Wandering Eye: We're running out of groundwater, Ed Schrader calls in to 'Best Show,' and more

Using groundwater for drinking, raising crops, and industrial production is like withdrawing cash from savings accounts, and in large portions of the U.S., the savings are being depleted so rapidly that future crises appear to be unavoidable. This was driven home recently in an article by Tom Knudson in Reveal, the new online home of the Center for Investigative Reporting, which combed through arcane scientific reports to find that, in California, deep wells are pulling out water that last coursed the Earth's surface during the Pleistocene epoch, which ended 12,000 years ago. Among those Knudson spoke with was retired U.S. Geological Survey hydrogeologist Leonard Konikow, whose newly published research in the journal Groundwater estimates that the amount of water sucked out of the ground in the U.S. between 1900 and 2008 is about double what's in Lake Erie, and that groundwater depletion has been accelerating markedly since 2000. As hydrogeologist Tom Myers tells Knudson: "We are withdrawing from a fairly large bank account . . . a lot faster than we are putting back in," and "we don't know how close it is to empty." (Van Smith)


Quartz came in with a provocative piece about how "Prison reform is making prisons worse" the other day that looked like a rip of an essay in Jacobin from the day before. Both pieces say that the current idea of reducing incarceration of nonserious, nonviolent, and non-sexual offenders will end up making things worse for those left behind in prison. As Marie Gottschalk puts it in Jacobin (which is the better article): "Many contend that we should lighten up on the sanctions for the non, non, nons so that we can throw the book at the really bad guys. But the fact is that we've been throwing the book at the really bad guys for a really long time." The Quartz piece, from an ex-con, is also compelling in its detail about how prison health care doesn't work. But if you're wondering what Quartz—with its much greater reach than Jacobin—is doing with that cultural power, look no further than this post titled "Why Prisons Need Prison Gangs." Citing a piece in Social Economics, the author asserts that "Prison gangs prevent the contraband economy from becoming chaotic and inefficient, conditions that encourage violence." The story goes on to say that drug addicts "are particularly well-served by gang membership" and that gangs create "a system of trust." Really. Gangs "make trade more efficient," according to the economists. And because trade is the highest value in our society, it stands to reason: More prisoners are better, because that will lead to more gangs and, of course, more trade—the kind of trade that leads to the incarceration of more prisoners! It is yet another virtuous circle. (Edward Ericson Jr.)


So, we're walking this morning, listening to Tom Scharpling's "Best Show," podcast and toward the very end of the three-hour show we hear the familiar voice. It's a caller who says he's "Ed from Baltimore." We quickly realized it was Ed Schrader of Ed Schrader's Music Beat. Schrader told a story about how his band was opening for some other band in Williamsburg recently and someone told him Matt Pinfield, best known as the host of the generationally important '90s MTV alt-rock show "120 Minutes," was hanging around. So Ed, friendly guy that he is said "hi" only to learn it wasn't Pinfield, but just some other bald dude. Then fake Pinfield asked him if he had a cigarette. Scharpling told Ed, "All right, that is the most depressing thing I've ever heard. You might want to contact Mike Leigh or Lars Von Trier and see if you can sell them that. They might think it's too depressing but thank you." It's not as good as the time Ed apparently offered Ian MacKaye weed (as recounted on Twitter), but hey. Probably the best way to elevator pitch "Best Show" is "Howard Stern for nerds," which means it has all the ranting, storytelling, and absurdity of Stern (a recent favorite has been "The Wheel of Crystal," in which Scharpling spins a wheel that picks a random though always pretty terrible audio clip from Billy Crystal's audio book) but none of the noxious misogyny or lamestream dudeness. Tom Scharpling's "Best Show," which is in its 14th year, streams live on TheBestShow.net Tuesday nights from 9 p.m. to midnight. You can download the episode where Ed calls in on iTunes for free. (Brandon Soderberg)

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