Numlock News: December 8, 2021 • Daylighting, Traffic, Marijuana Taxes
By Walt Hickey
In 2018 the city of San Francisco voted to approve a 1 percent to 5 percent tax on cannabis businesses that is set to take effect next year. However, the Board of Supervisors just passed an ordinance to suspend the Cannabis Business Tax for the 2021 and 2022 tax years, in no small part due to the fact that legal, lawful cannabis dispensaries are actually having some significant problems competing with the illegal dealers on price. The fear is that by taxing legal pot, they could undermine the legal market at the same moment they’re trying to fend off the illegal market. It’s also been tough lately for pot businesses in the Bay Area amid a spate of recent robberies targeting dispensaries that’s led to some $5 million in losses across the marijuana retail sector.
A new annual report on time spent in traffic identified New York and Chicago as the worst for gridlock in the country, with Chicago drivers spending 104 hours in congestion and New Yorkers spending 102 hours in congestion in 2021. That’s still down about 30 percent from pre-pandemic levels. Other cities are well below pre-pandemic level: Washington D.C., whose Beltway is believed to be a long-running Pentagon experiment into the psychology of municipal demoralization that was in accidentally constructed by the Eisenhower Administration, saw traffic down 65 percent compared to 2019, which meant 80 fewer hours in traffic. Meanwhile, in Vegas, time spent in traffic is up 76 percent compared to 2019. The worst in the world was London, whose drivers spent 148 hours in traffic in 2021.
The publishing business is notoriously unpredictable, but a spate of recent whiffs from authors with colossal digital followings is giving some pause over how directly a Twitter follow or fan actually translates in terms of books sold. Justin Timberlake got over $1 million for Hindsight, thought to be a solid bet given his 53 million Instagram followers, but the 100,000 print copies sold over the past three years missed expectations given that sizable advance. Piers Morgan has 8 million Twitter followers but moved just 5,650 print copies of his book, and Rep Ilhan Omar sold 26,000 copies of her book despite 3 million Twitter followers. The most recent black eye for the publishers is Billie Eilish’s book, as the $1 million memoir has moved around 64,000 copies since May. One issue may the lack of an incentive to blow up a star’s Instagram feed once the check clears; the publishers are responding by writing directly into the contract the number of posts the artists are responsible for.
The Music Modernization Act was passed in 2018, and on January 1, 2022, all sound recordings made before 1923 will enter the public domain. Previously the recordings would not enter the public domain until 2067, 144 years following the creation of the work. That’s thanks to fact that when the Copyright Act of 1909 was passed, recording sound was the domain of nerds and hobbyists and evaded attention from Washington, and it wasn’t until 1971 and 1976 that the feds managed to get laws on the books about copyrights of sound recording. Each year after that the public domain will get another year of recordings, up to 2046, when it goes from a 100-year wait to a 110-year wait. Are you ready to jam to the first-ever recording of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” or the 10,000 recordings of the Victor Talking Machine Company at the Library of Congress? Maybe you want to throw down to hits and bangers like “Hello Central, Give Me No Man’s Land,” or “Play That Barber-Shop Chord,” or “Don’t Go Down The Mine” or “My Word Do You Look Queer” but lacked the considerable licensing fees? Well 2022 is shaping up to be a great year.
One Summer's Day
Tibbetts Brook is a river in New York that starts in Yonkers, runs through Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, and then disappears. More specifically, it used to flow southwest through the Bronx and into Spuyten Duyvil Creek (New Amsterdam never really left, people) and then into the Harlem and Hudson rivers. However, today the brook goes down a drain in Van Cortlandt Park and flows into the sewer system at a rate of around 2.2 billion gallons of freshwater a year. That’s a lot of additional and unnecessary flow for the sewer system, and after flooding from Hurricane Ida the city wants to restore the original brook. Today, the plan is to unearth Tibbetts Brook in a process called “daylighting,” which for the cost of $130 million will reroute the stream above ground for a mile along a former railway line and into a dedicated pipe to the Harlem River. Basically, this is just the plot of Spirited Away if Miyazaki grew up in the Bronx, where Haku is Tibbetts Brook, Yubaba is Robert Moses, No Face is the railroad lobby, and Sen is just Sen, specifically Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who said he intends to secure the funding for it.
While lots of wild, undeveloped areas are described as “pristine,” that actually underestimates the extent to which ancient humans affected the landscapes of the forests of the world. Humans who lived in the Amazon rainforest were likely instrumental in spreading around the Brazil nut, a tree that can live 1,000 years but needs help from an animal to gnaw open the hard shell of its fruits for any chance for the nut to grow. Around 84 percent of all the trees and palms in the Amazon are useful species, and that’s been attributed in no small part to longstanding Indigenous cultivation practices. Humans have inhabited three-quarters of the Earth for 12,000 years, and we didn’t just start making a dent in the Industrial Revolution; that’s just when we got really good at it. Humanity’s fingerprints are all over the evolutionary tree, from the Brazil nuts to the current range of the coconut palm to even animals like shellfish and tortoises.
NBCUniversal, which launched a niche streaming service called Peacock last year, is weighing pulling lots of the content it currently has licensed to rival Hulu off that platform. The history of Hulu is a bit complex, as for a hot minute multiple major content companies all owned chunks of the streamer before eventually splintering off to spawn their own unique Plusses and All Accesses and Maxes. Hulu, now owned by Disney, has by virtue of its ancestry been the Cold War Vienna of the content wars, with everyone having a couple assets squirreled away on the platform. NBCUniversal, should it yank its material, distributes 9 percent of the titles on Hulu, ahead of WarnerMedia (5 percent) and Sony (5 percent) but still less than ViacomCBS (11 percent) and Disney (24 percent).
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