Monday, April 19, 2021

World Happiness Index 2021; We're Number One?

America's Rank: Incarceration, Happiness and Life Expectancy

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [people] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted . . .."
Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

"The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the only legitimate object of good government."
Thomas Jefferson, to Maryland Republicans, 1809, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Edition, 1903-04

"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of [themselves and their] family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond [their] control."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations, Article 25(1), 1948
A true patriot looks for ways to make America's democracy stronger, and then sets about trying to make it happen. That requires confronting and acknowledging where we're a few cars off the rails. It also requires a little modesty born of a fact-based examination of reality. A patriot knows America is great enough to, borrowing from Jack Nichiolson's line, "handle the truth."

So what about this "We're Number One!! We're Number One!!" business?

We are number one among all nations with some things. In defense spending we're not only number one, we spend approximately what is spent by the next 10 nations combined! [In order: China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and Brazil. See "Comparison: Government Defence Expenditure,"]

We're also number one in prison population (2016/2017). We have 2,153,600 prisoners -- roughly 600,000 more than number 2, China (1,561,086). But that's not a fair comparison; the better figure is prisoners per 100,000 population. By that standard we have 6 times more prisoners than China: 662.5 per 100,000 to China's 110.4 per 100,000. [See "Total Prison Population,"]

So how are we doing when it comes to the happiness of Americans, and the conditions that contribute to one's happiness, goals that were important to our founders -- and those who wrote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? [Photo of one-year-old on her birthday, displaying enough happiness to put her well up on anyone's "happiness index."]

America ranks, not "number one!" in happiness, but nineteenth in the list below. How those nations rank in life expectancy is represented in the number following "LE."

1 - Finland - LE 19
2 - Denmark - LE 24
3 - Switzerland - LE 6
4 - Iceland - LE 8
5 - Netherlands - LE 25
6 - Norway - LE 5
7 - Sweden - LE 16
8 - Luxembourg - LE 23
9 - New Zealand - LE 22
10 - Austria - LE 27
11 - Australia - LE 11
12 - Israel - LE 10
13 - Germany - LE 29
14 - Canada - LE 20
15 - Ireland - LE 9
16 - Costa Rica - LE 32
17 - United Kingdom - LE 26
18 - Czech Republic - LE 44
19 - United States - LE 42

It's something to think about; for example, "What do those top 7 nations have that we don't -- and why?" And then? Then try to do something about it.

Sources: World Happiness Index 2021 (click on "Countries" to list countries alphabetically, and "World Happiness Ranking" to list countries by happiness), and World Happiness Report 2021 ("The World Happiness Report is a publication of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, powered by data from the Gallup World Poll and Lloyd’s Register Foundation, who provided access to the World Risk Poll. The 2021 Report includes data from the ICL-YouGov Behaviour Tracker as part of the COVID Data Hub from the Institute of Global Health Innovation."). The "Life Expectancy at Birth" rankings can be found HERE.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Rethinking Electric Vehicles

NEW UPDATE! April 19, 2021. A reader of The Gazette submitted a Letter to the Editor, published April 17, responding to this column. The full text of that Letter, along with Nicholas Johnson's reply, are reproduced below at "Gazette Reader's Response/Letter and My Reply"

Rethinking The Rush Toward Electric Vehicles

Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, April 11, 2021, p. D3
The Gazette Online, April 9, 2021 1:14 pm Updated: Apr. 9, 2021 1:16 pm

My first car was a 1928 Ford Model A roadster. Its roof had been removed, and the body revealed years in a cornfield. Price: $25, but worth it.

In college I saved up and traded up: a $75 four-door Model A.

It’s not a manly confession, but I’m not a car guy. Never built a hot rod. Like Barbra Streisand’s “Second Hand Rose” with her second hand clothes, “I never had a car that wasn’t used.”

Then I heard about electric vehicles (EVs). Drove one over city streets and highways. Loved it. So cool. Smooth ride, silent, saving the environment with every mile. Amazing. [Photo credit: Wikipedia, Tesla Model X, from $79,990 (Plaid configuration, $119,990); I drove a Nissan Leaf, from $31,670]

Until I made the mistake, from the dealer’s perspective, of researching and thinking.

Two questions: 1) Should you buy an EV? 2) Should President Joe Biden spend $174 billion on their promotion — including 500,000 charging stations?

My conclusion on the first? As some Facebook users describe their relationship, “it’s complicated.”

Do you not have to ask the price? (“If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”) Do you have exclusive access to a charging station, or a garage where you can put one? Do you already have a second, conventional car? Would you or your partner only use the EV for errands around town, or commuting distances for which daily, overnight home charging is adequate? To avoid merely substituting coal-generated electricity for petroleum, do you live in one of the most renewable-energy-sourced electricity states? Do you consider the fun of driving an EV a part of their value?

If you can answer “yes” to all those questions an EV may make sense. Whatever you answered, extensive Googling may change your mind.

Mileage and charging times are challenging. Every hour of charging with 120-volts creates power to drive two-to-five miles (96 miles per 24-hour charge). Compare that with three minutes to “fill ‘er up” with gasoline on cross-country trips.

The second question’s answers depend on the goal: a) All Americans using EVs for all driving? b) Benefits from most practical uses of EVs? c) Transportation systems moving humans at lowest possible cost and environmental impact?

The challenges with (a) are suggested in the six questions above. If (b), fleet use (Post Office; UPS) makes the most sense. Amazon has plans to order 100,000 EVs for deliveries. Each vehicle with its own parking space, charging station and enough overnight charge to last through the next day.

(c) But if the goal is moving humans, there are more efficient and environmentally friendly alternatives to filling roads with EV vehicles.

Work from home (as many now do). Office buildings and housing within walking or biking distance. Multiples more public transportation — subways, surface trains, EV buses. Incentives for trading in gas guzzlers.

Friends in a small Swiss town benefit from a sufficiently extensive national rail network, plus buses, to travel efficiently without owning a car — as my sister does in Manhattan.

EVs are now 1 percent of all vehicles. Their future? It’s complicated.

Nicholas Johnson, Iowa City, worked on transportation policy as U.S. Maritime Administrator.


Second Hand Rose - lyrics -

Biden’s $174B & 500,000 chargers - Niraj Chokshi, “Biden’s Push for Electric Cars: $174 Billion, 10 Years and a Bit of Luck,” New York Times, April 1, 2021, p. B1, (“[Biden] hopes to build half a million chargers by 2030”)

Electricity generation; coal vs. renewable energy; states – Nadja Popovich and Brad Plumer, “How Does Your State Make Electricity?” New York Times, Oct. 28, 2020,; U.S. Department of Energy, “Alternative Fuels Data Center,”

Charging times & chargers cost – “How Much Does It Cost to Install an Electric Vehicle Charging Station at Home?”, fixr, (“Essentially, a Level 1 charger adds roughly 2 to 5 miles of driving range to your car for every hour you charge it.” “Average cost: Level 2 charger with a 240-volt outlet and wall mounting $1200, high cost $4500”)

Marci Houghtlen, “How Much Does a Tesla Home Charger Cost?” MotorBiscuit, January 24, 2021, (cost of Tesla EVs, home chargers)

Good video discussion: “5 Reasons You Should (Not) But an Electric Car,” Oct. 7, 2020,

Dave Vanderwerp, “EV Range: Everything You Need to Know; We explain EPA ratings, factors that affect range, how EVs have performed in our testing, and why it's all very complicated,” Car and Driver, May 22, 2020,

Gasoline fill-up time – “Gasoline pump,” Wikipedia, (“Light passenger vehicle pump up to about 50 litres (13 US gallons) per minute[4] (the United States limits this to 10 US gallons [38 litres] per minute[5]); pumps serving trucks and other large vehicles have a higher flow rate, up to 130 litres (34 US gallons) per minute in the UK[4] and 40 US gallons (150 litres) in the US. This flow rate is based on the diameter of the vehicle's fuel filling pipe, which limits flow to these amounts.”)

Amazon 100,000 EVs - Mary Meisenzahl, “Amazon's first electric delivery vans are now making deliveries — see how they were designed,” Business Insider, Feb. 3, 2021, (“In October, Amazon showed off the first of its planned custom electric delivery vehicles, with plans to have 10,000 on the road by 2022, and 100,000 by 2030.”)

Non-EV alternatives - Brad Plumer, Nadja Popovich and Blacki Migliozzi, “Electric Cars Are Coming. How Long Until They Rule the Road?” New York Times, March 10, 2021, (“policies to buy back and scrap older, less efficient cars . . . expanding public transit or encouraging biking and walking, so that existing vehicles are driven less often.”)

EVs 1% of vehicles - Niraj Chokshi, “Biden’s Push for Electric Cars: $174 Billion, 10 Years and a Bit of Luck,” New York Times, April 1, 2021, p. B1, (“electric vehicles remain a niche product, making up just 2 percent of the new car market and 1 percent of all cars, sport-utility vehicles, vans and pickup trucks on the road.”)

Neal E. Boudette and Coral Davenport, "G.M. Will Sell Only Zero-Emission Vehicles by 2035," New York Times, Jan. 29, 2021, p. A1; Jan. 28, 2021, ("General Motors said Thursday [Jan 28, 2021] that it would phase out petroleum-powered cars and trucks and sell only vehicles that have zero tailpipe emissions by 2035....")

Gazette Reader's Response/Letter and My Reply

Improving Tech Makes Electric Vehicles a Viable Option
Florence Williams
The Gazette, April 17, 2021, p. A6
The Gazette Online April 16, 2021]

Nicholas Johnson listed considerations one should ponder before purchasing an electric vehicle in his April 11 guest column. However, I found his points rather misleading.

I own a Tesla Model 3 with extended range. I have driven my Tesla to Detroit and back without any range anxiety. Instead of comparing stopping at a gas station to plugging into a 120V plug, which is a standard outlet in your home and only relevant for overnight charging, we should be comparing gas stations to stopping at a supercharger station, which are common at Hy-Vee and Casey’s along major highways. I drive three hours before needing to charge, then it takes me 20 to 40 minutes to charge at a V2 supercharger (V3 are faster, but not common yet). Importantly, you don’t have to stand there waiting with your hand on the nozzle — the car locks the charger in place and you can do as you like. By this three hour point, I usually want a bite to eat or a coffee, so 30 minutes is perfect. Tesla chargers are the gold standard, but this is where all EVs are heading and why there’s so much talk of investing in a high-powered charging network in the US.

Another point, as Mr. Johnson puts it “Do you live in one of the most renewable energy-sourced electricity states?” In Iowa we are 50 percent wind energy, and that number is growing.

Florence Williams

Iowa City

My Response to Florence Williams
Nicholas Johnson
April 19, 2021

First off, thank you Ms. Williams. Like most writers, it's almost always a satisfaction for me to have evidence that someone actually read what I've written. When the response involves the reader making the time and effort to respond in writing, and keeps the language civil (as she clearly has), either with an email or, in this case, with a letter to the editor, that's just all the better.

Second, I don't really take issue with any of the facts she reports regarding her own experience with her Tesla 3. How could I?

Third, I can understand why she might have felt my example of home charging -- in the necessarily truncated discussion of the range of charging problems with EVs in a 500-word column -- was incomplete, or even misleading. I would hope in the context of the entire column (and the "six questions") the reader would understand that all issues regarding EVs depend on who is using the vehicle, where, and for what. As I concluded the piece, "It's complicated."

This specific aside, I do take exception to her assertion, "I found his points rather misleading." Did she really mean to say that all the points made in the column were "misleading"? If so, she needs somewhat more support for that charge. If not, she probably shouldn't have phrased it that way. I'm certainly not opposed to all uses of EVs in all circumstances; quite the contrary. I just think every potential customer needs to do some due diligence regarding an EVs practicality for them.

With the availability of more words than the column permitted, I'll add a few additional details.

As the manufacturers' enthusiasm for EVs, as well as that of EV fans like Florence Williams, reveals -- and my column endeavored to make clear -- there are many Americans for whom EVs make a lot of sense. The consumer's challenge is researching the facts (many suggested by the "six questions") to discover whether their situation and potential uses make them one of those "many Americans."

Central are issues related to charging (time involved, availability of charging stations, how much of a full charge to use) and range.

Take Ms. Williams' example. It is 487 miles from Iowa City to Detroit (7 hours 12 minutes at 69 mph). Tesla says its Tesla 3 can go 353 miles (263 to 353) on a full charge ("Long Range" model, $47,690. Drew Dorian and Joey Capparella, "2021 Tesla Model 3".) But many experts and writers say it's best to hold the charge between 20% and 80% of a full charge -- which would bring the range down to 60% of 353 or 212 miles. (See, e.g., "Charging the battery to only 80% and discharging to 20%, as is typically done on a new EV battery, only utilizes 60% of the capacity." "Battery Aging in an Electric Vehicle (EV); Stretching battery life to the maximum," Battery University, August 22, 2020; "10 Tips to Extend the Life of Your EV Battery," Clipper Creek, March 1, 2018.) Ms. Williams says she recharges after three hours; at 70 mph, and accepting the manufacturer's 212 miles, that would be three hours.

There are many variables when it comes to range: which EV; manufacturers' specs; your speed; flat vs. mountains; temperature (cold can reduce it by a third); age of the battery (the range declines as the battery ages); running the heater or air conditioning.
e.g., "Winter is also unkind to EV range. In 30-degree Detroit temps, my tester got just 65 percent of predicted battery range . . .. Range anxiety is a serious problem for EVs -- especially for the average Chevy customer who uses their steed as primary tranasportation. . . . You see the holes in this idea that everyone will buy electric in 15 years. I'm not buying it. More likely the folks buying the Bolt EV/EUV will be niche customers who . . . only use the EV for daily commutes." Henry Payne, "Second-Gen Chevy Bolt EV Is A Treat; Pity It Isn't a Caddy," Detroit News, March 3, 2021
Another variable is charging speed. A 220V line will charge faster than a 120V. Ms. Williams mentions a Tesla "V2 supercharger" with a "V3" on the way. The question is: What is the optimal charging power and speed when battery life is considered? See, e.g. "Fast-charging can damage electric car batteries in just 25 cycles," Professional Engineering, Institution of Mechanical Engineering, March 12, 2020; Emmanouil D.Kostopoulosa, George C.Spyropoulosab, John K.Kaldellisa, "Real-world study for the optimal charging of electric vehicles," Energy Reports, vol. 6, pp. 418-426, Nov. 2020. Volume 6, November 2020, Pages 418-426

In other words, if you are driving a Tesla, because you can afford the near-$50,000 price tag, your out-of-town travel only requires one recharge before your destination, does not normally occur during cold winter days, involves a route plentifully supplied with Tesla charging stations, and you're willing to do some (if any) damage to your EV battery from fast charges, Ms. Williams experience suggests one more instance in which an EV can do the job.

There are many other situations where an EV makes sense, as I suggested with organizations' fleets of EVs, and individuals local shopping and commuting -- if overnight charging is both always feasible and adequate.

The fact remains, as I concluded the column, that for any given individual, balancing all the questions and issues surrounding EV purchases, while it may be possible, still "It's complicated."

# # #

Thursday, April 08, 2021

A Profit Deal & Alternative Schools

Move To Online Gambling a Bad Deal for Iowans
Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City Press-Citizen (online), Letters, 4th position, April 7, 2021,

Gambling, once illegal in Iowa, is now online. TV commercials encourage record-breaking sports betting. As a former sports law professor, gambling’s impact on the integrity of collegiate and professional sports concerns me. More concerning, Tom Coates (Des Moines Consumer Credit) believes the odds are good that Iowa will see more bankruptcies, suicides, divorces and other fallout due to the spike in sports wagering. [Photo credit: Kinnick Stadium video display, Riverside Gambling Casino advertisement, Nicholas Johnson]

I was introduced to gambling as a pre-teen. The family was visiting friends in a large house in San Francisco. The grownups wanted adults’ conversation, so I was handed our host’s straw hat filled with nickel slugs, told to go to the attic and play the slot machines. Never without a little notebook, pencil and curiosity, I kept track of the number of slugs that went into the machine and the winnings.

My conclusion? I’ve never given a dime of my own to the gambling industry. Like Steve Martin’s character in the movie “The Jerk,” I wrote in my little notebook, “I get it, this is a profit deal.”

For Iowans tempted to further enrich the gambling industry, it’s a line worth remembering — along with the phone number 1-800-BETS OFF.

Nicholas Johnson, Iowa City
# # #

Need For Alternative Schools Has Been Met
Mary Vasey
Iowa City Press-Citizen (online), Letters, 3rd position, April 7, 2021,

Thank you, Republicans, for considering the need for alternatives to traditional schools for students who are or may be falling through the cracks. While Republicans may not intend to leave this impression, it does make me wonder why they consider this an “unmet need.” [Photo credit: Iowa City Community School District]

Having taught at Metro High School for over 20 years, I encourage those legislators to learn about Cedar Rapids’ Metro High School, Iowa City’s Tate High School and the many other fine alternative schools throughout the state and across the nation. Legislators will find this is a need that has been identified and successfully served for years by the dedicated educators in Iowa school districts’ alternative schools.

Mary Vasey, Iowa City
# # #

Tags: a profit deal, alternative schools, gambling, Metro High School, online gambling, public education, sports gambling, sports integrity, Tate High School,