The Salt Pinch

Jan 27 2015 @ 1:47pm

The travel bans are being lifted by some Northeast states this morning, but as Brad Plumer voxplains, our salt problems persevere:

“We’ve become salt-addicted over the last 50 years, and we’re now discovering that there are all these hidden costs,” says Xianming Shi, an associate professor in civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington. He estimates the US now spends $2.3 billion each year to remove snow and ice from highways. It then costs another $5 billion to pay for the resulting damage. And that’s not even counting the cost of salting cities or rural roads.

So, in recent years, some officials have been looking for ways to reduce their reliance on road salt. There are tricks like pre-salting roads before storms hit — which prevents ice from sticking in the first place. There are exotic remedies like adding beet juice to salt, which can lessen the ecological harm. Engineers like Shi have been working on more futuristic technologies — like “smart” snowplows that are thriftier with salt, or ice-free pavement.

That’s what Amy Sullivan calls The Fall:

The show, which stars Gillian Anderson in her first major television role since The X-Files went off the air in 2002, came under heavy criticism when the first season aired in 2013 for complaints that it glamorized violence against women. Serial killer Paul Spector (Fifty Shades of Grey’s Jamie Dornan) revels in the “aestheticism” of posing the nude bodies of his victims, washing their skin and painting their nails after he’s killed them. Some critics thought the show went beyond simply telling a story to the point of sharing Spector’s obsession with the women’s bodies.

I can certainly sympathize with fatigue over the seemingly endless tally of dead women on television. … But the debate over The Fall’s first season obscured the show’s revolutionary treatment of women and the topic of sexual power. In fact, I haven’t seen another program that so directly challenges and rewrites the traditional conventions of crime dramas, starting with Anderson as DSI Stella Gibson, a highly-regarded London cop who gets called to Belfast because investigators there need her expertise on a murder case.

Refreshingly, none of the tropes we’ve been trained to expect in a story about a powerful woman play out. Nobody resents Gibson’s appearance on the scene or questions her authority. Her gender is a non-issue; subordinates hop to when she enters a room and they follow her commands without question. Gibson doesn’t try to submerge her femininity and stomp around barking out orders. In Anderson’s restrained yet compelling performance, Gibson is cool, calm, and always chic, with the most fabulous coat in detectivedom.

I discovered it a couple weeks ago and now just have the final episode to watch. I can’t express how smart the series is, and how superb and commanding Gillian Anderson is as Stella Gibson. This is the feminism I believe in: a woman totally in charge of her life and of her career, whose authority is unquestioned, whose complexity and brilliance are celebrated, who utterly owns her sexuality and deploys it as coolly and as aggressively as any man would. At no point did I fear for a vulnerable Stella Gibson, even as I was deeply moved by her own female take on the victims of rape and murder, and even though she was obviously at times in great danger. I saw instead a master investigator whose nail-biting duel with a disturbed (and way hot) serial murderer became gladiatorial. Somehow gender slipped away from relevance, even as Anderson’s gender was absolutely integrated into her entire character. That’s new and powerful. It makes Girls seem as adolescent as it actually is.

Charlotte Alter is also a fan of the BBC series, now available on Netflix streaming:

[T]here’s little doubt that The Fall is great for women. …

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VFYWC-2-4-0

Turns out this week’s contest was one of our most challenging ever, with only around twenty entries submitted, such as:

Oakland. Looking at the Claremont Hotel. A wild-ass guess, of course.

Another reader is seeing things:

Finally, an easy one. Clearly, this is not an actual window view. It’s an early landscape by the British Artist, Stephen Darbishire, in the years prior to his Impressionist period. I couldn’t find the print on his website, but it’s undoubtedly his. Thrilled! I got one!

Another was wondering about Virginia, West Virginia, or England:

There is no snow so I don’t think it’s New England. The gold trim around the window could indicate it’s an elegant old manor house or hotel. The determining factor will be the pine tree and where that particular fir grows. Someone will know as they always do!

Sadly no amateur arborists this week, but this reader gets us to the right continent at least:

I’ve come to admire the people who just send in a gut response almost as much as the ones who spend hours puzzling out a more likely answer. So, in the midst of a bout of insomnia waiting for the sleep aid to kick in, I have spent about five minutes on this.

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Michael R. Strain dismisses it:

In a world of scarce resources, a slightly higher mortality rate is an acceptable price to pay for certain goals — including more cash for other programs, such as those that help the poor; less government coercion and more individual liberty; more health-care choice for consumers, allowing them to find plans that better fit their needs; more money for taxpayers to spend themselves; and less federal health-care spending. This opinion is not immoral. Such choices are inevitable. They are made all the time.

Chait pushes back:

Rather than wade into the trade-offs created by repealing Obamacare, [Strain] simply asserts the conclusion is obvious:

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The Party Of No And Dunno

Jan 27 2015 @ 12:28pm

A reader writes:

I hope a lot of voters were watching CBS on Sunday night when 60 Minutes interviewed Boehner and McConnell to talk about their plans now that the GOP controls the House and Senate. Both men acknowledged that the economy has been recovering and that the recovery has been picking up steam. They also acknowledged that the recovery has mostly only benefited the top income-earners while leaving the majority of Americans stuck in neutral. Boehner and McConnell want to “do something” to address income inequality and make sure those on the bottom of the economy have the opportunity to move up. They basically accused Obama of only helping the top 1% (which seems a complete reversal of the stories we’ve been hearing from them the last six years, but I digress).

This all sounds good enough to me, since for so long, it seemed the GOP was unwilling to even acknowledge there was an issue with inequality. If they want to blame Obama, I don’t really care so long as they are willing to present solutions.

So, the interviewer then asked if they would support raising taxes on top income earners. Answer:

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Is iTunes On The Way Out?

Jan 27 2015 @ 12:08pm

Purchased Music

Derek Thompson finds that both CDs and digital music downloads “are down double-digits in the last year, with iTunes sales diving at least 13 percent“:

Digital track sales are falling at nearly the same rate as CD sales, as music fans are turning to streaming—on iTunes, SoundCloud, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and music blogs. Now that music is superabundant, the business (beyond selling subscriptions to music sites) thrives only where scarcity can be manufactured—in concert halls, where there are only so many seats, or in advertising, where one song or band can anchor a branding campaign. …

The top 1 percent of bands and solo artists now earn about 80 percent of all revenue from recorded music, as I wrote in “The Shazam Effect.” But the market for streamed music is not so concentrated. The ten most-popular songs accounted for just shy of 2 percent of all streams in 2013 and 2014. That sounds crazy low. But there are 35 million songs on Spotify and many more remixes and covers on SoundCloud and YouTube, and one in every 50 or 60 online plays is going to a top-ten song. With the entire universe of music available on virtual jukeboxes, the typical 3.5-hour listening session still includes at least one song selected from a top-ten playlist that accounts for .00003 percent of that universe. The long tail of digital music is the longest of tails. Still, there is a fat head at the front.

Beards Of The Week

Jan 27 2015 @ 11:47am

Previous BOTWs here.

Medicare Wants To Pay For Outcomes

Jan 27 2015 @ 11:25am

Sarah Kliff puts a favorable spin on the news:

The Obama administration announced Monday a sweeping new plan that will directly affect thousands of hospitals and doctors across the country. The federal government now plans to pay Medicare doctors more if they help patients get healthier — and less if their patients just stay sick. This would be done by tying 85 percent of all Medicare payments to outcomes by the end of 2016 — rising to 90 percent by 2018.

The idea is to move away from the broken and expensive “fee-for-service” system, which pays doctors a flat amount for every surgery and physical they perform — even if they do nothing to actually help a patient.

Orszag is excited:

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Cool Ad Watch

Jan 27 2015 @ 10:59am

Except for the lame bit about twerking at the end:

A major doctors’ group supports reclassifying marijuana:

There’s some very early, and largely anecdotal, evidence that marijuana might be an effective treatment for some forms of epilepsy in children who haven’t responded to traditional medications. It’s partly to help bolster these types of clinical studies that the American Academy of Pediatrics today recommended that the government re-classify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, a category that includes other addictive, yet still therapeutic, substances like oxycodone, morphine, and codeine. Currently, marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug, along with things like heroin and acid, which are thought to have no medicinal value.

German Lopez spells out why reclassification has proven so difficult:

When marijuana’s classification comes under review, its schedule 1 status is consistently maintained due to insufficient scientific evidence of its medical value.

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