Category Archives: Well-Being – Community

Well-being, Community Well-Being, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Interior Design, Real Estate Economics, Real Estate Development, Real Estate Investing, Design, Construction, Construction Materials, Construction Techniques, Zoning, Building Codes, Public Policy, Christopher Alexander, Adaptive Physical Systems Design

World’s biggest battery installation

JAMESTOWN, Australia—Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk may have overpromised on production of the company’s latest electric car, but he is delivering on his audacious Australian battery bet.

An enormous Tesla-built battery system—storing electricity from a new wind farm and capable of supplying 30,000 homes for more than an hour—will be powered up over the coming days, the government of South Australia state said Thursday. Final tests are set to be followed by a street party that Mr. Musk, founder of both Tesla and rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, was expected to attend.

Success would fulfill the risky pledge Mr. Musk made in March, to deliver a working system in “100 days from contract signature or it is free.” He was answering a Twitter challenge from Australian IT billionaire and environmentalist Mike Cannon-Brookes to help fix electricity problems in South Australia—which relies heavily on renewable energy—after crippling summer blackouts left 1.7 million people without power, some for weeks.

Mr. Cannon-Brookes then brokered talks between Mr. Musk and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has faced criticism from climate groups for winding back renewable-energy policies in favor of coal. South Australia notwithstanding, the country’s per-person greenhouse emissions are among the world’s highest.

South Australia’s government has yet to say how much the battery will cost taxpayers, although renewable-energy experts estimate it at US$50 million. Tesla says the system’s 100-megawatt capacity makes it the world’s largest, tripling the previous record array at Mira Loma in Ontario, Calif., also built by Tesla and U.S. power company Edison.

Senior concierge services

“Elder concierge”, or senior concierge services, are blossoming as baby boomers age:

CREDIT: New York Times Article on Senior Concierge Services

https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertpearl/2017/06/22/concierge-medicine/amp/

The concierges help their customers complete the relatively mundane activities of everyday life, a way for the semi- and fully retired to continue to work.

Facts of note:
“Around 10,000 people turn 65 every day in the United States, and by 2030, there will be 72 million people over 65 nationwide.
Some 43 million people already provide care to family members — either their own parents or children — according to AARP, and half of them are “sandwich generation” women, ages 40 to 60. All told, they contribute an estimated $470 billion a year in unpaid assistance.”
“elder concierges charge by the hour, anywhere from $30 to $70, or in blocks of time, according to Katharine Giovanni, the director of the International Concierge & Lifestyle Management Network”

Organizations of note:

“One start-up, AgeWell, employs able-bodied older people to assist less able people of the same age, figuring the two will find a social connection that benefits overall health.
The company was founded by Mitch Besser, a doctor whose previous work involved putting H.I.V.-positive women together in mentoring relationships. AgeWell employees come from the same communities as their clients, some of whom are out of reach of medical professionals
until an emergency.”

The National Aging in Place Council, a trade group, is developing a social worker training program with Stony Brook University. It wants to have a dedicated set of social workers at the council, funded by donations, who are able to field calls from seniors and their caretakers, and make referrals to local service providers.
The council already works with volunteers and small businesses in 25 cities to make referrals for things like home repair and remodeling, daily money management and legal issues.”

Village to Village Network, has small businesses and volunteers working on a similar idea: providing older residents and their family or caretakers with referrals to vetted local services.
In the Village to Village Network model, residents pay an annual fee, from about $400 to $700 for individuals and more for households. The organization so far has 25,000 members in 190 member-run communities across the United States, and is forming similar groups overseas as well.”

=========== ARTICLE IS BELOW ============

Baby Boomers Look to Senior Concierge Services to Raise Income
Retiring
By LIZ MOYER MAY 19, 2017

In her 40 years as a photographer in the Denver area, Jill Kaplan did not think she would need her social work degree.
But when it became harder to make a living as a professional photographer, she joined a growing army of part-time workers across the country who help older people living independently, completing household tasks and providing companionship.
Elder concierge, as the industry is known, is a way for the semi- and fully retired to continue to work, and, from a business standpoint, the opportunities look as if they will keep growing. Around 10,000 people turn 65 every day in the United States, and by 2030, there will be 72 million people over 65 nationwide.
Some 43 million people already provide care to family members — either their own parents or children — according to AARP, and half of them are “sandwich generation” women, ages 40 to 60. All told, they contribute an estimated $470 billion a year in unpaid assistance.

Seven years ago, Ms. Kaplan, 63, made the leap, signing up with Denver-based Elder Concierge Services. She makes $25 to $40 an hour for a few days a week of work. She could be driving older clients to doctor’s appointments, playing cards or just acting as an extra set of eyes and ears for family members who aren’t able to be around but worry about their older relatives being isolated and alone. Many baby boomers themselves are attracted to the work because they feel an affinity for the client base.
“It’s very satisfying,” she said of the work, which supplements her photography income. Like others in search of additional money, she could have become an Uber driver but said this offered her a chance to do something “more meaningful.”
“We see a lot of women,” Ms. Kaplan said, “who had raised their families and cared for their parents out there looking for a purpose.”

Concierges are not necessarily social workers by background, and there isn’t a formal licensing program. They carry out tasks or help their customers complete the relatively mundane activities of everyday life, and just need to be able to handle the sometimes physical aspects of the job, like pushing a wheelchair.
Medical care is left to medical professionals. Instead, concierges help out around the house, get their client to appointments, join them for recreation, and run small errands.
While precise statistics are not available for the elder concierge industry, other on-demand industries have flourished, and baby boomers are a fast-growing worker population.
Nancy LeaMond, the AARP’s executive vice president and chief advocacy officer, said: “Everyone assumed the on-demand economy was a millennial thing. But it is really a boomer thing.”
Ms. LeaMond noted that while people like the extra cash, they also appreciate the “extra engagement.”
A variety of companies has sprung up, each fulfilling a different niche in the elder concierge economy.
In some areas, elder concierges charge by the hour, anywhere from $30 to $70, or in blocks of time, according to Katharine Giovanni, the director of the International Concierge & Lifestyle Management Network. Those considering going into the business should have liability insurance, Ms. Giovanni said.

One start-up, AgeWell, employs able-bodied older people to assist less able people of the same age, figuring the two will find a social connection that benefits overall health.
The company was founded by Mitch Besser, a doctor whose previous work involved putting H.I.V.-positive women together in mentoring relationships. AgeWell employees come from the same communities as their clients, some of whom are out of reach of medical professionals until an emergency.
The goal is to provide consistent monitoring to reduce or eliminate full-blown crises. AgeWell began in South Africa but recently got a grant to start a peer-to-peer companionship and wellness program in New York.
Elsewhere, in San Francisco, Justin Lin operates Envoy, a network of stay-at-home parents and part-time workers who accept jobs like grocery delivery, light housework and other tasks that don’t require medical training. Each Envoy employee is matched to a customer, who pays $18 to $20 an hour for the service, on top of a $19 monthly fee.
The inspiration for the company came from Mr. Lin’s work on a start-up called Mamapedia, an online parental wisdom-sharing forum, where he noticed a lot of people talking about the need for family care workers. He decided to start Envoy two years ago, after his own mother died of cancer, leaving him and his father to care for a disabled brother.
The typical Envoy employee works a few hours a week, so it won’t replace the earnings from a full-time job. But it nevertheless involves more interpersonal contact than simply standing behind a store counter.
“It’s not going to pay the rent,” Mr. Lin said. “They want to be flexible but also make a difference.”

Katleen Bouchard, 69, signed up with Envoy three years ago, after retiring from an advertising career. She gets $20 an hour working a handful of hours a week with older clients in her rural community in Sonoma County, Calif. She sees it as a chance to be civic-minded. “It’s very easy to help and be of service,” Ms. Bouchard said.
Companies like AgeWell and Envoy are part of the growing on-demand economy, where flexibility and entrepreneurship have combined to create a new class of workers, said Mary Furlong, a Silicon Valley consultant who specializes in the job market for baby boomers. At the same time, many retirees — as well as those on the cusp of retirement — worry that market volatility may hit their savings.
The extra income from the job, Ms. Furlong said, could help cover unexpected expenses. “You don’t know what the shocks are going to be that interrupt your plan,” she added.
Other organizations are looking to help direct older residents to vetted local service providers.
The National Aging in Place Council, a trade group, is developing a social worker training program with Stony Brook University. It wants to have a dedicated set of social workers at the council, funded by donations, who are able to field calls from seniors and their caretakers, and make referrals to local service providers.
The council already works with volunteers and small businesses in 25 cities to make referrals for things like home repair and remodeling, daily money management and legal issues.
Another group, the Village to Village Network, has small businesses and volunteers working on a similar idea: providing older residents and their family or caretakers with referrals to vetted local services.
In the Village to Village Network model, residents pay an annual fee, from about $400 to $700 for individuals and more for households. The organization so far has 25,000 members in 190 member-run communities across the United States, and is forming similar groups overseas as well.
“We feel like we are creating a new occupation,” said Marty Bell, the National Aging in Place Council’s executive director. “It’s really needed.”
Twitter: @LizMoyer

Smuggling, Capitalism and the Law of Unintended Consequences

To me, this article seems to be about the border wall with Mexico, but it instead is about 1) the law of unintended consequences, and 2) the nature of capitalism.

The law of unintended consequences can never be underestimated; nor can the ability of capitalism to bring out the creativity of entrepreneurs and organizations when there is big money to be made.

A few notes:

“But rather than stopping smuggling, the barriers have just pushed it farther into the desert, deeper into the ground, into more sophisticated secret compartments in cars and into the drug cartels’ hands.”

“A majority of Americans now favor marijuana legalization, which is hitting the pockets of Mexican smugglers and will do so even more when California starts issuing licenses to sell recreational cannabis next year.”

The price of smuggling any given drug will rise proportionate to the difficulty of smuggling.

52 legal crossings
Nogales (Mexico) and Nogales (US) and the dense homes on border

Tricks:
Coyotes (small drug smugglers)
Donkeys (the people who actually carry the drugs)
“Clavos” Secret compartments whose sophistication grows
Trains (a principal means of smuggling)
“Trampolines” (gigantic catapults that hurl the drugs over any wall)
Tunnel and new technologies (216 discovered since 1990)

===============
CREDIT: New York Times Article: mexican-drug-smugglers-to-trump-thanks!

Mexican Drug Smugglers to Trump: Thanks!

Ioan Grillo
MAY 5, 2017

NOGALES, Mexico — Crouched in the spiky terrain near this border city, a veteran smuggler known as Flaco points to the steel border fence and describes how he has taken drugs and people into the United States for more than three decades. His smuggling techniques include everything from throwing drugs over in gigantic catapults to hiding them in the engine cars of freight trains to making side tunnels off the cross-border sewage system.

When asked whether the border wall promised by President Trump will stop smugglers, he smiles. “This is never going to stop, neither the narco trafficking nor the illegals,” he says. “There will be more tunnels. More holes. If it doesn’t go over, it will go under.”

What will change? The fees that criminal networks charge to transport people and contraband across the border. Every time the wall goes up, so do smuggling profits.

The first time Flaco took people over the line was in 1984, when he was 15; he showed them a hole torn in a wire fence on the edge of Nogales for a tip of 50 cents. Today, many migrants pay smugglers as much as $5,000 to head north without papers, trekking for days through the Sonoran Desert. Most of that money goes to drug cartels that have taken over the profitable business.

“From 50 cents to $5,000,” Flaco says. “As the prices went up, the mafia, which is the Sinaloa cartel, took over everything here, drugs and people smuggling.” Sinaloa dominates Nogales and other parts of northwest Mexico, while rivals, including the Juarez, Gulf and Zetas cartels, control other sections of the border. Flaco finished a five-year prison sentence here for drug trafficking in 2009 and has continued to smuggle since.

His comments underline a problem that has frustrated successive American governments and is likely to haunt President Trump, even if the wall becomes more than a rallying cry and he finally gets the billions of dollars needed to fund it. Strengthening defenses does not stop smuggling. It only makes it more expensive, which inadvertently gives more money to criminal networks.

The cartels have taken advantage of this to build a multibillion industry, and they protect it with brutal violence that destabilizes Mexico and forces thousands of Mexicans to head north seeking asylum.

Stretching almost 2,000 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, the border has proved treacherous to block. It traverses a sparsely populated desert, patches of soft earth that are easy to tunnel through, and the mammoth Rio Grande, which floods its banks, making fencing difficult.

And it contains 52 legal crossing points, where millions of people, cars, trucks and trains enter the United States every week.

President Trump’s idea of a wall is not new. Chunks of walls, fencing and anti-car spikes have been erected periodically, particularly in 1990 and 2006. On April 30, Congress reached a deal to fund the federal budget through September that failed to approve any money for extending the barriers as President Trump has promised. However, it did allocate several hundred million dollars for repairing existing infrastructure, and the White House has said it will use this to replace some fencing with a more solid wall.

But rather than stopping smuggling, the barriers have just pushed it: farther into the desert, deeper into the ground, into more sophisticated secret compartments in cars and into the drug cartels’ hands.
It is particularly concerning how cartels have taken over the human smuggling business. Known as coyotes, these smugglers used to work independently, or in small groups. Now they have to work for the cartel, which takes a huge cut of the profits, Flaco says. If migrants try to cross the border without paying, they risk getting beaten or murdered.

The number of people detained without papers on the southern border has dropped markedly in the first months of the Trump administration, with fewer than 17,000 apprehended in March, the lowest since 2000. But this has nothing to do with the yet-to-be-built new wall. The president’s anti-immigrant rhetoric could be a deterrent — signaling that tweets can have a bigger effect than bricks. However, this may not last, and there is no sign of drug seizures going down.

Flaco grew up in a Nogales slum called Buenos Aires, which has produced generations of smugglers. The residents refer to the people who carry over backpacks full of drugs as burros, or donkeys. “When I first heard about this, I thought they used real donkeys to carry the marijuana,” Flaco says. “Then I realized, we were the donkeys.”

He was paid $500 for his first trip as a donkey when he was in high school, encouraging him to drop out for what seemed like easy money.
The fences haven’t stopped the burros, who use either ropes or their bare hands to scale them. This was captured in extraordinary footage from a Mexican TV crew, showing smugglers climbing into California. But solid walls offer no solution, as they can also be scaled and they make it harder for border patrol agents to spot what smugglers are up to on the Mexican side.

Flaco quickly graduated to building secret compartments in cars. Called clavos, they are fixed into gas tanks, on dashboards, on roofs. The cars, known by customs agents as trap cars, then drive right through the ports of entry. In fact, while most marijuana is caught in the desert, harder drugs such as heroin are far more likely to go over the bridge.
When customs agents learned to look for the switches that opened the secret compartments, smugglers figured out how to do without them. Some new trap cars can be opened only with complex procedures, such as when the driver is in the seat, all doors are closed, the defroster is turned on and a special card is swiped.

Equally sophisticated engineering goes into the tunnels that turn the border into a block of Swiss cheese. Between 1990 and 2016, 224 tunnels were discovered, some with air vents, rails and electric lights. While the drug lord Joaquin Guzman, known as El Chapo, became infamous for using them, Flaco says they are as old as the border itself and began as natural underground rivers.

Tunnels are particularly popular in Nogales, where Mexican federal agents regularly seize houses near the border for having them. Flaco even shows me a filled-in passage that started inside a graveyard tomb. “It’s because Nogales is one of the few border towns that is urbanized right up to the line,” explains Mayor David Cuauhtémoc Galindo. “There are houses that are on both sides of the border at a very short distance,” making it easy to tunnel from one to the other.

Nogales is also connected to its neighbor across the border in Arizona, also called Nogales, by a common drainage system. It cannot be blocked, because the ground slopes downward from Mexico to the United States. Police officers took me into the drainage system and showed me several smuggling tunnels that had been burrowed off it. They had been filled in with concrete, but the officers warned that smugglers could be lurking around to make new ones and that I should hit the ground if we ran into any.

Back above ground, catapults are one of the most spectacular smuggling methods. “We call them trampolines,” Flaco says. “They have a spring that is like a tripod, and two or three people operate them.” Border patrol agents captured one that had been attached to the fence near the city of Douglas, Ariz., in February and showed photos of what looked like a medieval siege weapon.

Freight trains also cross the border, on their way from southern Mexico up to Canada. While agents inspect them, it’s impossible to search all the carriages, which are packed with cargo from cars to canned chilies. Flaco says the train workers are often paid off by the smugglers. He was once caught with a load of marijuana on a train in Arizona, but he managed to persuade police that he was a train worker and did only a month in jail.
While marijuana does less harm, the smugglers also bring heroin, crack cocaine and crystal meth to America, which kill many. Calls to wage war on drugs can be emotionally appealing. The way President Trump linked his promises of a wall to drug problems in rural America was most likely a factor in his victory.

But four decades after Richard Nixon declared a “war on drugs,” despite trillions of dollars spent on agents, soldiers and barriers, drugs are still easy to buy all across America.

President Trump has taken power at a turning point in the drug policy debate. A majority of Americans now favor marijuana legalization, which is hitting the pockets of Mexican smugglers and will do so even more when California starts issuing licenses to sell recreational cannabis next year. President Trump has also called for more treatment for drug addicts. He would be wise to make that, and not the wall, a cornerstone of his drug policy.

Reducing the finances of drug cartels could reduce some of the violence, and the number of people fleeing north to escape it. But to really tackle the issue of human smuggling, the United States must provide a path to papers for the millions of undocumented workers already in the country, and then make sure businesses hire only workers with papers in the future. So long as illegal immigrants can make a living in the United States, smugglers will make a fortune leading them there.

Stopping the demand for the smugglers’ services actually hits them in their pockets. Otherwise, they will just keep getting richer as the bricks get higher.

Ioan Grillo is the author of “Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields and the New Politics of Latin America” and a contributing opinion writer.

High costs of health care

I found this NYT story to be scary and illuminating. God save this country. Frankenstein lives….they are called CPT codes … And CPT consultants and CPT courses and CPT mavens and AMA licensing of CPT (biggest source of revenue).

New York Times Article on High Costs of Health Care

Hospitals have learned to manipulate medical codes — often resulting in mind-boggling bills.

Our miserable 21st century

Below is dense – but worth it. It is written by a conservative, but an honest one.

It is the best documentation I have found on the thesis that I wrote about last year: that the 21st century economy is a structural mess, and the mess is a non-partisan one!

My basic contention is really simple:

9/11 diverted us from this issue, and then …
we compounded the diversion with two idiotic wars, and then …
we compounded the diversion further with an idiotic, devastating recession. and then …
we started to stabilize, which is why President Obama goes to the head of the class, and then …
we built a three ring circus, and elected a clown as the ringmaster.

While we watch this three-ring circus in Washington, no one is paying attention to this structural problem in the economy….so we are wasting time, when we should be tackling this central issue of our time. Its a really complicated one, and there are no easy answers (sorry Trump and Bernie Sanders).

PUT YOUR POLITICAL ARTILLERY DOWN AND READ ON …..

=======BEGIN=============

CREDIT: https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/our-miserable-21st-century/

Our Miserable 21st Century
From work to income to health to social mobility, the year 2000 marked the beginning of what has become a distressing era for the United States
NICHOLAS N. EBERSTADT / FEB. 15, 2017

In the morning of November 9, 2016, America’s elite—its talking and deciding classes—woke up to a country they did not know. To most privileged and well-educated Americans, especially those living in its bicoastal bastions, the election of Donald Trump had been a thing almost impossible even to imagine. What sort of country would go and elect someone like Trump as president? Certainly not one they were familiar with, or understood anything about.

Whatever else it may or may not have accomplished, the 2016 election was a sort of shock therapy for Americans living within what Charles Murray famously termed “the bubble” (the protective barrier of prosperity and self-selected associations that increasingly shield our best and brightest from contact with the rest of their society). The very fact of Trump’s election served as a truth broadcast about a reality that could no longer be denied: Things out there in America are a whole lot different from what you thought.

Yes, things are very different indeed these days in the “real America” outside the bubble. In fact, things have been going badly wrong in America since the beginning of the 21st century.

It turns out that the year 2000 marks a grim historical milestone of sorts for our nation. For whatever reasons, the Great American Escalator, which had lifted successive generations of Americans to ever higher standards of living and levels of social well-being, broke down around then—and broke down very badly.

The warning lights have been flashing, and the klaxons sounding, for more than a decade and a half. But our pundits and prognosticators and professors and policymakers, ensconced as they generally are deep within the bubble, were for the most part too distant from the distress of the general population to see or hear it. (So much for the vaunted “information era” and “big-data revolution.”) Now that those signals are no longer possible to ignore, it is high time for experts and intellectuals to reacquaint themselves with the country in which they live and to begin the task of describing what has befallen the country in which we have lived since the dawn of the new century.

II
Consider the condition of the American economy. In some circles people still widely believe, as one recent New York Times business-section article cluelessly insisted before the inauguration, that “Mr. Trump will inherit an economy that is fundamentally solid.” But this is patent nonsense. By now it should be painfully obvious that the U.S. economy has been in the grip of deep dysfunction since the dawn of the new century. And in retrospect, it should also be apparent that America’s strange new economic maladies were almost perfectly designed to set the stage for a populist storm.

Ever since 2000, basic indicators have offered oddly inconsistent readings on America’s economic performance and prospects. It is curious and highly uncharacteristic to find such measures so very far out of alignment with one another. We are witnessing an ominous and growing divergence between three trends that should ordinarily move in tandem: wealth, output, and employment. Depending upon which of these three indicators you choose, America looks to be heading up, down, or more or less nowhere.
From the standpoint of wealth creation, the 21st century is off to a roaring start. By this yardstick, it looks as if Americans have never had it so good and as if the future is full of promise. Between early 2000 and late 2016, the estimated net worth of American households and nonprofit institutions more than doubled, from $44 trillion to $90 trillion. (SEE FIGURE 1.)

Although that wealth is not evenly distributed, it is still a fantastic sum of money—an average of over a million dollars for every notional family of four. This upsurge of wealth took place despite the crash of 2008—indeed, private wealth holdings are over $20 trillion higher now than they were at their pre-crash apogee. The value of American real-estate assets is near or at all-time highs, and America’s businesses appear to be thriving. Even before the “Trump rally” of late 2016 and early 2017, U.S. equities markets were hitting new highs—and since stock prices are strongly shaped by expectations of future profits, investors evidently are counting on the continuation of the current happy days for U.S. asset holders for some time to come.

A rather less cheering picture, though, emerges if we look instead at real trends for the macro-economy. Here, performance since the start of the century might charitably be described as mediocre, and prospects today are no better than guarded.

The recovery from the crash of 2008—which unleashed the worst recession since the Great Depression—has been singularly slow and weak. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), it took nearly four years for America’s gross domestic product (GDP) to re-attain its late 2007 level. As of late 2016, total value added to the U.S. economy was just 12 percent higher than in 2007. (SEE FIGURE 2.) The situation is even more sobering if we consider per capita growth. It took America six and a half years—until mid-2014—to get back to its late 2007 per capita production levels. And in late 2016, per capita output was just 4 percent higher than in late 2007—nine years earlier. By this reckoning, the American economy looks to have suffered something close to a lost decade.

But there was clearly trouble brewing in America’s macro-economy well before the 2008 crash, too. Between late 2000 and late 2007, per capita GDP growth averaged less than 1.5 percent per annum. That compares with the nation’s long-term postwar 1948–2000 per capita growth rate of almost 2.3 percent, which in turn can be compared to the “snap back” tempo of 1.1 percent per annum since per capita GDP bottomed out in 2009. Between 2000 and 2016, per capita growth in America has averaged less than 1 percent a year. To state it plainly: With postwar, pre-21st-century rates for the years 2000–2016, per capita GDP in America would be more than 20 percent higher than it is today.

The reasons for America’s newly fitful and halting macroeconomic performance are still a puzzlement to economists and a subject of considerable contention and debate.1Economists are generally in consensus, however, in one area: They have begun redefining the growth potential of the U.S. economy downwards. The U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO), for example, suggests that the “potential growth” rate for the U.S. economy at full employment of factors of production has now dropped below 1.7 percent a year, implying a sustainable long-term annual per capita economic growth rate for America today of well under 1 percent.

Then there is the employment situation. If 21st-century America’s GDP trends have been disappointing, labor-force trends have been utterly dismal. Work rates have fallen off a cliff since the year 2000 and are at their lowest levels in decades. We can see this by looking at the estimates by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for the civilian employment rate, the jobs-to-population ratio for adult civilian men and women. (SEE FIGURE 3.) Between early 2000 and late 2016, America’s overall work rate for Americans age 20 and older underwent a drastic decline. It plunged by almost 5 percentage points (from 64.6 to 59.7). Unless you are a labor economist, you may not appreciate just how severe a falloff in employment such numbers attest to. Postwar America never experienced anything comparable.

From peak to trough, the collapse in work rates for U.S. adults between 2008 and 2010 was roughly twice the amplitude of what had previously been the country’s worst postwar recession, back in the early 1980s. In that previous steep recession, it took America five years to re-attain the adult work rates recorded at the start of 1980. This time, the U.S. job market has as yet, in early 2017, scarcely begun to claw its way back up to the work rates of 2007—much less back to the work rates from early 2000.

As may be seen in Figure 3, U.S. adult work rates never recovered entirely from the recession of 2001—much less the crash of ’08. And the work rates being measured here include people who are engaged in any paid employment—any job, at any wage, for any number of hours of work at all.

On Wall Street and in some parts of Washington these days, one hears that America has gotten back to “near full employment.” For Americans outside the bubble, such talk must seem nonsensical. It is true that the oft-cited “civilian unemployment rate” looked pretty good by the end of the Obama era—in December 2016, it was down to 4.7 percent, about the same as it had been back in 1965, at a time of genuine full employment. The problem here is that the unemployment rate only tracks joblessness for those still in the labor force; it takes no account of workforce dropouts. Alas, the exodus out of the workforce has been the big labor-market story for America’s new century. (At this writing, for every unemployed American man between 25 and 55 years of age, there are another three who are neither working nor looking for work.) Thus the “unemployment rate” increasingly looks like an antique index devised for some earlier and increasingly distant war: the economic equivalent of a musket inventory or a cavalry count.

By the criterion of adult work rates, by contrast, employment conditions in America remain remarkably bleak. From late 2009 through early 2014, the country’s work rates more or less flatlined. So far as can be told, this is the only “recovery” in U.S. economic history in which that basic labor-market indicator almost completely failed to respond.

Since 2014, there has finally been a measure of improvement in the work rate—but it would be unwise to exaggerate the dimensions of that turnaround. As of late 2016, the adult work rate in America was still at its lowest level in more than 30 years. To put things another way: If our nation’s work rate today were back up to its start-of-the-century highs, well over 10 million more Americans would currently have paying jobs.

There is no way to sugarcoat these awful numbers. They are not a statistical artifact that can be explained away by population aging, or by increased educational enrollment for adult students, or by any other genuine change in contemporary American society. The plain fact is that 21st-century America has witnessed a dreadful collapse of work.
For an apples-to-apples look at America’s 21st-century jobs problem, we can focus on the 25–54 population—known to labor economists for self-evident reasons as the “prime working age” group. For this key labor-force cohort, work rates in late 2016 were down almost 4 percentage points from their year-2000 highs. That is a jobs gap approaching 5 million for this group alone.

It is not only that work rates for prime-age males have fallen since the year 2000—they have, but the collapse of work for American men is a tale that goes back at least half a century. (I wrote a short book last year about this sad saga.2) What is perhaps more startling is the unexpected and largely unnoticed fall-off in work rates for prime-age women. In the U.S. and all other Western societies, postwar labor markets underwent an epochal transformation. After World War II, work rates for prime women surged, and continued to rise—until the year 2000. Since then, they too have declined. Current work rates for prime-age women are back to where they were a generation ago, in the late 1980s. The 21st-century U.S. economy has been brutal for male and female laborers alike—and the wreckage in the labor market has been sufficiently powerful to cancel, and even reverse, one of our society’s most distinctive postwar trends: the rise of paid work for women outside the household.

In our era of no more than indifferent economic growth, 21st–century America has somehow managed to produce markedly more wealth for its wealthholders even as it provided markedly less work for its workers. And trends for paid hours of work look even worse than the work rates themselves. Between 2000 and 2015, according to the BEA, total paid hours of work in America increased by just 4 percent (as against a 35 percent increase for 1985–2000, the 15-year period immediately preceding this one). Over the 2000–2015 period, however, the adult civilian population rose by almost 18 percent—meaning that paid hours of work per adult civilian have plummeted by a shocking 12 percent thus far in our new American century.

This is the terrible contradiction of economic life in what we might call America’s Second Gilded Age (2000—). It is a paradox that may help us understand a number of overarching features of our new century. These include the consistent findings that public trust in almost all U.S. institutions has sharply declined since 2000, even as growing majorities hold that America is “heading in the wrong direction.” It provides an immediate answer to why overwhelming majorities of respondents in public-opinion surveys continue to tell pollsters, year after year, that our ever-richer America is still stuck in the middle of a recession. The mounting economic woes of the “little people” may not have been generally recognized by those inside the bubble, or even by many bubble inhabitants who claimed to be economic specialists—but they proved to be potent fuel for the populist fire that raged through American politics in 2016.

III
So general economic conditions for many ordinary Americans—not least of these, Americans who did not fit within the academy’s designated victim classes—have been rather more insecure than those within the comfort of the bubble understood. But the anxiety, dissatisfaction, anger, and despair that range within our borders today are not wholly a reaction to the way our economy is misfiring. On the nonmaterial front, it is likewise clear that many things in our society are going wrong and yet seem beyond our powers to correct.

Some of these gnawing problems are by no means new: A number of them (such as family breakdown) can be traced back at least to the 1960s, while others are arguably as old as modernity itself (anomie and isolation in big anonymous communities, secularization and the decline of faith). But a number have roared down upon us by surprise since the turn of the century—and others have redoubled with fearsome new intensity since roughly the year 2000.

American health conditions seem to have taken a seriously wrong turn in the new century. It is not just that overall health progress has been shockingly slow, despite the trillions we devote to medical services each year. (Which “Cold War babies” among us would have predicted we’d live to see the day when life expectancy in East Germany was higher than in the United States, as is the case today?)

Alas, the problem is not just slowdowns in health progress—there also appears to have been positive retrogression for broad and heretofore seemingly untroubled segments of the national population. A short but electrifying 2015 paper by Anne Case and Nobel Economics Laureate Angus Deaton talked about a mortality trend that had gone almost unnoticed until then: rising death rates for middle-aged U.S. whites. By Case and Deaton’s reckoning, death rates rose somewhat slightly over the 1999–2013 period for all non-Hispanic white men and women 45–54 years of age—but they rose sharply for those with high-school degrees or less, and for this less-educated grouping most of the rise in death rates was accounted for by suicides, chronic liver cirrhosis, and poisonings (including drug overdoses).

Though some researchers, for highly technical reasons, suggested that the mortality spike might not have been quite as sharp as Case and Deaton reckoned, there is little doubt that the spike itself has taken place. Health has been deteriorating for a significant swath of white America in our new century, thanks in large part to drug and alcohol abuse. All this sounds a little too close for comfort to the story of modern Russia, with its devastating vodka- and drug-binging health setbacks. Yes: It can happen here, and it has. Welcome to our new America.

In December 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that for the first time in decades, life expectancy at birth in the United States had dropped very slightly (to 78.8 years in 2015, from 78.9 years in 2014). Though the decline was small, it was statistically meaningful—rising death rates were characteristic of males and females alike; of blacks and whites and Latinos together. (Only black women avoided mortality increases—their death levels were stagnant.) A jump in “unintentional injuries” accounted for much of the overall uptick.
It would be unwarranted to place too much portent in a single year’s mortality changes; slight annual drops in U.S. life expectancy have occasionally been registered in the past, too, followed by continued improvements. But given other developments we are witnessing in our new America, we must wonder whether the 2015 decline in life expectancy is just a blip, or the start of a new trend. We will find out soon enough. It cannot be encouraging, though, that the Human Mortality Database, an international consortium of demographers who vet national data to improve comparability between countries, has suggested that health progress in America essentially ceased in 2012—that the U.S. gained on average only about a single day of life expectancy at birth between 2012 and 2014, before the 2015 turndown.

The opioid epidemic of pain pills and heroin that has been ravaging and shortening lives from coast to coast is a new plague for our new century. The terrifying novelty of this particular drug epidemic, of course, is that it has gone (so to speak) “mainstream” this time, effecting breakout from disadvantaged minority communities to Main Street White America. By 2013, according to a 2015 report by the Drug Enforcement Administration, more Americans died from drug overdoses (largely but not wholly opioid abuse) than from either traffic fatalities or guns. The dimensions of the opioid epidemic in the real America are still not fully appreciated within the bubble, where drug use tends to be more carefully limited and recreational. In Dreamland, his harrowing and magisterial account of modern America’s opioid explosion, the journalist Sam Quinones notes in passing that “in one three-month period” just a few years ago, according to the Ohio Department of Health, “fully 11 percent of all Ohioans were prescribed opiates.” And of course many Americans self-medicate with licit or illicit painkillers without doctors’ orders.

In the fall of 2016, Alan Krueger, former chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, released a study that further refined the picture of the real existing opioid epidemic in America: According to his work, nearly half of all prime working-age male labor-force dropouts—an army now totaling roughly 7 million men—currently take pain medication on a daily basis.

We already knew from other sources (such as BLS “time use” surveys) that the overwhelming majority of the prime-age men in this un-working army generally don’t “do civil society” (charitable work, religious activities, volunteering), or for that matter much in the way of child care or help for others in the home either, despite the abundance of time on their hands. Their routine, instead, typically centers on watching—watching TV, DVDs, Internet, hand-held devices, etc.—and indeed watching for an average of 2,000 hours a year, as if it were a full-time job. But Krueger’s study adds a poignant and immensely sad detail to this portrait of daily life in 21st-century America: In our mind’s eye we can now picture many millions of un-working men in the prime of life, out of work and not looking for jobs, sitting in front of screens—stoned.

But how did so many millions of un-working men, whose incomes are limited, manage en masse to afford a constant supply of pain medication? Oxycontin is not cheap. As Dreamland carefully explains, one main mechanism today has been the welfare state: more specifically, Medicaid, Uncle Sam’s means-tested health-benefits program. Here is how it works (we are with Quinones in Portsmouth, Ohio):

[The Medicaid card] pays for medicine—whatever pills a doctor deems that the insured patient needs. Among those who receive Medicaid cards are people on state welfare or on a federal disability program known as SSI. . . . If you could get a prescription from a willing doctor—and Portsmouth had plenty of them—Medicaid health-insurance cards paid for that prescription every month. For a three-dollar Medicaid co-pay, therefore, addicts got pills priced at thousands of dollars, with the difference paid for by U.S. and state taxpayers. A user could turn around and sell those pills, obtained for that three-dollar co-pay, for as much as ten thousand dollars on the street.

In 21st-century America, “dependence on government” has thus come to take on an entirely new meaning.

You may now wish to ask: What share of prime-working-age men these days are enrolled in Medicaid? According to the Census Bureau’s SIPP survey (Survey of Income and Program Participation), as of 2013, over one-fifth (21 percent) of all civilian men between 25 and 55 years of age were Medicaid beneficiaries. For prime-age people not in the labor force, the share was over half (53 percent). And for un-working Anglos (non-Hispanic white men not in the labor force) of prime working age, the share enrolled in Medicaid was 48 percent.

By the way: Of the entire un-working prime-age male Anglo population in 2013, nearly three-fifths (57 percent) were reportedly collecting disability benefits from one or more government disability program in 2013. Disability checks and means-tested benefits cannot support a lavish lifestyle. But they can offer a permanent alternative to paid employment, and for growing numbers of American men, they do. The rise of these programs has coincided with the death of work for larger and larger numbers of American men not yet of retirement age. We cannot say that these programs caused the death of work for millions upon millions of younger men: What is incontrovertible, however, is that they have financed it—just as Medicaid inadvertently helped finance America’s immense and increasing appetite for opioids in our new century.

It is intriguing to note that America’s nationwide opioid epidemic has not been accompanied by a nationwide crime wave (excepting of course the apparent explosion of illicit heroin use). Just the opposite: As best can be told, national victimization rates for violent crimes and property crimes have both reportedly dropped by about two-thirds over the past two decades.3 The drop in crime over the past generation has done great things for the general quality of life in much of America. There is one complication from this drama, however, that inhabitants of the bubble may not be aware of, even though it is all too well known to a great many residents of the real America. This is the extraordinary expansion of what some have termed America’s “criminal class”—the population sentenced to prison or convicted of felony offenses—in recent decades. This trend did not begin in our century, but it has taken on breathtaking enormity since the year 2000.

Most well-informed readers know that the U.S. currently has a higher share of its populace in jail or prison than almost any other country on earth, that Barack Obama and others talk of our criminal-justice process as “mass incarceration,” and know that well over 2 million men were in prison or jail in recent years.4 But only a tiny fraction of all living Americans ever convicted of a felony is actually incarcerated at this very moment. Quite the contrary: Maybe 90 percent of all sentenced felons today are out of confinement and living more or less among us. The reason: the basic arithmetic of sentencing and incarceration in America today. Correctional release and sentenced community supervision (probation and parole) guarantee a steady annual “flow” of convicted felons back into society to augment the very considerable “stock” of felons and ex-felons already there. And this “stock” is by now truly enormous.

One forthcoming demographic study by Sarah Shannon and five other researchers estimates that the cohort of current and former felons in America very nearly reached 20 million by the year 2010. If its estimates are roughly accurate, and if America’s felon population has continued to grow at more or less the same tempo traced out for the years leading up to 2010, we would expect it to surpass 23 million persons by the end of 2016 at the latest. Very rough calculations might therefore suggest that at this writing, America’s population of non-institutionalized adults with a felony conviction somewhere in their past has almost certainly broken the 20 million mark by the end of 2016. A little more rough arithmetic suggests that about 17 million men in our general population have a felony conviction somewhere in their CV. That works out to one of every eight adult males in America today.

We have to use rough estimates here, rather than precise official numbers, because the government does not collect any data at all on the size or socioeconomic circumstances of this population of 20 million, and never has. Amazing as this may sound and scandalous though it may be, America has, at least to date, effectively banished this huge group—a group roughly twice the total size of our illegal-immigrant population and an adult population larger than that in any state but California—to a near-total and seemingly unending statistical invisibility. Our ex-cons are, so to speak, statistical outcasts who live in a darkness our polity does not care enough to illuminate—beyond the scope or interest of public policy, unless and until they next run afoul of the law.

Thus we cannot describe with any precision or certainty what has become of those who make up our “criminal class” after their (latest) sentencing or release. In the most stylized terms, however, we might guess that their odds in the real America are not all that favorable. And when we consider some of the other trends we have already mentioned—employment, health, addiction, welfare dependence—we can see the emergence of a malign new nationwide undertow, pulling downward against social mobility.
Social mobility has always been the jewel in the crown of the American mythos and ethos. The idea (not without a measure of truth to back it up) was that people in America are free to achieve according to their merit and their grit—unlike in other places, where they are trapped by barriers of class or the misfortune of misrule. Nearly two decades into our new century, there are unmistakable signs that America’s fabled social mobility is in trouble—perhaps even in serious trouble.

Consider the following facts. First, according to the Census Bureau, geographical mobility in America has been on the decline for three decades, and in 2016 the annual movement of households from one location to the next was reportedly at an all-time (postwar) low. Second, as a study by three Federal Reserve economists and a Notre Dame colleague demonstrated last year, “labor market fluidity”—the churning between jobs that among other things allows people to get ahead—has been on the decline in the American labor market for decades, with no sign as yet of a turnaround. Finally, and not least important, a December 2016 report by the “Equal Opportunity Project,” a team led by the formidable Stanford economist Raj Chetty, calculated that the odds of a 30-year-old’s earning more than his parents at the same age was now just 51 percent: down from 86 percent 40 years ago. Other researchers who have examined the same data argue that the odds may not be quite as low as the Chetty team concludes, but agree that the chances of surpassing one’s parents’ real income have been on the downswing and are probably lower now than ever before in postwar America.

Thus the bittersweet reality of life for real Americans in the early 21st century: Even though the American economy still remains the world’s unrivaled engine of wealth generation, those outside the bubble may have less of a shot at the American Dream than has been the case for decades, maybe generations—possibly even since the Great Depression.

IV
The funny thing is, people inside the bubble are forever talking about “economic inequality,” that wonderful seminar construct, and forever virtue-signaling about how personally opposed they are to it. By contrast, “economic insecurity” is akin to a phrase from an unknown language. But if we were somehow to find a “Google Translate” function for communicating from real America into the bubble, an important message might be conveyed:

The abstraction of “inequality” doesn’t matter a lot to ordinary Americans. The reality of economic insecurity does. The Great American Escalator is broken—and it badly needs to be fixed.

With the election of 2016, Americans within the bubble finally learned that the 21st century has gotten off to a very bad start in America. Welcome to the reality. We have a lot of work to do together to turn this around.

1 Some economists suggest the reason has to do with the unusual nature of the Great Recession: that downturns born of major financial crises intrinsically require longer adjustment and correction periods than the more familiar, ordinary business-cycle downturn. Others have proposed theories to explain why the U.S. economy may instead have downshifted to a more tepid tempo in the Bush-Obama era. One such theory holds that the pace of productivity is dropping because the scale of recent technological innovation is unrepeatable. There is also a “secular stagnation” hypothesis, surmising we have entered into an age of very low “natural real interest rates” consonant with significantly reduced demand for investment. What is incontestable is that the 10-year moving average for per capita economic growth is lower for America today than at any time since the Korean War—and that the slowdown in growth commenced in the decade before the 2008 crash. (It is also possible that the anemic status of the U.S. macro-economy is being exaggerated by measurement issues—productivity improvements from information technology, for example, have been oddly elusive in our officially reported national output—but few today would suggest that such concealed gains would totally transform our view of the real economy’s true performance.)
2 Nicholas Eberstadt, Men Without Work: America’s Invisible Crisis (Templeton Press, 2016)
3 This is not to ignore the gruesome exceptions—places like Chicago and Baltimore—or to neglect the risk that crime may make a more general comeback: It is simply to acknowledge one of the bright trends for America in the new century.
4 In 2013, roughly 2.3 million men were behind bars according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

One could be forgiven for wondering what Kellyanne Conway, a close adviser to President Trump, was thinking recently when she turned the White House briefing room into the set of the Home Shopping Network. “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff!” she told Fox News viewers during an interview, referring to the clothing and accessories line of the president’s daughter. It’s not clear if her cheerleading led to any spike in sales, but it did lead to calls for an investigation into whether she violated federal ethics rules, and prompted the White House to later state that it had “counseled” Conway about her behavior.

To understand what provoked Conway’s on-air marketing campaign, look no further than the ongoing boycotts targeting all things Trump. This latest manifestation of the passion to impose financial harm to make a political point has taken things in a new and odd direction. Once, boycotts were serious things, requiring serious commitment and real sacrifice. There were boycotts by aggrieved workers, such as the United Farm Workers, against their employers; boycotts by civil-rights activists and religious groups; and boycotts of goods produced by nations like apartheid-era South Africa. Many of these efforts, sustained over years by committed cadres of activists, successfully pressured businesses and governments to change.

Since Trump’s election, the boycott has become less an expression of long-term moral and practical opposition and more an expression of the left’s collective id. As Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton told the Atlantic recently, “Increasingly, the way we express our political opinions is through buying or not buying instead of voting or not voting.” And evidently the way some people express political opinions when someone they don’t like is elected is to launch an endless stream of virtue-signaling boycotts. Democratic politicians ostentatiously boycotted Trump’s inauguration. New Balance sneaker owners vowed to boycott the company and filmed themselves torching their shoes after a company spokesman tweeted praise for Trump. Trump detractors called for a boycott of L.L. Bean after one of its board members was discovered to have (gasp!) given a personal contribution to a pro-Trump PAC.

By their nature, boycotts are a form of proxy warfare, tools wielded by consumers who want to send a message to a corporation or organization about their displeasure with specific practices.

Trump-era boycotts, however, merely seem to be a way to channel an overwhelming yet vague feeling of political frustration. Take the “Grab Your Wallet” campaign, whose mission, described in humblebragging detail on its website, is as follows: “Since its first humble incarnation as a screenshot on October 11, the #GrabYourWallet boycott list has grown as a central resource for understanding how our own consumer purchases have inadvertently supported the political rise of the Trump family.”

So this boycott isn’t against a specific business or industry; it’s a protest against one man and his children, with trickle-down effects for anyone who does business with them. Grab Your Wallet doesn’t just boycott Trump-branded hotels and golf courses; the group targets businesses such as Bed Bath & Beyond, for example, because it carries Ivanka Trump diaper bags. Even QVC and the Carnival Cruise corporation are targeted for boycott because they advertise on Celebrity Apprentice, which supposedly “further enriches Trump.”

Grab Your Wallet has received support from “notable figures” such as “Don Cheadle, Greg Louganis, Lucy Lawless, Roseanne Cash, Neko Case, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Reich, Pam Grier, and Ben Cohen (of Ben & Jerry’s),” according to the group’s website. This rogues gallery of celebrity boycotters has been joined by enthusiastic hashtag activists on Twitter who post remarks such as, “Perhaps fed govt will buy all Ivanka merch & force prisoners & detainees in coming internment camps 2 wear it” and “Forced to #DressLikeaWoman by a sexist boss? #GrabYourWallet and buy a nice FU pantsuit at Trump-free shops.” There’s even a website, dontpaytrump.com, which offers a free plug-in extension for your Web browser. It promises a “simple Trump boycott extension that makes it easy to be a conscious consumer and keep your money out of Trump’s tiny hands.”

Many of the companies targeted for boycott—Bed, Bath & Beyond, QVC, TJ Maxx, Amazon—are the kind of retailers that carry moderately priced merchandise that working- and middle-class families can afford. But the list of Grab Your Wallet–approved alternatives for shopping are places like Bergdorf’s and Barney’s. These are hardly accessible choices for the TJ Maxx customer. Indeed, there is more than a whiff of quasi-racist elitism in the self-congratulatory tweets posted by Grab Your Wallet supporters, such as this response to news that Nordstrom is no longer planning to carry Ivanka’s shoe line: “Soon we’ll see Ivanka shoes at Dollar Store, next to Jalapeno Windex and off-brand batteries.”

If Grab Your Wallet is really about “flexing of consumer power in favor of a more respectful, inclusive society,” then it has some work to do.
And then there are the conveniently malleable ethics of the anti-Trump boycott brigade. A small number of affordable retailers like Old Navy made the Grab Your Wallet cut for “approved” alternatives for shopping. But just a few years ago, a progressive website described in detail the “living hell of a Bangladeshi sweatshop” that manufactures Old Navy clothing. Evidently progressives can now sleep peacefully at night knowing large corporations like Old Navy profit from young Bangladeshis making 20 cents an hour and working 17-hour days churning out cheap cargo pants—as long as they don’t bear a Trump label.

In truth, it matters little if Ivanka’s fashion business goes bust. It was always just a branding game anyway. The world will go on in the absence of Ivanka-named suede ankle booties. And in some sense the rash of anti-Trump boycotts is just what Trump, who frequently calls for boycotts of media outlets such as Rolling Stone and retailers like Macy’s, deserves.
But the left’s boycott braggadocio might prove short-lived. Nordstrom denied that it dropped Ivanka’s line of apparel and shoes because of pressure from the Grab Your Wallet campaign; it blamed lagging sales. And the boycotters’ tone of moral superiority—like the ridiculous posturing of the anti-Trump left’s self-flattering designation, “the resistance”—won’t endear them to the Trump voters they must convert if they hope to gain ground in the midterm elections.

As for inclusiveness, as one contributor to Psychology Today noted, the demographic breakdown of the typical boycotter, “especially consumer and ecological boycotts,” is a young, well-educated, politically left woman, undermining somewhat the idea of boycotts as a weapon of the weak and oppressed.

Self-indulgent protests and angry boycotts are no doubt cathartic for their participants (a 2016 study in the Journal of Consumer Affairs cited psychological research that found “by venting their frustrations, consumers can diminish their negative psychological states and, as a result, experience relief”). But such protests are not always ultimately catalytic. As researchers noted in a study published recently at Social Science Research Network, protesters face what they call “the activists’ dilemma,” which occurs when “tactics that raise awareness also tend to reduce popular support.” As the study found, “while extreme tactics may succeed in attracting attention, they typically reduce popular public support for the movement by eroding bystanders’ identification with the movement, ultimately deterring bystanders from supporting the cause or becoming activists themselves.”

The progressive left should be thoughtful about the reality of such protest fatigue. Writing in the Guardian, Jamie Peck recently enthused: “Of course, boycotts alone will not stop Trumpism. Effective resistance to authoritarianism requires more disruptive actions than not buying certain products . . . . But if there’s anything the past few weeks have taught us, it’s that resistance must take as many forms as possible, and it’s possible to call attention to the ravages of neoliberalism while simultaneously allying with any and all takers against the immediate dangers posed by our impetuous orange president.”

Boycotts are supposed to be about accountability. But accountability is a two-way street. The motives and tactics of the boycotters themselves are of the utmost importance. In his book about consumer boycotts, scholar Monroe Friedman advises that successful ones depend on a “rationale” that is “simple, straightforward, and appear[s] legitimate.” Whatever Trump’s flaws (and they are legion), by “going low” with scattershot boycotts, the left undermines its own legitimacy—and its claims to the moral high ground of “resistance” in the process.

========END===============

Gallup reports on 2016 Well-being

Gallup/Healthways 2016 Report

This report, part of the Gallup-Healthways State of American Well-Being series, examines well-being across the nation, including how well-being varies by state and which states lead and lag across the five elements of well-being. The five elements include:
• Purpose: liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
• Social: having supportive relationships and love in your life
• Financial: managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
• Community: liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community • Physical: having good health and enough energy to get things done daily

In 2016, the national Well-Being Index score reached 62.1, showing statistically signif- icant gains from 2014 and 2015. Also in 2016, Americans’ life evaluation reached its highest point since 2008, when Gallup and Healthways began measurement. Now 55.4% of American adults are “thriving”, compared to 48.9% in 2008. Other positive trends include historically low smoking rates (now at 18.0%, down from 21.1% in 2008); historically high exercise rates as measured by those who report they exercised for 30 minutes or more, three or more days in the last week; and the highest scores recorded on healthcare access measures, with the greatest number of Americans covered by health insurance and visiting the dentist. Americans are also reporting the lowest rates of healthcare insecurity since 2008, as measured by not being able to afford health- care once in the last 12 months.

All national well-being trends are not positive, however; chronic diseases such as obesity (28.4%), diabetes (11.6%), and depression (17.8%) are now at their highest points since 2008. The percentage of Americans who report eating healthy all day during the previous day is also at a nine-year low.

Georgia ranked 29th – middle of the pack. Georgia improved – up from 35th.

Georgia showed a wide variation in sub-components. Georgia scored in the highest quintile on Social Rank (“having supportive relationships”), second quintile on Purpose Rank (“liking what you do each day”), third quintile on Physical (“having good health”), fourth quintile on Community ((“like where you live”), and fifth quintile on Financial (“managing your economic life”).

Tesla and Energy Storage

CREDIT: Guardian Story on Tesla and Energy Storage

Tesla moves beyond electric cars with new California battery farm

From the road, the close to 400 white industrial boxes packed into 1.5 acres of barren land in Ontario, California, a little more than 40 miles from downtown Los Angeles, look like standard electrical equipment. They’re surrounded by a metal fence, stand on concrete pads and sit under long electrical lines.

But take a closer look and you’ll notice the bright red coloring and gray logo of electric car company Tesla on the sides. And inside the boxes are thousands of battery cells – the same ones that are used in Tesla’s electric cars – made by the company in its massive $5bn Tesla Gigafactory outside of Reno, Nevada.

This spot, located at the Mira Loma substation of Southern California Edison, hosts the biggest battery farm Tesla has built for a power company. Southern California Edison will use the battery farm, which has been operating since December and is one of the biggest in the world, to store energy and meet spikes in demand – like on hot summer afternoons when buildings start to crank up the air conditioning.

Tesla’s project has a capacity of 20 megawatts and is designed to discharge 80-megawatt hours of electricity in four-hour periods. It contains enough batteries to run about 1,000 Tesla cars, and the equivalent energy to supply power to 15,000 homes for four hours. The company declined to disclose the project’s cost.

The project marks an important point in Tesla’s strategy to expand beyond the electric car business. Developing battery packs is a core expertise for the company, which is designing packs for homes, businesses and utilities. It markets them partly as a way to store solar electricity for use after sundown, a pitch that works well for states with a booming solar energy market such as California.

Battery systems built for power companies can serve more than one purpose. A utility can avoid blackouts by charging them up when its natural gas power plants, or solar and wind farms, produce more electricity than needed, and draw from them when the power plants aren’t able to keep up with demand.

Edison and other California utilities hired Tesla and a few other battery farm builders after an important natural gas reservoir near Los Angeles, called Aliso Canyon, closed following a huge leak and massive environmental disaster in late 2015. The leak forced thousands of people in nearby neighborhoods to evacuate. It also left utilities worried about how they’d meet the peak electricity demands of coming summers if they weren’t able to dip into the natural gas storage whenever they need fuel to produce power. They couldn’t always get natural gas shipment from other suppliers quick enough to meet a sharp rise in electricity consumption.

As a result, the California Public Utilities Commission approved 100 megawatts of energy storage projects for both Southern California Edison and also San Diego Gas & Electric. The commission also asked for the projects to be built quickly, before the end of 2016.

Other energy storage projects that have been built since include a 37.5-megawatt project in San Diego County by AES Energy Storage, which used lithium-ion batteries from Samsung. AES has completed the project, which is going through the commissioning phase. AES also plans to build a 100-megawatt project for Southern California Edison in Long Beach in 2020.
Even before the Aliso Canyon disaster, the commission had already recognized the benefit of using energy storage to manage supply and demand and expected it to become an important component in the state’s plan to replace fossil fuel energy with renewables. The commission, which requires the state’s three big utilities to add more wind and solar energy to their supplies over time, also set a statement energy storage target of 1,325 megawatts by 2020.
Surrounded by rows of batteries at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the project on Monday, Southern California Edison’s CEO Kevin Payne said the Tesla project is important because “it validates that energy storage can be part of the energy mix now” and is “a great reminder of how fast technology is changing the electric power industry”.

This latest crop of energy storage projects use a new generation of lithium-ion batteries. Historically, batteries were too expensive for energy storage, but their prices have dropped dramatically in recent years, thanks to their mass production by companies such as Panasonic, Tesla and Samsung.
Companies that buy lithium-ion batteries have been reporting drops in prices of 70% over the past two years. Tesla has said it plans to lower its battery prices by 30% by expanding production inside its Gigafactory.
At the event on Monday, Tesla’s co-founder and chief technology officer JB Straubel said: “Storage has been missing on the grid since it was invented.”

Tesla is counting on the energy storage market as an important source of revenue and built its giant factory with that in mind.
The company believes its expertise in engineering and building electric cars sets itself apart from other battery farm developers. Tesla has been developing battery packs for a decade and improved the technology that manages the batteries temperatures, which can be high enough to pose a fire risk.
Overheating is a well known problem for lithium-ion batteries, which require insulating materials and software to keep them running cool. A battery farm built next to a wind farm in Hawaii by a now-bankrupt company caught fire in 2012 and temporarily put a dampener on the energy storage market.
Tesla has been building another battery farm on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, and has projects in Connecticut, North Carolina, New Zealand and the UK.
The company is looking for opportunities to build battery farms outside of California, including the East Coast and countries such as Germany, Australia and Japan. Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk has said in the past that the company’s energy storage business could one day be bigger than its car business.

Fixed Costs of the Grid … 55%?

CREDIT: http://www.edisonfoundation.net/iee/Documents/IEE_ValueofGridtoDGCustomers_Sept2013.pdf

“Distributed generation” (DG) is what the electric utility industry calls solar panels, wind turbines, etc.

The article points out what is well-known: even with aggressive use of solar, any DG customer still needs the grid ….. at least this is true until a reasonable cost methodology for storing electricity at the point of generation comes on-line (at which time perhaps a true “off-grid” location is possible.

So …. for a DG customer …. the grid becomes a back-up, a source of power when the sun does not shine, the wind does not blow, etc.

So the fairness question is: should a DG customer pay for their fair share of the grid? Asked this way, the answer is obvious: yes. Just like people pay for insurance, in that same way should people be asked to pay for the cost of the grid.

Unfortunately, these costs are astronomical. This paper claims that they are 55% of total costs!

“In this example, the typical residential customer consumes, on average, about 1000 kWh per month and pays an average monthly bill of about $110 (based on EIA data). About half of that bill (i.e., $60 per month) covers charges related to the non-energy services provided by the grid….”

GRID

Bill Gates recommended GRID as one of his five favorite books in 2016. Here is what Business Insider said:

“‘The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future’ by Gretchen Bakke

“The Grid” is a perfect example of how Bill Gates thinks about book genres the way Netflix thinks about TV and movies.

“This book, about our aging electrical grid, fits in one of my favorite genres: ‘Books About Mundane Stuff That Are Actually Fascinating,'” he writes.

Growing up in the Seattle area, Gates’ first job was writing software for a company that provided energy to the Pacific Northwest. He learned just how vital power grids are to everyday life, and “The Grid” serves as an important reminder that they really are engineering marvels.

“I think you would also come to see why modernizing the grid is so complex,” he writes, “and so critical for building our clean-energy future.”

My son received it as a Christmas gift, and stayed up all night finishing it. I ordered it the same day he told me.

Finally, a readable history of energy. Why does our grid look as it does?

The incredible role that Jimmy Carter played in the creation of the Department of Energy, the passage of two major pieces of legislation.
1. National Energy Act
2. PURPA

GRID traces the emergence of the California wind energy industry. According to the author, the industry emerged in spite of bad technology. The growth traced instead to enormous tax credits. The Federal tax credit was 25%, and California doubled it to 50%. Today Texas and California are by far the largest producers of wind energy in the US>

GRID traces energy from Thomas Edison to Thomas Unsall, who was his personal secretary. It was Unsall that formulated, and then implemented, an ambitious plan to centralize the nations power grid. Until he took over in Chicago, no one could figure out how to create, through government regulation and clever pricing, what today is an effective monopoly. What makes this even more remarkable: the monopolies are largely for-profit.

GRID traces the emergence of energy policy, beginning with President Jimmy Carter.

It includes the Energy Policy Act of 1978 and the Energy Policy Act of 1982.

Postscript: I just read the book a second time, and was stuck by its notes at the end, its index, and its general comprehensiveness.

I guess, for me, the big ideas in this book can be boiled down as follows:

LOAD IS DOWN: the planet is rife with innovations that are saving electricity – and most of them are coming without burden to the consumer (like turning thermostats down, wearing sweaters, etc.). So the demand for electricity peaked in 2007, and is unlikely to go higher until at least 2040.

GENERATION IS UP: At the same time, the ways to generate power better are increasing. Solar panels have dropped at least 50% in cost in a decade, while getting more effective. Wind turbines are excellent, and are continuing to improve. Coal generators are being slowly replaced by natural gas. Natural gas plants have desirable properties beyond generation, e.g. they can start up quickly and can come down quickly.

GENERATION IS BECOMING MORE RESILIENT AND MORE DISTRIBUTED. . After a decade of blackouts largely traceable to storms and poor line maintenance, the push is on for resilience, and it is working. The means to resilience is distributed generation (DG), which ultimately will prove to be very beneficial. However, because of regulatory roadblocks, perverse incentives, and a host of other complexities, it will be some time before the benefits of resilient DG are fully realized.

PREDICTING LOAD IS IMPROVING: Predicting load by five minute increments is improving. Smart meters and smart algorithms make it entirely plausible to predict load well 24 hours ahead, and extremely well 4 hours ahead.

PREDICTING GENERATION IS IMPROVING: the book tells horror stories about DG increasing instability and unpredictability. How can a utility plan for a surge due to a scorching sun? A big breeze? I find these horror stories to be suggestive of where this dysfunction will all end up, namely: prediction will improve dramatically through better weather forecasting, better detailed knowledge of all contributing generators.

A NEW MATCHING OF LOAD TO GENERATION IS VISIBLE. For all the horror stories, I think the future looks bright because matching predictable load to predictable generation is doable today, and will become a norm in the future once all the roadblocks are removed.

ASYNCHRONOUS POWER IS ALMOST HERE. Just as emails are asynchronous, while telephony is synchronous, in that same way, electricity has always been a synchronous technology – because there has never been a way of storing electricity. The world is moving fast toward asynchronous power because of batteries. When this happens, the world is going to change very fast.

TIME OF DAY PRICING WILL ACCELERATE ALL CHANGES. I am shocked at how pathetic time of day pricing is. Its ubiquitous – but pathetic. Once time of day pricing sends market signals about that discourage peak power use, so managers will take increasing advantage of using power (load) when it is cheapest, and avoiding power use (avoiding load) when it is most expensive, then we will begin to see thousands of innovative solutions for accomplishing this very simple goal.

Human connection lies at the heart of human well-being.

See NYT article below: if these facts are anywhere close to right, a community-based BeWell Center has an opportunity to do a whole lot of good by simply being an organizer of volunteer outreach. Low or no cost, big impact, great from a philanthropy POV. Meals on Wheels, elderly check-ins, classes, etc. “Research confirms our deepest intuition: Human connection lies at the heart of human well-being.”

“Social isolation is a growing epidemic — one that’s increasingly recognized as having dire physical, mental and emotional consequences. Since the 1980s, the percentage of American adults who say they’re lonely has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent.

About one-third of Americans older than 65 now live alone, and half of those over 85 do. People in poorer health — especially those with mood disorders like anxiety and depression — are more likely to feel lonely. Those without a college education are the least likely to have someone they can talk to about important personal matters.
A wave of new research suggests social separation is bad for us. Individuals with less social connection have disrupted sleep patterns, altered immune systems, more inflammation and higher levels of stress hormones. One recent study found that isolation increases the risk of heart disease by 29 percent and stroke by 32 percent.
Another analysis that pooled data from 70 studies and 3.4 million people found that socially isolated individuals had a 30 percent higher risk of dying in the next seven years, and that this effect was largest in middle age.”

Research confirms our deepest intuition: Human connection lies at the heart of human well-being.