, Columbine), outdoor concerts (Las Vegas), nightclubs (Orlando), and even Federal Buildings (Oklahoma).  But these events are relatively rare and receive inordinate publicity due to their horrific nature.

What gets missed in the discussion in America is the daily killings.  Today I pulled up the Chicago Sun Times newspaper, and for a random day, Monday, November 6, there were five people injured in shootings:

  • A 37-year-old man got into an argument with another man who pulled out a gun and shot him.
  • Twol older people (67 and 50) were walking down the street when a car drives buy and people in the car and people on the street start shooting at each other and the older innocent bystanders took bullets.
  • A 17 year-old boy got into an argument with another male who pulled out a handgun and shot him.
  • A 32 year-old man was standing on the street when three males walked up and shot him.

That sounds pretty bad, but no one died. But the paper reports: “The day’s gun violence followed a weekend in which five people were killed and 24 others were wounded in citywide shootings between Friday afternoon and Monday morning.”  (See: https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/5-wounded-in-monday-shootings-across-chicago-2/)

Meanwhile I feel completely safe walking the streets of Helsinki or Kiev or Dubrovnik or Sofia.  The probability of being a victim of random gun violence in these places is minimal.  The question that Americans should ask is not whether it is safe to travel to Paris, but rather “Is it safe to travel to Chicago?”

I know that many will say that these shootings are in the wrong parts of town and that you just need to stay away from those places.  In that regard, I have a couple of thoughts.  First, if you visit a place like Helsinki, there is no part of Helsinki that is comparable as the “wrong part of town.”  You can get off at any stop on any bus line anywhere in Helsinki, and you won’t have to worry about your physical safety.   Second, I’m not sure I like the idea that we have two-Americas, a safe America and a dangerous America where one has to worry about which America you are in.  And third, it appears more and more that the danger of this dangerous America is now leaking into safe America, where you can be a congressman at bat in a baseball game and have to run for the dugout because shots are fired.

I am not an anti-gun nut or anything like that.  I own a shotgun, I’ve fired many guns at gun ranges and in the woods, gone hunting, and I believe in our second Amendment.  I have friends who own guns.  But traveling abroad has also shown me that some people in the world live without fear of violence in their daily lives too.  Not so in Atlanta or DC or pick your favorite city.  People talk about the second amendment in freedom terms, and freedom to own a gun is a nice thing, but freedom from fear of violence is also a wonderful freedom to have.

A lot of people are against any regulation of guns in America: registration, wait times, background checks.  And many won’t draw distinctions between handguns, shotguns, and assault rifles.  But there are plenty of alternative universes right here on our planet where ownership of a shotgun gets treated differently than an assault rifle because there really is a difference in terms of its destructive effects; that’s why we can’t own hand grenades. Handguns can be concealed where as long arms cannot.  In some of these alternative universes, the idea that you might have to wait a week or more or complete a gun safety course or register the weapon like an auto is just part of one’s civic duty to own and manage a dangerous device.  Does it ever make you wonder why we tolerate the registration of cars and require insurance on them when we won’t tolerate gun registration or have gun insurance?  My concern is that America will opt not for minor restrictions upon gun ownership like those found in the rest of the world but, in an attempt to find safety, will instead focus on creating a police state where our guardians act like the military in part because our citizens are so dangerous.  I am skeptical that such an approach will bring us safety from either the police or our fellow citizens.

DNA in Action

I have seen many relatives in Finland.  Here’s a second cousin (whose name I’ll withhold for privacy).  What do you think….is there a family resemblance?

 

The trip was a very interesting one.  I saw my DNA in its many forms, but not obscured with American culture.  And I came away understanding a great deal about myself.  I met many people with whom there was a near-instant bond that transcended culture.  It was obvious within minutes that we were alike even though separated by 100 years and two different cultures.

I’ve always been one to think in contingencies.  Not only have a plan B, but a plan C and plan D.  And I found in Finland a culture that thinks the same ways.   And it became apparent that the climate is so harsh in the winter that failure to think that way killed off those who did not.  It’s no surprise that I have this quality; it’s not really luck, but rather the result of thousands of years of necessity embedding itself as a DNA rule.

If you have a unique heritage, I strongly recommend the experience of visiting the motherland.  You will walk away understanding a considerable amount about why you think the way that you do and what parts of you are from culture and what parts of you are hard-wired.

Thanksgiving Daybreak

It’s just another day here in Dubrovnik, but I know it is Thanksgiving in America. Daybreak was pretty, so I am posting a photo. I really enjoy opening the window to the sounds of the seagulls in the morning. They soon fly off to live their seagull lives and you don’t hear them until the following morning.

tdaybreak

Hike in Dubrovnik

We went for an hour hike up the hill behind Dubrovnik to the fort built by the Napoleonic army in 1810 (a relatively new structure). The Homeland War Museum in it was good, and discussed how the Serbs and Montenegrins attacked Croatia after they declared independence in 1991. The most unbelievable fact was that the Serbs actually dropped bombs on the old walled city of Dubrovnik. I think it might not be too strong to say that bombing an UNESCO world heritage site that is largely unusable as a modern military location is just about a crime against humanity in my mind, and right up there with the Taliban destroying ancient relics like the Buddahs carved in stone in Afghanistan. Fortunately, the damage was minor in the case of the Dubrovnik bombing, but it is stunning to think that military commanders could conceive that this was a reasonable military action. Anyway, the day was beautiful at about 65-70 degrees, with a light wind and sunny. Here are some photos taken as we came down the hill near sunset.

dubrovnikonhill

fortatsunset

Kate was having fun:
katelookingoverdubrovnik

Can we get back to business now?

I have decided to edit this piece. If you want to see the original, send me an email.

My candidate of choice did not make it to the finals, and, from a position of conscience, I could not vote for either major candidate. However, if you are a Trump supporter, then congratulations are in order as your candidate and your support accomplished a minor miracle.  If you were a Hillary supporter, please accept my condolences but don’t blame those of us who, for reasons of conscience, could not support your candidate. (In the spirit of nonpartisanship, I will not elaborate on my reasons.) Generally speaking, I do not discuss politics on this blog, but the situation in America has become extreme enough that some objectivity from abroad may be helpful.

If you want to watch some very funny, foul-mouthed John-Stewart-like commentary on the election, I recommend the following: British comedian Jonathan Pie. His analysis is quite good even if his language is not. Here are my thoughts, considerably less funny than his:

1. I experienced the Brexit vote while in Europe. It was obvious to me that the intellectual elites were underappreciating the level of dissatisfaction of the economically disenfranchised. If you were NOT surprised at Brexit, then Trump’s election probably came as no surprise. As of Nov. 18, I have seen numerous commentaries about the linkage of these events; they share globalization, economic dislocation, and fear of immigrant impact.

2. Lots of people in the world really like and hate the Donald. The break is usually along the lines of Western/Eastern Europe from my travels, with Eastern Europe supporting him. Those in Eastern Europe experience many of the same issues as the economically disenfranchised in the United States. The market economy has raised prices and globalization has lowered their salaries. Pensioners live in extreme poverty. These countries are being asked to shoulder the burden of refugees, and they refuse to do it. These concerns about trade, the global economy, and xenophobia appear to my eyes to be the same issues as in the United States. It comes as no surprise to me that the East Europeans like the Donald. On the other hand, the Western Europeans with great education and jobs and a social safety net find Trump to be unimaginably boorish if not frightening. This strikes me as the same tension with the rust/rural belts and urban(e) coasts in America.

3. The elites with lots of education and marketable skills seem to have arrived at one of two places with respect to the economically disenfranchised: either “let them eat cake”, meaning that globalization does this sort of thing, or “vote for us because we have the kinder policies,” which is to say that life will be crappy, but less crappy than if you vote for my opponent. Neither of these are satisfactory for the heartland of America which encompasses 85% of the land mass in America. (Yes, you heard that right, 85% of the landmass supported Trump.) They built America, and now are being discarded or at least that’s the way it feels, and neither the social darwin view (“let them eat cake”) or the patronizing view (“my policies are less worse”) do ANYTHING to lessen the anger and resentment. Clinton desribed the Trump supporters as deplorables. Her supporters in the media characterized Trump supporters as a “burn the house down” kind of angry statement. From where I sit in Europe, these people no longer have a house. The elites do not appear to be responding to their needs with the kind of urgency that they feel is warranted. Donald is a vote for urgent change. Many of these people are the SAME PEOPLE that voted for Barack Obama’s themes of hope and change. But hope seemed to be in short supply and change was….shall we say…..going rather slowly.  People have kids that need education, healthcare; that can’t wait for 10 years. It needs to happen NOW. I am not saying that the Donald can or will deliver the change; I am only saying that there is a perception that Hillary could not and that Donald might.

4. I predict that a lot of Democrats will blame Hillary’s loss on: a) people who voted their conscience for a third-party candidate (i.e., Ralph Nader caused the Democratic loss in Florida and the Country) or did not vote; b) the FBI statements; and c) the Wikileaks materials. All candidates have flaws, and Hillary has hers. In many ways, her flaws are negligible, but, unfortunately for the Democrats, they bumped up against the issues identified in 1, 2, and 3 above. Hillary appears to be a sophisticated know-it-all with a great education who is leveraging her position for the benefit of her family’s trust fund (i.e., Clinton Foundation). She is politically correct, and has a message for the bankers and a message for the working class and so is viewed as disingenous. She’s for global trade, and the economic dislocation of the Clintons’ welfare reform seriously injured a lot of the lower class. Finally, the manipulation of events by the DNC and Hillary with respect to the primaries gave rise to a view that she was unworthy of trust.  These issues, and how they interplay with the issues of 1, 2, and 3 are why so many people got out and voted for the Donald. Yes, she SAID that she was for the working class, but she had a record that said that she was willing to sacrifice them (e.g., welfare reform, long-term incarceration, etc.).  This is the answer to Hillary’s question, “Why aren’t I ahead by 50 points?”  Donald was criticized for his lack of a get out the vote plan, and pundits predicted that he would lose as a result. But his candidacy ALIGNED with 1, 2, and 3 in a way that energized voters, and the message motivated voters. If the Democrats had presented an alternative candidate who had other weaknesses but directly spoke to the economic dislocation due to globalization, they would have won because Donald had serious flaws of his own.

If Donald is serious about being a great president, and he helps the poor and working class, then he will have done more for America than either party in the past thirty years. That’s the potential up side. There’s no point in rehashing the election any more than there was in 2000 or 2008, and this has been an instructive event for both mainstream parties. I only hope that Donald has a focus on the future as well as the past, and this is one thing that Ross Perot (that spoiler!) understood. America is falling behind in the skills of the future and is squandering its technological lead. Regardless of the deficit, we should spend a trillion dollars on improving the skills of our countrywomen and men; the net effect will be higher standards of living, a more competitive workforce, and less stress in the heartland. Yes, the heartland must also accept the need to do knowledge work if they are to improve their position in a globalized world where excess people push down the wages of the uneducated. In a global market-driven world, you are only paid for as much value as you can produce as assessed in the global marketplace. Even lawyers have discovered this fact as legal research has been moved offshore. We cannot forget the people in the heartland, but that doesn’t mean turning the clock back, it means bringing them forward with new skills. That is the sort of leadership that I hope the new administration is able to provide – making America great in the context of a 21st century world with many different challenges, competitors, and friends.

Feel free to send me your thoughts, but please be as polite as I have been.