Numlock News: August 16, 2018

By Walt Hickey


Now that we as a society have successfully lashed out at plastic straws for essentially no reason, balloons are now on notice. Clemson University will no longer release 10,000 balloons before football games, and a campaign in Virginia seeks to discourage mass balloon releases at weddings. California’s Pacific Gas & Electric says that metallic balloons caused 203 power outages in the first 5 months of 2018, up 22 percent year over year. What’s the big deal with releasing an uncontrolled, non-biodegradable film of thin plastic, perhaps filled with a non-renewable and economically crucial gas that literally can not be manufactured, tied off with an environmentally immortal string that doubles as an excellent dolphin garrote?

Candice Choi, The Associated Press

The Only Vermont Republican

Congratulations to H. Brooke Paige, who won his bid for the Republican nomination for Vermont’s at-large congressional district. Also, congratulations to Paige for winning the nomination to run against Bernie Sanders for Senate. Also, congratulations to Paige for getting the GOP nom for state auditor, treasurer, secretary of state and attorney general. Paige — who will be on the ballot in 6 races this November — beat his nearest opponent in the senate race by 436 votes of about 25,000 cast in the primary.

David Weigel, The Washington Post

A quick plug for a friend: I don't try to cover the big day-to-day U.S. politics in Numlock, but my friend Judd Legum has a wonderful newsletter called Popular Information that does. I like Judd's newsletter style over the chaotic fire hose that is social media because Judd's got real expertise. Check it out at

Crypto Grift Related To Sunken Ship

There’s increasing evidence that a story about the discovery of a sunken Russian ship containing oodles of gold found by a South Korean company was just an elaborate scam related to a cryptocurrency. A related company created a cryptocurrency that promised it would pay 10 percent of the value of the salvaged gold claimed on the ship, which got $53 million in investment from over 120,000 Korean investors. I’d say this scam was innovative, but upon reflection this is literally a ripoff of the B-plot to the Locus-award winning 1999 Neal Stephenson novel Cryptonomicon. I’m entirely serious.

Daniel Oberhaus and Jordan Pearson, Motherboard

MoviePass Loss Per Share

Helios and Matheson, the company behind the great liberation of investor capital known as MoviePass, lost $126.6 million in the second quarter, up from a $2.7 million loss in Q2 of the previous year. That is a loss of $132.47 per share, which is legitimately nuts. MoviePass lets users pay an inexpensive monthly subscription fee to see many movies, a cash flow concept that I guarantee will work once the accountants figure out how to take the square root of a negative number while remaining GAAP compliant.

Chris Isidore and Jill Diss, CNN Money


The jeweler Tiffany & Co. will renovate its 10-floor New York flagship store on Fifth Avenue, with construction slated to begin next spring. That location alone accounts for as much as 10 percent of Tiffany’s annual sales, which explains why the company will spend something like 2 percent of its worldwide net sales on the renovation.

Kim Bhasin, Bloomberg

People Who Changed Their Views Because Of Social Media

Yeah, apparently they exist! In what shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, arguing about crap on the internet is a pretty ineffective way to alter the geniune opinions of rivals and readers. The overwhelming majority of Americans have not had their views changed by social media, and indeed, only 14 percent said their beliefs about a political or social issue changed because of something they saw on social media. Men aged 18 to 29 were twice as likely as average to do so.

Kristen Bialik, Pew Research Center


From 1985 to 2000, there were 3.9 building permits for a single-family home for every 1,000 residents of the U.S. Today, there are 2.6 such building permits for every 1,000 residents. Had permits — and implicitly, new home construction — continued at the historic pace, there would be 2.3 million additional single-family homes built. When 1.3 million homes are built a year, that translates to two years of lost building.

Jared Frey, Zillow Research

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