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Tesla Powerwall series of domestic energy storage units

Is It Time to Flee the City Yet?
Alex Koyfman Photo By Alex Koyfman
Written Thursday, February 2, 2017
As I’ve been saying to some friends and coworkers lately, 20, 30 years down the road, people are going to look back on this point in history the same way we look back on the late 1960s.

They’ll view this time as an era of turmoil, an era of change, an era of chaos and instability.

The youth of this future — people who haven’t been born yet — will see the images and videos and thank their lucky stars that they didn’t have to live right now.

They’ll ask their parents what it was like and be happy that all they have to do is learn about it in school.

And yet here we are right now, living through it day by day, week by week.

Thanks to the wonders of the modern Internet and the hundreds of millions of smartphones out there, we get to see the news from around the country and the world as it happens… and these days, it’s usually more and more of the same.

Protests, riots, arrests… Cars plowing through layers of activists blocking the streets of our cities.

What they are all protesting is hard to pin down — not because they’re vague, but because there is so much that makes so many unhappy.

Trump’s most recent assault on the establishment put major travel restrictions on individuals from certain countries.

The unprecedented reach of his executive orders is singling out people in a manner that reminds many of what happened to people of Japanese heritage during World War II.

Are internment camps next? Are strokes of the presidential pen going to start eating away at the rights of American citizens?

I have no idea. Nobody outside of Trump’s inner circle knows what the next wave of executive orders will bring, but one thing is for sure: whatever it is, the backlash will be felt in American cities coast to coast.

The threat of civil unrest becoming an ongoing pattern on our collective landscape is starting to generate a backlash all its own… a backlash that I know all too well on a personal level, as I’ve already taken part in it.

Pack Up; Lock Up; Roll Out

Last summer, I left the city.

I didn’t leave because I knew Trump would be president (I was sure he had no chance of winning).

I didn’t leave because of protesting, even though Baltimore, my hometown, had seen its fair share of unrest over the past year, stemming from the death of Freddie Gray and the ensuing legal debacle.

I left for bigger reasons.

To me, the city — any city, really — is a highly sophisticated organism that relies on millions of moving parts, all working together in harmony.

The workers, the traffic, the services, and all the elements of the infrastructure we rarely see and usually take for granted allow modern cities to run.

An interruption in any of the essential sub-systems would cause a cascade of secondary failures, all leading to one inevitable conclusion: shutdown.

And here’s the really scary part: let’s just say that essential deliveries stop arriving at a city’s major ports and depots.

Do you know how long the average food supply will last?

Streets of Concrete; Feet of Clay

Three days. 72 hours.

That’s 72 hours until the all the shelves of your local grocery mega-marts will turn into a scene from The Walking Dead.

72 hours before people realize they don’t know where their next bite of food will come from, and before they start turning on each other to get it.

Not a week. Not a month. Just 72 hours before our society, which most of us rely on the same way we rely on air to breathe, stops providing basic essentials.

emptyshelves

Just 72 hours before the cities that bring us together by putting all the conveniences of modern life within walking distance turn into chaotic death traps ruled by desperation and violence.

Even without a polarizing leader in D.C. to inspire people to stand in the street to get a point across, a modern city, to a growing number of Americans, is a potential nucleus for anarchy.

So what do we do? We move.

We move away from the conveniences and complexities of urban life and seek places less populated.

The Best Neighbor is No Neighbor At All

My own journey took me into the mountains of central Pennsylvania, where the only traces of civilization come in the form of airliners flying overhead and, periodically, the sounds of ATVs running through some distant trail.

When I lived in Baltimore, hearing gunshots generally preceded police sirens. These days, the sound of somebody shooting off a rifle is as common and as newsworthy as a gust of wind.

I share my property with deer, foxes, raccoons, and black bears, and there is never any doubt as to who’s the outsider here. It’s me.

Nature owns and rules this place. I just stay here.

And if the cities all shut down and caught fire, well, I might not even notice…

The countryside is as close as the modern human can come to total-immersion reality distortion field. It takes the events of the outside world and relegates them to the two dimensions of my computer screen.

This reality distortion, however, isn’t complete. Not for most of us, anyway. We are still tied to modern society by dependence.

Even though my property produces its own water and can, in a pinch, be relied upon for basic fuel and food, if I want to keep the lights on, I still need a power source.

Guns and Ammo Will Keep You Alive, But You Still Need Internet

Many people in these parts have diesel generators to keep their most essential modern mechanisms running in the event of a power outage, but, like the fuel that powers these generators itself, this is just a short-lived, temporary solution.

Unless you have the resources to bury a 20,000-gallon diesel tank in your yard, relying on fossil fuel to get you through a permanent power outage is simply unrealistic.

Today, however, there is another option — one that can deliver unlimited, free energy to anybody with access to a piece of open sky.

I’m talking, of course, about solar power. Plenty of people these days have panels on their roof. Some people go a step further and build out larger arrays, producing far more power than they need in order to sell that excess energy back to the power companies.

They, in effect, turn their homes into mini power plants.

Some people go to the next level and install small wind turbines to tap the power of naturally moving air.

The problem with all this is that creating electricity only solves half of the problem.

Having power to use in real time is great, but what do you do when you need to turn on the lights at night, or when the wind isn’t blowing?

For this, modern homeowners have the option of installing domestic energy storage systems — basically large lithium-ion batteries.

Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) became a notable pioneer in this industry in 2015 with the introduction of the company’s Powerwall series of domestic energy storage units.

powerwall

Capable of holding enough charge to keep your average single-family home running (at least partially), Powerwalls allowed homeowners to store the power they created on site for when they needed it most.

It also allowed them to take advantage of varying daily rates set by power companies by running off stored electricity during times of high demand and buying their power, as usual, during low-usage periods, cutting costs in the process.

Most importantly, it created yet another layer of independence from the grid, another layer of insulation against societal uncertainty.

The Powerwall definitely changed the game when it came to small-scale power generation, but the product turned out to be far from the magic bullet that Tesla chief Elon Musk made it out to be in his extremely passionate speeches and tweets.

The units themselves were too big, too expensive, too hard to install, and often required more than a single unit to run a household.

Moreover, Tesla and its founder Musk, the champions of domestic power storage, forgot one major element.

Their batteries hold a charge, but when it comes to managing this charge and outputting it on demand, the company didn’t bother building the most important ingredient: the power control system (PCS).

Basically the brain of this giant battery, Tesla outsources this component to different firms — making the Powerwall, on its own, an incomplete package.

This shortcoming isn’t something that’s commonly known by Tesla’s prospective clientele on the consumer end, but its commercial partners have definitely taken notice.

The lack of a PCS has caused at least one of Tesla’s biggest partners — Daimler — to walk away from a well-established relationship and start building its own batteries for use in its electrical vehicles.

For its needs, Daimler chose to partner up with a much smaller, lesser-known company to provide the essential PCS technology.

This company, like Tesla, builds its own line of domestic power storage systems.

Its batteries are smaller, cheaper, hold more charge, and can be installed by a single technician in a single afternoon, beating the Powerwall in all of the major metrics.

Of course, being a smaller company (less than 1/100 the size of Tesla) does have its drawbacks — the main one being a lack of a public profile.

Whereas Tesla has become the global leader in electric car manufacture and now in lithium-ion battery production, this tiny company is only known to specialists within its own industry.

That, however, is changing rapidly.

As contracts and deals start to line up for this small tech company, and as the niche itself expands, this Tesla-killing firm is slowly coming out of the shadows.

I learned about this company last summer, just as I was in the process of moving myself out of the city.

Today, this company is on the brink of becoming a major player in the domestic power storage space, as well as gaining traction for its PCS units — called the best in the industry by at least a couple insiders.

It’s growing an already impressive list of commercial partners and expanding its reach to end-users.

Though Tesla is certainly to thank for the all the publicity, it’s very possible that another brand will be the one to popularize this technology on a consumer level.

Companies with this kind of potential don’t come around often, which is why it’s crucial to learn as much as possible, as quickly as possible, when they do.

I recently published a full report on this firm, making it available to all of my readers.

Fortune favors the bold,

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Alex Koyfman

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Source: Will County News

The new American left is the biggest threat to freedom and Western civilization

“THIS IS WAR!”
Jason Stutman Photo By Jason Stutman
Written Sunday, February 5, 2017
The new American left is the biggest threat to freedom and Western civilization that exists today.

These aren’t my own words, or those of any well-known conservative figure, but rather those of one particularly conscientious liberal commentator, Dave Rubin. Concerned over the growing intolerance of their own party, liberals like Rubin are finally waking up to the dangerous reality before us.

This reality, while not pretty, needs to be explicitly stated:

There are members of the far left attempting to start a civil war, and they’re willing to destroy our most fundamental and vital liberties in the process.

If you don’t believe the assertion, just take a moment to consider what happened in California earlier this week…

Wednesday night, a group of violent, left-wing protesters succeeded in shutting down a scheduled speech at UC Berkeley, where Breitbart figurehead and conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos was planning to argue, ironically enough, that the American left is dangerously threatening free speech in America.

Playing right into the hands of Yiannopoulos, these members of what some are now calling the “regressive,” “intolerant,” or “illiberal left” showed their true colors.

In the most incongruent fashion, these self-proclaimed bastions of tolerance and moral good assaulted innocent conservative women, tore through barricades, and set fire to campus property…

Berkeley Fire

All of this in an attempt to stifle the free exchange of ideas being expressed by a gay man with a black boyfriend… all of this in the name of “democracy,” “community,” and love trumping hate.

Becoming “Ungovernable”

The assertion that these regressives want war is no matter of hyperbole. Signs at the protest were a literal call to arms. “Become Ungovernable,” one read. “THIS IS WAR,” another bolstered. Men in black masks and covered faces paraded a banner encouraging others to punch their political opponents “in the fucking face.”

These are the violent and hypocritical American fascists threatening our natural freedoms today.

While many will rightly contest that there were peaceful protesters there too, the general backdrop at Berkeley Wednesday night was undoubtedly violent, with plenty of raw footage to back that up. As one video shows, protesters knock a man unconscious and continue to beat his lifeless body with sticks while others cheer them on.

It’s all quite disturbing, to say the least.

This kind of behavior from the regressive left is nothing new, though if your only source of news is the mainstream media, you might not even know it.

CNN Media Bias                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       After all, headlines from outlets like CNN have long downplayed the severity of this kind of behavior by using the term “protest” and shifting blame away from their political allies.

At this point, though, it’s time to call a spade a spade: this is domestic terrorism, plain and simple.

If that seems like an overstatement, here’s a well-needed refresher on the definition of terrorism: the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.

If that’s not what this is, then what else is it?

Early Stages of a Second American Civil War?

Regardless of your political stance, it’s important to stay in touch with the reality of this dangerous and evolving political climate.

The regressive left has found, as Rubin calls it, their “bogeyman” in President Trump and his supporters. By shamelessly downplaying real atrocities of the Holocaust and brandishing their political opponents as “Nazis,” these insurgents are now justifying acts of violence and civil unrest with Machiavellian precision.

“But this is how it starts,” they’ll say… and in a certain, ironic sense, they’re absolutely right.Lexi Alexander Calls for Violence

Anyone who’s followed my commentary over the years knows I am by no means a doom-and-gloom pundit, but evidence is quickly mounting that this kind of political dissent will continue to grow, and it’s actually starting to concern me. There’s also very little doubt that this dangerous, violent ideology has the potential to throw U.S. markets into a tailspin if it’s kept unchecked, which is why I’m encouraging caution today.

The way I see it, we can really only expect this to go a few ways:

The first scenario is that the mainstream left follows the lead of folks like Dave Rubin by recognizing the danger here and biting the bullet: they stop doubling down on identity politics and catering to the regressive left. This would lose Democrats some initial political capital but could eventually end up swinging moderates back in their direction.

This is probably the most optimistic of scenarios for everyone involved.

The second scenario is that the left continues its current path, blindly opposing anything and everything Trumpian and overstating its case that we’re now living under a fascist regime. In doing so, Democrats and mainstream media would continue to embolden the regressive left, which will, in all likelihood, become increasingly aggressive and violent.

The offshoot of this second scenario isn’t a pretty one. Trump would very likely respond by cracking down on law and order, and regressives would use this as ammo as to why our newfound POTUS is “basically Hitler.” All it takes then is one martyr, one hot-button issue, and things could escalate very quickly.

Better Safe Than Sorry

Anyone who doubts this fact doesn’t have to look very far back for precedent. In March of 2011, Syrian protesters marched on Damascus following the arrest of a 14-year-old boy who had written a cryptic threat to Bashar al-Assad in graffiti.

Within three short months of those initial protests, 1,000 civilians (among them students, liberal activists, and human rights advocates) and 150 soldiers and policemen had been killed, and thousands were detained. Within a year, the Damascus Securities Exchange had plummeted 40%, and within five, the total kill count reached upwards of 600,000.

Of course, none of this is to draw a direct parallel between the U.S. and Syria, but it is to highlight just how quickly things can spiral out of control. America isn’t quite there yet, but we could be if we’re not careful.

For investors, this means it’s time to start considering the usual hedging strategies, as well as some newer alternatives. Gold, inverse ETFs, and Bitcoin will all become increasingly valuable investment vehicles if the pot continues to approach a boil.

For citizens, it means it’s about time to start considering what it means to be an American. Freedom of religion, speech, and press will all become increasingly valuable assets as we work to solve our differences.

No matter how appalling you may find a particular political ideology, the simple truth is that attempting to stifle the rights of others through intimidation or violence is not the kind of behavior any American can reasonably stand by. Not only is it un-American, but it is inherently threatening to our nation.

Screaming “Nazi” or “racist” at your opponents does not give you the moral high ground to punch them in the face, nor to beat their unconscious body with flagpoles. Regardless of how ugly someone’s speech may be, this is America, where freedom of expression ultimately reigns supreme.

For the sake of the nation, let’s all hope we can manage to keep it that way.

Until next time,

JS Sig

Jason Stutman

Source: Will County News

Illinois’ property tax crisis

 

From Illinois Policy February 3, 2017

Editors note:

The tax hike proposal comes despite Illinois’ loss of $14 billion in annual income and hundreds of thousands of people in the wake of the 2011 income tax hike.

Is the increased taxes forcing more people to leave Thus INCREASING THE COST TO THOSE WHO STAY?

Illinois Democrats should be ashamed as well as any Republican who increases any tax while not cutting spending. It is not OK to give any raise to employees when the State can’t pay its bills. It is not OK to legislate un-funded mandates to local government forcing the local government to raise taxes or cut spending just so the State Elected Officials can feel good about some program that may be good but the State can’t afford. there is a State statute making un-funded mandates illegal. These Elected people that continue business as usual need to be voted out of office, or given a primary. If the spending is not addressed soon there will be even higher taxes to be paid by everyone who either chooses to stay or can’t get out of Illinois. 

Why buy soda, groceries, for that matter anything in Cook County and pay the excessive tax, when you can go to other places and save huge dollars? Would you recommend to your children to start their family in Illinois?

Illinois has by far the most units of government in the nation, at nearly 7,000.

Todd Grigg teaches the importance of dollars and cents.

For more than 20 years, students in Grigg’s consumer education class at Triad High School in Troy, Illinois, have learned how to buy their first car, how to pay for college, and how to balance a checkbook.

But last week was different. Grigg taught one of his most painful lessons of the year: property taxes.

“There’s no doubt,” he said. “In our area and in our state we’re losing people because of high property taxes.”

Grigg is on the front lines of a problem plaguing communities across the state. Illinoisans pay some of the highest property taxes in the nation. And that’s driving people to seek greener pastures elsewhere. Due to Illinoisans’ rapid flight to other states, the Land of Lincoln has been the only shrinking state in the region for the last three years running.

Each year during his tax lessons, Grigg stands in front of a map. And he details opportunities beyond Illinois’ borders.

“I feel I have an obligation to tell them because I care about my students’ well-being more than my state’s well-being,” he said. “I don’t want [my students] to make the mistake of staying here because it’s the only thing they know.”

Local governments shouldn’t be hiking property taxes when so many people are heading elsewhere and teachers feel compelled to offer students an exit plan. That’s a recipe for disaster. Homeowners deserve a property tax system that will give them security in their homes and certainty in the future. They deserve relief.

That’s why comprehensive property tax reform is a key part of a new plan to balance the state budget without tax hikes: “Budget Solutions 2018” from the Illinois Policy Institute.

The first step in the Institute’s plan is a five-year property tax freeze. No longer will Illinoisans see local property taxes rise faster and faster as their personal incomes stagnate. But a freeze isn’t enough. Illinois needs to make its local governments accountable again. Lawmakers must pursue several different reforms.

For one, the state must make it far easier to consolidate units of local government, which often do not provide unique services and come with expensive and duplicative bureaucracies that residents must fund through property taxes.

Illinois has by far the most units of government in the nation, at nearly 7,000. But right now, it can be more difficult to get rid of a unit of local government than it is to amend the Illinois Constitution.

Further, curbing wasteful spending habits at the local level requires eliminating state subsidies that block accountability.

That includes ending revenue-sharing agreements that fuel excessive spending; stopping pension subsidies that allow school districts to dole out higher administrative pay, pension spikes and other unsustainable perks; and doing away with the special carve-outs in the education funding formula that shift state dollars to districts with property tax caps and special economic zones.

Some local governments will cry foul at losing even a dime of state money. That’s to be expected. But this is where the final step of real reform comes in: eliminating costly state mandates imposed on local governments.

Local leaders who actually want reform are currently handcuffed by Springfield. The state must empower local officials to drive the best bargain for taxpayers.

Right now, one-size-fits-all collective bargaining rules drive up the cost of contracts for public projects. The most expensive workers’ compensation costs in the region consume hundreds of millions of public dollars. And outdated prevailing wage rules often mandate six-figure salaries and benefits for basic construction work.

All three of these items require bold reform because all three are baked into property tax bills.

Ultimately, until state and local lawmakers can look residents in the eye and say they’ve tackled the property tax problem head-on, don’t expect families to stick around.

Mentors like Grigg will continue to tell the truth. And Illinoisans will continue to listen.

TAGS: local government, local government consolidation, property taxes, real estate, school district consolidation

 

Source: Will County News