Numlock News: February 13, 2020 • Mugshots, Disneyland, Canned Fish

By Walt Hickey

New Doppler Radars For Everyone!

Several inordinately rich men have gotten it into their heads that they should try to become the president, and as a result local television stations around the country are poised to make a fortune. Normally, elections are a windfall for local news stations, as even a basic race is still fundamentally a cash transfer from opinionated wealthy people cutting $4,600 checks to (by way of some PAC or candidate committee) a local television station. But this year is different, and EMarketer estimates that this election cycle total spending on political advertising will hit $6.89 billion, which is 63 percent higher than in the 2015-16 cycle. Television will get $4.55 billion of that, and digital will get $1.34 billion. One would think that’s sending prices soaring, and it kind of is, but FCC requirements mandate that presidential candidates must be offered the lowest rate available when an ad is purchased within 45 days of a primary. You’ll never guess where these stats come from:

Gerry Smith, Bloomberg

Parasite Was A Documentary

In 2018, 19,000 people were sentenced in federal court for drug crimes, but that very same year just 37 corporate criminals from firms with 50 or more employees were convicted for white collar crimes. The reality is that getting away with fraud and tax evasion has become easier than ever. Criminal penalties levied by the Justice Department are down from $3.6 billion in 2015 to $110 million last year, and in January 2019 white collar prosecutions were down to the lowest level since researchers started tracking such things in 1998. When the IRS set up a squad to investigate the ultra rich in 2010, they gave it enough personnel to perform 36 audits in two years. And while the country as a whole looks the other way at fraud, it doesn’t do so equally: convicted high-status white collar criminals were 98.7 percent less likely to receive prison sentences than people who committed welfare fraud.

Michael Hobbes, HuffPost

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Canned seafood is nutritious and typically more sustainable than a lot of the fresh-caught stuff, if only by the standard of perishability alone. The average American consumes 3.5 pounds of canned seafood, a statistic that is a great example of why “averages” can be so funky, as a bunch of you are probably thinking “that’s it?” and the rest are thinking “ew.” The average Spaniard eats thrice that, and the rest of the world is pretty into it: though U.S. consumption of canned seafood has fallen for three decades, globally the market for canned seafood is projected to expand from the $29.75 billion of 2016 to $36.7 billion in 2021. So if you want to hop on the next big food trend, it may be time to go into The Grocery Aisle of Great Peculiarities, you know the one I mean.

David Neimanis, Heated

Put to Bed

When people changed their mattresses every eight to 10 years, waste was an isue, but manageable. But as a bunch of online retailers hit the market, people began switching more often, and that’s presenting a massive problem for waste, because mattresses — and perhaps I’m speaking as a New Yorker here — are not exactly stellar finds on the secondary market. As a result, they have to be painstakingly taken apart for recycling. The U.S. throws away 18.2 million mattresses every year, but has just 56 facilities nationwide to recycle them. That leads to lots of them just going to the dump to rot. In the United Kingdom, which tosses 7 million mattresses per year, just 19 percent are recycled. To be sure, plenty belong in the dump — you see some gnarly things on curbs in this town that deserve more of an exorcism than a rebirth — but the waste issue is a big flipside of that box on the stoop.

Sirin Kale, The Guardian

Let’s Arbitrate

Lots of corporations believe they are clever when they require employees or contractors to sign mandatory arbitration clauses as a condition of their employment, which means that in the event of a dispute the employee cannot sue, they must instead enter into arbitration. This is typically done because companies see much lower risks for a big payout when they get to handpick the arbitrators they’re paying for. DoorDash, the food delivery company, learned the hard way that there’s one small backfire: they’re currently in 5,000 disputes with thousands of workers who say they were misclassified as independent contractors. A federal judge has said that DoorDash, indeed, has to enter into individual arbitration proceedings with each and every one of them, with a $1,900 fee for each arbitration, on top of the cost of lawyers for each proceeding and the cost, obviously, of any losses, so well over $10 million just off the bat. Normally, if they were allowed to sue, the workers could just form a class action and get it handled in one trial rather than 5,000 individual ones, but they don’t exactly call it “optional just in case” arbitration, you know?

Ian Millhiser, Vox


Amid high attendance, the price of the least expensive annual pass to Disneyland increased 5 percent from $399 to $419, just one of several price hikes implemented by the theme park this year. The price of a one-day ticket rose 18 percent in 2018, then another 7 percent last year, and this year will rise again as part of a new price tier system. For the first time, the most expensive one-day park hopper ticket will rise above $200. Tickets to one park will range from $104 on the lowest-demand days, unchanged, to $154 on peak days, which is up $5 from last year.

Hugo Martín, The Los Angeles Times


Newspapers such as the Houston Chronicle are reconsidering publishing galleries of mugshots, forgoing what can be a massive driver of traffic over ethical concerns regarding whether a simple allegation of a crime is enough to permanently house a person’s worst photograph on a public platform. A 2016 survey of 74 papers found 40 percent published mugshot galleries. Given that those people have been charged with — but not convicted of — those crimes, it’s entirely possible the charges will be dropped later, and the punishment can last longer in the media than in the actual formal justice system.

Keri Blakinger, The Marshall Project

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